Tag Archive for homestead

Decisions

I’ve written previously that Amp would be going to slaughter, but now I’m hesitating.

Amp’s been much better around us, as of late. We’ve gone out of our way to handle him, making sure that he understands that we’re the ones in charge. He even let me pick him up while he was eating, bring him in to put bag balm on his comb, and then bring him back to the coop with no ruffling, grumping, and attempted pecking. Amp’s still a bit rough with the ladies, one in particular that I may need to put a saddle on today with how cold it is. The battles between he and Gucy have lessened and he hasn’t swatted at us once.

I’m nervous to see what Spring will bring, once the hormones hit and such, but for the most part, I think he may be receiving a stay of execution.

Gardening and It’s Many Forms: Square Foot Gardening

PlantView

For the month of January, I have decided to do a series of weekly blogs looking at the different components of gardening that I take into account when setting up plans for any given season. I’ll still be adding in random posts here and there, but these gardening posts will be scheduled ahead of time.

This post starts off the series by looking at the many forms of gardening. When most people say they “have a garden” most people tend to think of the standard garden of valley and hills. While that method of gardening is “tried and true,” there are many different methods to gardening that can be practiced. Four of the most common methods of gardening are square foot, raised bed, “wild,” and companion planting. Each methods comes with positive and negative aspects. Many homesteaders tend to eventually use a combination of these methods, along with others.

SQUARE FOOT METHOD
The square foot method is ideal for small gardens when a lot needs to be grown. The square foot method literally takes one square foot of dirt and places into it as much produce as possible. In order to do this, you take the width between seed placement, not rows, and use this as a guide.

For example, if carrots are to be grown two inches apart after thinning, you take this 2″ spacing and apply it to the square foot that the carrots are going to be planted in, ignoring the recommendations for rows 8″ apart. Here’s how extensive this is: if going by a traditional recommendation of carrot seeds 2″ apart with rows 8″ apart only 12 carrot seeds would be planted in a square foot, where as carrot seeds planted using the square foot method of spacing 2″ from every other seed (so 2″ seed spacing and effectively row spacing) allows for up to 36 carrots to be planted in one square foot, 3 times the amount of traditional planting recommendations. 

Remember how I said every method has it’s positive and negative attributes? Obviously, the positive here is the amount that you can grow in a small space. The negative? Well, when plants from grown so tightly together there is a higher rate of mortality due to insects and disease. The square foot method is one that needs to be done by those willing to put in the research as to which plants benefit from this. Also, plants that need more space, such as tomatoes and pumpkins, do not benefit from the square gardening method, if anything planting these so tightly to one another more often than not ends in catastrophe.

Having played with the square foot method, I feel that the plants that this method works best for are for those with broad leaves, such as beans, or plants that don’t tend to get waylaid by disease, such as carrots. Tomatoes will be attacked by blight, lettuces will choke each other out, and pea plants will become a tangled mess.

Rooster

image-300x225 This past season Hubster and I decided that if either of the two roosters we’ve raised decided to start acting overly testosterone driven that they would go to freezer camp before having the chance to attack us.

Well, it looks like we’ll be down to one rooster soon. Amp, as gorgeous as he is and as great of a job as he does, he’s starting in with some nasty habits: chasing girls that won’t let him mount them, forcing some girls away from the feed, following us and grumbling when we let them out, and placing himself between us and the girls. His stink-eye and habits just won’t do.

Now, there will be those reading this that will ask, “Why don’t you just rehome him?” Roosters are not known to be broken of Nast habits once they manifest. Come spring, Amps attitude will be much worse as she hits a natural testosterone high. Rehoming him would only make him someone else’s problem. As far as homesteading is concerned, butchering Amp makes more sense as he isn’t a problem for someone else and we recoupe part of the cost of raising him through providing food for our family. He’s an 8.5lb bird that, if he dresses out to 5lbs, will give us about six meals.

As sad as it will to see him go, it’s necessary. Amp is frightening the girls to the point that we’re losing more eggs than what we should be this time of year. He’s keeping some of the girls from the food to the point that a couple of them are growing very lean. Amp is handsome, but looks don’t make up for being an asshole. Since the butcher isn’t doing up another batch of birds until January, he has until then, unless things get really iffy, at which point we’ll do him in ourselves.

Our (Brief) Chicken Story

IMG_0033We started off with two comets – Edith and Louise – about three years ago now. We bought them for $50 in a chicken tractor. It was a 4-H project that a little girl on a goat farm had done. We brought them home in a cat carrier and they were really unhappy to woke up when we got them home at about 10pm.

A month later we got a third hen, a little three month old Araucana who had been beat up by her current flock. We bought the three of them a cute little coop that had been made out of a dog house and let them free range.

Thus started the cascade. One year later we bought 8 Easter Egger chicks from the local hardware store. One turned out to be a rooster. Two never showed up one night for bed time. By winter we had a flock of nine hens and one roo. We renovated our old shed to a mini-barn and bought a new shed for everything else.

This spring brought trouble: we had a fox attack that took off one of our sweeter birds and injured another. A month later another attack took Louise, one of our pet birds that was going to live her life out here.(The bird that survived a racoon chasing her, a dog attack, and various battles with her sibling, Edith) In that second attack the roo was a bit ruffled up and fled, and Skee (our little rescue bird). The third attack was a coyote. It napped Skee and then kept trying to come back. I had to work outside for close to two hours before it wandered off.

In amongst all that we had to have our rooster dispatched. He became overly aggressive and was attacking us. I had to carry a stick around the yard with me. If it was just my husband and I, that would be one thing, but we have a young child. The roo had to go.

This summer we raised meat bird for the first time – all heritage breeds – and added four ladies back into our flock of layers. The three Rhode Island Reds and one Barred Rock have melded in nicely.

Right now we have 22 birds on the premise: 9 layers, 12 meat roos, and one roo that we’ll be keeping. In order to make a smoother transition for Jovi we’re trying to find a young hen to match him up with.

And thus it begins…

IMG_2282

IMG_2282
As the snow finally melts away, we are left with what remained at the end of last season. It’s a new war that is dawning: an adventure to parallel the likes of the Ring Bearer making his way to Mount Doom. The last few years have been trial and error when it came to what we need for gardens and how to fence them in. This year will be the year of massive planning and retrofitting the existing beds to work for a more long term mindset.

When we first moved into our home it was with the idea that we wouldn’t be here for more than a few years. Things change. We decided that starting a family was (and still is) more important than waiting until things are “prefect” – which they never really are. With that in mind, we’ve both finally come to terms with the fact that we’ll be here for another five, possibly ten, years.
(I will admit, it took me a lot longer than the Hubster to come to terms with that.) I finish my Master’s this December, so this is the last season that I will definitely be on site pretty much 24/7. These two things mean that this is the year to really hammer out the homestead. Or at least get the gardens up to snuff.

The plans, in no particular order, include:

* Re-fencing both existing southern gardens (seen in the photo)
* Tilling, fencing, prepping, and planting the new 10’x30′ plot. (This will go to the far right on the other side of the bed that’s going to be turned into two raised beds with trellises. We started work on this last fall.)
* Re-fencing the north garden
* Starting two potato towers made from locally sourced, free, untreated pallets.
* Mulching the bahgeebers out of the garlic patch.
* Fencing in the cucumber bed
* Re-fencing the old pepper bed for Little Mister’s growing spot

None of this includes making the “run way” for the sun flowers, herb boxes, lettuce boxes, of the mini greenhouse for the hot peppers.

On top of all the gardening, there will be foraging, wood splitting, house repair, animal raising, and all the other crazy goodness that comes with the spring.

We might not win every battle, but we’ll surely win the war. ;-)