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. 

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Big milestone!

Less than one year after moving in, we’ve reached what I think is a pretty big milestone! We have more baby birds than we want to raise up to eating weight. And you know what that means right?

Craigslist! I’d prefer to use Facebook, but Facebook doesn’t allow any sort of animal sales at all, not even the legal sale of livestock. 

But we have nearly a dozen baby turkeys, and at least two more ready to hatch. We’ve also got fertile eggs and rabbits that seem to be weaned. So, a couple ads are up and more will be going up soon. This is a pretty big deal!

For the first time, instead of saving us money (on food) or costing us money (on feed and supplies) our animals can start earning us money! This is a huge step towards not needing my full time job anymore. As you can imagine, I’m pretty excited!

We actually don’t need to “earn” a lot for this to be a big deal. By my figuring, if they pay for themselves and provide us with just a small amount of income plus food, it could allow me to change shifts. Night shift pays a little better, but I’d like to be on day shift long before my daughter starts school. I want to be present for her big moments. 

So yeah, I’m really excited right now. The animals are about to start paying for themselves, the veggie garden is the biggest I’ve ever done, and we’ve got five fruit trees that may produce this year but certainly will next year. Big things are happening!

This post is no joke!

Seriously, it’s like 8 feet long and almost half of that goes underground!

Ok, so I’ve assisted with fences before, and I’ve used T-posts to make simple poultry fencing. This stuff is hardcore, though. Oh sure, I could rent a trailer mounted auger (hand operated is too dangerous with these tree roots) but that would more than double the cost of the fence. 

So instead I get to dig post holes by hand. It’s not fun, to be honest. But at least I only had to do three near the trees. The hand auger is surprisingly good for these holes. It only takes me about 10-15 minutes per hole (provided no big rocks or roots) but it’s definitely a work out!

With my work schedule, this project has spanned a couple of weekends. Last weekend, I got the materials and plotted where everything would go. I’d have done more, but we had a party. 

Saturday, I got the holes dug and about half of them cemented in. Some people will tell you that these treated posts don’t need cement. I’ll wager these people have never tried replacing a rotted post without dismantling the entire fence. Some people will tell you that in western Washington, you can set a post with dry cement mix and the rain will set the concrete for you. These people have never left a bag of concrete in the rain and then busted it open.

Then there’s people like me. I have a cement mixer. I got it years ago when landscaping and have never regretted it. I don’t expect to have the fence totally done this weekend, but it’ll be done next weekend for sure. Gotta get more cement tomorrow and give the posts time to set. 

Asparagus and onions! Eventually. 

Things have been quite busy here at Huckleberry Hills! I’d been meaning to get asparagus crowns for weeks now, but wanted a better deal than I was finding. $1.60 per plant might not seem like a bad deal, but when you’re getting fifty, it adds up quick!

Amazon to the rescue! I was able to get both a green and a purple variety, 25 crowns each, and spend a total of thirty bucks and some change on them! They arrived during the week and I got them planted Saturday. 

Now, we didn’t really have an ideal spot already prepared so I had to make my own. I knew we wanted them near the house, but with the entire plot being sloped, and the front yard being poultry territory, I really didn’t have any options better than under the kitchen and pantry window. Of course, the soil isn’t fantastic there because there’s a steep slope right below it. 

Enter the bunny. Rabbit poop is one of the best fertilizers because it doesn’t need any aging or composting before applying to the garden. So I shoveled out as much as I could, and mixed it in with some garden soil I’d purchased to make my own seedling mix. 

I weeded the spot under the windows and started digging trenches for them. It’s a little more crowded than I’d prefer, but they should be fine. 

Despite some spotty reviews (largely from people who didn’t seem to have a firm grasp of gardening), they were almost all perfect crowns. Some had even broken dormancy and had tiny spears starting! 

Fifty plants, even if some are female, ought to be enough asparagus for the two (three soon!!!) of us, though we won’t get to harvest any until next year. 

After that, I got the red onions in the ground. Between red and yellow, probably a hundred total. Haven’t even gotten the leeks and scallions outside yet. A few are about ready though!

Also got the tomatoes repotted, for the most part. I don’t have nearly enough space for seedling trays, so I got some of them repotted and then just spaced the rest out in their original trays a bit. I’ve definitely determined that I need a better dedicated seedling area, with shelves and more lights. 

The incubator is set up and ready for eggs, just waiting on that silly turkey. The cuckoo maran pullets are spending the days outside and will be moving to the coop by next weekend most likely. 

As much as there is to do lately, it’s super important to not forget to take time for yourself and your loved ones. Saturday we had a family gathering at my mom’s house, and Sunday after planting, the girlfriend and I went to a local park. We really do live in a beautiful place, and I can’t wait to show it to my baby when he or she gets here!

Shifting priorities 

When we first started out here at Huckleberry Hills, before it was even called that, we had some fairly ambitious goals. We still do! However, things change, and the plan for this year has changed quite a bit. 

Sometimes the greatest additions to a homestead or farm are totally unplanned! We call it Sesame Seed for now, because that’s how big it was when we found out! But as Lady McFarmFace gets further along, it gets harder for her to do certain things. 

We still plan on ducks, geese, goats, pigs, and sheep. But probably not this year. The fowl, at most. Instead, the big focus will be on streamlining what we already have. I’ll be constructing a rabbit barn of sorts, and food hoppers that don’t need filling as often and keep food a little higher to deter rodents. The water containers for the poultry and the rabbits will be modified for easier filling, and ill extend the fence around the yard. 

This fall, I’ll do some earth moving to make swales and berms, and then totally replant the entire yard with a forage blend. It’ll be a mix of a horse pasture blend (orchard grass, perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, Timothy, and alfalfa) and a poultry forage blend (Dutch white clover, alsike clover, red clover, alfalfa, Austrian winter peas, common flax). With a large enough area, this should significantly decrease the chicken food bill! 

Other projects include some sort of overhead shelter for the birds, and replacing the pellet stove with a wood stove. I’d also like to get started clearing the pasture, though I may not get to fencing it until next year. 

Another thing, Diane has started laying!!! More on that in the next post. 

Busy time

With spring rapidly approaching, there’s a lot to do. Mainly little projects, but some big stuff too. 

We had mice burrowing into the coop so some bricks and gravel around the edges today to hopefully discourage that. 

I got the garden prepped. Had to clean out the old tomato and pepper plant stems. Shoveled in all the rabbit poop I could scoop, and added some extra organic soil I hadn’t gotten around to last fall. Still need to finish the wall and leveling, but that can wait a bit. 

The wood stove had been smoking out the house so I cleaned it out, swept the chimney, and cleaned out the catch at the bottom of the chimney. And now I understand why most people hire someone to do this! Lots of ash and soot. Dirty work!

The chickens are in full gear. We actually got six eggs today, meaning the five ameraucana cherps are the only ones not laying yet. And the injured hen has recovered enough to rejoin the flock. She spent a few days outside in a penned off area to reduce aggression and it seems to have worked. 

Now it’s time for dinner, some drinks, and some downtime before I go back to work tomorrow!

Wintergreen? Winter greens?

Eh. Either way, we are ready for fresh greens. I’ll be starting up the garden seeds soon but for now we want some salad!

Enter the grow lights! Nothing fancy now, just some spinach, kale, and arugula. But it’ll start saving us some food money bef re the garden really gets going. 

As per usual, the kale sprouts before literally everything else. 

Worth noting that we found led tubes for shop lights. Trying them out!

Farm truck time!

Finally got ourselves a truck. Spent slightly more than we had hoped, but we went to stokes auction and got a little white gmc S15. 

It needs an oil change pretty badly, but once that’s done it should be in pretty good shape for what we need. I like that it’s a long bed truck. Getting tired of trying to haul lumber and hay in a chevy sonic!

First Winter Lessons

Ah, January. The holidays are over and the winter has just begun. Already, I can tell you we will be doing things a little differently next winter. 

First, all the animals have water with some sort of heat source. Not powerful enough. When the temperature doesn’t get above 33 for more than a few hours at a time for days on end, the little 5 watt heater just won’t keep it flowing for the birds. So we moved it into the coop. For now, anyway. The bunnies fare a little better but will still need a better option next year. For now, we break any ice and add fresh water nearly daily. And by we, I mean the girlfriend because she gets up early every day and does all the stuff I wouldn’t have time for. 

Seriously, could not do this without her. 

Second, shelter. It’s less of an issue now than it was in late autumn, but when those November and December rains come for weeks on end, it can get pretty miserable. All the animals have shelter, but I feel an awning of some sort would cut down on the muck and get them moving more. 

Third, wood stove. The house came with a pellet stove. Apparently a previous owner swapped out a wood stove for it. Why, I’ll never know. Sure, it’s efficient and low energy and can be hooked to the thermostat. But it also requires electricity to run, and the pellets cost about $5 a bag, a bag lasting a few days. Meanwhile, we live in the freaking forest. So yeah, swapping that out and getting a wood shed set up. 

All that being said, I do feel we’ve planned ahead decently well. We’ve got emergency food and water stores, the chicken coop has a light on a timer (separate timer from the door) which has the chickens on a regular schedule, and laying better. The rabbits have lots of shelter, as does the dog. Seeds for the vegetable patch are already in, along with heat mats to get the warm weather crops a head start. Have buckwheat already and have a local source for barley so we can have some small grain patches. 

Most of the building projects I’ve got right now are small, but in a few weeks things will get pretty busy here. I’ve decided to not rush the pasture and goats. As much as I want goats, if we fence the yard completely then we can more than quadruple poultry areas, to include ducks and geese, and make the rabbit area bigger. Still looking for a truck but once we have one, lots of other projects can start too. 

In the meantime, this salamander was crossing the road and I thought he was adorable. 

Tortoise and hare? Nah. Girlfriend and rabbit!

So, a few of the wire ties at the bottom of the rabbit pen came loose since building it and last night, one of the rabbits got out while I was at work. 

Please keep in mind that we live in the woods and the treeline begins only about a hundred feet from the rabbit pen. My girlfriend chased down and cornered the rabbit and caught her with her bare hands. 

Take a moment and let that sink in. She caught an escaped rabbit that was headed for the woods with her bare hands. Do not mess with this chick. 

Anyway, the bunny is fine and almost certainly pregnant. The girlfriend says she could feel the babies inside while carrying her back. Also, there was some fur in the nest box, which is something female rabbits start doing in the last couple of days before birth. So we may have baby rabbits before the new year arrives!