Saturday, October 14, 2006

Fall Changes

Fall has finally come to the Gulf Coast and with it several changes.

Our little baby celebrated his first birthday and is really not our little baby any longer.

He discovered the joy of presents. It only took one or two.

After freezing for one last swim, we turned off the pool pump for the year. We are anxious to see how much this will save us off our outrageous electric bill.

Freezing or not and despite Kurt's dire predictions, Michael loves being in the pool, especially snuggled up close to his Daddy.

One of our most exciting triumphs for the year was the addition of a new well!

We used a wonderful well digger, George Coffey, who worked with us so that we could do this. I have a very strong desire to end our relationship with our high priced water company!

Mr. Coffey threw in getting the old well back on line and even donated an old pitcher pump to the cause. I've been more excited about this than I would have imagined. Unfortunately, the well doesn't work that well. Perhaps that is why it was abandoned. It is very shallow and the pump brings up water erratically. I hope we never have to rely on this back-up well. Perhaps one day we can replace the hand pump and get better results. In the meantime though, I love knowing it is available!

Kurt connected the deep water well to the house.

He worked hard to get it done. A great deal of clay came up as the well went down and that made for messy work. The kids however, couldn't keep themselves from the stuff.

I finally gave in and had them change into appropriate clothes for a mud bath. By that time Kurt had stripped down to his boxer shorts to keep from ruining his clothes, so I had to edit that part out of the picture.

Gabrielle truly found delight in getting covered in mud. She has always had an unnatural affinity for mud, dirt and rocks.

She made sure Gregory got completely involved as well. Well, that is not entirely true. It started out with me pushing Gregory into the mud/clay because he had tried to jump a mud puddle earlier and had instead, splattered me with the stuff.

Sensory issues aside, Gregory had a great deal of fun playing in the mud. He didn't like having mud in his eyes though.

One of the nicest things about the well so far is the fact we can now water the garden. We had been relying on rain and our garden had stopped producing much of anything.

Immediately after a couple of waterings, the garden sprang back to life and started producing again. The chickens did manage to peck most of the early produce to death, but have since lost interest in the garden - at least for now. Above you can see one of the surviving watermelon hanging from the fence that separates the summer and winter garden.

The hot peppers had never stopped growing, but have now burst into bloom and look like they will be plentiful again.

Our winter garden appreciates the water as well. Unfortunately, the hay we used to mulch the garden contained seed and that is growing as well. Pulling out individual blades of grass is not an easy job. Of course had we tried to seed the lawn, it never would have done so well.

The bush beans are already flowering. I wish I knew what kind of beans they will be producing. I confess I was mainly interested in planting something that would help fix nitrogen into the soil. It turns out our home is located on a former corn field. I can't believe we can grow anything! I need to find organic ways to add nitrogen back to the soil since corn requires heavy nitrogen to grow and probably left our soil nitrogen starved.

The chickens are practically full grown. They are 16 weeks old today. Here is one of the Americauna hens on top of a roost in the hen house.

Whenever we open up the coops, the roosters immediately race over to the hen's coop and try to take over. Poor hens. We plan to start thinning out the rooster ranks as soon as we can get the equipment together for doing so. We need to figure out a way to separate a group of roosters from the coop in the evening and then make them catchable for processing. We also have to do this without spending any money.

We are hoping to find eggs soon. As a result, the nests have made their debut in the hen house. Kurt has been collecting 5 gallon buckets from the Wal Mart deli for some time since we'd read we could turn them into nests for egg laying. He found this shelf unit at work, nailed flat boards to the bottom/sides of the buckets to keep them from rolling, cut the lids into crescents to hold in the nesting material and set the buckets on the shelf. He then used a piece of closet rod dowel he found to make perches outside of a couple of the shelves. The nests are not finished, but we wanted the chickens to get used to them in the meantime.

I've received several email inquiries about some of the low cost innovations in our chicken coop. I thought I would give some details for anyone who may be interested.

We discovered our chickens prefer "natural" roosts to ones made from cut boards. Therefore we look for large downed branches from the trees on our property. After cutting off smaller branches, these large branches make excellent roosts for the chickens.

We just wedge these branches where ever they will fit and where ever we can. The chickens love them.

Another branch we found had a couple right angles. Kurt built a simple brace for the other end and we made a free standing roost.

If you look in the back corner of the coop you can see one of the different feeders Kurt made from a PVC pipe. He simply cut a 3 inch PVC pipe lengthwise down the middle. He then capped off the ends with PVC capping. He created a support in the middle from a 2 by 4 scrap with some scraps of 1 by 2 and a dowel. We fill these pipes with feed and that provides plenty of feeding space for our roosters. We have two of these feeders in addition to the hanging bucket feeder Kurt created.

In the rooster quarters I built a roost out of wood I found around the property. I used a rounded off one by two for the actually roosts. The chickens wouldn't use them. Kurt came in and replaced my boards with branches and now half of the chickens are using the roost.

Since several people asked about the 5 gallon bucket feeder and waterers from my last post, I thought I would supply some additional details today.

For the hanging bucket feeder Kurt cut 4 pie wedge shapes out of the bucket bottom leaving only a cross of the original bottom material. He then secured the base with galvanized screws and washers. A washer on each side of the bucket bottom allows the height of the feeder to be adjusted. This feeder works great, however the chickens do tend to "beak out" feed from the base.

The bucket waterers work perfectly however. There are pictures of these in my last post. To make them, Kurt simply used galvanized screws and washers to tightly secure the base to the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket. He then drilled a single hole in the side of the bucket, under the water line. (We found the bases in the garden section of Wal Mart, though on my last trip I noted the area where I had previously found the bases were now stocked with Halloween supplies. Hopefully the bases will return to the shelves in the Spring. The bases were simply 15 inch diameter planter bases.)

When I refill a waterer, I remove the lid (which destroys the vacuum). To refill I simply hold my finger over the hole in the side until the bucket is filled. Then I quickly replace the lid. The water will gush out of the hole until a vacuum is recreated in a couple of seconds and then water will rise only to the top of the hole. A 1/4 inch hole should be sufficient, though Kurt made ours slightly larger (because he placed the original hole too low). I always place the hole side of the waterer facing the lowest side (unlevel ground) because the hole regulates water flow. If the hole is on the high side of the waterer and the water cannot cover the hole as a result, water will continue to seep out of the waterer until the waterer empties. (Don't ask me how I know this.)

Originally from the city, our family knows nothing about hunting. However, until we sell our Florida property [for enough money] we are having to be creative about meeting our grocery needs. And there are deer everywhere around here. So I was wondering.

This is a picture of the kids' treehouse. It is on the edge of the woods and we have seen deer in these woods. Would this work as a deer blind? We have one hunting rifle now (belonging to Gregory). It is a kid's model, but is supposed to be sufficient for deer. We were thinking if we got some deer corn perhaps we could get some deer meat for our freezer? We plan to butcher, oops, excuse me, the polite term is "process" about 25 roosters. I'm thinking a deer and 25 chickens might take care of meat for our family for most of the year.

Boy I wish someone in our family knew how to fish.

Gregory and I conceived of a new project and Gregory went right to work.

Gregory is digging a fire pit. I've always wanted an outdoor fireplace and since that isn't in the budget we thought we'd make due.

Gregory has just finished digging a nice hole for fires. Eventually we want to surround the hole with a patio of some sorts. We'd also like to find a grill portion of an old barbeque to lay across at least part of the pit. (This would let us cook outside if we want.) We have a pile of bricks on the property I thought we could use for a patio, but now I'm not sure if we have enough. I wish I could find chunks of concete from a demolished driveway or something. (Absent that, we may have to do something with bricks closest to the fire and then fade to pine straw toward the outside. We'll have to see.) The men even rolled a log over to the pit for some seating until we get our white plastic chairs cleaned up. Gregory says it looks like we are creating our own campsite on the property and he wants to do some camping in the yard.

The kids had to test out the fire pit last night when Gregory finished, naturally. Gabrielle, ever ready to help, raked up some kindling. I meant to get some pictures of them with the fire, but Michael is sick and would not tolerate sharing my attention with anything.

Not to be outdone, Kurt built a bonfire of his own. The former owner of our house piled up dead branches in several places in the yard. One such pile was close to the new fire pit. Kurt decided to light it up last night and even moved some additional wood to the pile to make a good blaze.

I understand a good time was had by all.

I'm still knitting when I can. Michael has been going through another demanding phase. He wants to sit on my lap anytime he sees me knitting. If I try to knit with him on my lap, he does his best to remove my needles from my work. Not enjoying this particular game, I knit when he is otherwise occupied. Thus, progress on my soaker goals goes slowly.

Over the last month I've only managed to finish one night time soaker and 4 diaper liners. I started this daytime weight soaker about a week ago. I'm using Lion's Brand Fishermen's Wool for the soaker and some Brown Sheep Naturespun for the color portions. This soaker had me carry 3 colors for 4 rows which was quite a challenge. I am getting better at it though. I tried a couple of techniques for carrying the yarn and liked Carissa's method best. Somewhere on her blog she posted a photo essay demonstrating her technique.

Fall is a great time for knitting. I'm looking forward to some consistent cool weather. That always motivates me to knit and work more with wool.


Anonymous said...

Become vegetarians! It is much cheaper and healthier! And no killing beautiful deer.

elaine said...

We use alot of deer meat. We especially like it canned.

Just check your state laws about hunting. In PA that "deerstand" would be too close to a house to hunt.

Eve said...

Deborah, love the photos.. Michael is a cutie! Looks like a lot of fun was had in the mud photos.

Holly said...

I loved reading about your chickens, and all the creative ways you are acclimating to your new place! Your soaker looks great. Funny Michael-trying to help Mommy!