I bring you photos of dirt!

That’s right, photos of dirt. Ok, so there’s a little more to it than that. 

Of our fenced in areas, we have a lot of cross fencing. We can isolate the dog from the front chicken yard. We can isolate the front from the side and back, the garden from the back, etc. It’s astoundingly useful. 

Anywho, the first area mentioned doesn’t get a lot of use now that Vasi is growing up. She spends every night roaming the entire front, side, and back yard. So I figured I should put it to good use. 

The geese have pretty much mowed the entire back yard. So for now they are in a temporary pen outside the yard where the grass, clover, and plantain have gotten tall. So, starting with the dog area, I’ve decided to plant a forage lawn. 

I got two bags of seed. The first is a pasture grass blend for our region and the second is a forage blend of field peas, clover, rye, buckwheat, etc. 

You may recall that the entire front yard was dry, dusty, rock hard and dead when we moved in. The chickens have done a marvelous job of rejuvenating it. It’s now rich, dark soil. 

So I raked up the straw mulch and loosened the topsoil. I spread the forage blend first, covered with the dirt/straw mix I’d raked up, then pasture grass, and more of the dirt/straw mix. 

Well, that was a week ago. And things have begun sprouting!!! With the dry, hot weather we’ve been having, it needs a lot of water. Not the ideal time to plant a lawn, but the geese are rapidly outgrowing what we’ve got. Got to plan ahead for their continued growth. I also cross fenced a section of the back yard and planted it. 

Also, my wheat is starting to form seed heads!

What a lovely skirt…

So, rats found out they could dig und r the coop. My bad. I had hardware cloth under it, but it seems that during the building process, it got into a position of poor contact and the little monsters can slip right past it. 

So, skirt it is. The first step is to dig a shallow trench that slopes away from the coop. Some will tell you to bury the wire one foot down. These people have no real experience with rodents. Rats are smart. They’ll just keep going down. But if the barrier goes down and out, it’s very confusing. To figure out that they need to move away from the barrier before digging requires abstract thinking that is ever so slightly past the average rat. 

So you dig your trench and set the hardware cloth in it. It should contact the wood of the coop enough for staples, but extend about a foot down and away. The more the better. 

Staple it into position and start to bury it. It’s ok if it’s not perfectly flush to the ground, but it should be flush to the coop. 

When you’re burying it, periodically give it a shake or step on it to ensure good soil contact, but also to make sure it doesn’t bend and create gaps where a rodent could slip through. Be sure to overlap at the corners!

When you’re all done, the wire should be barely visible, and just where it connects to the wood. 

I did this about a week and a half ago and there has been no indication that the rats have figured it out. In the meantime, we are setting traps to try to encourage them to vacate the premises. 

We tried a live trap and caught one, but since then they seem to have figured it out. Either that or most of them are too small to trip it. As such, I bought modern snap traps that are supposed to work well. Two sizes, one for rats and one for mice. I know where the little ones come out so I’ll set the small ones there and the big one near the coop. 

To avoid any bird or cat accidents, I got a few milk crates. Turned upside down, they’ll keep larger animals out but let the rodents in. I set the traps next to known burrow entrances with the crates covering the whole thing. 

Disclaimer. I like rodents. They’re smart and make wonderful pets. But when they’re under the house and in the coop, they gotta go. The Snap E Mouse Trap, under an upturned milk crate is incredibly effective. I set three traps about three hours ago. I’ve caught eight so far. 

I think the crate makes them feel more secure taking the bait. Anyway, it’s important to check the traps frequently, as they’ll learn to avoid them if they see their comrades dead in them. 

I don’t like killing, but these are fast, humane, and very effective. 

Another busy weekend

Whew! This weekend isn’t even over for me but I’ve gotten quite a bit done. 

First, I played with the goslings. It’s taxing work, but somebody’s got to do it. They need to not be afraid of us. 

Next, I got some more planting done. We had a packet of sunflower seeds for snacking as opposed to the black oil seeds I already planted, and a little packet of purely decorative ones. Got those in, along with some buckwheat. 

Then beans. And why yes, that is in the middle of the yard. I ran out of other places. But being by the deck means I’ve got a great place for a trellis!

Then there was a bunch of little projects and cleaning up. The rabbits have the nest boxes back, as we figure at least one is probably pregnant now. By the way, like my little rabbit barn? We figure it gives them more space out of rain, and that front board can help contain the very young babies. 

Speaking of babies, they’re getting big! We will probably only keep six of them for the freezer and sell the rest as pets or breeding stock. 

The rat bitten turklet is completely recovered and back outside, though we are triple checking it goes on the roost at night. In the meantime, I’ve installed an anti rodent skirt to the coop. I’ll do a post just on that soon. 

The geese are starting to get real feathers, and are spending every day outside. The pen keeps them confined until they’re big enough to not get through the fence. 

And finally, it’s been consistently warm and dry for long enough that I felt I should water everything. And with the soil darkened, I could see much more clearly that the salad garden is actually doing quite well! That spinach was nearly invisible before watering. 

Same with the lettuce! Several varieties of loose leaf and I’m even doing some butterhead lettuce this year. And the radishes. I wasn’t even planting more radishes, but I found old seeds and figured I’d give them a shot. 

More than just a fence 

I already showed you how the area between the rabbit pen and the driveway is being used for grain and seed crops, but there’s still a lot of fence line and still a lot of stuff we are wanting to grow. 

The corn is taking its time. So while the wheat and sunflowers are coming up nicely, let’s talk grapes. 

I have two varieties of grape. Gewurtztraminer for wine, and a green table grape. The gewurtztraminer is older and will take a bit more work to train. Grapes need support to grow properly, because as a woody vine if you don’t train them up and out, they just sprawl outwards and that means grapes on the ground. No one wants that. Except the bugs, perhaps. Enter the fence. 

By planting the grapes right next to the fence, in spots that get enough sun, we don’t need a dedicated grape trellis. Sure, the bunnies and any other animals inside the fence might take a few grapes, but I figure that’s just free animal food and they certainly won’t take all of them. If it gets bad, I can just attack hardware cloth to the inside of the fence to prevent grape theft. 

Right next to the gate, I used a shovel to cut a line into the grass and stuck peas in. So far they’re germinating nicely even through the turf, so hoping for a nice long line of them. 

We also grabbed two varieties of pear (for cross pollination), Bosc and Bartlett. Most of our fruits will be suitable for making our own baby food. After all, why pay a couple bucks for a half cup when we can pick them by the pound and just mash and can them ourselves for pennies on the dollar?

Aside from all that, the huckleberry flowers are starting to drop so berries soon!

Elderberries are in full bloom. 

Strawberries just starting to bloom. The top of the pocket pot is an everbearing variety, but the pockets are two varieties of native strawberry. They’re sending runners out and as soon as that area is established, we will move the pot and let them colonize another patch. 

The salal and black cap raspberries are also budding out. Getting into the tasty time of the year soon!

Busy Saturday!

Even though I didn’t get home from work until after 5 am and didn’t get a lot of sleep, I had a rather productive day! First, after more than a week of hardening off, I got the veggies transplanted to the garden!

That’s a lot of tomatoes and peppers! Also got the Brussels sprouts and broccoli out. To be honest, I think I started all of these a couple weeks too soon. Some of them were pretty leggy. They’d have gone out sooner but the weather has not been particularly cooperative and I’ve been pretty busy with the fence. 

Speaking of the fence, I got a bit done between the driveway and rabbit pen. The closest patch is black oil sunflower seed. These are the small black sunflower seeds you see in bird seed mixes. They’re also where we get sunflower oil. The soil was pretty bad. I think the gravel driveway used to be much wider. 

The next plot is wheat. Not sure what variety, we got it from the feed store. But a germination test was very promising! 

After working in some rabbit poop, I broadcast by hand and then covered with a light sprinkle of soil. 

Finally, corn! Specifically, calico popcorn. So pretty!

It’s a good corn for popping, but also a good one for mixing homemade chicken feed. On limited space, I just did six rows. Hopefully I’ll get good fertilization. Next year I’ll have larger plots for all of these. Next year I hope to not be tilling rocky soil by hand!

I covered it all with bird netting (held in place by the fence to keep it up off the soil) because previous attempts were essentially just exercises in feeding songbirds. 

When that was all done, my sister dropped by with a couple friends to socialize the rabbits. This involved basically snuggling and squealing at how cute they were. 

Tomorrow is an us day for me and the lady McFarmFace. But Monday I hope to get started on the rabbit barn. But other than that, I got everything on my list for the weekend done today!

DIY livestock gate! Or the fence thing part two. 

While I had the materials to build the gate last weekend, what I did not have was the time. So the yard sat almost ready for the dog for a week. Poor Vasi. If she knew what I was doing back there, she might have been less of a pill. 

Anywho, the ground between the two gate posts was not level because I didn’t think ahead enough so some minor earthwork was in order. Once I had a relatively level area between them, it was time to build the gate itself. 

So, measure between the two posts and accounts for the hinges. The latch will be on the outside so not a big deal. I wanted a different style latch, but it seems most gate latches assume either square posts or chain link. Oh well. 

The gate is constructed out of 2×4, which makes it pretty heavy. Over time, it will sag. To counter this, the diagonal brace takes the weight from the top of the gate opposite the hinge and distributes it to the bottom right next to a hinge. Also, I placed a brick below the gate that it can rest on. Let’s hope that’s enough!

Obviously, two triangles with a nine foot span won’t keep the dog in, so the woven wire fencing was stapled to it.

 It’s tied to itself on the sides much like with the wooden fence posts. All in all, I think it blends with the fence quite nicely!

It’s stapled once up top and twice on the bottom, which stretches the wire down, then up, then down again. So it’s pretty tight. 

Basic gate hinges. Held down by gravity. You do want to make sure they’re plumb to each other, and measure very carefully, as the pilot holes make it very difficult to adjust the huge placement!

A little tidying up and it was time to let the puppy lose! She definitely enjoys the space! But until I can be sure the garden is completely secured, she only gets supervised time outside. 

Upcoming: using the fenceline as support for peas and grapes, planting the areas just outside the fence with grain crops among other things, and using pumpkins as weed control!

Long eared ingrates or just being helpful?

So, roughly half an hour after finishing the rabbit pen expansion, I happened to go out and check on them. And all three had decided to repay my efforts by demonstrating that the new fence was not rabbit proof. It’s worth noting that someone had wanted me to wait till next weekend to do this so she could help make sure it was secure but I was sure I could do it on my own. In the dark. Lesson learned. 

Fortunately, the two of us rounded them up pretty quickly. But it did mean I was up until 3 just fixing the fence so they couldn’t get out. And 4 making sure I hadn’t missed anything and they couldn’t get out. 

By 8, one had and we had to get up and get her back in. Six hours after that, all still contained, I think we got it now. I’m scratched up pretty bad from catching rabbits and working with wire in the dark. Moral of the story, don’t start a project unless you’re sure you’ve got the time to finish it. 

Anyway, all that aside, they’re loving the extra space! In the second pic, you can pretty clearly see where the old fence was. It’s more than twice as big now. 

Basics of woven wire fences part 1

Well, it’s been in the works for several consecutive weekends now, but I have a fence! Normally I keep this blog pretty lighthearted and joking, and today won’t be any different! Except maybe more useful. Tutorial time!

I used redbrand 47″ field fence. It’s highly rated and probably overkill, but it’s actually an incredibly economical way to fence in a large space. 

For corners, rough terrain, gates, and (if the area is large enough) every 50 feet, I used 8 foot long 4″ pressure treated wooden posts set in concrete. 

The corners are braced. Unless you’re exceptionally concerned about strength, I wouldn’t bother cementing in the brace posts, but I did notch the vertical post to make sure it was very firmly seated. I set the base of the brace posts about a foot down against a brick. I put gravel around them for drainage before covering with soil. 

At roughly ten foot intervals (if the length of the run is 53 feet, I went roughly 10 foot 2 inches. Sue me.) the T posts went in. A post pounding cap makes this a helluva lot easier. Notice the string?

Don’t eyeball it. Use a line and level to keep those posts going in exactly where and how you want them. The T posts went on the outside of the fence, with the wooden posts on the inside. I just felt it would give the greatest strength if pushed from either side. 

To start the fence, it’s easier to unroll the fence along the line first. However, the terrain made that impractical where I was starting. All I really want to say about that experience is that there was a lot of panting, grunting, and swearing. And not even in a sexy way. Also, have someone help you if you can! Anyway, you remove the vertical wire from the edge of the fence, giving you a nice row of wires poking out. You’ll essentially tie the fence around the first pole, to itself. Don’t start your fence 1/4″ from a shed. Just saying. 

Once you’re unrolled and on the right side of the posts (easier after unrolling!) you can start pulling it into place. 

Now here’s where it gets tricky. You really ought to have a fence stretcher. I do not. But I do have random bits of lumber. So I stuck one in the fence (weave it through over one and under the next, all the way from top to bottom) and tied a rope to it. Attach that to a come along (hand cranked winch) to get the fence tight. 

Now, you don’t need it to be taut. I’d wager that’s actually probably a bad idea. But tight is good. Word of caution. As you crank it down, periodically go make sure it’s not caught on anything and the bottom wire is where you want it. The bottom wore had ridden up on my corner post and I had to uncrank the come along to get it down. I just didn’t feel like my fence should start four inches off the ground. 

If you find it’s caught a T post and that post is now being pulled towards you, do as I say and not as I do. Release tension on the come along before attempting to unhook the post. I was not injured. If I wasn’t paying attention, I could have been. 

Anywho, fence is standing up all nice and straight like, it’s where and how you want it. Awesome. You can either leave the come along there forever or you can finish the fence. Le sigh. I used some pretty heavy duty staples because overkill is better than a weak fence. Also, the barbs are sharp. Ask me how I know. Most of them are bowed out like the one pictured on the left. Use pliers to straighten them like the one on the right. They go in way easier. Giggity. 

Now, I’m no expert, but I do know that the vertical wires can slip along the horizontal, so a staple across either of those may not hold it forever. But a staple across the point where they are tied together? I’ll need a chainsaw to get that out. I’d say use a minimum of three per post. Top, bottom, and middle. 

Now the T posts I’ve done before, I just bent my own wire to tie them together. But this is a much heavier duty fence so I got clips. I highly recommend the clips. The clips are awesome. Also, you might stare at it for a minute thinking “now how is this supposed to work?”

Start by hooking the shorter end onto the wire and slipping the clip around the post. You want the wire over that bump on the post, but if it’s stubborn like this one was, you can finagle it after you’ve got the clip almost in place. You’ll see what I mean. 

But wait! That long end doesn’t quite slip onto the fence wire! But the wire is over the notch now, you’ll notice! 

But the long end is a very convenient size and shape to grab with pliers! Needle nose actually work really well here because you can grip the clip and then twist using the fence wire as a pivot point. This pulls the clip nice and tight. 

A few more twists on both ends and boom. Clip on. Please note that the ground makes this more annoying a task for the bottom wire. 

I got all the fencing for the yard done, but the last bit required supplemental lighting. I’m afraid that’s it for this weekend. Next weekend I’ll dog proof the perimeter, tidy up anything I don’t want her chewing, and build the gate. Until then, the bunnies are enjoying their new space! Pics of that when I’ve got time!