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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Homesteading Update, 12 July 2011

July garden
Pea harvest
For awhile there, the old homestead was looking like a seed farmer lives here, the brassicas had gotten that out of hand.  After almost a full week of work paid employment, I finally got a chance to catch up on the stuff that took a back seat to the chicken coop.

While Steve graciously painted the coop (without being asked- he just took it upon himself, the prince), I ripped out all kinds of stuff on Saturday.  I harvested as much of the kale, broccoli rabe, and escarole that I could, and then tore them all out along with the arugula, which I managed to get rid of just in time.  Then Sunday I hilled up potatoes, and planted eggplants, bell peppers, and poblano and serrano chilies. Also onion sets.  I'm a little ashamed of using the store bought starts, but if I don't, I have no chance at a decent summer garden.  As it is, the weather is not exactly the essence of summer, so I may not get any of the aforementioned or tomatoes this season.  Why?

Well, today it rained.  Not so big a deal, you folks in the east and south are probably saying.  Except that instead of being ninety-six, with the same degree of relative humidity, it was sixty-seven today. In the middle of July.   This year's start to summer is even later than last year's start.  This morning I got a taste of what it's going to be like caring for the chickens this fall and winter.  Methinks I'd better get the feed hoppers put together.  I bought the materials for them last weekend but couldn't bring myself to make them when what the girls have is sufficing for now and the garden was screaming for attention.

In other homestead news, Steve has contracted with our regular contractor for a new metal roof, after weeding out all the competition.  I'm glad Jef won it because we can trust him; he's done a lot of work for us and he's a super nice guy.

We also know where he lives.

And then just yesterday, Steve announced to me the company to which he'll award the solar photovoltaic and solar hot water work. Mr. Sun Solar has been doing solar installations since 1980, and while they weren't the cheapest, they gave us the largest sense of comfort.  They generally did the best job selling us the system because they answered Steve's barrage of questions, and actually came out to the house again with their electrician to check out the electrical panel.  It needs an upgrade which will get rolled into the total cost of the installation, which will go into the state and federal tax credits as well as the rebate from the Energy Trust of Oregon. The other guys either said we didn't need it, or their electrician estimated it from a photograph of the panel.  The best reason for doing the panel upgrade now, aside from the aforementioned credits and rebate, is that it will be done already if we decide to buy an electric vehicle later on, and we'll have had a little help paying for it.

The girls are adjusting well to their new home, and the two of us are adjusting to separate chicken chores as well.  I handle letting them out in the morning and rustling up their breakfast, as well as taking care of their water needs, and Steve brings them greens and tops off their water in the afternoon.  Then I take care of getting them to bed, which proves to be an interesting challenge every evening.  One night we were watching a movie and forgot to get them to bed on time, and they were still down in the run, waiting for me to come put them to bed (read: bribe them up the ramp with yogurt).  With today's rain, they came down for breakfast, but Steve said they went back to bed afterwards.  He looked out and saw no chickens in the run, and the next time he looked out, there were two brown head sticking out of the pop hole.  Then early this evening they were up and down the ramp, but never really taking themselves to bed.  But every night it's the same thing: I bring out the yogurt, Ethel (Front and Center Ethel) rushes to be first, Vivian thinks about it a little bit and then follows, and Violet misses the whole thing because she's truly clueless.  I have to stand out there for awhile, coaxing the girls to come on up for Yogurt Time (which so reminds me of a line from Auntie Mame), and it's getting old.

But then again, they're teenage pullets.

Maybe I shouldn't expect them to go to bed at a decent hour.


John said...

Our hens have a nifty little automated door. It's a simple little mechanism that winds a cable around a spindle, raising and lowering the door on a timer. You can probably find them at a feed and seed, or some rural hardware store. It's broken a few times, but it's easy enough to work fix. It lets them out at the ungodly hour of 6:00am, so we can sleep in and feed them around 8 or 9. They tend to go home on their own around 9:30pm, and the door closes at 10. It takes a little of the urgency out of chicken care.

Miriam said...

I'm really looking forward to hearing all about the solar panels - I imagine there's a bunch of us waiting to benefit from your experience and expertise!

As far as Violet is concerned, I am convinced that there is always a clueless one, in any group or configuration of chickens!

How's the new job feeling?

Lisa said...

Hi Paula.
If you girls are anything like mine, they won't want to go in until the sun begins to set. If you wait until then, or just after the sun begins to go down, they will want to get inside immediately!

click clack gorilla said...

Really, you have to put them to bed yourself? I guess our chickens are very well behaved. They march into bed just before it gets dark every day without a single bit of herding. Not that we would be able to get them in if they didn't want to go. Too much space for them to hide, and occasionally one of them will have a hidden nest somewhere and won't come home at night in hopes of making some chicks. So far it hasn't happened often though, and nobody has gotten eaten. We have seven little chicks right now! I need to post some pictures of that soon.

Hope the new job is going well!

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

You've got your hands full, what with all the new work on the house, a bunch of chickens growing up, a garden to tend, and an actual, genuine day job. I've always thought being busy -- busy enough to go to be tired -- was a good thing. I'm sure it's tremendously satisfying, watching all your ideas take shape, and now you have the added satisfaction of contributing to the bottom line.

I say brava.

BCKRVUE said...

Glad to hear you got a little blast of rain. What a difference that make when you don't have to use your precious time to water the summer garden. Keep us updated on the solar photovoltaic and what type of set up you choose to go with. How are the bee? I'll bee pulling honey from my second hive by the next monday.

Paula said...

John- that sounds pretty cool. Although I'd be tempted to rig the mechanism to bring me another drink, which I'm sure could be done. I am already up at the ungodly hour of 5 because that's when we get up to work east coast hours for Steve, and be in to work by 78 for me. It sucks to be a wage slave, but I'll do it as long as Steve says I have to.

Miriam- I will soooo keep you guys updated on the solar PV and hot water- mostly because I'm really excited that we're doing it. Steve has been turning himself into the expert because this was his project. Which, I have to add, he took on himself with no encouragement from me. I may have had to wait 41 years to find the right partner, but I definitely found the right partner! The new job is feeling definitely busy, and I'm seeing how my boss really needed me, but once I get my sea legs, I'm sure everything will be much better. I'll probably post about it separately because it's really a different buying gig for me.

Paula said...

Lisa- the first night I tried to let them take themselves to bed I went out in the dark to find them all in the run. But yeah, last night, they finally dialed it in. I think they have it now.

Hi Nicole! Welcome back from your tour. I'd be worried about foxes in your part of the world. My ex-German husband (from the Rhineland) says that foxes in the fatherland is not a happy site because they are notorious carriers of rabies. Not to mention they eat chickens. If you have chickens going broody, you might think about a broody cage (you can find plans online), just to keep them all safer. Of course, in my neck of the woods, the concern is 'coons, which I curiously haven't seen for awhile. So this means that I'll see one tonight because I mentioned it!

Paula said...

Thanks, Tamar. I don't know why, but kudos from you are special. Maybe it's because you are gutsy enough to go out on choppy water, when I wouldn't hazard smooth. Well, maybe on a creek, but not in a bay! I have been going to bed tired, for the first time in couple of years, and falling asleep pretty right away, which is also unusual for me. What is not unusual is working hard, although I don't think I've ever worked this hard in my life. But if I didn't think everything I do was important to my future, I wouldn't do it. Thanks for your kind words.

BCKRVUE- actually, you're right- the rain was timely because of the stuff I'd planted over the weekend. It's buying me some breathing space. And time to blog! The bees seem to be fine, but I didn't manage to get to them this past weekend. I don't think I'm going to get much honey this summer because of the lateness of the start of it (summer, I mean, and specifically, the honey flow). If we continue to have paltry summers, I may only get pollination from them, which will still be huge, although I also see a LOT of bumble bees.