The little things

This whole farm life thing has a lot of big things. Fences to build, irrigation considerations, gardens, crop planting density, creating new pasture on poor ground, and so on. But it's a lot of little things too.
The daily chores aren't huge but there are a lot of them. I know this. I knew this. But as we prepare for the arrival of our little girl, I'm slowly trying to take over or at least practice on the weekends. It adds up! And small mistakes can have huge consequences.
We had some chicken losses because I forgot to tell the house sitter to check a specific spot for some birds that stubbornly refuse to enter the coop each night and the dog wanted to play with them.
No ones fault but mine. But it reinforced that I need to spend more time acclimating the dog to the birds so she doesn't see them as playmates.
Primarily this means she goes on a very short leash and I try to keep her sitting as the birds come and investigate. The turkeys and geese are the only ones not afraid. And Christmas Goose is downright brazen!

I actually had to separate them because Vasi was only going to tolerate being bitten and body slammed for so long. She did nip half heartedly at him once and had to be told no but all in all she did really well. Eventually I had to bring her in because she got too excited.
While all this is going down, we've got a new litter of bunnies just opening their eyes!
I've got some ideas for reducing the feeding and watering chores, but so little time to build the stuff. I already know that next year I need to have some sort of irrigation system and better soil amendments.
The black oil sunflowers have started blooming but they're a bit short, probably a nitrogen issue. Still pretty though!
Anyway, just a short post to show I'm still here and get some pretty pictures out there. This heat is unbearable. We need rain!

Sold out for the season!

The last of the turklets have been reserved for sale! We have three that we will keep for ourselves. One for more eggs next year, one for our thanksgiving, and one to sell for thanksgiving. 

I honestly wasn’t sure for a while there how many we would end up being left with, and I’d planned on keeping more of them. But for our first season selling birds, this isn’t bad at all. The animals have essentially covered 3/4 of their costs for this month and that’s a pretty big deal. 

I don’t expect Diane to lay any more eggs. She seems rather determined to sit on an empty nest for now. Though we are trying to break her broodiness. 

We’ve got more Bielefelder eggs set under Chipmunk, and the bunnies will do what bunnies will do, but I think beyond that we are done adding animals for this year. Time to focus on clearing and fencing the pasture and getting fruit trees in the ground and vegetable garden patches cleared. 

Small successes 

The incubator didn’t pan out (but I’ve got some ideas on that) but the Bielefelder eggs aren’t a total wash. After hatching the turkey eggs, chipmunk took some Bielefelder eggs. Some losses, not her fault. But we did get four cherps!

Had I thought the nest boxes out better, she would be raising the chicks. But it’s a tall wall and along way down so they went in the brooder with the turklets. 

Three cockerels of the four eggs. Not thrilled about that, but it’s three chicken dinners this winter! Note the overall light coloration and the yellow spot on his head?

One of the great things about this breed is the auto sexing. The females look quite different!

So, I’ve got a few little projects. Add nest boxes that are more conducive to hen reared chicks (front entry, ramp, not too high) and upgrade the incubator. It’s a still air, and that’s not ideal because the temperature isn’t consistent. But a small computer fan will help with that. 

We are going to try for another clutch of Bielefelder eggs, but that’s probably it for this year. Got a lot going on what with the human baby on the way and whatnot! In the meantime, check out this vogue chick!

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. 

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!

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!

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. 

Winter planting time!

Yeah, you heard me right, all you non gardener folk out there. Planting in the winter. There’s actually quite a few seeds that go in the ground before the last frost date. 

While the peppers and tomatoes chill under the grow lights, the garden bed is starting to get weeds. And, well, that just won’t do. We had a pile of partly decomposed straw from the dog bed, and the rabbits conveniently pile their poo in a corner, so I spread and raked that into the soil. 

The peas and turnips both got neat little rows, but the leafy greens I pretty much just scattered. I like to plant lettuce and spinach densely underneath taller plants like tomatoes. Helps keep the weeds down. 

Speaking of tomatoes, we will be trying the vertical string method this year, so I put a bunch of screws in the fascia under the gutter. The tomatoes will be in two rows, offset, each with a string supporting them upwards. 

My garden plan is pretty dense, and for some reason my careful measurements didn’t work out quite the same once I started planting. So the beans will get tepees off to the sides outside the actual garden bed. 

The alliums are going elsewhere because they don’t play nicely with legumes. I’ll also be growing, for the first time ever, a few grains. I’m very excited about the wheat and barley patches (so far it’s a patch of straw, but trust me. There’s barley under there). They’ll go downslope of the asparagus bed, along with some popcorn, and somewhere in all this, some shelling peas. 

I’ll be expanding the rabbitry, and that will have a sunflower border between it and the driveway. 

Sunflowers, wheat, barley, corn, peas… It’s almost as if I’m planning on making my own animal feed…

Anyway, the plan done and some of the planting as well, it’s quite clear that I need to at least double my garden space. Preferably triple or quadruple. Time to break out that chainsaw soon!