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Apr 2015
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Grazing pod attachment with old plastic trash can.

I attached a lightweight plastic trash can to the docking end of the new PVC grazing pod extension.

That makes it easy to push it through a hole in the fence material to join the two runs.

Posted Tue Apr 25 16:06:35 2017 Tags:
Chicken tractor

Even though we knew it would slightly overload the new chicken tractor with docking run, we put all nine coop hens inside so we wouldn't have more than two chicken areas to monitor each day. That was a bit rough on the flock since the skies opened up and proceeded to pour for the next several days, but the girls seem to have stayed pretty dry while coming out to graze between showers.

The roll-out nest box, to our surprise, has been the least successful part of the undertaking. Without straw or a nest egg in the box, most of the hens have been ignoring the structure and laying on the ground instead. Mark's thinking of glueing a golf ball inside in hopes we can talk the hens into utilizing the roll-out option. In the meantime, we've been gathering muddy eggs out of the yard.

Posted Tue Apr 25 07:04:23 2017 Tags:
Another PVC chicken run to add to the first one.

We decided to add another 10 foot PVC run to the wheelchair chicken tractor.

I thought about making a long 20 foot PVC run but felt like it might be hard to move.

Posted Mon Apr 24 15:56:33 2017 Tags:
Wet grapes

At a certain point, the world is so wet that even Edgar doesn't want to go out and graze. So the herd calls in takeaway.
Blurry goats
"I'd like a spring leaf medley," Aurora told me. "Some elderberry, some pear prunings, a bit of willow, maybe a small side order of honeysuckle and buckeye."

"And make it snappy," Edgar added. Did I really hear him mutter "It's hard to find good help nowadays" under his breath?

Posted Mon Apr 24 07:18:22 2017 Tags:
Wheelchair chicken tractor water access.

I mounted a 5 gallon bucket EZ miser to the back of the wheelchair chicken tractor.

The weight helps to balance out the heavy nest box in front.

Posted Sun Apr 23 15:36:49 2017 Tags:
Roasting asparagus

On the sixth straight day of rain, the creek finally started to rise. The asparagus responded a few days earlier, beginning to provide whole meals of spears around day three. Tenacious weeds loosened their grip on the earth on day four. And on day five, trees and bushes sudden seemed twice as green.

Gotta love spring rains after a dry spell!

Posted Sun Apr 23 07:53:17 2017 Tags:
Small solar panel window mounting.

Anna's brother Joey has a discovered an easy way to mount a lightweight solar panel to the underside of his underground house.

Posted Sat Apr 22 14:55:34 2017 Tags:
Honda mower

Now that everyone's done drooling over Mark's new mower, I thought it might be helpful to share our thought processes in choosing the new tool. A homestead like ours, with grassy aisles between permanent garden beds covering a couple of acres, needs a mower small and nimble enough to dive into nooks and crannies...and preferably hefty enough to cut thick weeds and power up slick hills without burning out or breaking its handlers. Here are the mowers we've considered and/or tried.

Craftsman mowerThe Craftsman 917388571 was our farm's second mower (replacing an ancient mower that literally exploded one day when I asked it to do things mowers shouldn't be asked to do). What I loved about this mower: it ran with minimal upkeep for eight years after being purchased used and was easy enough for me to start until the final season. What we didn't like so much: pushing it up hills and around corners could wear you out, especially in the heat. Meanwhile, as the Craftsman aged it seemed to go through flywheel shaft keys and blades like candy despite there being fewer and fewer obstructions left in its path.

Swisher mowerIn fall 2014, I loosened the purse strings and we upgraded to a Swisher. Mark was hoping that the string cut would handle our rough terrain without so many flywheel problems and he also thought a self-propelled mower would make grass-cutting a breeze. I'll admit that I detested this mower from day one. The string flung blades of grass into my garden beds, requiring much more washing of our harvest (and making leaf lettuce completely unpalatable), and the string also resulted in a rougher cut that wasn't fun on bare feet. I couldn't start the machine either, so when it was my turn to mow I stuck with the Craftsman.

Troy-Bilt mowerOnce Mark gave up on the dream of the Swisher, we put our heads together and tried to figure out if there was a mower that would do what we each wanted. At first, we considered a Troy-Bilt WC33. The price tag was daunting, but such a hefty machine seemed like it might be a good idea, especially with the electric start, self-propulsion, and excellent reviews. But then I read deeper and realized that there was no way I could manage the beast with my moderate upper-body strength. Luckily, Mark was willing to compromise.

Self-propelled mowerWe settled on the Honda HRX217K5VKA because it looked small enough for me to maneuver and boasted the best reviews of any of the same-class mowers. After taking it for a test drive, I have to admit, I'm sold. The auto-choke, easy-start system almost seems like a magic trick --- I've never had a two-stroke engine that I could rev up without even feeling it in my yanking arm. The self-propulsion really makes a difference in our hilly terrain (yes, Mark was right about that), and at the same time the design makes it easy to go manual in extremely tight quarters.

Of course, to pay for itself, the Honda will need to last at least a decade. Here's hoping our new mower will go the distance!

Posted Sat Apr 22 07:30:05 2017 Tags:

Wheelchair chicken tractor day one.
The wheelchair chicken tractor chickens seem to like their new home.

They spent the morning testing any possible escape routes and settled down to happy grazing in the afternoon.

Posted Fri Apr 21 15:21:49 2017 Tags:
Potting up

What better gardening activity is there for a rainy day than potting up? I guess most people don't actually do the work in the rain....

Mixing potting soil

Even though I've changed my loyalties from stump dirt to storebought potting soil for the starting stage, I'm still content with homegrown options for potting up. Half stump dirt and half well-aged horse manure gives hungry plants plenty of nutrients while waiting for frost danger to pass. And, at this age, there's no worry left about damping off.

Posted Fri Apr 21 07:05:39 2017 Tags:

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