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Personal blatherings, living simply, gardening, cooking, canning, dehydrating, knitting, spinning and more.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

...and a Chicken Tractor (Black Thumb of Death Gardening)

We finally got the chicken tractor done last month. We used leftover 2" x 3" and 2" x 2" studs, and fencing. The wheels were the only thing we had to buy. We put it together in the tiny shop-garage after removing a lot of stuff. We still were a tad whomperjawed. Himself says building with corkscrewed wood does that. The smaller the stud, the more it warps? We do not have the proper tool for "ripping" studs. Still, it came out fine. We put small braces on the bottom corners. Not having enough fencing for the top, we cut studs to go across the top to keep a tarp from sagging. I secured the tarp down with old shower curtain rings and the door, (we used old hinges) an old bungee cord to keep it closed. Himself put eye-bolts and attached old rope at each end for easy pulling, depending on what direction we are going.

You may be able to tell how fast chickens can clean the ground of unwanted grasses and such. I used arrows to help see what they can do in one day.

We splurged on plastic garden fencing so the chickens will have a larger ranging area when they go out in the morn. Right now it is around their coop. It is too hot to take them out to the larger field for more than a few hours. We will get metal fencing we can remove in the winter to go around the coop for the days when it is too hot to go in the field for more than a couple of hours. I am also going to get one of those weird squiggly misters that attach to the hose. They like dampened dirt in the shade when it is warm and do not mind a fine mist to walk through.

The photo is the chickens waiting to be go out in their tractor. I was taking too long. They plopped down for a bit.

The next photo is them out browsing in the meadow, safely within their fence with us out there as insurance. Eagles and the like are pretty quick when it comes to snatch-and-grab.

The largest chicken gave a deep "cock-a-doodle..." and that was it. No "doo". He has asserted himself as the dominate male, but he may not be the one to keep. A pullet snatched a radish leaf from him and he chased her down and took it back. We had a golden eagle overhead the other day. All dashed inside except one of the smaller cockerels. He was the one to give the alarm and stood, watching the eagle and giving the alarm until all were inside the run under the coop for a minute before seeking shelter himself.

The fourth of the younger chickens may not be a pullet but a cockerel. What is the odds of getting 4? We will not know for sure for a few more weeks. If it keeps "breeches" and does not get the feathery "skirts" like the older 4 pullets, does not pop out an egg  and or if it crows, then we will know for sure. (laughing...) Buff Orpingtons are rather hard to tell sometimes. Some of the pullets get their combs and wattles sooner than others. Our first four are just getting them. No matter. One cockerel will stay and the rest go to Freezer Camp to later become soup and other goodies.

The first photo of the gardens is of the meadow garden area. The squash is just now blooming. To the far left is dry beans with lentils in-between the squares of beans. All are blooming right now, too. I have marigolds/calendula planted in each box as a trap for click beetles, which start as wire worms. Each morning I shake the click beetles gorging on the blooms into a cup. The chickens will not eat them, for some reason. I shake them into water with a squirt of soap to quickly kill them now. I wonder why the chickens do not like them? Taste worse than the stink beetles they do love to eat?

The second photo is the potato area this year. They just started blooming too, as did the nasturtiums planted in the middle of the boxes.

Next, is looking towards the garden beds by the house and the coop area.

Coming at it from a different direction. You can see the strawberry beds to the far right bottom corner.

The garden is going very well so far. I am overdue to give the plants a shot of fish poop. I must get to that this week. The spinach bolted and grew into stalks. No biggie. I pull them up and toss to the chickens. They can strip them down in no time. I found a variety of tomato seeds- Sub-Arctic. They are already blooming. I will have to actively seek out other varieties of plants that also are meant for a micro growing season. Our plants take a month longer than most other place's plants to mature, having nicer summers and cooler evenings. Funny, but 100°F+ was always hot to us. 80°F is the limit before I start getting overly heated.

A little food porn, anyone? This is the first bowl of strawberries we picked. We had over two gallon bags filled and in the freezer, that became strawberry jam the other day. The strawberries are starting to get new blooms and will give us another large, if not larger than the first, crop in the next month.

The berries are josta berries. Jostas are a hybrid of currants and gooseberries. They have a slight grape-like taste.

Miss Sally is overdue for grooming. I could not find a decent slicker brush for her. I was cleaning and realized I already had one. sigh... Her old double-sided pins and boar hair brush will no longer go through her thick double-coat. I hope to get her in soon for a proper bath, nail dremeling and trimming of her paws. Why pay for that? They get her dry, meaning she will not have damp skin that can turn into hot-spots. They also give a butt-squeeze before bathing. That is worth the price alone. I have massaged Sally's paws since we got her. She is great during nail trims and the like for the groomer.

One in a blue moon, I get cysts. Seb-whatever, from an oil gland deciding to plug up. After years of being cyst-free, I get one. On my right eyelid, of all places. I made a version of Amish Black Drawing Salve. The one at the stores is a bit harsh from the results shown in photos. I dab a bit, let it sit, then wipe off. I follow with a damp hottish washcloth over the lid with a heating pad on top for half of an hour. Either it will dry up or come to a head and... ick. But the latter is better because I heal nicely and it will not ever come back. What a weird place, though. I guess it explains why I am not wrinkled around the eyes except when I truly smile. I still have functioning oil glands. Cool.

I am buying meats and fruits that have gone on sale lately. Sadly, I did not think to add butter to my canning days. I must pay better attention to the sales and get some canned. The extra-lean hamburger became meatballs in either Italian sauce or in a beef-mushroom broth or finely chopped up and cooked into chili con carne. There was a sale on bulk sausage at the local butcher. I dry-canned, (cooked to just past pink-color, packed without any liquid, then pressure-canned), some jars for quick usage. We tested it- lightly browning a jarful, making gravy and putting over biscuits. Perfect! Best of all, no stove scrubbing from grease that seems to breech the splatter-shield. Pork does not taste right in a broth or liquid. It leaves the meat rubbery, no matter what form it was when canned.

I do hope I can find some huckleberries soon. We are down to one jar. That is a tragedy around here...

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