Septic Maintenance

This is a chore I’ve put off for quite a while but finally broke down today and started digging up the septic. Unbelievably it’s already been five years since we moved onto our property. The as-built drawings from the county show a rough circle with the word “Septic?” in the general area where the septic is located. Past inspections filed with the county revealed information about the tank and the type of system, but didn’t give clear details about the exact location.

Judging based on where the pipes leave the house, and where there was a depression that I thought was where it had to be, I started digging. Around 20″ down I hit the tank. From that point I widened the hole. It was tough digging. The dirt is full of rocks but I really couldn’t believe it when I found very large rocks placed right on top of the manhole cover.

Crazy rocks!

Crazy rocks!

Given that you’d have to dig up the tank to pump it or inspect it, making the job harder by dropping big rocks into the hole hardly made sense. The ground was rocky enough already with plenty of good sized rocks!

I removed the rocks and kept working, eventually uncovering the first cover. Then I consulted with my Dad about probably locations of the other covers. With his advice and help the work went faster and we uncovered the whole tank.

Tank revealed

Tank revealed

After a lot of work, the tank was uncovered! I’ve scheduled the pumping and so that’ll be another task done once they get out and pump it. The rocks are going to be used for decorative edging different places on the property — but won’t be going back in the hole! It’ll get filled with dirt that is easier to dig, without the rocks. I’ll probably just fill it and plant new grass on the top. I’ve measured the whole tank, the distance from the house and all of that, so next time it’ll be a lot easier to locate and deal with the whole thing.

Tansy Ragwort

We’ve been doing a bit of work around the place. This is a case of there’s always so much to do that it can be difficult to decide where to start. Right now the upcoming project is getting the septic pumped. I’ve been clearing the path from the front gate back along the house and today worked on filling some holes so it’s more level (still have a lot to do).

Filling holes with Mr. Blue Sky

Filling holes with Mr. Blue Sky

The dirt (with grass roots) came from a section of our path that I was leveling off. Basically trying to get it clear and easy for the pumper to get the hoses back to the tank. When that’s done I’ll uncover the tank and set up the pumping. It’s been just about five years since we moved in, so time to get it done.

tansy-ragwort

Tansy Ragwort

We noticed this year that there were a bunch of tall flowering plants and discovered that they were Tansy Ragwort and listed as a Noxious Weed. It’s also on the Thurston county list. A couple patches had sprung up in the chicken yard and on the hill. I cut the stems and dug up the roots. I felt bad for the bees that were obviously attracted to the flowers but we plan to try and remove many of the invasive species and plant either native plants or food-producing plants. We’re still learning about the plants. I need to study more, learn to identify the plants that don’t belong and work on bringing in the plants that do. It’ll take time.

Raising Rabbits, and Other Things

Back when we moved onto our property, we decided to raise rabbits for meat. We bought a couple does and a buck at the feed store down the road and started setting up cages for each of them. And that’s as far as we got. Cages built, but we just had the cages propped up on boards not very high from the ground. We did raise up and butcher several litters but now X. hasn’t wanted to have the young rabbits butchered so we haven’t been breeding them.

They needed better housing with easier access and this morning I decided to see what I could pull together with what we had available.

The result is simple and rough. It used wood we had around the place, some of it supporting the cages before this. One part was the post used to hold the for sale sign when our property was sold. The roof is made from recycled metal sheets that used to be a pool that we took apart and a tarp lashed down to the frame. It raises them up to an easier height. No more bending over to reach inside.

New Doe Homes

New Doe Homes

Here’s another picture from further back. The buck is on rocks and boards raised off the ground, but not very high because I didn’t have enough spare lumber around to do a similar platform for his cage.

All Three Rabbits

All Three Rabbits

The plant right behind them is an apple tree that fell over in a storm but has survived despite being split in half. I plan to remove it, but that’s another thing that hasn’t happened yet.

In addition to getting their cages cleaned and relocated they also had their nails trimmed. Barb, Margie and Nicky are now settled into their new location.

Posting

We haven’t been posting much on the site in part because it’s easy to get discouraged with how little we’ve accomplished compared to what we’d like to do. Lately I’ve been working on trails around the property, and clearing the area where I need to dig up the septic tank to get it pumped. That’s the next big project.

Outcast Chicken

Flock
It’s been quite a while since the last post, but life continues here at Woolly Dragon Farm. Our chicken flock continues to do pretty well. Six of the chickens are in this photo, including Patty and Ren from the first flock. One of the black hens, however, has been the target of bullying by the other chickens. She’s been showing signs of stress, lost feathers, weight and just going off by herself. Today, after chasing off one of the others attacking her, I isolated her in a temporary pen.
2014-01-13 12.41.46

Safe and dry from the other chickens. She looks pretty pathetic, but hopefully will perk up. I think they’ve been keeping her from eating. Kate’s been feeding her, but she’s always by herself. In the coop the others won’t let her on the roosts either. The temporary pen is sheltered by the old truck canopy left by the previous owners so she has protection from the elements. Hopefully she’ll get better.

I’ve been looking at plans for chicken coops, and hope to tackle building a new coop for the chickens, and a new shed for the tools and bikes this year. Then we’ll take down the old decaying shed/coop. Moving onto the property, and our house, has presented a lot of challenges but I want to start making more progress on working on improving things around the homestead.

Update 1/27/2014

Unfortunately, she didn’t survive. I’m not sure if she was sick, or what, but she didn’t eat much and her conditioned got worse. She went to sleep and passed away.

Almond Milk

Today I made a batch of almond milk. First time I’ve done that, and it was really easy! I put the almonds in yesterday to soak, and this morning dumped them into the blender with  four cups of water, and a minute later poured it out into one of those fine mesh produce bags (thanks to the Rawtarian for the suggestion!) to strain out the pulp. I’m going to use the pulp later to make cookies! Yum!

After making the milk I mixed up a bowl of chopped almonds, walnuts, raw pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes and raisins. I poured over some of the almond milk and had a fun crunchy bowl of muesli.

Warmer Weather

Freezing this morning, but with clear skies the temperature rapidly shot up. We took advantage of the warm weather to get outside and work on some projects that we’ve been talking about.

Mainly, I ran to the store to buy lumber and soil and compost to create our first raised bed. After not having much luck with the garden over the past few years we thought we’d try something different.

Chickens Investigate

Everybody was out today. Chickens, dogs, and the kid! It was fun in the sun today.

Raised Bed

End result? A raised bed. I wrapped a temporary fence around the whole thing to keep the chickens out!

Worf

Our new pup Worf is nearly 6 months old now. He sure has grown since we got him in May.

Here he is on the first night at our place, nearly 7 weeks old.

Worf, nearly 7 weeks old.

2 weeks later, sitting in Xander’s camping chair.

9 weeks old.

And now, nearly 6 months old.

Worf, almost 6 months old.

He’s really tall, has gazelle legs, and is thin and lanky. Not at all stocky and mastiff shaped like his dad. His feet still look to big for his body so we don’t think he’s reached his full size yet. He has a wonderful temperament, puts up with all Xander’s toddler craziness no problem and gets along well with Poppy Seed and McCoy.

Turkey

We’ve been really bad about posting on the site, we think about it but don’t always get to it as often as we might like.

Last time we posted about our new chickens and turkeys. The chickens and turkeys have all grown up now. The chickens aren’t quite at the egg-laying stage but the turkeys are big. So big that this last weekend we decided to butcher one of the males.

We didn’t take any pictures.

Ryan grew up with animals and has been around to help pluck and watch when chickens, turkeys, and rabbits were butchered. But we hadn’t done it ourselves. But we got everything together and went out to select the turkey to butcher. Ryan had set up a ‘gallows’ to hang the turkey upside down (reused the sign holder that the real estate agent left on the place when we bought it) and we did what was necessary.

Clearly we’re inexperienced. We had printouts to follow along and the process took longer than it probably would in the future but there were no mishaps. We noted that a mental transformation took place from the ick-factor of butchering, to the point when the turkey was all cleaned up and going into the fridge. Once it looked more like a turkey as we usually see them from the store suddenly it wasn’t so icky anymore and we were able to look forward to the roasting (tomorrow).

At about three months old the turkey weighed in at 13.8 lbs, so not huge (although I’m not sure that our weighing it using the Wii Fit is the most accurate method of weighing, we could use a better scale).

I’ll try to post more soon, maybe some pictures of our new dog, Worf!

Cluck cluck, Gobble gobble

Our neighbors (whose dogs killed our chickens) bought us some replacement chicks and when we were at the store picking them out we also picked up 4 turkey poults. They’re all in a brooder box in our living room. So far this time raising birds hasn’t been as messy. We’re using wood shavings instead of the pellet bedding we used last time. That stuff was so dusty!

Turkey poults.

McCoy checking out the birds.

We have 4 broad breasted white turkeys (I believe that’s what they were), 2 rhode island red pullets, 4 black star sex link pullets. Ren, one of our dog attack survivors is a rhode island red.  I was hoping the feed store would have some chicks that will lay blue or green eggs but they sell out of those super fast! We got the birds on May 7th and they’ve grown so much since them. The turkeys are much bigger than the chicks and they keep trying to fly. It’s fun watching them grow and listening to their chirps but I cannot wait to get them out of the house!

Garden Update

We’ve had such a cold and wet spring so our garden has gotten a late start. April 11th was one of our first nice days (that also coincided with Ryan’s days off!) and Xander and Ryan turned over the garden bed.

Digging in the garden.

Working hard.

Muddy toes!

The problem with doing catch up posts is things are out of order, when we were working in the garden we had the chickens close by hoping for worms and other tasty things. Now only 2 of them are still alive.

RIP: Aplets, Peaches, and Mariah looking for bugs.

The next week, April 17th, we had an even warmer day. Ryan got some seeds started in the garden while Xander helped find rocks.

Ryan and Poppy Seed

Oops, left the door open! 2 of the 5 shown survived the dog attack.

Xander found a rock!

After the planting that day we went for a walk, all of us.

Hens and Poppy Seed

Poppy Seed and McCoy

Ryan and Xander climbing a tree.

Chickens like climbing trees too!

Unfortunately warm days like that one have been few. Yesterday, Ryan said that some of the seeds he planted have started to sprout. Hopefully it will be sunny  or at least not raining this weekend and we’ll be able to get more seeds started. We also need to dig an area for the tomato plants that Ryan’s parents are bringing us at the end of May. Our garden news is up to date!