Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Starting seeds for 2013

Well, it's January.  That means that it's time to start seeds.  I actually started hot peppers on January 15.  They take two weeks or more to germinate.  I hope to see them do something soon.  The bin on the far left and the one on the far right contain the hot peppers.  The bin in the middle with blue lid has Roma tomatoes.  I started those today.  The other bin has the pots ready to go, but I haven't put seeds in them yet.  I haven't been watching the temperature in the garage, but I'd guess that it's 50-60* in there.  I have a heating mat under the left bin of peppers.  Now I just have to wait, and wait some more.  I really don't have the patience to be a gardener.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

First Hawk Attack

Well, we lost a chicken today.  I came home from work and before I got in the house my son told me that Leia had been attacked by a hawk.  He was taking the dog out and saw the hawk dragging the chicken.  He must have startled it because it flew away.  It lurked in a nearby tree for a while.  The other chickens were visibly spooked.  Two of them were under the coop, one was under the deck and 3 were in huddled in the back corner next to the fence.  I went over to see if they were OK.  Once I got there they bolted for the coop.

We were all pretty upset.  She was one of the original 4 that we got.  But, that's how it goes.  Nature can be cruel.

Below are several of the pictures of her during the few months that we had her.  Leia was a black Silkie and the first of our birds to lay eggs
The day she arrived.  May 13, 2012

RIP Leia.  
May 13, 2012 - January 23 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

Barley fodder attempt #2

The first batch of barley fodder worked out so well that I thought I'd try again.

I did a few things differently this time.  I had some issues with rotting/fermenting seeds on the bottom last time.  So this time I grabbed an old seed starting tray.  I used it last year for starting seeds and never threw it out.  I put two 2x4's across the sink and put the tray on top.  Then I drilled drainage holes down the center of the tray.  After the holes were drilled I filled each of the squares in the grid with barley seed.

I put the grow lights over the seed, but did not use the heating mat this time.

Here's a picture on day 7.  The grow lights have been removed for clarity.
Day 7
Day 9
Day 12
You can see in the picture below how I had to stack 2x2's onto 2x4's to raise the grow lights as the barley grew.
Day 12

This is day 13 with the grow lights in place.  This time I had a 2x4 on a 2x4.
Day 13
 I finally pulled it on day 14.
Day 14
You can see the roots are around the plastic grid.  I thought this might be an issue, but it separated rather easily.

I think this worked rather well.  I didn't notice any strange smells in the garage.  I didn't see any slimy rotting seeds on the bottom of the tray either.  I watered the barley in the morning before I left for work and again at night when I got home.  If there was anything to complain about it would be how long it took.  When I used the heating mat it only took 8 days.  This time it took 14.  In any case, the chickens are going to be happy to find this when they get up tomorrow.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

More rain barrels

The first rain barrels I got worked out so well that I decided that it was time for more.  I called my rain barrel guy and he brought me these.

I found my rain barrel guy on craigslist.  He offers plain black barrels for $15.  He also converts them into rain barrels by adding a spigot, overflow, and mesh top.  For this he charges $55 for one, $100 for two, or $140 for three.  I could probably convert them myself, but I've never been able to find all of the parts needed at Home Depot.  It also saves me time to have him just do it.  Also, most rain barrels I've found on the Internet and in stores sell for $90-100 for a single barrel! 

I installed two more next to the one I had on the front corner of my house.  I put Y-valves on the spigots and connected them with garden hose.  I had an old hose that sprung a leak.  I cut it to length and put female hose connectors on both ends.  I did this so all of the barrels would fill and empty at the same time.  The alternative is to connect the overflows to each other.  Doing that causes them to fill in sequence.  The first barrel gets full and then overflows to the second, which then gets full and overflows to the third.  I'd rather use all three of them in parallel.

I connected 3/4" PVC pipe to the overflow connectors.  I didn't bother gluing the pieces together.  

The third barrel went under the down spout next to my driveway.  And look at that.  There's still enough room there for two more barrels!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Chicken water

Chickens need clean water.  Keeping it clean can be a problem.  They tend to stir up dust, step in it, poop in it, etc.  When it gets gross they tend not to drink it.  I wouldn't either.

You can see the device I've been using to water the chickens up until now.  I got it at the local hardware store.  I would say that it works OK, but I have to change the water in it frequently.  I have it under the coop and elevated on a landscaping stone, but it still gets dirty.

The solution?  I went to the local Agri Supply and found poultry nipples.

Then I went to my shed and found some 4" PVC pipe.  Originally this was going to be a strawberry planter.  I never got around to using it.  My strawberries went directly in the ground.  So I re-purposed it.  

I had drilled holes in the bottom of it for drainage.  That's great for a strawberry planter, but not so good when you want it to hold water.  A little duct tape fixed that.  I drilled two bigger holes and installed the poultry nipples.

Then I drilled two holes at the other end of the pipe and ran para cord through them.  After that I hung it on the side of the coop and filled it with water.  It holds just under a gallon.  

I have to say that the water in it has stayed clean.  But... I can't tell if the water level has gone down much or any at all!  I haven't seen a chicken drink from it.  So it's hard to say if this has been a success or not.

Bonus picture!  Here's a chicken laying an egg.