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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Getting Ready For Winter

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.

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Black Walnuts – What To Do With Them

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

Whole black walnut with husk intact

 

 

Black Walnut

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.

 

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