Localism and Community

town_935WINTER HAS ARRIVED

I know, what we have for a winter isn’t much, relatively speaking, but for us mild-weather nerds in Olympia, this has been a cold one so far.  Snow last week and so far a cold December.  This is news if only because we haven’t had a serious snowfall since 2012.  Our chickens are almost three-years old and they had never seen snow up until last week so yes, this is an unusual winter for us.

Looking back, when I was a kid, back during the Ice Age, we would have major snowstorms every winter. In fact, as a pre-teen, that’s how I made some spending cash, going around the neighborhood shoveling sidewalks and driveways.  But times are changing, aren’t they?  And things will never be the same!

THE BIGGER PICTURE HERE AT OUR URBAN FARM

The bigger picture can be summed up in one word: community.

Listen, I’m as upset and worried about our world as the next guy.  I don’t go online and flood the social media with my concerns, but I am, most definitely concerned.  I want to change things, make things better, but doing that on a global level is a bit out of my reach.

But I can change my community.  I can work towards the philosophy of localism.  I can make a difference here in Olympia, Washington, and that’s really what this blog, and our urban farm, are all about.

I am fed up with huge retail chains and all-powerful corporations, so I shop locally whenever possible.  I’m fed up with the complete disregard for the environment, and the waste of natural resources, so I’m doing my little part to counteract the damage that has been done.  And by writing this blog, and sharing my thoughts with you, it is my hope that I can inspire some of you to follow my lead.  I’m not selling a thing; I’m not forcing my ideas upon you; I’m simply showing you how we live and hoping some of it resonates with you.

And that, somehow, takes us to worms.

I’m going to give you a brief primer on worm tea and worm castings, and then I’m going to talk about something I think is important for all urban farmers and gardeners to hear.

WORM TEA

If you take worm castings (see below) and mix it with water and a bit of molasses, you get worm tea.  You can find it on sale at select gardening shops.  Great stuff for your garden and indoor plants.

WORM CASTINGS

Worm castings are, to be blunt, worm poop.  It’s what is left over at the bottom of your worm bin after the worms have eaten all the food you gave them.  It is superior fertilizer/compost/whatever you want to call it.

AND NOW, MY MESSAGE

Spread the word!

Talk to your neighbors. Spread the word about urban farming.  Carry on conversations with others about it.  Share ideas.  If you don’t currently garden, start small but most importantly, get started.  Turn off the television, go outside, and plan next spring’s garden.  Read up on new techniques.  Form a community garden.  Form a community seed exchange.

Do something!  We all benefit from this movement.

HOW ABOUT RABBIT POOP TEA?

I was thinking about worm tea the other day and I wondered if maybe making rabbit tea from rabbit poop was possible.

Turns out quite a few people already do it.

Take a gallon of rabbit poop (no problem for us), mix it with four gallons of water, let it sit for a couple of days, and you have an excellent liquid fertilizer, all-natural, flowing with nutrients.  Of course, you can scale down the size of that recipe…just think one part poop to four parts water, and give it a try.

A SHOUT OUT

I like to support other blogs when possible.  Here’s one I recently found, No Harm In Farming.  Give them a look and see what you think.

THAT’S IT FOR THIS WEEK

I’ve got things to do, so I need to leave you for now.

Have a wonderful and blessed holiday season!

Bill

Advertisements

Winterizing Your Urban Farm

winter in my little slice of heaven 017Look at me, posting twice in December.  A trend?  I doubt it, but hope springs eternal.

So, we had our first snow. We don’t get much snow here in Olympia. In fact, we haven’t had any for two years, so this morning’s dusting was kind of unexpected.  Of course, an urban farmer’s first concern with snow is always the welfare of the farm critters.  Ours were fine this morning, but we do have some cold temperatures coming, so I’ll have to make sure the water bowls stay free of ice for the next few days.

RACCOONS

Hey, I can’t get mad at raccoons. They’re animals too, and they’re just doing what they do naturally, which is look for food as the weather turns nasty and winter settles in.  They got a good meal from our three chickens last week, but that will be quite enough of my generosity.  There were three in our yard last night and I greeted them warmly with my BB gun and some colorful phrases.

QUAIL

We butchered eighteen of them last week.  Actually Bev did, but I’ve done it before and I can say, without hesitation, it’s not enjoyable.  Anyway, eighteen butchered, and fourteen scheduled to be purchased this week, so we are getting our numbers down to a manageable level as winter arrives.  We’ll probably sell off twenty more and then when February arrives we’ll hatch some eggs and build the flock back up in time for egg-laying season in April.

WORMS

Several of you have asked me about this worm-raising venture, so let me give you the highlights on how easy it is.  Mind you, right now we are just starting out, but the way worms grow in number, we should have quite a few of them in two months.  After I get comfortable doing this I’ll turn my attention to raising meal worms as well as the red wigglers.  All of them can be sold, and the red worm tea and worm castings are easily sold to gardeners.

So, how to raise red wigglers?

Follow this link to the WSU Extension and they can tell you just how easy it is.

If you’re looking for a great natural fertilizer, look no further than worm tea or worm castings. Great stuff, right up there with rabbit pellets.

COLD WEATHER

Sheez, how about 19 degrees last night?  Here’s the thing about having critters during the winter: they rely on you, the owner, to provide for them.  Water freezes at 19 degrees.  I know, right? Shocker alert!  So that means hopping out of bed in the morning and braving those temperatures to get your animals some water that isn’t frozen solid.  That’s what I did this morning, and it was cold as hell, and the animals loved me for it.

Sure I could buy those heating pads that keep water from freezing over the winter, but I’m of the opinion that those pads are for wimps and hey, Daddy didn’t raise no wimp.  J

Bottom line message to you all: take care of your animals in the cold weather.  Make sure their water is not frozen, and spread some hay in their enclosure so they can burrow down into it and stay warmer.

THAT’S ALL FOR NOW

I’ve got things to do in preparation of today’s snow, so I have to go. Have a great weekend and I’ll catch you down the road of life.

Bill

Dealing with Winter on the Urban Farm

winter in my little slice of heaven 017As November comes into view in the rear mirror, it’s time to turn our attention to December.

Welcome back to our farm!

I was reading a blog post and watching a video from The Elliott Homestead yesterday.  Fascinating!  Not only fascinating but very, very well done.  Seriously well-done.  The Elliotts are a young couple who are doing it right on their homestead/farm in Eastern Washington. Now that doesn’t mean they haven’t made mistakes, and it doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes in the future.  Anyone who has tried homesteading or urban farming will tell you that mistakes are just part of the game we play.  Still, the Elliotts are devoted to the homesteading lifestyle, and they beautifully embody the spirit of the movement.

Check them out!

AND WHILE CHECKING THINGS OUT . . .

Check out The Farmstead here in Olympia. This is a personal plug of sorts, because The Farmstead is run by our son, Matt, and his wife, Rachel, a goat farm of sorts where cheeses and yogurts are made, and pigs roam, and peacocks strut, and it is, once again, a great example of the “natural movement” so prevalent in this part of the country.

BACK TO OUR URBAN FARM

Rain!

That sums up our greatest obstacle/adversary this year.

Rain!

We had the rainiest October on record.  November was no dry walk in the park either. Thanksgiving Day was absolutely miserable, and the animals kept looking at me like I had control over it all, which I assure you, I did not.

Did I mention it was miserable weather?  LOL

But we move on, and moving on means preparing for the spring.

ONE WORD OF CLARIFICATION ABOUT OLYMPIA AND RAIN

Contrary to public opinion, Olympia really does not get as much rain as most people think.  Many cities on the East Coast get more annual rainfall than Olympia.  We perpetuate the myth about rainfall to keep people from California and Arizona from moving here permanently.

What gardeners and urban farmers need to be aware of, however, is the fact that, on average, Olympia only gets 85 days of sunshine each year.  Yes, I said 85 days.  The other 280 days are cloudy, so one has to be aware of that when choosing which vegetables, berries, and fruit trees to plant.

Just keep it in mind.  It’s not so much that we are waterlogged; a more accurate statement is that we’re sun-deprived here in Olympia.  Well, maybe this Fall we are waterlogged, but not usually.town_429

WORMS

I’m all ready to dive into worm-raising.  All I have to do is buy my first pound of red wigglers and my first thousand mealworms and then sit back and let them do their thing, and their thing should include great worm tea and even greater worm castings, both of which mean wonderful fertilizer for the garden next year and hopefully some supplemental income at Farmer’s Markets.  It also means a continual supply of treats for the chickens, and I can assure you they will be very happy about that treat.

Crossing my fingers!

Have you given any thought to raising worms?

It’s pretty darned simple.

You can raise about 100 of them in a 15-gallon plastic tote. There are only a few basic things to remember when preparing the worm home:  plenty of holes for air-circulation, moist bedding, and a constant supply of food scraps and other organic matter for them to eat.  Put some sort of mesh over the holes you drill so they won’t escape, and keep them in a cool, dark place.  That’s really all there is to is.  I’ll be raising ours in the garage for the constant temperature environment, and hopefully, in another month or two at the most, I’ll have a success story to share with you.

About fifteen minutes of care per week is all it takes!

If you are interested, take a look at this video.

QUAIL UPDATE

We’ve been selling off our flock for the winter.  We are down to about fifty now with another thirty to sell.  Then we’ll buy new fertilized eggs in February, incubate them, and have layers by April when the quail start laying eggs again, just in time for the Farmer’s Market.

And it all begins again!

In the meantime, the operative phrase here is “stay dry.”

CHICKENS

Tough night last night.  Bev and I both forgot to lock one of the chicken coops, and we were awakened by my son at 1:30, him telling us that three raccoons were currently wreaking havoc in the backyard. Sure enough, we lost three chickens from the one coop.  We did manage to find the other two from that coop, hiding off in the far corner of the yard.

Lesson learned the hard way.  ‘Tis the season for hungry predators. The nights are colder, and they are looking for a food source, and because of a lapse in memory, three of our flock are now dead.town_142

A day earlier we saw a coyote on our block, broad daylight, middle of the afternoon, he was just trotting down the sidewalk seemingly without a care in the world.

Anyway, a word to the wise: Be extra vigilant.

SICK RABBIT

One of the newest babies (from a litter of five) is sick and lethargic.  She is currently sitting on my lap as I type this.  Another word to the wise, anyone thinking of raising animals:  your heart will be broken on occasion.

RATS

Now there’s a hated word if there ever was one.

I don’t know a farmer who doesn’t have trouble with rats.  If you feed your farm animals outside then rats will appear.  It is inevitable, and it is annoying at best.  Feeding animals is expensive enough without feeding an army of rats too.

I tried being reasonable with them.  I tried capturing them in a humane way, but that didn’t work.  Now I’ve simply declared war on them.  I don’t like poisons but there really are very few options left, so the poison went out last week, cleverly disguised in some “out-of-date” meat we had.  It took a few days but the rat population is now under control . . . for now.

THANKS

I’ll talk to you again before Christmas.  Thanks for taking the time to visit us.

Bill