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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Yay! Pastured Chickens!

Long believing that livestock animals should have a good life and one bad day, it's been bothering me for a long time now that I couldn't pasture my chickens. I've been racking my brain on how to accomplish it cheaply - Steve wouldn't let me invest in an electric fence for them, and rightly so. I just needed to be able to figure out how to let them out unattended so that they can go in and out of their enclosure at will, and in the meantime, scratch and eat at anything they wanted within the space I gave them.

Click on it so you can see it
And then early last week, an idea came to me that has proven to work.  All I needed to do was find some inexpensive netting, install some hooks around the yard in strategic places, hang the netting on said hooks and let the girls out.  I found 25' x 50' poultry netting at Amazon for $36.25, and bought a pack of 50  #10 zinc-plated screw hooks at a big box store for about ten bucks.  What I wasn't counting on was how the netting laid out; it starts in one corner and builds until it's the correct dimension in one direction and then quits when it's the correct dimension in the perpendicular direction.  Kind of hard to picture, I realize, but to stretch and then stop and hold a rectangular shape, you have to hold it on the bias so that the holes are square and not diamond shaped. This required me to cut the darn thing on the diagonal, and then tie the pieces together to make one long net.  My finished height was six feet, but I don't know how long it is.  Unfortunately, there was a lot of waste. I'd cut five feet off the end before I'd figured out the diagonal issue, and then there are a lot of triangular waste pieces from cutting the fence out of the netting. Fortunately, I already had some plastic twine, so tying it together didn't require a trip back to the store. But I finally got it up and it works really well.  

Click on it
The girls seemed to be really happy to come out and scratch in the grass and weeds; today I finished tying more fence together and we reconfigured it to go around the apple trees.

I'm hoping that by doing more foraging out in the yard they'll save me a lot more than the roughly fifty bucks it cost me to put the fence up for them.  

But yay! Now we're getting pastured eggs! And I feel better now that my chickens are having a more chicken-y life. 

Everybody wins!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Hope for the Fall and Winter Garden

This spring's garden is for all intents and purposes non-existent. So disappointing. More importantly, if we were depending on it to eat, we would be starving right now.  Every couple of days I'm able to harvest enough flower stalks off the overwintered kale to make part of one meal but that and a few bits of lettuce here and there are all that are ready right now. Next to nothing in terms of calories.  So comes the realization that I just plain suck at this.

But I'm not giving up.  Monday's high is supposed to be 90F, so I'll bring all my unplanted seedlings into the house to protect them from the heat.  All my kohlrabi seedling are flowering, so I've given up on them, but there are still kale, mustard, and onion seedlings that I'm counting on. All my nightshade seedlings are doing well under artificial light in the garage, and the cucumber seeds I planted this week are just starting to peek above the soil surface; the melons are not up yet.  

So with my spring garden a near complete total bust and my summer garden still in the seedling stage, I'm looking forward at what I need to do for a fall and winter garden.  You can't call me a quitter, that's for sure.  I've learned a couple bits of useful advice from the Territorial Seed fall garden catalog, one of which was that a few day's delay in getting fall garden seed in the ground on time can translate into two to three weeks delayed harvest. I didn't know that.  The other thing that I did know was that to have food coming out of the garden during the fall and winter, you need to have everything at maturity in roughly October (in my area, anyway), because it will all stop growing, but what I didn't know was that it stops growing when there gets to be only ten hours of daylight. So that got me thinking: could I find a chart that would tell me what day that is, exactly?  Turns out there is, and you can use one of two forms for anywhere in the world.  I didn't have much luck with Form B, probably because I didn't understand what it wanted exactly, but you may have better luck.  But Form A, which is for the US, worked great!  You can use it for calculating both hours of daylight and hours of darkness, but for my purposes, hours of daylight is what I needed.  It turns out that mid-October (like on the 14th), I should actually have eleven hours of daylight, but this only calculates for the sun being over the horizon; it doesn't calculate the time plants are in the relative dark due to fences or hillsides being in the way, both of which I have.  So I'll leave mid-October as the time I have to have stuff mature for the fall and winter.

The catalog also indicated that to calculate the days to maturity (DTM) for fall and winter plants, you need to add two to three weeks to the DTM to account for the reducing light the plants will receive as the days wane.  

The Duration of Daylight/Darkness Table can be found here.  

I hope it's useful for you!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Eye Splice 2.0

Not being happy with my first attempt at an eye splice, and not being one to give up, I found instructions that worked a little better for me.  When he mentioned that you're weaving over and under into the rope, and to make sure you weave into the rope and not the splice ends, it all fell together.

The tape helped, too.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ted Maughan - Tinsmith

Okay- if I didn't know any better I'd swear Robin Williams was alive and well and living in County Mayo as a tinsmith.  Is it just me, or does this guy strongly remind anyone else of Robin Williams?

How to Make a Traditional Cooped Bucket

I've been interested in skill acquisition and old time craft for a very long time (like forty-five years) and if that kind of thing interests you, too, you will like this video.

He shows how to do an eye splice in a rope while making the handle, and where I can't hope to make a bucket for myself, it would be useful to know how to make an eye splice in a rope, so I tried it.

It's not even close to perfect but it was a cool thing to try to do. I have knot tying books; I may try this again with one of their directions. At least I've seen it demonstrated!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Still Working That Compost

This spring has been trying, to say the least.  The weather continues to run from rain and cool in the mid-fifties (Fahrenheit) and then to sunny and a little too warm- like mid-eighties.  Garden mollusks ate up the most of the first batch of seedlings, so I'm trying to grow the second wave larger before I transplant them with the hope that their size will help save them.  Except the lettuce transplants- those got plunked into the herb bed which I'd filled with homegrown compost.  I don't know if it's the compost or the fact that there are nice, stinky herbs in that bed, but the lettuce in it is doing great! But of the few other transplants to survive in the other beds, several have started to shoot flower stalks, even though they're still only four-inch pot sized, just because of the wild vagaries of the weather.  If I did't already have problems keeping my hair in its follicles, I'd be tearing it out right now!

The new compost pile
Several weeks ago I started a new compost pile, and earlier this week I started another. The first was growing grass out the top, so that clearly had to be moved into the middle of the new pile where it would die in the heat. 

The old compost pile
After getting all the outside layer of the old compost pile into the new one, I was left with a pretty good pile of compost.  It's not quite finished, but it will work and I'll use it the next available sunny (or at least not rainy) day we get when I transplant seedlings.  

And it's only been a couple of days and already the new pile is up to 116F.

Speaking of seedlings, I've decided I need to get serious about seed starting equipment. I just don't have enough room to get the successive waves of seedlings that I need, particularly if I'm going to keep up with the slugs! I need more space for them, and I need better lighting. I've seen first hand how much better full spectrum LED grow lighting is over the old-school fluorescent grow lighting for growing seedlings. I'm envisioning at least one set up of several shelves, each with its own grow light, but finding one that's the right shape, which is a long rectangle, looks like it's going to be hard, since most of what I'm seeing is either square, or shaped like a single flood light.  Just because it's shaped like a flood light doesn't mean it actually floods light.

Spring is always a hard season for me. I want my garden to be up and running but the weather and pest pressures sure make it challenging!