Blooms Galore

Blooms Galore

It’s blooms galore at the Ten Mile Farm. Everything is blooming around here, I just wanted to share a few pictures from around the farm. Peach tree, apple tree,  and magnolia are all in full bloom.

Peach Tree

This peach tree is a volunteer tree. I started growing about six years ago. I had no idea what it was, but I liked it. Then about two years go it was covered in these pink blossoms which turned to walnut sized fruit. The squirrels ate most of them before they got very big. I took a couple to the county extension office and they identified them as peaches. Last year I fertilized the tree with the Mittleider formula and we were blessed with good sized fruit. The addition of a front yard dog kept the squirrels away too. We’re looking forward to a nice harvest this year.

Apple Tree

The apple tree was planted a good five years ago. I bought it as a small stick from one of those mail-order places. It struggled the first couple of years and then last year it gave us a nice bounty of mixed fruits. It is a grafted tree that has red, yellow, and green apples growing on it. That’s why I haven’t pruned it. I have no idea which branches are what. Silly me.

Magnolia Tree

Along with the blossoms come the bees, So nice to see bunches of bees busy at work. I think pollinating the garden  this year will be no problem.

Lots of bulbs are coming up too. I think these are all variations of Daffodils, correct me if I am wrong.

It’s still too early to plant the seedlings in the garden (we’re expecting some cold weather this weekend). But the trees have been loving this warm weather. Yesterday it was 72 and so nice I had to take time for a quick ride on the motorcycle. So nice ride without three layers!

Early Spring is a favorite time for me. It really is perfect until the pollen takes over. Then it’s bearable. I do love the warm days and cool nights though. Perfect for sitting by the fire pit with a tastey beverage.

How to Make a 5 Gallon Poultry Waterer

How to Make a 5 Gallon Poultry Waterer

 

I thought I would provide some more details on how to make a 5 gallon poultry waterer like the one I showed in my Tips for Raising Chickens post.

To make the 5 gallon poultry waterer you will need:

  • 5 Gallon food grade bucket with lid
  • 4 Water Nipples
  • Plumber’s tape
  • Crescent Wrench
  • 10mm threading bolt

You can get the 5 gallon bucket with lid from Lowes. you might be able to get one free from a local restaurant if you ask nicely. The water nipples are really inexpensive, I got mine from Amazon for about $5 for ten of them. Here’s the link Topicker Brand New Poultry Water Nipples 10 Pcs+ 1 Threaded bolt. Sanitary Water for up to 30 Chickens, Turkeys, Geese or Ducks. The reason I chose this vendor is because it included the 10mm bolt and with Amazon prime, shipping was free. You might be able to find these parts at Tractor Supply or other feed stores in your area.

Here is a video of my chickens enjoying the fresh clean water provided by this 5 gallon poultry waterer. This really is the best way to water your flock.

This really is easy to make. If you don’t have the tools, or are just not inclined to make your own, you can buy a completely assembled 5 gallon poultry waterer for about $40

5 gallon water
Ready Made 5 Gallon Waterer

This is about the same or less than you would pay for a 5 gallon watering container of the traditional style. As I mentioned in my other post, those just don’t keep the water clean and they are a pain to refill. I think you and your chickens will be much happier with this style watering system. Especially if you live in an area where it freezes. Traditional watering systems are difficult to keep from freezing. This system, on the other hand, can be protected with a simple aquarium heater.

 

If you decide to make one of these or buy one, let me know what you think about it.

Tips for raising Chickens

Tips for raising Chickens

I wanted to write a post with some tips for raising chickens in case any of you out there think you might want to venture into a backyard flock.

This post is all about the basics – shelter, food, and water.

There are a lot of really good books out there that cover the information about shelter. One of the best resources I have found is the county extension office. They will have information that is peculiar to where you live. I have also found other extension offices to be incredible resources. If you want a quick reference guide, nothing beats Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens. You might be able to get a copy at your local library. I do recommend you get something you can keep as a reference though.

Shelter

Chickens are hardy animals. That said, the happier they are, the more eggs they lay. We want the most eggs we can get from each girl, so we want to make them as happy and stress free as we can.

Chickens need 1 foot of roosting space each. If you have 5 chickens, you need a 7 foot long roost. You’ll also need at least two nest boxes.

Roosts should be no higher than 24 inches off the ground. 18″ is ideal. Nest boxes should be at least 1 cubic foot and made of material that is easy to clean. I use a  plastic insert in mine and then fill that with wood shavings. This protects the eggs from breakage, keeps the chicken comfortable, and is easy to clean. Nest boxes should be in the darkest part of the coop. This helps the chicken feel safe during the vulnerable time of laying the egg.

Here is a link to an agriculture extension service’s video on how to make the ideal chicken coop. I recommend you bookmark it, watch it and discover what will make the best coop for you and for your hens. Watch the 1 hr presentation here

The bottom line is that chickens need protection from predators and extreme weather at the very least. My hens have a secure roosting and nesting area which they have access to 24 hrs a day. They are locked in at night for their protection. During the day, they free-range but can enter the coop to eat, drink, lay an egg, or just relax.

Food

Feeding chickens is easy. Chicks get starter crumbles, pullets get a growth ratio – slightly more carbohydrate than starter feed – and layers get layer pellets or crumbles. Chickens are omnivores, so they will eat scraps of meat and any insects or worms that cross their paths. By the way, if you want to make sure that your chickens lay eggs with nice orange yolks, make sure they are getting plenty of beta-carotene in their diet.  Pumpkins, carrots, marigolds, tomatoes, watermelon, parsley, basil, red cabbage, apricots, paprika, corn and the leaves of most green plants are all great sources.

Food storage, however, is tricky. The problem is how to get it feed to your flock in a way that they won’t waste it and won’t run out if you are gone for a day or two. The commercial feeders are expensive. Most of them are cheap

The commercial feeders are expensive. Most of them are cheap plastic or pressed metal. They have a cylinder that holds 5 or so pounds of feed and a gravity keeps the tray full as the chickens eat. This sounds great in theory, but there are several problems with the design. First of all, chicken feed typically comes in 25 or 50 lb bags. The larger the bag, the less cost per lb. Most people want to save money so they buy the 50 lb bags. Well, now you need a place to store that food. A dry cool place that won’t attract mice, rats, and other animals that want to eat your chicken food.  For

First of all, chicken feed typically comes in 25 or 50 lb bags. The larger the bag, the less cost per lb. Most people want to save money so they buy the 50 lb bags. Well, now you need a place to store that food. A dry cool place that won’t attract mice, rats, and other animals that want to eat your chicken food.  For years, I used a metal trash can with a tight-fitting lid. I would put the bag in the can, open the top and scoop out enough to fill the feeder.  Depending on how many chickens you have and whether or not they get to free range, you could find yourself refilling the feeder every day. Not a good plan if you want the freedom to take a road trip or go on vacation.

Another problem with these feeders is that the chickens will spill food all over the ground, and they will find a way to get poop and other debris mixed in with the food. Bottom line, they are expensive, inconvenient, and wasteful.

I recommend using a feeder that will hold a full 50 lb bag of feed. In this video, you can see a video on how to make a simple feeder using a 5 gallon bucket and a few PVC pipe fittings.

I would use this if you have less than five chickens. If you have five or more, you will need to provide more access to the food. I have 24 chickens so I made a gravity feed box that will hold 100lbs of feed. This is what mine looks like.

 

Water

Chickens, like more living things, need access to clean water at all times. This can be challenging for several reasons. First off, chickens don’t have any problem pooping in their water and drinking it. This is not healthy for them. For this reason having a bowl of water is not a good idea. The chickens will roost on the lip and defecate in the water. Most commercial watering containers are also woefully inadequate for a couple of reasons. For one thing, they are expensive as all get out. $40 for a piece of plastic that is a pain to fill, still allows the chickens to get the water dirty and freezes in winter weather.

The best design I have found and the one I use myself, is something you can make yourself with a 5 gallon bucket, lid, and a few water nipples. This is a fairly simple watering device to make and it will allow you to put a small aquarium style heater in it for the winter months. You can get the water nipples here. Or you can purchase a readymade device here. They are as expensive as the ones that don’t work, however, these will work well. They are easy to fill, easy for the chickens to get sufficient water, and they don’t freeze.

As the chickens grow you raise the bucket. When I first switched to this system I was worried that my girls wouldn’t figure out how to use it. Figuring it out was no problem – it was as if they had used one in a previous life. They all went right to it and started drinking. Now the water is always fresh and clean. I’ve developed a method to automatically keep it full too. I’ll write a post about that later.

chicken waterer
5 gallon chicken waterer (picture from Amazon.com)

Here’s the commercial version of this watering device click here

http://amzn.to/1CKCL1B

My Fan Club

My Fan Club

This short video shows what happens when my fan club sees me. I was walking around the farm getting pictures of Springs’ first blooms when I was spotted.I learned early on that it was important to have sheep who would come to me willingly, rather than make me chase them down. It isn’t often I need them to come near me – give them annual shots, check their health, get them on the trailer when they’re sold or going to market.

I learned early on that it was important to have sheep who would come to me willingly, rather than make me chase them down. It isn’t often I need them to come near me – give them annual shots, check their health, get them on the trailer when they’re sold or going to market.

A bucket of cracked corn is a very inexpensive way to train these animals to come running to you whenever they see or hear you.

It really is fun to be greeted with such enthusiasm. Some people have dogs that are happy to see them when they come home after work. I have that and I’m also blessed with dozens of chickens, ducks, and Katahdin sheep who are all happy to see me.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if your family and friends always greeted you with such enthusiasm? On second thought that would be weird. I guess this is what it would be like to be Johny Dep or Angelina Jolie wandering onto a public beach or something.

I think I prefer being mobbed by hungry animals at least they don’t stalk me and they can’t carry cameras.

Fun on the Farm

Fun on the Farm

There are so many things to do that are fun on the farm. The kids love to play on the giant hay rolls. Sometimes they climb on them to play king of the hill, other times to get a different view of the world.

I asked my daughter what things she thought were the most fun on the farm to do. Some of her answers surprised me.

  1. Run around and play in the hay bails
Girls Hay Rolls and a Champion
I won – I can see my house from here

2. Wading around the shore of the pond

Katahdin sheep
Fishing with Friends

3. Exploring the creek

4. Playing with and caring for the animals

5. Working in my workshop

Playing on hay bails made number one – probably because that is what she was doing when I called her in for dinner. She does love to fish in the pond and I think she likes searching for and capturing bait worms almost as much.

As a parent, the creek thing is a little unnerving. But I know I did much more unnerving things when I was her age. The creek runs West to East through the Northern section of the farm. It is completely in the woods – out of sight out of mind.

Her “workshop” is an area she set up in the barn. I’ll have to post a picture of that soon. It is a neat place.

Farm Fresh Eggs

Farm Fresh Eggs

 

There are a lot of benefits of keeping a backyard flock of laying hens, and I think my favorite is the farm fresh eggs they deliver every day. These eggs are nutritious and wholesome. Compared to a store bought egg, well, they are 100% better. Instead of a pale yellow yolk and runny white, these eggs have bright orange yolks and nicely gelled whites. They taste better too 🙂

If you have bought into that urban legend that eggs are not healthy, you’re missing out on one of the best sources of complete protein in nature. Eggs are also a good source of essential vitamins and minerals.

The breakdown of nutrition in the images below demonstrates that when you eat the whole egg you get the most benefit. If you separate the yolk from the white to save calories you also give up the bulk of vitamins. I always eat the yolk with my eggs. Not only do they taste better that way, but they also give you a more nutritious meal. If you’re worried about fat, cut back in other areas such as dairy.  (rant over for now)

For some really delicious farm-fresh egg recipes check out incredibleegg.org

Farm Fresh Egg Pizza
Yummy Egg Pizza

First Bloom at Ten Mile Farm and Market

First Bloom

Finally the snow – and any credible threat of its return – is gone. I was out walking the property today when I saw a few bright yellow daffodils popping their heads up showing the first bloom of spring on the farm. So nice to see come color.

The first bloom brings with it the promise of summer, of picnics, and barbecues. The first bloom is a precursor to new life everywhere on the farm. Ducklings and chickens hatch, lambs are born and things really start moving around here. It’s time to brush off the tiller and prep the garden for another season’s bounty.

I was going to take more pictures of the Daffodils around the farm, but woke up this morning to a rainy day. I don’t much feel like walking around in the rain so I’m just sitting on the porch with a hot cup of coffee listening to the sounds of the farm.

Turn up your speakers, hit the play button and close your eyes. I promise these sounds will take you to a happy place.

I really love it here, even when it’s raining.

Spring is really my favorite time of year. The weather is still cool, the first blooms make for wonderful discoveries each day and the weather is mild.  I used to be really bothered by pollen, but once I cleaned up my diet all of my seasonal allergies disappeared. I’ll write a post about that another time.

Fall is my second favorite season. The days are cooler and the nights are perfect for enjoying the fire pit. The downside to Fall is that, around here at least, the weather is more severe and most of the blooms are gone. Of course, we do have some incredible holidays to look forward to in the Fall. Halloween, Veterans day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Chores around the farm also tend to be on the downswing rather than the upswing…I may have to rethink this.

 I posted some more pictures of our first blooms here

Barred Rock Hens are sweet

One of our Barred Rock Hens

These girls come running every time they see me. Now I have no delusions that it is for any reason other than they know me as the guy who carries corn, but still it is a great way to be greeted every time I go outside.

One of the fun things to do on the farm is the daily egg hunt. Generally the Barred Rock Hens lay in the nest boxes. Occasionally one will find a new location, such as on top of a bail of straw. I know how many eggs to expect, so when I come up short I start searching. Of course sometimes we lose an egg or two to king snakes, but that is a small price to pay for the protection they provide.

Barred Rock Hen Eggs
Barred Rock Hen Egg Hunt

The Barred Rock hens are sweet chickens who love to be held. They are gently birds and make the nicest sounds. If you want a small flock of laying hens, I recommend the Barred Rock. They lay medium sized brown eggs and they lay a lot of them. You can pretty much count on 5 eggs a week per bird if they are well cared for.

This Barred Rock hen was curious about what I was doing. As I took the video of her grazing, she came right up to the camera.

You can read more about our laying hens here

Mittleider Gardening Method

Mittleider Gardening Method

If you have questions or comments about the Mittleider Gardening Method, this is the category to post them.  Mittleider gardening is, in my opinion, the most efficient way to grow fruits and vegetables. Regardless of your climate, soil condition or season, you can grow fruits and vegetables to feed your family and/or your community.

Mittleider Gardening method
Mittleider Gardening Course

I took these pictures in August of 2014 at Jim Kennard’s Mittleider Boot Camp in Kidder Missouri. I learned a lot during that week of classroom instruction and hands-on application of the Mittleider method, from sowing seeds to harvesting vegetables and everything between. This garden was absolutely amazing and is what I hope to aspire to with my own.

I have tried many different gardening methods; aquaponics, hydroponics, lasagna gardening, composting, etc. and I can tell you that the Mittleider gardening method is less expensive, provides better results, and is easier to accomplish success than any of those other methods.  Some of the advantages of the Mittleider Gardening Method are:

  • Close plant spacing allows for more plants in less area
  • The vertical growth of the plant maximises light availability
  • This method uses less water
  • Soil mixture and nutrients can be stored long term
  • Works for any conditions or climate
  • Any skill level
  • Soil nutrient depletion and crop rotation can be avoided

If you are considering growing a garden to provide for your family, or maybe even to sell or donate excess produce, I recommend you take a look at the Mittleider Gardening Method. The book is only about $20 and is money well spent. However, if you are on a tight budget or a fixed income, I am sure you can find a Mittleider Gardening Group near you. They have a closed group FaceBook page you can join here: Mittleider Gardening Facebook Group.

You really should read the book before asking a lot of questions though. You can get the book here.  Mittleider Gardening Resources