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Jul 2015

Most visited this week:

Fighting tomato blight with pennies

Sustainable firewood strategies

How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Building a bee waterer

How to help chicks during hatching

Jul 2014

A year ago this week:

Keeping semi-dwarf apples small

Flywheel shaft key mistakes

Black soldier fly shelf

Sprouting straw

Jul 2013

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Song Sparrow chick

I was a little concerned that Mama Song Sparrow might have decided she'd settled in too much of a high-traffic area and abandoned her nest, because she seemed to be off more than she was on. But I guess in the heat of July, you don't have to hug your nest to hatch eggs. Because when I peered into the tomato patch Tuesday, I saw two baby sparrows already out of their shells and looking for lunch.

Now to leave Mama Sparrow alone for a few more days and hope she hatches two more. It's been a couple of years since we've incubated our own chickens, so it's fun to vicariously enjoy a successful hatch, albeit of a much smaller species. And it's always a joy to watch wildlife move into our long as they're not eating our crops.

Posted Thu Jul 30 06:57:16 2015 Tags:
june bug in a bucket

I found a June Bug in a bucket and thought the chickens might want it.

They seemed to enjoy watching it bounce around, but could'nt quite reach the bottom of the 2 gallon bucket.

The bug was snatched up by what I assume is the quickest hen when I dumped it.

Posted Wed Jul 29 15:20:36 2015 Tags:
Spotty corn germination

What's wrong with this picture?

(Guess before you peek!)

Spotty corn pollination

If you said that Artemesia was eating our sweet corn, you got tricked by the zoom-related flattening of the photograph. Our little doeling was actually about five feet beyond the corn in question when I clicked the shutter button on our camera.

On the other hand, if you noticed the large distance between the corn plants, you're on the right track. My germination test this past winter suggested that last year's corn seeds were fine. But in the real-world setting of our garden, those same seeds came up very spottily. That's a problem since corn is wind pollinated and relies on a relatively large stand to ensure the seeds develop well and the ears bulk up. In fact, I was expecting to see lots of cobs like the one pictured above when the time finally came to harvest our crop.

Sweet corn harvest

To my surprise, most of the seeds seem to have set even with less than a dozen plants to spread their pollen. While I'm glad the corn plants came through for us this time around, I've resolved to stick to buying corn seed every year rather than trying to eke out those packets for a second season. It appears that corn, like onions, is simply better planted during year one. Live and learn! At least we can still eat my mistakes.

Posted Wed Jul 29 05:59:10 2015 Tags:
chicken in the hand

Our Spring chicks have reached the point where the roosters need to be retired.

We put 3 in the freezer today with another three planned for later this week.

Posted Tue Jul 28 15:25:09 2015 Tags:
In my pockets

I usually try not to go down that slippery slope of filling up my pockets. But Monday, I realized I'd accumulated an odd assortment of odds and ends. The pocketknife is present to cut straw-bale strings since Monday is deep-bedding-top-up day. The seeds are to fill gaps in the garden where I noticed beans and cucumbers didn't come up as perfectly as I'd like. And the potato onions were found while planting the beans, overlooked during a previous harvest.

My Monday mornings are generally about as diverse as the contents of my pockets. I have to fill about an hour and a half before the dew dries off the tomatoes, but I don't want to get so engrossed in a big project that I'll forget about my primary purpose for the day. So I scythe pastures animals were recently rotated out of, feed the bees, tether the goats, and generally mark little things off my list. And then it's time to prune those tomatoes and make some pesto chicken salad for lunch...and empty out my pockets!

Posted Tue Jul 28 07:02:04 2015 Tags:
ATV oil additon time

We got in some more straw bale hauling today before getting rained out.

Seems like our older ATV needs about a quart of oil every year.

Posted Mon Jul 27 15:41:39 2015 Tags:
Mini-Nubian goat
"How long can you milk Abigail? Will you breed them both this fall?"
--- Deb

A lot of factors go into how long you decide to milk a goat. First, there's body condition, which I've discussed previously. If your goat has lost too much weight, you need to stop milking.

Lacation graph

The other issue is whether it's worthwhile for the human to keep milking as production slowly declines. The chart above shows Abigail's lactation curve to date (starting three weeks after Lamb Chop was born, when we started locking him away for the night). There was a lot of human learning involved in our first effort, so this curve doesn't look like they usually do --- with low production slowly rising to a peak at around 4 to 6 weeks post kidding, then declining back down. However, you can see that production is already dwindling markedly so we're now averaging about three and a third cups per day. I suspect that when I'm only bringing home one or two cups per day, I'll decide the milk is no longer worth the squeeze.

Goats on logs

One thing to keep in mind is that Abigail was a cheap starter goat. Artemesia's genetics are more high-brow, so there's a good chance our doeling will produce more milk for longer than Abigail has.

Why bother with a goat who doesn't give very much milk? I figured it was worth learning on a cheaper goat, and I stand by that decision as a good one. It would have been a shame to decide we didn't like goats after sinking much more money into the project, and Abigail has also proven to be an easy keeper, which might be better than an amazing milker in the long run. So I'm happy with what I've got...but am looking forward to much more milk next year.

Goat battle

And, in order to get that milk, we're going to have to breed both goats. You can read my thoughts on our options here, with the caveat that I'm leaning more toward buying a cheapish buck whom we can use and then eat in the fall. Now that I'm pretty sure we'll need to breed both goats (rather than milking Abigail through), the hassle of bringing two separate goats to be bred when they come into heat at two different times seems larger than the hassle of dealing with a buck for about a month.

Miniature goat in the woods

At the moment, though, we're just enjoying our happy little herd and our delectable milk products. I'm still thoroughly in love with our goats!

Posted Mon Jul 27 07:08:52 2015 Tags:
Ducks dipping in water
Our four ducks on average give us 3.5 eggs a day.
Posted Sun Jul 26 15:22:03 2015 Tags:
Scarlet runner beans on a trellis

Mom was very taken by our scarlet runner beans when she came over. She felt like I hadn't given an accurate picture of their impressive height and spread on the blog...but I'm afraid I've still been unable to capture the full awesomeness of this bean. The photo above shows beans who have only had about two and a half weeks to grow up their trellis. They've been at roof height for half that time!

Developing scarlet runner beans

The plants in the first picture haven't bushed out enough to provide much shade yet, but the ones on last year's trellis on the south side of the trailer are already doing a pretty good job breaking the summer sun. A hummingbird comes to these plants each morning --- a perfect view to eat my breakfast to. And, look, beans already being set to feed us this winter!

Posted Sun Jul 26 07:57:57 2015 Tags:
sweet corn close up
We're getting very close to the beginning of Sweet Corn season.
Posted Sat Jul 25 14:44:05 2015 Tags:

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