Friday, June 30, 2017

Compost bins

One nice thing about having chickens? The ability to create compost. I've been cleaning out the coop into a fenced pen (you can just see it to the right in the picture below). The area was full to the top of the fence and has composted down into something that's ready to be put in the garden. I realized that I needed another pile so I could easily keep ready compost from in-process compost and decided to put together a few compost bins. Easiest way to do that is with pallets so that's what we did.

Banging in supports
The double bin went together quickly with a few screws and rebar posts. Newly soiled bedding will go in the left bin and I'll move it to the right bin as it ages and gets ready to be used.

The bins are very close to the coop to make it easy to use as I clean and they're also very close to the garden to make it easy to use the compost when it's ready. These bins are kept out of the general chicken area as it's not a good idea to let your chickens work their own feces.

Looks a bit blasted, doesn't it?
So that the chickens could get in on the compost action in a safer manner, I added another single bin to the chicken pasture. This one gets only kitchen and yard waste; they can work the grass clipping and veggie leavings to their hearts' content.
Inside the pasture which also looks blasted
I built these in the early spring so the ground looks horribly brown and dead. Fortunately these areas are now bright green with grass, rye cover crop, and all kinds of weeds and things that chickens like to eat. The whole pasture thing has worked great - the chickens get to semi-free range and I haven't yet had any issues with the fox getting in there. I'm down to two chickens due to his predation but since we've adjusted our grazing behavior we haven't lost any more. 

We have plans to build a junk wood fence around this area so that's more secure, but so far the welded-wire fencing is working well enough.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Making a log bee hive

Chris has wanted to get into bee keeping for quite a while. But he wasn't overly enthused with the idea of buying hives or swarms. So he did a bit of research and came across the idea of a log bee hive. A more natural, so to speak, approach to bee keeping. Google "log bee hive" and you'll see lots of ideas and suggestions on how to go about doing this. 

We had taken down a tree up by the future garden site but left quite a stump since the tree was a twin trunk. Ultimately that's what he decided to convert into the hive. 

Chris sawed off two segments of the trunk then hollowed out the core. A ledge was created to support the honey bars.
Hollowed out and ready for bars.
The bars
Nails keep the bars in place
Bars attached (and the other segment with cap)
Custom fitted cap
A local friend and bee keeper donated some wax to use to seed the bars. Chris melted it down in a double boiler and then smooged it onto the bars. Hopefully bees will come and use that to jump start the hive.
Melting down some bar wax
He placed the two segments back onto the stump and then drilled an entrance hole. The hope is that bees will be magically attracted to the stump and start a hive. A vial of queen pheromone stuff was also donated by our friend to help things along.

The chickens are always a help
The stump needed a cap to keep the rain off so Chris build a stick frame...
The cap base
...and then covered it in overlapping can lids. He ran out of lids before completing the cap so added a funnel just to protect the top. Once we've acquired more lids he'll finish it off with those and I'll get to use the funnel for something else. Maybe a bird house? Dunno yet.
Look close and you can see the dividing line between segments
He also needs to do a cap for the front stump, mainly for the cuteness factor but also to reduce the chances of the stump rotting. 

No bees yet, but it's early in the swarming season. We'll keep our fingers crossed and see what happens through the summer. Wish us luck!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Miscellany - including a garden update

The gardens have been in since Memorial day weekend and frankly they're not doing all that great. I lost several plants to something that was chopping them off about an inch from the ground. Then the little bugger would just leave the plant - didn't even eat it! The losses included two cherry tomato plants, one beefsteak tomato, a watermelon, and lots of basil. I put coffee grounds around the plants because someone told me that would help again cutworms and then someone else said that cutworms take the plant at ground level and that's not what I had. Whatever I had, it's gone now and I haven't lost anything else. Not sure if it was the coffee grounds or if I just managed to chase it away. I also lost a summer squash plant to a nasty grub that I quickly fed to the chickens. That was the only grub casualty. My cold frame was a complete failure - what few things germinated were eaten by something when the plants were just an inch or so out of the ground. Argh! Fortunately the second plantings have faired better and I'm hopeful for a decent harvest despite the issues.

In happier news, check out this guy! I had a hard time getting the shot as I was in the house when I saw him. Snapped a couple through the screen then tried to open the door but he took off as soon as he heard me. We've decided he's a blue bunting.
Extremely blue despite catching him through the window screen
 The goldfinches are still loving the thistle feeder and we have an incredible number of them.
Lots of goldfinches
My gladiolas bloomed for the first time in four years! Apparently they are finally in the right spot.

This is part of the front flower garden. I decided it needed some way to distinguish it from the yard a bit more clearly.
So I added a mini rock wall.
I think it looks great and I'll be building a few more of these along the rest of the gardens.
The chickens approve
And we got a great shot of our resident coyote at the very back of our property. Isn't he gorgeous? And his coat is excellent for this time of year. We've been hearing sounds from a whole pack but only got a shot of this one. We've seen him before in the winter and his condition is still really good.