Chicken Adventures and Building Beds…Again

I’ve got a post already queued up for Thursday and I don’t really want to push this one off until next week, so have an extra post this week. And it would appear I have a lot to say…who knew?

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Last week, the babies had their first outdoor, out of the run adventure (please excuse the mess). They’re still not all that confident about being out of the house, but they seemed to think scratching around all the way outside was fun…for about 30 minutes. The first time. The last couple of times I’ve tried to let them out, they come out of the run for about 10 minutes and then hurry back to the house. I’m hoping this is an age thing (they’re still really young) or an availability of food thing (there’s not really anything growing right now). The temperature has been significantly lower than it was the first time they went out too, which probably has an impact.

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The other news that I thought I might as well share while I’m writing a post is that we redesigned the beds on the driveway yet again. Seems to be another post I didn’t write (building them the first time). Remember I said Michael Judd was at the conference this year, talking about swales? Tony and I didn’t agree about the design for them in the front yard, but our idea for this part of the yard was pretty much the same, so we thought we’d start here and see how things went. Between Judd’s presentation and his book (we bought a copy while we were there), we built the A-frame for finding/measuring the slope and got to work.

To summarize, there are ditches between the beds. The dirt from those ditches is tossed onto the beds to raise them and the ditches are filled with mulch. That mulch is the path to walk on and he claims that in 18 months, that mulch is ready to be used as compost (dug out and tossed on the beds). He’s a permaculture guy, so he likes to put mushrooms in the compost to get more production out. As an aside, “permaculture” means a lot of things, so there’s no good single summary, but his focus for the talks I attended was “stacking functions”…putting more production in one space, as long as it’s complimentary. Back to mushrooms: they are not only edible, but also help the mulch decompose. We didn’t inoculate the mulch with spawn for two reasons:

  • the mulch we used was too old (he said no older than 6 months, ideally…ours was 12-24 months old)
  • we don’t have spawn

If it looks like we’ll have new enough mulch next time, we might see about getting some spawn. To get back on topic, this design is supposed to help catch rainwater and sink it into the ground (the ditches) and help keep the plants from getting too soggy, while taking advantage of the collected water (the raised beds).

It took all weekend to build the part we got done. We want to finish going around the tree at the bottom of the hill, but we ran out of time. We didn’t go all the way across/between the trees because Tony has perennials there and we’re not sure where they are. We may or may not go back and dig that part out…I’m leaning toward not just because of all the roots.

This garden needs a lot of help, drainage- and nutrition-wise, so I’ll give it a couple of years to not work before I give up on this new idea. It seems like it should work since you’re composting right there and tossing all of that decomposed matter onto the beds to give the plants something to work with. If nothing else, it’s more attractive than trying to force squared-off beds to try to fit into that kind of roundish shape.


Garden Fence Posts

Last week, I showed you the cover crops in the garden, this week is all about the posts for the fence. It’s a pretty cool story, actually. Dad helped me trade the tires I had taken off the truck for enough fence posts to do all cedar posts for the garden. We’d done some looking on Craigslist and found some 3+ hours away for a good price, but these were much closer and Whiskey got to play in the pond while we were working, so I thought that was a pretty good deal. Now, we just have to see about getting some holes dug.

Garden Progress

I thought this picture was fun because it shows various stages of the garden in progress. The far bit that you can barely see is the productive part (we tilled it last year). The second part, the lighter plants, are the buckwheat and sorghum-sudan cross (I call it Piper because that’s the variety). Finally, right at the front, is the part I’d moved the pigs out of and just planted in the same cover crops as the second part. It’d be even better if the pigs were somewhere in the picture, but they’ve already moved on.

This is a bonus picture I took at work last week.

Pig & Chick Update

First, the pigs. They’ve done a pretty good job of getting things cleared up for me. I’m still learning to manage their destruction well, so there’s some grass left in the part I seeded, but I’ve divided their new space into more pieces (and added some), so I can rotate them through and hopefully give previous spaces time to rest before I bring them back in. I’m hoping that if I bring them in a few times I can get more of the grass and other undesirable plants removed before I try to plant over them. At this point, the area in the middle has been planted and is already starting to sprout.

There are two parts to the chickens: the babies Buffy has been raising and the two she rejected. I’ll start with the ones she’s raising. There were four chicks that hatched at around the same time. They’re about three weeks old now and moving around a lot. She took them out of the chicken house for the first time on Monday (they were locked up over the weekend because we had a wedding to go to and a predator who made two attempts – during the day – just before we left). I was worried that they would have a hard time getting back into the shed with the ramp we have set up. And they did. A couple of the chicks are big enough that they could try to copy her flap up onto the concrete blocks holding the ramp up. But there were two who aren’t quite that big who had to cheep a lot before they figured out that they could walk up the ramp. They all managed in the end though. Tony has enjoyed taking pictures of them and the dogs have been really curious, but Buffy has been really protective. It’s kind of funny watching a bird no more than 10 pounds chase off a 55 pound dog.

The sad part of the story is that she rejected the two last hatches. The first I didn’t find until she’d already destroyed it, unfortunately. And I didn’t realize that’s what had happened until later…I assumed it was another one of the chickens being vicious for some strange reason. But a couple of days after I found the mostly dead chick, I was watching her and noticed that there was a new hatch in the nest (she’d taken the other chicks off the nest to explore the house). I was wondering why she was ignoring such a loud complaint from the new baby, but when she got back to the nest, she started attacking it! I nabbed it before she did much damage (there is a nice chunk out of the back of it’s neck, but it honestly doesn’t seem to notice). I put it in an unused fish tank with the heat lamp I bought a couple of winters ago, when it got super cold (only the second time I’ve used the thing, but I’m glad we had it). Anyway, that chick has been doing really well. I tried to finish the rest of Buffy’s eggs in an incubator I borrowed from someone I know, but I set it up right before I left and the temperature wasn’t right (for multiple days), so we gave the eggs to the pigs. Probably not a bad idea given how bad they smelled when the pigs chomped down. Now I just have to figure out how to integrate the single reject into the rest of the flock. I have a few ideas, but we’ll see how it works.

There are lots more pictures in the album (lots of chick pictures).