Sunday Snaps

The squash is doing well and after several days of only male blossoms, I finally started getting some female blossoms. I currently have three squash developing.

Spaghetti Squash





In ten summers I have yet to actually eat a single apple . . . this year looks to be no exception as I can’t reach the apples that the squirrels and birds have left.





Finally, not all UV protection is equal. I put a “farm” tarp from Harbor Freight on the sheep shelter last October. I replaced the billboard covers I had on the goat shelters a couple of months ago because I wasn’t able to secure them during the high winds. I used tarps from the local True Value which were (allegedly) UV protected. I removed the shreds of both tarps a few days ago and replaced them with “farm” tarps from Harbor Freight this morning. The tarp on the sheep shelter looks almost new.




Sunday Snap

I first posted a photo of the spaghetti squash on June 3. This photo was actually taken yesterday, on June 30, so just shy of a month later.

Actually I’m sort of surprised . . . temperatures have been soaring in the last few weeks with more days breaking 100 degrees than I would normally expect. Even with a shade cloth over the garden, many of the plants have been showing signs of heat stress.

I’m being optimistic that this garden, originally designed to work in drought-stricken areas of Africa, may be the solution to my gardening woes. The hardware cloth is keeping the moles and gophers from eating the roots, the raised bed is keeping the rabbits out and the center compost tube appears to be providing sufficient fertilizer. I’ve started watering through the compost tube so that the plants are being watered from the roots as opposed to the top and that has cut the amount of water necessary considerably.

“Surprise” Survivor

My two Buff Brahma bantam hens started setting weeks ago. Long past when I could reasonably expect chicks to hatch (average of 21 days), both hens were still broody and I left the eggs under them in the hopes that they would still be setting when the Icelandic chicks were expected to arrive. To my surprise, three chicks were actually hatched although only one survived. The hens came off the remaining eggs a couple of days after the surviving chick was hatched. I removed the remaining eggs and hauled them out to the front pasture, far from the coop and animal pens, to be left for the wildlife. Since I no longer had expectations that the bantams would raise the additional chicks, I cleaned up the brooder and prepared it for the expected Icelandics (which didn’t arrive and may not come this season after all). Then, unexpectedly, the bantam chick died about a week after hatching.

In the meantime, two of my young full-size hens had gone broody and were sitting on eggs. One, an Australorp, was in an upper nesting box while the other, a Buff Orpington, was in a lower box. I went out a few days ago and heard cheeping. The Australorp was off the nest and in the main coop with a small little black chick. When I set up a dog house in another section of the coop and moved the hen, I discovered a second little black chick under her. I transferred a few eggs into the dog house on the off chance she would continue to set and proceeded to put the remaining 38 eggs in a bucket in anticipation of hauling them out to the front pasture. I decided to leave the bucket and eggs in the coop overnight and see if the Orpington was still setting the next day as she had been sporadically coming off the nest. She was off the nest in the morning and again in the evening so I proceeded to collect her eggs as well. All told the hens were sitting on a combined 86 eggs. However, when I removed the bucket from the coop I was hearing cheeping that didn’t appear to be coming from the section where the one hen and her two chicks were safely ensconced. As I carried the bucket down the drive I continued to hear cheeping so instead of just throwing the eggs out, I picked up each egg out of the bucket and placed it in the brush pile where I toss old eggs. At the very bottom of the bucket I found an egg that was cracked and when I picked it up I heard very clear and loud cheeping. I carefully peeled the egg open and found a bedraggled chick. Not expecting it to actually live, I carried it back to the coop and put it in with the hen and other two chicks. I was very pleasantly surprised this morning when I went out to the coop and saw three chicks running around.

The chick in the center is the “surprise” survivor


More of Nature’s Camouflage

The other evening when I was working outside, Fix started showing a little too much interest in what appeared to be a patch of grass. Hoping he hadn’t found a snake, I investigated. I have seen an increase in lizards this year and Fix has had a great time chasing them (though since he hasn’t caught one I suspect he is just enjoying the chase and happy to let them find a safe spot.) This is, however, the first time I have seen one of these on the property. Can you identify it?

My Last Attempt. . .

at gardening. Over the past ten years I have spent considerable time researching gardening techniques best suited for my location. One of the methods I discovered was a “keyhole garden” which is used in drought stricken countries with poor soil conditions. A few years ago I bought the necessary cinder block to build one but never was able to find the time to build one in time for spring planting. Finally, this year I was able to do so. Of course I had misplaced the book I had purchased on the subject (Deb Tolman’s Soiled Rotten) so was working off what I remembered from reading the book — as usual, a huge mistake. I marked the center of the garden.

I then marked off a circle six feet in diameter using the center as my guide.

The next step was to lay down hardware cloth (I have a serious gopher/mole problem). Even though I didn’t have enough on hand, I wanted to get an idea of whether or not I had enough cinder blocks (over the years the cinder blocks had migrated to other projects and while I had collected up as much as I could find I wasn’t sure if it was sufficient). So I laid down what I had of hardware cloth and then started building the base of the garden. Here is where I made my first mistake. Without the actual instructions I built the base layer trying to abut the cinder blocks flat against each other. First, that makes trying to create a circle very difficult and second, it uses more cinder block than what I had initially purchased. After counting the number of  blocks used in the first layer I decided I was going to be woefully short and needed another 30 blocks. So a trip to town (in my new used truck) took me to the building supply business for 30 more cinder blocks, to the hardware store for hardware cloth and then to another store for a cheap and lightweight garden cart for moving manure, etc.

After unloading the cinder block from the bed of the truck, I realized that the new cinder block was much wider than the old block which meant that I couldn’t stack it on top and that I would have to dismantle what I had done and move all the old block out of the way. After moving way too many blocks, I finally got smart and started looking on-line for pictures of key hole gardens using cinder block and found a decent enough photo to show how to actually set the blocks. Once I set the new blocks correctly, it transpired that I didn’t really need the additional blocks and that my original amount would have been sufficient. Oh well, cinder block is always useful and if this is successful I may build another garden next spring.

So after putting the hardware cloth down and building the garden three blocks high I then pulled some tin cans from recycling and put some cans on the bottom. While the compost tube in the middle is usually made of wire, I was concerned about it collapsing when I filled in the garden so since I had an old trashcan around that I had cut holes into to make it into a goat hay feeder, I decided that the trashcan would work if I drilled more holes in the bottom and all around the side. (This is why those on farms rarely throw anything away – almost everything can be repurposed at some point in time.)


I then lined the inside walls of the garden with cardboard, set the compost tube (trash can) in place and covered the bottom of the garden with old hay raked up from the floor of the barn.


Now I was ready to start filling in the garden. One layer was old cardboard and then I layered in compost (manure from the sheep and goats mixed with old hay), followed by another layer of cardboard and then compost again.

Starting with the base layer of just hay, I heavily watered every layer before adding more. The compost tube had old hay put in first and watered well and then I added some food scraps. I am going to let the garden settle for about a week before either adding another couple of layers or just finishing it with top soil and then planting it.  I need to cut some rebar so when I pound it in, it is just a few inches above the top of the garden. I will then bend some pvc pipe over the rebar to create a frame where I can put shade cloth or later in the season create a cold frame. I still need to clean up the hardware cloth around the edges as well, but if the garden works as advertised, I have a “keyhole” or cut out that allows easy access to the compost tube, the garden is designed to be drought resistant – initially it is watered on top but as it matures, the water will go into compost tube and percolate into the garden as needed, and everything planted can be easily reached. With luck I’ll have some great photos – and more importantly, great produce – from this garden over the summer.




The Final Step

In July of 2017 a cottonwood came down during a thunderstorm and landed on the pipe fence of the horse corral with the tree canopy almost completely covering the corral. The horse was unhurt but trapped in the far corner of the corral. A friend came over the next morning before work to chainsaw enough of the tree so I could get the horse removed to another location. It took awhile to deal with the bee hive that had taken up residence in the trunk of the cottonwood but once that was accomplished, the rest of the tree was able to be cleared from the corral. That still left part of the trunk on the pipe fence itself but the remaining tree blocked the horse from getting out of the corral. A few weeks later, I was finally able to get the rest of the tree cut up and then used a piece of cattle panel as a temporary patch. Another friend with welding equipment and skills agreed to take a look and see if he could fix the fence. When he finally made it out, we talked about possibilities and I asked if, instead of replacing the two sections of fence that formed that corner, it would be feasible to cut out the damaged sections and replace it with a gate that fit diagonally across to the undamaged sections on either side. He went home and built a gate but it was over a month before he could fit in the time to bring the gate and his welding equipment out. Tonight, after a few mishaps, the damaged pipe and cattle panel was cut away and the new gate welded in place. It took over eight months, but everything is finally done – and I have two gates.