Somehow I got selected to be part of a group of people given Husqvarna mowers to review. At first I tried to get an Automower that would mow the lawn for me, however my ground was too rough. I never got the “Lawn” finished graded after construction. So instead Husqvarna offered me a ZTR with a 52″ cut, at no charge provided I write about my experience.
Let me just say Wow! In just 2.2 hours I mowed everything, something that used to take me 2-3 times as long. I suspect it will take even less time in the future as in several areas I let the grass get far too high. Also there are some areas I had to slow down because they were so bumpy I couldn’t go anything close to full speed (the same areas that meant the Automower wouldn’t work). I never drove a ZTR mower before and the two handle control took some getting used to, but after an hour I was doing OK. It will take some time to learn how to get close to trees and stuff. I’m really looking forward to trying out this mower over the summer.
I do have to say it is much louder that the GE Elec-Trac I had been mowing the area in front of the house. But that is electric and I couldn’t do it all in one charge.
Hardy Kiwi is something I’ve wanted to grow for some time now, but never got around to it. I like the taste of the New Zealand Kiwi’s but never really cared for the fuzzy skin. I have read that while the Hardy Kiwi that will grow in my zone it does produce smaller fruit that has a smooth skin. However it will produce something like 100 lbs of fruit per vine. I planted one male and two female vines as you need one male for every 6 female vines. Also it will be several years before they produce fruit. My plan it to build a nice arbor for them to climb up and I can sit under on a hot day.
For a year or more we have had a small utility wagon from Tractor Supply Company. It has turned out to be very handy for hauling things around our property. The clever thing about it is that there is a ring handle that flips around to be a pin hitch that goes behind a ridding mower or garden tractor. It has hauled chicken food, firewood, cement blocks and many other things. The sides do drop down to turn it into a flatbed, however I have not had a reason to use this feature. It is rated for some crazy amount of weight, something like 1,000 lbs. However you would have to be hauling something like lead to get that much weight in the volume of the wagon. Also it is a wire mesh body so louse stuff like dirt or gravel would not work. But I’m finding I like it better than a wheel barrow for most of what I need to do.
TSP Wagon with handle for pulling
Handle flipped around for towing
After being unhappy with my store bought hanging chicken feeder I decided to make my own. The biggest problem I needed to solve was to make it so rain wouldn’t get into the food. As you can see from this picture this is the result of rain + pellet food = Yuck
DIY Chicken Feeder
So using about $20 worth of materials from Home Depot I built 2 feeders that I believe will not let the food get wet from rain. The key piece is the roof flashing. Commonly 3″ PVC pipe is run up through the roof of a house to vent the waste line plumbing. So for a few dollars there is a rubber and plastic flashing the fits over the pipe that prevents rain from running down the outside of the pipe. These serve as my method to keep water out of the feed while still leaving open the spot the chickens eat from. If these feeders were installed inside a coop they could be made for about $9.00 total.
In my application I like them about 4 1/2 feet high with the feeding slot about 9″ off the ground. Since PVC pipe is sold in 10′ lengths that means you can make two of them. The steps I took were:
- Cut 4-1/2′ off of the pipe.
- Cut 1″ off of the pipe.
- Make a 4″ cut lengthwise in the pipe and then cut off two 2″ rings that are split.
- Cut the remaining pipe to 4-1/2′.
- Use the 1″ ring to mark 2 circles in 3/4″ wood and cut out two wooden disks.
- On the 4-1/2′ pipes, measure up 9″ and cut a little less than 1/2 way through the pipe. This end is the bottom of the feeder.
- Heat the pipe just above the cut and fold it into the pipe. Make sure you do not completely block the pipe as this is where the food drops through. This forms the feeding station for the chickens.
- insert the wooden disk from the bottom stopping about 1″ below the cut.
- Slide the 2″ split ring you made up from the bottom stopping about 1/2″ above the cut.
- Slide the flashing on from the top stopping about 12″ above the cut.
- Slide a soup can on the top.
Note I found this in my drafts folder, I actually did this about 3 years ago when I only had about a dozen birds. However I still use one of them for my oyster shell dispenser for the chickens.
After a cold and rainy day I realized I really need to get working on getting ready for winter. I still need to cover 2 1/2 sides of the chicken coop with some meta that I have from an old shed. This will keep the wind off of the birds for the winter. Further I need to decide where they will spend the winter and get power there so I can run the de-icer for the water and also have some supplemental light. Also close to the house would be nice when it comes to stomping through the snow to take care of the birds.
I don’t think I have enough wood for the winter and you really need to let wood season (dry out) for at least a year before trying to use it in the wood stove. However I have located a couple of dead standing trees that I think would be good for burning this winter. One looks like it has been dead several years as all the bark is gone. The wood is still solid and hasn’t started to go soft. I need to get it cut down, cut up, split and up by the house. Our wood stove is in the basement, but is very to the center of the house and the chimney goes up through the center of the house. The chimney radiates heat into the two story great room. I am very please with how it is working. I can keep all the wood mess in the basement and on the concrete floor. Since the basement is a walkout I have a relatively easy way to get wood to the stove and ashes to the outside.
Our Elec-Track came with a snow blower, but it needs some work. It sat outside for 20+ years and it doesn’t turn. According to the internet it might just be the drive chain rusted which would be the easiest fix. However it could also be the bearings or electric motor, which will be harder and more expensive to fix. I’m hoping that the fact that it was designed for the harsh conditions that a snowblower has to operate in will mean the motor and bearings are sealed.
There is also the matter of things that I have left here and there laying around that will covered with snow in about two months. Not the smartest thing I’ve done but I get busy and leave something where I had been using it, a habit I really need to break. So I’ll also need to spend some time going around and picking everything up.
I’m sure there are more things to do but these are the major ones.
I have 20+ black walnut trees on my property and each fall they drop hundreds if not thousands of nuts. If you’ve never seen a black walnut it is about the size of a tennis ball and is covered with a thick green husk that will stain your hands and everything else it touchs a dark brown/black like you have never seen. It is a very persistent stain that will require you to just wait for it to wear off your hands and for your clothes, forget about it they are stained forever. Even after you get the husk split open and the nut out there is still a bunch of gunk you have to get off.
Whole black walnut with husk intact
Husk split open to reveal nut In shell
In doing research on the internet each fall for the last couple of years the best I had found was put them on the driveway and drive over them with your car. Since the hardness of the black walnut shell is legendary you will strip the husk off and leave the nut intact. A pressure washer is then a good choice to clean the off the sell of the nut the rest of the way. Other options are to drill a hole in a board the size of the nut and his the husk with a hammer freeing the nut to pop through the hole. Both methods have been too much work for me.
States to the west of me have buying locations for a company called Hammons and they have de-husking machines and will pay based on the weight of the nuts without the husks on. You bring in your black walnuts in the husk, run them through the machine and get paid. The 2015 rate is $.14/lb.
This year however I did make contact with the Michigan Nut Growers Association (MNGA) and found out that there are a few members with black walnut huskers, one about an hour away from me. I’m afraid I didn’t make the connection quite early enough this year as the squirrels appear to have made off with most of my crop after I left them on the ground. I think next year I make better plans so I can harvest this crop that currently is going to waste. I’m thinking to fill up a trailer and take them to the husker and see what I can get. Of course the next problem to solve is how to crack them in quantity and then separate the shells from the meat. Rumor has it that the MNGA also has a cracker after the nuts have dried a bit, but hasn’t come up with a mechanized way to separate the shells from the meat. I’ve got a year to figure that one out.
Another interesting video about people gathering black walnuts for extra money in the Ozarks.
We heard some commotion late last night and I went out this morning and there was a chicken dead and partially eaten in the coop. I checked and the electric fence was still on and surrounding their area so I assume it wasn’t a ground based predator. I haven’t been closing up the coop at night, mainly because I don’t want to go out every morning and night and open and close a door. However I guess I’ll have to re-think this. I would love an automatic door, but those a re a bit pricey. I’ll have to look around the internet for a more affordable option. There was a lot of brush in this area before the chickens were moved there and I think that protected them as there wasn’t a good landing place inside the fence. However chickens doing what chickens do the area is opened up now.
For some reason I am seeing more frogs and toads this year, maybe because we are actually living here. I’m happy as this indicates to me a healthy eco-system. Today I stumbled across the biggest toad I’ve ever seen.
My 1964 Ford 4000 shreds the starter gear and according to the Internet the ring gear needs to be replaced. While gear is a very reasonable $30, you have to split the tractor, which for a person like me that hasn’t done it before sounds like a day to take it apart and a day to put it back together.
With the size of my flock increasing I didn’t have enough roosting space. Also I got a 10 spot nest box from Craig’s List that I hadn’t planed for when I build the coop. Therefore I decided it was time to re-work the coop a bit. This involved changing the direction the roosts went and hanging the nest boxed on one end wall and adding sheet metal on that end wall. I still plan on enclosing 3 walls of the coop with this metal that came from an old shed that was being torn down. The birds have done quite well through 2 Michigan winters (some of the worst on record) in this coop with the 3 walls covered with plastic or a tarp, so I’ve decided to make it a bit more durable. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to make the walls removable, I like the air flow they get in the summer with only the 1 wall the nest boxes are up against.