Sunday, May 29, 2011

Garden Update...with a surprise!

Yes, it's been awhile since the last post, but it's been slow here on the homestead.  Been helping my Bro with his chicken coop, and the weather hasn't been much help to the veg.  Now the weeds, they are loving this weather...oh well.

I finally got around to cleaning up (tilling under) my winter cover crop in the last two 4x4 beds...I let them go seriously long...I had winter wheat forming heads!  I'll have to keep that in mind for a later experiment, but for now, I need those beds for beans!  So with my daughter's help, we got it all tilled in, and weeded.  Then we planted using the BioIntensive plan (big thanks to GrafixMuse for reminding me about Mr Jeavons wonderful words.)  We got about 60 bush bean plants into each 4x4 bed.  This year we planted 4 varieties of bush beans; Tiger Eye, Yin Yang, Canelli Lingott and Cranberry.  The last 3 I grew last year, and had great success, and Tiger Eye is one that came recommended from a former co-worker as a great tasting bean.  I let these dry on the vine, to use in soups, stews, chilis and risottos throughout the winter.

So here are some shots I took this morning of the gardens:

This is a composite shot of the 4 driveway beds I have.

This is Spinach, Beets, and lettuce...lots o' weeds to.  Need to get to this sometime soon.

Peas are coming up, and broccoli and cauliflower have somehow avoided the creepy crawler leaf munchers.

It doesn't look like much, but this is my dedicated asparagus bed, planted this year with 3 year old crowns, I didn't figure to get any asparagus, so overplanted with carrots that are now coming up...sporadically at best.

Lo and behold, Asparagus...SURPRISE!!! 


This bed is 4x8 and holds Pole beans (well the trellis is visible) arrugala, Faba Beans, Zucchini and Cucumbers.

Tomatoes, Red Bell Peppers, Jalepenos, cayennes, and pepperocinis.  A few basil struggling along to fill in some gaps.

I see that I have neglected to snap a photo of the onion bed, but that's okay, something for a later post.  

Now if the weather would just cooperate.  We have had ridiculous 70+ days with 40 something nights that have everything but weeds on hold...Though I do have flowers on the tomato plants, I hope that they are strong enough to bear fruit.

Well, that's the update, hopefully the weather will come around, and the veg will prosper.

Night all.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Coop's Done, and Chicks play in the sun!

So sorry folks for all the chicken updates, but the garden is really at a standstill, we've only just hit 70 degrees (yesterday 5/19) and nights are still in the mid 40's so everything is in hold mode...

But, the Chicken Coop is now DONE! and the chickens have officially moved in!

What's the first thing chickens do when moving into a new domicile...check out the buffet!

So today after running errands, I finished up the Ark, and brought the chickens out into the sunshine.  Wow did grass confuse them!?! But they soon warmed up to the green under their feet, and started pecking away, eating bugs, weeds, pulling up grass and having a good 'ol time!

This is one of the prettiest sites in our already gorgeous backyard.  My dream of 5 years has become a reality...there are chickens in my backyard!

It was really cool to have them outside with me as I put the wired gate on the lower run of their coop.  This was the last thing to do before I could move them in.  The gate is made from 2x2 lumber, and then 1/4 inch hardware cloth is on top of that.  I put hinges on the side, so that the gates open outwards, like cabinet doors.

I'd like to think I was so smart as to think this up beforehand, but circumstances led my hand.  In the end, I like this better than what I had planned, which was to have the gate lift up from the bottom with hinges on top.  The use of 1x2' would have worked like that, but using 2x2's made it tricky to impossible to make work, so I improvised, and actually like this result much better!  Go Figure.

Well, this was all done by about 6 pm, and needing to get the girls into the coop before we left to see the farmers market down the road, I moved them in and they took to the new place likes kids in a candy store.

Tomorrow I will work with them on the ladder to the lower run.  I will also have to purchase a larger waterer for them.  I will likely use the same feeder though as it is still working.  They are just going through more water than a quart mason jar holds.

Sorry, writing this up, got me thinking about the chickens, and I had to go see how they were doing.  Well it turns out, they are chirping away, eating.  I could see that my plan to minimize the bedding isn't a rousing 100% success, as the ramp ladder is covered in bedding now!  Not sure if I can do anything about that at this stage, but once they grow bigger I can increase the size of the wall around the opening.

Tomorrow comes the task of cleaning the garage.  That's were the brooder box ended up, and there is a fine layer of dust over everything within spitting distance of the box (that would be camel spitting distance I'm discovering...)  Oh bother.  That will have to be done before we attend a play, and then scurry to see my daughter perform in her high school play.  So Busy day tomorrow.

Night all

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Coop Update: Chicks to go out tomorrow!

Well, nice weather has arrived!  Days up to 74, though nights still in the mid 40's though.  The day being nice allowed me to get work done on the Chicken Coop.  I am 97% to 98% done, with just finishing up the gated wire on the bottom front of the coop, and the chickens can move in.  They should be in their castle tomorrow, keeping fingers crossed (which makes typing difficult to say the least....)

Well, here are some photos of the coop;

Got it into position.  Had to put wheels on, as this is one heavy (sturdy too) coop.  Wire is in-place on the back and sides, just need wire on the front, which will be in the form of two gates that lift up to allow access.

My brother (sinfornian) wouldn't take a photo unless I was in it.  Thanks for the help Bro!

This rope closes the trap door that completes the ladder to the lower run, pull it and the door closes.

Now it's open...

and  a pull of the rope closes the door!  The wood around the door is to try to minimize the loss of bedding when the door opens in the mornings...try, try, oh well...

These doors open to access the nesting boxes, and collect the eggs.

The two roosts are in place, and the vent in back is secure.  

These past few days have been long, but the reward is knowing the the chickens have a safe secure coop to sleep in.  It will stand up the worst weather we get here, and stay warm and dry.  The only drawback to this design is the lack of roaming room, yes they lower run is some room, but they need a bit more.  To that end, I am building an ark, 7' by 4' A frame style so that I can move them around the yard, and after harvest the ark will fit nicely over my garden beds.

This is the framing for the arc, after shooting this photo, I put the poultry netting over the to long sides, and one end.  That's when I ran out of daylight, and turned in.

Well, tomorrow is supposed to be nice as well, and I hope to be able to finish up the coop, let the girls roam the lawn out back, and plant some veg, I need to get pole beans, cucumbers and bush beans in the ground.  I was able to put out my first basil starts, and my ground cherries.  The tomatoes, and peppers are flowering, and the melons vining.  All is starting to look like Spring, the bees are buzzing, hummingbirds feasting on the flowers instead of the feeder, blooming happening all, life is good!

Night all

Friday, May 13, 2011

Okay, here's a 2 day post...

Well, just when I have news to share, I find that Blogger is down temporarily.  I know, you all know this, but I was well, bummed.  So I will just share two days worth of news in one post:


Chickens are getting too big for their Costco box, and the coop is in need of finishing:

No roof, No floor, but the roosts are in.  I used 2x3's and offset them so the higher roost is behind the lower.  They can be removed for cleaning.

So the plan for the day was to put on a roof, put in the floor, and complete the ramp ladder to access the outdoor lower run.

Well, successful for the day.  Here you see the floor in, and the register at the back to aid in ventilation.

Lookee here, a way out!

The Ramp to the lower run, when the door / ramp is lowered to complete it.

The door/ramp is up, the coop closed up, and the ramp is now partial.

Here is the view from the nesting boxes (note there are two) and you can just see the roofing shingles at the top of the photo.

This took darned near all day!  Building this coop is a chore.  I had wanted to get the tomatoes, peppers and melons out, as I had made two hoop houses over my 4x8 beds, but was too whupped to do anything more.

Friday.  Well, got an early jump, and had planned to put the front panel on, and fix the door on the front, and put on the nesting box doors.  If time permitted, put out the tomatoes, peppers and melons.

Well, the front panel is on, and the door is in.  Note the window in the door.  The window is 18x24 acrylic.  The door has 3 hinges at the bottom and is held closed with two barrel bolts at the top corners.

This is the front door when open.  It drops totally down, allowing me to clean the inside, easily.

I have two doors on the nesting boxes, one for each box.  Two hinges per door, and a barrel bolt at the top holds it closed.

Here is one of the open doors.  Normally I see the lid lift up to access the box, but this was placed so high, my wife and daughter couldn't get their hands into the box if it was accessed through the lid, so I enter through the back wall, now everyone can hunt for eggs!

I finished up, and though tired, was able to put out 4 tomatoes, eggshells at the bottom of the hole, and a mix of epsom salts and organic tomato feed around the base.  I also planted out 5 Red Bell Pepper plants that were starting to flower (I got the seed from a Red Pepper I bought at the Grocery!  We will see what we get...) Also planted were 3 Jalepeno Peppers, 3 Cayenne Peppers and 3 Pepperocini Peppers.  Everything got a good soaking, and I sealed up the hoop house.

By this time, I was beyond tired.  I just couldn't get the melons out.  That will have to wait for tomorrow. As will the basil, and Ground Cherries.

My wife's sunflowers have all come up, and are reaching for the great fluorescent sun in the sky!  The tomatoes I planted as a last ditch effort to grow my own have all sprouted, and are growing, so I have some hope now.

Night all 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Uh oh...

Well, quick Veggie update:

Peas, Garlic, Lettuce, Beets, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Kale and Swiss Chard all coming along well.  Still no sign of carrots, and one or two toms still holding out.  I did find at a veggie stand wonderful strong stemmed big tomatoes, and bought 4, even though I potted up 9 more tomato seedlings the other day.  Have to hedge my bets, can't go without tomatoes this year!

Now on to the chickens.  Thought that I would give everyone an update on how much they are growing:
First up is Rosalina, our Welsummer:

Look at the wings though, she is using them to full advantage keeping her place as top hen.
Rosalina is one of the birds that is the most docile, and really pays attention when she is called a "good girl"
Hayden, our Golden Laced Wyandotte:

Calm as can be...hah, she is the flighty one of the bunch.
Twinkie, our Buff Orpington (who along with Little Red is one week younger than Rosalina or Hayden):

She is shedding (or molting I guess they call it) something awful...sorry Twinkie, I know better photos are in your future!

And now for Little Red, our Silver Laced Wyandotte.  This little chick is the reason the name of this post is Uh oh...I am more than a little concerned that this litlle chick is a Roo.  Not a hen.  No crowing yet, but look at the photo, and you may see why I think this:
This chick is one week younger than the Golden Laced Wyandotte, is much smaller than all three of the other birds, and the comb and wattles are noticeably more pronounced and larger then any of the others.  This bird, is tail end charlie in the pecking order, and is the most aggressive of the birds.  This chick is vocal, but so far, just clucks and coos, no crowing.

The hatchery says that it's 97% certain as to the sex of the hatchlings, but 3% of the time, a Roo slips through.  I'd hate it if I was in the 3%!  I had planned on 4 hens, and was building the coop for that.  I can't have a Roo inside the city, and can't jeopardize the rest of the hens.  If it is a Roo, I will try to find it a home, but if not, I will do my best to quickly and painlessly end it's life.  That is the the promise I made myself when I began this foray into chickens. They can be named, but they are dual purpose birds; eggs and meat.  They are not pets.  

I am crossing fingers, saying prayers, and hoping with all my might that Little Red is just a Hen.  And that I will not have to kill a chick.  Hence, the Uh oh...  

On a positive note, the coop is coming along nicely.  I have the back and front plywood pieces cut and primed.  The nesting box is framed and primed.  And the flooring plywood is cut.  I have the roosts in place, and with a few nice weather days should have the side walls cut and all primed.  Then It's just put the plywood together with the framing, put on the roof, and wire it up.  I may be done within the next week.  None too soon, as the chickens are getting bigger and outgrowing the Costco Watermelon box they are in!

I have also turned off the heat lamp, as I had it moved up so far, it was keeping the temp equal to that of the garage.  No sense waisting electricity, and it was time for them to get used to Dark.  

Well, it's learning every day here on the homestead.  Looking forward to what I will learn tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Short depressing post

The tomatoes have died.  I tried everything I could think of.  I gave them  bigger (dollar store) pots (perhaps they wanted Nordstrom pots???) I gave them artificial light, natural light, kept them warm, exposed them to wind, watered them, fertilized them.  In the end, they needed to go outside, they were getting and ugly yellow, and I was losing 1 tomato a day, just withering away.  It was pathetic and depressing.

So I took the plunge and planted them outside on Sunday, the weather was nice-ish, and I covered them with a hoop house.  I amended the soil and plunked the 10 survivors down into the nice warm soil.  I watered them, then said a quick prayer.

Yesterday, no improvement, but no lost plants.  Since no negative is a positive, I had hopes.  Hopes that were dashed today.

I checked on them, and all were worse off then when I put them in.  If this were intensive care, the MD would order life support shut off.  I am now preparing to purchase tomatoes again this year.

I hate this, I can grow them from seed, under the lights, to a proper plant out size, but with the weather we have, I had to go long indoors.  What I wouldn't give for a greenhouse.  Not sure if that's the answer, but it's the only thing I could have done different.

Now I have Watermelon and Cantaloupe that are vining indoors, and really, I mean really need to go out, but I am freaked about the weather being this cold, and what it will do.  I set up a hoop house over the bed, but after the tomatoes, not sure if this will be enough.

I hope that the cool weather will just slow down the growth of the melons, and that they can hold on for warmer weather...but deep down, I know that by sending them out, I condemn them to withering away...just like the tomatoes.

Heck, if it weren't for the chickens, I don't know if I could call this a homestead.  Yes, I do have cool weather crops coming up; Lettuce, Kale, Swiss Chard, Beets, Spinach, Peas so all is not lost.  And while the calendar says it is May 3, I could still plant tomatoes and transplant in 6 weeks.  Likewise, if the melons don't survive, they to could be re-started now.  It isn't ideal, but it's better than not having anything at all.

Perhaps, I needed this little pep-post to right my ship.

Tomorrow I start new tomato seeds, and melon seeds (just in case.) Hopefully my wife will let me have the light shelf back, she's using it for sunflowers.  Nope, just asked, well, the peppers will have to share then won't they.