Friday, February 27, 2015

Nest Boxes and Milk Jugs

One of our younger chickens recently decided she wanted to roost in the nest boxes.  When Tom went over to shut the coop up, he found her in the nest.  The first couple of times, he just left her in the nest, but we quickly learned that was a mistake.  Chickens produce prodigious amounts of poop during the night which resulted in us having a messy nest box the next morning and having messy eggs to deal with if we didn't get out there before an egg was laid in that box.

One time Tom tried to pick the chicken up and put her over on the roost bar with the rest of the chickens.  But, chickens go into a sort of stupor when they go to sleep, and he was unable to get her to catch hold of the bar with her feet.  So, she kept falling off.

We found several ideas on the internet to thwart this roosting in the nest box behavior.....the simplest being this.


How, you ask, could milk jugs on strings keep chickens out of the nest boxes?  Here's how.



Tying strings to the jugs was just a handy way to keep the jugs in easy reach.  So, late in the afternoon, we simply stuck the jugs in the nests forcing the offending chicken to have to join the other girls on the roost bar at bedtime.

However, this brilliant idea caused another problem.  Chickens wake up a lot earlier than we do and they are ready to get to get down to the day's business before we get over there in the morning.  What's a girl to do if she is faced with a milk jug in her favorite nest box?

Well, where there's a will, there is a way!  Tom arrived to open the coop several mornings to find one of the milk jug hanging on its string and an egg in the nest in its place.  You're probably thinking the same thing we were.....how'd the chicken manage to get the jug out?

Once again, I used our wildlife camera to solve the riddle.  What follows is the sequence of photos that document what happened.



Chicken gets on nest box bar.




Chicken enters nest box and maneuvers around the milk jug.




Chicken is in the nest box with the milk jug.




Chicken pushes milk jug out of nest.

Now, who said chickens were dumb!  I suspect after another couple of weeks, we can get rid of the milk jugs.  I think perhaps the reason the issue started in the first place is due to the cold weather we've had lately.  We've had some snow and very cold temperatures, especially at night.  I imagine sleeping in a warm nest box is more attractive than sleeping on a roost bar in an un-insulated coop.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Old Jeans Garden Apron

Gardening is hard on jeans as evidenced by the following picture. 



A friend who knows that we garden sent me a really cool way to use old jeans to make a handy gardening apron.  Here's what you do.

First, cut the band off the front of the jeans.  Then, cut down the side seams, like this.



Next, turn the jeans over and cut a straight line across the seat of the jeans, below the pockets. 


Now you have a neat little garden apron.  The pockets are just the right size for clippers, gloves and other garden tools.


You should button it in back so the pockets are in front where you can easily get to the tools.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Garlic for the Garden

The 2015 garden season has not even started yet and here we are looking toward what we are going to plant this fall.  Why?  Because yesterday we received the Filaree Garlic Farm catalog.


You see, the best time to plant garlic in Oklahoma is in the fall.  We usually plant it in October.  That gives it enough time to take root before winter sets in.  One would think that we could wait until the end of summer to order it.  However, many of the varieties in this catalog sell out early.  So, if we want to get the best selection, we have to order now.

I've written several blog entries about garlic.  Here's one from June last year when I dug the garlic we had planted the previous fall.


Most of us are familiar with the rather mild tasting soft-necked garlic that we buy at the supermarket.  But, did you know there are many different varieties of garlic?  Some of them are fiery hot, as well, with names like Georgia Fire!  Here is a sampling from the Filaree catalog.


Most of these are "hard-necked" garlic which have a stiff stem around which the cloves grow. Here's a closer look at a couple of those.


We'll be digging our garlic in June.  We planted and mulched it last October.  Here's what it looks like now.


Not much to see, huh?  But, believe me by June it will be a foot tall and have heads as big as a racquetball.  

Another fringe benefit that garlic gives us are its "scapes".  Take a look at the drawing on the front of the Filaree catalog above.   Notice the goat's horns.  Those are garlic flower stalks, commonly called scapes.  We cut these off and sell them at the market.  They can be grilled, stir-fried, added to soups, made into pesto, added to hummus .... all kinds of uses for them.

So, visit your local farmers' market this spring.  You should find scapes in May, followed by a wide variety of garlic in June.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Mini-Hoophouse

I've shared quite a bit about our "hoop houses".  These are also called "High Tunnels".  Hoop House makes more sense to me.  So, I call them "hoophouses", for short.  Here's a picture or ours.



The larger one in the background is made of large metal ribs that are set in concrete.   The smaller one in the foreground is made of fencing panels that are bent into arcs and fastened to a 2X4 frame.  We grow cool season crops, such as spinach, kale and lettuce in these.

Last fall, I decided to create a mini-hoophouse over one of the raised beds where I had Swiss Chard, Parsley and Cilantro growing.  I wanted to see if I could keep these alive over the winter.  Here's a picture of it from last fall. 



The plastic is draped over PVC pipe that is bent to form arches and secured to metal rebar pieces that are driven into the ground.

We had some pretty cold weather during January with temperatures down in the teens several nights and even in the single digits a couple of times.  I'm happy to say that my little hoophouse has performed nicely.  Recently, I uncovered it for a while and things looked pretty good.



There was some freeze damage on a few of the chard leaves



But other than this, the plants under there looked good.  This mini-hoophouse is a simple and inexpensive way for home gardeners to keep their garden going and enjoy fresh greens all winter.  It is certainly worth the trouble.  Give it a try!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Texas Chicken

We took a short vacation a couple of weeks ago.  We were gone a week during which we visited friends in south Texas.  These are friends who spend the winter near McAllen, Texas.  They have a small travel trailer parked in a large mobile home park that caters specifically to senior adults.  There are daily activities covering all areas of interest ... card games, pool tournaments, bicycling, quilting classes, water exercise.  You name it, they've got it.

We spent two days there and had a blast!  And, of course, we had to go shopping for souvenirs.  I didn't want something that would just sit around and gather dust.  So, I ended up buying, what else, but a chicken!  A chicken flower pot, that is.  


Isn't she beautiful!  I was excited to get her home and introduce her to our other girls.  I was sure they would love her.  I set her on the ground in their pen and here's what happened.


They wouldn't go near her.  I even put lettuce leaves all around her and they still wouldn't venture close.  They love lettuce and normally I have to fight them off when I go in the pen with lettuce.  But, nope, they weren't going to have anything to do with it as long as the brightly colored intruder was there.

So, for now my new chicken is gracing my covered porch where she keeps me company when it is warm enough to sit out there with my morning coffee.  This summer she will be filled with petunias or other bright flowers.  She may not be alive, but she sure is pretty.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Italian Seasoning Mixture

Last summer I was overrun with tomatoes and ended up freezing a bunch of them.  I also made Spaghetti Sauce with some of them in which I used basil and oregano that I grew in my herb garden and dried myself.  Here is a blog entry I wrote about that.


Recently, I found a recipe for "Italian Seasoning" that works nicely in the Spaghetti Sauce above.  It is very simple.  Just mix the ingredients together and store in an air-tight container.  I use old spice jars that I have saved.

Italian Seasoning  

2 tsp dried Basil
2 tsp dried Oregano
2 tsp dried Marjoram
1 tsp dried Sage

All of the herbs used in the recipe are easy to grow and you can dry them easily by simply laying them on paper towels on your kitchen counter for a few days.





Monday, January 12, 2015

Scissor Happy

My preference in kitchen scissors has evolved over time.  Here is a picture of the ones I currently own.


I've had the orange-handled pair on the left and the pair next to them for several years.  It was nice to have two pairs in case one pair got misplaced (which happens often!).  

When we started our farmers' market business, I ended in charge of the herb garden and needed a good pair of scissors to use for cutting herbs.  I started out using the orange pair, but found they got gummy and dirty quickly.  In order to clean them, they had to be taken apart.  This was a pain in the patootie for it involved getting a screwdriver to loosen the bolt that held them together.  The black pair was no better.

The problem was solved when I found the third pair from the left.  When turned over, you'll see they are held together by a small piece of metal on one side that fits into a rectangular hole on the other side.


When opened up all the way, the metal piece will slip through the hole and they come apart.  This makes for easy cleaning.


I use this pair for heavy duty work, like cutting thick basil stems, where I gather several stalks together and cut them all at one time.  It goes faster that way.  I liked this pair so well that I bought a pair of real "herb" scissors (the shorter green-handled pair on the right) for lighter work.  They come apart in the same manner.

Believe it or not, I use all 4 pair for various chores.  I've decided you can never have enough scissors!