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Sunday, July 25, 2010


HELLO & welcome to Garden Daddy here at the urban farm! This week was a good clean up time here at the urban farm. I worked on my own garden a bit (nice change from being all about the community garden and those others I am helping out in) and I was able to work some finished product out and prepare for a fall planting of greens. The summer squash is finished due to squash bug/borers that destroyed the main stems at the ground level and they are pulled up and gone now. Both summer and zucchini squash.
But the main project this past week was mucking out the backyard chicken coop. It was not bad for around 4-months worth of product. I had been putting all my grass clippings, other garden refuse, vegetable trimmings, melon rinds, etc. in the coop and about 3-weeks ago we had our last good rain. In the process and after the rain, we have had record heat and very high humidity. The remaining product in the coop did not dry out. I realized it was time for a mucking.
I removed everything from the coop I could, water founts, feeders...basically everything. Then I started in the chicken house. I had cypress wood chips in there and over time a good bit of wheat straw had made its way in as well due to feedings and the little pullets pulling it out of the nest boxes. So I got two good size plastic storage totes and proceeded to load them up to haul out. I backed my truck up almost to the coop door in the back yard and placed an old tarp in the bed. When I would fill up both totes I would move them to the coop gate then dump into the truck bed. I repeated this only twice in the house. So it took only 4-buckets of product to remove every thing and get it really cleaned out. Fresh chips were then added, food and water founts and I shooed the flock into the house and they stayed there while I started on the run.
Then I moved to the outside yard part. I started in the furthermost corner and took the flat shovel and started scooping out. I filled up the two totes quickly in this part. I took the product down to the bare ground. Originally, I had put in 6-bags of shredded hardwood mulch as a base and good drainage for the coop. I took all this out along with the other material that had built up along with the manure and other refuse in the coop...all the way to bare ground as originally started. After exactly 16-totes full of product dumped into my truck bed, I raked up with a fine metal lawn rake the remainder of loose manure, straw, mulch and other product that was left. This product was very small, fine particles of good usable material and I added this material straight into the area of this urban farm vegetable patch where I plan to plant a fall bed of greens in about another 10-days or so. I am watering it about every other day to help it burn off some of the nitrogen heat quickly.
After this complete mucking out, I added 6-bags of fresh shredded hardwood mulch back to the coop to start again. I have realized I could have put off mucking at this time if I had not put so much grass clippings in as well as the wheat straw and possible too much organic material. I have since this week put in a controlled amount of fresh organic material, using a garbage can lid with grass clipping in it instead of just dumping 2-plus bags full of clippings all in the coop and letting that build up. I will still give fresh material almost daily but will force more eating of the layer crumbles they are on and offer the green material in a more controlled way and not in bulk as I have been. They are by no means denied anything but given when I want them to have it and not "at will". At least for the time being. Then when I am able to reach my 2-year goal of moving to the mini-farm, I will have them more in a free range type of environment. Or at least some birds free ranging for eating bugs, etc.
My long term goal is to get enough of the breeds that are on the slide or endangered and try to produce enough fertile eggs and chicks to be able to provide them to other collectors and hobbyist and chicken fanciers. That would be my ideal situation. And in the plan I have, I look to become as self sufficient as possible. I was privileged to visit a fellow UT Master Gardener yesterday and her husband about 20-miles east of Jackson down I-40 who live on 15-acres and saw their operation and was very impressed. I was also generously given a pint of their freshly gathered honey from their hives. Did I say I was IMPRESSED? VERY IMPRESSED! I thought I had died and arrived in nirvana it was so wonderful there. There were only 2-miles off the interstate highway but you felt like you were miles from now where really. Lovely area and well hidden from view. Makes me think of my future and where to look for "the farm"! KUDOS to my new friends!
Things continue about the same at the Jackson Community Garden Site #4. I have added some fencing around the tomatoes as the local squirrel population seems to have located the main tomato patch that has been deemed for donation to the local soup kitchen, RIFA, and carry off half eaten green produce all over the garden site, leaving nothing to ripen for donation. Other than that, the rest of the garden is in full tilt and the cantaloupes and watermelons continue to add vines and small melons under the DAILY watchful eye of my only real gardener, "Mrs. G.". She has threatened bodily harm to anyone who touches the melons in the garden she says. I call her the Mayor of N. Fairgrounds & Hatton Street here in Jackson! Of course she gets a kick out of that.
I will leave you today with a few shots of the mucking of the backyard chicken coop and did I mention I put the manure product in the compost bin and will let it cook off a few months and then add it back into the garden for spring planting next year. Two photos of the mucked out product and the refreshed coop in shot #3. Have a good week and stay hydrated as we are still due for more scorching heat, up to 99-degrees here today. Still waiting on that first egg anytime now. And remember our ongoing gardening affirmation: "URBAN FARMING: ONE EGG AT A TIME!"

Saturday, July 17, 2010


HELLO & welcome to Garden Daddy here at the urban farm! The field peas have finished here and turning yellow, mostly from no rain or rain at the wrong time and they have just flat played out. So instead of letting 22-pullets loose in the garden with exposure to city hawks and the chance to escape over the short chain link fence in the yard here in center city Jackson, TN I just pulled the pea vines up and dumped them...YES, DUMPED THEM...over into the coop for their dining pleasure. And boy are they ever thrilled. They will eat these things down to stalks, then pick and play with them as well, leaving "stem skeletons" and with the watermelon & cantaloupe rinds already in there from a day or two ago, I will then go in and just rake off the top and add to my compost bin, not only adding green material but adding the top layer of fresh fertilizer to the pile as well that will eventually cook off and be added back into the garden, probably next spring. The worst time, if you call it worst at all since the pullets arrived at 2-days of age here at the urban farm has been the first few weeks, about 4-weeks I guess. They were really no trouble then except for the fact I had them in a large recycled rabbit cage I shared with you early on in this backyard chicken process. That required weekly cleaning and other than that they are and have been nothing but joy, laughter and lots of fun and really no trouble at all. They eat ANYTHING...I mean ANYTHING literally. I give them all my grass clippings from mowing the lawn, usually 2 to 2-1/2 mower bags full about every 6-days. Then they are getting any kind of fruit peels and rinds, cleaned lettuce greens as well as damaged vegetables from the garden here at the center city farm and even some generous neighbors as well, waiting patiently for their first fresh eggs I will share for their patience with me having them in the first place in their back yards so to speak.
I have enjoyed this urban farming idea very much since the inception of turning some flower beds into more of a self producing plot of city lot. HA, you indeed! Well, MY urban farm anyway. I have a vegetable garden, flower garden(s), raise chickens to feed myself and YES I SAY...FARM! URBAN FARM! Farm definition: "FARM: A tract of land devoted to the production of agricultural products and the raising and breeding of domestic animals". I rest my case from this point on for you scoffers and naysayers out there.
The pullets started this week on their new rations of oyster shell and layer crumbles, along with grit for digestion, to prepare the way for egg production for the early maturing birds. I have some breeds that do have moderately early maturing times...Speckled Sussex, the Wyandottes (both Silver Laced & Golden Laced), Ameraucanas (the tinted blue & green egg layers), Black Austraulorps, Buff Orpingtons, and the Barred Rocks which are rather early maturing birds. The earliest eggs could be as soon as the next week or two from some of these. The 2-Black Jersey Giants I have are very slow to mature due to their huge size, being the largest of the domesticated chickens for layers. They do not have a good feed-to-egg conversion but I got them mainly for a conversation piece...they are really large already and if they top out like I think, they will be a head at least about the crowd for sure! Then there are the the 3-Cuckoo Marans...the chocolate egg layers. I have found that even though the name "cuckoo" is supposed to represent the color pattern (similar to the Barred Rocks but more disorganized white stripes on black background) the name really represents the character and temperament, as they are a little cuckoo if you ask me. They truly run around like "a chicken with their heads cut off" if you excuse the quote. Quite the little clowns they are.
I leave you today then with our ongoing gardening affirmation in mind: "URBAN FARMING: ONE EGG AT A TIME!"

Friday, July 16, 2010


HELLO & welcome to Garden Daddy here at the urban farm! I finally found a couple of hours this week to make the pallet bench I have been planning and thought about for a long time. I wanted to make this for the Jackson Community Garden site I oversee. I worked about 2-hours on this project and the only supplies I needed was 2-shipping pallets, one (1) 2 x 4 x 8-ft long (cut to fit leg lengths) and a few 3"-deck screws. I would like to share the project with you today and now one of my gardeners over at the site has insisted we paint it white. So we are planning to do that today if the rain holds off a little longer this morning.
I am trying to spruce up a little over there as I hear through the gossip lines that there is to be community garden tour this next weekend. I want to show that even without any help from outside sources my site has literally grown into a really community show out of the void something was created. We have already delivered close to 50-lbs of fresh vegetables from the community garden to our local soup kitchen, RIFA, here in Jackson. That was my main goal all along anyway as much as helping some folks in a neighborhood enhance their community as well as teaching others how to grow and raise there own food and be proud of the end result. The old saying about "Teaching others to fish feeds them a lifetime" is certainly true and quite fulfilling.
Now to find time for my own garden here at the urban farm. WOW...what a summer it has been. Drastic heat waves, weeks without rain, yards to time has been used up this year. But all in all at least I have not been bored or without things to do by any means. To update the city chicken story, I finished feeding the grower feed yesterday and have started the pullets on layer crumbles with oyster shell made available. The oldest ones will be 15-weeks old next Monday and some of the early maturing birds COULD possibly start laying soon. So I wanted to give them the extra boost of the 16% protein and oyster shell needed if this happens in the near future. They are really looking good now, with combs and wattles starting to really come in on many of the birds. I think they are all pretty but of course I have my favorites. So I will leave you today with our ongoing gardening affirmation in mind...but remember, recycle and keep those pallets from our landfills! "URBAN FARMING: ONE EGG AT A TIME!"

Friday, July 2, 2010


HELLO & welcome to Garden Daddy here at the urban farm! What a busy week we have had! Not only here at the urban farm but over at the Jackson Community Garden. I have added a good bit of "curb appeal" over at the community garden I oversee. I have added several plants there that are already in bloom now, but that will add some perennial returns in years to come such as some yellow cannas and some purple cone flower as well as the pink "Potomac" crape myrtles I had already planted.
I also took a few days off this week and visited my middle brother and his lovely wife in south-central Tennessee, close to the Alabama state line. We had a good time as always going "farm hunting" as well as a little fishing and some "picking" through some countryside farm yard sales. We also went to Fayetteville, TN to a well known fabric store where I got some outdoor fabric to make some new covers for my front porch furniture to update and add a new look with a very colorful fabric I will work on in the near future to recover those cushions.
I have had a little better week this week in the garden here at the urban farm where the summer yellow squash and zucchini have really gotten down to producing finally as well as many-many tomatoes and bell peppers have come. I have picked field peas once and froze some containers and they are ready for a second harvest really as of today...or yesterday. Also, I got some good field corn from R & J Feed this week while getting my last bag of chick grower feed. I cut it off the cob, fried it in a little butter and bacon drippings, salt & pepper and then ate a little fresh and then froze most of it for later use.
Speaking of squash, the Jackson Community Garden project I oversee has delivered a large mess of yellow summer squash to the RIFA Soup Kitchen this past week as well. Between the JCG and my own garden here I was able to give them a nice picking and have more today to send them on Monday as well of my own yellow and zucchini squash from this urban farm and then add to it from the JCG. Over at the JCG I saw this week that I actually have some cantaloupe and watermelons starting to grow and make a little showing. It was very exciting for my gardeners there to see the little melons showing up on the vines. We also had another visitor there this week...a little fledgling dove has made its home in the tomato bed where the ground is covered with wheat straw for mulch and has been eating some of the wheat straw heads with the seeds on them and feeling somewhat protected under the canopy of the large tomato plants.
This past week I also stained the deck on the back of this garden home and tried to do some weather proofing there. I am in the process of having a new back door installed on this home to match the front door I had installed last fall. I have a solid wood door now that is dragging some and I cannot seem to do enough myself to make it right and I already know I wanted another single 15-pane French door there and I am also adding a vinyl screen door on the outside of that so that I can leave the main door open when weather allows for more ventilation and for general comfort and the additional features that would take this home back to a more original theme.
I have added a photo here of Max, guarding his little pullets. They are growing so much and will be 14-weeks old on July 12, 2010 and could start laying by age 15-weeks. Max thinks he is part of the flock and the pullets could care less that he is so close to them, as he has been part of their little lives from the age of two days old when they arrived here at the urban farm.

Here is some of the corn I processed for the freezer. I put the silks and shucks in the chicken coop along with the cobs after the corn was cut off and of course there was not much left but bare, clean picked cobs when the pullets got finished with it all. In fact, I even put my field pea shells in there and of course I add all my grass clippings now as they love the cut up tender grass tips from mowing. I also always add any other vegetable greens or trimmings in there...tomato, watermelon, cantaloupe...anything really that is edible for us is edible for them plus much more. I will even add the pea vines when they have finished producing and I pull them from the garden for a fall planting of greens in that spot.

Here is the deck after staining a nice cedar color of "Behr" waterproofing semitransparent stain. I am please with the outcome here and it has made the back really stand out in a better way as well as weather proofing the wood. This should last from 2 to 4 years from these 2-gallons of stain.

Here is a look at the community garden and an arbor I built there this about two weeks ago. It came out OK and for a quick addition, it will do for some added curb appeal. As you can see from the main front area it will add a sense of a more permanent space and give some "garden entry" feel to make this spot seem like it was meant to be and not a chance happening. I have enough pallets now to make some park benches and will post them when they are finished, painted and installed at the garden there.

I apologize for being away from you for so long but even Garden Daddy's need a break sometime! I leave you today then with our ongoing urban farming affirmation in mind: "URBAN FARMING: ONE EGG AT A TIME!"