February Thoughts on the Urban Farm

town_142WELCOME BACK!

Mid-February and the to-do list isn’t getting any shorter.  I check one item off and two take its place.  Sigh!  I’d better kick it in gear pretty soon because planting season is a month away.

If the rains ever stops.  We were teased by four days of gorgeous weather and then reality returned.

SO WHAT HAVE WE ACCOMPLISHED?

Well, we sold six rabbits.  That was something.  We cleaned out the two aviaries.  That was something else.

We bought a new incubator and our first batch of eggs is incubating as I write this, so that’s a big something.

And the chickens have started laying eggs again, and that’s another big something.  This is about a month earlier for them than last year.  I’m sure it has something to do with the balmy weather we are having, although that has nothing to do with the hours of sunlight but hey, I never claimed to be an expert.  My main job is to keep all the critters alive and then stand back and let them do their thing.

HOOP HOUSES

If you want to get an early start on growing, may I suggest a hoop house?  They are so easy and inexpensive to make.  If you have an old tent you don’t use, then you can use the extension poles from the tent. If not then get yourself some PVC pipe.  Drape plastic over the hoop design and you have an instant greenhouse.  Once the weather gets nice and warm you can roll the plastic up on one side and get all the natural sunshine you want for your crops.cloche

THINGS TO DO IN FEBRUARY AND MARCH

  • Cover soil with plastic or a cloche to dry out the soil in preparation of planting
  • Divide perennials
  • Plant bare-root trees and shrubs
  • Prune grapes
  • Hang Mason bee houses in March
  • Plant berries
  • Prep garden beds
  • Start seeds
  • Mulch perennial beds and weed

That should keep you busy enough for the next thirty days….or not!

EXPERIMENT

We experiment a lot here.  We have no idea if our new ideas will work…or not work…but there’s really only one way to find out, right?  Right!  We started out four years ago using nothing but raised garden beds.  This year will mark the first year totally without raised beds. This will be the first year using straw bales as a planting medium, and the first year with a greenhouse.  Right this moment Bev is outside trying something new.  I’m afraid, and excited, to find out what it is she’s doing.  LOLstraw bale

TIME IS NOT ON MY SIDE

Despite what the Rolling Stones said many years ago, time is not on my side.  With this new job in the real world, I simply don’t have the hours to get everything done around here AND write.

I have a grape arbor that should have been completed by now but, as I look out the front window, there it sits in semi-splendor.  I have three posts in the ground for the new aviary; three more posts remain waiting.  I have a new chicken coop waiting….and waiting….half-completed and……

Well, you get the point.

But we do what we can do when we can do it.

SO I’LL LEAVE YOU AND GO DO SOMETHING

We are having a rare sunny day today.  We’ve had the rainiest winter on record this year, so these days are few and far between.  I’ll check in with you later down the road. Thanks for stopping by and chatting with me over the fence.

Random question:  Are you raising chickens yet? If not, why not?  Give it some consideration.  You won’t be disappointed.

Random thought:  Bev’s oldest son married a wonderful woman and they live on a goat farm nearby.  There were three babies born yesterday, and Bev’s son brought one of them over last night.  The baby fell asleep on my lap.  Absolutely adorable!

Now I’m gone!

Bill

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February Musings from Our Urban Farm

chickens, garden and h.o.w. tshirt 009I’m sitting here waiting to hear the Iowa caucus results, so that gives me a little time to write to all of you.

Happy February from our little urban farm!  I don’t know about all of you, but I rejoice when February arrives.  For those of us in the Pacific Northwest, February means longer days, more sunlight (when we actually see the sun) and getting serious about preparing the garden for planting.

STRAW BALES

One thing, and I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, that we want to try this year is straw bale planting.  Straw bales have been used as a planting medium for hundreds of years, but just recently they have caught on with the western world….the process is catching on and becoming the “in” way to plant.

For those of you with limited space, or for those who have a hard time bending over to garden, straw bales just might be an answer you can live with.

The process is fairly easy.  Keep in mind I’m talking about straw bales and not hay bales.  Planting in hay bales will give you more weeds than plants in the long run.

The first thing you need to do is buy some straw bales; place them in your yard where you want to plant and start preparing them.  This process involves watering the bales daily and sprinkling fertilizer and compost on them.  Do this for about two weeks.  Once they have been prepared, scoop out a hollow in the bale about three inches deep, fill it with potting soil, and plant your plants.  Then all you have to do is water it like any other garden.  Whether it sounds crazy or not, I have it on good authority (our gardening expert at the local farm supply store) that this works and works well.

CONSTRUCTING GARDEN AND FARM STRUCTURESchicken coop March 31 2013 002

I’ve mentioned this before but let’s talk about it again.  On our farm, we are not willing to spend money when we are fully capable of building what we need.  I’m talking about compost bins, chicken coops, aviaries, wood sheds, even garden sheds, all have been built by Bev and I and trust me when I tell you, we have very few carpentry skills….but what we lack in carpentry skills we more than make up for with a willingness to learn and try.

Everything we have built we have built with a circular saw, a power drill, a hammer and a screwdriver.  Admittedly, our first attempts looked a bit ragged, but we have gotten to the point where we now can build things that actually look good in the yard, and you can do it too…..if you want to save money, learning to make do with what you have, is essential.

THIS PAST MONTH

Well, this past month we bought a new incubator, so now we are ready for an egg-incubating process that should net us about 250 new quail chicks each month.  It takes seventeen days to incubate an egg, so 250 is about our max with the equipment we have.  The other eggs will be sold as is, either to people who want fertilized quail eggs or people who simply want the eggs to eat….and in a month’s time, with the quail we have, we are talking about 1500 eggs to sell.town_642

How long will the quail lay eggs? They will start about the first of March and lay eggs until September, so you do that math.  Quail eggs sell for $3 per dozen, and baby chicks sell for $3 each.  Again, you do that math.

AND THAT’S ABOUT IT FOR NOW

I was looking at an old ad from World War 2, produced by the United States government, encouraging people to raise chicken as part of the war effort.  I see this country moving back in that direction.  Believe me, once you taste an organic chicken egg from your own hens, you’ll never again eat a store-bought egg.

And now the caucus results are on, so I’ll bid you farewell for this installment.  Have a great February!

Bill