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Thursday, January 27, 2011


HELLO & Welcome to Garden Daddy here at the urban farm! One more week, next Thursday Feb. 03, 2011, will be our intern class graduation to full Master Gardener status. I am so excited to be included with my group of graduates this season. It has been over a year since the fall of 2009 when my intern class sat for our classroom studies and then over these past 17 months of volunteer work to complete our needed time and devotion to our chosen projects to get us to this point. Many of my class have logged over 100-plus hours of volunteer time during the 2010 service year. My work with the Jackson Community Garden project has afforded that opportunity to me as well. The work with JCG became more though than just another service project to log hours through. The JCG has given me the opportunity to work with a group of volunteers who for the love of gardening and the love of teaching others how to garden and a chance to serve my community. But in the most real way, I feel that the community garden project gives us in the Master Gardener group a chance to do what really embodies what our goal and pure essence of being a my own mind, it is that service & education through gardening that reflects the MG mission statement. I should have some photos of the graduation ceremony next week to share with you. To say excited is not even close. I am elated!
I continue to get eggs daily, anywhere from 7 or 8 to a full dozen. About half of the birds continue to be in molt, even in this frigid cold weather and with lots of snow and below average temps. I have received the chick order list from my favorite feed store and one of the owners, Ginger, at R & J Feed for this springs delivery. Temptation...temptation...temptation! The West TN Poultry Club I am associated with is having our first 2011 Chicken Swap in Millington, TN on March 5th at Tractor Supply and I am very tempted to move about 5 or so birds on down the road in a swap for outright sale. I am wanting to get some of the Welsummers birds one of our group has incubating even now. I would also like a few more of the Ameraucana pullets, the tinted egg layers. They have been the most consistent layers I have really had other than the Speckled Sussex, Silver Laced Wyandottes and the Barred Rocks. My problem is I want them all and even more. I have always enjoyed being around chickens and have longed for a while now for more room to have what I want.
I often think as you have heard me say in the past, how I would love to have about 5-acres to spread out on and really become more self sufficient and have more place to "play" with my critters, more garden space, etc. But in this economy I plan to just stay put for now and keep my little urban farm as it is.
I leave you this evening with our ongoing gardening affirmation in mind: "URBAN FARMING: ONE EGG AT A TIME!"

Monday, January 17, 2011


HELLO & Welcome to Garden Daddy here at the urban farm! I would just like to relate to you that I have found one of my Black Austraulorp pullets STIFF AS A BOARD today and not from the cold either! I mean...T...I...M...B...E...R.........! I am down to 16-birds now. Between the gifting and the two natural deaths and the one I had to put down with the cross beak, I have reduced my own flock naturally really. That is not bad though that in about 10-plus months I have really only had two (2) fatalities. I think from all indications that both "natural deaths" were from being egg bound really. If not egg bound, as they really have not had those symptoms, I understand it could be that they had developed liver problems that lead to heart failure. With them being perfectly healthy, red combs, laying well, etc. one day and just stiff as a poker the next the heart attack sounds good to me. I know it is not worms, mites or other poultry issues and this sounds the most likely at this point.
So with 10-eggs delivered today and now down to 16 birds I leave you with our ongoing garden affirmation: "URBAN FARMING: ONE EGG AT A TIME!"

Thursday, January 13, 2011


HELLO & Welcome to Garden Daddy here at the urban farm. I would like to share with you in advance an article that is scheduled to appear in the February Madison County Master Gardener Newsletter in February 2011. I was asked to submit some ideas as often as possible to help out with some gaps there have been in trying to fill space. Who knows...this Garden Daddy may get a "URBAN FARM" corner in some publication sometime! For those of you who are wanting some winter gardening it is as submitted (how it gets published is another story):


Welcome to the world of mid-winter gardening tips to get us ready for an early spring gardening session. These a few things we already know but can all use some reminders. January & February always seems to be so cold and very lack luster with the holidays just behind us and the pace has slowed down. That is true but not in the gardening world. There are many projects to occupy those days when it seems the sun will never shine again and the grass will never green back up
For those of us who have not cleaned off last summers' garden leftovers this can be the perfect time to clean off the now dried up debris and tidy up a bit. For those of us with compost bins, we have probably have already added most everything into that or otherwise discarded. No use waiting and thinking you have run out of time to clear off your vegetable garden site and now it is time to replant for this spring. Get it done now. Also in February, you can go ahead and add some lime to your gardening sites as in most forms we use it (either pelleted or ground) it takes some few months actually for it to break down for usable purposes. Actually liming could have been done this past fall and worked a few inches into the top of the soil.
February is also a good time for us to build or repair our cold frame & raised beds, order seeds, and get your lawn equipment serviced (most repair shops are a little slower this time of year and you can usually get in and out sooner than later with repairs & tuneups). It is time to prune some of your woody plants like grapevines, lilacs and fruit trees. You can paint your lawn furniture on warmer days, get your seed flats ready. One of our least favorite chores is tool sharpening. When doing this project yourself, remember to wear a good pair of leather palm gloves to protect your hands when using a file on hoes or mower blades, etc.
In February you can actually go ahead and start your cool season seeds in the prepared flats. These would include cabbages, broccoli, onions, etc. For the last week of February you can get your garden patch ready for some warmer weather veggies and cover with plastic or add to the cold frame. These would include carrots, lettuce, other leafy vegetables. I have even heard of some folks planting some potato "eyes" by the last week of February, planting around 8" deep, adding a layer of wheat straw UNDER the potato eyes, covering with the 8" of soil, then adding a heavy layer of wheat straw mulch on top of soil then adding another 1" of soil on top of the thicker wheat straw mulch and they were harvesting by the middle of the summer. Of course here in our often unpredictable Zone 7 in the mid-south we can have a good freeze late in the season. But with the 8" planting and heavy mulch on the potatoes you should just make it here. I might have to try this one in the near future myself.
So get out there, put on an extra layer of clothing and get some crisp, fresh, winter air and get a jump on things to come and let your garden shine and provide you with an early harvest that extends your growing season into almost a 9-month event with a spring, mid-summer and fall gardening session. And with any results at all, your freezer and pantry could be over run with good, healthy, home grown produce. In some cases I know of as well, some of our number have added a small backyard flock of laying hens, even in mid-town Jackson, where not only do we have our home gardens but where the eggs are fresh, non-medicated, steroid free and there is always LOTS of fertilizer mixed with straw, garden refuse and natural elements that can go back into the garden as well. I just threw that in for your thoughts on these long, gloomy winter days when our mind wanders through the seed catalogs and poultry supply catalogs and we place our orders from both! And as I say in my blog with our ongoing affirmation:"URBAN FARMING: ONE EGG AT A TIME!"

So to all you regular Garden Daddy followers I say happy winter gardening and keep up with your chores and keep your own URBAN FARM a star in your own neighborhood!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


HELLO & Welcome to Garden Daddy here at the urban farm! I have heard your murmurings and concerns about finding FROZEN eggs in your chicken houses and coops these extra cold days we are having this year. Funny thing about eggs though. Unless the shell is cracked due to the freezing, the contents are still perfectly fine. If the shell is cracked because it has frozen then this Garden Daddy will throw it out or feed it to the furry critters here...namely "Max" the Silky Terrier here at the urban farm, mixed in with his food. If it is frozen and NOT cracked, it can be put in a zip lock freezer bag with others you might collect during a certain period and then used for cooking, baking, etc. You CAN still eat as regular cooked eggs but the yolks might not stand as tall and the slight change in taste might be noticeable. But you can still use any frozen eggs you might collect. If you are selling them you might try just warming them a little at the time and be sure to mention they MIGHT have been frozen at some point to your customers.
I will also mention again that the only reason I have been using a heat lamp in my coop this year is that about one half of my 10-month old laying pullets are in an early molt situation. They re shedding their original adult feathers and getting in new ones. The only problem this creates is that a lot of bare skin is showing and the new feathers have not come in yet as quickly as they need to during this cold weather. The heat lamp just protects against some frostbite I think anyway and gives them at least the opportunity to try to warm their backs for a bit. And the extra heat in the coop helps keep the water fount thawed as well.
So I leave you today with our ongoing affirmation in mind: "URBAN FARMING: ONE EGG AT A TIME!"

Monday, January 10, 2011


HELLO & Welcome to Garden Daddy here at the urban farm! I would like to state at the beginning today that I am in full apology for still depending on this old computer and having been so far from you all at this time. I have not abandoned you but am simply having to keep my computer usage very limited to basically email and personal business. It is VERY-VERY SLOW and even tries to open programs all by itself. I have taken the original one that crashed to the "GEEK SQUAD" for a check up and it was not repairable for under a huge fortune of money. Then I reconnected the OLD desktop back up and this has as many problems and again I am making plans and researching a new system that hopefully will arrive shortly after my income tax refund does this year, probably in late February.
Now on to my REAL business...I have some concerns that have been raised by a phone call today that some of you out there in the backyard chicken flock keepers are getting a little either concerned or disheartened by the fact you have stopped getting any eggs, even from supposedly good winter layer birds. I must remind everyone that these flocks have little real, water & daylight! A good worming and de-licing occasionally doesn't hurt either. That can be done with something I have mentioned before...something called "DE" or food grade DIATOMACEOUS EARTH. Sounds a little like a Star Trek thing right? DE is the remains of microscopic one-celled plants that were once under water and that are now mined and processed. Make sure it is FOOD GRADE! See below for more information.
You can get it at your local feed store or co-op. That CAN be one cause of laying stoppage. But most likely you must take into account that as I have often spoken of in past postings that a good general diet, including fresh greens, maybe a few more whole grains in cold weather and a MINIMUM of 12 to 15 hours of light a day, either natural or artificial will make a difference. It takes light to make your birds feed...feed turns to protein...protein turns into egg production. You MUST provide adequate lighting.
It might also be that your birds are in the stages of an early molt. I have 17 remaining birds from the original flock after donations and 2-losses. I have about 1/2 of the flock now in a heavy molt...YES right here in the midst of winter with snow on the ground today even and them about 10-months old. I am not only running an infra-red heat light but an additional flood light pointed on the water fount that keeps the water thawed and adds a little "daylight" as well, forcing them to eat a bit more and then keeps at least some laying. I have like I said about half of the flock molting, a little early I think, but I have several friends in my Master Gardener group with birds who are going through the same thing. I have the extra clear flood light on a timer that gives me an extra 4-hours lighting each day and on freezing nights have even left it on all night. But the molt will cause an egg laying hiatus all on its own.
Keeping backyard chickens is a wonderful hobby and lots of fun and a good conversation topic among folks who are clueless to anything "barnyard-ish"! But it is not like keeping a cat or a dog who you can ignore and life goes on. It does take some thought, planning, a strong stomach to a certain point (dealing with illnesses, chicken fights, poop everywhere, etc.) and more than just something you "THINK" might be fun. You must spend time with them daily and keep them in a tame mode otherwise you will end up with basically feral chickens or just another flower pot to water. Keeping something alive and truly living takes a little more than that. My middle brother would LOVE to have chickens, goats and more but he and his wife travel so much it is just not realistic for them to add those projects to their life. It is nice and a nice thought...but the facts are that they are like children, pets, keeping ANY living takes some kind of commitment on ones part to make it work and work well.
Not to again blow my own horn (I promise, no more shofars!) but in all the molting, loss of natural daylight and the colder weather, I am averaging still about 5-1/2 dozen eggs a week from my 17 birds. I have been providing extra whole grains in the way of extra scratch being fed, buying some marked down lettuce heads from the grocery, some sunflower seeds (large 40# bags from the Home Depot for around $8.00/bag) some dried oat meal (whole rolled oats - long cooking type) and adding the DE to the regular chicken layer crumbles...just in case! I also did a coop and bird dusting to keep down and prevent mite infestation. I have not found any upon inspection of any birds but if one has it they will all have them. So far - so good - but not taking any chances.
Now to those of you who think backyard keeping has turned out to be less like Foghorn Leghorn and more like Green Acres and you all feel more like Zsa Zsa, my suggestion is to invite some friends over on one of these weekends and fire up the grill for some Bar-B-Que chicken or some fried chicken for the preacher on Sunday. So I leave you today after missing you all so much (& please bear with me on my computer issues) with our ongoing affirmation in mind: "URBAN FARMING: ONE EGG AT A TIME!"