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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Potatoes, strawberries and sunflowers

Tonight when I returned from my off farm job, I watered the remaining plants in the greenhouse and planted potatoes.  Aged compost is mixed with some good soil and about a pound of seed potatoes to the bottom tire.  As the plants emerge, dirt will be added until the top tire is filled.  This year, there are enough left over tires (my cousin and I both replaced our rigs this year and the old tires don't fit the new-to-us cars) that I might try a third level.  Last year the yield was a little better than 25 lbs from one set of two stacked tires.  I don't know that I can double it, but even another 25% would be awesome.  There remains another couple pounds of potatoes meant for Zeb that sprouted before he got them; back to the barn tomorrow night for another set of radials.

The greenhouse is looking pretty barren as transplants move from the shelves to the soil.  Some of the last plants to leave are the flowers.  Many are already in; but even though these leggy, sad looking transplants are the last into the ground, they will grow into eight to ten foot tall sunflowers.  I will pick the best looking one and cover it with some pantyhose leftover from a corporate life I fondly remember, but no longer participate in.  There is a beetle which bores into the seed leaving good size holes and killing the seed.  Last year they left me with less than 20 good seeds and only four of them germinated.  It would be nice to have some seeds for snacking and salads but right now I grow them because I like them and to attract the wild birds.

Next to the sunflowers is the freshly weeded strawberry patch, one that is far too small for all the strawberries that Little man consumes in two weeks, let alone a season.  My objective this year is to get a yield, no matter how small.  If I am successful in keeping the moles, chipmunks, squirrels, birds and bugs away from the berries, without the use of pesticides, then I will expand the patch.  The strawberries will be harvested long before the sunflowers ripen, so those birds shouldn't be an issue.  My first patch of berries was planted where there was entirely too much weed pressure.  I spent at least an hour a week weeding that patch (weeding doesn't make you money, although it is a good stress reliever) and it was still a losing battle.  When there were finally berries on the vine, we would get two and the rest would go to the critters.  Eventually there will be enough berries grown on this farm to fill all the pies for farmers market and fill Little man's quota.  Maybe I should start clearing another couple of acres...

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Moving chickens

It still never ceases to amaze me how fast time flies around here.  It seems like only last month when I was starting seeds and bringing the first batch of baby chickens from the incubator out to the brooder box.

The third batch of birds has gone through the incubator and the brooder and are now out on the lawn in their chicken tractors.  A few pullets were sold so there are only 47 new birds in various stages which will replace our aging flock.  At least three are roosters and will find their way into the freezer when they are old enough.  I will keep at least one of the older, un-related roosters and one from the birds purchased from the feed store.  That should bring some fresh blood into the flock and allow for a healthier batch next Spring.

The current flock stands at 36, four of which are roosters.  We are getting about a dozen eggs per day, leaving me with at least 20 free loaders.  Now that the brooder box is empty, the process of paring down the active layers from the older girls will begin anew.  They will get three days of isolation.  If they lay an egg on any of those three days, then they get to stay.  If not, then they will go into the freezer for chicken and biscuits or chicken soup.  While this sounds a little harsh, the feed to keep a bird who is not laying, can get pretty expensive.

For now, they wander about, picking bugs out of the tall grass; occasionally getting into the garden or the raised beds where they are promptly chased away by Little man.  They appear to be jealous of the little ones in the chicken tractors.  Apparently the feed inside the tractor must be very different from that which is inside their coop - even though it came from the same feed bag.