The Garden

Posted on: March 29th, 2013 by
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I’ve planned a garden every spring since I moved to Texas. Each time, something or other got in the way. The biggest reason was we were planning on moving soon. The ‘soon’ was never really defined, and in the end, we never did move.
This spring, we’re in the same situation. I’m not letting it stop me this time. The garden is going in. Period. I have a whole bundle of heirloom seeds that I want to plant, and old seeds don’t germinate well. I need to plant this garden if only to keep my seed stock young.
We borrowed a tiller from a friend, but we can’t get it started. It seems even our friend could not get it started, and this fact had not been relayed to me when I tried to use it. I spent half an hour fiddling with the dern thing before I gave up. Farm Husband tried his best too, only to fail, and then tell me that our friend wasn’t able to start it either. So we had to do this by hand, which immediately shrank my garden by half.
Farm Husband had been using a pickaxe to break up the dirt and grass, if you can call what we grow here grass. It forms a kind of viney mat that’s tough to dig through. Farm Girl needed some chores to do, so she was elected weed puller. Once we got a space open I got out the nifty little cultivater tool I had, and Farm Husband was rather put out I hadn’t told him we had it before. It seems it worked much better at breaking up the grass mat than the pickaxe, and wore him out less. I wish I had thought about it sooner, The whole area I was hoping to do would be dug up by now!
Today I mulched a portion of what we had dug up
Tomorrow I cultivate it again, and then plant.
Next week we’ll go to the feed store and buy more mulch.
I’m so happy to finally get my garden in!

The eggs are doing as well as can be expected. I’m pretty sure at least one of my cream legbar eggs is not developing, I’m unsure of two, and one definitely has veining! The orpington/ameraucana eggs are too dark to see much through, but one of the two definitely is developing, and the olive eggs are too dark to see anything at all except the air cell at the end. I need a better candler.
The eggs are due to hatch next Sunday. I figure I’ll set up the web cam again when it’s time!

The chicks are coming along very well. I figure that when the new eggs hatch, the chicks will be ready to move outside. I’m setting up a PVC run for them and I’ll make a little enclosed roosting area for them to sleep in. It’s warm enough finally that I don’t have to worry about month old chicks dying of cold outside. They’ll stay in their run for another month until they get big enough to integrate with the current flock.
I’m fairly certain I have three roosters at least. Possibly four. We’ll see how they behave as they grow up before I decide who to capon. Caponizing is usually done at three months, they’re almost to one month and will be fully one month when the eggs hatch. I hope I do well! I wish I had a proper rib spreader, but I’ll make do with what I have. Such is the motto of the prospective homesteader.

Eggs and Chicks

Posted on: March 23rd, 2013 by
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Mods to the 'bator

Mods to the ‘bator

I finally modified my incubator and set my new eggs. I removed the old wooden lid and replaced it with plexiglass. I haven’t put the hinges on yet, the plexiglass is just sitting on top of the incubator. It’s actually rather convenient that way. I can just slide the plastic back as far as I need to without having to lift the whole lid off. It conserves the heat much better.

The new knob.  Sure, it looks like a stick...but it's so much more! Ok, it's just a stick.

The new knob. Sure, it looks like a stick…but it’s so much more! Ok, it’s just a stick.

I also added an extension to the thermostat control knob. To adjust the temperature I used to have to open the lid, detach the thermostat from it’s plastic housing and dodge hot light bulbs simply to nudge the temperature up or down a little. All the heat would escape and I would have to wait quite a while for the temperature to get steady again to know weather I needed to adjust the temperature further, and repeat the process again. I had originally planned on having this knob extension the first go-round, but super glue does a poor job of attaching plastic to wood, and the knob would not stay in place. This time, I took no prisoners, and went straight for the plumbers putty and epoxied that sucker into place. Works great! Now I can make those micro adjustments from the outside!

With the adjustments I made, the incubator has been holding a steady temperature much better than it did before. I still need to put legs on it so that I can put them in saucers of boric acid so the ants can’t get in during the hatch.
Ants weren’t a huge issue last time, but they were annoying.

I’ve also got the eggs laying on their sides for this hatch.

At it again!

At it again!

Last time, the eggs had been so shaken up from shipping that the air cells were badly shaped and had to be incubated in an upright position. This time the damage wasn’t so great, and I can put them in a much more natural position. The chicks will hatch faster and have an easier time getting out. I have a feeling I’d have three more live chicks from the first hatch if I’d been able to lay the eggs on their sides.

The chicks are doing well. They’ve taken to the fermented feed very well. They hoover that stuff down as soon as I put it in the brooder! I’ve had to start limiting their intake and feeding twice a day instead of free feeding all day! They gorge themselves on the fermented feed!

Do they like it? I'm going to have to say yes.

Do they like it? I’m going to have to say yes.

They did start flipping their water dish today. I had to change watering strategies. They now have a nipple waterer instead of a dish. I was worried they might not figure out how to work it, but I shouldn’t have worried. They like to peck at EVERYTHING, and they learned how to work the nipple very quickly.
I had a difficult time finding the right fitting here in town. I could buy what I wanted online for fairly cheap, but only by the dozen. I didn’t need 12 poultry waterers, so I had to search. I lucked out too. All of the nipples I found online (oh dear, that could be taken the wrong way) were plastic. In town I found solid brass ones! They’ll last much longer and be far more durable than plastic.
What I acutally bought was not a ‘poultry’ waterer, but a rabbit waterer. When I went to the feed store(s) looking for a poultry nipple waterer I got a lot of strange stares. The people at the chain store just kind of shrugged their shoulders, but the local folks listened to what I wanted and figured that a rabbit nipple waterer would work well. It’s twice as expensive as the plastic ones, but like I said, it’ll last forever!
I screwed that sucker into a soda bottle cap, siliconed it into place, screwed the cap onto a small bottle, poked a hole in the bottom (don’t forget that part, these things don’t work without an air hole), and voila, instant drip-free, can’t-flip-it-over-and-get-the-cardboard-wet-and-peck-your-way-to-freedom poultry waterer. (Yes, as a matter of fact I do speak from experience!)

The first chick approaches.  "What is this shiney thing?" it muses.  Peck Peck! OH! It's WATER!

The first chick approaches. “What is this shiney thing?” it muses. Peck Peck! OH! It’s WATER!

More of them wander over to see what the big deal is.

More of them wander over to see what the big deal is.

One at a time!!

One at a time!!

Maybe I shouldn't have worried they wouldn't figure it out and should have worried they'd trample each other in excitement over the new toy

Maybe I shouldn’t have worried they wouldn’t figure it out and should have worried they’d trample each other in excitement over the new toy

Where have you been Texas Farm Wife?

Posted on: March 14th, 2013 by
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You post and go!  No no, I’ve been a busy busy bee.  Although, not as busy as I’d like.

I took Tuesday, Wednesday and Thurdsay off from work to hatch some egg!  So far I’ve got six little fuzzballs in the brooder, and one hatching in the incubator.  I’m actually rather suprised I dont’ have more.  I was shipped 12 eggs (got 15, one broke, set 14) and I recieved six local eggs.  Wednesday was day 21, and hatch day.  The little buggers started hatching on Tuesday! Early birds!

Today I have had only one chick hatch, and she needed some help.  I’ve had some difficulty getting the humidity up to the recommended 65% for hatch days.  The other chicks hatched so quickly there was no problem, but this little one was a slow hatcher, and the inner membrane of the egg dried out and glued her in.  She needed some help!  So I pulled her out and got the egg off of her, but her little naval isn’t healed properly.  She’s staying in the incubator until it heals up or she passes.

The rest of the fuzzy bunch are in the brooder now.  They’ve got wood shavings, water (with a glug of apple cider vineger ACV in it) and some chick starter crumbles.

I’ve heard many many good things about fermented feed, so I’m going to give that a try with these ones.   One of the major benefits, beyond increased health, is a lower feed bill.  It seems that when the feed is allowed to ferment a couple of days before you serve it up, it makes it easier for the nutrients to be absorbed by the chickens.  More nutrients absorbed = less feed eaten.  I’m going to give it a shot.  It can’t hurt, and it may just help.

Here’s some chickie pictures for your amusement.

Here's how I've got the incubator set up with a web cam.

Here’s how I’ve got the incubator set up with a web cam.

The first chick hatched!  I think he's a rooster.

The first chick hatched! I think he’s a rooster.

Buddies? Not really.  If they lay next to each other it makes it easier to peck at the other.

Buddies? Not really. If they lay next to each other it makes it easier to peck at the other.

Pip pip little guy!

Pip pip little guy!

Here's chick #3 sitting on chick #4 as she hatches.

Here’s chick #3 sitting on chick #4 as she hatches.

Here's the first four!

Here’s the first four!Here's the 6 so farHere’s the 6 so far!

Begin as you mean to go on

Posted on: March 7th, 2013 by

So, my first post on my new blog.  Huh, looks nice in here! I hope to chronicle my exploits in beginning a homestead on this blog.  I’m sure there will be heartbreak, there will be set backs, there will be success, there will be things that will be funny in 10 years.

So welcome to my new home.  Kick off your shoes and have yourself a nice big glass of tea.  I’ll have stories to share aplenty, and I’d like to share them, my triumphs and my disasters, with you.