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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Homestead Update, 13 February 2011

I got a lot done today, both things I'd been putting off and things that really needed to get done.

Minding my peas and queues
It was high time I got the peas planted, so into the first planter box they went.  Peas are a new crop for me, and I dutifully inoculated the seed before planting it.  The instructions on the seed packet said to thin peas to one inch apart as they do better with some crowding.  My feeling is, with a seed as big as a pea, why not just plant them one inch apart and not waste seed?  I planted a few radishes and carrots as well.  When the peas are done, they'll come out and a zucchini plant will go in.

Most of the afternoon was spent on planning for the chickens.  I finally decided where to put the chicken coop, which was a big deal for me.  It really helped that Steve doesn't mind having a view of the back of the coop from his office.  He took the dimensions from the Fresh-Air house and figured out for me what I need to do to scale it down. Since I need to keep the ratios roughly the same, and since he's volunteered to go in there from time to time "as a member of this family" as he put it, I need to keep it fairly comfortable for him as well.  I could fit in a coop that was only five and a half feet tall but he couldn't, so I couldn't scale it down much; this is still going to be a big coop.  This could be good thing, though, because we do have a lot of rain days, so it would be nice to be able to leave the girls inside if I needed to and they'd have plenty of room and no crowding.  Because it's open on one side, they'll still get plenty of fresh air.  My plan is to round up the girls in a movable pen during the days when the weather is nice and I can be out there working while they're enjoying some grass and bugs.  I mean, it would nice to be able to free range them, but I have to face the heavy raccoon population in this neighborhood (thanks to my neighbor) so playtime will have to be supervised.

The only problem with the spot that I chose was that there was a cherry tree in the way.  It's a dwarf Lapins and it was just vaguely starting to bud, so I decided not to waste anymore time.  The currant bush, which is also still dormant, got dug up and moved to the south side of the hazelnut trees, and the Lapins went into the hole the currant had been occupying.  This is not the first time I've moved a dormant tree; we'll just see if I'm as successful.  I suppose I should tell you here that I did all this by myself because I have a history of moving dormant trees, some of them more than a couple of times- different years of course, but I knew that there would be no end to the complaining if I'd even so much as hinted that Steve should help me (never mind that tomorrow is St. Valentine's Day, Lochinvar), so I handled the moves by myself.  I hoped to make up for uprooting both by filling their holes with some nice compost instead of clay, so hopefully they'll both find their new homes to their liking.  The spot where the chickens are going also had a small rosemary bush in the way, so that got pruned back and moved as well.  It went into the center of the bed that I've decided to devote to herbs, so I went ahead and transplanted the perennial herbs I had on the deck last summer into the bed as well.

The only thing left to do before I can get started is to pull out the pressure treated lumber holding up the flower bed and replace it with the last of the plastic decking that was left from pulling the deck apart.  Last year I reasoned that it was only flowers going into that bed so I could use the pressure treated wood there, but those flowers are supposed to be for my bees, so now I'm wondering: what was I thinking?  It may not be a problem for the pressure treated stuff to be holding up the flower bed, but it's a better use of the rest of that plastic decking, and the coop would be a better use of the pressure treated lumber.  I just hope I haven't poisoned the flower bed!

Next up, I need to draw myself some plans for the coop, and see if I have enough lumber lying around to get started.  I know that I'll have to see what I can find in the way of windows at the Rebuilding Center up on Mississippi in Portland.  I'll need two or three rather long and skinny windows for the top, but I won't know what size I'll need until I do a rough drawing, and then once I get up to the Rebuilding Center, I'll have to see how close to those dimensions I can get.  Kind of a roundabout, half-assed way to get something done, but I really want to use what I can around here, and try not to buy too many things new for the coop if I can help it.

One other piece of research I need to do:  I need to find out what the minimum gauge is on welded wire that will keep out raccoons!  I'm going to need this coop to be a Fort Knox, so the biggest expense is going to be the wire.  I have to get it right the first time.

15 comments:

Rae said...

Ugh. Raccoons are horrible. My brother had some HUGE raccoons behind his house in college that would chase people. When I worked at Olympic, we had some that would trot right in to campsites, while people were there, and steal food. Nasty critters. What is your neighbor doing to attract them?

Toni aka irishlas said...

First I have to say that I'm jealous that you are planting already! Here, the snow is starting to melt and it's an icy and muddy mess all at the same time!

Second I'm so pleased to see you're taking the plunge into chickens! You will LOVE it!

We used plain chicken wire which has worked fine and one thing to remember is to put it underneath the coop as well and to put critter proof latches on the doors. Our attack from the wiley coon happened because it dug underneath the coop into the run and it unlatched the door into the coop. It lifted the hook out of the eye! Needless to say, we've changed the latch.

Congratulations again, Paula. You've done an incredible job with your homestead and becoming self sufficient!

Paula said...

He's feeding them Rae, with dog food in huge plant saucers on his deck. I was playing bunco with the girls one night at their house, and saw three large (like fourteen inches across) plant saucers full of dog food, and I asked the wife, "oh- do you have dogs?" and she told me no, that her husband feeds the raccoons. Sure enough, a little while later a mama coon and five- that's 5- babies showed up. Last summer I had a mama and three babies use my yard as a thoroughfare for getting to the Knoefle's house. I checked with the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife- there is no law against feeding raccoons, so there's pretty much nothing I can do about it. I've already spoken to Dick about it and explained that I am getting chickens, and his response was to tell me that I'll have to build against them, and then he showed up the next day with a bunch of information printed from backyardchickens.com, as if I can't do my own research and that was going to make it okay. I'm not very fond of Dick Knoefle, and raccoons aren't the only reason....

Paula said...

That's interesting Toni- I've read in a couple of places that poultry netting is more to keep the poultry in, rather than keeping varmints out. I've read about raccoons being able to open latches. I haven't decided weather I'll build a door or buy one from the Rebuilding Center, but I'm thinking about using a regular keyed entry lock- the coon would need to have a large hand and an opposable thumb to get that open, much less the key. Haven't decided yet, but I know that they're especially clever with latches.

As far as the floor goes, my plan is to use the many patio pavers that the previous owner left all over the yard for the floor, at least two deep. I can barely pick one up myself, so I'm pretty sure they'll be too heavy for anything burrowing to push up. I like this idea because I'll get a permeable, concrete floor, for next to nothing. I'm not sure that I have enough, but even if I have to buy a few more, I'll finally get those pavers out of the way!

Paula said...

wrong whether....I'm still asleep....

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Wait a second...WHERE do you live again? :-)
I can't believe you've planted peas already! I planted my peas on St. Patrick's Day (offical pea planting day according to the Farmer's Almanac) last year and that wound up being a titch too early.

I found this OSU Extension Service link (http://extension.oregonstate.edu/news/story.php?S_No=626&storyType=garde) and it refers to "early peas" being plantable mid-January. What variety have you planted?

Sounds like you're making great strides with your coop planning - it's exciting, isn't it? Biggest thing for us with location has been plenty of sun in the winter and plenty of shade for the summer.
We got our coop windows at the Habitat ReStore in Northeast Portland - got them for a steal, too! Beautiful and double paned.
Loved your link to the "deep litter in chicken coops" - I've been doing this for about 2 of the 3 years now. That first year was all about trial and error and figuring out what worked.

Miriam said...

We got some fencing advice from Ev, our chicken mentor. She recommended that we skip chicken wire, which can easily be pulled apart by a varmint, and use stucco wire instead. In case it's called something different where you are, it's the heavier duty wire used underneath stucco (go figure). It's more expensive initially, but way more durable.

Also, she suggested not putting a top rail on the perimeter fencing around a coop - that means the fencing will be a little wobbly for an animal climbing up it, which apparently is disconcerting enough to be a deterrent. I've never heard that suggestion before, and all our fencing already had a top rail - but I'll put it out there for consideration!

I, too am envious that you're already planting! We're supposed to get more snow on Friday...sigh. Did you read Carol Deppe's suggestion that peas be soaked overnight before planting? Apparently dried peas may rot in wet ground before they sprout, but peas already on their way to sprouting will do better.

Diana (Di) said...

Paula, you are busy! I've started some broccoli, kale, spinach, a little cabbage... but I haven't done any peas yet. Thanks for the reminder. Happy V-day. :)

Paula said...

Danni- I'm in West Linn, a few hundred yards from the Willamette River (up a grade though, thank goodness), so my weather is going to be buffered somewhat by the river, both in terms of cold and warmth. The variety I planted is called 'Serge', from Territorial. The packet said ' a common disease, enation, can be very detrimental, especially in the maritime Northwest. Choose enation-resistant varieties (I have no idea if this variety is) or plant non-enation resistant varieties before mid-March. Your OSU article also mentioned early peas as a way past enation, which is spread by aphids that become active in the spring. It's a crapshoot for me, particularly as I didn't remember what Deppe had written about soaking peas overnight; the OSU article suggests germinating them in paper toweling, because they don't germinate in too cold or too warm ground. The seed packet says fifty degrees.

I just chose a variety that was a bush variety, and semi-leafless so that I could see the pods more easily. I knew they did better with an inoculant, so I bought that too. And I went off the timing in The Homegrown Harvest, that said in mild-winter areas, peas can be sown outdoors. However, it also says not to be tempted to sow in cold, wet ground, although my planter boxes drain pretty fast, though.

Now that I see the weather's going to be in the forties for the next ten days, and what you all are saying, I'm going to be very lucky if I get any peas. Makes me sorry I went 'all in'. I guess we'll see....

Paula said...

Thanks Di!

Farmgirl_dk: said...

You could totally do a quick-n-easy hoophouse... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnOXvAE8_c8&feature=player_embedded

Shelling peas are our absolute favorites. I've had really good success with the Maestro shelling pea from Territorial. I've tried Tahoma, Aldermann, and Little Marvel and I keep coming back to the Maestro. I can get two complete harvests out of one planting.
If you'd like to try them, let me know - I'd be happy to send you a few seeds for your garden this year.

Paula said...

Ah! Hoop house! Good idea. I wonder how long I would have before the peas rot because it's blowing like hell out there today.

I have some PVC in the garage that I used last year for a hoop house over a single bed- I just shoved it over the rebar holding up the beds, and then clamped plastic down over it. I'll check out your link, too.

Did you save your own seed? I may take you up on your offer of the Maestro if I manage to rot my own seed. It's very kind of you to offer!

Paula said...

The fellow on that link had some good ideas! I'll probably do my hoop house the same way as last year, but incorporate some of his ideas. Very clever. Thanks Danni!

The Village Queen said...

You probably know about these guys, but lots of great chicken house plans and ideas. www.thecitychicken.com Coons are a pita for sure. Your neighbor probably thinks they are cute, wait till one gets in his attic and eats his wiring and creates leaks, may he get all the cute he deserves!

Paula said...

Hey thanks, Village Queen! Yes, I did check them out a couple of years ago when I first started thinking about keeping chickens. I'm really glad chickens are so mainstream anymore; sure makes getting them easier.

My worry for this neighbor is that a raccoon bites one of his grandkids. Then he'd be really sorry. And you're right; coons in the house is very bad indeed. I'd rather he had to contend with that and learn not to feed them, rather than have one of the kids bitten. But what a dumb ass.