Saturday, January 24, 2015

Keeping peppers through winter.

A lot of people don't know it, but peppers are perennials.  It's possible to keep them growing all year long.  I've done it before.  They just have to be kept above freezing. 

I had a number of pepper plants in containers.  When it got cold I moved them to my garage and kept them under fluorescent lights.  They took up a lot of space.  It was pretty inconvenient.  This year I thought I'd try putting them in my greenhouse.
I have not gotten great results in the greenhouse.  My temperature control system has worked great.  It hasn't gotten below freezing in there even though we had some cold nights get into the teens.  I think the issue is humidity.  It's too humid in the greenhouse and the plants have gotten a brown hairy mold/fungus on them.  I tried pruning them but I don't think it helped.

I moved the plants out of the greenhouse once the arctic air passed.  It's too late for two of them, but the other two might have a chance.  I'll just have to wait and see... 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Mid-Winter homestead update

Winter isn't the most exciting time around the old homestead.  I had plenty to do to keep me busy, but I didn't think much of it warranted a blog post.  So I'll just post it all here in a single update.

One of my more interesting projects was to create a bench for my fire ring. One of my coworkers sent out an email asking if anyone knew where he could get a 10' section of tree trunk with the bark removed.  I volunteered to help him. 

I have a lot of trees in my woods that need to come down.  I also own a draw knife.  I found a tree that looked like a good candidate and cut it down.  It was fairly straight with only a minor bend.  The lowest section was 10" in diameter.  I kept that to use as my bench.  A straighter section (with an 8" diameter) further up went to my coworker.
I used my draw knife to remove the bark from the trunk.  The log in the top of the picture below went to my coworker while I kept the bottom log.  It was much easier to remove the bark from the smaller of the two logs.
Once the bark was removed my son and I dragged it into the yard and set it up on two smaller log sections.
 That night we tested the bench by inviting some neighbors over for a campfire.
Leaves are one of the things that have kept me most busy.  I have a lot of oak trees and they drop a lot of leaves.  I spent at least four weekends cleaning them up.  I wouldn't bother if it wasn't for the fact that this year's leaves become next year's compost.
Leaves all over the back yard.
I used the leaf blower, multiple rakes, and the lawn mower to remove all of the leaves.  I found that blowing the leaves into the yard and then mulching them with the mower worked best.  Then I had to rake them onto a tarp or turn my blower into a vacuum and suck them up.  Then I'd move them to my compost bin.  It was a lot of work. 
  The fall and winter is a good time to split wood.  That's a project that isn't fun to do in the summer heat. 
I have a lot of wood piles from all of the trees that I've taken down.  This is after taking multiple van loads on camping trips with the Cub scouts.
There isn't a lot going on in the garden right now.  I have kale growing all over the place, but that's about it.  There might be some lettuce and spinach hanging on as well, but I haven't really looked.
I had the week off of work between Christmas and New Year's.  That gave me the time to tackle some bigger projects.  The biggest of which was spreading mulch.  I had 20 yards delivered on a Tuesday morning.  I thought that I'd be able to get it all moved by the end of Saturday. 
I started moving wheel barrow loads of mulch right after the dump truck left.  I took a break for lunch and then got back to moving mulch.  Not long after that my neighbor came over and offered to help.  He brought his wheel barrow. 
He and I were able to move the entire pile of mulch that afternoon!  We finished 30 minutes or so before it got dark.  I put my shovels and tools away and swept the driveway.  Then the next morning I got the rake out and spread the piles of mulch that we had dumped everywhere. 
I kept a buffer zone between the mulch and the grass.  The chickens tend to scratch and peck and move the mulch into the yard.  Then every 3 days or so I have to go around and rake it back to where it belongs. 
All of the chickens are doing well.  The new ones we got in November have integrated into the flock.  They're all one big happy group now.  I haven't been keeping a real close count on the egg production, but I'd guess that we get 4 a week.  Hopefully those new birds will start laying in the spring.  I think our Rhode Island Red is the only bird that lays regularly right now. 

I think I've posted pictures from the most interesting things that have happened around here.  Thankfully Spring is just around the corner.  I'll probably start seeds for the garden in the next month or so.  I can hardly wait.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Starting trees from seed.

I put an apple tree in my yard a few months ago.  I'd like to have more.  I could just buy more, but I thought I'd try growing them from seed. 

I started by digging out the largest of my various pots. 
 I put newspaper in the bottom to cover the drain holes.  I didn't want the compost to fall out.
 Then I filled the containers with compost.
I like Granny Smith apples.  We happened to have some so I told my wife and kids to save the seeds for me.
I put 3 seeds in each pot.  Then I moved my portable screen to cover them.  That had to be done to keep them safe from acorns and chickens.
Now I just have to wait a few months for the seeds to germinate.  I don't know if this is going to work or not.  I do know that it's unlikely that they will produce trees true to type.  I will likely get some kind of hybrid.  My cost for this project is $0.  If it works, great.  If it doesn't work then I haven't lost anything.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The chicken swap.

I wrote recently that our chickens are providing very few eggs.  We get one a day on average.  I was telling this to one of my neighbors and she asked me if I wanted to swap out some chickens.  She'd give me some younger ones for some of my older ones.  That sounded like a good deal to me.  The only issue was determining which birds to part with.  I ran the idea by my kids.  They wanted to keep four and swap out three.

Below are pictures of the three new birds.  My kids have named them, but I don't remember what their names are.  

These birds are quite big.  We're hoping that they're big enough that the hawks will leave them alone.  None of them are laying yet.  I'm guessing that they will be by spring.

It took them a few days to adjust to their new surroundings, but they seem to be doing fine now.  The other birds sure do give them grief.  I find the pecking order thing rather amusing. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

We lost another chicken...

A few days ago my children asked me what I thought we should name the last remaining chick.  We started with five, but only one survived.  So I replied with, "Lucky."  They got a chuckle out of that, but determined that that name was no good.  They wanted to call her Domino because she was black and white. 

Last night I went out to close up the coop.  I did a quick head count and realized that Domino wasn't there.  I looked around the yard and outside the fence, but there was no sign of her.  I went inside and told the family.  My son grabbed a flashlight and went out to look.  It didn't take him long to find a carcass.  I'm not sure how I missed it.

There were feathers everywhere.  I'm assuming that another hawk got it, and boy did it eat well.  There wasn't much left of that bird.

I guess its luck ran out.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

An update on the layer chickens - Fall 2014

I don't write about my chickens frequently.  That's probably because there isn't a lot to tell.  They're easy to take care of.  I lock them up at night and let them out in the morning.  Every 3-4 days I add food to their feeder.  That's pretty much it.
It's infrequent that anything changes.  We added a few birds to the flock in August, but most of them didn't make it.  The good news is that the one remaining chick is doing well.  She's as big as the mother hen now.
The bird in the middle is the last remaining chick.
The other thing that has happened recently is that their egg production has fallen drastically.   There was a time when we had 6 birds that we would get 4-6 eggs per day.  Now we have 8 birds and we're lucky to get 1-2 eggs per day.  Sometimes we get 0. 

Part of that is due to the time of year.  They lay fewer eggs when there is less daylight.  I think the big issue is age.  From what I've read, the prime egg laying age is 6-18 months.  Most of my birds are more than 2 years old.  The new chick isn't old enough to start laying yet, and I don't know the age of the mother hen.  She still sticks close to the chick.  I don't know if she's still playing mother or if they've just formed their own little group.  Regardless, she's not laying.

I'm ready to start culling the older birds.  I'm willing to put them in the freezer, but my children won't let me.  They want to keep them around as pets (which they pretty much are).

My barred Plymouth rock is molting again.  She did this last year.  Looking at the pictures from then I'm guessing she's going to look a lot worse before she looks better.
She looked good on 9-14-2014.
My Rhode Island Red molted in June.  She looks pretty good now.  She's the only one that still lays eggs reliably.  Most of the eggs we get come from her.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Garden Status for October 2014

I didn't do a lot in the garden this month.  Even with the neglect it's still producing.
Beans from 10-02-2014
The kale is really doing well.  10-15-2014
More kale and beans.  10-15-2014

I have several pepper plants that are still hanging on.  10-15-2014
I guess the key to getting a lot of really nice peppers is ignoring them.  These were all picked on 10-19-2014.
This kale was picked on 10-25-2014.  It hardly made a dent in what was out there.
I have lettuce coming up, but it's nowhere near ready to pick.