Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Home For the Ducks

Almost a month ago we gained two Blue Swedish ducks to add to our farm.  They are growing up so quickly.  One of the first orders of business after having them stay in our chicken tractor for several weeks was to construct them a permanent home.  It was decided that they would stay in the side yard to help control the slugs and snails that  inhabit destroy the perennial plants I have growing there.

I spent time online trying to find a coop suitable for two ducks.  It had to be quick and easy to assemble, something this construction challenged momma could handle.  It had to fit the size restrictions for our small space.  It had to be predator proof.  It needed to be somewhat pretty too as it's next to the house.  And finally, it had to be somewhat inexpensive; I wasn't buying the Taj Mahal of duck houses.   Amazon had this Advantek coop to house 2 - 3 chickens.  Voila!  Perfect.  

I completely forgot to take some pictures while we were putting it together.  The  instructions were not awful, but they were not entirely helpful either.  At least the coop layout was straight forward enough to be able to figure out.  It took my friend, Heather and I about two hours to put it together.

The closing latch came cracked, which Amazon graciously credited $30 towards the purchase cost since I had already put it together and was NOT taking it apart to return.  I needed to attach another safety predator latch on the door anyway because anyone who has animals knows that little wooden latch would not keep out a raccoon or skunk looking for dinner.  We also had to line the bottom with hardwire cloth because the floor was simply wooden slats, which I felt either the ducks would fall through or a predator would push up into.

So, Do I love our new duck house?  Absolutely!  For the money and ease of putting together it's a sturdy coop.  Could I have built one for less?  Absolutely!  But, how long would it have taken me?  Maybe several months.  Do I think it will last the test of time, probably not.  But, it will allow us a few years to figure out whether we want to house them in the side yard, in the garden or in the big chicken coop.  That's the nice thing about smaller animals - they are very flexible and forgiving; allowing for their owners to make several mistakes along the way.  What do you think of our new duck house?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Planting Has Begun 06.05.17

From the left to the right around the back of the garden; we planted peas, jalapeƱos, lettuce, parsley, celery, spinach, radishes, chard, kale, more lettuce, carrots, chamomile, volunteer calendula.  Through the center rows I have planted broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, cabbage, more carrots, lettuce and spinach, dill, chamomile.  Off to the far right is bush beans, cucumbers, zucchini, and pumpkins.

The beds are slightly larger this year to allow for the larger crops to be in the center and the faster growing crops to the outside.  Is anyone else as garden fickle as I am??  Each year I always try some new layout and then journal the results in my garden log to refer to later.  Some things work really well and others are an epic fail.  

This year the General Manager is trying something new in the garden.  I think he secretly enjoys getting his fingers dirty in the dirt, even if he won't admit it to anyone else. . .  According to Modern Farmer straw bale gardening is great for those gardeners who are faced with the start up expense of raised beds or want an ideal growing container for vegetables.  We have this stubborn spot behind our pea trellis that just isn't big enough to plant anything - last year it grew potatoes, but it was extremely hard to keep weeded a weed magnet and the soil is very poor in this area.  Needless to say our potato harvest was low.

So, when you are dealt tricky problems in your garden, you have to be creative.  To get started he wet the bales down - more like soaked them!  Then he covered the tops with composted manure, bone meal and fertilizer.  Two weeks waiting time is necessary to start the breakdown phase of the hay and then he's going to plant the potatoes into the bales.
Bone Meal

When the harvest season ends, the bales will be soft, saggy and gray — but that’s exactly what we want. Because piling the straw together and leaving it to compost over winter, will give us a mound of beautiful compost to fill all of our pots and planters next spring.

Has anyone else tried straw bale gardening?  If so, leave me a comment and let me know if the bales were successful at growing whatever you planted in them.