I have successfully recovered from the allergic reaction I was having to exposure to mold, and I didn’t need to be hospitalized. Sometimes a secondary reaction can occur which is potentially life threatening for me and there isn’t a tip off or warning signs, it just happens…I stop breathing. I’m happy to report that I didn’t need medical treatment nor did I need steroids and breathing treatments. It was a great week!
My posts on the Chronicles have been far and few between due to my down time trying to recover, and then playing catch up with everything needing to be done around the property.
This week and weekend was a particular success and both Dom and I feel very accomplished. There was a lot of clean up to do around the property, stuff to plant, raised beds to prep, mineral amendments to add to all our fruit trees, and a giant compost heap to make. Luckily we were able to finish the majority of our weekend tasks before the windstorm kicked up.
Most of Saturday morning was spent planning things out. Plans change quickly around here. I try to stay flexible when new opportunities arise, or when necessity dictates. One major plan shift was deciding not to raise American Guinea Hogs on our property. We have plans to raise them on our neighbor’s 20 acres instead. In the meantime the area we were planning on raising hogs will now be occupied by chicken and duck layers. Originally we planned to only raise one type of dual purpose chicken, and one type of dual purpose duck, but I’ve changed my mind. We’ll have two chicken pastures. One for only egg laying ducks and chickens, and the other large pasture area for dual purpose heritage breeds of chickens and ducks.
The hatchery emailed to inform us that the chicks will be hatching on or around April 30, and they will be shipped the day they hatch. That gave us a little more time to get their permanent area situated and ready for them. So most of Saturday and all of Sunday was spent gathering up weeds, seeds, leaves, and moving them to the new small chicken area. One large compost heap was created, and then topped with fresh horse manure. Over the next few weeks as the pile is watered and turned, it will start to break down and new bugs, mycelium and other organisms will grow and develop in the pile. When the chicks are old enough to be outside and out of the brooder, they’ll be moved to their new permanent home and be in their glory as they discover all the lovely little creatures awaiting them in the compost pile. It will be like a gourmet feast for them. I know it doesn’t sound appetizing to us, but one thing we realized with chickens is that it’s difficult to keep them out of compost. It’s in their nature to turn and scratch stuff up looking for tasty treats. Why deny them such an epicurean wonder?
I haven’t named their area yet. “The Egg Yard” or “Little Pasture?” Maybe “Compact Pasture” would more effectively represent the area.
I’m planting their little pasture with lots of support species. Siberian peashrub, golden currants, gooseberry, quaking aspen, a sycamore tree, a few evergreens, comfrey, wormwood, clovers, alfalfa, and mulberry…for a start. Everything will be planted as a mini food forest, even though for the first few years they won’t have access to the growing plants. Their area will reduced and fenced off. Once the shrubs and trees are old enough to handle their presence, the fence will be removed, and a grid will be added around the base of the trees and shrubs to prevent scratching up the roots, as well as preventing the ducks from dabbling at the roots.
We’re on the lookout also for a free old bathtub insert. I need one of these for the ducks. We’ve decided to go with Khaki Campbell ducks as our main layers, and they’ll share their lives with the Silver Lace Winged Wyandottes and Black Australorps.
We won’t be starting a breeding program until next year, and once we do, breeders will be kept in a different area. This will allow us to keep the stress levels down among our egg layers. Drakes have quite a voracious sex drive and can really be a menace to the ducks.
I’m also considering adding a few Guinea Fowl to our farmstead. I’m still researching them however, and I won’t know if I want to add them until after I’ve formed a final opinion. I’m leaning towards having a few as our bug and weed grounds keepers. We’ll be adding a few geese to aid in our keeping weeds at bay, and Guinea fowl might be a great addition as well since they love to eat plenty of bugs and weed seeds. We are not in short supply of those items, that’s for sure!
We don’t use herbicides or pesticides here at Luna Hill, so having healthy, vibrant alternatives can provide entertainment, bug and weed control, and add to the general health of our farmstead.
I researched guinea fowl a few years ago, but as a possibility for meat and eggs. Back then I came to the conclusion that they really weren’t worth the trouble of trying to catch them (they run super fast), but as a utility bird for keeping bugs and weeds under control? I may have cause to reconsider. Bug patrol wasn’t a part of my original reasoning, but it is now! Four years ago when we were laying down all the plans for animals, our property was a blank slate. Literally! There were some ants, beetles, doves, a few toads, roadrunners, scorpions, spiders, bees and wasps, but now? Wow, we have so many different bugs and creepy crawly things that I wouldn’t know where to start in naming them all. Our property continues to come into balance, and as new bugs move in, it can become imbalanced for a while. Having guinea fowl around could help us create balance without one bug species getting out of hand.
I know that they’re tasty and a gourmet food in french cuisine, but my interests are purely selfish at this point. Get them to eat fire ants, beetles, flies, hornworms, moths, cabbage maggots, grasshoppers, snakes, and anything else that makes them happy, and in the end, we benefit from keeping them. Again, my decision won’t be made until I’ve done all my homework and know what breed I want.
This week I’ll be *brewing* up a few batches of fish emulsion/fertilizer for the garden. It takes about a month to brew. I use the word brew, but really it’s more like ROT. We make our own emulsions because commercially prepared fish emulsions don’t have the beneficial bacterias I feel are important for garden plants. Will commercially made fish emulsion work? Absolutely, but I want the whole shebang! I don’t want to pay a premium for something I can make myself at a fraction of the cost, AND it’s doesn’t have all the life cooked out of it. That’s because the brewing we do here is just a fancy word for letting it rot in a bucket for a month.
I could start using the brew after a few weeks, but its best to wait at least a month. Our last frost is typically mid May, so I like to make sure my emulsion is ready to use by the time we’re ready to transplant.
Here’s a look around Luna Hill this past week:
Ladybugs have been busy eating aphids
Granny Smith blossoms
Dom created a wooden sprinkler stand for the Quadrant Garden.
The sprinkler has a two fold purpose. First to water topside in the Quadrant, and second to attract birds to the garden in the early morning hours. The birds are interested in the water and get to find a bug breakfast while they visit.
The front of the property where we have our apple and cherry trees was cleaned out. You may be able to see all the hills and valleys in the ground, and those are basin garden beds, or sunken beds. My plan for 2014 was to rework this area and create a formal garden, but after clearing the space, I realized that my original plan will be just fine, and all the work had already been completed two years ago. All the sunken beds will be filled with perennial vegetables, flowers, berry bushes, and Siberian peashrubs. Gracing the four corners of this area will be four sycamore trees. The fifth will be located in the little chicken pasture.
Simmi got busy flying her kite while it was breezy
The area above was prepped and planted. This is the future location of the asparagus growing in the greenhouse. I won’t be planting the asparagus until next year, so in the meantime it was planted with mammoth sunflowers (for the chickens), pole beans, and ornamental bird house gourds.
The photo above and blow are of the quadrant garden. These beds were created two years ago and allowed to rot. Yesterday I was able to get some of the top layer removed from half of the beds. That top layer contained lots of weeds and seeds from tumbleweeds and other desert weeds blowing by and getting snagged in the beds.
Dom shoveling horse manure. Our neighbor provides us with horse manure each week.
Another shot of the front sunken garden beds. In this area are five apple trees, three cherry trees and two crab apple trees. There’s also a blackberry bush, a paulownia tree, lots of desert volunteer flowers and shrubs, and a cottonwood tree.
The first few layers of the compost pile in the small chicken area.
Asparagus and Turkish orange eggplant
Things are growing beautifully and adjusting well to greenhouse life.
Stop by our farm site Luna Hill Heritage Farm to sign up for our CSA!