Category Archives: Off Grid Irrigation

Spring Has Sprung and The Chicks are On The Move

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This was what I saw when I looked out the window in the morning last Sunday, April 15. Ice coated the all of the windows on the East side of the house.

IMG_3901 When I looked out the North window I could see that most of the precipitation that had fallen was in the form of sleet and freezing rain. It felt very discouraging since we should be three weeks into spring by now. Thankfully the power was still on. We had prepared for a power outage by bringing extra firewood inside, making sure that there was oil in the oil lamps, checking flashlight batteries and making sure the freezers were full so that foods would stay frozen longer. When the freezers are only partially full of food I freeze blocks of ice in cardboard milk containers to fill the empty space. When warm weather comes, and we are spending days at the farm, we will use these blocks of ice in a cooler at the farm to keep drinks and food cold. Buying bags of ice everyday can get quite expensive.

My husband also added extra weight to the back of the van, for added traction, in anticipation of driving on icy roads.  We use to buy bags of sand every year to keep in the back of the van during winter driving season. Then last year we began taking a different approach – instead of buying bags of sand, that we really didn’t need, we began using things that we did need. Having several bags of chicken feed or a load of firewood in the back of the van can provide that extra traction just as well as sand bags.

Temperatures warmed slightly throughout the day, so even though it continued to rain the ice on the windows melted. We were fortunate that we were not among the 350,000 in South East Michigan that lost power due to this storm.

The rest of the week seemed to be a slow transition into spring. While daytime temperatures were above freezing most days the winds out of the North kept the chill in the air. It wasn’t until Friday that it felt like Spring had arrived. The day was partly sunny and it was comfortable to go outside with just a hooded sweatshirt rather than a heavy coat.

Saturday’s weather along with the rest of the 10 day forecast confirmed it. Spring has Sprung!!! We began doing the spring happy dance yesterday. 🙂 🙂 🙂 I find that garden and leaf rakes, pruning shears and a wheelbarrow make great dance partners when it comes to the spring happy dance, and popular dance moves involve raking last years leaves from the lawn and flower beds, and pruning dead foliage from perennial plants. My husband made a very bold move yesterday as he stored the snow shovel away for the season. He also discovered the very first dandelion of the year. There was only one but I am sure that in a week or so there will be yellow blossoms everywhere.

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The garlic has been slow to emerge but is now about three inches above ground.

The pond is pretty much as full as it gets. Very little of the beach is not under water.

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At this level it is seeping over the edge in a couple of places. This is a good starting point for spring, as we will use the pond for irrigating crops as needed.

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The chicks have moved to their stage-two brooder. They had begun getting their feathers and had become very curious about the world beyond the stock tank brooder. Flying up to the rim of the stock tank had become a fun adventure for them. Here is their new set up.

IMG_3885After assembling the hutch and putting in straw for bedding we use a zip tie to anchor the heat lamp in place.

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We put in food and water and a roost. Then put the chicks in their new home. They can now see the outside, and they can’t fly out of the brooder.

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We cover the hutch with a large piece of canvass. The canvass keeps water out and warmth in. The chicks regulate their body temperature by move closer or farther from the heat lamp as needed. We lift or lower the sides of the canvass as the weather gets warmer or cooler as well.

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Last night it was warm enough to watch a little chicken TV. As the chicks get the rest of their feathers and the temperatures continue to warm we will be transitioning them to stage three – at the farm. I’ll post about that soon.

In the mean time I hope that, if you too have been waiting on spring, your Spring has Sprung. Thanks for reading and have a beautiful day.

Time Flies

It is said that as you get older time seems to go faster. It is also said that time flies when you’re having fun. I’m not sure which it is, and I suspect it is a combination of the two, but time sure does seem to be going quickly. Here it is well into June already and it  seems I have missed a lot of the things I should have written about. I thought I’d make this a catch up post.

Planting and weeding were two of our priorities in the last week of May and first week of June. My husband and I worked mostly together to do a thorough weeding of the entire garlic field. We spread it out over 5 or 6 days working 2 to 4 hours each day and it looked really good when it was finished. We are now just pulling big weeds as needed in the garlic. I have also spent time pulling weeds in the Prayer Garden, and devoted almost a full day to weeding the strawberry patch and asparagus. We have pretty much waged war on weeds and for now we seem to be winning the battle.

My husband has also spent a lot of time getting the garden planted. He started with the fifty tomato plants that he has grown from heirloom seed, as well as some green peppers, cabbage, and cucumbers.  We had our annual date to the local green house. The green house is one of the few places I enjoy shopping and usually I spend way too much money buying plants. This year there were only a few thing that we needed because my husband had started much of what we needed from seed. He picked out a couple of egg plants and some leeks and I bought a couple of rosemary plants but they were all out of culinary sage that I wanted. I did get a couple of Russian sage plants. Although they are not edible they should look nice in the prayer garden and the blossoms are said to attract butterflies. Maybe the bees will like them as well.

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We had another swarm of bees. We watched the entire event. Above is the beginning when the group was starting to leave the hive.

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It’s hard to make out in the above photo but all the little yellow spots against the green areas and all of the black spots against the blue sky are bees. They settled in a picturesque location nearby.

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The flexibility of the  pine branches made it easy for my husband to slip a bucket up over the swarm. He then shook the branch while holding the bucket around the swarm. Nearly all of the bees fell into the bucket. He covered it with a lid and carried it to the empty hive.

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He dumped the bees into the hive and put the inner cover on. He placed a piece of wood over the hole in the top of the inner cover to keep the bees inside. He went back to the pine tree and repeated the process to collect the bees that were left behind.

We watched the hive and saw bees gathering at the small slot in the side of the inner cover. This was a good indication that the queen was inside and the workers were going in to be with the queen.

It’s now about a week later and this hive along with our other 5 are all doing well.

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The Irises are in full bloom in the Prayer Garden. When I was planting rosemary and sage the other day a lovely fragrance caught my attention. Since the Irises were the nearest blossoms I walked to them and took a sniff. Wow! Spicy-sweet. I then took a long deep breathe to fill myself with this wonderful scent. These have only been in place for a couple of years and have really just taken off this year. I always thought that Irises were planted for their showy flowers, and that is why I planted them. I never realized that they were aromatic as well.

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I guess this just goes to show that we should take time to stop and smell the Irises. I’ll consider this a lesson learned.

Harvesting and watering are now our primary activities. Our asparagus crop was significantly affected by the wet weather this year and we harvested less than 50% of what we had last year. The strawberries are ripening and I have picked about 7 quarts so far. I am freezing them for now and will make jam with many of them when I have more time. I have also picked and dried oregano, spearmint and chocolate mint.

We are now having to water daily as we have gone from overly wet weather to overly dry. I think our last good rain was before Memorial Day, and the lack of rain plus the summerlike temperatures, equals very thirsty plants. This post explains our watering system on the farm. Since the farm is off grid watering takes a little more time and effort than just turning on a faucet. https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/06/05/our-off-grid-irrigation-system/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

While there are many other things going on here, there is much work to be done and precious little time to write about it, so until next time 🙂

 

 

Our Off Grid Irrigation System

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 more than one purpose. It aerates the pond through a hose connected on one end to the windmill and on the other end to an airstone diffuser that sits on the bottom of the pond. The windmill adds life-giving oxygen to the pond. The windmill is located on the bank of the pond. It is somewhat central to our various garden locations. It’s second function is to pump water out of the pond for irrigation purposes.

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We purchased this pump, from the same company that we bought the windmill from, in order to pump water out of the pond. While I can’t explain the mechanics of the pump, I know that one hose connects from the windmill to the pump. It pumps air into the pump. A second hose connects to an outlet on the pump and pushes water out.

We discovered the one downside to this pump a few weeks ago. In order to prevent it from being damaged by freezing during the winter the pump is removed from the water in the fall. It must be reinstalled in the spring. This spring the temperatures were slow to warm and we had many days without rain. Since my husband found himself carrying buckets of water from the pond to water things that were newly planted, we knew that the pump needed to be installed. The truth is if I had to install the pump, I would have continued to  carry buckets of water to the plants. Even though I love spending time in the pond in the heat of the summer, it takes several days with temps in the high 70’s or 80’s before I am ready to go in. My husband on the other hand has spent much of his life either playing or working in or on the water. I am sure he has experienced water temperatures like this before.

I was not surprised on May 12th, being only the second consecutive day with a high temperature in the low to mid 70’s, that he decided he had to put the pump in the pond. I’m not sure what the water temperature was, but I do know that it was not warm enough for me to get in the water, and it was not comfortable for him, at least getting in. He asked that I not take pictures, so I complied with his request.  I watched the faces he made as he walked into the water, and introduced his body, especially the sensitive areas, to the cold temperatures, I told him it was ok to cuss. He didn’t. It may have taken about 15 or 20 minutes for him to get the pump in place and afterwards he said “it really was not that bad”.

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When the water is pumped out of the pond we run the hose to one of the strategically located 275 gallon holding tanks. My husband has installed spigots near the bottom of each tank that a garden hose will attach to. He also made a level an area on the side of this hill for one tank to sit on. Since getting the water from the tank to the plants requires gravity the raised tank provides more pressure and the tank will drain down farther.

When we use the garden hose to water individual plants we place  wooden stakes at row ends to act as hose guides so dragging the hose does not crush plants.

 

When we want to use drip irrigation we connect the hose to this pvc pipe that has small holes drilled in it. It is capped on the opposite end.

We also discovered the need to raise the drip pipe up in some areas so my husband went to a pile of limbs, from trees we have cut down, and found some branches that have a Y in them. He cut them so the are about 2 1/2 to 3 feet long and stuck them in the ground. Three of them, appropriately spaced, will support the drip pipe when it is placed in the Y of the three sticks.

While our prayers for rain were many, we are also extremely grateful for the wind that allowed us to irrigate the crops until the rains came.  Last night and today we have had our first sufficient rainfall in several weeks. We will now be able to take a break from watering the crops and face the battle of the weeds that continue to grow with or without water.