Thursday, April 10, 2014

CHICKS!

That's right, the chicks arrived, two days sooner than expected. Guess the poor postal service didn't like all that peeping. Hehe. We here at the farm sure do though. It's music to our ears.  And without further ado, here are the girls, tired from the move.


I did move the heat lamp down a bit just in case, but I think they are just getting used to their surroundings.  Here's a good pic of them not through the murky Rubbermaid container.

The kids want to name them again. I let them as they're ok with the fact that they're not long for this earth.  Speaking of which, the two remaining hens aren't laying still, so they may not be long for this world either.  Anyway, here are some close-ups for those of us that just can't get enough chicks.

My Barred Rocks...

My Rhode Island Reds...

And last but not least, my Buff Orpingtons...

And lastly, in case you were thinking it was just me liking the little girls, here's what happened when I opened the lid on the box they came in...

Peep... peep!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring is in the air!

As everyone knows, spring has sprung.  The days are getting longer and even in the Pacific North Wet the days are getting brighter.  Bulbs are blooming and trees are budding.  Even our fledgling fruit trees have buds and flowers on them.  My wife wants to let them fruit, but I'm in favor of continued growth of the tree which would mean snipping the flowers so all the energy goes into growth.  Ah well, she'll win out so why do I bother.

Well, some of you may have read about my scout Pack Meeting activity with soil blocks.  Well the next weekend (last) I broke out and made a bunch of my own.  You can see below that I packed them in as tight as I could on the left. The only challenge I've seen with doing that is the roots growing together, which is no big deal if you just tear them apart.  The other thing I recall from prior years is the spider web fungus that grows between the cracks.  My research showed it was nothing to worry about, so I don't.  Anyway, as you can see in the far left of the picture, the initial plantings from the night of the scout meetings sprouted fast with my new heating pads (black pad under the white trays).  They work very well if I say so myself.  A thermometer between the tray and pad was 90 degrees.  Not bad for $25 each. Gotta love Amazon Prime.




I digress.  You can see the sprouts reaching for the sunlight.  I had to fix that quick or they'd get leggy.  So out to the garage I went and hooked up my lights. I had to buy new chains and S-hooks because they got misplaced in the garage.  So I'm about $100 into my garden hobby this year.  Oh well. The stress relief alone is well worth the cost.  Thankfully the PVC frame held up like a charm. Below you can see it all hooked up.  Looks like I bought too much chain.  Oh well.




The other thing that happened this weekend is that we had an unwanted house-guest.  No, not my mother-in-law, we love her to pieces.  It was actually a woodpecker. Dumb bird kept waking up my son as it was pecking right below his window in the garden area.  I didn't take a picture of the first hole that went all the way through to the attic, I just covered it in a hurry on the way out the door to the theatre.



The wood is salvaged from the floor we replaced in my son's room.  Going to need to weatherize it if I don't replace the siding on that side of the house, but that'll be very expensive.  Unfortunately it just made the woodpecker move over... and start pecking right into my son's bedroom! That call made me drop what I was doing at work and run home.  Thankfully I found the bird hadn't gotten through to the drywall.




You can see the black tar paper.  It's not horrible.  But I had had it.  I needed to go to drastic measures.  Not only did I put another board up, but I stapled up temporarily a 4 foot swath of chicken wire.




Boy was that a process, two stories up. We even had my youngest hanging out the window (blocked by a ladder) holding up the wire while I stapled it in place.  Here is a close-up.




My wife didn't think it would deter the bird enough, but an hour after I wrapped up, what did I hear? A woodpecker pecking a few houses down.  Not that I wish that on anyone, but come on!

After that we went on a nice spring walk and grabbed Subway for dinner.  Great to see so many neighbors out weeding or just going for a walk.  Gotta love spring!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Potato page

Well my Potato page popularity strikes again. In case you weren't aware my second of four pages I created with helpful garden information got some local notoriety from the Seattle Times way back in 2009. Since then ever so often a popular site links that page to their site and I get a bump in traffic. Well it's happened again. I'd been getting about 150 hits a day since I came back. Then out of the blue it jumped to 900. Sure enough it was all Page 2. It's leveling off and soon it will be back to normal. Fun while it lasts I guess.

Anyway I'd like to give a shout out to the gardeners in Slovakia. Thanks to Google translation I could read the nice article she wrote and nice words she said about me. Thanks!

Man, typing on my phone on the bus leads to typos galore!

Lastly for this edit, I'm struggling to find a replacement handle for my pitchfork.  Internet searches all come up with the wood handle, not just the top plastic part. I'd really like a metal one if I can find one to fit.  Kind of discouraging. Anyone know where I can find one?

That's the last time I use "Lastly" because now Grit Magazine of Mother Earth News posted on Pinterist or whatever a well established link to my blog page on Tip Nut. I must thank them someday. They have always been the best referrer. Glad these folks give me credit even if Grit didn't. So much for renewing my subscription. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A garden adventure for some cub scouts

As the Cubmaster for my sons' pack is my job to come up with an entertaining activity for after my Pack meetings. Tonight I plan on doing a little talk about spring and where our food comes from. I'm going to end off with letting them plant some seeds. To that end we have to make about 30 soil blocks today. Makes me whisk I'd invested in a real spill block maker. The one a garden buddy made for me works but is slow for this application. Oh well, it'll be good practice for when I start my own seeds... very late.

I'm thinking of letting them choose between lettuce and random flowers I've got seeds for. Not all kids like salads. Hehe. Of course it looks like I got rid of the flower seeds, so we'll pick some up on the way. Of course we ran late and ended up with only lettuce seeds.

Still, the Pack meeting was a big success. I talked about spring and where food comes from. Then I walked them through the composting process with our Waste Management and their Cedar Grove compost arm that made the soil blocks. Lastly I explained one small seed could feed a person a salad per week for the whole season!

Each kid got to place a seed or two in their block and take it home. What a night. Next to repeat this weekend for my own garden. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Milestones, and real successes

First off, before I get into the meat of my post, I should take a moment to celebrate a bit of a milestone.  I was fairly close before my long hiatus, but today I finally hit a whopping 75,000 page views! It is quite an accomplishment since I had recently switched from my old hosting site (thanks Judy for all you did to start my blogging "career") and I'm quite certain I was over this mark there. I can't count the times I crashed her host service or made them make her pay more for the hits back when the infamous potato bin article hit on the Seattle Times.  My old photo hosting site even booted me AFTER I stopped blogging since it was so popular. Silly people.  Anyway, I celebrated with my eldest son this morning as we crossed over a bit of a milestone.  He thought it was cool.

Now for the real success of the day.  After ditching the kids my wife and I had the house to ourselves.  That allowed me to convince her to help me weed the garden beds.  We got to try out the stirrup hoe for real and found it not as useful as I'd hoped.  The broad fork was much better at bringing up clumps of weeds.  You may recall what the beds looked like before we started...

I shudder to think how bad this looks.  But a lot of elbow grease later, we had really accomplished something.
As you can see above, the process was to dig up the weeds in big swaths, knock some of the dirt off, then throw it into the wheelbarrow.  It wasn't as fast as we'd hoped, but it went fast enough. Many hands make light work.  I'm so proud of my wife for helping me.  I couldn't have done it without her.

Hehe, she just got a laugh out of my comment that out of 524 posts she finally made it on my blog.  Well, 525 is the charm they say, or do they?  Well, as you can see, the 11 foot bed is all done, and she pretty much tackled the entire 5 foot bed by herself.  Way to go dear!

You can see next to her the broad fork, or short pitchfork or whatever it's called.  It worked wonders to move it along.  At least it did until we had a bit of a casualty.

Poor broad fork, you served me well.  I'm hopeful I can find a replacement handle, maybe one that's metal and will hold up better, but I was in the middle of my 4 foot bed and prying up on the edge when it happened.  Oops.  It still worked well enough, but I want to fix it, or at least replace it.  Quite the handy tool. It helped us get to about here with only two wheelbarrows full of dirt and weeds. That's when my wife went inside to nurse a wound.

While she was inside, I unloaded the second of three wheelbarrows into the chicken run.  I was too tired to unburry the doors so they'd open large enough for a wheelbarrow to fit inside, so I ripped a hinge off the bottom of the left hand door.  Oh well, it still works for now. I'll fix it later.
The dirt probably has some bugs in it for the girls too, and if you can see the gaps under the footings, the dogs have been digging their way in. I need to beef up the protection, especially when the new chicks arrive.

But don't the beds look nice after all our hard work today?

We got three of the four beds done in about two hours.  I'm so pleased even though I know we didn't do as thorough of a job as we needed to.  As my commentators said, it's going to be a long slog to rid myself of weeds after letting the beds get that bad.  I think tomorrow after we finish I'll pick up some black plastic to put over the beds for a few weeks while the seeds germinate and seedlings grow and harden off before removing and planting.  Does that sound like a good plan or is it a pipe dream to think it will help?
I bet you never saw someone so happy about weeding, but I haven't had my garden looking this good in a year.  And no, I don't weed other people's gardens, hehe. I can't wait to finish up tomorrow. Hopefully I'll even be able to start some seeds.  And yes, I realize I'm way behind the curve.

Oh, and I love comments, so please talk to me.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Amazing weather, amazing progress!

Well, all it took was for me to post how bad our weather was on the first day of spring and presto! the weather improved.  As of 7 PM on Friday it's still a balmy 47 degrees and sunny.  Quite the change from the last few days.  What's more, this weekend is expected to be amazing.  I can't wait to get out there and tackle that weeding problem.  My brother over at Urban Homestead WA was just saying he isn't going to plant quite yet for fear of another late April cold snap.  Well, any long-time reader of this blog knows I have hoop covers on all my beds in case that happens. If I can get those beds weeded, then I can feel comfortable starting my spring greens, better late than never.

I was very encouraged by my post about my weed problem.  I was so excited to get home and try out my stirrup hoe that I didn't even change clothes.  Mostly I didn't bother because the sun was going down and we had company coming over.  So out I ran in my slacks and dress shoes to grab the hoe.  Quick like a bunny I raced to the bed.  This is where I'd left off after a half hour of grueling hand weeding.


Actually it was just the light colored dirt at the bottom that I got done earlier.  The rest I did in less than a minute with the stirrup hoe.  In case you're wondering what the heck one is, I took a quick snapshot of this miraculous device.


With it, I did in two minutes what took me a half hour last week. 


 I stopped only to come in and finish up dinner.  Sure I lost more dirt than I would like, but I did shake it off a bit before dumping it in the bin.  Besides, that bin went into the coop run, and I can use all the dirt I can get in there, the girls have dug it up something fierce with their dust baths.  What's the worst that could happen, weeds growing in the run, they would just eat them.  Hehe.  I'm so happy, I could have


Oops, you can see my gardening clothes.  Which reminds me, if anyone has a stressful job, 5 minutes in the garden at the end of the day does wonders to take the load off.  It has always left me clear headed and energized.  I've forgotten how good gardening feels.

Enjoy the first weekend of spring, what's your weather like?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

First day of spring

Hey folks!  If you live in the Pacific North Wet like I do then you know that the first day of spring is not Match 20th. In fact I was scraping ice off my car window this morning. We even regularly have snow storms in late April here. I don't call that spring do you?  Thank goodness for hoop covers. They saved my spring crop the year of the freak snow on April 20th.

What kind of weather are you having?