Posted on August 31st, 2010 No comments
The eastern half of the country may still be getting a heat wave but we’ve been fall a cool here with nights down to 7C or so, and days as little as 8C. Seasonal temps are coming back though, and Gene could be combining by the end of this week for a local farmer who hires him each year. He did get the hay baled that had been cut ealier (although some of it will be of little use having been rained on several times), but he’s still trying to get the final 1/2 cut and still having grief with machinery.
The chickens really didn’t start laying as I thought, they were just playing at it. Since the first 5 eggs were laid (over 4 days) no more have appeared accept this wee one below. I can’t quite figure why they would start and then stop again, but they really are still young for laying. I can’t remember last year for sure, but it seems that once one started laying the others began to follow within a day or so of each other, and we continued to get a few eggs a day. It was probably a month though before they all were laying. I also don’t remember the eggs starting out quite so small though. Have you ever seen such a little egg?
I picked my ripe pumpkin, a pail of tomatoes, some peppers, more beans, a pail of cucumbers, and we’ve picked a few cobs of corn. The cucs are producing better than I thought, I just never really got in there to look. And the tomatoes are ripening well too, but the trouble with growing climbing plants so close together is you can’t find the tomatoes in amongst the lower foliage.
Tomato blight has hit this area and most people have lost all their tomatoes. It’s great having a greenhouse, which keeps the plants drier and warmer. So far we haven’t seen any sign of blight, and even the usual powdery mildew problem has not taken the vining plants.
With the tomatoes and corn ripening it’s salsa making time, and seed collection has begun. With the cool, wet summer the flowers are all slow going to seed, but I have picked some of the earlier varieties: tidy tips, thymophilia and hibiscus. For the vegetables I have gathered parsnip seed (last year’s plants) in mid August, and lettuce seed. The spinach is just about ready to gather.
Posted on August 25th, 2010 No comments
On the 23rd one of the chickens laid an egg. Although it wasn’t completely shelled it was the 1st for this new batch of chickens. The next day there was another egg, perfect but small, and then today there were 2 more very tiny eggs, one laid outside on the ground. The info sheet we got when we got the chicks said they should start laying between 20 and 22 weeks. My chickens have started at 14 weeks, which is about the same as last year.
The eggs are very very small at this point and I don’t remember last years starting out quite as little.
I’ve been picking and freezing. Picked more beans, canned some apples, and made a large batch of apple butter, then plum/rhubarb jam, and 1 batch of zuchini/tomato sauce and/or soup.
Today I decided I needed to get out to the orchards and pick off some apples from a few of the limbs that were too weighted down and likely to break. The apples are not ripe yet, but these early picked ones might be okay to mix in with some sweet apples for cider… anyways, better than having broken limbs. Next year I need to get out in May and do some thinning when it’s supposed to be done.
University of Saskatchewan Trials: Of our 14 trial varieties only 6 are producing a significant yeild this year. The other varieties were either severely set back after last winter or didn’t pollinate.
So after picking apples into the wagon attached to my lawn tractor, I drove them home and out of the sun. Then I went back to the orchard and decided I was going to clean it up and get it put back into shape. I never did get back there to work after the few days in mid July. So I mowed off all the weeds I could, and then went under each of the 100 trees to weed and clip off the suckers coming from the root stock. I finished around 7 at night, dead tired, but I so wanted that job behind me. While I was at it I marked the 12 trees that need to be regrafted. Now the orchard looks presentable but it still needs to be rototiled and the dead branches cut out, and this will get done ’cause I’m determined to have it clean now.
Posted on August 20th, 2010 No comments
Today the new chickens had their first day at camp. Since the chariot has been parked at the coop and they have been going in and out of it for several days, it wasn’t hard to get them loaded. I threw in some spinach plants from the garden and half of them went into the top portion to get at it. The other birds were going in and out of the lower half so I herded them in gently with the flag, making the process as low stress as possible so we didn’t get off to a bad start. Their training has begun. I think they actually liked the ride across the yard. They aren’t as interested in the green stuff (grass and weeds) as the older birds were, but once at camp they scratched a bit and went in and out of the chariot. Loading them back in for the trip home was easy as well.
The new rows are strawberries are now mulched and covered over with white row covers. I have spent the last couple of days raking and forking off the straw from the old rows so I can get them mowed off and rototilled. The straw being removed is going around the field garden flower beds. I usually have lots of fresh flax bales to top up the mulch as needed, but this year I haven’t come across any bales so will not waste any of the old stuff.
Gene is still struggling to get the hay cut and has had machinery repairs keeping him stalled and frustrated. That and the rain. But now it looks like a break in the weather so hopefully he’ll get some bales actually rolled soon.
I’ve started dead heading things I don’t want to go to seed, and today it was the artemisia and the sweet rocket that got clipped and hauled off to the burn pile. The other two things I have to meticulously dead head each year to the very last seed is the tansy and the sea holly, but they are not turning yet. I picked 3 pails of beans from the outside garden a couple of days ago and got them in the freezer. Today I picked a pail of crabs from the tree next to the house which will likely get canned as pie filling. There is a fraction of the crab apples there usually is, but this is par for the course this year in the fruit and berry department. Besides the poor peas crop and the smaller than normal onions the vegetables however are doing well. The potatoes, beets and carrots are very large already. There are oodles of beans and lots of corn coming on. The cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkin are loaded with blossom and producing well, and the tomatoes and peppers are starting to ripen.
I found out that I actually do have squash planted … they aren’t all pumpkin as I thought. I was showing a sister-in-law how I pollinate the female flowers and when I looked closely at the two plants in the vegetable garden it was obvious that these two were not pumpkin like all the others in and around the greenhouse, they are just very late to get female flowers on. And the plants themselves look like pumpkin plants because they are not vining yet. Yeah – squash. Some of the pumpkin plants are going to get pulled up since I don’t need or want any more than a couple and the plants take alot of nutrients from the soil.
Their is still lots of bloom in the garden but after this batch of pictures there likely won’t been anything new.
Posted on August 15th, 2010 No comments
Finally have the new tab added (above) called “Chickens”. This took a while to put together.
Today I weeded more broadleaf mallow from the gardens and lawns, removed some of the straw from the old strawberries that I will use eleswhere, and weeded a few flower garden areas.
The chicken coop got the modifications needed to keep them from roosting over the divider, and since I was taking away their high spot I added another one for them.
Posted on August 14th, 2010 No comments
The chickens are now on day three in the new coop and they seem to be liking it now that they are used to the new set up. They are roosting in places that the 1st bunch didn’t though – like up on the divider and over the light so I’ll need to put some caging in these spots so they sit there. After 2 days of heavy rain I was glad I got them transferred since the temporary coop is full of holes an the permanent coop is tight and dry. On the other hand the courtyard of the permanent coop got very muddy, so I was glad there were lots of boards and perches for them to use. Knowing it was going to rain I also dumped in two wagon loads of grass clippings which helped keep their feet clean. Today was windy and cool so they took advantage of the coop, settling in the straw for most of the day. A few are checking out the nesting areas. Just like the first bunch they spend a lot of time watching from the courtyard door waiting to see me coming, and when I do they come to meet me on the run. I was feeding the first bunch a variety of weeds by this time last year, but these girls seem only to like the spinach so far. Their favorite treat of all is cucumber, and tomatoes.
I planted the 2 trays of strawberries suckers that I had clipped and started last week. Most of them had rooted so I rototilled two clean rows, thumbed in the plants about 6 inches apart, and then watered them in. I clipped and started 1 more tray since I didn’t have quite enough for my 2 rows, and some that I planted in the garden today will likely not take and will need to be replaced. (See August 7th for the clipping pictures).
I weeded broadleaf mallow from the lawn since the 2 inches of rain we got made them easy to pull out, and then I pulled up any and all chick weed I could find. The 3 or 4 spots, that I have always kept an eye and weeded zealously so it would never go to seed, are still producing chickweed after 9 years, and today I found out that it has migrated to a whole bunch of new places – likely spread by the mower. Weeding it or digging it out just doesn’t work, so I’ve decided that any place I find it from now on will have to be sprayed. The lawn will look patchy next year, but I have to get this weed back under control.
Mowing was next on the list. The yard has been looking pretty ratty these days because it’s been over over a week since any mowing has been done, and 2 inches of rain didn’t help.
Posted on August 12th, 2010 No comments
On the 9th my first chickens went camping for the last time. When they left the coop at noon that day they weren’t going to be able to return. When I loaded them back into the transport from the day camp, they went from there directly to a crate in the back of a truck, and they didn’t want to go. My method of enticing them in didn’t work so the new owner applied a more aggressive means and basically had to crowd them forward and into the crate. It was a sad day for me since these were my first chickens, my learning curve chickens… and they got a lot of nurturing and attention. I was however getting tired of taking care of two batches, so even though I won’t be collecting eggs until the new girls start laying I’m happy to be back to managing just one bunch.
Yesterday I spent the entire day cleaning out and modifiying the main coop to get ready to transfer the new girls in. The courtyard needed to be cleaned up and ‘furniture’ rearranged. Inside needed the winter heat lamp shelf area modified (may as well do it now as wait until we need it), new roosts added, the window repaired, and the mice sent packing. I backed the camper transport up to the temporary coop yesterday morning so the new chickens could come and go from it all day and get used to the fact that it was a cool place to be.
This morning when I let the chickens out of the temporary coop and into their courtyard I enticed them into to camper transport… and with a little prodding got them all in. Then we drove them over to the permanent coop. I was hoping to let them into the coop first, but we couldn’t get the transporter close enough to the main door, so we released them into the courtyard instead. Then it was fun to watch them adapt to the new environment, and all the new cool furniture to get up on. They were very hesitant to go into the coop though… which is why I wanted them to start there… but when I carried a couple around and put them in they soon go the idea that this new home wasn’t so bad. I haven’t seen them all go in yet, but I expect they’ll go in when it’s time to go to bed, then we’ll see how they get used to the new roosting options, which are much better than they have been used to.
Later: Some of the girls got the right idea about going into the coop to roost, but some of them had decided to roost outside, still not quite sure of where safety was. So as it was already starting to get dark and they had settled to a roosting spot I was able to grab them one by one and put them inside through their coop entrance from the court yard. Then I closed them in and went inside to see how they would settle. When they found a high spot of any sort I turned the light off and they quieted down for the night.
I knew I needed to start them out in this new environment by introducing them to the coop first.
Posted on August 11th, 2010 No comments
Gene got all the hay cut around the yard, field and road ways, but unfortunately just in time for it to start raining. It rained on the 12th and 13th and we got 2 inches out of it. The good thing about the haybine breaking is he didn’t get the heavy alfalfa cut, which is the main winter forage.
I also got some pictures of the blooms before the rains made a mess of everything.
Posted on August 7th, 2010 No comments
I decided to change my mind about keeping 2 of the older birds. My introduction of the 1st bird went ok and although stressful for her at first she seemed to be settling in. But, rather than wait until she produced an egg I introduced the 2nd bird yesterday…as the 1st one was lonely and I was thinking she might feel better if one of her cronies joined her sooner. I was also thinking that the 2nd bird might possibly be a better layer and figure out the nesting arrangement first.
The 2nd bird I selected wasn’t as catchable as the 1st one was so I got her separated out from the rest and loaded into the camper transport which I then drove across the yard to the temporary coop. I released her into the court yard with the young birds. This part went ok and she seemed to think that the chicks courtyard was just as good as camping for the day. She was as moderately aggressive with the young ones as the 1st one was, but nothing extreme and the 1st bird seemed much happier to now have a buddy in this strange new environment. When evening came however, the 2nd bird wouldn’t settle down and became very aggressive. She couldn’t decide where to roost so thought she should be in everyones spot. She was extremely agitated and noisy and everyone was stressed trying to avoid her, especially the 1st older bird who was settling in just fine to the roosting part (or trying to), but was getting the brunt of the 2nd birds agitation and pecking. I watched this for awhile then I marched in to the caging, grabbed the troublemaker and took her home. I think she was very happy about that.
As for the 1st bird, still not having laid an egg by today, although she did find the nest this morning and occupied it for a while, she was also still stressing everyone. No one was relaxed the way they had been before she arrived and were always needing to avoid her. For the few weeks of a couple of eggs a day (maybe) I decided my idea was a bad one and not worth the tension I had created in a once calm and happy coop. Although I couldn’t catch the 1st bird, I got her on her own out in the courtyard which I then opened up. She exited and I then chased her “calmly” back across the yard to her old home. She was very confused about where to go as I was attempting to herd in the right direction, but when she did finally got near the old coop she understood where she was and wanted inside. Not sure she’ll enjoyed her arrival all that much since she’s probably lost her pecking order there by now, but she’ll have to take some of what she was dishing out for a day or so. At least the old coop is shaded and cool. It’s 28-30 today and for the coming week, and the temporary coop where the young chickens are is too warm during the morning hours and needing another tarp.
Today before it got too very hot (and before I got into managing my chicken problem) I hoed the veggie garden. I was in time to clean out the sow thistle and ground sel before the seed matured and started blowing. I hoed and picked up 2 wagon loads of weeds and it’s looking squeaky clean now. It feels good having this part done. I still have the 10 strawberry rows to clean up, but since I plan to mow them off and rototill them in when they are finished for the year, all I need to accomplish is to salvage the flax straw lining each of the rows. I will also clip 2 more trays of sucker for the fresh patch I’m starting for next year.
I have been doing strawberries here since ’99, and have moved or expanded the patch several times, maintaining 8-10 rows. Every patch eventually gets unweedable as the dandelion, ground sel and thistle blows in and gets established. Usually, when starting a new patch I have spaced out the transplants knowing they will fill in within a year or two creating thick and wide rows with a peak amount of berries after about 2 – 3 seasons (but I planted the 10 rows to give me and a few others a good crop to pick by the following year). However, by the time the rows are populated to the max – 3rd year – they are also again unmanageable. So, my plan this time is to start out with two “densely” transplanted rows, rather than 10 sparsely planted ones. This way I will still have a good production by next year, but it won’t be so daunting to manage. If I rototill them in after the end of year 2 (if need be) and start 2 more I can also keep them narrow enough to be covered more easily with the row covers. The new patch will get planted sometime next week and by putting row covers over them both fall and spring I can prevent weed seeds from blowing in amongst the plants. The row covers just after planting also helps the new transplants get established without drying out, and the added benefit of covering them in the spring is they tend to get tall and lush sooner than if left without it (if a dry or cold spring). Once they start blooming they need to be uncovered to allow pollination. At this point I cover the rows loosely with rolls of chicken wire, with wire hoops stuck in the ground every few feet to hold the chicken caging up off the plants – otherwise the plants grow through it making the berries very hard to get at. The chicken wire keeps the deer and rabbits out, but lets bees and pollinators in.
I use flax straw mulching along the rows to hold moisture, and to keep the plants clean. In the fall I take this same mulch and top it over the plants as winter protection. In the spring I fork it back to the sides along the rows.
Starting Strawberries: (My method)
When the suckers have little white nubs on the bottom they are ready to be clipped. Clip off the vine behind the most developed one, and then clip off any others that have nubs. Thumb the plant into trays of damp potting soil.
Keep the trays out of the hot sun. In a few days the roots will be developed and the plants can then be thumbed into wet rows in the garden. (Planting Pictures – See August 14th)
Posted on August 6th, 2010 No comments
Yesterday was a busy day in my yard. I weeded my 1 flower bed of the day, then watered flower beds, the greenhouse and the potato patch, transported the chickens to their day camp, dug out portulaca from the veggie garden, clipped strawberry suckers to start some new plants in a tray, and hung clothes on the line. (I just love now having a clothes line which finally happened because our “new – just purchased” washer broke a couple of weeks ago and wouldn’t spin. While we were waiting for the replacement I needed to be able to deal with lots of dripping clothes so the long promised line finally got installed.. thank you Gene.) A typical summer day really, when I forgot to stop to eat, and then it was time to go pick stuff from the garden to make supper.
The main item for yesterday however was to select and grab a hen from the older girls and carry her over to the temporary coop with the young ones. This took a while…. not the catching part because that was easy… I just had to wait for them to line up to go into their camper transport and get the one I wanted while she was boarding. What took the longest was my watching her adapt once I put her in the other coop. I wanted to make sure she knew about the nesting spot I created so I took with us two of the warm morning eggs and put them in the new nest. Then I set her in on the eggs which she immediately took to with a little cooing and picking up straw around the eggs. I had blocked the new chickens outside while she got the 1st while inside by herself, so then I opened up the entrance and watched as a few started to come in. She was aggressive at the beginning which was really all about being at a disadvantage and letting the others know that she wasn’t to be messed with, because of course they were curious and there were so many of them. When she went outside she stayed by herself for most of the day and pecked at anyone who came near to hold her ground. By the end of the day however she was allowing others to eat in the vacinity and she herself was scratching and eating. No, I didn’t watch her all day, but did check in lots to see how she was doing. She didn’t get much in the way of napping done since she stayed watchful, feeling no sense of security. The others had adapted to her right away and we not daunted at all that she was the new alpha. When roosting time came she went in after all the others and found a spot for the night. Now this morning I’m waiting to see if she finds the nest, or is in the mood to do her egg. With all the disruption I won’t be surprised if she takes a day or 2 off. If she doesn’t lay then I will put her back and select another hen to move over. Then when I know she’s laying then I will select a second bird from the older hens to put in with her. That way if I’m consistently only getting 1 egg I’ll know the newer one is the culprit. I took more pictures of my chicken set up camper and transport, and will put them on a separate page tabbed as chickens.
It going to be a hot day again today so I’d better get weeding my spot for the day while it’s still cool, and pick the strawberries, peas and beans that are ready.
My Tomatoes and Cucs in Greenhouse:
The barrels are filled with water. This comes in handy when the weather turns cold in September and October. Anything around the barrel doesn’t freeze at -3 or so. If tarped over the barrel plants next to the barrel can survive even at -4 or -5. There are barrels in among the tomatoes too, but they are buried with the growth around them at this point.
Posted on August 5th, 2010 No comments