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.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Catastrophe in the coop.

We had 11 baby chicks hatch the other day.  Now we are down to 9.  The mother hen has been doing a fine job taking care of them.  Unfortunately the chicks are too small to make it into the coop.  So the first day or two out they just settled down near the coop.  That wasn't going to work.  I put water and food in the chicken tractor and moved them into there.  That's where they've been staying at night.  They've been going in there on their own. 
There just the slightest gap under that front rail. It's enough for some of the chicks to get under.

The problem with keeping them in the chicken tractor is that several of the chicks (normally 3-4) slip under the front of it in the morning.  When I get out there I find all of the birds pacing back and forth frantically.  The ones inside are trying to get out and the ones outside are trying to get in.  Then I prop up the front of it and everything is fine.

Last night I left the prop there so they could all get out at the same time. When I went out this morning I saw the mother hen in the yard with her chicks following her.  They looked happy.  Then I got to the coop.  I knew something was wrong.  Their waterer and feeder were both outside of the tractor and laying on their sides.  Then I saw feathers everywhere.
The block of wood is still there propping up the tractor and the feeder is not in there.
That pile of brown feathers is from the mother hen's tail.  I don't know what did this.  I'm guessing either an opossum or a fox.  I don't know if a hawk would or could do this. Regardless, I can't leave the tractor propped up like that anymore.

Tonight I go out to lock up the coop and what did I find?  That birdbrained chicken settled down under the coop!  I had to get a broom and my kids.  I nudged her out with the broom, put her in the coop, and closed the doors.  Then I had to shoe the chicks out and have my kids catch them.  It was chaos.  The chicks were chirping like crazy and the mother hen was squawking.  Eventually we caught them all and put them together in the coop.  It took a few minutes for them to quiet down.  They'll be safe in there.  I just hope they decided to go back in there tomorrow.  Catching them every night isn't going to be much fun.

Friday, June 19, 2015

June 2015 Garden Update

The garden is coming along this year even though I've had a couple of setbacks.  I've had a problem with deer, and the heat.
Peas on May 30.
 I didn't pick my peas in time and most of them dried out. 
Peas on June 15.
I tried something new this year.  I have my cucumbers climbing para cord.  It's working really well.
I lost 4 really nice tomato plants to blight.  Luckily I have more plants in other beds.
Tomatoes dead from blight on June 7.
The beans down the side of this bed were doing nicely.
These are the same beans (from a different angle) after the deer got them.
I put out my motion activated water sprinklers after the deer ate the beans. 
This is one of the tomato plants that is doing well.
Peppers and herbs in containers.

My first harvest of beans.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Broody chicken update

Just a few weeks ago I wrote about one of our chickens going broody.  I got a dozen fertilized eggs from a neighbor and put them under her.  She did her job and dutifully sat on them.

On June 15 my wife went out to peek at her and noticed cracked egg shell.
I went out with her later and picked up the hen (who was not happy about that).  The birds had hatched.
When I checked on them the next morning I found 3 unfertilized eggs and some broken shells in the nesting box
 I guess she pushed them out of the nest.  Instead they were sitting in the corner on the floor.
When I got home from work that night the mother hen and 4 of the chicks were on the ground under the coop.  The rest of the chicks were still in the coop.  I had to reach into the coop and get them out. 
They follow her around everywhere and she's been showing them how to be a chicken.  I've seen them out in the yard, but mostly the stay by the coop.  She gets real defensive and puffs up huge whenever anything approaches. 
I managed to get them into the chicken tractor tonight.  I propped up the front of it and they wondered in there.  Then I pulled out the prop.  I think they'll be better off in there.  Last night they slept under the coop and the night before that I had to help them in.  The chicks aren't big enough to get up the ramp and into the coop on their own. 

One of the chicks didn't make it.  It hatched and it's legs moved a little bit, but it never got up and ran around like the others.  On the second day it was cold and stiff.  As luck would have it...  The neighbor I got the fertilized eggs from had some in an incubator.  Two of them were further along than she thought and they hatched!  So she brought them over and we stuck them under this chicken.  It's hard to count them, but we think there are 11.  That math doesn't work out in my mind (9 hatched, 1 died, 2 from the neighbor should be 10).  I don't know.  Maybe there are 10.  Or maybe I stuck 13 eggs under her and 10 hatched.   Whatever, all I know is that there are a lot of them.  Maybe I'll even have enough that they won't all be eaten by hawks.