What a difference two weeks can make. We went from semi-brown lawn, to nearly fully bright green lawn. The blossoms on some of the trees have opened in just the past few days, and flower leaves are beginning to emerge. All of the perennial plants are putting on new growth rapidly, and I have to work to keep myself from getting anxious about how much time I have to get things done. We have been working hard once again, but between rain, allergies, and lots of extra things on our calendar, the time we have had to work has been more constrained.
Two Fridays ago, I was able to get outdoors and assemble a low, raised bed in the berry patch for some of our strawberries, and Pumpkin lent a hand with the assembly. After the frame was built, I took a shovel and broke up the sod inside of the bed, then came back with this garden weasel tool to twist and break up more of the dirt. The goal was to break up the roots of the grass as much as possible.
That Saturday, Scott’s parents came over, and Scott and his dad worked on repairing a part of the roof on the granary. A panel was ripped off in a wind storm we had about a month ago, but we needed to borrow the neighbor’s lift (he owns a home painting business) to do the repairs because the building is so tall at it’s peak, and repairs were subject to cooperative weather and availability of the lift. They didn’t get the entire thing done, but they did the brunt of it completed. His dad also helped him put up a bit more of the fencing for the chicken run.
Scott’s mom made a few adjustments to the new chicken tractor, and then helped out with the kids while I got to work finishing a bed for some of our strawberry plants. I used aged compost from our compost bins, and fill the bed about 3/4 full. The next step was to take pieces of cardboard, and put a layer of it over the entire bed. Then I took a few trips with the wheel barrow over to the free wood chip pile and back, and covered the new bed with a layer of chips. The final step was to plant the strawberries. I didn’t count how many I put in, but it was a lot. The bed is about 14’x3′.
Sunday morning, we were able to put in a few more wooden fence posts using the auger on the tractor. I think we put in 4. We would have done more, but we had plans in the afternoon. After a late breakfast, we went back out to clean up some things around the yard, and I raked out some of the wood chips in the garden bed to make sure we have a decent coverage throughout. I got through about half of it, though not quite. When we returned home, Scott planted all of his root stock and grafted apple trees, and in the evening a friend popped in, and gave Scott some more help with the roof.
Monday was completely unproductive for me, but Scott received help from another friend that day and they almost finished the roofing project. There were areas of the roof that needed patching because the aluminum had torn when it was ripped off of the roof in the winds. Then they went and removed trees from a portion of the woods where the trees are too dense to grow properly, and added them to our brush fence-line in the “pie” field.
That Tuesday felt wildly successful to me. The kids were cooperative, and I was able to clean the garage pretty well. We were never really able to deal with setting up our garage the way we wanted to last year, it’s been the biggest mess and kind of a danger to work in. I was able to move everything out of there that shouldn’t be in there in the first place and put it where it belonged, set up a large work area, (sort of) repair a work bench, sort through all of our screws, nails, nuts and bolts, plus I swept and vacuumed…it’s like a new garage! Okay, so it still needs a LOT of work, but it was only functional like this for about a month last summer, and then it got filled up with all kinds of stuff and was never dealt with. But we are in desperate need of a large, safe place for working in, so it was time to deal with the issue at hand. Scott took the day off of outdoor work so that his allergies could have a chance to rest and he could regain a bit of energy.
Wednesday was a bit rainy, but I did my best to work in between rain spells and built another raised bed for the berry patch, this one for thimbleberries. I also made and hung tire swing for the kids…they have been missing our old swing set ever since we moved. We have tree swing that was hanging up when we moved in, but with 5 kids, 1 swing will never be enough, which is where the tire swing comes in. This one is hanging from the maple tree in the secret garden. It was cute to see the kids giggle so much as they were swinging around on it!
All of that outdoor work had lead to an accumulation of messes indoors that needed some attention, so I had spent that Monday through Thursday cleaning the house when it would rain, and Thursday I finally felt caught up. Ever since then, I’ve had an easier time maintaining order both indoors and out, which is a big relief!
That Friday was somewhat casual with some visitors during the day. After they left, the kids and I filled raised bed for the thimbleberries with compost, cardboard, mulch and two thimbleberry plants. Scott spent that evening helping one of our friends, and the kids and I made a few preparations for E’s birthday the next day.
Saturday was E’s 1st birthday 🙂 I can’t believe that a year can go by that quickly, and to be honest, I hope one never goes by so fast again! While he napped, we did some work outdoors. The building that is the chicken coop is divided into two halves. One side is the chicken coop, and the other side, the garden shed. In the chicken coop side, it is split in half again, one half being the actual coop, and the other portion housing our feed, a brooder box, and a mess of other things. We have been having our second rooster live in that half of the coop, but because it wasn’t set up properly, he has spent his time…defecating…everywhere. We had intended to build a second coop area in there last fall, but were never able to find the time to get it up, and McMuffin (the rooster) spent his time in there alone, except when a hen would wander in when a door would be left open. Anyway, I’m rabbit-trailing a bit…I spent a portion of E’s birthday cleaning up the “empty” side of the coop so that I would be able to build a second coop.
Scott supervised the boys as they built a box for 4-wheeler that will hold two 5 gallon buckets for hauling water. He also finished the roof project completely, and caulked parts of roof to make sure there would be a good seal since we don’t want a lot of water getting into the building and damaging things. We had two sets of visitors for E’s birthday that day.
Sunday, was largely a day of rest, though Scott spent some of the day working on fixing the deck on the lawnmower, and I know he did something else, but I can’t remember! And we had a few more visitors that day as well. Monday we cleaned in house some more, and I spent the rest of my free time framing the room in chicken coop with some help from the kids. Tuesday we had a play date with some friends, and another visitor in the afternoon, which was perfect considering it was so chilly out all day!
Wednesday was more productive. E and Doodles spent the day at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and even spent the night! It is amazing what can be accomplished without the interruption of naps and that extra draw of attention that little ones bring to the table. I took the older three with me to a local nursery where we bought 2 cherry trees for the secret garden, and some flowers for the yard. They each bought a few flowers with their own money, and I picked up a few for the front yard. When we got back, we started to work on the walls of the new room in the chicken coop. I put in all of the fencing around the top part of the walls, and then Pumpkin helped me put in the boards around the lower portion. I would have hung the door that day, but we couldn’t find any door hinges.
Rather than take another trip into town for hinges, the kids and I planted the new cherry trees along the path of the Secret Garden. My intention is to espalier the trees to create a wall/fence for that portion of the garden, with a walkway leading in between the two trees. We had plans for the evening, so we had to call it quits after that and get cleaned up for the rest of the evening.
Thursday morning we straightened up the house once again (a habit we need to be much better about). When the little ones returned home, it was nap time for them immediately, so we moved our work outdoors. The chickens have been doing a number on all of my wood chips and flowers, so I had to go around the house and rake up some of their mess. I love having them free range, but I admit, I’m looking forward to putting them to work for us in the garden! Then we planted a few of the kids flowers that they bought the day before, as well as the ones that I had bought to put in front of the house.
The lawn was looking a bit shaggy, so I went around the house and mowed, then went and cut behind the granary by the old fire pit, and back to the pie garden where I gave all of the paths a trim.
The old grass back there is thick, but with time and more maintenance, it will become plush and soft, which will make nice paths for walking. Then the kids helped me to move some more brush piles to the brush fence, and then it was time for a trip to town to pick up a few groceries and hinges for the coop door while the little boys were awake.
When we got back, I put up a new flag on the corner of the house, and made a repair to the new tire swing (the old rope that tied the swing to the tree broke a few days after we hung it up).
My final chore for the day was to hang the door in chicken coop so that McMuffin could finally be contained as well as be settled in permanently with a few hens. That evening, my brother and his wife, Tiffany, came over as they do almost every week, and she and Scott “installed” the bees into the bee hive!
We had a bonfire in the evening and were able to burn up a large pile of odd wood we needed cleaned up, and even pulled out the telescope we got for Christmas and got to do a bit of star gazing.
Today ended up fairly eventful as well. In the morning, I went around taking some pictures and stopped to check to see how the bees were doing (without getting too close, of course). It was neat to see them already searching out the dandelions on the path.
There was more chicken damage control that needed to be done, so I spent some time in the Secret Garden cleaning up their messes (As much as I love having them free-range, I’ll be happy to have them back in the run!), and then went through and mowed the lawn on that side of the yard. I’ve had a bucket of water with black walnut trees sitting next to the house for the past few weeks, so today I went around and planted 12 more. We had a cedar tree we pulled out from somewhere in the yard, and I transplanted that along one of the property lines. I spent some time digging up flowers that have been popping up here and there around the yard and moved them to the Secret Garden, and another portion of the day working on yard clean-up from different projects here and there.
Apparently, I failed to take pictures of the new coop area for McMuffin and his ladies, and I didn’t get pictures of the garage. I’ll have to post some next week if they still look presentable 🙂
We are really excited about the addition of the bees to the homestead, and I’ll be putting up a post next week about that. I did an interview with Tiffany about what she learned leading up to this experience, and I have a billion pictures to share of the process 🙂 I’m also really excited about all of this sunshine. Aren’t those blue skies beautiful?!?
We want to hear from you! What have you been working on around your home? Who has their veggie gardens growing already? What is the project you are most looking forward to around your place???
I was admiring the new tire swing and realized I was smiling. Even though we don’t have any kids around, I’d still love to have a tire swing hanging from a tree. I just love the way they look, and invite you to come act like a kid. You’ve been very productive! I’m envious of your plum tree. That’s one fruit we don’t have and plum jelly is one of my favorites.
Spring Lake Homestead
I don’t know that plums were something I would have ever given a second thought, but my in-laws have some and the kids love the fruit, and then the fact that the house already came with one…And I agree about the swings! I think we’ll always have some up.
The Big Garden and Croft
J > A question, Danielle: Why do you keep the cockerel away from the hens?
Spring Lake Homestead
Well, we have two, and they don’t get along at all…the one would have killed the other, so we had to keep them separated. The hens would sometimes sneak in and out by the second rooster, but we just never had it set up so they could stay in the same space together more easily. Now both of the roosters have their own hens. We could keep the hens away from the roosters if we didn’t want the eggs fertilized, but we don’t really care if they are, so it wasn’t about that.
The Big Garden and Croft
J > We try and keep to a ratio of about 8 hens to 1 cockerel, but if we weren’t producing hatching eggs for sale (and hatching eggs for our own replacements) we’d make that maybe 12 or even 16 to 1. We need a fair number of cockerels to watch out for predators, and in any event we think it makes for happier hens! We have cockerels at various ages, and that tends to result in a well-ordered hierarchy where everyone knows their place ; but occasionally we get cockerels that fight so badly, we have to decide which must be disposed of (generally ———– but occasionally may be gifted to someone needing a good new cockerel). Generally speaking, we’d cull the older cockerel, and then the younger gets a chance. There’s tough decisions. Here’s a tip: selling good quality fertile pure-breed eggs through ebay is far more profitable than selling eggs for eating; but ideally like us you’d combine the two. If you’re interested, here’s a link to our current ebay listing for Welsumer eggs. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/6-PURE-BREED-WELSUMMER-HATCHING-EGGS-L-F-/172657920514?hash=item283336ca02:g:q~kAAOSwWxNYvR7F If you want to explore this and want any advice, then we’re very happy to help.
Spring Lake Homestead
I had not considered selling them as hatching eggs, to be honest! That gives me something to think about! Thanks for sharing!
I need to do more research on chicken-keeping! Cockerels help keep predators at bay? What kind of predators are we talking about? Coyotes, racoon’s, birds of prey, snakes, any of the above?
The Big Garden and Croft
Smaller attackers like mink, rats, otters, which they will lead a counter-attack against. They may attack a marauding bird, but for these and larger predators they stand watch and call out earnings. Cockerels also search out food and call hens to itbut then eat little themselves if it”s at a location exposed to danger but will stand guard against predators or competition/raiders.
You’ve been busy! We did a lot of work on the chicken tractor today. The chicks are almost 2 weeks old and I can already see them outgrowing the brooder soon. Our goal is to finish so they can move in next weekend! The automatic waterer system and nest boxes can come later. I’m studying our hog plum trees daily now to check for ripeness. I’m determined to harvest them this year and make a jam. And I’m watering the garden way too frequently. It’s so dry now, but we’re hoping for a food rainy season coming up!
Spring Lake Homestead
Sounds like you are busy too! How many chicks do you have? It’s still strange to me to hear people talking about their food being nearly ripe, what with our blossoms first opening now! I hope you get your rain soon!
It rained about an inch Thursday night. First drops of rain we had in 3 weeks, 2 days. We have 7 chicks. One out of 15 eggs made it through the incubation process (luckily everything was gifted/loaned to us!) so then we bought six more chicks so Pokey wouldn’t be lonely. It is just as strange for me to hear people are just now planting their gardens! Haha.
Spring Lake Homestead
I really want to try incubating eggs at some point, but I’m nervous to give it a try :/ Have fun with the chicks! They are so cute and entertaining to watch. Yes, we haven’t even truly begun to plant! Not for another week or two…at least for the veggies.