Archive | homesteading RSS for this section

Temporary Chicken Yard

We finally got a chicken yard up so the chicks can run free. We’ll eventually build a more permanent structure, but this one will have to do for now. Here’s a picture.

chicken yard

We started by pounding in 6 foot T posts every six feet and then fenced in the yard with poultry wire. The end adjoining the garage in the picture is attached to the siding. On the other side of the yard, the end up against the garage is a gate that attaches to the chain link fence with gate clips. Bird netting has been stretched over the whole yard and affixed to the poultry wire with zip ties.

I’ll be honest -I took a short cut with the end near the garage. I didn’t have any tensile wire left and I was running out of time since we’re leaving on vacation tomorrow, so I duck taped the poultry netting to the garage. I hope it holds. Our pet/livestock/homestead sitter will fix it if not.

The chickens are quite happy. They think it is the greatest thing in the world.

There won’t be any more posts this week. We’re leaving for the beach in 12 hours. Have a great rest of the week!

Advertisements

Homestead Update

Summer is in full swing at Laughing Bird Farm. It’s hot as blazes and the garden is growing like hotcakes. We finally have tomatoes coming on. Yay! Unfortunately (or fortunately, if it keeps up into July), while the rain has slowed down, it’s still been raining enough to delay all the hot weather crops such as tomatoes. It’s the end of June and the greens haven’t even bolted yet.

We’ve finally been making a little bit of progress on the homestead. We started cleaning out from behind the garage so we could put up the chicken run. I’ll have pictures of that in a few days, but here’s a pic of some of the junk our predecessor left back there:

junk

This isn’t quite half of it and doesn’t include the rusty steel I-beams (who keeps I-beams behind a garage?). Kelly managed to move those on her own yesterday while I was away, with the help of our trusty old Radio Flyer wagon.

The chicks are growing fast. They’ve lost the last of their baby fluff and look like small chickens now. I started taking them outside the week before last in a dog crate to protect them. Here’s what it looked like then.

chicks

I’m sorry to say it didn’t work, and earlier this week a hawk attacked them through the bars. I saw it out the kitchen window and ran out there, but not in time to prevent one hen from being killed outright and another from being injured so bad we didn’t think she was going to make. She’s made a full recovery, however.

Our roosters did their job, too! By the time I got to the crate, they had herded all the remaining hens to the opposite side and had put themselves between the flock and the hawk. You should have seen them -all puffed up, wings flapping, ready to die to defend their hens. The hawk flew off as I got to the crate, of course.

The chicks came in for the rest of the day while I figured out what to do. Here’s the solution I came up with.

chicks2

The table goes over the crate, the bird netting is stretched out around the whole setup, and the fence post pounder holds the bird netting in place. It works so well it’s almost people proof as well as hawk proof.

More to come in the next posts.

Rain, rain, and…

wait for it….more rain.

It has rained here everyday for more than two weeks. I am not joking or exaggerating. Some days we’ve had barely misting rain in the evening and other days we’ve had driving rain all day long. We had one storm with such awful straight line winds it shredded our neighbor’s fence, took out part of our side fence, and dismantled our mailbox. We spent ours picking up downed limbs after it.

Luckily, our fruit trees and garden have come through mostly unscathed, though we did lose some smaller seeds and have had a hard time working out there. I’ve been working whenever the rain let up, and one day this past week I put in fence posts while it misted.

The chickens are growing so fast. Oddball started strutting Tuesday morning. He is such a male. We know we have at least one other rooster left in the flock (possibly as many as three), but they aren’t yt acting like roosters. I really think I may have a pet chicken in Oddball; he’s started occasionally perching on my shoulder and he likes to tuck his head under my chin.

As for the hens, they are almost indistinguishable at this point, save for one hen who has a panic attack whenever anyone comes near them. She’ll be joining the boys we decide not to keep in the freezer this fall.

Today is supposed to be our second market day, and it looks like the rain will hold off long enough for it to go on today. Right now the sun is shining, so I’m going outside.

Have a great day!

Chicks!

I know it’s been a while since I posted, but I’m remedying that now. Our chicks came in! Here’s a pic of all of them in their brooder on the day of arrival.

IMG_0253

They were so incredibly tiny! We chose Silver Grey Dorkings because they are a good dual-purpose heritage breed. These chickens have actually been raised since Roman times. We got our chicks from Murray McMurray. I highly recommend them if you’re looking for chickens. We were even able to have them vaccinated. Also, we lost a few to transport shock (it happens) and McMurray credited our account for those.

Here’s a close-up of one of the chicks.

IMG_0256

Did you see the chick with white spot on his head in the lower right hand corner of the first shot? That’s our Oddball. McMurray offers a free check with some orders, and we took them up on the offer. We don’t know what kind he is, but we suspect he’s a Dominker, the oldest American breed. We knew all along the extra chick would be a male, and we’ve been jokingly referring to him as our “free chicken dinner.”

Be careful what you decide about your livestock before you get them. Guess which one of the chicks is the only one I’ve gotten attached to? I’ve been telling the others to grow big and strong so they can give us lots of eggs and chicken tenders, but Oddball (yes, he has a name) has quickly become “my” chicken. He purrs when I hold him and wraps his head around my fingers.

We may end up raising mutt chickens.

What’s Growing on the Homestead: Amish Paste Tomatoes

I started this series with a nightshade, so I’m going to continue with them for a while.

One of the tomatoes we’re growing this year is known as Amish Paste. It’s an heirloom paste tomato that gets to be about 8-12 oz and is known for having very few seeds. It’s also registered in the Slow Food Ark of Taste. The plants are indeterminate.

I’m not normally a fan of red tomatoes straight, but I’m hoping I like this one. We use a lot of canned tomatoes around here in the winter, mostly in soups, so I’m hoping to get a good crop. I’ve never grown this variety before. Thus far, the plants are doing fairly well. They’ve been slightly effected by early blight, but are merrily growing anyway, so they have at least some resistance. I’ll update on them later this year.

Here’s a picture, copied from the seed company’s website. I got these seeds from Sow True Seeds in Asheville, North Carolina.

v-tomato-amish-paste

 

What’s Growing on the Homestead: Red Pontiac Potatoes

I thought I would take advantage of a cold and rainy day to start a new series. Each of these posts will feature a plant we currently have growing here at LBF. I’m going to kick it off with one of the plants I’m most excited about: Irish potatoes.

Potatoes are incredibly easy to grow in most climates and give you a lot of food bang for your effort and expense. One pound of seed potatoes can produce up to 10 pounds of eating potatoes. That’s a lot of return for your investment. They are a good source of nutrients and are very calorie dense. These are the two primary reasons potatoes have long been grown as a subsistence crop in much of the world. Plus, they are dang good eating. I come from a Irish family, so I’ve eaten potatoes in every manner possible.

Unfortunately, potatoes don’t grow well in the Deep South. They don’t handle the combination of high heat and higher humidity very well and are prone to any number of fungal diseases and insect attacks. Sweet potatoes are traditionally substituted for them in the summer garden. It is possible to get a spring crop in if you plant early and get good weather. I’ve never tried it, but we decided to take the plunge this year and we must be having beginner’s luck, because the plants are growing great.

You can choose from dozens, if not hundreds, of different varieties. We chose Red Pontiac potatoes. This is a pretty red potato with white flesh. It’s great for mashing and is a good storage variety. Here’s a picture of the spuds, snagged from the seed company we ordered the seed potatoes from.

v-potato-red-pontiac

Hmm. I can’t wait to eat them.

We’re growing them using the hilling method. We cut the seed potatoes up, buried them under a few inches of soil, and then hilled dirt around them when they were about 18 inches tall, then hilled then again with straw when they’d grown another foot. We’ve only watered them once since planting; Mother Nature has done the rest. They started flowering yesterday, so it won’t be long before the tubers size up, the vines die back, and it’s time to harvest.

I can’t wait!

Summer Comes to Laughing Bird Farm

Summer has finally arrived. This will be our first summer on the homestead, and I am really looking forward to it.

I know, I know, the calendar says it is still spring for another month and a half, but let’s face it, spring lasts about two weeks here in the south. Okay, this year it lasted about six weeks, but you get the point. I don’t measure the arrival of summer by the calendar anyway, or by the thermometer (which reached 87 here today), but by something much more mundane: the return of the mosquitoes.

The first of the little bloodsuckers showed up again last night, which means it really is summer. It also means it’s time to break out the long sleeves in the evening, the repellents, and the Bt dunks. Ah, the joys of being outdoors in the summer.

Something new is always happening here our homestead. Today our potatoes started blooming. I managed to get one decent picture.

Potato Flower

Pretty, isn’t it?

Speaking of pretty things, I was knocking down weeds on the side of the house when I discovered the vine pictured below has taken over the chain link fence that separates our neighbor’s property from ours up in the front. This vine is vetch, and it is quite pretty in bloom, but it is also very invasive. The good news is that it also fixed nitrogen. I prefer to look on the bright side.

Vetch

The entire fence is covered in it. I’m going to have to rip it out and replace it with something more appropriate. I’m thinking morning gloried and moonflowers for quick screening this year, and possibly clematis in the long run.

I got our corn in today. This was the flour corn; I’ll plant the popcorn in a couple more weeks. I also planted sunflowers, collard, and a heat tolerant lettuce, and transplanted the two butternut squash plants we were given. I’m going to let them run through the corn and make a three sisters style planting.

Life is good!

Weekly Farm Status Update 5/11/14 (and a great mother’s day gift)

A lot has been happening around the homestead this week. The garden is exploding. I’ll get to all of that in a moment. First, baby T gave us the most amazing Mother’s Day gift in the world: she took her first step! She’s been getting close to it for a while, and she’s tried all weekend, and finally she did it. She promptly fell down of course, but wow! What a day to start walking!

Ok, now for the farm stuff.

Our First Market Day

Laughing Bird Farm’s first farmer’s market was a success. Not a huge success, but a success nonetheless. We learned a lot and made about $100 which is nothing to sneeze at, especially given our distinct lack of product. Here’s some of the lessons we learned:

  • Signage and displays are key. We need to work on these before next month.
  • We need more product. The booth needs to look full.
  • The kids need to wait to come out until after it starts to cool off. (I know, this one should have been obvious.)
  • Disposable tablecloths do not work well for the kind of products we have. We’ll pick up some vinyl ones before next month.
  • Most important of all, we learned how NOT to pack fresh herbs. Not that we had that many to begin with, but I ruined them all by packaging them in plastic baggies. I thought they’d be okay despite the heat and humidity. Not. I’ll do some research into the best way to package them before next month.

I forgot to take pictures, unfortunately. We were just too busy. I’ll try to snap a few next month.

What’s growing in the garden

A little bit of everything! It’s really popping. The corn’s not in yet, but the plot is mostly ready, and the seeds will go in on Tuesday or Thursday of this week. Here’s a list of the current crops:

  • Lots of herbs including basil, sage, lemon balm, cilantro, parsley, thyme, and peppermint.
  • Potatoes (see pictures below)
  • Radishes
  • Pole Beans
  • Lima Beans

The potatoes are really growing fast. They were first hilled just  8 days ago. Take a look at this picture of one of them I took tonight.

Potatoes

Yep -they had to be hilled again. This time I used straw instead of dirt. I’ll see how it works. And one of them is starting to flower.

It won’t be long now!

The Orchard

Our fruit trees and berry bushes are mostly doing well, with the exception of the Pineapple Pear tree, which has never leafed out. I’m reluctantly calling it a loss. I’ll contact the nursery for a replacement sometime next month.

Check this out, though. I discovered tonight that our peach tree tried to set fruit this year. I knew it bloomed, but this was the first time I found a sign of fruit.

Peach

There were several of these, and since the tree is too young to bear, I pulled them all off.

What’s waiting to be transplanted

Quite a lot, actually.

  • Lots of herbs
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers, both hot and sweet
  • Tomatillos
  • Eggplants
  • Swiss chard
  • Butternut Squash (a gift)
  • Zucchini (also a gift)

Chickens!

We’ve got 16 days until our chickens arrive. I guess I better get started on, ur that is finish, the coop. I’ll leave it to you to decide which one is the true statement. 😉

Until next time, happy gardening and homesteading. And happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

It’s market day!

Today is our first ever farmer’s market! To market, to market, to market we go!

I’ll have pictures and such tomorrow.

Oh, and we have only 18 days left until our chickens arrive. Next week I have to start building the chicken coop.

And sometimes you just order pizza…

I apologize for the lack of posts. This has been just about the craziest week of my life. Here’s a rundown of some of the happenings here on the farm:

T’s been sick.

The ear infection just hasn’t wanted to clear up. We finally got the pediatrician to refer her to an ENT for tubes. Sometimes a day goes well and you get everything done. Other days you sit and hold your fussy, sick baby for most of the day. And sometimes, when she feels better a few days later and goes back to preschool, you’re so tired you go back to bed for a couple of hours after dropping her off. I’ve felt old lately, but I have to remind myself that I’m not -I just have a toddler!

The rabbits found the cover crop.

I knew they would; I just hoped they wouldn’t do to much damage before I finished installing the fence around the back. No such luck; they devastated the cover crop to the point that I might as well not have bothered planting it. Lesson learned.

I transplanted 40 herb plants.

More will go in soon. Because of the rabbit damage, I sprayed each and every plant with some OMRI certified rabbit repellent spray. I’ll let you know how it works.

Deal of the Week.

When I went to Home Depot for the spray (Lowe’s doesn’t carry the OMRI certified brand in store), I found a cart of “damaged” lumber marked down by 70%. Most of the damage was minimal or nonexistent and I brought home 5 12 foot long 2x4s for $2 each. The employees even cut them down to 8 feet for me, free of charge.

A family crisis landed a 2 year old on our doorstep.

This one is the biggie. We don’t know how long she’ll be here, but in the meantime, we have two children under three in the house, one of which is very insecure and traumatized. Both of us are exhausted. (Oh well…we’ll sleep when we’re dead.)

Floyd is turning out to be much better with children, even toddlers, than we ever dreamed. It took him about two months to become T’s staunch guardian, and about two hours to warm up to his newest charge. The girls share the room next to ours and the previous homeowner took the door between the two. We haven’t found the odd-sized door needed to replace it yet, so the rooms are only separated by a curtain. Floyd will get up periodically during the night and check on both girls to be sure they are all right and breathing. It’s really adorable to watch him shove his snout as far as he can between the bars of T’s crib to sniff at her.

Normally we cook all our dinners at home and have leftovers for lunch the next day. Not last night. Last night we ordered pizza, because yeah, that’s the kind of day it was.

More posts will come soon, I promise!