Wednesday, July 5, 2017

And afternoon walk

Summer can be hot, humid, and somewhat oppressive; however, with a hammock and the sounds of birds, it can also be a slice of heaven.  Most of the little woods is still wild and full of vines choking trees.  Sr. has be hard at work to turn some of it into a park.  For my and my hammock's benefit, for sure, but also to take down the vines that are trying to kill the trees.  Where the vines have been removed, the trees are definitely showing signs of improved growth.
Trees in the wild parts being engulfed by vines.

Wild parts that are mostly impassable to people and filled with ticks!
Park-like area where I can hang with my hammock and the dogs.
Leaving some of it wild, however, provides food and cover for the rabbits that like to taunt the dogs.  Also provides cover and browse for the deer that like to visit.  Alas, it also provides habitat for the adorable but stinky skunks.

Flowers are starting to really come into their own this time of year.  Little yellow Rudbeckias are beginning to bloom around the edges of the woods.  Passion flowers are blooming among the weeds.  Queen Ann's Lace is starting to set seed.  And a few Honey Suckle blooms can be spotted here and there. 

Passion Flower.

Grows everywhere.

Queen Ann's Lace going to seed.

Unknown weed similar to Queen Ann's lace in flower form,
but much smaller and with different leaves.

Comfrey - hey, I actually planted this one!

Blooms about 1 1/2 inches across -
going to be an explosion of yellow under the trees soon.

Some say that the power lines are an eye-sore, but I have come to see them as protection from suburbia coming too close.  The tree line on the left is 75 feet from the middle of the power lines - the closest they can build on the neighboring property.  Our fence line on the right is 75 feed from the middle of the power lines - the closest we can have trees or other structures.  That means that, should the wild acres next door to us be sold, the closes they can build houses to us is 150 feet.    I'm hoping that is enough buffer to protect our little bit of paradise.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Drying Tomatoes

Years ago someone gave me a few slices of (store bought) sun dried tomatoes.  I instantly fell in love - until I saw the price - over $20 a pound.  For someone who can eat dried tomatoes like candy - well, that was going to be a pretty expensive habit!  Tomatoes are prolific here, and even when mine drown or get stepped on by large puppies, they are abundant at the weekly summer farmers market.  Turns out, I can make my own for pennies on the dollar.

While in theory one could solar dry tomatoes in The South, the amount of rain that we normally get here in Middle TN combined with this years exceptional rain production means that solar is not a practical solution - it's warm enough, but too humid.  Even so, I wasn't too keen on spending several hundred dollars on a large dehydrator - what if this dried tomato thing was just a passing craze?

After much research, I found an under $100 version that had both temperature control and an integrated timer.  Both being particularly useful if you will not always be home during drying time.  Turns out that I really like that it tells me what temperature to use right on the lid - I know evernote and google would tell me - but just having it there is pretty nice.

Not the best photos, but you get the idea.

So this batch started off as 3 pounds of Roma Tomatoes and a few slices from a tomato used for BLTs. Some of the tomatoes had a pretty dense core, so I cut the centers out of those.  But for ones that had softer cores, I just left them.  I hand sliced about 1/4 in thick - but some were thicker and some were thinner.  Being more consistent in slicing thickness probably would have improved the overall quality of the batch, but, well, even though some tomatoes got a little over done (turned black), they were still tasty.  No burn flavor at all.  And they were kinda crunchy instead of chewy.  

Some of the cored toms in the front and non-cored ones in the back.
Didn't think to take "before" photos.  This tray was edge to edge tomato rings with the tomatoes barely separated from each other.  They dried down to less than half size.  They will last nearly forever in the freezer. 

They will last nearly forever in the freezer.
My tomatoes have pretty much succumbed to Early Blight; however, it is only the beginning of tomato season at the Farmers Market!   And now, to go dry Serano hot peppers.  I dry the tomatoes in the house to capture that yummy tomatoes aroma.  I dry hot peppers outside so as not to burn my eyes from the "fumes!"

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Loverly Weeds

Between school and work and trying to get some sleep, the garden has fallen into quite some disrepair, by human standards.  The weeds and the bugs are enjoying, however.  Mother Nature never sleeps.
Queen Ann's Lace going to seed.

Passion Flower Fruit and a random Morning Glory Leaf.
Rain 4 or 5 days out of every 7 has made this a horrible year for Cedar Apple Rust.  Some of the apple varieties have been hit worse than others.  Having wet, humidity holding weeds all around, doesn't help.  Cleared the weeds away from this one today.  It's the only one that hasn't shown signs of growing new leaves since the initial onslaught.  I hope I can save it.

Cedar Apple Rust damaged two year old apple tree.
Some of the apple trees got hit early on, but then recovered - difficult to see in this photo, but the tree below has regrown almost 100% of the leaves that it lost to Cedar-Apple Rust.  I know that better hygiene for the trees would help - and possibly some toxic gick spray.  So I will just have to  pay attention to who can survive this wet, humid, Southern world, and plant more of them.  Didn't have this issue in the desert!
Apple tree behind the weeds - recovering from Cedar-Apple Rust.
One good thing about having a diverse and semi-wild garden is that, while one plant suffers from too much rain, another just gobbles up the rain and goes crazy.  Wild black raspberries are springing up everywhere with strong, 3-5 foot arching canes - nice and healthy for next year's production.  Alas, they are invading, and I have been chopping them down at every turn.  I am keeping 3 of the healthiest stands, however.  So if I can remember to cover them at the appropriate time, I will get to eat more of them.  But harvesting song bird viewings is not a bad yield for a garden.  And the blooms are like clouds of miniature white roses.

Black raspberries - next year's harvest growing strong.
And then there are volunteers from plants grown on purpose in years past.  Nothing like a random Sunflower to brighten one's day.  Each year I say I'm going to plant them sooner, and plant more of them.  And I was saddened to think that I didn't plant any at all this year because of school and work and life in general.  And then Nature came along and sent me a few to cheer me.

Volunteer Sunflower for the Volunteer State.
So while the puppies stomped on many of the pepper plants, and rain and rain and more rain drowned the tomatoes and brought on early blight, the weeds entertained me today as I spent a hot, muggy, rainy, sticky, glorious day outside.  A rare treat, but now time to study - Managerial Accounting!  Ugh!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Compost Turners

These are 10 month old Buff Rocks and Colombian Wyandottes turning some 5 week old compost.  This batch is about 50% chickie poo pine litter, 25% dried leaves from last autumn, and 25% shredded tree trimming compost from the city.  Still not enough carbon to nitrogen (chickie poo) so it burns and off gasses ammonia for a few weeks.  I turn daily during that stage - but once the ammonia smell is gone, I let the girls have at it, raking it back into a pile every few days.  By week 5, there are all kinds of tasty creepy crawlies in the compost pile as it cools down and starts smelling like woodland earth.  At least tasty to an ambitious hen.  This pile started out as about 6 wheelbarrows full of stuff and now barely makes one wheelbarrow full.  It is technically ready to mix in the garden beds; however, I haven't had time, so I let the biddies continue to enjoy turning it.  In theory, I should be starting another compost pile... but, well, yeah, what was I thinking when I decided to go back to school!

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Friday, March 24, 2017

My How They've Grown

Chickies that were "Day Olds" in Feb 2016 and July 2016. All grown up and producing 12-18 eggs a day. Too many predators to let them free range while I'm at work, but they do get an hour or more before work, and longer periods during the weekend.  At least as good as therapy!

(Somehow, the video moniker doesn't always display; however, these are videos.) 

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 And, of course, video of the current batch of babies. I've been bad about posting lately.  In fact, work and work have been pretty all consuming.  But, getting to a better place.  They will be outside on the grass tomorrow before the storm rolls in.  They are definitely  enjoying flying these days.  Going to build them a larger play pen for outside so they can really get some exercise.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Day 11 - More Photos

Been under the weather, and barely able to keep my own life together, but here are more photos from Saturday, 3/11.  Aren't we cute?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Day 11 - The Little Chickie Photo Op Teaser

Just a teaser today.  Heated my little mini-green house up to 90*F and took a bunch of photos on Sunday (by bunch, I mean hundreds).  They were quite happy at 90*F.  I was sweltering.  Click on the picture to see larger versions of the photos.

What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Eggs from my big girls. Probably from our Buff Rocks.

Showing our attitude.  Am I a Dominique or a Barred Rock?
You can't see my feet, but judging by my feet color, I might be a Dominique.

We've got a secret!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Day 10 - Some real flying

Some real flying going on these days.  And more eating and more pooping, but so far, no more Pasty Butt.  Reducing temps.  Range is from 80 - 98*F so they can choose their temp.  They tend to sleep in the warmer areas of the stock tank, and run around in the cooler areas.  They tend to run around at the same time, eating, and flittering, and making noise.  Then a few will decide it's nap time.  Someone else will see that there are two snuggling down, and then will run over to join.  Then someone else will come running and run on top of everyone and generally unsettle the whole little flock.  Eventually everyone snuggles up with their friends and takes a nap.

Here, they are clearly not in the nap mode!

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I am cutting grass, dandelion leaves and flowers, lemon balm, oregano, and clover into tiny bits and sprinkling it and chickie grit on top of their food a few times a day now.  Not too much of any one thing (don't want to induce PB!) - just so they get a taste for such things.

Summer babies would already have experienced grass (ok, weeds) by this time - but, eh, tornado warnings and then snow?  Yeah, they'll be staying in their little stock tank world for now...

Spent a lot of time outside early this morning (like at sunrise - had a full day in by 9 am) before the snow flurries.  Here are some scenes from our micro-mini farm life from earlier this month.

Wing clipping - Silver Laced Wyandotte - I didn't clip enough of the flight feather tips - this
girl could still fly.  I had to take another inch off before she stopped going over a 6 ft fence.
From earlier in the year - he used to be able to crawl through the steps
and is confused why he no longer fits.

Have a Happy Chickie Day!

Day 9 - Tiny Tail Feathers

Tail feathers are appearing, wing feathers are almost completely in for most of the little ones, and flying is a thing now.  If the weather will cooperate, they will go outside for 15 minutes or so a few times this weekend.  Since my son and I put in a mobile chicken fence system, the big girls have not been hanging out around the house.  Sun, rain, snow should have helped cleanse that area of most chickie pathogens.  Babies will get to play where chickies or chickens have not recently hung out.

See all that beautiful Tennessee rock.  Electric fence and step-in posts? Yeah, not here.  Big girls and one of my roos hanging out.  3 - 2x4x8's create 2 posts.  This is NOT predator-proof, and my girls' who still like to fly have their wings clipped.  I already had 100 feet of this wire fencing, so I used it - it's only 4 ft tall - but if I had to buy the fencing, I probably would go higher.  Even with clipped feathers on one wing, most of the girls could clear a 4 foot fence if they really wanted to.  Their run has 6 foot fencing and the Brown Leghorns go over it with ease if I don't keep their wing clipped.

Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Food consumption has doubled.  Water needs to be changed more frequently now because they kick pine shavings in it.  I hand wash the waterers every day - and once a week they get sanitized.  If I need to go minimalist on a day that I have to work an extra long shift, I can get chickie care done in 20 minutes - 10 minutes in the morning, and 10 in the evening.  But if I want to enjoy taking care of babies, it's more like 20 minutes in the morning, and 20 in the evening, and a few minutes to play with them every few hours.

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Little chickies are growing up on Nature's Best Organic Chick Starter.  I love my local Tractor Supply.  Babies will have eaten nearly two 40 lb bags by the time they go to their new homes.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

(No Day 7) Day Eight - Flutter-byes

Posing for the paparazzi after Pasty Butt inspections this morning.  About 20% has a little bit of the butt this morning, but nothing alarming.  This is probably the last bit of it that we'll see.

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Will be lowering temps on the thermostat tomorrow. Will be set to turn off at 90*F and back on at 85*F. So far the girls have eaten about 10 pounds of chickie food and about 1 cup of chickie grit. They've used 50 or so paper towels and about 1/10th of a bale of pine shavings. They go through about 1/2 gallon of water a day. Used pine shavings and paper towels will be added to the next compost pile to become part of the garden that will help feed my husband and I, and my resident hens. The hens, in turn, will produce more compost materials, and food for our doggies and for us. Right now I am giving away about 5 dozen eggs a week at work and still have too many eggs. But then, that's what happens when you have 20 something little biddies!

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No chickies were baked during the setting up and testing of the thermostat and remote temperature sensors!