Sunday, January 31, 2016

It begins! The 2016 garden.

I generally start seeds between New Year's and Valentines Day.  Tomorrow is February 1, so I figured tonight was as good a time as any.  I picked up a seed tray at Home Depot around Christmas time.  They had them out early!
I added two quarts of water and waited for the pucks to absorb all of it.  Then I grabbed my boxes of seeds from the closet.  I'm not good about keeping seeds.  I have so many packets of things from a number of different years.  I haven't labeled any of it.  That means I have no idea how good my germination rates are going to be.  To help my odds, I put 3-4 seeds in every peat pod. 
I plan on growing mostly peppers and tomatoes this year.  I grew peas last year and they dried out on the vines before they were picked an eaten.  The same thing happens with beans.  We do eat cucumbers, so I'll probably plant some of those too.  Anyway, back to seed starting.  I put the lid on the tray and placed it on my seed heating mat.  Now all I have to do is wait.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Fall garden work.

Last year I filled my compost bin with leaves.
It took a few months, but eventually I ended up with some nice compost. 
I used the compost to fill my raised garden beds.  I do this every year.  I fill them to the top in the fall, and by the end of the following summer they are 3" lower.  I don't know where it goes.  Maybe it just settles, or maybe it continues to break down.  Anyway, I have a free resource, so it's not a big deal.
I think this PVC drip irrigation might have to come out next year.  I pulled the end cap off and the inside of the pipe was green with algae.
I have a couple of pepper plants hanging on even though it's November.
This bed contains oregano that I can't get rid of.  I cut it back severely last year and even dug half of it out with a shovel.  It's still going. 
I still have a number of tomato plants producing.  I'm hoping that the tomatoes turn red before we get any frost. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Improving my overflow rain barrel

Long ago I stuck a barrel under my deck and called it my over flow rain barrel.  I put a float valve near the top of the barrel so it would fill when the water in my other barrels was above its height.  I installed a hose bib lower on the barrel, attached a check valve to it, and plumbed it back into the tubing that connected the rest of the barrels.  This worked well, but there was room for improvement.
Overflow barrel in relation to the nearest rain barrel.  It's 8-10" lower.
Closeup photo of the overflow barrel under the deck.
The first problem was that this overflow barrel only filled when the water in other barrels got to a level higher than the overflow barrel.  That's not a huge deal, but when it rains hard the barrels fill fast.  The water then goes out the overflow on the barrel and doesn't make its way into the overflow barrel.  This is due to pipe sizes.  The tubing going from the main rain barrel to the overflow rain barrel is only 1/2".  Water moves rather slowly through it.  The overflow on the main rain barrel is 3/4".  

The second issue is getting water out of the overflow barrel.  The hose bib is 12" up from the bottom.  That meant that there was a foot of water in there that I couldn't get out.  It was unusable.  This also made moving the barrel out from under the deck very difficult.  (I like to check it once a year to make sure nothing is growing inside.)

My improvement started by moving the float valve from the top of the barrel to where the hose bib had been.
Float valve installed at the hose bib location with strainer attached.
Then I added a long chain to the float. I've always used these float valves with the float directly attached to the valve.  I wasn't even sure that adding a long chain would work.
Initially I took a guess as to how much chain to use.
Next I had to address the issue of getting the water out of the barrel.  I decided that in order to get the most out of the barrel that I would have to put a drain in the bottom.  I drilled a hole and installed a Uniseal bulkhead adapter.
Then I inserted 1/2" PVC pipe and attached a hose valve to it.
Then came the big test.  I put the barrel on some blocks since it could no longer sit flat on the ground.  Then I filled it with water to check for leaks and verify that the float valve would work in the new location.
Success!  The float valve worked just fine.
Once I was convince that the barrel would work this way I had to empty it.  I didn't want to waste the water, so I used my pump (not pictured) to move it into another rain barrel.
I had some concern about the chain on the float getting tangled by repeatedly draining and filling the barrel.  To lessen this possibility I added a short section of chain to the float and attached it to the top of the barrel. 

The last step was to put the overflow barrel back under the deck.  I connected it to the nearest barrel with some drip irrigation tubing.  Eventually I'll tie it into the tubing under the deck that connects the rest of the barrels together.
The final thing I did was to add a short piece of clear tubing that would show me the level of the water in the barrel.
I've been real pleased with how this has turned out.  The barrel fills sooner since the intake is lower, and I'm able to completely drain it.  Eventually I'd like to expand my water storage capacity by adding several more barrels under the deck. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The baby chicks are grown up.

I'm overdue for a post.  The baby chicks are getting big.  They're pretty much on their own now.  It was interesting.  The momma hen just one day decided she wasn't going to mother them any more.  It was like a switch was flipped.  It was that fast.  It took a few days for the chicks to figure it out.  She would wander away with total disregard for what the chicks were doing.  They would notice that she was gone and hurry to find her.  Then I noticed that she wasn't staying with the chicks at night.
July 24, hen and chicks sleeping in the nesting box.

July 28, hen on her own and the chicks are still in the nesting boxes.
She even started laying eggs again. 
It's hard to get chickens to hold still for pictures.  I managed to get a couple pictures of the chicks at this point.  I think one of them may be a rooster.  He's going to have to go.
 It'll probably be spring before any of them start laying eggs.
They are pretty birds.  They're still skittish though.  We didn't handle them when they were young so they don't get too close to us now. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

July 2015 Garden Update

I haven't posted a lot about my garden this year. That's mostly because I'm not growing a lot.  I got frustrated last year when most of what I grew sat on the kitchen island until it started to rot.  The chickens ended up eating a lot of it.  As a result I didn't put as much effort into the garden this year.  On top of that I lost several plants and what is left hasn't produced much.

I have gotten a lot of cucumbers.  They are the one thing that has done really well.
We got a hand full of carrots.
My blackberries have done alright.  They never made it into the house.  I need to plant more to increase the quantity that I get.
Growing the cucumber vines up paracord worked really well.
I had a lot of lettuce grow, but we didn't eat it before it bolted.  It's too bitter now to be eaten.
We had a bad thunderstorm come through that took out my trellis.  I was actually kind of surprised that it didn't come down sooner.  I need to come up with a better solution for next year. 
I haven't planted anything or started any seeds.  I don't know that I'll have an update in August. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Baby chicks at one month.

It's been just over a month since our baby chicks hatched.  We started with 11.  We're now down to 6.  I'm really hoping that all of the ones we lost were roosters and than that the remaining birds are all hens.  What are the odds of that being the case?  Probably not good.

They're quite a bit bigger now, so hopefully the rest of them will make it.
They still stick close to the mother hen, and she's still pretty protective.  Supposedly at some point she'll lose interest and just let them fend for themselves.  At that point she'll be done being broody and go back to laying eggs. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

An update on the remaining chicks.

I was away last week.  During that time my wife found the mother hen on the wrong side of our fence a few times.  We think she was chasing away a hawk.  I don't remember how many times it happened, but we are now down to 7 chicks.  We started with 11.  That's better than we did last year (so far).
I count 8 chicks in this picture.  One of them has disappeared since it was taken.
The chicks now sleep in the coop with the mother hen.  There were quite a few nights when they would just honker down under the coop by themselves.  I had to go out several nights and chase them out from under there and manually move them.  Eventually they figured it out.  I find it odd that the mother hen didn't seem to care that they were outside and she was inside.  Chickens! 
Somehow they got up here.
They're pretty quick to get out of the coop in the morning.  They make a mad dash for the feeder before the big birds get there and push them out of the way.