Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Chickens are Ready for the Cold Snap

The weather man says its going to drop 40 degrees in 24 hours. This kind of negative degree weather calls for a little more than stuffing the hens box with more grass hay. We are prepared.
The straw bales are both weighing down the blue tarp underneath and added a wind break and insulation. I also added more grass hay directly under and around the hens ramp. The plan tomorrow is to put their food and water in this little extension so they don't have to go across the pen to their enclosure suite where I have been keeping their food and water. Dad came over this morning and helped me set this up. The one thing we didn't think about...can you guess? It's the ramp. I can't pull the ramp up by it's little string (see April 2012 blog post) because of the tarp and straw. So, I am reusing the 2/4 pictured here holding their door open, to prop their ramp closed at night, with a little space for air circulation. Today though felt practically balmy and the chickens were able to dust themselves in the dry dirt, thanks to the metal roofing sheets.
Ruby is ready for anything, let's wish them luck!

Postcards from Summer

The mockingbird, back again and favoring the electric pole between our house and the neighbors. When he's courting, he sings a routine of many bird songs and then flies a tight vertical loop above his pole perch. I've yet to get good shots of his dance. Mockingbirds can develop a repertoire of over 30 tunes including some surprising pieces, mimicking dogs, cats and in this fellow's case, even a frog. I have heard it. I swear. He ribbits at then end before doing his little loop above the pole. When the mockingbird is courting the tree swallows and bluebirds are already raising their families in our boxes and summer is well and truly here.
These are buds from a malabar spinach. My green thumb friend M gave me three plants and they were my garden favorites all summer. Thick, dark green earthy greens that I put on my turkey sandwiches at lunch or put in a salad. I didn't like them cooked in eggs though as they had to me a distinct ammonia odor and taste when heated. A climber, this malabar grew about 3 feet up our pea tripods and I loved going out to collect the leaves almost every day for about two months. In the south, they grow year around and large enough to fill in a trellis arch. In the fall, their seeds went from black-purple (when pressed the juice stained my skin quite strongly to a deep black and when I ripped them out in the fall cleaning, loads of seeds stayed in the bed. It will be interesting to see how much I'll have to thin them out this spring.
Here is a shot from the back deck Andrew built for us, and the gravel patio he dug out and filled. It has changed since then, as he put a paver patio in the corner of the beams for our grill. And here, are the morning glories growing on the attached trellis.
I love morning glories because I have such fond memories of them. My Grandma Perdue had ground to roof white trellis all on one end of her house and there were loads of morning glories on them every year. I remember when I would spend the night, I would wake up in the morning to sunshine and morning glories in the window. This year we planted them in pots but next spring I am going to try planting them directly in the ground to see if they don't do better. And I'll end with some shots of the chickens, confined to their pen because of the ripening grapes, digging through weeds pulled in the lavender.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The Garden on January 1st. 2014

Hello and Happy New Year. Trust me, I have a whole stock pile of pictures from this summer and fall and winter to post. Time got away from me in 2013 but I hope to post more regularly this winter and then once it warms up, we'll see. So today is our warm, March-ish day until another round of cold weather hits. I spent a chunk of the afternoon goofing off outside the house, and all of these pictures are from today. I let the chickens out to range and boy did they have fun. They have all their feathers now and are back to laying. I get about 2 eggs a day from 4 chickens so they are laying every other day but as the days get longer, more eggs will appear in the nest box. Here they are enjoying the raised beds. I had to herd them out of the garage more than once as I was putting recycling in the car. They are fascinated by the garage and love it. We do not like them in the garage because there are too many bad things for them to get into, and you know, the spontaneous pooping.
Life is never far around the corner even during this already cold winter. I was amazed to find dozens of these teeny tiny evening primroses in the herb garden. Such bright color in the afternoon sun!
Oh what's this? Someone is watching the chickens...and they are very interested. Is it Maxwell or Molly...?
It looks like someone new! You'll have to what for another blog post to meet them. I only have so much time today. One of the things we didn't get around to doing was digging the carrots up. I keep telling myself they are basically refrigerated and we can eat them later but I'm not really so sure. Can you find the carrot in the picture?
Wintering the chickens has been a challenge of course. I have a big powerful flashlight to take down to the pen after dark to make sure there aren't any critters (like a skunk) that I may surprise. Maybe you can see the path of worn in on my trips to shut them in at night and let them out in the morning. Notice too, the dark green metal sheet to the left. This is an improvement from the summer, to give the chickens a wind block so they can stay outside.
One new thing I am doing this winter is putting grass hay inside this little enclosure so the ground won't be so cold on their feet. So in the morning, they can come out of their box, and come to the enclosure for food, water, and then nest in the grass hay so they can stay outside for a bit. Also notice the black rubber water pan. The plastic water containers were getting to be too much hassle, and leaking a lot for contracting and expanding according to the temperature fluctuations. When the sun is out, the black rubber absorbs heat to keep the water from freezing longer and when frozen, it's super easy to pop out of the pan.
And here is their box stuffed to the gills with grass hay. Every warm day I clean the box out and put in fresh so I've been going through it a lot. It's pretty fluffy now but once the hens get in it tonight, they will tamp it down and shape the grass in the nest box.
I've had about 6 eggs freeze on me so far this year, and last year only 1. I'm not latching the "back door" anymore, just shutting it so it can't freeze and lock me out. Andrew has a board on the other side of the door that fits over another board quite nicely and it's a snug enough fit to not need the latch for now.
Well I'm heading over to update the site to show you how the lavenders are doing in this weather, so follow me on over and don't forget that on the right hand side of the blog you can sign up to get posts emailed to you directly.