Chickens Like Comfrey

I have a garden area that didn’t get used this year and it had gotten overgrown.  So I put the portable fencing around it and started letting the chickens in during the day.  I noticed the comfrey plants, the chickens are stripping all of the leaves off and leaving the stalks.

Comfrey is reported to be a high protein forage so this is cutting down on the feed bill.  Obviously, I cannot let the chickens in here all the time as they would eventually kill the comfrey, but this is an easy way to clear out much of the overgrown grass, sunchokes and weeds.

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Every Homestead Needs A Puller

I am firmly convinced that every homestead needs something to pull trailers or wagons or simply drag things around your property.  When you start carrying something any distance you will understand the value of something to pull things.

Options

A small utility tractor in the 15HP-30HP range is very nice to have.  Not only can you pull just about anything needed in normal homestead activities, but you can also get attachments for it like brush mowers, scrapers or the highly desireable front-end loader.  However, this option starts at $2000 for a decads old tractor with an uncertain maintenance record.

Another good option is a garden tractor.  This is a little bigger than a basic riding mower and will almost always come with a mower deck attached.  This has the advantage of being lighter in weight than a utility tractor and will have a much smaller turning radius.  Get one of the small dump trailers that are designed to go with it and you have something that you will wonder how you ever got along without it.

What I Have

E20 pulling a waterlogged bridge back to where it goes

I have something called an Elec-Track E20 which is an electric garden tractor that was made in the early 70’s and it is by far my favorite for this kind of task.  I don’t use the mower that came with it since I have a 52″ ZTR.  I have a standard hitch ball so I can move my licensed road trailers around with it.  I also have the smaller pin and hole type of attachment so I can pull a garden trailer.  Being electric I don’t have to worry about starting the gas engine, keeping fuel in it or the fuel going bad.  Since it will mow for about an hour, I can use it for many hours just to haul things around while I’m working.

Another Cheap Option

Look around for a riding mower that has problems with the mower deck.  You can often pick these up cheap.  However, make sure that the motor starts and runs and the transmission and clutch are in good shape.  Put some ag type high traction tires on it and you will be surprised what you can pull.

Summary

If you are working on anything in the 1-5 acres size think about a garden tractor size piece of equipment that you can pull and garden dump trailer around your property.  Once you get this kind of setup you will find yourself thinking “Why didn’t I get this years ago”.

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We Have Some Chicks Hatched

We got a bit of a surprise when this mother hen showed up with 4 chicks.  We did not know we had a brooding hen.  I later found the nest she made in some tall weeds near our house.  She takes these chicks around to find food but keeps them separate from the rest of the flock.

 

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Sharecropping – It Could Be A Good Thing

Historically sharecropping has been associated with taking advantage of the less fortunate, those with the land had the ability to dictate terms to those that did not.  Often times the agreements were structured so that those doing the farming, the sharecroppers, ended up owing more to the land owner after the growing season was over then they did before it started.  However, it doesn’t need to be that way.

There are many that have land, but not the time to fully use it, and there are others that are looking to farm but do not own land.  If these can be brought together with terms that are mutually beneficial then a new generation of farmers can start producing crops.  This will be more challenging with grain crops, but for market gardens, this could work.

I have started down this path by allowing a friend to garden and keep animals on my property.  However I did not have any prepared garden beds or even cleared land in a good spot.  Therefore there wasn’t much production this year so I did not take a share.  However, I did get some land clearing work done and also someone who could take care of my animals when I traveled.

We are under discussions about increasing production and opening up a farm stand for the 2017 growing season.  According to the department of transportation, I have an average of about 8,000 cars a day passing my house.  Therefore we think this will be a good location for a farm stand.  Follow us by subscribing to this blog and checking out our Facebook Page.  If you are in the Ypsilanti Michigan area and are interested in eggs or produce, come by and see how we are doing.

 

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Clyde’s Garden Planner – Everyone Should Have This

Several years ago I ran across Clyde’s Garden Planner.  For only $5 delivered you get a card that slides something like a slide rule and does a wonderful job of indicating when you should plant different vegetable in the spring and fall.  It features times to plant and when you can expect to harvest and spacing information as well.  This is a product I can fully endorse as it not only is a really good implementation, it is only $5 and can save you far more that that in seeds that don’t grow due to planting at the wrong time.  There is an app version for ios, but even though I work in IT, sometimes Old School is the Best School.  This is an example of appropriate technology.

 

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Possum In The Chicken Coop

For some time now our egg production has been very low and we have lost several birds.   I haven’t been able to figure out what the problem is. Tonight I had to collect eggs after dark and was startled to find a possum in one of the nest boxes. That certainly explains what has been happening to the eggs and likely some of the birds as well.

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I got a Husqvarna MZ-52 Mower To Review

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.

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Planted Hardy Kiwi

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.

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I Love My Little Green Wagon

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

TSP Wagon with handle for pulling

 

Handle flipped around for towing

Handle flipped around for towing

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DIY Chicken Feeder

Chicken Feeder

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:

  1. Cut 4-1/2′ off of the pipe.
  2. Cut 1″ off of the pipe.
  3. Make a 4″ cut lengthwise in the pipe and then cut off two 2″ rings that are split.
  4. Cut the remaining pipe to 4-1/2′.
  5. Use the 1″ ring to mark 2 circles in 3/4″ wood and cut out two wooden disks.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. insert the wooden disk from the bottom stopping about 1″ below the cut.
  9. Slide the 2″ split ring you made up from the bottom stopping about 1/2″ above the cut.
  10. Slide the flashing on from the top stopping about 12″ above the cut.
  11. 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.

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