Month: November 2014

Happenings Around the Homestead

It has been another quiet week outside of the chickens, which has been quite busy.  I’m not going to spoil it though – check back tomorrow for more on that.

The cold snap has come and gone, but it is raining buckets of water as I write this on Sunday evening.  We are planning on starting the Back to Eden project this upcoming Friday, pending the mini-front-end-loader/backhoe arrives as expected.  There is way too much to spread in one weekend by hand, but with some machine assistance, we can get it done.

The end goal of this new garden area is an 80 ft. x 80 ft. garden with four inches of woodchips on top of some leaves.  I had hoped to get some manure for the bottom layer, and actually had two offers for some, but my work schedule has not cooperated at all.  Perhaps 20 cubic yards of it will appear in my yard before Friday.  Dear manure donor, if you read this and decide to help, please dump it in the already gardened area – it will make it much easier to spread.  😀

Unfortunately, without the compost under the woodchips as I had hoped for, the first year of this garden style is likely going to be less than stellar.  The compost speeds up the process of getting the soil ready for the first year, as the wood chips will not have decomposed much yet, but even without the manure, the garden should be better than it has been.  I think I will supplement the decomposition process with blood meal, which should help heat the chips up enough to begin breaking them down some.

Again, a slow week this week, but next Monday there should be some exciting updates, with pictures!

The Chicken Chronicles

Whew!  What an interesting week!  Winter has arrived!  As first time chicken owners in the winter, we are learning a lot, not the least of which is how to care for the birds in the bitter cold.  We have received some low-teen temperatures this week, which I felt were cold enough to warrant supplemental heating.  The challenge is doing that safely.

After much reading, I decided to use a red heat lamp – the same lamp I used to keep the birds warm when they were too small to handle the cold.  I have read many comments against this method, mainly because of the fire risk, but also because of the potential of causing sickness in the birds if they go from hot to cold temperatures.  I felt confident the light was secured, and it was far enough away from the birds I felt it would not allow them to get hot.  The truth is, I didn’t think it was making enough difference, so we added a second red heat lamp.

My intent with this was not to heat the coop, it was simply to knock the chill off.  I don’t really want to raise the temperature even above freezing, but just up above the 25 degree mark.  I am reckoning that will allow them to not suffer from extreme temperature changes.

Even with all that in mind, there are many blog and forum posts out there of folks who are a lot further north than I am, yet they do not heat their coops.  Their coops are well insulated, but no heat.  That surely makes me question if I am making the right choice.

All that said, I have only heated the coop a few nights now, but I already have lessons learned.

  1. This must be used judicially.  The birds do not need a sauna.
  2. A better option is a well-insulated (and yet well-ventilated) coop.
  3. These birds are resilient.  They can handle colder temperatures than I thought.
  4. Water, water, water.  The birds must have water, not ice!
  5. Finally, I may not continue this plan.

Whether I continue or not remains to be seen.  I need some more time, and I need to get the coop insulated.  In the absence of insulation, I have to provide, or at least I feel I have to provide, supplemental heating on nights below 20 degrees.

As you can see, I still have lots to learn and decisions to make.

As if that is not enough change for the week, I am also dealing with a dramatic reduction in egg production.  Wow.  The Rhode Island Reds laid 22 eggs, but the Easter Eggers only laid 10!

Never a dull moment, that is for sure.


Happenings Around the Homestead

It has been another slow week around the homestead.  I’ve been wresting with a cough for a couple of weeks now, so I dare not get out and work in the cold.  And cold it is!  It has already reached the mid-teens.  For some, that may not be that cold, but it is quite early in the year for us to experience that in western Kentucky.

As I was going down to work on the chicken coop Saturday (more on that tomorrow), I noticed how healthy and vibrant the horehound and catnip are.  It is such a joy to see plants growing and thriving in the bitter cold like this.  That is one reason I enjoy the mints so much, the thrive all winter long.

We have also received our first snow worth mentioning this morning, with the ground and the roads barely covered.  I thought we might get more snow that we did, but honestly, I am indifferent about it as long as I can safely drive.  My boys, however, love the snow.  I don’t, however, like the bitter cold, which is what we have going on right now.

I guess the last think worth noting for the week is that the wood chippers seems to have moved on, and I am two loads short of what I need.  I do have enough to move forward with my Back to Eden garden though, and I will begin working on it as soon as this cough subsides.

The Chicken Chronicles

The shorter days seem to finally be making a difference in the egg production here at the homestead.  Even so, we still had 38 eggs layed this week.  The Rhode Island Reds are showing their winter laying ability though, with twenty two eggs for the week, or 5.5 eggs per hen.  The Easter Eggers are really beginning to drop off, as they only laid 16 eggs, or 2.7 eggs per hen for the week.

Speaking of the Easter Eggers, Snow White didn’t suffer from being eggboung this week, but one or more of the Easter Eggers have decided laying eggs in the chicken run sounds like fun.  Grrr.

We are expecting the coldest weather of the season this week, getting into the mid-twenties by Thursday.  I am not worried at all about the birds at that temperature, but I am thinking ahead to when it gets down in the teens later in the year and what I will be doing to help protect them.

If you have never owned chickens, you might find it hard to believe how entertaining they can be.  Yesterday Charity put some leftover spaghetti in the run, and one of the ladies ran in there and starting eating it.  Charity said she was eating it like she would a worm.  She would pick it up, swing her head around with it in her mouth, then eat it.  I am supposing she either thought it was a worm, or she thought it was fun to pretend it was a worm.  Silly hen.

Speaking of personality – when Charity let the hens out yesterday, one of our cats decided to go check out the chicken run.  Charity laughed as she told the story because the cat didn’t stay in there long at all.  It is funny because this cat is a bird killer, but she won’t touch these chickens.  I sometimes wonder if she is thinking God might be punishing her for killing all those birds throughout the years by surrounding her with ten large birds that are bigger than she is.  😀

Happenings Around the Homestead

It has been another slow week around the homestead, though we did receive two more loads of woodchips for the big garden project this year.  Now that I type that, I am not sure I have mentioned it on here before.  It is a unique way of gardening that people have been made aware of through a film titled Back to Eden.  Basically, the premise of it all is that you provide a ground covering, preferably wood chips.  The wood chips keep the ground moist and fertile.  While that is the elevator pitch about Back to Eden gardening, it is well worth watching the film, which is well put together and held my interest, which says a lot.

Regarding that, I am still trying to find good, composted manure to put as a base layer for the garden. The problem is threefold: finding it, getting it here, and having enough.  That reminds me, I need to call a friend this week, as he may have a source for horse manure, though I am not sure how composted it might be.

The garlic I planted a few weeks ago is starting to sprout, though it is tiny still.  The chickens are my big challenge though, as they seem to think it looks like fun to pull on those green garlic leaves.  Hopefully they will get tired of it before long, or at least long enough for them to get rooted well.

I have also been posting on Facebook about my need for small jars.  This is for an ongoing popcorn experiment.  I am growing landrace popcorn.  As part of this ongoing experiment, I need to save the best seeds from year to year, which means I have to test pop all the popcorn.  The seeds that are saved are those which are the best popping corn, though I strongly take the ease of shucking and the appearance into consideration.  The reason I need the jars is to ensure the water content of all the popcorn remains the same.  Yes, it sure is a lot of work, but it keeps my interest.  Regarding the jars, I am making progress.  I have already received a small number of babyfood jars, and my mom had some other small jars she gave.  I then had a friend let me know she is saving her jars for me, so it looks like I am on my way to having enough jars.  Thanks to everyone for the jars!

I think that is all for the week.  It will likely be slow for a few weeks until I start spreading the woodchips, then it will pick up again for a short stint before the winter slows things down until March or so.


The Chicken Chronicles

I am not sure the ladies knew what was coming when the cold spell hit this week.  While they were protected in their coop, I am pretty sure this is the look Charity got this morning when she opened their door to the run:

Thankfully they are protected from the wind, and if you ever wonder how they handle the cold, just place your hand between two of them on the roosting bar.  It is nice and warm!

Despite the shorter days and cold weather, these hens are still laying, and I couldn’t be happier, though I am still expecting a slow down to come any time now.  This week they laid a total of 46 eggs, with the Rhode Island Reds outdoing the Easter Eggers, 25 to 21.

We also had an egg-bound hen again this week, and it was the SAME HEN, Snow White!  I am not sure what is up with her, but I think she must not be getting enough calcium.  Charity and the boys were able to give her calcium dissolved in water, and within 5 minutes out popped the egg!  That happened the first time too, so it seems that is pretty fast acting.  It’s funny, this is the hen most reluctant to let us hold her, but when she is egg bound, we hold her to calm her down.  Perhaps that is what she is after all along, but doesn’t want to admit it.  😀

Happenings Around the Homestead

This has been a much slower week around the homestead, the big news being the arrival of frost at our house.  It has already frosted in the area, but today was the first time it has hit our soil this season.  I was kind of sad to see this big, flourishing, late squash die off today, especially since it is just now producing fruit.  At least I can say the squash bugs didn’t get this one!

Before this cold snap hit, I was able to dig up our eucalyptus tree and pot it, as well as one of the Pineapple Sage plants.  Here’s to hoping they both make it through the winter in the house in pots.  The big problem being my remembering to water them.  🙂

Daylight Savings Time, a Shame?

If you are like many Americans, you woke a little earlier this morning, at least according to the clock.  Your body, like most, is not quite yet used to sleeping an hour later.  It will take a few days, but by the time we spring forward again in March of 2015, you will be well settled, and not quite ready to lose an hour sleep.  The cycle will go on though.

I, for one, am pretty indifferent about Daylight Savings Time, but I must admit, it hasn’t always seemed the most logical thing to me.  It is a little nicer having the later sunset, but that comes at the expense of the later sunsrise.  In the end, it seems to be a wash to me.  Then I ran across this article on The Atlantic making the statement that Daylight Savings Time is America’s Greatest Shame.  While that is probably a bit of an overstatement, the article was interesting to say the least.  After reading it, I am wondering why we go through this song and dance twice a year.