Posted by Steve On May 7, 2015
Riding a bike is simple, right? Not so fast, hotshot! It seems it is far more complicated than we think, and there is a lot we can learn from that. Check this out:
Posted by Steve On May 5, 2015
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.
Posted by Steve On May 4, 2015
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:
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.
Posted by Steve On April 28, 2015
I have to begin this week’s post with some unfortunate news. For those of you who know my wife, I would ask that you not talk about this around her. She is still taking it a bit rough. We lost our first hen last week. Snow White had become egg bound, and to make a long story short, she died from it. Believe me, there is more to it, which is why my wife is not keen on discussing it, but it ws a good lesson for us. In the future any hen who gets egg bound more than a couple of times in their first year of laying will be removed from the flock. It seems this is a strong sign that there is something physically wrong with the hen, which ended up being the problem with Snow White. This is why I want to add one or two birds a year to the flock though.
Speaking of new birds, the Welsummers are coming along nicely, and they are spending most of their days outside now except when the weather is bad. They are loving it. We still haven’t mixed them in with the rest of the flock yet, as we are wanting them to grow some more first. In fact, I hope to make a make-shift small henhouse for them today so they can stay outside more, but still in their own cage.
Egg-laying is coming along nicely, and even with the reduction of one laying bird, we are still keeping up with our typical totals of 49 eggs per week or 5.44 eggs per bird per week. I can’t wait to see that number go up when the Welsummers start laying.
Speaking of the Welsummers, how about a picture?
Aren’t they getting big? It seems we bought them around the first of March, so they are nearing eight weeks old. Lately they have been trying to establish their pecking order – it is almost like watching a bunch of teenage boys. 😀
Posted by Steve On April 27, 2015
While there wasn’t a homestead or a post about the chickens here last week, that doesn’t mean things weren’t happening. As you can imagine, with the temperatures warming up, things are buzzing here.
Speaking of buzzing, that is the first thing of interest today. It seems the native bees, the Blue Orchard Mason Bees, did not decide to make the bee house I put up home. There is no sign of them nesting there at all. This doesn’t mean they aren’t around, they just aren’t there. Even so, there is plenty of bee activity. I think, looking back, I messed up by getting them delivered too late. That’s okay though – you live and learn. I still have one more shipment of native bees coming, and they are set to arrive around May 15th. These are Leafcutter Bees. I’ll post more about them as we get closer.
One thing that has happened in the last couple of weeks is the arrival of my Goldenseal plants. Goldenseal is an herb that is native to the US and widely known for its medicinal properties. One of the really cool things about it is that it grows natively in hardwood (preferably oak) forests in the shade. That makes it a perfect plant for one of the flower gardens here. Let me show a picture of it:
I have already planted three of the six of these I ordered, and the other three are ready to be planted now. I might be able to set them out today.
Regarding the rest of the garden, I am debating letting most of it rest this year. There is more to come on that later.
Posted by Steve On April 16, 2015
Getting right to the point: This is a high quality iron that you will not be disappointed with. Those words aren’t really strong enough. If you are have come to appreciate that good quality equipment sometimes costs more money, this iron is for you.
Occasionally in life you use a product that you are expecting to be good, but you don’t realize how good it can be until you use it. The Rowenta Pro Master DW 8800 is one of those products.
It’s an iron. Seriously. How much different can an iron be? They all get hot and take wrinkles out of clothes. This is almost a commodity now. Even so, there is a difference.
I have historically ironed more than anyone in my house, and even today, though I pay one of my sons to iron for me, I still iron a considerable amount, especially when traveling for work. Because I often iron in hotels, I had almost seen the full gambit of irons, from basic irons with the most advanced feature being a spray nozzle that leaked to a “deluxe” hospitality iron that steamed, had an extra long cord, and even offered a headlamp to better see the wrinkles you were trying to remove.
For the last couple of years our iron at home has been a most basic iron, but it has done the job. Even so, I have been looking to upgrade to one with a steam feature for some time. It is the one feature I miss when it is not available, as it really helps get the wrinkles out. A couple of weeks ago, someone touched some red plastic with the heated plate of our iron, and this pushed me to action. After looking at numerous irons and reading numerous reviews, I decided to follow an instinct I only began to appreciate in my late thirties: buy quality equipment. Quality in this case was the Rowenta Pro Master DW 8800.
Rowenta seems to be an iron appreciate by professionals: laundry mats and the such. This is for good reason. My first reaction was nothing short of utter amazement! While it seemed to get hot faster that our other iron, that was not the feature that blew me away. It was the variable steam feature that steams your clothes automatically while ironing WITHOUT pressing a button. If you wish to steam vertically, perhaps curtains or even suit jackets, there is a button that produces serious bursts of steam.
All of this was amazing to my gadget loving self, but it was not until I ironed my most difficult shirt this morning that I truly appreciated how amazing this iron is. This iron glides across my clothing like no other iron I have ever used. The constant steam feature easily removed wrinkles I have wrestled with on this particular shirt for minutes in the past. The “High Precision Tip”, while not a big deal to me, did indeed allow me to get into certain spots on the shirt easier. As if this wasn’t enough, the constant steam feature also allowed me to iron my pants in half the time. The steam pushing through my pants allowed me to be done ironing after only ironing one side of the pants. That sort of thing makes me seriously happy.
All this said, the iron is comfortable to hold, and the weight of the iron speaks to its high quality. From what I have read, this isn’t the same for all Rowenta irons, but those made in Germany posses a level of quality not seen in those made in China.
It remains to be seen how well this holds up, but my first impression is a solid WOW. I am anxious to see how well the “Anti Calc” feature keeps the calcium buildup down, and I am anxious to see if the heated plate remains smooth after months of ironing, but for now, I am amazed.
All these good points aside, I do wish the iron had a longer cord, but this is a small price to pay for the rest of the incredible features. I didn’t measure the cord, but I suspect it is 7 feet long. I would have appreciated 10 feet, but again, this is a small complaint in comparison to the rest of the features.
If you are in the market for a new iron, and if you don’t mind spending more money to get a high quality iron, don’t hesitate and purchase the Rowenta Pro Master DW 8800. You will not be disappointed. A solid 5/5 stars.
Posted by Steve On April 14, 2015
Our ladies sure are enjoying this warmer weather! I cannot wait until we get to a point this summer that we can begin primarily feeding them out of the garden. I am smiling as I write this thinking of how much they love tomatoes. Those hens go nuts over tomatoes thrown into their run, but I am not sure whether it is the tomatoes they enjoy or the red color.
Speaking of hens, look at the size of their young sisters, the Welsummers:
They are growing by leaps and bounds, and by next week they should be ready to be introduced to the rest of the birds. Whew! I still need to read up on that. I will do this as soon as possible though, as I don’t really think keeping them in a garage without fresh air and sunlight is the best thing for a chicken. Even so, they must be protected from the elements a bit while young.
The hens are really laying well now, averaging about 5 eggs per hen each week. That means we are getting about 7 eggs per day. When the Welsummer start laying, we will have an incredible abundance of eggs, probably near 70 or so a week.
We have been using the portable run to put the hens over grassy areas in the garden, allowing them to earn their keep. 🙂 The problem is that they are enjoying the worms more than the grass! I had to smile when I went to check the area where the portable run is after putting them back in the permanent run for the night. It was as if they overturned everything on the ground EXCEPT the grass. Hmm. Perhaps they need to be reminded that getting rid of garden grass is one of their jobs.
Posted by Steve On April 13, 2015
Spring is here! Trees are blossoming, flowers are popping up everywhere, and the beautiful Cherry Blossoms have already passed their peak. I love this time of year! However, it also means it is time for the work to begin. In fact, many people have already put out some of their summer vegetables, something I am hoping to get to this weekend (writing this on Saturday). If my schedule works out as planned, I hope to have popcorn and some other vegetables planted this weekend. UPDATE: I did get the popcorn planted, but that was it. I hope I can find the time next weekend to do some more.
Perhaps the most exciting news here at the homestead this week has only indirect ties to gardening though. I am now a beekeeper! Don’t be expecting honey anytime soon though, as I don’t have honeybees. This week my first shipment of native bees, Blue Orchard Mason Bees, arrived! Did you realize that honey bees aren’t even native to the United States? Nope, they were imported to the United States from Europe in the early days of this country. Blue Orchard Mason Bees, however, are native to the US, along with many other bees of which you may have never heard. I’ll be sharing more about this in coming posts, I am sure. 🙂
This doesn’t mean I don’t have an interest in honey bees. I do. However, my primary reason for bees is better pollination, and the native bees are better pollinators than the honey bees. Of course, honey bees have the added benefit of honey. For some reason, this reminds me of the chickens. Let me explain. I often say, jokingly, that I whisper to the birds, “It’s either eggs or meat, your choice.” However, I think the better way to think of chickens is as fertilizer factories that control pests and produce eggs as a side benefit. With the bees, they are primarily pollinators, and if they produce honey, that is a great side benefit.
So, how about a few pictures?
First off, this is the kit:
Here are the bees right out of the box. They are still groggy, but yet they have all emerged from their cocoons.
Here are some nice macro shot of the bees.
Finally, here is a shot of their new home, which I placed on the eastern side of a tree in our yard. I might move this to a different location next year, but this seemed like a good starting spot.
Rest assured, this is not the last you will hear about Mason Bees. 😀 More to come, perhaps even later this week.
Posted by Steve On April 3, 2015
A couple of weeks ago my mom and a few others posted this link on Facebook about how to drive across the US and see major landmarks in the lower 48 continental states. I LOVE THIS! This is on my bucket list now. Thanks to all those who shared it originally.
Posted by Steve On April 2, 2015
I love eggs, and hardly a day goes by that I don’t eat at least four of them. Needless to say, I love egg hacks, and while I knew some of them in the video on this page, I didn’t know them all. Just a tip though – don’t use a bowl of water to crack your eggs. It is much easier in a drinking glass. 😀 I also find two eggs in the glass does better than one.