Dealing with Local Governments and Anal Thinking

So, as many of you know, lately we have dabbled in the world of farmers’ markets, selling our quail eggs shoulder-to-shoulder with our son and daughter-in-law, Matt and Rachel, as they sell their goat cheese.

I’ve mentioned how much I enjoy the farmers’ market experience, getting to know other local farmers, listening to their stories, and feeling a sense of community I think is so important for our future as a species.

Part of the whole “market” experience is finding the right markets to sell at. Where are the biggest crowds? Where is the greatest demand?….that sort of thing….so Seattle has been tried, and Steilacoom, and West Olympia, and Tumwater, and soon another in Seattle and one in Puyallup, and there are a couple in Tacoma worth considering, and….well, you get the picture.

And that’s what I want to gripe about for a moment here today.town_912

PAYING THE PIPER

Each market costs vendors money.  The way it normally works, a farmer will pay a flat fee for the use of a booth for one day, and also pay a percentage of the sales for the day.  West Olympia charges $15 per day or $120 for the season, a very reasonable fee. They also take a nominal percentage…something like 5%…..Steilacoom charges $30 per day and a percentage of sales….the Olympia Farmers’ Market downtown is so expensive we can’t even consider it,  and Seattle….well, let’s talk about Seattle for a moment.

Now I’m going to be slightly off with the figures, but trust me, they are close to the actual figures. The U-District Market in Seattle charges $150 per day plus a percentage, but they also charge something like $250 for a seller’s permit, so before you even unload your car and sell your first quail egg, you are $400 in the hole.

That’s a lot of quail eggs and goat cheese, friends!  That kind of “gutting” may not hurt the guy who sells smoked salmon and has over $3,000 in sales daily, but the smaller farmers have a real hard time justifying the cost and many simply cannot do it.

And I think that’s a shame and inexcusable!

THE POINT IS

A nominal fee is one thing, and defensible, but why charge local farmers exorbitant fees? It makes no sense to me!  Why discourage small local farmers from taking place in local events that are held to promote localism?town_914

Anal!

I’m done with my rant!

SHARING INFORMATION

We spend a lot of time at the local Urban Farm & Garden Center. In fact, Bev works there part-time, and it really is a great place to hang.  So when we decided to try our hands at greenhouse gardening/farming, we turned to our friends at the center, and one of them, Tristan, their soil expert, came over to our house last week, walked around our urban farm, and gave us tips on how to proceed.

No fee was charged by Tristan, by the way.  Tristan understands that his sharing information with us will eventually help the community as we learn to produce quality vegetables and herbs….community….help…..no charge…..

Not anal!

Have a great week!

Bill

Busy With Farmers’ Markets

I haven’t been posting lately because, well, I’ve been busy.

Here’s what’s been happening…..

THE QUAIL

The City has closed the case on our quail adventure and we will not be fined.  Jolly good of them.  I still don’t know which neighbor turned us in, but I am looking forward to finding them and talking to them about the concept of community.

The quail are all moved over to our son’s farm and they are happy. The new aviary over there is almost completed.

And we are now immersed in the farmers’ market phenomenon.  Every Saturday, Bev and I sell quail eggs and goat cheese at the West Olympia Farmers’ Market….our eggs are also being sold on Tuesday at West Oly, on Wednesdays at Steilacoom Farmers’ Market, and on Saturdays at the U-District Farmers’ Market in Seattle.  I hope our quail can keep up with the demand.

In other words, all’s well that ends well!

Yesterday we did our first Steilacoom Market.  Busy place, about 2000 people…sold some stuff, met som people, enjoyed the sun and scenic setting….good times!

THE CHICKENS

Our chickens are about done with laying eggs. They are all three years old and it is sporadic at best this summer. The folks at the Urban Garden Center tell us that’s to be expected….three years of good laying is great. Anything beyond that is a bonus.  They are about to transition from “working pets” to just pets.  Will we eat them now that they are done laying?  We named them, for God’s sake. That should answer the question.town_142

GREENHOUSE

It’s a work in progress.  We still have to buy the plastic to enclose it, but the workbenches are all built, so we’re getting closer to completion.  We need to plant the fall harvesting plants soon, so stay tuned…..

MY BOOKS

We may be selling my novels at the farmers’ market soon….that would be cool.  I’m busy increasing my supply of them and preparing point-of-sale merchandise for marketing.

THE TO-DO LIST

Oh God, I have to make an arbor for the grapes, which have gone crazy this growing season, and we have to harvest the berries, and the greenhouse of course, and I don’t have any firewood for the winter, and ……I’m tired just thinking of it all….

But it’s a good tired.

BACK TO THE FARMERS’ MARKET

town_918Here’s the thing:  I really enjoy them. I enjoy meeting like-minded people who are interested in healthy foods grown organically.  I enjoy meeting people who would rather spend a little extra money for locally-grown food and locally-produced products.  I enjoy meeting people who are actually concerned for the environment and our community and want to make a positive change.town_912

And it’s kind of cool, working a booth, selling items made by our family….the eggs, the goat cheese….a real family effort, capped off with one of Bev’s sons providing live music during the market….

This is what community should look like.  Community isn’t giant box stores and impersonal clerks….community is neighbors spending time with neighbors, and bartering, and sharing ideas, all of which fosters a sense of belonging……

town_914Yep, I really enjoy it!

SEE YOU DOWN THE ROAD

Have a great week….have a great month….have a great life!

Bill

A Comedy of Errors

town_642Thanks for visiting again.

It’s been quite a week around here.  We are practicing the old adage “if something can go wrong it probably will,” as we transition from a quail urban farm to a greenhouse/gardening urban farm.

To clarify and summarize, we have not gotten rid of our quail.  We are still in the quail business; we just can’t keep the quail on our urban farm, so we had to move  all 140 of them to a new enclosure on our son’s goat farm outside the city limits.

AND THAT’S WHERE THINGS WENT SIDEWAYS

Bev and I spent two days digging fence post holes, getting the frame squared up, and actually framing the new enclosure on the goat farm….but….

We were notified by the County that structures must be at least fifty feet from the property line.  The new one we were building was only twenty feet from the line….soooooo….

We took it all down and started over!

Just shoot me now!

Our son felt so bad about not knowing the regulations that he offered to dig the new holes and build the new frame.  That hasn’t happened yet but it will soon. In the meantime, we have moved all the quail to a large chicken coop/enclosure they already had on their property….and that’s where they are now while we wait for Matt to build that new frame.

Amazingly we have not lost one quail through all of these moves.

MEANWHILE, BACK AT OUR FARM

Soon to be a greenhouse
Soon to be a greenhouse

I’ve cleaned out the two aviaries where we once had quail and I’ve begun building shelving for the greenhouse.  I should have all that done by the end of this weekend and then we can put up plastic and the aviaries will officially become greenhouses.

What a mess!

But our spirits are high and we managed not to piss and moan too much through it all.

Bev will be working on the quail business while I work primarily on the greenhouse business.  Of course we’ll overlap at times and help each other, but that’s the basic division of labor as of right now.

Oh, and our specialty quail were born….five of the seven hatched….these are rare birds and sell for $100 each, so cross your fingers that they survive the next couple weeks.

I’M TIRED

And since I’m tired, and I’ve got a very long to-do list, I’ll stop this blog now and let all of you get back to whatever it is you do. Thanks for listening to me vent.  If you’ve got experience with greenhouses and feel like sharing your expertise on this blog, please do so in the comment section, or email me at holland1145@yahoo.com and you can guest blog here.

Bill

Big Brother is Watching

Soon to be a greenhouse
Soon to be a greenhouse

BIG BROTHER’S WATCHING

Yep, we got a notice the other day from the City of Olympia telling us we had too many quail. That means, of course, that one of the neighbors complained because, well, there was no other way for the city to know what we had in our backyard.

So we appealed and we lost the appeal, and they have given us until July 5th to move or get rid of our flock, and we spent a day moaning and being pissed off and yes, I was cussing a bit….LOL….and then….

We spoke to Bev’s son, who has a goat farm three miles away, out of the city limits, and he said sure, build an aviary on his place and keep the birds there, and Bev was fine with that and doesn’t mind going over there daily to feed and water the birds, and then I was thinking I could easily make our two existing aviaries into greenhouses, and we can start growing more plants for a longer growing season….soooooo

I’m no longer cussing.  The work has begun on the new aviary on Matt’s property, and we’re moving all the quail over there this weekend, and….

Goodbye catastrophe and hello solution!!!!!

When I was younger this sort of thing would have put me in a bad mood for weeks.  Now, well, let’s just say I am much-mellower and I realize that very few obstacles are worth pissing and moaning over.

What really bothers me about the whole thing is the neighbor, whoever they were, didn’t just come and talk to us. We have tried to foster a spirit of community in our neighborhood, and it just seems like people, at times, don’t understand what that means.

Oh well!

SPEAKING OF THOSE GREENHOUSES

We struck a deal with the local urban garden center and they will set up our greenhouse for us and provide seeds and knowledge. In return we will sell the seedlings to them for a discount. In other words we’ll become a wholesaler of plants and I think that is very cool.

HAY BALE GARDENING

If you haven’t tried it then at least consider it.  I’m not a scientist, so I can’t tell you exactly why it works. I just know it does.  We have never grown such vibrant, healthy plants as the ones growing in our hay bale garden.  The potatoes are absolutely going nuts, as are the onions, carrots, kale and pumpkins.  You can bet I’ll have some hay bales in the new greenhouse for next year.

You could probably still give it a go this year if you wanted.  It takes seventeen days, give or take a day, to amend the bales with fertilizer, water and my own magic elixir, rabbit poop, so that still gives you more than enough time to grow some fall veggies or even late-summer veggies.town_884

WEATHER IN OUR NECK OF THE WOODS

We had the wettest winter on record here in 2016, followed by two very hot weeks in early May, but since then we’ve had a very normal June for us, which means on-again-off-again showers and temperatures ranging from 65-75.  Right on schedule, the warmer temps and sunshine are due this Saturday, the 25th….so for us, this is a normal late spring/summer.

I’ve been watching the news about the droughts and severe storms and tornadoes and flash flooding, and I swear to God, I don’t know why more people don’t move to western Washington.  Right about now I’ll bet there are millions of people who think 75 degrees sounds pretty darned good.  Actually, we are supposed to have an additional 20,000 people move into our city in the next year. I’m already dreading the increase in traffic.  LOL  Shhh, don’t tell anyone we have perfect weather here.

QUAIL PRODUCTION

The quail are at the peak of their laying season right now. We get between five and six dozen eggs per day, and that’s about all we can hope for with the number of birds we have.

We currently have some specialty quail eggs in the incubator, something new we thought we would try.  When they are adults they will sell for $100 each, so cross your fingers and hope they all live.

BERRIES AND GRAPES

We’ve already harvested the raspberries.  Blackberries are ripening now and then it will by the blueberries’ turn….and the grapes are going whacko!

AND THAT’S IT FROM MILD OLYMPIA

Thanks for stopping by.  I always appreciate the visits and comments, so keep them coming.  Share your thoughts in the comment section…tell us all what works for you…and in advance, thank you!

Bill

 

The Wonders of Rabbit Poop

town_429How’s that for a title? Get your attention?

I’m not a scientist, horticulturist, a botanist or any of those other “ists.”  I’m just an urban farmer and writer, blindly stumbling through the learning curve, trying to find what works.  I couldn’t tell you the proper balance of minerals necessary to grow certain plants.  I know the difference between sandy soil and clay soil, but after that my knowledge about soil gets a little spotty.

Oh sure, I could take some extension courses and learn all about soil and its properties, but for me, with limited time available, I’d rather just take ordinary dirt and add rabbit poop to it.

Why mess with success?

There was a time, a few years back, in my Dark Ages of gardening, when I would go to the nursery and purchase the best soil known to man, and I would haul my soil gold home, eight bucks per bag,  with little money remaining in my bank account.

Now I go to the bark center, get a pickup truck load of topsoil for $15, bring it home and add rabbit poop.

Why mess with success?

THE WONDER OF RABBITS

Do you know the greatest thing about rabbits?  No, it’s not that they are cute and cuddly…it’s that they never stop pooping, which means I have a natural additive for all of my garden beds year round, so I get cute and cuddly and the best fertilizer known to man, all in one neat little four-legged package.

If you don’t have rabbits then ask around and find a neighbor who does.  Chances are they will just give you the poop for nothing….and wouldn’t that be ultra cool?

WHAT’S NEW ON OUR FARM?

We have Running Ducks, that’s what!DSC_0489 (1)

And they are hilarious!

The name is for a reason…Running Ducks don’t fly, but man do they love to run, and watching them run is worth the price of admission.  Check out the picture of them….of course they aren’t running and they look, in that picture, like any other duck, but don’t let appearances fool you.  These ladies can run!

Why did we get ducks?  Why do we do anything on our farm? We love animals and we’re having the time of our lives.  Ducks will lay eggs, so there’s that, but other than that they just poop a lot and make us laugh.

In other words, they’re worth it!

FARM STAND

DSC_0494 (1)I opened the farm stand this Saturday and sold quail eggs at $3 per dozen.  I’m adding organic chicken eggs this weekend.

QUAIL BUSINESS

Business is brisk.  We had a $200 week followed the next day by a $66 day…..not bad at all.  If we keep that up through the end of laying season I’ll be happy. Then we have to decide whether to give the girls the winter off from laying or put a light out there and have them lay during the winter.  We’ll probably give them the winter off and lose money feeding them.  LOL

STRAW BALE GARDENING

The straw bale experiment is going strong.  I’ve never seen potatoes grow so rapidly as they are in this straw bales, and everything else in that garden is doing well, from tomatoes to onions to strawberries.   At this point in the experiment I can say without hesitation that I am sold on straw bale gardening.town_882

WORMS

Now I want to start raising worms…red squiggly worms…..more on that later. Thank God Bev supports me in all my random glory.

AND THAT’S IT FOR THIS WEEK

I can’t imagine having five or ten acres. I’m so busy with this city lot that I can’t keep up with the chores…how does one do it on five acres????

See you next week. Thanks for the visit.

Bill

Building A Quail Business

town_642ESTABLISHING A MARKET FOR QUAIL

So last week I called on three restaurants to sell our quail eggs.  We had done our research and we knew a guy who sold eggs last year to a couple restaurants, so I had some idea of the cafes/restaurants/wine bars who would be interested and what they should/would pay.

I walked into the first place, presented my spiel, all the while holding back on the price quote because, quite frankly, $6 per dozen seems a bit steep for miniature eggs.  You know what I mean?  But I was assured by my friend that chefs would pay that much, so finally I quoted the price and….

The chefs didn’t even blink at that price.

Six dollars per dozen for miniature eggs?????  I wanted to yell at them “ARE YOU CRAZY?”

In an hour I had two pretty solid sales (I’ll know for sure this week) and one who wasn’t sure they could use them.

Six dollars per dozen?  ARE YOU CRAZY?????

Needless to say, I’ll be going out next week to try and secure more restaurant sales because, well, daddy didn’t raise an idiot.  If people are willing to pay that then I’m willing to take their money.

QUAIL ARE CONSIDERED A SPECIALTY ITEMtown_358

Well sonofagun, who would have thunk it? Those little birds are pricey because they are positioned quite nicely in a little niche specialty market.  More and more people want nutritious. More and more people want locally-grown foods.  More and more people want quail.

And we seem to be the only people in Olympia raising them on a large scale.

Whoop!

We had a $200 week last week and we did nothing more than advertise, for free, on Craigslist.

Just wait until we really try!

AND THAT’S WHAT THIS WEEK IS ABOUT

This week I’ll visit more restaurants and this week we start our farm stand on our front yard. Every Saturday from 8-10 we’ll sell quail and chicken eggs until supplies run out.  The stand is out there right now.  I’ll put a sign on it tomorrow letting people know in advance what to expect.

And then we’ll see how it turns out!

SO THAT’S WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE’

Stay tuned! I’ll tell you more about it next week.  Right now I have to go feed our newborns.

By the way, guess what item on restaurant menus has the highest markup…..give up?  Raw oysters, on average, are marked up 3000 % on menus.

That was 3000%, my friends.

Suddenly I don’t feel too bad selling quail eggs for $6 per dozen.  LOL

Bill

 

Learning from Our Mistakes Raising Quail

In the brooder as chicks
In the brooder as chicks

Welcome back to our humble urban farmyard.   This is the time of year when I feel guilty sitting down writing about all the work that needs doing because that means I’m not out there doing it.  LOL

My wife and I have spent two years getting our act together regarding raising quail.  Trust me when I tell you we have made just about every mistake known to man as we stumbled along on this journey.  We set out with the best intentions, and thought we had done diligent research, but we were woefully unprepared for the task ahead….and our mistakes meant wasted money and sadly a whole lot of dead birds.

I am happy to report that we have finally arrived in the quail business.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

Well, for starters, it means we can go to bed at night knowing that when we wake up we won’t have slaughtered birds on the ground of their pens.  In other words, we finally learned how to defeat the predators that roam an urban environment, the raccoons, possums, rats and weasels.  It means we only use hardware cloth to enclose the aviaries and never chicken wire.  It means we dig down two feet before installing the hardware cloth to protect against burrowing predators.  It means we are constantly on the lookout for signs of tampering by predators.  In other words we take nothing for granted.

We have learned how to incubate properly, which incubators work the best, the proper time frame for incubation, the proper humidity and constant temperature.town_358

We have learned how to take care of the chicks and the proper ratio of males to females in the aviaries.

We still have things to learn but we are finally to a point where the eggs arrive in big numbers and the chicks are growing strong and healthy.

AND NOW ON TO THE NEXT STEP

Now we move to marketing, and that’s what I’m working on as we speak.

There is a market out there for quail and quail eggs, and it is a market that grows daily, but it is still my job to get the word out that we are in the business and we provide quality birds and eggs.

That means fliers and meeting restaurant owners. That means a little farm stand out front of our home and ads on Craigslist.  It means establishing ourselves with local urban farmers and farm suppliers.

It’s a lot of work but we are slowly reaping the rewards.

And do you want to know the best about it all?

We love doing this!

We love raising quail, and we love providing a healthy, organic food alternative and yes, we love being our own bosses in a business we established.

So there you have it!

Are you interested in raising quail?

Shoot me a question in the comments and I’ll get back to you.

Bill

Providing Quality of Life on an Urban Farm

QUALITY OF LIFE

We will never be great urban farmers and we can live with that fact.

Oh, we aren’t bad growing food because, well, we don’t struggle with moral decisions with plants like we do with animals.  Bottom line: we are too caring to ever really be an economic force to be reckoned with.

Here’s the thing:  we believe that all of our animals and birds should live good lives.  We do not believe animals should be raised in small cages.  Period!town_832

Examples?

We have three aviaries for our quail.  Only two are currently being used for quail; one has rabbits and two silkie chickens, but that’s another story.  Anyway, in the two aviaries for the quail there are currently 75 quail residing….maybe 80….they are hard to count, always on the move, that sort of thing.

I was reading about a commercial quail farmer who had 500 quail in the same-sized space that our 80 live in, basically 12’x14’.

500!!!!!!!!!!!

What that means is the quail  barely have room to do anything other than eat, drink and mate.

We won’t do that to our quail, so that means less production, fewer eggs, etc., which means less profit which means we will never be great urban farmers.

And we can live with that.

SOMEONE ELSE’S BLOG

I was reading another urban farming blog by someone named Nysia….anyway, she was recounting her horror stories about putting rabbits and chickens in the same enclosure and how the rabbits basically dug a tunnel to China to get out.  I’m kidding but you get the point.  Rabbits are prolific tunnel-builders. We have found this to be true with our rabbits.  The solution is simple: put the rabbits in cages and monitor their breeding. They live out their lives in a 2’x3’ cage and make little bunnies.

We won’t do that!  Nysia chose not to as well.town_429

Quality of life!

BOTTOM LINE

Urban farming means more to us than just sustainability and making a little income.  Urban farming, for Bev and I, is about getting back in touch with the land and all its inhabitants.  It’s about rediscovering that which we, as a society, have lost, a connection to all life.  All of us have been put in charge of this planet, and Bev and I take that responsibility seriously.

I’m done with my sermon.  I’ll get off the soapbox now.

NEIGHBORHOOD VISITOR

A little girl who lives across the street comes over to our place occasionally.  Bev takes her by the hand and walks her through the aviaries, and if there are chicks she lets the little girl hold them.   The smile on that child’s face is priceless.  Kids and animals, man, there is nothing like it.

UPDATE ON HAY BALE GARDEN

town_884

I promised you all an update on our hay bale experiment and as you can see from the pictures, the experiment is doing quite nicely, thank you very much.  I’m not surprised by how well the plants inside the bales are doing because we filled that interior section with great compost and rabbit poop.  The potatoes are growing so fast it is almost unbelievable.town_882

But we were very curious how the seedlings would do when planted ON the hay bales and the answer is, they are doing quite nicely.  We even transplanted some strawberries, late in the season, onto the hay bales, and after a couple days of shock they rebounded and are doing very well.  So, so far, the experiment is a huge success.

GREENHOUSE PROJECT

We fully intended to have our greenhouse up and running but alas, it was not meant to be.  It is now our number one project for next spring.  We have the area for it, and we have the frame for it. What we didn’t have was the time for it.

And so it goes!

NEXT PROJECT

Our two new ducks (running ducks, by the way) almost have all their feathers, which means they will soon be in need of a pond.  Now I can certainly take the easy way out and buy a little kiddies’ pool….reasonably cheap and oh so easy to install….or…I can dig out a place for a pond, put in a liner and have a real pond.

Guess which way I’m leaning?

See you later. I’ve got some digging to do.

Bill

The Farm is Growing!!!!!

Welcome back to our urban farm. My goodness, the weather turned mild and nice and that meant all those jobs I postponed while it rained suddenly needed my attention.  In other words, this old man has been busy.

Shall we take a walk? I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing while we walk.

NEW CHICKEN COOP

town_855I can’t leave Bev alone for five minutes.  She ordered four new Silkie chickens when I wasn’t paying attention, so now those little darlings are under the heatlamp growing strong in our garage.  If you aren’t familiar with Silkies, I’ve got a picture for you.  Their feathers are “silky” and they are probably the friendliest chicken among all the breeds.  Their eggs are a bit smaller than other hens, so that’s the downside, but they are also quieter than other breeds, so that’s a plus for sure….and they are so cute and cuddly!!!!!town_866

So the new chickens require a new chicken coop.  You can see how far I am on it…..this one will serve double-duty because we are going to get a couple “running ducks,” and they will share the coop with the Silkies.  The ducks will have the downstairs and the Silkies will live upstairs in this fowl townhouse.

Update: we just bought two runner ducks…I was holding them on my shoulder last night where they burrowed for warmth…melt my heart!

EGGS, WE’VE GOT EGGS

This past weekend I built a stand from which we’ll sell our farm-fresh organic eggs, both chicken and quail.  You can see the stand in the pic to the right.  We are getting about three dozen quail eggs each day right now, and in a month or so we’ll be up to about eight or nine dozen per day.  They will sell for $2 per dozen from our stand out front, so you do that math.  Doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but nine dozen per day is $18 per day, and multiply that by 30 and it’s a nice residual income each month…..and my son is interested in finding us some restaurants where we can sell them at five bucks per dozen….so things are falling into place on that front.

The new egg stand
The new egg stand

Do we need a license to do so?  A business license for sure…a special $30 addition to that license if we sell to restaurants.  We’ll see!

A word about raising birds for eggs: yes, you can extend their laying season with artificial light…in fact, they will lay year-round by doing so…but…you also shorten their lives.  It’s a decision you, the bird owner, has to make. We choose to not do that.

Also, quality of life will affect the egg productivity.  Put birds in cramped conditions and the productivity will drop. Give them room to roam and it will increase.

We are all about quality of life here on our farm.

PETTING ZOO

Bev recently quit her full-time job as a merchandiser and I applauded her when she did that.  She wants to start a traveling petting zoo that she will take to schools and kids’ parties, so as I type this she is busy doing research and obtaining licenses and insurance. Exciting times for Bev because she has wanted to do something like that for years….and now it’s happening.  I’m proud of her.

NEW CABIN

town_861Here’s a picture of the shed/cabin in our backyard.  At one time or another several of our kids have lived in it, and I used it as a writing studio for a couple years.  Starting next month we will be renting it out, and we love that idea so much we are building another one and renting that out as well.  Because they don’t have foundations we don’t need building permits for them, and we can still rent them as housing for about $400 or $450 per month.  We got our first renter last week and she will be moving in shortly….and my son is going to be renting the other.  Exciting times and changes are happening around here.

Bev has two sons who are carpenters, so they will be doing the work on it…..for them it’s easy peasy. For me it would be a nightmare.  I can build a chicken coop. I can’t build a cabin.  End of story!

NEXT UP

The garden is next on the agenda.  The hay bales have been prepared with natural fertilizer (blood meal) and they’ve been soaked, so they are ready for planting. In fact we already planted potatoes in the one, but we will plant seeds in it as well this weekend….and we put hay bales in the new aviary as well, so we need to plant those too.town_859

My son will be doing some gardening once he moves in, and the other renter wants to do it as well, so we have that going on, and the front yard has about fifteen berry bushes growing, and we are slowly killing off the lawn with cardboard and hay, so all is going according to plan.

AND THAT’S IT FOR NOW

I could tell you more but honestly, the sun is out and I need to be out there working. Too much to do and so little time.

Thanks for dropping by our little farm.

Bill

April on the Mini-Farm

The sun gods are smiling upon us here in Olympia on this first day of April and I only have one thing to say…..IT’S ABOUT TIME!!!!!!!!!

To say that this was a wet winter would be the understatement of all-time….in fact, all-time is accurate, because it was, in fact, the wettest winter in recorded history, and that’s saying a mouthful for our neck of the woods.

So outside we headed and the first announcement I have for you is the new aviary (or, as Bev likes to call it, quailary) is finished.  As you can see from the pictures, it looks pretty good considering my carpentry skills are just above novice.  It ended up a half-inch off square and quite frankly, for me, that’s perfect.town_849

And the aviary is up at the perfect time because, as you can see from the pictures, the first babies of the year are with us.  We will sell half of them and keep half of them as egg-layers.

So let’s talk a bit about quail.

EGG-LAYING MACHINES

If any of you are serious about having an urban farm, then you really need to get serious about quail.  We absolutely love them.  They are entertaining, they take up very little space, they are easy to clean up after and they produce the best eggs known to man.

Why wouldn’t you raise them?town_843

So right now we are getting about forty eggs each day….that will increase to over one-hundred in the next few weeks.  We have three incubators going, so that’s a whole lot of babies each week…and the excess eggs will be sold to neighbors, friends and restaurants.

If you are just starting out with quail, a word to the wise: they are completely defenseless birds, so make darn sure your enclosure is critter-proof.  In other words, learn from our mistakes.  A weasel can get through a hole that is two inches in diameter, so plan accordingly.

CHICKENS

We are proud of the fact that our original six hens are still alive and laying after two years. That’s miraculous considering the mistakes we made starting out.  Having said that, we almost lost one to a raccoon last week.  I was on the couch reading about ten at night when I heard one of the hens clucking like crazy…that’s an immediate warning because we never hear them after we lock them in their coop….and for those of you thinking ahead, you know what the problem was…we forgot to lock them in their coop that evening.  Daylight savings time has really screwed me up with regards to things like that.

Anyway, a coon got into the coop and Butch was the first chicken to run for it and luckily the raccoon followed Butch out into the yard.  If the coon had just stayed in the coop he could have killed the other five easily because they were just hanging out on the roost.  So the sounds I heard were the coon nipping at Butch.  Luckily I got out there fast enough and all Butch lost were all of her tail feathers.  No other injuries other than a bruised ego (for me, not Butch).  Lesson learned!

A side note: the other hens are treating Butch with a bit more respect now since she saved all their lives.

THE GARDEN

We are woefully behind on the garden. The good news is the last frost probably won’t be until late April. That’s the only thing saving us right now, but we better get it in gear quickly.  I’ll keep you posted on the hay bale garden as soon as I have something to report.town_836

AND THAT’S IT!

More in a week or so, as time allows.  Have a great April!

Bill