Thursday, June 27, 2013

Heat, the garden, and bugs.

As we get in to summer, the solstice having passed a week ago, we're starting to see more bugs. Flies, ticks, spiders, and other critters. The pest type ones are definitely part of why we have chickens, though they aren't yet at the age we can let them roam and do bug control out of their run.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Not all livestock and plants are created equal.

As the title says, the world of agriculture is not the world of Animal Farm. Not all are created equal, and that has been showing up all over the place in the last week or so. I'll get to the plants part later, but let's start with the group that has the most more equal individual, the Chickens.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Growing green, and growing up.

All the world is green, and the garden is growing. Life around the homestead is going well with a few challenges ranging from slugs to impending rabbit adulthood.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chickens and Kits!

As you may have guessed from the photo, the chickens are finally here!

They're still chicks, but not quite babies anymore as you can see from their size compared to my hand and the cat carrier. Right is how we brought them home from Michelle Chandler's house where she'd been generously keeping them with her chicks while we scrambled around trying to get everything set up for them. We put all 6 of them in the cat carrier, and got them home as quickly as possible. Learning experience, make sure there's something on the floor of the carrier or they'll slide around on the plastic at every single turn. That sliding stresses them out, and trying to cram something in under them after the fact is a bit of a challenge, and stresses them out even more. But even with all of that, we all got home safe and sound.

We picked up the chicks Saturday, and they stayed  in their coop on Sunday. But yesterday evening, we tried introducing them to the run. In the coop they're a bit standoffish, but happy to come over for food. In the run on the other hand we're actually a source of normal for them so while they were getting used to the run they spent most of their time clustered around the Lady of the House or I as we sat in there with them. Once they got more used to us they moved off and explored the area a bit. They all have very different personalities that we'll be talking about more as we follow the growing chickens. It looks like we ended up with 4 Americauanas, 1 Welsummer, and 1 we're not quite sure yet.

We definitely have one dominant bird, the very light colored one that stands out from the rest, she's a bit larger and a lot more determined to get what she wants than the others, and the others aren't inclined to disagree. The Welsummer which is Top Left staring at the lens of the camera is the most adventurous, but least focused on spending time around the other chickens. She investigates everything, and every time we put a treat like worms or bugs in she's the one that gets them. The others are too busy staring at them or trying to figure it out, she figures it out with her mouth.
One of our big concerns with the chickens was making sure Rico wasn't a problem, so we went to trying to get him used to the chickens right away. There are two basic ways that people tend to make sure dogs don't kill chickens. After the dog kills one, strap the chicken carcass to their neck for a week and let it rot while keeping them tied outside, and the other is what we're doing which is called desensitization training which is a positive mostly method. We tend to try to shy away from aversive training methods like tying a dead chicken to the dog. For desensitization training you bring the dog towards the exciting thing (Chickens), and find where the dog can still pay attention to you. You do obedience training and reward the dog for ignoring the chickens. You do this getting closer and closer until the dog can be right next to the chickens. We're only on day 1 of it, but so far it seems to be doing well. We are still doing this on leash, but we hope to have it so he can be off leash while we do chicken chores without being a problem, though he'll never be unsupervised around chickens.

Chickens aren't the only thing going on around here of course, as the rabbits continue to grow. We're preparing for the next breeding cycle to start. On Thursday we're going to be doing the first breedings with Twilight bred to Umbra, and Dawn bred to Dorado. Friday we'll do Halley and Comet. Hopefully this time both will have live litters so we can see how they do with two litters in the hutch. We actually expect it to work out fairly well given how they've reacted this time to sharing space while there's a litter on the ground. Both girls have been very protective of the babies, and while I haven't been able to confirm both of them feeding the babies, I know that Halley at least goes in and checks on the babies as much as their mother Comet.

This round we have one rabbit already showing Dorado's paternal influence in the set of its ears. Below Left the left of the three babies has Dorado's ears. For comparison Bottom Left is Dorado in all of his studly glory. Overall though we're happy with how the sisters litter is doing, and while the two of them don't have the best temperament, I think that it is nice to have the two of them together to keep each other company. If we can't get both breeding at the same time it won't be as good obviously because we'd be feeding twice the mother maintenance amount per litter, but it may well be worth it for happiness's sake anyhow. That's something we'll be watching and evaluating over time.
Speaking of happiness, and we don't have  a photo of them today, but Twilight's older litter is very happy, and we'll be sorry to see them go which will be happening soon. It's a shame that both of the blue kits are male because we don't need males, but they are both GREAT examples of American Blue. If they were female we'd be keeping them hands down. But, the genetic lottery wasn't that kind.

Twilight's current babies are also doing very well. As with her last litter, they're bigger than usual, and noticeably bigger than Dawn's and Comet's litter. We swear the blues grow faster, but it could just be coincidence. Getting good photos of them continues to be a challenge, even more so right now because we've done some re arranging of the hutches.

Bottom you can see the new arrangement of where Twilight and Umbra's hutches are. To try to avoid the problems we had last summer with heat, specifically with Umbra's heat sterility we've moved them into the woods. I'm considering moving the other hutches off into the woods as well. The micro climate is much cooler, they're in shade all day but still can see the sun, and are still close by. So far they seem to be happy with it, but the pictures from those hutches definitely come out a bit dark! Signing off for now, but on Thursday hopefully we'll have more chicken news for you.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

So many babies! Trying to catch up with the cute quota as well as garden progress.

Cute baby bunny pictures were promised, and here we are today, quick delivery! This won't be just about the babies or even just about the rabbits, but we're going to start off with a good dose of cute with some good news. Our concern about tomato blight wasn't necessary yet. From the opinion of a couple experts in the form of Michelle Chandler and Kathy  Harrison who's blogs you can see on the right it's not blight, just mineral deficiency which is much better.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tomato troubles! Magnesium, blight, or both?

It's yet another rainy day around the homestead, and we're learning more rain isn't always better for your garden even before you get to flooding and the like. Now, it's not all bad. Our raspberry bushes Above are doing great and putting on a huge number of buds which means a lot of raspberries. The garlic is doing great, and so are the kale and lettuces.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The importance of correct and working equipment.

So, today's post is a little scattered and last minute because this morning we were thinking about getting the car to the right place at the right time to get repaired within our budget. So I got to the internet this morning and said, "Shit, no blog post!" and the Lady of the House suggested the topic, so I'm running with it.
She actually suggested the importance of a car, which is a big deal. I just decided to expand it because of how often the correct tool or a working piece of equipment would make our lives much easier. The importance of a car is obvious to all of us living outside of a city like Boston, New York, or Prague. You have to have a car, or you can't go anywhere, can't get to work, can't see people. Effectively you can't live without a car in day to day life. That sort of vital necessity of a car that we are all familiar with is especially important in homesteading. It's come up all the time in our lives since we started on this mad adventure. A splitting maul makes life much more bearable

The reason the tractor photo is up top is simple, our first piece of equipment we really needed to work, and didn't have working was a tractor. With a tractor digging beds would be done by now, I could have started work on a cold storage facility, and we wouldn't have needed to buy the snow blower. But, lacking the snow blower, our first winter we lacked the proper equipment, and shoveled the driveway until our bodies gave out, and we had a sheet ice slide instead for months. There's plenty of other examples going on around the house, even right now. Having the correct shovel, and yes there is a difference. Those of you who keep up with us recognize the broken shovel. We Had to get a new shovel to keep digging garden beds because a flat nosed transfer shovel is not a round nosed digging shovel, not even a little bit. So I guess the point of this post is, make sure you spend the money to get the right tools to do what you are aiming to do, without them your life will be much more difficult! Right now, we're looking at what sorts of tools would make our lives more tenable.
1: A vehicle with more transportation space, probably a pickup truck.
2: A tractor.
3: A wheel barrow because carting around 5 gallon buckets of dirt and rocks isn't the most efficient thing ever.
4: A mattock for digging because, while shovels are great for digging, if you want to break up hard ground you use a mattock if you don't have a back hoe.

Those are really the big tools that we should have to do what we're trying to do. There's also things like rain barrels, fencing and so on that we'll need to do a lot of what we want long term, but those aren't so much tools as supplies. We'll work on the tools we need, but lack of them is definitely in the forefront of our minds right now as we try to get the plants we have in the ground before we run out of time.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Our first garden dinner, and digging so much we broke a shovel.

I hope that everyone is doing well, and has gotten work done on what ever garden they have. We've gotten a fair amount done, and are really thrilled with how much good is going on in our garden. But first,baby bunnies are doing well. We don't have much in the way of baby bunny photos today because the light was strange. Twilight is still being modestly aggressive, but she's calmed down a bit at least. All of the babies are growing quickly, and all of their eyes are open. However we don't have weights to relay right now because we lost the scale. Well, let me rephrase, I put the scale somewhere, and I have NO idea where it is. So hopefully we'll have more to relay and more photos of the babies on Thursday.