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!

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!

Going Primal, & Missing Mango

The Primal Blueprint I haven’t felt good in quite a while. Achy, fatigued, moody, just not all that great. I’ve also been putting on weight, getting up to the heaviest that I’ve ever weighed at 174lbs. I’ve been a fan of going barefoot — made a huge difference for my plantar fasciitis — but I haven’t really been exercising much. After a recent photo, just seeing how much weight I’d gained in my face and body, I decided to look more into some things I’d heard about including more nature-based exercises, and a diet of healthier eating. That all led me to look into folks like Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson, both of who advocate for eating based on what our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have eaten before agriculture developed. Plants and animals, but not grains and sugar. After reading some of the content online we ended up starting with Mr. Sisson’s The Primal Solution. We took the plunge with our shopping and spent most of our money on food from the vegetable/fruit and meat sections of the store. Still lots to learn, but the results in others like the Unconquerable Dave are encouraging.

In other news, one of our yellow chickens “Mango” has gone missing. We thought she might have made a nest in the woods and was sitting on eggs, but after lots of tromping around through the woods we haven’t come across any sign of her in the last few days. If she’s out there she’s really hiding and being quiet. It may have started that way and something with a taste for chickens came across her, or she may have foolishly jumped the fence into the neighbor’s yard with the dogs. It’s too bad.

Chicken Run

Our chickens roam around our 1.24 acre property and seem content to remain on our side of the fence. One time a chicken jumped the fence into the neighbor’s yard. He chased her with a big fishing net but couldn’t catch her — when I picked her up and brought her back to our yard I think she was happy!

Anyway, whenever we go outside the chickens tend to come running. Most of the time they aren’t far from the house, often they’ll go around the side yard and in the woods, but not so far that they can’t hear or see us.

Ren the Hen

Ren the Hen

This is Ren the Hen, coming out of the woods to see what I was doing (throwing chicken litter onto the compost pile). Later I took a stroll up the hill to go check on one of their nesting sites in the woods, hidden away in the top of an old stump, and they all came running up the hill after me. They’ll follow us all around.
Chicken Run

Chicken Run

Patti

Patti

Patti (the leader and the smartest hen) with Mariah (arguably the slowest of the hens), wondering what I’m going to do next.

List of Projects

Projects abound here at Woolly Dragon Farm. The writing business takes up much of my time but I try to find time to get in work on the place too. And I want to post more regularly to this blog. If I could only pack in a few more hours into each day it’d be easier, but I haven’t found a way to compress the local time stream yet.

At the moment there are several projects occupying my mind.

  • Organization — it’s a constant problem, but I’d like to get things more organized in the house. A two-year-old toddler makes that a difficult task, but I’d like to work on it and clean out some of the clutter. Some of it we brought with us when we moved and it is still sitting around. If it’s still in a box I can’t imagine that it’s anything that we need, but it takes time to get through it all.
  • Concrete demolition — when we moved in one of the first things we saw that we wanted to change was the concrete slab alongside the house. I’d prefer to have that be an extension of the front yard instead. I’ve actually started on the cutting of the slab along the house but that takes time too. Dusty hard work. After cutting I’ll have a go at it with the sledgehammer and see if I can break it up. The rubble might be used in drainage ditches, or beneath new animal housing for drainage. Or we could use it to create raised beds or flagstones, we’ll just see.
  • Animal Housing — speaking of animal housing that’s another task. We’ve got an old shed that half is the chicken coop but I’d like to replace that with a better coop for the birds. And then I’ll look at building housing for some Nigerian goats one of these days.
  • Office Shed — I’d like to build a little office shed building up on the hill, maybe earth-sheltered, but that’s more long term.
  • Garden — I want to do a lot more work on our garden too. Last year was not our best year for plants, I’m hopeful that this next year we’ll do a better job. Plus more ornamental beds.
  • Fencing — Along the side with the slab, I’d like to put a taller wood fence and then do a picket sort of fence around the front yard.
  • Flooring — We’ve actually started on our flooring replacement, taking up the old carpet in the living room. Now we’ve got to get the concrete cleaned, patched, coated and then we’ll do a colored stain.

That’s only a few of the projects that I’d like to tackle. Time and money, those are the biggest constraints. We work on things as we can.

Garlic: Better Late Than Never?

Yesterday I went out and planted garlic in three of our Earthboxes. Last year I planted two types of garlic out in a patch of earth that I double-dug. It was a lot of work and I discovered too that our ground needs much more organic material. It’s rocky and hard. One type of garlic didn’t do much of anything, the other grew and actually produced some heads of garlic. It wasn’t really all that much, though they did taste good. I decided to take what I had left and plant those cloves. First I covered the Earthboxes with silver mulch, poked holes in the top, and then planted the cloves through the holes. As the plants come up I’ll guide them through the slits.

If the garlic grows and does well in the Earthboxes we’ll have more garlic next year than we did this year.

No More Snow

I didn’t mention in the post below — the snow is all gone. It warmed up, rained a little and other than a few tiny pockets, the snow is all gone.

Tree Down

Boy, we’ve been bad about posting to this blog! That’s what happens sometimes, I guess. What’s been going on around the homestead? Not a whole lot. General maintenance around the house mostly. The garden didn’t really do all that great this year. The ground needs a lot of work. Still, we got some things out of the garden. We’ll aim to do more this next year.

The chickens are all doing well. We’ve got far too many eggs but they’re really good eggs so that’s nice. We recently had a cold snap and snow! The chickens didn’t know what to think about that.

Snow Shocked Chickens

McCoy loves the snow and had fun chasing snow balls. Xander thought that was pretty funny, but wasn’t too sure what to think of his first real snow.

McCoy

Snowy Boy

Right before the snow came it was rainy and the tree in our front yard fell down — away from the house! It hit the fence instead. The ground was wet enough that it just pulled the roots right up.

Fallen Tree

I went out that morning and cut off the branches with our handsaw, and part of the trunk but didn’t have time to do the rest. Plus I decided that it’d take quite awhile to get through the trunk with a small pruning saw. The next day when we went to town we stopped at the store and bought a small, inexpensive, electric chainsaw that looked like it could do the job. Today I went out and cut the rest of the tree into more manageable pieces. The new chainsaw worked well and I didn’t have any trouble. The tree still needs to get cut into woodstove-sized pieces, but at least it’s off the fence. I also hauled the branches from out in front of the property over to our field for future disposal.

I want to start planning for the rest of the winter and next year. I think the next thing I’ll do is plant our garlic in the Earthboxes, and start figuring out what else we’re going to do.

Summer Wrap-Up

Leaves are changing. I’m seeing Fall colors appearing on trees and the nights are getting cooler. This morning a light rain is falling. August has been a dry month with only 0.13 in of rain this month. Average rainfall is just over an inch so things are pretty dry.

We’ve been on our homestead for over a year now! Hard to believe.

Chickens

Hi!

Our chickens are doing well. They’re giving us four eggs per day now, so about half of the chickens are laying. They get to spend most of the day roaming around the property. When we go out they come running over.

The garden ended up being a mixed bag. The lettuce did well, as did the carrots. The potatoes look like they grew well, but we haven’t dug them up yet so we’ll see. I harvested garlic and the bulbs were on the small side. Slugs ate the tomatoes before they could grow at all. The ground needs a lot of work. I’m going to work on building actual garden beds for the future. We still have carrots to harvest, lettuce going to seed and some broccoli that has produced a few small heads. Our strawberries gave us a few strawberries but I want to get more plants growing.

There’s always a lot of work to be done. The property got a bit out of hand this year. Lately I’ve been working on clearing pathways across the property and still have more of that to do. The other day I was clearing up around one of our hazelnut trees and disturbed a nest of yellow jackets! Three stings, the worst being on my right hand. My whole hand swelled up, turned red, itched and hurt. It’s getting better now.

We also need to get some firewood and prepare for winter. Time and money are always the biggest constraints. Still, we’re having fun. Last night we went up on the hill and sat up there while the sun set. Alexander played in the dirt. Nice time.

Planting, Corn Bread & Chickens

Yin

Yang

The garden is coming along nicely. There’s a bunch of lettuce, carrots, radishes, broccoli, potatoes, and onions growing. The kale got ate by slugs and the spinach is bolting already. The garlic seems to be doing well. There’s lots of strawberries on the strawberries in the Earthboxes.

Corn bed

Today I planted corn. First I dug a bed which meant digging out lots of rocks. There was a huge boulder not too far down that I left. No way I was pulling that out! I also planted three types of tomatoes, pumpkins and a couple type of zucchini. Plus some more onions. It seems like it’s late in the year to be planting those, so we’ll see how they do. I also planted a couple rose bushes that had been given to us as gifts.

Corn Bread

While I was working on all of that I had corn bread cooking in the sun oven. Kate took pictures with her camera of the finished product, so maybe she’ll post those. It came out real good. Took longer than in the oven, of course, but no electricity needed and no worries about burning it. I just took it out when I was finished with everything else.

Chickens

Sometimes I may want to get more done, but it feels good to have our own place. It wasn’t that long ago when we didn’t believe we could end up in our own place and we dreamed about planting gardens and having animals. Speaking of which, the chickens are doing well.