Friday, July 29, 2011
You know what this Garden Daddy did with the bean vines don't you? RIGHT...straight to the chicken coop, along with any cull tomatoes, grass I pulled and any other garden refuse I thought would be a treat for the "girls"! That will keep them busy today...rummaging through that pile. Speaking of my "girls"...for those of you who generally feed commercial feed, medicated or not, most suppliers claim that if you feed their product exclusively there is no need to supplement with grit or oyster shell if using their feed. BUT...if YOU supplement your commercial feed at all with ANY garden culls, kitchen trimmings, grass clippings....anything other than commercial feed and your chickens are NOT free range, then please remember to add some grit to their diet. It is a must for the addition of products other than commercial feed. Some of my buddies in the West TN Poultry Club (plug here...of course I am a member!) mix it in their bulk feed and some just scatter on the ground in the coop, etc. Personally, I have an extra small feeder with an open top that I use sometimes when I am raising chicks in a brooder that I generally use to hold grit. I use hen-size crushed granite that you can get anywhere you get your layer feed...be it Tractor Supply, your local co-op, local feed store, etc.
And speaking of chickens...here is new photo of a few of my little spring pullets you have seen in March and April as little chicks with their foster Mom who sat on golf balls and I slipped these chicks under after about 22 -days of sitting...the one on the left is a Blue Wheaten Ameraucana, the middle one is a Standard White Cochin (white with the feathers on their feet and legs, I also have a nice Buff Cochin to go with her) and the third in the back is one of the Dutch Welsummers that are SUPPOSED to lay the terracotta dark brown eggs with speckles on them hopefully! You can just make out their little combs starting to come in as well as the wattles. But the Ameraucana never does really get either comb or wattles...but you can see the "beard & ear tufts" on this one pretty well. You can see in this photo why the are called BLUE WHEATEN, because of the gray-blue coloring around the beard (could be anywhere really) along with the caramel/wheat-color on a basic white body. The Welsummers of course here at the urban farm are all pullets/hens but if I had a rooster it would be what was used as the mascot for Kellogg's Corn Flakes rooster. Welsummers lay about 160 eggs per year. Not GREAT by any standards but a pretty egg that is generally just shy of large to extra large by FDA standards. We will see by next summer how well they lay or it is off to a spring club sale for them and new chicks coming in to replace them. I am already making plans for next spring to get some "Cornish Rock X" birds for the freezer I think at his point and maybe a few more for family or another club swap/sale. And maybe if the Welsummers are not what I want in layers or managable birds over the winter, might just go back with all Buff Orpington's or all Barred Rocks, which last year were TREMENDOUS layers as well as the Silver Laced & Golden Laced Wyandottes. I still have three of the Cuckoo Marans, which are probably not the best layers at all to have but their eggs are so dark and that is what I want and like the best. So do not think this urban farm is settled on the topic of layers yet. I have had many varieties this past two seasons, and as in all farming and gardening, it is an ever growing and learning experience with it all. Experimentation, planning, planting, and trying and re-trying EVERYTHING!
I had an inquiry about when I was processing my soup mix from last weeks tomato harvest did I have boiling water handy and dip my tomatoes and remove the skins BEFORE I put them in the food processor. The answer is NO...I just quartered them up, put them in and ran it until it was slush. Then I poured it into my stewing pot and brought the entire thing to a boil, seeds and all. After all when you buy stewed tomatoes in a can at the store they are whole but without skins. By the time that food processor gets through with everything, it is all chopped up anyway and when it cooks down for a few hours to reduce and thicken you cannot tell any difference anyway. I try to make things as simple as possible these days.
I thought you might find a fat old man hiding in the garden here at the urban farm and a few days ago, someone did...ME! Me in my Amish farmer's hat. It looks like I have a white beard but only a goatee...but after seeing this photo, am giving SERIOUS THOUGHT to that fact come fall to grow a full beard again, like I use to wear in my younger days, only this one will be white for sure!
I am already working on a new plan for the layout of the garden here at the urban farm for fall and into next spring. I am planning to add an arbor to the entrance after all harvest and garden clean up is over this fall. I will give you a photo layout of what my plan is when going in...nothing fancy at all but will make quite a statement. If you remember the one I put in last year at the Jackson Community Garden will give you an idea....by the way, please keep in your gardening minds that the life of the JCG will continue. My site is plagued with problems from the neighborhood it is in due to the fact the whole idea was to transform areas in need with not only a facelift and something to be proud of and to teach people how to feed themselves. That is why they are mostly in areas of crisis. It appears that it may be in naught after this year...I personally will not participate in the JCG next season but only wish the project success. It is not that I do not believe in the project but I can only do so much and am only one person and I simply do not have any more time to offer that project after this season. So if you have the opportunity to ever participate in a community garden, please give it a chance...help others learn to grow their own food, have a plot for yourself, and grow a plot or two for your local soup kitchen as well...EVERYONE needs healthy, fresh vegetables and what better way to get them than to plant the seeds, watch them grow and then serve them to your family...no better way, I promise you. That is the essence of THIS urban farm. I will leave you today with our ongoing urban farming affirmation in mind: "URBAN FARMING: ONE EGG AT A TIME!"
Monday, July 25, 2011
I have some other photos to share with you but will wait for another day. By the way, I just got some new business cards so if I ever meet you or you request one, I will mail one or just hand it to you...nice cards for sure, with a chicken on it even. I also ordered a few hats with GARDEN DADDY on it! I leave you today with our ongoing urban farming affirmation in mind: "URBAN FARMING: ONE EGG AT A TIME!"
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Last week I took a few days and visited my middle brother & his wife in Giles County, TN and he and I had a good time running the roads of his rural area of Tennessee. He lives very close to a large Amish community, found in the Etheridge area, Lawrence County I think. But we spent one whole day driving through that area, viewing some wonderfully productive and very lush farms, both thriving and moving ahead without the aid of many of our so called "modern" machines and other conveniences we THINK we must have to make our gardens grow and our front lawns green. These good people use a lot of real horsepower in the way of large draft horses, mules and the like. We saw bee hives, tomato plants of all stages of growth, including some new plants just being set out for a late harvest. Lets see...if you plant tomatoes the second week of July, give them 65 to 70 days to start blooming and fruiting that would make them harvesting in September which is still in the very-very high 80's and often still in the 90's here so YES, a late harvest for them is very viable.
We also were able to stop and chat with some of these good people and found them not only hard working but friendly and willing to assist us "ENGLISH" where needed. I love to hear their heavy accents, often some with what seems like a heavy Dutch accent or other close to something like that. TRULY GOOD PEOPLE!
I had a request from a follower who wanted to know how I introduced my spring chicks to the rest of the grown flock. When the little pullets were about 10-weeks old, I took some of the green plastic 1" fencing and used some plastic electrical ties and attached the fence to about1/3rd of the chicken house, added their own water fount and feed container and then took them in and added them into that section of the house. I left them there for about 4-weeks and in that time the grown hens got to check them out and they got used to each other. Then I went in and removed the fencing, leaving the separate food and water for the chicks in the same area where they had been staying. It took a few days but soon the little pullets started coming out into the outside run, often seeing a grown hen and returning to the safety of their original area, only to find there was really no place to hide now. But soon, they were eating together, roosting together and mingled just fine. It worked GREAT! I had already returned their foster Mom a few weeks earlier and it took a few days for her to even be re-accepted back into the flock, as she had been gone herself for those first really almost 12 weeks while if you remember sat on the golf balls, then brooded the store bought chicks I had ordered. It took about a week for her to be added back to the flock again without any fights or chasing.
I have been harvesting and freezing green beans from this urban farm. I planted both "Blue Lake" and "Contender" varieties. I gave some away and heard they were the best the folks had eaten...they were a mixed bag of both varieties I had blanched and froze first. I also have been harvesting many tomatoes and have made some cooked down and made some soup mix already. It looks like later this week I will really be in the midst of a huge tomato harvest but looks of things, more than I could ever eat before spoilage, so my kitchen will be alive again with chopping, adding to the food processor, then cooking down then mashing through a sieve to remove seeds and the bulk stuff (including any skins that did not cook down) then slow cooking to reduce and thicken, then cooling, then placing into freezer bags, cooling down in ice water then FINALLY.....adding to my freezer for next winter soup stock, chili base and other good winter cooking.
I also have been to the local farmer's market here in Jackson and got some "Peaches -N-Cream" corn, which I cut off the cob, fried in a little butter and salt, then cooled down and put in freezer bags and that also went into the freezer. Of course I have eaten some of that fresh when I first cut it off the cob. Boy...was it ever good! I need to make some cornbread, get more fresh corn and cook up a mess of fresh green beans from this garden home, slice a tomato and get to eating, right? ARE YOU HUNGRY YET?
Back to speaking of chickens...did I tell you I sold all but 4 of last year's laying hens? I had to make a decision as to keeping a large amount of hens with up and coming pullets eating me out of house and home, way too many eggs to be given away again this fall and winter when the pullets start to lay or culling down the flock to a more manageable size. I now only have 4-grown hens that are laying, with the 9-pullets who should I think start laying in late August or early September. I only kept the 3-Cuckoo Marans and the little Buff Orpington hen that was the little pullets' foster Mother. I am only getting a minimum amount of eggs now, as due to summer heat and the fact the Cuckoo's are not the best and most dependable layers. Now waiting on the 6-Wellsummer pullets, the two standard Cochin pullets and the new Blue-Wheaten Ameraucana to start laying later this summer or fall.
I will leave you today then with our ongoing urban farming affirmation: "URBAN FARMING: ONE EGG AT A TIME!"