Category: Hobbies

Happenings Around the Homestead

What a slow week around here, at least on ‘homestead’ things.  I can’t think of a single thing I have done other than dehydrate some herbs and make yogurt.

I had hoped to work on the roof of the chicken coop this weekend, but I didn’t get around to it with the rain on the early part of the weekend and a need to just take it easy in the later part of the weekend.

This week I hope to dry some more mint, re-pot some mint, work on the chicken coop roof, and pick garlic.  Yes, I actually have some garlic that is ready to be harvested.  It is a little earlier than normal, but it is time.

Now off to finish my cup of coffee and think about all the things I wish I had accomplished this week.  🙂

The Chicken Chronicles

Just like yesterday’s post, this one is two weeks in one.  I forgot to schedule both of them last week.  DUH!

The Welsummers are now about 13 (now) 14 weeks old, and they are FINALLY starting to venture out with the big hens some.  Up until this point we have wondered if we made a mistake putting them into the coop with the older hens, and perhaps we did, but now they seem to be coming out of their shell (pardon the pun) a bit.  😀  We are still cornering them by themselves in a separate cage almost daily to give them time in the sun without having to worry about the older hens picking on them.

One of the issues we have had with the Welsummers is that they just roost on top of the nesting boxes instead of the roosting bar.  Last night I put a branch in there near the nesting boxes and was happy to see a couple of them on the branch when I opened the door to the run this morning.

The laying is going full steam, and we have been able to bless family and neighbors with several dozen eggs so far.  It sure is nice to see the smiles on the faces of folks when you bring them a dozen fresh eggs, especially those who really enjoy them.

Speaking of eggs, the silly Welsummers are roosting on top of the nesting boxes, so there ends up being a mess in the boxes all-too-often.  I need to get another roosting pole put in the coop in an effort to prevent this – it’s not happening this week though.

Speaking of chicken projects, I also need to get the roof patched.  There are a few leaks, which aren’t causing trouble now, but I sure don’t need them to continue.  I doubt I will get to that this week either.  And that isn’t it.  I have another project I have been putting off for a while, though I will save the details of it until later.

Happenings Around the Homestead

WEEEEELLL – it helps if you hit the post button.  😀  This week you will get a double update.

It’s been a bit of a slow week around the homestead, at least outside.  Inside I have been drying some herbs, both oregano and mint.  It might be better to air dry these both outside, but I prefer to use the dehydrator on low (around 95 degrees) because it is consistent.  When things are dried outside I have to keep a closer eye on them to ensure pests aren’t getting into the items I am drying, and I have to watch for the rain.  I don’t have either of those worries inside.

The oregano I am drying is a nice, strong, True Greek Oregano, whereas the mint is Chocolate Mint (my favorite), Orange Mint, and Spearmint.  There is something special, I think, about herbs that have been dried at home.  I don’t know whether it is simply knowing where they come from, or if there is a quality difference (I am sure of that, btw), but I sure do like it.

The plants I started last week are all doing well though.  I am so hopeful that the sweet potatoes take off and grow well.  My biggest concern is the deer.  Once they find these plants, they will certainly eat the leaves off of them.  They always do.  I probably need to get a covering for them as soon as I can to try and keep that risk down a little.  I may put the tomato cages over them temporarily until I can get something more appropriate.

I am a little surprised that the brassicas I planted early in the spring haven’t all bolted yet.  They are in a part of the yard that gets afternoon shade, so it may be that this is enough to keep them from bolting, but it is also enough to keep them from growing like I want to see them grow.  Even so, I don’t mind the plants taking their time as long as they don’t bolt.  🙂

Since I originally wrote this, last week, I have successfully finished drying the mint and the oregano.  Today I plan to put Feverfew on the dehydrator.

Perhaps the item of most interest this week is that some of the winter sown plants have just been happily living in their milk jugs since winter.  My oldest son has been wanting to plant some things, so I showed him where to move them yesterday.  That means I now have Skullcap, German Chamomile, and two types of Echinacea in my raised flower bed.  Woot!  Here, let me share a picture or two:

German Chamomile

One of the new flowers/herbs in my garden, German Chamomile.

Chocolate Mint

My Favorite Fresh Mint: Chocolate Mint

The Chicken Chronicles

There is not a whole lot of new things happening with the chickens.  The biggest news right now is the babies (Welsummers) and the older ladies (Rhode Island Reds, primarily).  The Reds sure do pick on the Welsummers, so much so that they Welsummers stay in the coop away from the other hens.  This week we have taken the step of putting the babies back in the baby coop and a separate run when we can.  It doesn’t work so well when it rains, which it has been doing this week, but it is nice to get them outside.

One thing that is encouraging is to see the Welsummers testing one another.  No, I don’t relish the fact that they are establishing a pecking order amongst themselves, but I do like knowing that they are getting tougher and stronger, which means they will be able to hold their own with the older ladies soon enough.

The biggest problem with the Welsummers is they are roosting on top of the nesting boxes, and in fact they stay there much of the time, which means their droppings are falling into the nesting boxes.  We have to make changes because of this.  It isn’t hurting anything, but it is making the eggs more dirty.

One of the nice things about the hens right now is how they are fertilizing the garden for us when they are out running.  I like one way I have heard it said: chickens are a compost factory that just happen to lay eggs.   Surely they are not providing all the compost we need, but they are helping.

Happenings Around the Homestead

As I have said in a previous post, I am not planting my garden in full this year.  I decided to only plant those things which were already ordered (sweet potatoes and herbs) and some things I had already planted before deciding this (corn, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and garlic).  So even though I am not doing a lot this year compared to previous years, I am still planting quite a bit.  This weekend I needed to plant some sweet potato slips that arrived a couple of weeks ago, as well as Goldenseal plants.

I must have ordered more sweet potatoes than I remember ordering.  I planted 45 slips, 15 each of Beauregard, O’Henry, and Purple Passion.  Those are orange, white, and purple sweet potatoes, respectively.  Oh, you didn’t know there were different colored sweet potatoes?  Yep, and while they taste similar, they do not taste exactly the same.  I find the purple sweet potatoes to be more dry and a little less sweet, while the white sweet potatoes are more mild, and actually make a pretty good white potato substitute.  Here is a picture of one of the slips I planted:

O'Henry Sweet Potato Slip

O’Henry Sweet Potato Slip

The garlic is coming along nicely, and it won’t be too long until it is ready to harvest.  It is not all that is doing well though – the mint is growing like wildfire this year.  Check out these pictures:

Chocolate Mint

Chocolate Mint – one of my favorites!

Orange Mint

Orange Mint

I mentioned the Goldenseal.  Check out the roots of this plant!  They are so golden in color:

Goldenseal Roots

Goldenseal Roots

Here is picture of the leaves.



I am anxious to see how this grows.  It is native to this area, so it should grow well.

New Photo Project

I’ve mentioned a couple of times lately that I have been working on a new photography lighting project, and today I want to share the first sample from the completed project.  The lighting is based somewhat on Kinoflo lights, which are a brand that are used for professional headshot photography.  I love the soft light the Kinoflos provide, but I don’t appreciate the expense (thousands of dollars).  So I decided to make my own.  This headshot is a sample from the completed project:

Headshot Sample

Headshot Sample

I really like the triangle catchlights in the eyes, but I may be alone in that.  I do wonder if I need to tone them down a bit.  Anyhow, overall I am very pleased with the project, and looking forward to using the lighting more.

The Chicken Chronicles

Well, I meant to post this last week, but for some reason I forgot about it.  So, you will get last week’s post and an update to last week’s post.  🙂

Another week, another chicken problem. It seems Red has hurt her leg somehow. Red, by the way, is any one of the Rhode Island Reds, as we cannot really tell them apart. Anyhow, we have had to separate her to keep the others from picking on her, and to keep her from trying to go up and down the stairs in the coop. We’re also giving her half a baby aspirin at least two times a day. Right now she is avoiding standing on that foot, but I cannot see anything wrong with it. That leads me to believe she might have sprained it somehow.

 In other chicken news, we built a small coop for the babies (the Welsummers) so they can start staying outside all the time. The silly girls wouldn’t go into it the first night though, acting like young kids the first time they try to camp out. 😀 We finally decided to bring them in after listening to crying for an hour. Maybe they will get used to it decide to sleep in it. It won’t be long until it is time to integrate them with the rest of the girls.

 We had a good week of laying both weeks, including one day where all of the older birds laid eggs – that hasn’t happened often at all.

This week’s update: Red is doing much better.  She is now back in the coop with her sisters, and while she is still favoring her leg, she is much, much better.

Since last week, we have put ankle bracelets on three of the Rhode Island Reds, and amazingly we can now see who rules the roost!  There is one of them, tentatively named Pink (because of the pink bracelet) who is obviously at the top of the pecking order, and it seems Blue (you guessed it, a blue bracelet) who seems to be #2).  The Easter Eggers seem to not really care either way, but they do recognize Pink’s authority.  It’s funny how we could never notice that without some identifier of who was who.

The most exciting news this week, and a far change from what I expected given the update above, is that the babies, the Welsummers, ran into the big girls’ coop one day when they were out running around, and they showed no interest in coming back out.  The older ladies are picking on them some, but they seem to be holding their own, so this is where they will stay.  🙂

Happenings Around the Homestead

Work and a special photography project I have been working on have kept me busy enough lately that there hasn’t been too much activity from me around the homestead outside of the chickens (more on that tomorrow), but some things of note have happened.

  1. Cicadas!  Wow, these things came out in force this past week!  I don’t ever recall seeing so many that they were on car tires, grass blades, small plants, and anything else they could latch onto.  Wow, this is a bumper crop this year.  😀
  2. Sweet Potatoes – despite not putting much of a garden out this year, I am putting out sweet potato slips.  They arrive this past week, and I neglected to get them out over the weekend.  I’ll try to do that Tuesday of this week.  This year I have purple, white, and orange.  Hopefully some will grow this time.
  3. Volunteers – Again, despite not putting out a garden this year, the leftover seeds in the compost had a different idea.  We have at least three volunteer tomatoes growing that we will let continue to grow.
  4. Grass – We have a buch of grass peeking its head through our new woodchip covering on our garden.  Time to move the chicken pen to let them take care of it.

Finally, I ran across a good article about Ten Things We Can Learn From Old Homesteads.  I really liked this list.  Is there anything you would add?

The Chicken Chronicles

As I mentioned yesterday, the chickens are earning their keep this time of year as they are becoming the fertilization factory.  The portable coop is helping with this tremedously.  Next I need to get the next phase of the project done which will allow them to run about in other spots in the garden more freely, yet with protection.  I can’t wait to share more on this.

The babies, the Welsummers, are doing very well, though I cannot wait to get them in with their sisters.  They are still too small to intermix them without supervision though, as the other hens will have some motivation to show them who is boss.  That is, to establish the pecking order.  I am writing this part of this on Sunday, and today we plan to let them all out to play together in the yard to see how it goes. Update: we let them out to play together with the older hens, and overall it went very well, though one of the Reds was taking every opportunity she could take to peck at one of the Welsummer’s heads. SIGH.

Egg laying is still not showing an impact from the loss of a bird, so I am thinking she might not have been laying a lot of eggs. We are still getting 51 eggs per week, or 5.67 eggs per week per bird.  Not bad.  This year we havn’t given as many away because are going through them like crazy in our house.  I guess everyone is enjoying the fresh eggs.

Happenings Around the Homestead

How I love this time of year!  The weather has just been amazing!  The plants are coming out everywhere – I love it!

One of the biggest pieces of news around the homestead this week is the number of apples on the apple trees!  I cannot believe this!  We have had these trees since we moved in here, and while they have made one or two apples a year, it has been truly pathetic.  This year, as you may remember, I pruned them heavily.  I can’t say that made all the difference, but I have to believe it made the bulk of the difference.  There seems to be hundreds of tiny apples now growing on the trees.  Check it out:

Growing Apples

Growing Apples

The other big news of the year is my almost-firm decision that I am not going to put out a full garden this year.  I have decided that there is wisdom in letting your soil rest periodically, and with us having just converted to a new type of gardening, this is a fine year to let it rest.  I have already ordered some plants, and I have already planted some things, so anything that grows from that will be permitted to grow, but we aren’t going to do anything else.  Basically, this means we will have garlic, some greens, some popcorn, and sweet potatoes.  The rest will be left to rest.  (I sure hope we can find someone with plenty of fresh tomatoes this year!)

One of the nice things happening in the garden right now is the portable chicken coop is allowing our chickens to fertilize the garden like mad.  😀  We are moving it around the garden regularly, and they are not only eating any grass that remains there, but they are stirring it up, fertilizing it, and helping to prepare it for next year.