We have been gearing up to process about 7 of our roosters next Saturday. I’m not too terribly fond of the word process; I realize that it’s probably less offensive than perhaps butchering, and definitely a lot better than saying killing. But, let’s face it, that’s what we’re going to be doing – killin’ chickens. This is where the “prayer” part of Wing and a Prayer comes in. We are both animal lovers, but we are also omnivores and if we’re going to be doing the full Permaculture lifestyle, a part of that is being self sufficient. We’re not raising these chickens simply as pets (we keep telling ourselves), but as part of our food supply. So here we go, praying that we make it through the whole adventure and come out with a great tasting product at the end. Continue reading
Projects keep happening here, so this is a quick update on a few things that are going on.
Hügelkulture – AKA “The Abyss”- Sue made huge strides this week in completing this project. She ordered yards and yards of mulch from the transfer station in Sierra Vista and had it delivered. The guys that delivered it also planted the bigger trees for us and moved the mulch around into the abyss and added the dirt etc. That saved us a great deal of work and they were done in two days with what probably would have taken us a week or so. The photo at left shows the progress that was made yesterday: the trees are placed and the mulch pile at the back is being distributed around the grounds. These other two photos are of the finished work from today. The guys covered our trees and and also mulched previously planted trees. It’s just so nice to have the trench filled in… now we’ll see how well the trees do as the mulch, manure, cardboard/paper, and wood breaks down over time. The way the trench was filled and the fact that it’s all on a downward slope should also help us with the watering, especially during the monsoon season. The yards will be looking so lovely, as long as we can keep the trees growing. Sue did make gopher proof planting baskets for the trees, so – hopefully – we won’t loose things to those little buggers. Continue reading
In California, everyone is always big into recycling… even Ramona has a really good recycling program, and a place where you can turn in your cans for $$ (took advantage of that often!)… but in Hereford, the town in which we now live, they disbanded their recycling program and we’ve turned to other options to take care of our plastics, cardboard and some other items that we’d normally recycle. Like Christmas Trees! Continue reading
In the last post, I briefly mentioned bioswales as a way for us to keep water on the property and, hopefully, help water our olive grove and “food forest” (see the illustration at right for a better idea of the swale concept as it is used in water harvesting). Some time ago, Sue had found a retired surveyor to come out and help her find the land contours to plot out the long swales and capture the most water utilizing the slope already available. Mr. Jaxel is the surveyor’s name (he’s done so much work around Hereford, they named a street after him!), and he became quite interested in what she was proposing. After the surveying was complete, he mentioned that he could help her when it came time to use the backhoe to dig out the swales. Well, Friday I came home and saw Mr. Jaxel and Sue out by the Dinky House garage, standing behind the tractor, tinkering. So, of course, I went to take a look at what was happening.
They were removing the mower deck from the tractor in preparation for attachment of the backhoe! Mr. Jaxel had some time and came to show Sue the ins and outs, ups and downs of doing this new phase in tractoring. The yellow apparatus at the bottom of the photo is the mower deck, now detached. I saw that this was going to be a complicated process, so I promptly left to make lunch. 🙂 When I came back, the tractor had moved to the swale area of the pasture and Sue was in the driver’s seat beginning to dig! Mr. Jaxel was keeping a close watch on the proceedings and admonished me to not get too close. Sue looked like she knew just what she was doing and when I shared that thought, Mr. Jaxel winked at me and said, “Don’t worry, she’ll get better.” As he took over for a minute, prior to re-positioning the tractor, I could see that he had spent many hours behind the controls of a backhoe. He made it look so simple. I was still very proud of Sue for what she was able to accomplish and, with practice (there will be many opportunities for practice), I know she’ll be a pro in no time. Then I can learn! It just looks so darn fun. So, John S. and Candace C.~ still want to come and learn some tractoring? We’ve got lots of earth to move! Actually, that invitation is open to any of our friends or family. We’d love to have you visit and see what we’re doing first hand, maybe take a turn on the backhoe… at the owner’s discretion. Until then, as always,
Thanks for reading!
Today’s weather: Very cloudy and extremely windy. It was 35° when we got up this morning and the high was supposedly 57°, but it never really felt like that. Currently (8:12 p.m.) it’s raining with some lightening and thunder. We’re supposed to have a chance of snow down to 6500′ (we’re at approx. 6800′). If it snows, I’ll post photos on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/WAAP2. Please “like” us if you haven’t already… we put different info and photos up there on a more regular basis.
Egg report: Two! We’re back to two one day, one the next. Since they’ve moved into the permanent coop, they’re having trouble deciding exactly the best place to lay, so we’re finding them here and there. Today’s were in a little hay nest behind the screen door. It’s a mini egg hunt each day!
When we first were looking at this property, even though we visited it a few times, I don’t think we really realized how drastic the weather was going to be. The temperatures do fluctuate some, but in general, it’s been pretty mild. What has really surprised us is the wind! (I think I’ve said that a couple of times in this blog.) We seem to be in a wind vortex here, and it can be rather severe. You see to the left what was left of our first Chicken Tractor that Sue made over the summer. This is what we used to house the littles when they were first big enough to be outside without a heat lamp. It’s not a light weight object… it took two of us to move it… but here you see where it landed 50 yards from where it was, INSIDE the chicken run. So, it was lifted off the ground, glanced across the top of my car (that could have been much worse), then lost some altitude and stopped this side of our fence. Whew! Our other little shade structure took flight during that same wind storm which happened before Christmas. So, wind is something we contend with each day.
To help us divert, or slow, the wind in the future~ we have begun planting trees for a wind break. We brought a few with us from California and I think some of those will go along our front fence where our drive way is, but the wind often comes from the south-east and right into our back porch. So, Sue ordered 12 Deodar Cedar seedlings which we’ve planted along that side of the property. Sue is researching trees, finding those that grow realtively quickly, are drought tolerant, are hardy for our zone, and slowly ordering a slew of them. We might be impending our view, but the wind is just so incredibly desiccating that we have to be able to manage it somehow.
Another weather issue that we’re working with are the torrential rains. This photo is from New Year’s Day. That is Sue, out in a downpour, directing rain runoff to the “pond” that we’re keeping for water catchment. The main thing we want to do with all the rain that comes our way, is to keep it on the property as long as possible. If we’re not capturing it in the cistern, or in the rain tank, we’re trying to keep it in Bioswales or, as in this photo, direct it to water catchment basins that we’re keeping or creating on the property. If it isn’t filling up tree wells or Bioswales, it’s at least being kept on the property to sink back into the aqua-fir; instead of running down the street into the gutters. Sue placed an 1800 gallon rainwater tank by the house, that is set up to capture half of the roof runoff and the patio cover runoff. We’ve had two good downpours since she did that and it is already full! We’re already talking about adding something to the other side of the house and carport that will capture that water to be used as irrigation during the dry periods. The runoff that Sue is working with above, is actually the overflow from the rainwater tank…I tried to capture that in the photo to the right. You can see the rain gutter going into the tank, and, in the middle of the photo you see the water just pouring out of the overflow valve. It was amazing how quickly it filled up!
The other issue we’re learning to work with, and watch out for, is SNOW! Well, and freezing night temperatures. Sometimes the temperature fluctuation from day to night is 30° or more. Christmas Eve night and Christmas morning, we had incredibly frigid temperatures from a weather system that dusted us with snow. Didn’t seem to bother the Biggies much, but the Littles would not come out of the coop. However, by mid day we were back up into the high 50’s, all the snow had melted from our property and things just continued to warm up throughout the week. We’ve taken to watching the weather quite closely so that we know when to cover the citrus trees, and the few winter veggies that I planted. So far they’ve all come through OK. We even have a few limes on the tree still, and some very small green lemons. We’ve continued to harvest the Kale, and are watching our Cabbage and Broccoli grow bigger and bigger (see today’s Facebook Post for photos); the Spinach took a breather, but held on through the coldest months and now I’m waiting for a growth spurt! One of the real champions this winter was the Coriander (Cilantro) plant; I’ve cut it several times and it just continues to put out new growth. The Basil also overwintered, but I’m not sure it’s going to be much by spring… we’ll see.
It’s all a learning process and something new happens each and every day. It is always interesting and often entertaining. We encourage any of you to make a trip and visit the area, there is so much to see and do here – we promise you’ll never get bored! Just think on it!
Until then, as always,
Thanks for reading.
Today’s temps: Low last night was 37°, but our high was 65°. Strong, strong winds today – had to put up all the outside dog beds so they wouldn’t blow away! Clouds came in during the afternoon. Over the next couple of days we’re supposed to cool down again and – perhaps – have some light rains on Saturday and Sunday.
Egg report: Only one little brown egg today. One little white egg yesterday. After I bragged that they were doing so well. Maybe the winds put them off. We’ll continue to keep track.
These are the chickens we refer to as “The Biggies”, even though they are actually smaller than those we refer to as “The Littles”. We’ve recently tried calling them the Big Littles and the Little Bigs, but that gets a mite confusing. Anyway~ the roster that you see to the left of the photo is Dodo (he started out as Dolores, but then he turned into a Rooster, so I changed his name); he guards the hens very carefully, warning them when something flying over looks predatory, and is quite solicitous with them in general. He keeps the other rooster, Ahmen – not pictured – from pestering them and us… he always calls his girls over when he finds a plump insect or some nice scratch. He’s a feisty little Bantam and we really like him. Back to the photo: it shows them enjoying a dirt bath together today in the late afternoon. They are so happy because yesterday they were shut in all day to get them used to their new digs. What am I talking about? Well, as the title suggests, introductions are in order, and what I am refering to is, the process of introducing the Biggies into the permanent chicken coop with the Littles. We have fixed up the smaller brooding section of the coop into a temporary home for the Biggies, so they can interact with the Littles with a chicken wire separation between. This way, in a week or so, when we orchestrate another night move and everyone wakes up together, they will already be somewhat familiar with each other. The shock won’t be so great! Already, our littlest Biggie – Maeve – has taken quite a shine to some of our more shy Buff Orpingtons, especially the one we call “Little Buff.” The Buffs are, in general, quite a calm and gentle breed of chicken. They are often recommended as pets for children. It’s cute that our smallest chicken has grown attached to the gentle giants. When the Littles were truly little, Maeve often hung out by their chicken tractor and clucked at them. We think she’ll make a great brood hen one day.
More on the chicken introduction saga another day, until then ~ as always ~
Thanks for reading.
Today’s Weather: This morning, Sue says it was 37° when we got up at 5:30. It warmed up really nicely tho’ and got all the way up to 63°. Only a light breeze, wonderfully warm in the sun. Low tonight is only going to be 43° with a high of 73°! Reminiscent of Ramona.
Egg Production: Even with the upset of a move and being cooped up together all day yesterday, we collected two little eggs from our stalwart layers. I think they’re doing great for the middle of winter.
WOW! I can’t believe that December has already gone and, here we are, on the 2nd day of 2017 and I’m starting off the year already behind! So many things were happening through the holidays, with both Wing and a Prayer and in our own personal lives that I let myself get distracted from the blog. With this post, we’ll try to remedy that.
I suppose the biggest thing we did was complete the permanent coop and move the littles in to their own place. We didn’t have any of the permanent roosts in yet, but the weather was getting worse and worse and we wanted to get them out of the wind before we lost any more to exposure. So, we put in some 2×4’s on 4×4 risers just for temporary sleeping quarters, line the floor with straw, put their feed and water in there on risers and plotted our night moves. When you make big changes like that, you want to minimize the upset for the chickens. So~ we moved them under the cover of night. We waited until they were all snuggled in for the night and just moved them two and three at a time. Once they go to sleep, you can easily just reach in and pick them up. They don’t fuss or anything. We would open the top of the Chickshaw, I’d reach in and hand one or two to Sue, and then take one for myself… only one because the other hand had to hold up the top and then be free to latch it after. Then we just carried them over to the new coop.
One of the things I love about the littles is that they are so curious. Once we moved them, I thought they would just settle down and go back to sleep, but they wanted to investigate every corner of their new digs. They were pretty cute. Eventually we let them be and they just settled down in the hay to sleep; nice and cozy warm. In order to make sure they realized that this is their new place to be, we kept them in the coop a couple of days. Then we moved their fence enclosure around to the back door of the coop and gave them in and out privileges.
We had the guys frame in an old dog door for their private exit, but they were quite skeptical of it at first. It wasn’t what they were used to at all. We ended up taking all their food and water outside, giving them their favorite morning gruel in the feed bin right outside the door. It was actually pretty funny. They would take turns looking out the door and commenting, then electing to stay inside. Finally, the littlest Buff, who has the most pluck (!) was the one to initiate the outings. She took a look, turned around and chittered at the bigger guys and they started coming out. Littlest chicken running the flock. Now they come and go with no problems.
Now that they were in there, we needed to put the finishing touches on their new home. Sue was sure that they needed to have some type of curtains over the nesting boxes, so she went all festive and purchased Christmas Dish Towels at the Dollar General and stapled them up! Very cute for a short term solution! In the photo below, the curious have gathered to check out their Christmas hangings.
Sue then decided that they needed a roost and ladder to better access the boxes. So she went about putting that all together. It was installed the same day as the “curtains”, and again the littles gathered to watch the installation and kibitz amongst themselves at the wonder of it all. I think they were probably saying “Oh my. Would you look at that!” and “Whatever will they think of next?” Come on, say it like a chicken would~ you know you want to!
Well, what happened next was the installation of the roosts. We measured and measured, and talked and talked about it. Then Sue went and did it! So, the roosts actually raise up so we can clean under them and the space allows for approximately 45 chickens total. Sue says she over-engineered it, but I think it works great and the chickens have given it their seal of approval.
This was all completed by December 20th, which is a very good thing because the evening of the 24th and morning of the 25th, it snowed! Our littles were safe and cozy warm in their hay filled coop. On Christmas morning, Sue was slated to play and sing at the 7:30 am service, so I stayed and did the morning chores. The littles refused to come out and be in that cold white stuff. They decided they were snowed in for the day. But the biggies were not deterred at all. They came out and were scratching around as though they were old pros at this snow stuff. It didn’t last that long anyway, it was mostly gone by the time we came home at noon. Everyone survived and stayed safe.
That’s a pretty long post, so we’ll let it go at that and I’ll continue the update tomorrow; hopefully. As always,
Thanks for reading!
Today’s weather: We had another cold night and morning. When we got up at 5:30 this morning it was 25° and everything was absolutely frozen. Sue hauled hot water out to the goats so she could melt their water enough for them to drink. The chickens greatly appreciated their hot oatmeal today! My phone says the high was 53° but I really can’t confirm that. The overnight low is supposed to be 34° and the high should be around 62°.
Egg production: has changed a bit with the cooler temperatures. We’ve been getting 1 to 2 eggs a day. I’m still surprised that they are laying at all, what with the cold temperatures lately. We must be raising some happy chickens!