Monthly Archives: May 2018

Our Off Grid Irrigation System

With the temperatures warming and many dry days in the forecast it is time to get our irrigation system set up. Since I have many new readers I decided to republish this post written in 2016 to show you our irrigation system at the farm.

Don't Eat It! Soap and Skin Care

Since the farm does not have electricity hooked up, watering the gardens is not as easy as hooking up a hose and turning on a sprinkler.  One of the reasons we put in the pond four years ago was to have the ability to use it for watering.

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Our pond was dug according to the township requirements. I don’t remember the exact slope ratio but it has a gradual slope for the first 30 feet all the way around the edge. We gave it less of a slope at the beach area because we anticipate grandbabies playing in the water. After the first 30 feet it becomes a deep hole dropping down to 20+ feet. The clay bottom helps to retain water. So there is not much likelihood of it drying up.

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In the spring of the following year we put up the windmill. Like the pond the windmill has…

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Chickens Come Home To Roost

The idiom “chickens come home to roost”  may be difficult to understand. It is used to relate the fact that actions will always have a consequence and normally applied in a negative way. https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/chickens+come+home+to+roost Making a connection between chickens roosting and consequences to your actions can be quite a stretch. In order to make this connection there is one thing that you need to realize – chickens always come home to roost.

I admit this was one of my fears when we first started raising chickens – how are we going to get all on those chickens in the coop every night? Well it really doesn’t take much training for the chickens to learn that the coop is their nighttime home.  If chicks are raised by a hen then the hens does all of the training. When we raise chicks this is what we do – we introduce the chicks to the coop at the farm once they have feathered out, usually around four to six weeks. We set up a small pen near the coop where the chicks can spend their days.   You can read about that here. At night we can then gather them up to put them in the coop. The young chicks huddle together at night usually in one of the nest boxes. We continue this routine for about 5-7 days or until the chicks learn to get into the coop on their own. After that when darkness falls the chicks will naturally go to the coop each night. It will become their safe space.

Eventually they will outgrow the nest box, and the need to huddle together at night, and will spend their nights sleeping perched on a roost within the coop. Our coop has roosts at various heights and the chickens tend to seek out the higher roosts. It is a chicken’s instinct to roost high up at night.

We have been raising chickens on the farm for five years and it has been our experience that with few exceptions the chickens always come home to roost. Exceptions – every rule seems to have them so let me share the exceptions that we have found for this rule.

Why The Chickens Don’t Come Home To Roost:

Each night we do a head (beak) count to assure that all of the chickens have returned and are safely inside the coop. If any are missing we do a search. Occasionally we have discovered that a hen has fallen prey to a wild predator and we have found either a headless body or a pile of feathers.

On other occasions we have found that one or more hen(s) have gotten into one of our fenced garden areas because someone, either intentionally or (oops) unintentionally, left the gate open. If given enough time they will usually find their way back to the gate and out of the garden, but when darkness is closing in their instinct is to head in the direction of their coop (the gate is in the opposite direction) and they keep running into the fence trying to get home. (You may have heard that chickens are stupid.)

One other thing that we have experienced, that is really only a partial exception, is when the a hen decides that rather go into the coop she would rather roost in one of the trees outside the coop for the night. The reason that this is only a partial exception is that we have never had a hen try to roost in a tree elsewhere on the farm. They first return to the coop area, then fly up onto what ever tree branch they can get to. Possibly because the branches are higher than the roosts inside the coop, they think this is a good option. It is not! Some nighttime predators can climb trees and we have lost a couple of hens when we have allowed them to roost in a tree at night.

There is one other scenario that, although we have not experienced it, I think is worth mentioning. It is a broody hen. A hen may lay several (or even a whole bunch of) eggs in a secluded area and when she thinks the time is right will begin to brood (sit on the eggs). She will not leave the nest at night to return to the coop. I have read stories of hens disappearing and then showing up three weeks later with a bunch of chicks. What a surprise that would be.

Now if you were thinking about raising free range chickens but worried about having to play chicken rodeo every night, do not fear – chickens come home to roost.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Asparagus For Dinner

Dinner is probably the most common time to eat asparagus and it always goes well as a side dish – lightly steamed, roasted, sautéed, grilled, topped with butter, olive oil, sea salt, hollandaise sauce or cheese – even pickled or raw and tossed in a salad – I’m not sure you can go wrong with fresh asparagus. Last week I shared a recipe for using asparagus at breakfast and today I am going to share with you another way I cooked our freshly picked asparagus this week.

Asparagus – Split Pea Soup

If you already have favorite recipe for split pea soup by all means use it – just cut up a big bunch of asparagus and add it to the pot as the soup cooks. If you don’t have a recipe for pea soup here is how I made it. Disclaimer: I usually don’t use exact measures when cooking – I am a pinch of this, shake of that, taste as you go along type of cook.

1 bag of dried split peas

a good size bunch of asparagus

5 or more carrots

1 onion

1 pound of beef smoked sausage

several cloves of fresh minced garlic or two about teaspoons of garlic powder.

about 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

add salt later if needed – the smoked sausage will add some salt and you don’t want to get to much

I always soak the peas in water over night. The next morning I drain the peas and put them in the crockpot. Add enough water to just cover the peas. I then cut up the asparagus, carrots, onion, and sausage and put them in the crockpot. I add the garlic and black pepper and put the lid on. I start it out on high for at least an hour to build up the heat. Then I turn it to low and let it cook. After a few more hours I check to see if the peas have become mushy. (At this point you can also taste it to see if it needs more salt or pepper and add them as needed.) If the peas are still hard I put the lid on tightly and turn it back up to high for another hour or so. Once peas have become mushy I leave the lid partially covering the pot so any excess water can cook off and the soup will thicken. If at any point the soup is too think just add some more water. When the soup is the desired consistency dish yourself up a bowl and enjoy!!! 🙂

I almost forgot – the first time I made this I put it all in a cast iron Dutch oven and cooked over an open fire at the farm. It does make a nice campfire dinner.

Raising Chicks – Stage Three

The chicks, at four weeks old, were quickly out growing their stage two brooder so we began transitioning them to the chicken yard.

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The gradual transition serves several purposes. It allows the older birds to get used to the young ones; it allows the chicks to become familiar with their new environment; and they have the warmth provided by the heat lamp in the stage two brooder while the nights are still cold.

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We set up a temporary enclosure within the chicken yard, near the coop. We use 4 t-posts and about 30 feet of 2 foot tall chicken wire. We also place netting over the top to deter overhead predators.

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The spot offers both shade and sufficient sunshine, at least this time of year before the trees get their leaves. The wooden box provides shelter if they need it and the crate is used to transport the chicks to and fro.

Each day for about a week the chicks were taken out to this play yard to spend their day pecking and scratching and doing what chickens do, and each night they return to their stage two brooder.

After a few days we began letting them out of their enclosure when we were in the area. They love this freedom and it is so funny to watch them run at full (chick) speed with wings flapping or crane their neck and jump to catch a bug in mid air.

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Last week, when the chicks were about 5 weeks old and nicely feathered out, they began spending their nights in the coop.  They have yet to find their way into the coop at night. Instead they find their way to the crate then we put them in the coop. We will begin training them to go in on their own soon.

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We have left the outside enclosure up  for now and make sure the chicks are inside when we are not around. When we are there we allow them to free range, but they have yet to venture far outside the chicken yard.

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Once the buds on the hickory trees become leaves we will take down the enclosure because the leaves in the densely treed area will provide a canopy to help hide the chicks from the view of over head predators.

We really are enjoying raising this batch of Buff Orpington and Black Austrolorp chicks. They are very friendly and I would recommend these breeds for anyone considering raising chickens.

Thnaks for visiting. 🙂