Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dam Beaver!

It was actually three weekends ago that we noticed this, but we have a new guest at the pond- a beaver! We had gone to visit my mom for the weekend and when we came back and checked things out, there it was: a beaver dam/ lodge.
The pond is man-made and there is even an "over-flow dam" listed on our land survey. The beaver took it upon itself to dam up the dam! The dam isn't huge just yet, but it has definitely stopped the water from flowing through. The pictures don't show this, but as the days went on, there was a large amount of mud that had been pushed up on the edges of the pond- the beaver's failed attempts to dam up the water flow.
We still haven't seen the furry creature, probably because they are mostly nocturnal, but its obvious he's there! I know during hunting season the beaver in the swamp made his presence known very loudly by thwacking his tail on the surface of the water. I keep waiting to hear that noise there, but I never do. Maybe its because the beaver is terrified of Drake?
Here is Drake jumping over/on the beaver's home. If that beaver is asleep under the lodge he is beginning to build, I'm sure he wakes up when Drake stomps across his home!

We were told that beavers have been a problem in the area for quite some time. We've always run into their dams and lodges in the swamp areas, but its odd that a beaver made its way to the pond. We were also told that people used to use dynamite (?) of some sort to blow up their dams. Poor beavers. I have never been that close to one until I had seen one that had been hit by a car on our road. Their coats are so beautiful and thick. I see why people value their furs so much- they're very nice!

We also found the top part of a beaver skull. It was obviously a younger beaver since adult beavers can reach up to 55 lbs! My guess is that this one weighed about 20lbs. I'll have to upload a picture of the skull soon. Pretty neat!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ghetto Garden No More

So all of those seedlings I meticulously cared for, are all dead. I knew, I KNEW that I should not have tried to plant them outside so early. I'm not that upset over my hard work because the broccoli actually sprouted very quickly and was not hard to grow from seed at all.

I read on the National Garden Association's Q&A page what was wrong with my seedlings. First I did some research while growing it from seed that once the seedlings reach 3 inches, it is time to plant them. According to my nifty calendar, I was supposed to start hardening off the transplants mid-March. But my seedlings had reached 3 inches in mid-February! What to do? Well (obviously) planting outdoors was not the right choice. In the Q&A section, someone else had the same problem as I did. The person who answered the question said that "drooping broccoli," means that the broccoli has had too much moisture and humidity and that it grew too fast. They recommended removing the plastic covering that sits over the seedlings as soon as the sprouts emerge. Also don't keep them in a warm window sill. Make sure they are getting light, but not too much. Otherwise the broccoli grows too fast and they are ready to plant before its time.

So now that I know all of this, I'm going to wait one more week. Next week I will plant the broccoli seeds exactly the same way I did before. But this time the broccoli will grow quickly, just in time for me to start hardening it off for transplanting outdoors.

Good thing seeds are cheap and starting over isn't that big of a deal! Hopefully this will work, and I no longer have to have an ugly painter's tarp tent in my back yard!!!

This past weekend I was out of town but came home early from my trip to enjoy the nice weather and get out in the garden. The soil was finally dry so I was able to run the tiller through the entire garden again. I found some very old lime in the shed while we were cleaning it out the other week and spread that over the far half of the garden. I hope the lime is okay- I figured it won't hurt it. And I tilled it under. The far half of the garden, where the soil is very heavy clay, I found that the pH is lower, around 5.5. I didn't have much lime, but I figured the lime I did have, may help raise it just a bit.

I also have a compost pile working. Its not in a bin, but I'm hoping RNH and I will make a bin eventually. The chicken poo and food that I have been throwing in it have made a wonderfully dark soil. The small amount that I had I tilled into the garden as well. I think I see why people compost now! It was full of worms!

I also moved the garlic that I had planted earlier in the year, before making a map of my garden. When I planted the garlic I made the rows run from East to West. I did some research and found a nice garden plan where the rows run North to South for certain sunlight reasons. By using this plan, I had to relocate my garlic. It was actually very easy to do and I was able to see if the garlic was growing or not. I threw out some of the bulbs that didn't even have roots (the soil had been so wet, I was worried about the bulbs rotting before growing). I found that the Elephant garlic is growing surprisingly well. I'm hoping that it will continue to grow well after the big move!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

BwAk! Oops....

I took advantage of a sunny day (we haven't had many of them lately- all this crazy snowy weather!) and cleaned out the coop and nest boxes. I left the ladies and Roo in the coop that morning because I took Drake out with me and I didn't want to have to worry about chasing him around and yelling "NO CHASING MOMMY'S CHICKENS!!!" at him. Leaving the chickens in the coop made it easier (they usually have free range of our entire yard).
I grabbed the push broom that I use to brush out the run and stuck it inside the coop. I know that the chickens are scared of the broom, but it hasn't been that big of a deal. Well that was not the case today!

I stuck the broom in the coop and all of a sudden there was a flurry of feathers and BWAKING! I let the ladies run to their nest boxes before trying again. But that is when I saw a surprise...

One (or maybe two) of the ladies had the eggs scared right out of her! There was a full-sized (yet small still) egg, and then an itsy bitsy tiny egg beside it! It was too cute! The egg was about half the size of the eggs that they are laying right now.

I had to reach the egg using the broom, rolling it toward me. But doing this caused it to roll in a bunch of mud and poo, so I ended up tossing the entire egg on the compost pile. I wish I had my camera out there so I could have taken a picture of it.

I'm not sure if this was another hen trying her first attempt at egg-laying, or what, but it was tiny and very cute!

I feel bad though, I didn't mean to scare the eggs right out of them!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ghetto Garden?

Okay, so I'm running into some problems with my ever-so-carefully planned out garden. I've started my broccoli seeds indoors at the time of year when everything I researched says is a good time. So its good right? The broccoli had no problem sprouting, and next thing I know its grown like crazy sitting in the window sill. I read that when the broccoli gets to 3 inches, it should be transplanted. Well what about hardening off the plants? They reached 3 inches so quick, and now its too late. They had to be transplanted. I went out and tried to work the wet clay soil that we're stuck with for now. I formed two 10 foot rows and spaced out half of my broccoli seedlings, 18 inches apart. Everything seemed to be going alright, except for the wind. It is still very cold out, in the 40's during the days and 30's at night. Too cold for my little seedlings to be okay. So I know I need to make a cold frame or something of that sort to protect them. I've got painters plastic and plenty of stakes, so I figure I'll make a tent over the two rows of broccoli! Well I ran into a huge problem with the wind. RNH was trying to help me place the plastic over the rows using the stakes we put in the ground to hold the plastic above the seedlings. The plastic was blowing like crazy in the wind and kept hitting my tiny, fragile broccoli seedlings. I was frustrated and devastated. I'm sure several of them are not going to make it.
I continued with what I was doing, and decided it would be smart to keep half of the seedlings indoors instead of planting all as planned. That way with what dies, I may still have a chance of having a good broccoli harvest.
With the contraption that RNH and I set up, our garden looks WHACK! I don't know if there is such a thing as a "ghetto garden" but if there was, we've got it! I didn't have enough plastic to cover two of the little seedlings, so I had to try and cover those with minature flower pots. So for now we've got huge rocks, painter's plastic, flower pots, stakes and a half-plowed garden. Now that is a ghetto garden!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Odds and Ends of the Shed

I'm not going to post pictures of our cleaned out shed yet. Its still a work in progress. After a huge truck load to the scrap yard yesterday, we took a huge truck load to the dump. But then we came home with stuff because the landfill wouldn't take certain things, such as metal- yes! we found more! We've got cans of paint that are full (from the previous owner) and huge buckets of oil. Those things are not going to be easy to dispose of. And when we do dispose of them, we'd like to do it properly. After hauling everything off, we were too exhausted to try and clean the shed out, so we let it go. That project will be for another day. So for now, instead of showing you before and after pictures, I'll show you some neat odds and ends we found around the shed. RNH is also hoping that one day we'll be able to level the entire building and put a nice one in its place. We'll see!

I'm sure this hoe has seen plenty of gardens in its long life!

I wonder what sort of big old trucks this chain has towed! It is HUGE!

Neat pulleys. We saved them, for who knows what...

Don't try to open my heart with your skeleton key. Yes, an Allison Krauss song.

This was our first lawn mower when we moved into the house. It works, we just happened to need something a liiiiittle bit bigger!

Hair cutters? Sheep shears? No clue. But cool!

I forget what RNH says this was used for.

So yeah, nothing of value, and nothing really that old, but still some different things we had laying around. We also have an old plow that I forgot to take a picture of. I love old farm equipment!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chicken Must-Haves

Every chicken-owner has a few things that they couldn't live without. Here are a few of mine! Some things for fun, and some just because they're useful!

This is just a dish scrubber. Not too abrasive, and not to rough. I use it out at the coop when I'm pulling eggs out of the next boxes. I give them a quick once over, brushing off any chicken poo or pine shavings and then they're ready to eat! I don't wash my eggs, so it is important to have something that is easy to use and does a good job of getting anything that is stuck on the shell. Some of that chicken poo can be stubborn, but this does a great job! (Plus it was only $0.89!!!)Once the eggs are poo and shavings- free, they're ready to go inside. We're getting three eggs a day, so having a basket to take them to the house in is really handy. My mom gave me this basket as a Christmas gift! It is actually a basket for golf balls, but it is perfect to keep the eggs from rolling around and breaking. Plus its just cute!



Chicken poop chap stick. No, this is not chap stick made out of chicken crap- YUCK! But it has a fun name and I love it! Another Christmas gift from my mom!

*I'm not sure where my mom got the Christmas presents, but I know if you'd like to have some of these items you can find them on the BackyardChickens website!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

We Got Paid to Clean the Shed!

When we moved into this home, almost 2 years ago, we told the fragile old widow that it would be fine if she didn't clean out the shed before she left the home to us. We were sure there were tons of good tools inside that would be of value to us, new homeowners that barely had anything to our name. Well, we were wrong. Way wrong.
Sherby was the widow's husband's name. He was some sort of mechanic that worked on big rig trucks. Everything in that shed had something to do with a truck. Huge pieces of metal equipment were laying around collecting dust or may have had a mouse nest in it. After two years in the home, we decided enough was enough. We weren't going to use any of this stuff. Time to get rid of it.

Landfill? Nah. Try to sell it on Ebay? Nah. How about a scrap yard? YES!

We hauled a HUGE amount of metal, from bolts and screws to copper wire, to metal shelves. We hauled it all 19 miles to a scrap yard. We had never been, and it was a weird experience! There were quite a few questionable characters there. We both wish we had been armed.

We went back and forth from the truck scale to big piles of metal, dropping things off where they told us to. There were attendants there, with no teeth, that pulled the metal out of the car so I didn't have to get out (thank God!) RNH did all of the talking so I stayed in the truck the entire time! I didn't like it there!


At the end, RNH went up to a bank-teller type window where a man gave him our ticket. He jumped back in the car with $122 in cash! Not bad, getting paid to clean out the shed! And I now see why criminals like to steal copper wire and metal. You get paid for nothing!

RNH and I decided to put half in savings, and we'd halve the rest of it. So what did I get with my $21??? Well... it only paid for half of the thing, but I got this! And I can't wait to start using it!


I'm hoping that this little machine will help preserve a lot of our harvest this year. I'm planning on getting a dehydrator next paycheck, so I will be able to save my dried goods in these bags as well. $55, but hopefully it will be worth it! (I read that you can save a prepared salad in a vacuum sealed bag like this for 2 weeks! I know what I'll be taking for lunch at work from now on!)

Good Reads

RNH and I picked up this book at Barnes & Noble when we went into town. LOVE it!
Also, I recently found this website (while I was at work... oops!) and it has a great forum section! I haven't joined yet, so I guess I'm a "lurker," but I don't think I'm hurting anyone! :)
Just thought I'd pass them along to y'all who like to garden and raise chickens!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sprouts!


The onion and broccoli have taken off very nicely so far!

I read that for sowing onion seeds indoors, it is necessary to encourage the bulb growth under the soil. You do this by cutting the seedlings back when they reach 3 inches tall. The cool thing about this is that you've got some nice little chives to top your baked potato, soup, etc. They haven't reached 3 inches yet, but I'm excited for them to get high! I have been spraying the tops of the fiber pots with water pretty much every day and I'm making sure that the plastic base the pots sit in stays watered. You have to be careful with onion plants because they can be over-watered very easily. After doing all of this research I read that almost no one starts onions from seeds, they use onion sets. Well I had never seen these sold in local stores, and wasn't a huge seed catalogue-looker, but now I know. If my onion seeds don't do well, I'll have to order some sets online next year!


The broccoli is taking off nicely, but they were sitting under plastic cover along with the eggplant. After the seedlings sprout, you are supposed to take the plastic cover off. I would leave it on, but the broccoli is getting too tall for the cover. I'm going to have to move the broccoli into its own tray with no cover, and cover the eggplant back up so they are under a "greenhouse" type setting. I didn't think that they wouldn't sprout around the same time... oops! Now if only the sun would come out and the temperatures get a bit higher, I could start hardening them off! That will happen next month!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Indoor Sowing

I started my onions indoors, just as I had scheduled on my trusty calendar. They're doing well. Next came time to sow the broccoli and eggplant*. I calculated that I'm going to have two rows of broccoli. Each row is 10 feet. Doing some calculations according to the spacing between the plants, I decided to sow 26 peat pots of broccoli. This will allow for some error just in case some seeds don't sprout, or some plants die during transplanting.
I used Jiffy's peat pots and I'm trying out Burpee's Green Goliath hybrid broccoli. It looks like it is going to be yummy!!! RNH and I love fresh steamed broccoli, so hopefully this will go well!
I had a little help from Drake while I was sowing seeds. I had to work up and away from him because he thought the seeds were already food and he wanted to eat them!
I placed about two seeds per peat pot. I'm hoping that at least one of these seed will pop up! If I've got two broccoli growing in one pot, I'll thin out the weaker seedling.
I am also going to try out Jiffy's Smart Start eggplant. I am only planning on doing one row of eggplant, which according to spacing, I'll have enough room for 13 eggplant plants. That seems like quite a bit of eggplant to me so I will be giving it away I'm sure. RNH and I really like eggplant parmesan, but now we might have more eggplant to experiment with other recipes!

After the pods were filled, I placed the plastic lid over them and sat them next to the sown onions in the only south-facing window we have in the house. I'm not planning on doing a lot more sowing other than these three vegetables, so hopefully the space I have will be sufficient. Because I have had such terrible luck with corn, I might start them inside as well. The earlier I plant them, the more moisture they'll receive in the season, so that may help. But I will decide that later on.I'm pretty excited about my peat pods. I can't wait for them to sprout!

*The actual sow date of my broccoli and eggplant was February 6th (this is a late post!). I live in the Northern part of Central North Carolina. If you live near me, we can compare notes and see when the best sowing/planting/harvesting dates are!

Happy Valentines Day!

This is me and RNH on our wedding day. It will be a year in May! We're not big Valentine's Day celebrators, plus we have to work. We're going to the restaurant where he proposed to me tomorrow to celebrate. The only way I'd like to celebrate the day is hanging out with RNH and doing the things we love together. I'm pretty excited about going to dinner- its super fancy and the food is to die for! I did tell RNH that I like to get flowers on V-Day (no cheesy boxed chocolates or stuffed animals, I don't even like cards!) so I'm hoping that I will get some pretty flowers to put in the house. We need something to remind us that spring is on the way!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

First Plow

I was FINALLY able to use our brand new tiller!!! RNH kept telling me, "No no no, the soil is way too wet. You're not going to be able to do it." Well, I'm stubborn and I didn't listen. And I'm glad that I didn't!

I set the tiller on the "3" setting, which I'm assuming is 3 inches. I was pretty impressed with the amount of ground that the smallest setting tilled. The amount that the machine tilled up appeared to be about the depth that I tilled by hand the past two years. I can only imagine how great the soil is going to be when I till it at the deeper settings.
Our lovely clay soil (I'm being sarcastic!) was pretty wet, but I was able to scrape up and till the top layer without too much effort. Wait, it was actually VERY hard, but way less work than if I was tilling all of that area by hand. When the soil is dry, it will be very easy.

I wanted to till early because it has been two years since this area had been completely plowed. Two years ago my neighbor tilled it with his tractor. I swear, he made the soil as smooth as butter! But he started saying he would plow the land up around March. It wasn't until May that he actually did it. This is way too late here in NC to try and plant. I was disappointed and my garden was a complete disaster. The next year I plowed the land up by hand because I didn't feel like waiting around for him to do it. This year, time is in my hands once again, but the work load will be much lighter!
By plowing now and scraping off the top layer of grass and weeds, new grass will try to grow in its place when the weather warms. I will till it again before forming rows, killing the new grass that is trying to come up in its place. I forget what tilling like this is called, but it helps with weeding further into the growing season. At least that is what I read- I'm hoping it works out!

I didn't till the area last year's fall garden because the soil was just too wet. Plus I planted garlic (before mapping out my garden) this past fall. Now the garlic is in the way! My rows are no longer going to go east to west, but north to south. I read how growing this way will keep the crops from shadowing over each other, if its planned carefully. For example, corn should be grown in the NorthEastern part of the garden to keep from putting too much of a shadow on the other plants throughout the day!

I don't know what I'm going to do about the garlic. I might try to transplant it, but I'll have to read if this is possible. If the soil doesn't dry out, the moisture may cause the garlic bulbs to rot, so I may dig them up all together. We will have to wait and see!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

EGGS!!!

AHHHH I'm SO EXCITED!!!

We had our first two eggs just the other day! I'll admit- I hadn't been out the coop much (except to make sure they had food and water) for the past three days because of the snow. When the sun broke through, I went out there and decided to check if it was time to clean their nest boxes. To my surprise, I lift up the door and VOILA! Two little brown eggs!!! I was beside myself with excitement!!!
I brought the eggs in and tried to scrape of the gunk (aka chicken poo). If you keep your nest boxes clean, you don't have to worry about this- but because of the weather I had been slightly lazy, hence the semi-poopy egg. Not to worry though- you can just brush the poo off and use the egg. I had purchased an $0.89 kitchen brush that lightly scratches any dirt or pine shavings off the egg.

I love the tiny brown speckles on the eggs! They're so cute!!!

I know there is a lot of different opinions on whether or not to wash eggs before consumption. I've done a lot of reading and talked to RNH's grandma about it. I've determined that I will not wash my eggs. Commercial eggs are rinsed with special machines that regulate the temperature of the water to an exact science. The water must be a certain degree, otherwise the "bloom" inside the shell layer of the egg will break down, making the egg susceptible to bacteria. I don't have a way of regulating the temperature of the water in my kitchen, and knowing that RNH's grandma never washed her eggs and never had a problem, I decided to go without. Simply brushing off any poo and washing my hands after handling the eggs will be sufficient. (Hopefully!)

I also noticed how much smaller my hen's eggs are compared to commercial eggs. I read that as the chickens get older, the egg size will increase. Right now they're a bit smaller than the ones I usually buy in the grocery store.

I was pretty excited to crack open my first two eggs. I'll admit, I was a tad worried that the hen had set on the eggs for the past three days and the egg might be a bit more developed than I wanted. But it was my first egg and I wasn't going to let fear get in the way of tasting my first egg! I cracked it into a bowl and found...

a blood spot. At least I'm assuming that is what this black thing is. I thought a blood spot would be red, but this was very much a black spot. I'm pretty sure it is a blood spot anyway. I've read that a blood spot is the beginning of a fertilized egg, aka baby chick! Ew! I don't like to eat baby chicks... Anyways- I also read that when hens first start laying, the presence of blood spots are more likely. What to do, what to do?!?!

I gathered up some courage and ignored the blood spot by pulling it out with a spoon. Then I scrambled the egg and forgot about it! The events leading up to my cooking the eggs weren't really that dramatic, but I figured the story might sound a bit better if I was scared of the egg! I don't think blood spots are really that big of a deal now that I've encountered my first one. I know a lot of people just throw the whole egg out if they find a blood spot. I definitely didn't want to waste my first egg, so you know I had to cook it! The egg tasted just fine with or without blood spot!

I never thought there would be such a huge difference in the way store-bought and farm-raised eggs would taste. Farm eggs are much fluffier and richer tasting. They are all around a much better egg. I don't know if I'll ever be able to buy eggs from the grocery store ever again. I'm so impressed with my ladies!!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Wabbit!!!

We have a rabbit folks!!!
No, no, no! Its not another animal we've taken in. Its a real life wild rabbit!!! RNH and I have been in our home two years and have never seen any rabbits. The land is perfect (at least we think!) for rabbits to thrive. Tons of brambles and things for them to hide in, but we've never seen any wabbits!!!
Finally after the heavy snow fall, we found rabbit tracks! There were actually two rabbits from what we could tell! We tried tracking it, but the snow had made some of the tracks disappear.

RNH is thinking rabbit hunting. I guess I'll try it!
Another thing we're thinking: if we've got rabbits, that means the bobcat might be gone!!! Several months ago someone was running dogs in our woods. RNH heard a terrible screaming noise, that he thinks might have been the bobcat. Either they treed it or killed it. Either way, we haven't heard or seen any signs of its existence. Good riddance bobcat! I really hope its gone. If it is gone, that means a better possibility of having (more) wild turkey, rabbits, and other small game that seems to be non-existent around here. Exciting!!!