Monthly Archives: March 2012

Defence!

When we first saw photos of this property, we loved the pastoral look of the white horse fencing. It was a lovely fantasy…. But the fencing, upon closer inspection, turned out to be very rotten and falling down in several places. Over our dramatic winter, we’ve lost several more sections of fence to wind and falling tree branches. Plus, this type of fencing is not actually ideal for the type of animals we plan to keep here eventually.

So… The fencing has to go! Today, armed with a few crowbars and a mallet, we managed to take apart a section of the garden fence, and all of the fencing around what was a pasture and will someday (with a lot of pulling of weeds) a lawn.

We started in the garden, where some fencing needed to go in order to make it easier to get compost and materials in the space — the gate was too narrow for a dump truck to pass through safely. So we pulled down about 30 feet of fencing along the driveway. 20120325-162232.jpg

Before: fencing between the garden area and the driveway

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After: Only the fence posts remain! Those are buried pretty deep, we’ll need to dig them out, or get a special tool to remove them. Getting the boards off the posts was pretty challenging in this area, because the nails used were not weather resistant, and they’d all seriously rusted! … wondering what’s in the little white fence? That’s our 3 week old chicks, enjoying an outting in the briefly sunny weather. They learned to eat slugs today!

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Next up: the pasture over our drain field, which we’ve learned really shouldn’t have animals standing on it on a regular basis. Since we don’t have a lot of flat area around the house (and since our house plan looks like it will have even less lawn than we currently have), we decided to turn the pasture into a lawn. First step, removing the fencing!

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The fencing around the future lawn was significantly easier to remove, but wrapping up all the electric fence wire was exhausting! Our forearms were killing us when we were done.

Expertise

A few months ago, because even we with our total lack of orchard education could tell it was necessary, we tried pruning our four orchard trees, two apples and two pears. We were wimpy. We cut, and the trees basically looked the same when we were done.

BUT! We have an expert in the family. Cassy came up on Saturday and showed us how it’s really done. 20120325-162824.jpg

Cassy up on a ladder, held by Mom and Rich, sawing away at one of the leaders on this pear tree.

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A successful pruning adventure, resulting in a MASSIVE burn pile full of fruit tree clippings!

New Residents

We brought home baby chicks last week, but, because we don’t want to wait until fall to have our own eggs, we also picked 3 Ameraucana chickens, 2 years old, from craigslist. Megan’s sister Ana brought them down from Washington for us on Sunday.

Unfortunately, we weren’t 100% ready to have chickens inhabiting the new coop we’ve been working on. We bought a small coop from a classmate of Talina’s, and put that in the yard to the new, much larger chicken coop-in-progress. However, we didn’t have time to put a door on the gate before the chickens arrived! So, their first day in their new home they escaped a few times. The last time, we could only find the two lighter ladies, the darker colored chicken had completely gone missing!! We were very worried she’d been carried off by a hawk, but, this morning when I went out to check for eggs and food, I heard a chicken clucking in the barn! Turns out she’d been hiding in an old feed bin all night – not only that, she’d laid a lovely blue egg in there!

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Our new, makeshift yard gate. Eventually, we’ll get a gate building expert here, but for now, it’s chicken wire stapled to a board.

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All three ladies happily munching worms in their new yard.

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Two blue eggs! Not bad for the first night!

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The ladies seem to like hiding under their coop, so we’ll have to build them a bigger shelter.¬† Now that we know we DIDN’T lose a hen to a hawk the first day, no sense letting it happen for real in the future.

First Harvest

Spring is here, despite the fact that there was snow on the ground when we woke up this morning! After Sunday Brunch today, we took a walk in the woods to check on the waking up process.

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There is still a LOT of water running down our hillside.

 

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The ground is damp enough to host some really lovely skunk cabbages!

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We found several large patches of Stinging Nettles, and with gloves and a bag, everyone was able to take home enough for dinner. So, our first harvest on this land required almost no effort on our part! And, since we took only the tips of the nettles, we should be able to revisit them at least once more time, since clipping the tips makes the plant bushier and creates more delicious tips for next time.

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Nettles, sauteed with garlic and mushrooms, yum!

Chicks!

We picked up 9 baby chickens at the local Wilco on Tuesday evening. They’re now safely ensconsed in the bathrub in the spare bathroom… a nice dirt and pine shaving floor to play with, and a nice warm heat lamp to keep them toasty. We have 2 Red Chantecler, 2 Light and 2 Buff Brahmas, 2 Black Sex Link, and one that I think was a Brown Leghorn.

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9 babies all curled into a corner of their travel box. They spent the ride home singing sleepy songs to each other, it was pretty cute.

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Being babies, naptime is still pretty much the highest priority.

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…although there is occasionally time for adventuring.

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Samhain just KNOWS there’s something worth seeing on the other side of this door.

What Comes Down….

Well, a few weeks ago we tore down the original floor in the old stall we’ve designated to be a chicken coop. Years of neglect (and poor building material choices) had left us with a rotted floor, so it had to be replaced. THANKFULLY, Megan’s father John is a well experienced builder, so he lent us his expertise, which made the construction go so, so much easier and faster than if the two of us were learning on our own! 20120312-122915.jpg
We started with the dirt floor, very soggy due to poor drainange around the barn — that’s a whole OTHER issue on the task list.

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You can see what years of standing in water has done to the non-pressure-treated posts. Thankfully we determined that this is only every other support post, so the whole barn is probably more or less still stable.

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Starting to lay out the chalklines for new supports.

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Protective layer of plastic, to try to keep the new supports from rotting like the old ones did!

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Installing the actual floor – pressure treated plywood. Our new chickens will be all warm and toasty in this coop!

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It may have spent all day snowing and raining, and gusting wind, but the plants know what’s up: here comes spring!!

Scotch Broom Progress

Since we finished the west end of the Neutral Zone pasture a few weeks ago, it was time to start in on the eastern side! Talina, Ana, and John all made great progress while Megan was away for work for the past week. They do good work but they’re terrible at taking documentation. So now that I’m back…
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We selected this hillside for our morning’s effort… headed for the walnut tree on the northern end.

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90 minutes in, we’re halfway there!

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And another 30 minute push, with some help from Dad, and we finished it up for the day.

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Done pulling broom for the day, we switched to hauling the old piles of broom from where they lay in the pasture up to the burn pile by the shop. 8 truck loads, piled up over the top of the cab, and we still have all this left. Few more burn days in our future, I guess! We learned that Scotch Broom burns very quickly when it’s green, which is handy, and a bit scary.

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This sight was satisfying on so many levels.

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And just to counteract all the destruction in this post.. here’s a shot of our baby kale seedlings, coming up in the hugelkultur! C’mon, kale, grow!

Snow Day!

I was lucky enough to be home to enjoy another day of snow! We had a few visitors overnight, who kindly left their prints for me to document.

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