Thursday, December 26, 2019

Chicken Update

After we moved to our new house, I posted this about our new chicken coop and pen:

All was well at first.  But after a while, chickens started disappearing.  We would let them out to free-range in the morning, but when we went out to shut them up in the coop that evening one would be missing.  After losing a couple of chickens, we quit letting them out of the pen.  They were NOT happy about this and would try to get out every time we opened the gate to the pen.  The pen was built with 6 foot dog fence panels and, since we always shut them up in the coop, we thought they would be safe.  After all, most critters that prey on chickens are nocturnal (or so we thought).  

One day we came home from a 4 hour trip to Oklahoma City to find 4 dead chickens in the pen and another one missing.  Whatever killed them got over the 6 foot fence in broad daylight.  This left us with only 2 chickens.  After reviewing our wildlife camera, the mystery was solved.  There was a picture of a bobcat that was taken during the day.  Obviously, we had to put wire over the top of the pen.  

This spring we basically had to start our flock over from scratch and decided on 2 breeds of chickens, Australorp and Americauna. We got six of each.  Here's a picture of them for comparison.

Australorps are solid black and lay brown eggs.  Americaunas are tan/gold/black colored and lay bluish, greenish eggs.  

Americaunas are interesting chickens because they have "whiskers".

We have begun letting them out for part of the day, usually in the afternoon.  So far, we've not lost any.  Hopefully, the bobcat has moved on. 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Fall is Here

We've had crazy weather this fall.  It stayed really warm into October, a couple of light frosts, but not enough to kill most of our garden.  The tree leaves were not even beginning to turn color.  Then, suddenly we had a hard freeze.  Leaves just turned brown overnight.  Consequently, we had no fall color to speak of.  It was sort of sad.  Then, it warmed up again.  Then another hard freeze followed by a warm up.  However, I believe fall has finally arrived.  It is rainy today with a north wind blowing.

Before the first frost, I started bringing my outside plants inside.  I put most of them in our garage.  It is insulate and stays above freezing.  I'm hoping to sell most of the aloe vera plants this winter at the farmers market.  The market moves indoors during the winter and is only open Saturdays from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.  

We have lemon grass in large cattle supplement tubs.  That we also brought into the garage.

After the freeze, we tilled under all the dead plants in the garden and planted cover crops.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

It's been a long year

I've not posted anything here in almost a year.  So much has happened.  It's been a whirlwind of a year.  Here's a short list: 
  • We moved to a new house that will accommodate our aging knees and other body parts.  This entailed the following:
    •  Moving our furniture and other belongings
    •  Building a new chicken pen and moving them
    •  Building new garden beds 
    •  Down sizing and getting rid of stuff
  •  Surgery which took a while from which to recover
  •  A death in the family
  •  A bobcat got into the chicken pen and decimated our flock.  We had to get new chicks this spring.  Basically had to start over from scratch.
I hope you can see why I have not posted anything in a good while.  I have posted to our Facebook page because I can post comments and pictures easily from my phone.  

We no longer attend our farmers' market regularly.  However, we were able to grow a lot of veggies for ourselves, family and neighbors.  We are still devoted to using organic methods in our garden.

For this post, I have copied some of the pictures and comments from our Facebook page.

Radishes and peas in one of our raised beds:

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

My new favorite way to freeze peppers is to roast them first. Then slip skins off, de-seed and put in snack bags. I was able to fit 5 of these in a quart storage bag. When bell peppers are called for in a recipe, just open one of the snack bags and use a knife to hack off some and use in the recipe.

Some of the first eggs from our new flock of chickens.  The brown ones are from the Australorps, a breed of Australian origin that is solid black.  The blue/green one is from an Americauna, an American breed of domestic chicken developed in the United States in the 1970s, and derives from Araucana chickens brought from Chile.

No photo description available.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

New Chicken Pen

When we moved to our new house, not only did we have to move ourselves, but we also had to move the chickens.  It was difficult to decide where to set up their new digs.  In the end, we built a pen around an old bodark tree with their coop serving as part of the fence on the north side.


We used our old peacock shed as the coop and used sections of old dog fencing for the pen.  Only one of the hens, the Americauna, has figured out she can fly over it.  She is half wild, anyway, so I'm not surprised.  Here's a look at it from the other side.

We didn't have quite enough dog fence to completely surround the tree, so we filled in with 6-foot woven wire.  The nice thing about the dog fence is the panels have built-in gates, like this.

The peacock shed has plenty of room for the hens.

We used 2X4s for the roosts.  These work better than round roosts because it allows them to sit down and cover their feet with their feathers to prevent frost damage to their toes.  We built shelves inside to store various things.

We store their food in metal trash cans in the corner and put up some hooks to hang rakes, etc. that are used to clean their coop.

We installed their nest boxes on the opposite side from the shelves.  

Annie, the Americauna hen, has decided a nest on the floor is much better than the man-made nest boxes.  We discovered this nest over behind one of the trash cans after Tom observed her going behind the can several times.

It was difficult to get a good picture of it, but she had collected nesting material from the nest boxes, along with feathers, and built her own nest on the floor.  We have to check there for eggs everyday.  Quite often, there are one or two.

We put a bale of straw for them outside every couple of weeks.  It doesn't take long for them to tear it apart and keeps them occupied for several days.  It also serves the purpose of covering the bare ground with mulch and keeps it from getting muddy.

All in all, we must have done a good job of building the new pen because a wild turkey hen has taken up residence there, as well.  She roosts in the bodark tree, but spends a great deal of time in the pen with the chickens.  They don't seem to mind her company.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Jerusalem Artichokes aka Sunchokes

Before I begin, let me say that Jerusalem Artichokes are not artichokes at all, but are tubers produced by plants similar to sunflowers.  The name, in fact, comes from the Italian word "girasole" which is the Italian word for sunflower.  Here's what they look like while in flower.

This past month we had some for Thanksgiving dinner.  The chokes are best if you wait until after frost before you dig them.  In fact, you can just leave them in the ground all winter, digging them as needed.  As you can see below, we had a bumper crop this year and this is just part of them.

The tubers are knotty and require quite a bit of cleaning to get the dirt out of all the grooves.  Tom had his work cut out for him, but it was a nice day, so he got some fresh air and sunshine.

When finished he had a large bucket almost full.

I roasted them in the oven using a very simple recipe.  I cut the larger ones in two so they were all about the same size.  Doused them with olive oil.  Added salt and pepper and cooked at 375 degrees until soft.  I stirred them a couple of times during cooking.  Here's a before picture.

Here's after they were cooked.

They are quite tasty, having a somewhat nutty flavor.  I have a friend who made "chips" from them by slicing them thin and cooking them in the oven at 450 degrees.  I've not tried this, but that is on my to-do list.  

Friday, November 30, 2018

New Garden Spot

I ended last my post about our new house with the following picture and a promise to update you on our new garden.

One of the things I love are the paved walkways between the beds.  We had enough paving stones for a couple of walkways.

And, we used bricks left over from the house for others.

The raised beds we built are taller than the ones we had before.  These make weeding so much easier.  This one contains carrots which have done very well this fall.  We've had several nights with temperatures in the teens, but the carrots have not been hurt.

Another of these beds contains lettuce which has done great. The tops of some of the plants did get nipped by the cold weather, but not too badly.

This bed is only 2 concrete blocks tall.  Nothing was planted (intentionally) in it, but we used some of soil from the garden at the old house in this bed and we have a bumper crop of cilantro!  

We moved our cattle supplement tubs from our old house and will be using them this spring.  You may remember in the past, I wrote a couple of posts about using them in our backyard garden.   Cattle Tub Garden

We took down our large hoop house (high tunnel) when we moved and have yet to decide whether we want to put it back up.  We are looking at the possibility of selling it.  However, we have built a small one.

We planted peas in it, along with a few onions and a couple of rows of lettuce.

We are experimenting with how we can make the most of gardening in this small area.  I'm sure we have a learning curve ahead of us.  But, I think this is going to be just right for our new "down-sized" life.  We still have a larger "in-ground" area for things like corn, tomatoes, okra and peppers.  However, we do not plan to continue gardening on a large farmers market scale, like we used to.  

Saturday, November 17, 2018

New House and Garden

It's been several months since I updated this blog.  In March, we divided 2 acres off from our property and started building a house.  We were getting to the age where navigating the stairs in the old house just didn't feel safe anymore.  The house plan we chose was a small one-story 1500 sq ft plan.  We asked the builder to make it handicapped accessible.  This included wide doorways and a walk-in shower.  We had a lot of rain this spring and summer, so it took longer than expected to build it.  However, it was worth the wait.   We are now moved in and settled.  Here's a picture of the house.

One of the features I love about this house is the breezeway which separates the attached garage from the living part of the house.  We have moved our recycling containers and a potting bench into the breezeway.  We also park the Gator there.  The garage is over-sized, so there is room for both vehicles, along with an extra refrigerator and a workbench for whatever farm projects we have.

You may be wondering what we did with the rest of the farm.  We sold it along with the house and outbuildings to our daughter and son-in-law.  It puts him much closer to his work.  So, it worked out well for all of us.  The two acres we kept has plenty of room for a big garden, our chickens and raised beds. 

The biggest reason I didn't write anything for the blog during this period of time is we lived in an RV for 4 months while the house was being built.  

It wasn't easy with the two of us, a dog and cat, but we survived.  The RV is 20 something years old, but is in good shape and we got a really good deal on it.  The best thing about the experience was we parked it in the back yard and could check on the new house progress everyday.  We got to know most of the workers and gave them extra produce and tomato plants.  In turn, they built us a deck for the RV out of scrap lumber.  We do not plan to use the RV anymore.  It runs well, but we are not comfortable with driving it.  So, we are looking for a buyer.  If you know of anyone who would be interested, please contact us via the blog.  

While I spent most of the summer inside the RV trying to keep up with the garden produce in the small kitchen, Hubby was busy getting the chickens moved and building some new raised beds.  I'll write more on these topics later, but I want to share a little about the raised beds he built.  

As you can see, he made them 3 concrete blocks tall.  It was amazing how many concrete blocks we had when he disassembled the old beds and collected others we had laying around here and there!  He also put paving stones around them to help keep Bermuda grass out and it is nice to have paved walkways between them.

We also have plenty of room for an in-ground garden, as well.

I'll write more in the next few weeks about our new scaled-down life.  But, for the time being, I just wanted to give you a summary of the last few months and to let you know we are still alive!