Life is Popping Out All Over

chickens-41713-006My goodness it’s loud in this garage!

Forty-three healthy, hungry, active chicks tend to make a considerable amount of noise.

The sounds of life . . . I love it!

Add to that sound the sound of 150 quail chicks.

Let me tell ya, it’s noisy as hell in here.

And the worms . . . let me tell you about the worms!

WORM TEA

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I just need to do it again because, quite frankly, I don’t know why any gardener would bypass this opportunity.

I just made my first batch of worm tea yesterday.  The whole process consisted of emptying out the bottom of the tote into a jar. Total elapsed time, five minutes.  I now have a quart of the best natural fertilizer known to man . . . maybe that’s an exaggeration, but not by much.

The point is, I don’t do any work with these worms.  I toss in vegetable scraps after our meals, water the whole colony a couple times each week, and then sit back and let the little squigglies do their thing.

And they have already doubled, so I have enough to start selling, or I can simply start a new colony and gather up more worm tea and worm castings.

It’s all good, and the whole process takes up the space of a plastic tote.

THANKS TO A FRIEND

A friend of ours, Ian, came over and gave us some tips on pruning our berries, grapes, and fruit trees.  Ian works with Bev down at the farm & garden center, and the guy is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge about gardening.  Anyway, he helped us out, we followed his suggestions, and now we are ready for a new growing season. Thanks, Ian!

It’s nice to have friends in high places!

UPDATE . . . three new quail babies while I wrote this much…they are a day early…such is nature!town_843

RABBIT TEA

I was feeling energetic yesterday so I also made up a batch of rabbit tea.  A couple shovels of rabbit poop in a bucket…add water…allow to steep overnight…five gallons of liquid fertilizer is the result.

NEWS FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN REGION

Evidently severe weather in Italy, Spain, and Greece has done damage to the olive crop, and that means that prices will skyrocket for olive oil about six months down the road.

I mention that only because, if you are like me and you believe in global warming, I think we are going to see quite a few stories like this one, and we will see quite a few more prices skyrocket among vegetables and fruits.

Which is one more reason to get involved with urban farming and big-time gardening.

SEATTLE

I mentioned this on Facebook but it’s worth mentioning here a well.  The city of Seattle is about to become the first major city in the United States with an edible forest in the downtown area.  Citizens will be able to walk along trails and eat nuts, berries, and fruit from the trees and bushes.

I don’t know how you feel about it, but I think this is a wonderful idea and I just wish more cities would get onboard and do something like that…it not only helps the homeless but it also moves a city that much closer to sustainability, and sustainability is something every community should be striving for.

Honestly, I don’t have much faith in the Federal Government.  I think if we’re waiting for the boys and girls in D.C. to take care of our needs, we are in a world of hurt.  What we need is more community involvement, and programs like this edible forest are the kinds of things that any town or city can do.  It just takes a devoted advocate willing to get the ball rolling.

Perhaps you are such an advocate?

AND SPEAKING OF BEING AN ADVOCATE

town_912Does your town have a farmers market? How about a community garden?  If not, how about you taking the reins of that horse and going for a ride?  Most times, things like a farmers market or a community garden don’t exist simply because someone hasn’t taken the time to get them started.  Are you an organizer?  Are you a coordinator?  Can you take a bunch of diverse people and bring them together for a common goal?  If so, what’s holding you back?  I’m full of ideas and suggestions if you are interested in starting either of these projects.

HOW’S YOUR SOIL?

That’s not too personal a question, is it?

If you haven’t amended your soil yet then you really need to get out there and do so. Good soil means good crops.  Bad soil means meals at McDonalds.  The truth according to Bill.random backyard pics 002

Compost . . . mulch . . . rabbit poop . . . that’s all you need.

Get busy!

GOTTA GO, MORE BABIES POPPING OUT

Sorry to cut this short but babies could care less about blogging.

I’ve got work to do!

And I didn’t even mention the Urban Farming coloring book I’m almost finished with.  Wouldn’t it be amusing and rather ironic if the coloring book far outsold my five novels?

Bill

Advertisements

Raising Mealworms for Hungry Chicks

chickens-41713-006GREETINGS FROM SNOWBOUND OLYMPIA

We don’t get snow often here in Olympia. We may be pretty far north on the globe, but the Pacific Ocean keeps our temperatures pretty moderate, so six inches of the white stuff is pretty unusual.

But life continues on an urban farm, snow or no snow, and there is a whole new set of problems associated with the snow on an urban farm.

Three times last night I went out and brushed the snow off the top of the aviaries where the quail are living.  It was either do that or suffer the consequences of a collapsed roof.

I also had to go out and make sure the water didn’t freeze up, and I shoveled a path for the chickens so they had a little pecking area outside their coop.  I don’t think the animals care, one way or another, whether it snows.  All they care about is having water and food, and that is my job.chickens-41713-014

WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE?

Forty-three chicks are now chirping up a storm in the garage.  Not one died in the first three days, so we did something right.

Three incubators are running properly, so the 160 quail eggs are progressing nicely.  In five days I’ll remove the eggs from the automatic egg-turner, and three days after that we’ll have a whole bunch of quail chicks.

The chickens will move outdoors in a month . . . the quail in two months.

And then it will be time for the farmers’ markets.

And so it goes!

MEALWORMS

If you raise chickens you really need to raise mealworms.  Mealworms are like caviar for chickens, and raising them couldn’t be easier.

Get yourself a plastic tote with a lid.  A ten-gallon tote is good enough to start with.  Cut a decent-sized hole in the lid and glue a fine screen over the hole for air-circulation.

Now put about three inches of wheat bran in the bottom of the tote.  You can use oatmeal, or cornmeal, or sawdust in the bottom instead, but I’m a big believer in wheat bran since the natural food of mealworms is wheat.

Next, buy 1,000 mealworms (you can find them on ebay or Craigslist) and dump them in the tote.  Slice off two or three slices of potato and put that in the tote for moisture.

And that’s all there is to it!

The mealworms will breed, and eventually larva will appear, then beetles, and then the cycle starts again, and your 1,000 becomes 2,000 in about a month, and on and on you go, a constant supply of treats for your chickens.

We keep our mealworms in the garage.  They don’t like cold temps, so a temperature of 60 degrees or higher is ideal…the warmer it is, the faster they will breed.  And don’t worry about the beetles escaping. They can’t climb up those smooth plastic sides . . . chickens also love eating beetles, by the way.

You can go to Youtube, of course, and you’ll find an endless supply of videos on how to raise mealworms, some different from my way, but my way works for me so there you go!

SO THAT’S ALL FOR NOW

It’s a busy time and I need to get moving.  Spring is coming!  I promise, it really is, so now is the time to prepare your garden tools and get them ready for the work ahead.  If you want to get a jumpstart on the growing season, build yourself a cloche or cold box and start planting seeds.

The chickens are calling me for their food. Gotta run!

Later, my friends!

Bill

Kicking It In Gear in February

HAPPY FEBRUARY TO YOU ALL

Totally illogical, but when February gets here, I feel like spring has arrived.

So I’m smiling as I type this.

Happy Spring to you all!

A little self-deception can do wonders for the winter blues.  LOL

BUSY TIMES HERE

Bev got the job she wanted, Director of the Tumwater Farmers Market.  This is a great job for her, right in her wheelhouse, doing something she loves doing, making contacts in the urban farming community, and spreading the word about the advantages of urban farming.  She is seriously pumped, and I am seriously happy for her.  Of course I’ll be helping her, doing the blogging for her, helping her with pamphlets and brochures, spreading the word about this movement we both believe in.

So congratulations, Bev!

CHICKS TO PULLETS

We struck up a deal with the Eastside Urban Farm & Garden Center here in Olympia.  We are buying forty chicks (at $3 each) and raising them until they are pullets (about four months old), and then we will sell them to customers for about $25 each.  That adds up to a tidy little profit.

I built a brooder in the garage where we will raise the chicks for the first month. After that we’ll move them out into one of the aviaries in the backyard for a month, and then out to our son’s farm for the final two months until we sell them.

RAISING MEALWORMS

Having all those chickens means feeding them, of course, and I’m all for cutting down on that expense, so I’m raising mealworms.  Very easy to do, for those of you willing to try something new.  Get yourself a ten-gallon plastic container and fill the bottom with three inches of wheat bran.  Order 1000 mealworms and put them into the container.  Add a couple potato slices for moisture, and then leave them alone.

Make sure you cut a hole in the lid of the container for fresh air, and cover that hole with some sort of mesh or screen.  It takes about a month for the mealworms to breed, lay eggs, go through the larva stage, and give birth to new mealworms.  Then they turn into beetles.  You then have a constant supply of mealworms and beetles for your chickens to eat.

It’s so easy even I can do it.

PRUNING

Bev was energetic a couple weeks ago, and went outside and did some pruning/trimming. She then put the pruned limbs on our brush pile in the backyard.

Yes, we have a brush pile in our backyard, and we have no intention of hauling it away to the dump.

Brush piles make great habitats for little critters and birds, and we are all about providing natural habitats for the critters and birds.  As an added bonus, our chickens like to hang out near the pile, where they are constantly treated to worms and bugs.

It’s a win-win situation for all concerned, except, of course, for the worms and bugs. J

TIME TO GET BACK TO WORK

Have a great week and enjoy the springtime in February!

Bill

The Chickens Are Coming!

It’s January 16th as I write this.  8:54 a.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. (a little slow getting this posted)

I’ve already been outside getting fresh water to the critters and feeding them.  The current cold snap is coming to an end today.  Major rains are arriving tomorrow and already they are talking about potential flooding problems in the lowlands.

And life goes on!

All I know is THE CHICKENS ARE COMING! roosters-6313-001

Baby chicks go on sale February 3rd where Bev works at the Urban Farm & Garden Center, and we’re buying forty of them….then we’ll raise them for a couple months and sell them, hopefully, for a decent profit. Forty of them…in our garage…preparations must be made.

But you don’t really care about that, especially if you’ve never raised chickens.

But maybe you’re interested in raising them for the first time…what do you need to know in order for you to have fresh eggs for breakfast?

HOW LONG TO LAY

A chicken, on average, will start laying eggs at about six months.  I said on average. We have one who took eight months.  We have an over-achiever who started plopping them out at five months…but plan on six.

That means the chicks we get on February 3rd will start laying maybe in August.  We’ll probably sell them around June but still, if we wanted eggs, we’d be waiting until August.

WHAT WILL THEY NEED?

Well, they’ll need a brooder for a couple months. For us that means an enclosed area inside with a heat lamp where the chicks can grow up safe and warm.  Come about March we’ll put them outside in an enclosed place that has a well-ventilated and protected coop of some sort. There they will be able to search for bugs and enjoy a larger living space.

WHAT DO WE FEED THEM?

Well, we feed them organic pellets when they are older and when they are young we feed them organic pellets ground down into almost a powder.  Chickens also love worms, which I’m raising, and grubs, and once they get outside they love to search for their own delicacies.  When they get old enough we’ll turn them loose in the yard so they have more food choices and, no worries, at night they will return to their protected home.  Chickens are a lot smarter than you would think, or maybe they are just instinctual and I’m giving them way too much credit.  LOL

AND THAT’S REALLY ALL THERE IS TO IT

I’ve written articles before about how to build a coop, so no need to go into that now.  This is just a primer for those curious…and no, you do not need a rooster to get eggs.  Females lay eggs just like female women do, daily, with or without the aid of a male. J

MEALWORMS

Speaking of chickens, our mealworms are coming this Friday.  One-thousand of them.  I need to make their enclosure as well so we can start raising them. Great food for chickens, by the way.

QUAIL

The quail eggs are arriving next week as well.  I need to get the incubators ready for them….17 days to hatch…seven weeks after that they start laying eggs.

Busy times here!

GOTTA GO

It’s a busy time around here so that’s all I’ve got for you today.  If you have any specific questions about raising chickens, or quail, ask me in the comment section.

Have a great winter day!

Bill

Killing Time in a Deep Freeze

town_935Happy 2017 to you all, and thanks for coming back to our little urban farm.

We don’t do much gift-giving around our home.  A partial reason is because we are frugal, but another reason is because we figure we have everything we need to be happy, so why clutter things up with more “stuff” that we really don’t need?

Having said that, Bev and I did get one gift each, and my new gift was a jig saw.

And this boy is excited!

It’s pretty funny, really, because growing up I couldn’t care less about power tools.  They intimidated me, to tell the truth, but I also had baseball to occupy my time, and everyone knows baseball is more important than cutting pieces of wood, right?

But now I love them!  I love my circular saw, and my power drill, and my reciprocating saw, and now I love my jig saw, and my head is swimming with ideas, what I want to make, how I want to use it to finish projects around the place . . . it’s the perfect toy for this aging boy!

WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE?

Well, for one thing, it’s cold.  No, not cold by North Dakota standards, but for us pampered Northwesterners, it’s still cold.  I have no desire to be outside, but that doesn’t mean I have nothing to do.  I’m working, this week, on organizing the garage, making room for the quail incubation process, which will begin in another month.  I’m building shelves and I’m going to build a workbench so I have a place inside to play with my new jig saw.  A boy and his toys, right?  Anyway, I’m doing the indoor chores now so that when it warms up I can take my act outside where more work is waiting for me.

There’s always something to do, and it beats watching reruns of Alaska Bush People.winter-in-my-little-slice-of-heaven-017

TAKING CARE OF THE CRITTERS

No matter how much I try to avoid it, I do have to go outside.  Every morning at six I’m outside giving fresh, unfrozen water to our critters.  For whatever reason, they balk at drinking solid ice. Silly animals!

We’ve cut our quail flock down to a dozen, and we’ll use them in the spring for breeding.  Along with those dozen we’ll incubate about 100 new quail, and after six weeks or so we’ll introduce them to the existing dozen, and then we start collecting eggs.

CHICKENS AND EGGS

For whatever reason, one of our new hens is suddenly laying eggs.  She’s the only one of our eight that’s laying, and I have no explanation for it other than the fact that chickens are unpredictable regarding laying habits.  If you have chickens I’m sure you’ve found that to be true.

When will the rest of them start laying? Your guess is as good as mine, but probably sometime in March.

I don’t know if I mentioned it, but we lost three chickens a couple weeks ago to raccoons.  It was our fault completely.  I wasn’t quick enough to get out there and lock up their coop.  The weather was cold, and when the weather is cold the raccoons get an early start on their nighttime hunting.  By the time I realized I had forgotten, we had three dead chickens.

Lesson learned. A painful lesson but a lesson learned.

FARMERS MARKETS

Our local markets start up again in March and April, and we’re already getting ready for them.  I’ll be working the next couple months on making some new items to sell along with our quail eggs and the goat cheese made by our son-in-law.

And Bev is waiting for her interview for a job she applied for….director of the Tumwater Farmer’s Market…exciting times if she gets that job….so cross your fingers and wish good thoughts for her.

SPEAKING OF COLD WEATHER

While we’re on that topic, there’s a great article by Mother Earth News about keeping water from freezing outside for your animals. I’m going to try it this week.  Check it out.

THAT’S IT FROM OLYMPIA

Stay warm, be safe, and have a fantastic week!

Bill

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

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

 

Urban Farming in November

town_142HAPPY, WET NOVEMBER

Okay, enough is enough!

I’m speaking to the weather gods.

We had the wettest October in recorded history and, quite frankly, it wasn’t even close. We shattered the record for rain, and we’re talking about Olympia, Washington, a place that is quite familiar with rain.  In fact, it was the tenth wettest month of all-time here and my goodness, take it from me, I’ve seen some wet months in these parts.

And then, just for a tease effect, we broke the record for the warmest October 29th on record, with a beautiful 67 degrees seemingly coming out of nowhere.

So I, for one, am happy that November is here.  Not that we aren’t fully capable of having another rainy month from hell in November, because we are, but because November puts us one month closer to spring.

Hope “springs” eternal!

UPDATE ON OUR URBAN FARM

Well, nothing has floated away yet, so that’s good news.

I got the garlic planted just in time, and it has already sprouted and is poking up above the hay mulch, so that’s good.  We are going to have a whole lot of garlic this spring.

All of the critters are still alive, so that’s also good.  The chickens are not real fond of all this rain but hey, they can just stand in line to complain. Their coop is dry and well-ventilated, so that’s about all they can hope for until April.  Our new baby chicks are no longer babies, and this weekend I’ll finish with their coop. Then they and their substitute brooder momma can move into their new home for the winter.

BUTCHER DAY

I may have mentioned (or I may not have) that our son and his wife had an open house on their goat farm last week. They sold eggs, goat meat, and goat cheese, and it was quite successful. We also took part in the open house, using it as an opportunity to butcher some of our excess among the quail flock.  Bev went out one Saturday and butchered twenty quail, and they all sold during the open house, so financially that was a very nice windfall.  And it was necessary. We had too many quail for the winter and cutting down the flock will make it better for the quail that we kept.town_642

We also have an order for twenty quail for a Harvest Festival Dinner being held in November by our local Farm & Garden Center, so we’ll be delivering those quail in the next couple weeks, and now it’s a week later and the order was cancelled. Such is life.

WHAT TO DO?

There are just a few odds and ends remaining to be done and then we’ll be ready for the winter.  I need to plant some mushroom plugs this weekend, and I need to mend a fence.  The hoses need to be put away and the faucets wrapped.  We will continue making compost and Bev ordered five cubic yards of leaves from the City, and when those are delivered we’ll spread them as mulch.

And that’s really all that’s left to do before the really nasty weather arrives.

CHICKS

I guess we’re going to be raising chicks for the Urban Farm & Garden Center. Bev came home and said her boss is looking for someone to raise the chicks until they are old enough to sell, and they don’t have a suitable place to do that at the Center…so that means we’ll get paid for doing what we love to do, and that’s a win-win in my book.  We do it all summer with quail so what the heck, right?  Might as well turn those heat lamps on in the winter and make some extra cash.

OUR NEXT PROJECT

File this under “when we get around to it.”  We plan on starting to grow indoor plants as well as herbs in our not-yet-finished greenhouse.  We are thinking of selling herbs and indoor plants next spring and summer at the Farmers’ Markets we attend, so we’ll be working on those this winter.  It’s something new for us, so we are gathering information right now and then we’ll get started on it.

And I’ll be ordering some red worms soon and raise them in the garage this winter.

So that’s it from our little urban farm in Olympia, Washington. Thanks for visiting!

And oh, by the way, it’s still raining!

Bill

October on the Farm

town_683IS IT REALLY OCTOBER?

I swear to the gods, there has to be a cosmic joke going on.  It can’t possibly be October already.  I need to make a deal with the devil and slow up the passage of time.

Kidding about the devil, of course!

It’s been awhile since I wrote on this blog.  My fault and nobody else’s.  I’m so busy trying to finish a novel, and keep my writing blog going strong, that I simply let this blog sink slowly under the weight of disinterest.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

SO, WHAT DOES OCTOBER MEAN ON AN URBAN FARM?

There is no end to the work on an urban farm, or for that matter, for any gardener.

I just finished planting the garlic and spreading mulch over it, and just in time I might add, because I had no sooner planted it and we had our first frost of the year.  For once I timed something correctly.town_642

I still have to clean the garden tools and put them away for the winter. The quail enclosures seem to be critter-proof, so no work necessary there, but I do need to put up some plastic on the south side of one of them to block off the majority of wind and rain coming soon.  The remnants of some tropical typhoon are approaching, so I think my work tomorrow is already decided.

The quail are all fine.  We are thinning out our flock for the winter.  They don’t lay eggs over the winter, so there is no economic sense in feeding so many birds for the next five months.  We’ll butcher off about twenty of them and sell them to people who like game birds for meat, and sell some others to people who like to ground them up for dog or cat food.  Not a particularly lovely thing to write about, but it is the reality of raising so many birds.  Then next spring we’ll buy about six dozen fertilized eggs and we’ll incubate them….and in seventeen days we’ll have a new flock for the spring and summer.

CHICKENS

Bev has fantasized about having a brooding chicken which will raise chicks and by golly she found one.  A friend had a brooder, so we got four new chicks and put them in with the hen and she has turned out to be the perfect mother.  For the past two weeks she has taken care of those chicks like they were her own, and Bev is beaming like a new mother.

The chickens will be fine this winter.  They are hardy birds, and as long as they have a waterproof coop that has a little ventilation, they perfectly adapt to winter weather. They have already molted and have their new feathers, so bring on the rain, wind, and snow.  Our ladies are ready for it.town_142

By the way, we choose not to provide artificial light for our chickens, so they don’t lay eggs over the winter and have, in fact, stopped laying eggs for the year. That’s a choice any chicken farmer has to make…provide artificial sunlight and have them lay the entire year, which also shortens their laying-lives, or give them the winter off and prolong their lives.  We choose the latter.

ODDS AND ENDS

I still have to spread more mulch around the berries and grapes, and I have to plant a cover crop over the garden to add nutrients to the soil before spring, so that will happen this weekend.  The leaves are falling at a pretty good clip now, so I’ll probably just gather up leaves from around the neighborhood and use those for the mulch.

And that’s about it.  Bev works part-time at the local nursery/urban farm supply center, so she comes home with new ideas constantly, and we get a 20% discount on everything there, so that’s a win-win in anyone’s book.

AND THAT’S IT

So, how are things on your farm/garden?  Any tips you’d like to share? Thoughts?

Enjoy October, my friend.  The changing leaves, the brisk mornings, it all means slumber for the earth, the precursor to new birth in the spring.

And the wheel goes round and round…..

Bill