Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A productive, and fun July 4th weekend.

July 4th was a very busy weekend for us around the homestead, and full of good people and good company to go with the significant amount of work there was to do. For the 4th, we had a brush clearing party, then a camp fire. When it started raining just before folks showed up I didn't expect to get much done, or have a fire. As you can see the fire happened, and below the cut you'll get to see just how much we got done in the thankfully warm rain.

So this is probably the most understandable results shot for most folks. For scale, that stands about 4' tall, and is a pile of brush that we cleared. That's what we couldn't fit in the compost bin, and it isn't the only pile. The second pile is the really pernicious weeds that would just root where they sat if we did this with them, and it's on gravel on top of an old carpet to keep them from rooting. I wish I had thought to do before and after photos of the weed and brush problem we've been having. Of course we just got to work and I didn't think about it until we had demolished large swaths of the visible weeds, so, I can at least show you some of the results which are looking good, especially in comparison to what it had been looking like. Left is a little stand of cottonwood trees that we freed from the mass of weeds that had grown up around them. The little group of pink flowers on the right side of that picture were everywhere, and becoming invasive, so we pulled masses of them out and tossed them away. Also back there were black cherry which is toxic if the plant itself is eaten, as well as Japanese Barberry bushes. I don't have any illusion that we actually successfully eliminated the barberry bushes, given just how hearty they are, but it's a start.
We also cleared off the area with the fire pit for obvious reasons given that we were going to have a fire. That was mostly just massive quantities of goldenrod, and other things of that sort that were growing rapidly around there. That's not to say that we managed to demolish all of the weeds we need to get rid of in the area. The front slope area didn't get all of the weeding we'd like. That said, the big thing is that thanks to some very hard work from a few people the garden beds are all fully weeded, and thanks to VERY hard work the snowcap that was choking out the front bed and trying to escape has been killed off. Probably going to need to have some encouragement to stay dead, but we can do that since it's not just everywhere the way it was. The amount of work that can be done by 5 extra pairs of hands is amazing. Either the Lady of the House or I had to be taking care of the Critter so overall we ended up with 6 people consistently working rain or shine for 5 hours, and it's like a whole different yard.
One of the cool things about doing all of this yard clearing was finding some fun plants around the yard. For example, our yard isn't just grass for obvious reasons. In a good portion of the yard we have what smells like a ground running perennial oregano. We're not exactly sure what it is, but it smells delicious, and are probably going to be trying to use it in cooking some time soon. Overall though it just feels really good to have the yard look more like a yard, well, honestly it's never going to be a yard. More like a tamed clearing in the woods that isn't seceding back into the woods from being clear. The chicks certainly were enjoying it in the evening sunlight as they explored all of the clear areas and ate anything they could find.
Speaking of chickens, a lot is happening on that front.  First things first, the recovered materials coop has been mostly completed. It's certainly not entirely square after knocking it down off the legs, but it's standing up just fine, and it should keep them sheltered and relatively safe. I still need to put perches up, and hopefully put some linoleum down to make cleaning easier. It will as I said though, work fine right now, which is good since we have an opportunity to get some free turkey poults, and are quickly going to be running out of room in the current coop. Well, honestly we're already out of room in the current coop given the 5 teenager chicks, and the two remaining chicks from the ones we picked up from a classroom, and that's before what ever hatches from the eggs that are being sat right now.
You may remember there were three chicks, but there were concerns about the rooster chick. Well, when we took them outside to start acclimating them to outside, and get the other chickens used to them before releasing them to be inducted into the pecking order, he was promptly a problem. Not only was he attacking us, he was attacking the other two chicks with him. He wasn't just pecking them either, which is the normal way of enforcing rank. He was jumping up on them and spurring them violently, even at just a few weeks old. After he kept that up for over 15 minutes, given our concerns before and knowing what we do about leghorn roosters, we killed him early before he even was of size to be eaten. We don't need a hyper violent rooster chick killing or severely injuring the chicks he's with, or one of the laying hens when he's let out. It's not worth it.
So now the two remaining chicks are out with the other chickens, as they get used to them. Right now they're in a dog crate covered with a couple pieces of metal roofing that gives a lot of overlap to give shade, and shelter from the rain that's going to be coming in today. I've been feeding the chickens near them so they get exposed to each other. Usually the chickens don't stick near the run much these days since they're out and about eating everything that moves, and a lot that doesn't.  As for the eggs incubating, the ones in the incubator probably didn't make it. Friday we lost power for long enough for the incubator to cool, and while we're going through Day 23 with the heat in the incubator, we don't really have high hopes for the eggs. At least the Australorp is sitting a clutch of eggs again, so we'll have more chicks soon.

All in all, a very productive July 4th, hopefully we'll have turkey poults to show you Thursday.

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