The bigger they get, the more room they need.

The latest addition to the RindyBerry egg laying crew are getting big and as they grow so do their accommodations. They were a couple of weeks old when we determined the height of their brooder needed to be extended.  At the same time Rod added a custom built “jungle gym”, giving them room to roost.new jungle gym

This was a hit, but we knew it wouldn’t be long and they would need to leave the brooder for the “big house”.

The chicken coop, was originally built with the option of splitting the coop by hanging chicken wire and a screen door.  This is helpful when integrating new chickens into the flock.  It was now time to hang the screen door and wire, but the hens use both sets of nesting boxes so the screen door was re-framed and plywood installed to give them a quiet place away from the nosey big hens.moving day 2    This will be plenty of room for now.

With the adjustments complete, it was time to move the newbies.  It had only been two weeks since we extended the height of the brooder and as you can see they’d grown considerably.moving day 1

Poor things, they hit that ugly adolescent stage.

We set the dog crate (used for transport) in the corner of the coop and allow them to work their way out into their new digs.moving day 3

While we searched out more used kennel panels to divide the main run, Rod set up a small run on the other side of the coop so they could enjoy some fresh air and bugs.original pen   It was a warm day when we moved them, so decided to leave the door open.  The big door, rather than the hatch and ramp, seamed to be their preference.intro to the outside world 2  They are getting bigger after all. 😉

About a month after their move we found a good deal on a 6’x12′ kennel.  We had a 10′ section on hand but needed another 20′ to split the main chicken run.room to roam 1  With the panels in place the teenyboppers (as we refer to them) have room to play.

enjoying the new run

The next task will be to take the plywood enclosure out of the main coop and hang more chicken wire.  This will expand their coop space.  Integrating chicken flocks is a process for sure.

In search of the “First Sister”.

 

While doing my garden research this last winter I came across the Three Sisters Garden, a method of companion planting used by many Native Americans.  We are trying to cut down the amount of mowing by developing various gardens and this looked like a good way to utilize the area between Rod’s work shop and the original row of asparagus. Three Sisters Garden 2

 Once the area was tilled and raked, I made 13 mounds and planted the first sister.  In this garden we’re planting Golden Bantam sweet corn, purple pole beans, and acorn squash.Three Sisters Garden 10

A few weeks ago Rod had planted two rows of Native American corn along the back side of our bantam’s coop/run.  I decided to try a variation of the Three Sisters Garden here.  As you can see this was planted in rows rather than the traditional mounds.Three Sisters Garden 7

Three Sisters Garden 9

Looking down the rows

The other two sisters planted here are a pole shell bean and Lakota squash.Three Sisters Garden 11

Three Sisters Garden 8

Squash in front with pole bean between corn rows

Meanwhile back at the mounds the first sister has grown . . .Three Sisters Garden 3 along with a bumper crop of weeds!  We’ve had so much rain, it has been next to impossible to work in the gardens, and so began the search for the “First Sister”.Three Sisters Garden 4

With the mounds cleared of weeds, I proceeded to plant the other two sisters.Three Sisters Garden 6

A dressing of shredded mulch to help keep the weeds down and we should be good to go.Three Sisters Garden 5

There is lots of good information online regarding the Three Sister companion planting method.  Various ways to lay it out and suggestions on when and where to plant each sister.  It will be fun to see how these two gardens turn out.

Farm Fresh Strawberries . . . YUM!!

I picked up an obelisk planter a couple of years ago with the intention of planting hanging strawberries.  It is now in place and filled with plants I transferred from our previous house.Strawberry Tower & Patch  I doubt I’ll get any berries this year, so I was excited to see the ad in our local paper for berries picked per order.

The farmer’s son had just finished picking for the day so I was able to get a flat (6 quarts) of sweet juicy strawberries that afternoon.  A few didn’t make it home . . . a person gets hungry on those four mile drives! 🙂

The next morning I set out to freeze my berries.Processing fresh berries 1  My mother and grandmother would make jam out of half of the berries they collected during the season, the rest would be cut up and froze with a bit of sugar added.  I prefer the same method I use for blueberries, which is to freeze them whole without sugar.

Washed, cored, and run through the salad/berry spinner to get rid of excess moister, the berries are spread onto a cookie sheet for a trip to the freezer.Processing fresh berries 2

Once they’ve hardened (takes about three hours) it’s time to bag them up.  I prefer this method since it allows me to take out the number of berries I need without thawing an entire bag.Processing fresh berries 3

My dear friend Kathy turned me onto this handy little bag holder.  It has a suction cup on the bottom and easily adjusts for gallon size bags.  Processing fresh berries 4

Five quarts out of six for the freezer.Processing fresh berries 5 Half of that sixth quart is still in the fridge, I doubt it will last the day.  The other half . . . well a person gets hungry processing berries!  I think I’ll be making another call to our local farmer.  Although that can wait until tomorrow.

For now, I think I’ll take a break in our newly assembled screen house and ponder what to plant next in the kitchen garden.Patio Screen House

 

 

The many uses of a solarium.

I had always wanted a sun room or three season porch.  So when the realtor unlocked the front door to this place and we stepped into a solarium, I fell in love with it!Solarium

One of the first things Rod did was replace all 15 windows (two of which were cracked) with thermal pane glass.  Originally each window had two panes of glass with about a four inch gap between the panes.  This was a poor design as it allowed for leaks and bugs had gotten inside where they couldn’t be cleaned out.

view of 15 south facing windows

Solarium with 15 south facing windows

We’ve kept all of the unbroken glass and will be using it to build a green house/chicken coop for our Bantam Wyandottes (the garden chickens).

There are still many changes we intend on making to the solarium.  This fall we hope to replace the river rock and deck board with soap stone or patio block.  We also have plans for a utility sink and cabinetry since there is an existing hot and cold water faucet.  But those changes haven’t gotten in the way of it’s usefulness.

For instance . . .  it’s a great place to store firewood.Firewood storage

 We added four ceiling fans for air circulation.  This creates a nice gentle breeze, so the addition of a retractable cloths line and few hooks makes this a great place for drying clothes in the winter.  I also like that it cuts down on the electric bill. 🙂Inside clothes line

This is an excellent place for starting seeds.Solarium Seed Starting 2 Solarium Seed Starting 1I still need to work out a few kinks and learn patience – started them a bit too early again this year. 😉

  This spring we found another use for our solarium . . . brooding chicks!Solarium Brooder 2

My grandmother had a large three season porch where she would start her seeds, dry her shell beans and black walnuts, and sometimes take a little break by relaxing in her glider.  I now have that glider in our solarium and wonder what she would think of my “three season” room.Glider

It started with an old tractor.

Last year we began the process of acquiring our farm implements.  First up was the tractor with a bucket.  Rod found a used 1957 Ford 600 with only 1700 original hours.  It appeared to have been previously owned by a small municipality.

Rod's Baby

Rod’s Baby

This is just the right size tractor for our place.  Now we just needed the tiller, or so we thought.  Further research revealed the fact that this particular tractor was geared to high to pull a tiller.  Therefore, we began the search for additional attachments.

A drag was found less than 15 miles from home.  An older gentleman had a hobby of picking up old drags that needed a bit of work and selling them, lucky us!drag

It wasn’t long before we found someone that was selling a two bottom plow . . .two bottom plow

discand disc.

Now we have all the implements needed to work up the gardens.

Oh but wait!  Rod’s decided a new King Kutter single trench digger would sure be handy . . .trencherIt turns out this was just the ticket for digging the 30′ asparagus trenches.  Just goes to show, I should never question an old farm kid.  Although, it’s been awhile since he’s done field work,trench cutter error next time he may want to pull the trencher up before he sets out to do any digging!!

Now that we’re all set with the tractor and attachments, Rod has decided a tiller for the kitchen garden is needed.  That’s fine with me since the alternative is to work it up by hand, and we’re getting too old for that.  He found a nice used self propelled rear tine tiller.  We started it up to see how it did . . . the chickens thought it did a wonderful job of uncovering worms.rototiller  I’m not at all comfortable doing field work with the tractor, but I think I’ll do just fine with this tiller.

Perennial edibles get an A+ in my book.

The land surrounding our house was so overgrown that we had no idea what we were going to uncover once we started to cut down the tall grass and weeds.prepurchase front field

Before Rod ventured in with the riding mower set to it’s highest cutting level, we did several walks through finding fencing, boards with nails, and all sorts of other hidden surprises.  During one of these walks a friend discovered seeded out asparagus.  We began searching through the tall grass and found an entire row of plants!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Who would have thought in amongst all that tall grass and weeds was such an edible delight!

Shortly after that day, Rod was mowing another overgrown area below the front of the house and found another nice patch of asparagus – YUM 🙂OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I see this find as a good omen.  Before we even started looking for land we made plans for the produce we would raise.  Establishing asparagus beds that would supply us and our customers was one of the first things on our list.  Our tasty discovery is supplying us nicely, but more is needed for our customers.Asparagus harvest

It’s been almost three years since we bought this place.  Much of that time has been dedicated to repairs and improvements on the house, work shop, and lots of poultry infrastructure.  This is the first year we’ve had the time to establish our gardens.  First plantings this spring are five rows of asparagus (310 plants) and six semi-dwarf apple trees.2014 view

Our first apple blossom. first apple blossoms

New little asparagus sprout.newest asp

We’ve also established a blueberry patch. blueberry patch

Our next “perennial edible” projects will be to expand on the raspberry hill (started with plants donated by my niece)raspberry hill and establish a small grape arbor in front of our solarium. Thanks goes out to our friend and fellow gardener Michael, for that last idea. 😉

 

 

Cute little fuzz balls.

Today the newest addition to the RindyBerry laying flock is officially one week old and doing great!  Last Monday we took a drive to Abendroth Hatchery where we were greeted by the owner plus a couple of tables full of peeping boxes waiting for pick up.  Here is a picture of the box our 12 Black Australorp pullets road home in.chick transport box

The first few weeks are the most critical, so we decided to set the brooder up in our solarium.  This works out great in that it keeps the dusty mess out of the house, but yet they are close by for observation.Solarium Brooder 2

Shortly after we got them settled into their new home, our friend Kristi brought over the four Rohde Island Red chicks she hatched for us.2014 Spring Chicks 5 Both sets of chicks are the same age and new to the environment, so no major squabbles.

Since they won’t have a mama to keep them warm, we adjusted the brooder lamp so the temperature would be around 90 degrees for the first week.  Now that they are a week old, we will set it up to a temp of 80 degrees.

watching the tempThey keep a pretty close eye on that temperature. 😉

After about four days it was time to clean the brooder.  We moved their feed and water onto boards to help keep out some of the bedding they kick up while foraging.

Rod added a little roost.  It sure didn’t take long for them to figure that out and begin establishing the pecking order.2014 Day 4 clean brooder 1Clover is a hit

He also added some clover . . . that was a huge hit!

Baby chicks at this age are all fuzzy and cute, but it won’t last long.2014 Day 4 clean brooder 3  Already they’re wing and tail feathers are beginning to come in as they approach that adolescent stage.

 

 

Broody or not Broody . . . that is the question.

Several days after my last post it looked as though one of our young Delaware hens was going broody.  She would sit in the same nesting box all day often joined by one of her flock-mates.  I’ve read that it’s not uncommon for others in the flock to help fill the nest for a broody hen.Two in a nest

We had planned on increasing our flock with Rhode Island Reds (RIR) and were referred to someone that agreed to collect a dozen eggs from his show quality blood line.  The next step was to move the little brooder set up into the big coop.  Rod had expanded on last year’s broody box by adding a hardware cloth base, ramp, and wheels so it could be used as a small tractor. This worked great for portability, but it would not fit through the coop door so off came the wheels and it slid right in.Broody coop 3Broody coop 2

We soon had a hen in the brooder on a nice clutch of eggs.  She was tucking eggs, fussing with the bedding, and making little broody noises.  We couldn’t believe how well this was going, but come evening everyone was happily roosting including our “broody” little hen!  Since she’s one of the young hens, we figured we’d take her off the roost close her into the brooder where it’s quiet and cozy then check on her before we turning in to see if she settled into brooding.  The problem was . . . the hens all look alike!Blue Butt 3

The next day, after making sure it wouldn’t harm her, we placed two drops of blue food coloring on our broody’s back feathers.  This should help if we need to pluck her off the roost.  Later that day while I was working in the solarium my potentially broody “blue butt” went strolling by. Blue Butt 1  I decided it was a good time to see how many eggs she was sitting on.  Imagine my dismay when there on the nest was another hen tucking eggs, fussing with bedding, and making little broody noises (sigh. . .)

We did have a back up plan for hatching our fertilized RIR eggs.  A nearby friend with and incubator agreed to hatch them.  We sent along a dozen eggs from the collected clutch, hoping our Delaware rooster did his job.  It takes about 21 days for an egg to hatch, Kristi candled the eggs at day 10 and at least four of the RIR were progressing, but the Delaware eggs were clear (not fertile).  ChesterChester is not quite a year old, so he will keep trying 😉

Since we need to increase egg production to meet customer needs, and will be brooding at least four RIR chicks we’ve decided to order a dozen Black Australorp pullet chicks.  We pick them up on May 5th which is the same day the RIR’s should be hatching.  I can hardly wait!!

 

Raising spring chicks.

Our neighbor is increasing their laying flock this year.  I’m so excited for them!!  Their original flock of six are no longer producing as many eggs, which happens as chickens age.  This will be their first time brooding chicks.  We have some experience, although limited, and have offered to help out how ever we can.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Two years ago we decided to raise our own meat chickens after learning it took about eight weeks for a Cornish Rock Cross to reach a decent butcher weight.  We ordered 50 chicks that April and set up a place in the garage to brood them.  Rod made a nifty two foot high ring which we covered with sheets to keep heat in and drafts out.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne little guy appears to be a stickler for the correct temperature.

By the third week they began to develop their wing and tail feathers . . . OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby the forth week they were ready to get out into the fresh air, and we were glad to have the dust and smell out of the garage!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After a good deal of research Rod built our first chicken tractor.  This is the term used for a portable pen/coop.   The first week we got by with moving it every couple of days.  By the second week we moved it daily and even twice a day the last couple of weeks.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They created a good deal of fertilizer which is why we grazed this first batch up near our house.  The lawn was in dire need of good organic nutrients – WOW did it grow and green up after that!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brooding chicks is a fair bit of work, which is why we were excited last Mother’s Day when one of our Delaware’s decided not get off the nest.  Rod built her a nice quiet broody box, we the set a dozen fertilized eggs under her and about 21 days later the hatching began. Mom & chicks #2  This was great no heat lamps or special pen needed. The hen keeps the chicks warm . . .
and teaches them to forage.  She is such a good Mama!!babies in the yard
I just love my chickens –

Sustainable Seed Straters 101.

Last year a couple of friends and I got together in mid February to start our seeds for the spring planting season. Seed Starting 2013

I know . . . WAY too early, but we had cabin fever and I was anxious to see how starting my seeds in our solarium would turn out.

Yup way too early, but my experiment with newspaper starter pots was a success.  This year we have added another member to our “seed starters” and have held off a month.  It may still be a bit early, but we are gathering this weekend so I need to get busy.

I love these starter pots since they are bio-degradable, easy to make, and very inexpensive.  If your thinking of starting your own seeds this year, rather than purchasing peat pots, you may want to give this a try.

You will need newspaper (opened my sheet is about 22″x11″), ruler, pencil, scissors, small cylinder (I find a 6 oz. tomato past can works well), tray for your seedlings.  I’ve gathered my tools and supplies now it’s onto the work room.Prep for seed starting

I measure for my strips marking at 3-3/4″ and 7-1/2″ across the sheet.Sustainable seed starters 1This will give me three strips (3-3/4″ x 22″) per sheet.

 Using my marks as guides, I draw out my two cut lines . . .Sustainable seed starters 3

 

 

 

 

. . .and cut.Sustainable seed starters 4a

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrap the strip around the t. paste can starting about 3/4″ from the edge of the can,Sustainable seed starters 4b

 

 

 

 

leaving 1-1/4″ to fold in.Sustainable seed starters 5a

 

 

 

 

 

To make the bottom, beginning where your strip ended, fold the extended paper (4-5 folds) around the bottom of the can. Sustainable seed starters 5b

Slide the pot off the can and place it in a tray.Sustainable seed starters 9

We use the 21″x11″ trays you find at the local garden shops.Sustainable seed starters 10As you can see from the picture, the tray has holes for drainage so we nest this into a solid tray.

Well . ..with one tray done and two more to fill, I better get busy if I want to be ready for our seed starting session.Sustainable seed starters 11