Wow, one thing about doing the Sunday Homestead Update is that it is going to make it clear to me how very fast life is going around here. I can’t believe it is Sunday again already!
Collecting Eggs for Hatching
We are going to be putting some of our own eggs into the next incubation with the “high altitude” eggs to see how they do and to help gauge how important the high altitude genetics are to hatchability. This week we started collecting eggs to put into the hatch. Since our pullets are still pretty young we are only keeping the eggs that are bigger (normal size) not the smaller eggs.
We are storing the hatching eggs tip down in a carton down in the basement where it is a stable, cooler temperature. One end of the carton is elevated with a book under it and we switch which end the book is under a couple of times a day. All these things are supposed to help prepare the eggs for incubation and thus increase hatchability.
The Strawberry Patch
I’ve been contemplating what to do about the great soil disaster and how it affects the strawberry patch. Our plan is to amend all the garden soil before next gardening season. However, the strawberries plants stay right where they are and don’t get re-planted each season and thus we needed to decide when/how it would be best to fix their soil.
The strawberries have been doing pretty well. Several put on flowers and berries and several have quite a bit of new leaves growing in as well. A few died and a few are scrawny. Despite the ones that are doing pretty well, I still think they all need the benefit of good soil and thus the soil needed to be fixed. I figured the sooner the better since an established plant is harder to transplant than a smaller, younger one. One plant has begun to send out runners, which I want it to do because I would like the whole patch to be full of plants. I decided we better hurry up and fix the soil before the runners set up house.
So I carefully dug up each plant and set them aside. Then my husband dug up the dirt and mixed in a bunch of peat moss.
The garden is doing very well now that we have figured out how to keep it well watered. The peas have flowers and even a few small pods on them. We have been working to get all the trellises done and assembled for the peas to vine up. The beans continue to grow. The carrots have needed quite a bit of thinning and are looking good.
We even harvested our first vegetable today! This is our first vegetable EVER harvested at the Willow Creek Farm property, which is pretty exciting. It is a zucchini. And there are a few more that will be ready soon too!
The turnips have grown into a jungle of leaves.
I must say it feels SO nice to be working in a nice big vegetable garden again. Last year with the move and all we didn’t get to have a garden and I missed it so much. Gardening is definitely one of my very favorite things about the homestead. I just feel so good when I am out there working in the garden and watching it grow and change each day. It is very satisfying.
Prepping to Free-Range
We have begun our preparations to get the hens in the upper coop “free-ranging.” I’m not sure if it is technically free-ranging, since they will be confined to the barnyard by a fence. But it is going to give them plenty of free space and they will be able to scratch and dig for bugs and such. With our predators and neighbors a true free range situation on acres of land isn’t possible.
This is our manure pile. It is a combination of cow manure, straw, pine shavings, hay, and rabbit and chicken droppings. It is hard to gauge its size exactly in this photo, though you could look at the dog next to it (he’s about 60 lbs). It is about 12 foot diameter and 3 feet deep at its deepest.
We have been purposefully piling it in the middle of the barnyard for the last several months in preparation for the hens to be big enough to range in the barnyard and work the manure pile for us. We are hopeful that letting the hens work on the pile will compost it quicker for us as they stir it up and dig in it. Plus they will find all sorts of tasty morsels in there to eat. We have heard this is an excellent way to supplement your chicken’s feed as well as help your compost along.
Our goal is to have this entire pile be excellent compost by the time winter freezes it. Then when it thaws in spring we will use it in the gardens as well as around the property.
So to prepare for the chickens to be out we have had to move some fence panels around and we will be wiring some gaps at the bottom to keep predators out and chickens in. Once we get it secure, we will clip one wing on each hen and let them out during the middle of the day when we are home. Hopefully this will happen this week.
We have a few aerial predators that live in our neighborhood, including hawks, bald eagles, and great-horned owls. Hopefully the farm dog will be a deterrent enough to keep the chickens safe. Also, hopefully the dog will get along with the chickens. He hasn’t actually roamed with them before, though he has jumped into the coop a few times and been fine and he has seen them through the fence all the time.