Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chicks arrive, cozy in their new home.

Today I brought home 20 chicks - 10 Buff Orpingtons, and 10 feather-footed cochins. I can't wait to see what the cochins grow into, they are partridge colored, red, white and buff, and maybe a black or blue in there too. They were still unloading chicks from the packing crates when I got to the feed store this morning, so they packed mine right up in a little box and I brought them straight home to their brooder box which was all warmed up and outfitted with food and water.

I started out using my waterer I used for the chicks last year, but they ended up hopping right into it, so I switched to this chicken-waterer that has just a shallow trough so no one will get their butt wet standing in it.

There are two little guys like this, I think they are the partridge colored cochins. I know they're cochins, look at all the feathers on her legs.

Warm, fed, and dozing under the heat lamp. Happy chicks!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chicks -2010

Wednesday I will be picking up 20 chicks from the feed store - 10 buff o's and 10 assorted color cochins - red, black and buff. Hopefully someone will go broody and I'll get some chicks from my own hens as well this year, but because the feed store chicks are sexed, I thought this would be a nice way to go. Not so many roosters to deal with. Also I want to handle them more and make them friendly, not stand-offish like my mama-raised birds. I plan to keep the ones I like and sell the other one's to be urban egg layers, since city-folk love having tame chickens, but not everyone has the facilities to raise their own chicks.

I set up a 4 x 4ft brooder box in the chicken shed, with a heat lamp hanging from the ceiling on a chain, and food and water inside. The floor is covered in vinyl to protect it, and that is covered in wood chips. This same system worked great for the turkey chicks last year. Now I just need a cover to keep the cat out.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Farm Tour at Greengate Farms

The Small Acreage Program had a farm tour today at Greengate Farms. It is always fun to go to these and see how other people run their farms. I still only dream of having a real farm, but I learn something everytime I go to one of these. Here Kelly, the owner, talks to the group about her barn and how they built it and what they would have done different if they knew then what they know now.

They had a nice barn and a composting area next to it, and talked about how they handle all the manure - did you know horses make about 50lb a DAY?! Luckily they have someone who wants their manure for fertilizer, so they get it hauled away. But they also talked about how they used to compost it and spread it on the fields. We also learned about sacrifice areas, mud control, and runoff management.

This is her own horse, the white one, and her boarder. She runs a boarding stable/retirement home for show horses. The horses were very clean and happy and friendly :)

Her sweet old golden followed the group around, resting whenever we stopped to talk :)

And her pesky golden puppy put on a show of chewing on his leash and generally acting like a puppy whenever he had to sit still while everyone was talking.

Out in the pastures we got some tips on pasture rotation, not letting horses out on grass too early in the spring, composting, and fencing - regular and electric. Plus some pasture management. Lots of great information. It's so much to learn, it's a lot of help to see how people do it all successfully, even when they feel they have more to do to perfect their techniques. Just goes to show there's always more to learn! I'm so glad there are great farmers in the area willing to share with those of us who are still trying to figure it out!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Garden and chickens

Laid down peat moss on top of the garden beds, one bale only covered a bed and a half. Guess I'm going to need a couple more bales before I'm done.

My sitting area next to the garden, looking out on the pasture.

The chickens were out in the backyard again today. I get such a kick out of watching them, they are so busy and look so serious about it :)

Beautiful coming up to the deck for a scratch

This is our oldest chicken, Beautiful. She follows me around looking for treats, and wanted to come up on the deck, but Jack was a little too interested for my comfort.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Memories of Alki

It helps to look back and remember what a full life she had with us, traveling, playing on the beach, romping through the snow, and just being a great dog. After being sick for three years, it's easy to forget how active she used to be, and how much fun she had just running around and doing doggie stuff.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chickens in the backyard

Chickens exploring the backyard. I let them out to wander around under the backyard trees, hunt for bugs. It was a beautiful day.

While the girls are pecking around, all you see are chicken butts, but this guy keeps his head up watching for hawks.

He has really grown into a spectacular rooster, and he's never made so much as a move at me, though he did fuss at me once when I picked up one of the girls, but he didn't attack.

More gardening and mowing

Got some mowing done on the field with our wonderful new lawnmower

I went out and gathered up the cut grass with the wheelbarrow and laid it on the garden beds

My garden helper sharpening up her paws for work!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rest in Peace, little Pup

Just yesterday I posted how Alki seemed to be feeling great. I'm glad she had a great day and came out and enjoyed the sun, because today she woke up with a badly swollen leg. We watched her until afternoon to see if it was temporary, but it was bothering her, and she kept coming to me for help. We took her to the vet and she confirmed that the cancer had blocked something. She was able to let her go while resting peacefully in my lap. Almost three years since the cancer diagnosis, and it was no easier even though we knew it was coming. But it was the right thing to do. We never wanted her to suffer, and the time had come to let her go.

Alki was almost 15, and we got her when she was 8 weeks old, in fact we met her litter while they were still blind and in the box with their mama, who was also a wonderful dog and convinced us she would have a great temperment. One of my favorite stories is how we met her. The breeder had two girl pups left, and we got to choose. She said 'take them out on the lawn and play with them and see which one fits you better, but I recommend this one' and handed us a pup. We took her out on the lawn and put her on the grass and Dave called her and she toddled over to him, and then I called her and she toddled back to me, and she was so sweet and adorable. Then we went back in and she handed us the other pup. We took this one out and Dave called her and as soon as I set her on the grass whoosh - she took off running - away! Dave jumped up and grabbed her and brought her back, and I called her, and as soon as her feet hit the grass - zoom - she ran away again! Dave caught her and we took her back inside, the puppy wriggling and trying to get away, and told the breeder - we'll take this one! 'Are you sure?' she said, knowing the other one was sweet and mellow, and we were first-time owners. 'Yup, this is the one' :)

And she was. Beautiful, full of spunk and trouble, she was absolutely evil as a puppy, destructive and pesky. But she grew up to be loving, and a great firend, loved to pin us to the couch with a paw on each shoulder and try to drown us in kisses. She knew all her toys by name, learned tons of tricks, knew hand signals, and would have earned her CGC except we moved across the state the week before testing. She would 'go find Daddy', and loved to say hello at the door, and wasn't happy until everyone was home. When we moved out in the country and she stepped on thorns, she would hobble over to me and hold her paw up for me to make it better. We eat dinner sitting at a low table, and she would sit on the floor between us for the best view of the plates and potential for leftovers. Every morning she would wake up and come find me for a hug.

We did what we could about the cancer. She never complained a bit, and trotted off willingly with the nurse for every treatment. She got a couple extra years, and a chance to grow into an old dog. I'm glad we were able to give her that time, and keep her comfortable and love her for as long as we did. I know she never went a day without knowing how much she was loved, and in the end I guess that's the best any of us can hope for.

Rest in peace Sweetie, Beautiful, Pup, Alki.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fun with Barclay

He looks so little considering how much trouble he is! Tugging with Dave...

Waiting on the toy box for someone to come by and fill his dish

Happy boy!

Garden update - 1 more row

One more row done - that's three down and one more long row and one more short row to go. And of course this is just the compost layer. As soon as we get a chance to mow I'll be laying on a layer of cut grass. On this latest row, halfway through I ran out of the chicken compost and had to switch to the llama compost.

And I moved the llama compost from the driveway to the garden with my new lawnmower! Yay! It also mowed a little path through the field to pull the trailer through, and did fine. Too bad it can't shovel compost for me - I'm afraid I'm the weak link in getting more work done around here!

Alki update

Alki on the porch with Mighty (when she was at the vet hospital they had to shave spots on both her front legs for the IV - so she looks like she's wearing furry boots until the hair grows back)

Alki is hanging in there. Everyone is over their doggie colds, though Alki still gets a bit of a cough now and then. She's definitely feeling better, and is even downright perky sometimes. I thought for sure her time was about up, but she's like the energizer bunny, she just keeps going...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rain, rain, rain and a new lawnmower

It's that kind of day - wet and windy and sort of miserable compared to the beautiful week we've had. So no working in the garden. Can't do much anyway because the van is gone and it has all my cardboard in it, and I can't go pick up bales of peat moss  with the car.

But I can thin out my tomato sprouts and figure out what else I should be getting started in the house to plant when the time comes.

Out in the garage:

Our new mower! Not exactly new, in fact it's at least as old as the last one, but it doesn't have the baggage of years of frustration to go with it. I have decided I'm going to like it, and take good care of it so it will last a long time. It's almost kind of cute.

Same kind of engine as the last one, except this one is 18hp with a 46 inch deck, so a bit stronger and wider than the old one. Automatic. Pretty much identical to the old one in every other way.

We struggled for a long time if we should spend the money on a used one, or twice as much money for a new one with fewer features than we wanted - but at least it would be new and have a warranty. That's why I spent yesterday driving around looking for Sears refurb models, and visiting the local tractor dealer to check out their deals. The van breaking down sort of pushed us to do the cheapest thing we could get away with for the time being. This one came from a guy who repairs mowers on the side and resells them, he's a friend of a friend, so they recommended we go see what he had, and this one looked good and had all the features we wanted. Either way, we had to get one soon, there's just no way to maintain 3 acres without a lawn/garden tractor of some kind.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Van takes a holiday

I mentioned how the van took a day off from starting earlier this week. Well today I was out and about, driving it on a wild goose chase to find a new mower, and we ended up way over in Portland when it decided it had started enough for the day, and refused to run anymore :( I was pretty annoyed, because not only do I NOT need another mechanic bill, but I hadn't even found the elusive 'great deal' on a new rider mower I was trying to hunt down. So the van is now at a Ford dealer over in Portland, and my cousin gave me a ride back home. Kind of a lousy way to waste an otherwise beautiful day.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Another day of progress in the garden

Our van took a 'personal day' and refused to start yesterday, so it spent the day relaxing in the driveway. It's back to work today though, ready to haul stuff around. That's a good thing, because I'm going to need it to go pick up some peat moss and vermiculite for my soil mix I plan to put in the raised bed. Can't exactly bring that stuff home in the car!

I got two of the beds covered in cardboard and chicken compost.

Same thing in the raised bed. The chicken compost is just the first layer, next comes grass clippings, as soon as I get some mowing done.

When I run out of chicken compost I have a big pile that was cleaned out of my friend's llama stall, which has been composting since last year and it looks pretty well broken down now.
Barclay helped out in the garden and kept me company, and he enjoys chasing the water from the hose! Fun times! I closed the main gate and let him and Jack out into the front pasture to play while I moved cardboard from the van to the garden. I was in the garden working and suddenly here comes Barclay running at full speed, delighted to have found me! Then he stayed in the garden with me the rest of the afternoon, even while Jack was still out exploring the front pasture.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More progress in the garden

Starting with some 2x10 untreated pine boards, I screwed stakes on the ends and set it up and pounded it into the ground.

But before I got it pounded in, the screws sheared off! So I finished pounding it in and re-screwed the board onto the stakes. With the stakes in place I was able to put the sides on, and get them squared up and attached, then add the front board.

There's my finished raised bed, 8 x 4. I'm going to make a cover for it so it will act as a cold frame this winter for growing greens into the off season.

Now that the raised bed is in place I can finish building the remaining rows. Next step is to gather enough newspaper to layer on the rows and cover that with compost followed by soil mix, and to get some wood chips to lay on the walking paths. I'm glad I'm getting such a headstart on the garden this year, there's so much to do!