Monday, May 30, 2016

Our Rabbitry

This is our rabbitry!
It may look strange but it will house our four rabbits for the majority of their lives.
We do pull them out and let them run around the yard - especially when I need help weeding an area!

Building the Hutch
We had some hard to use space between the upper garden and the sheds.
Making the hutch here will help keep the rabbits cooler in the summer, as well as help protect them from the elements.
Plus it puts a cement area to great use!
So far we have two sheds, a rabbit hutch, my kitchen garden and my grow box all on our cement driveway pad (which is massive).
Urban farming is so much more than just farming or raising animals for food products.
We have to be creative about how and where to put things.
Space and budget are huge considerations for our family.

Working on my video skills - as well as adding them to YouTube.
Sorry for the babbling and the shaking.
I promise I will get the hang of this!

And on to our bunnies!
As our breeders these bunnies, get names along with lots of love and attention.

Blackthorn is the only girl we don't know how old she is.
We are hoping she will give us kits.
I'm fairly sure she's either full Rex or half Rex.
She arrived one night drawn by the smell of our new arrivals - pretty sure she was a released pet.
I've checked all missing pet boards and so far (three months) no one has posted for a missing bunny.
Sad to say pretty sure she was bought for Easter then quickly gotten rid of when they realized bunnies stink - especially when inside a house!
She begged for us to add her! Came two days in a row and practically walked into the cage.

Zorro is our Male.
 He is a Flemish Giant/New Zealand Cross
Also a fluffy adorable sweet heart!

Stormy & Misty
They are sisters and love each other.
New Zealand/Flemish Giant/ California mixes.
They are meant for meat! Not to small, not all bone bred to be meaty.
They are also sweet - they love radish leaves and wheat grass more than anything!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Meet the Hens

This is my darling!
Lemony Snicket AKA Lemony - Easter Egger
She is the very bottom of the pack, she gets picked on and scolded by all the other birds.
Yet, she is the fastest runner, has the best intuition for danger and has the prettiest colors!

Henrietta - Rhode Island Red
Because every flock needs a Henrietta!
She is sweet, falls somewhere in the middle of the pecking order.

Clary - Rhode Island Red
She is my adventurous girl! I have so many photos of her jumping, climbing or exploring.
I love this photo due to the fact she was watching my husband plant pumpkins.
Unsure where she is in the pecking order - only that she is happy.

Hermione - Rhode Island Red
The lady in the front.
She is dead center in the pecking order, very quite. Almost shy.

Lizzie - Easter Egger
She's another adventurous bird, always on the outer rim of the flock.
Toward the bottom of the pecking order but doesn't really care.

Vin - Easter Egger
Not sure where in the chain Vin is. 
Vin is our rogue, she even took off once for a full night. I found her bright and early the next morning attempting to break back into the enclosed yard.

Kahlan - Easter Egger
The bird in the middle of the group with a pink band around her ankle.
She's the second in command - very bossy.

 Annabeth - Rhode Island Red
Third to the top bird. As top birds go, this one is a sweetie. 
Even when she's bullying the others she will simply stand in front of them to assert her right.

Polgara - Easter Egger
Very bossy
Loves me
Will follow me everywhere.
She is a LOUD begger.
Very demanding - she will stand on the front porch and scream until I bring her treats.
She has tried repeatedly to make it inside the house through the dog door on our front porch, only the plastic cover we put over it to keep Patch inside and the outside keeps her out.

Those are my ladies! They are almost a year in a half old.
My girls lay on average 6-8 eggs daily.

My Easter Eggers lay the pretty blue light blue eggs - one of them lays a very mild olive green.
The Rhode Island reds give me the stunning brown.

Normal size of eggs average from medium to extra large.
So far I've not gotten either a fairy egg or any jumbos.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Starting Herbs & Marigolds

I haven't been shy about saying how hard it is to grow herbs from seed. I'll still say it. Its hard. Lots of work for little reward - anything and everything can go wrong while growing them. To hot, to cold, to wet, to dry, so many variables.
There are times however when I still go ahead and try it.

My soil mix ratios are:
35% compost
55% organic potting soil
20%  vermiculite

Roughly, I don't exact measure, I eyeball it. 
Herbs can take a longer time to grow and get established, hence me adding the compost in at this stage. The extra can help give it a boost (too much will fry them). The vermiculite is to help the soil drain better.

If you can see the first photo I didn't fill it all the way - first I added the seeds, English Lavender, Sweet Marjoram & Rock Cress. 
After filling it part way with the mixed soil, I added the seeds then covered it with pure organic potting soil.
The Rock Cress should grow easily, but I've never grown it before so we will see.

Using straight organic potting soil we planted less than a hundred from this package of Marigold seeds. We will be planting these around the tomatoes, chicken run and rabbit hutch to help keep bugs and flies down.

Not sure how many times we will fill this grow container and start again but round one is started.

Watered and covered they sit under our grow lamp in the spare room - here's hoping they grow!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Beating the Heat vol.1

There are many ways to beat the heat with backyard chickens. One of my favorite ways is to give them this tiny wading pan.
We converted a drip pan by plugging the side hole up with a plastic cover.

For this to work you need to do a few things everyday.
Number one: is to empty it every night or every morning before your birds can access it.
This is very important, unless you have an enclosed run, other birds can access the water. Wild birds are known for carrying mites, lice or anything other parasites.
Two: Following that train of thought you need to clean it out everyday.
Three: Refill with fresh clean cold water every day.
Four: Place the water in the shade.
Five: Make sure the water level is under two inches. This is mainly for them to step in, cooling off their feet will really help cool them off - they will drink from it as well.

While the steps seem bossy and tedious it takes less than a few minutes to complete them. My girls crowd the gate to their run anticipating that once I'm done filling the pan I'll let them out for a while.

This is one way to help your ladies beat the heat - my girls needed some time to get used to the pan. Last summer when they were younger it took them a while to be willing to investigate it. I would recommend starting one like it between April and May the first year so when they need it, they aren't afraid of it.

I adore my girls! Northern Utah is a state of extremes - we have over 100 degrees heat in the summer and well below freezing temps in the winter. Breed wise, I choose cold hardy breeds. The breeds that are great in the heat don't normally compensate well to the cold. Cold hardy breeds are much better at dealing with both cold and heat - however chickens have a much harder time in the heat then in the cold.
Making sure they have access to plenty of clean water, feeding early in the morning and/or again later in the evening are simple but first steps to keeping them cool.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Salad for Me - Radish Leaves for the Rabbits

Our lovely fresh garden lettuce with our radishes.

The great thing about having fresh garden foods straight to the table within minutes of picking it, is all the scraps go to the animals!
Radish greens to the rabbits, the smallish bits of lettuce to the chickens.
Any bits leftover compost bin.

Gather, clean and make your salad!

Then you take these gorgeous radish tops to the rabbits!

So far it seems that my rabbits will choose radish leaves to any other food!
If a wild or freed rabbit makes its way into my kitchen garden, over night I'd most likely lose my radish leaves!
Blackthorn gives them her 100% seal of approval!
Best part is how fast radishes grow!
I planted those 2 months ago and they are humongous!
I'll be able to do a second planting of them to keep my bunnies in fresh greens until late fall.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cleaning & Composting

Once a week, normally Saturday or Sunday we clean out the chicken run and coop. We rake it all out, hose things off and clean the coop, laying down fresh bedding. When we first got the chickens we used pine shavings. Not only were they expensive they also soaked up the wetter parts of the droppings. 
Once we got the rabbits the pine shavings soaked up the urine like crazy! 
We had to hose them all off before adding them into the compost and still I think I have too many pine shavings in my compost pile!
Cleaning helps keep our chickens healthy, the smell down and flies from getting to thick. We are also planting Marigolds to help combat the flies in the summer around the chicken coop

Looking for new options we switched to long grass bales, we were able to find locally for a great price!

Our girls LOVE the change!
Plus they don't soak up any of the urine and break down much faster in our compost pile.
A win on the price, win on cleaning up, win on composting and win for my girls!

Since the majority of our garden has now been planted this year it was time for us to turn the compost pile over. This year we turned bottom over on top of the middle, leaving only the newest, freshest long grass on the top. Rain, sun and weather will help break it down. When we turn it over in another two months it will break down even faster.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Carrot Sprouts

Its been beautiful, sunny, stormy, rainy and everything in between here. Which makes for a perfect Northern Utah Spring.
While I can't name the random wild flowering weed in the photo above I loved it.

Our baby carrots are coming along well!
One bed of carrots will need serious thinning, thinning I'm fairly sure our rabbits will adore helping with!
Our second bed of carrots is still pretty thin, we replanted seeds a week ago and are hoping they sprout soon. We love and adore carrots but this year with the rabbits having carrots as an extra treats is something we really want!

Each day is an adventure! 
Our animals are growing, thriving and enjoying life.
 The garden is growing - I've just harvested our first planting of Spinach and made a very yummy Spinach Calzone
(recipe will follow later this week)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Chicken Treats

Roughly two cups of scratch on the bottom, fresh cut from the garden; mint, dill and basil surrounded by wheat sprouts.

What the treat pan looked like after I added the wheat sprouts.
My girls go crazy for this!
The fresh herbs are also good for their health!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mint & Lavender

A few weeks ago I posted about my darling chickens weeding the mint for me, and they did a stunning and fabulous job. However at a certain point they will eventually start to dig up the mint roots. At that point I shooed them all out and gated the area off.

Not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination I'll grant you that, however I've taken the opportunity to add in more mint seeds as well as some lavender seeds. Do I actually think the lavender will spontaneously bloom wonderfully? NOPE.
As I posted previously getting herbs to start from seed is HARD. Really and truly hard, so I also have more seeds being started indoors and if worse comes to worse (I have 500 seeds so that would really be worse) I'll buy a few lavender plants and plant them in the far corner where there was a wild rose bush.

Once the mint has grown out a bit - whether by seed or by root spreading, I'll take the gates down and once again let the chickens roam freely - it takes months of them scratching to get to root pulling. (At least for my established mint patch. This is where watching them and paying attention to their free ranging pays attention).

Here's to adding and growing more herbs that are good for chickens, rabbits and my cooking!
Mint has always been a favorite of mine, now that I need to share with the rest of my flock I need to make sure I have a large area growing!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Berry Bushes

Our stunning Blackberry bushes close up!

Sorry! I've been taking photos, working hard around the yard and getting things done, I just keep forgetting my new commitment to showing it all off!
It was a good thing I snapped the above photo when I did, the next day it was messed up from the wind.

Our lovely ever-bearing raspberries are growing well.
Thankfully, the wind blows and rain is pouring down - so I will be updating the blog with things from this last week.
I may have mentioned this before but I adore springtime!
Already the chickens are eating the tops of the peas so I have low expectations of them growing well enough to actually shade the area. I may need to switch to a hardier vine growing plant - maybe planting grapes along that side of the fence - grapes, shade and plenty of flowers for our future bee hive.... choices choices.
I adore a world filled with choices!

Friday, May 13, 2016


Silly post today - all the girls are in a playful mood

She's the head of the flock.
She wants to know where the treats are!
Clary is still searching for me in the garden
Lizzie searches around the house

They find me

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Rabbits Grass

My darling made this amazing rabbit hutch from mostly free broken fencing. After it was done (top right) we decided to also add a small grow box on top of it. More information on the how and why can be found here on my previous Wheat Grass blog.

This week it was long enough for us to start harvesting it for our rabbits, it went better than planned!

We have harvested less than half of the top and are only on day 4! Not only are we not half way through the box the clipped areas are already growing so fast we may not need to take a few days break between days when we reach the end!
(sorry for the blurry photos the light at certain times seems to affect my filter.)

As for the bunnies, they LOVE the fresh grass! So much that they were practically begging us to put the grass in. The girls grew very excited when we grabbed their "feast plank" - a section of wood that we set the grass on top of for the feeding, keeping it from falling directly through the bars.
Once they are done eating the grass (not long at all) we pull the planks of wood out of the hutch to prevent the bunnies from chewing on them.
You can clearly see the feast plank in the middle small photo of Blackthorn.

If the video loads correctly you can see Misty and Stormy chowing down - if you turn the volume up WAY up, you can even hear them chewing!
Ravenous little things! They also adore dandelions! I love my bunnies! I've also been told that barley grass is a good fodder for rabbits. When we are done with our wheat seed we may be giving that a try!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Planting Pumpkins and Squash

We started both the squash and the pumpkins indoors, allowed them to grow 8-12 inches before transplanting them outdoors. Pumpkins and squash are plants that will cross pollinate with like plants if you plant them too close. We've planted them fifteen feet apart, I'd recommend more if you have the space for it.
Two years ago I had some amazing lovely (they really tasted fantastic) Zucchini/squash crosses. They tasted like zucchini, had the dark outer film of the zucchini but the size and shape of a squash. That year the accidental cross pollination worked in our favor - it doesn't always, so try to space them away from each other.

To give them extra protection while they get established outside, we mini green housed ours. My mini green houses are cut up washed out soda bottles (2-3 liters). The benefits of using them are each plant gets a mini green house to keep it warmer and wetter. We are reusing something we had on hand instead of purchasing something else - making it both eco friendly and budget friendly.
As we are not heavy soda drinkers it took us all winter to gather a small collection, so if you like the idea you may need to plan ahead for next year. (If you are like us - some people really love their soda).

Beware Soil Rant Below

Since this is such a large project of space and we needed to do so much work it reminded me of a conversation the other day on one of my homesteading boards. It was simply: How to kill weeds in the garden? What would kill them the best and still be great on your plants.
Here's the thing. NOTHING.
I know many people swear by vinegar, DE or other more natural methods but in reality they still add a chemicals to the dirt. They still kill things - which changes the mini ecosystem of that area.

Gardening is hard work. If you can't do tons of hard work than the second best thing is controlled gardening.
Plastic sheeting a mound, cutting holes into it for that one plant to thrive.
Using pallets and planting in between - each of those will in turn help keep your weeds down, but again they come with the cost of not using the whole ecosystem of your yard. Less worms and bugs will be in the soil around your plants (unless you compensate and add them in - in the end not saving you money and possibly not a lot of time either).
Some ways to control the area around the plants like the methods posted above - people are very creative and clever so these methods vary - so does the budget of each person. These options go from $-$$$$.

Our garden style is very old fashioned - we till or dig, rake, add compost, rake, and plant. Daily to weekly weeding out whatever grows up that I don't want.
Is it a lot of work? YES.
Is it worth it? Oh heck yes!
The only things I add to the soil are things that I believe will benefit the soil and plants. Compost, water, coffee, eggshells - fish heads for tomatoes ect.
Things that will break down, enrich and benefit it. If you look at soil as a living component, you want to create a healthy soil ecosystem for your plants.

Where I live working the soil isn't easy, dig down 4-6 feet in any part of  Northern Utah valley areas and you will dig straight into clay. Southern Utah you are lucky if you can dig a foot down before reaching clay.
To find so many people wanting to add chemicals to a rather precious commodity here baffles the mind. We don't live in an area where the dirt is rich and deep. We don't have loam. Good soil is rare and takes work.

I feel deeply thankful that the family that built this house and the large wall around it, had a deep love of gardening. They spent time and money bringing in good soil - adding to it.
When we bought the house it had been let go for several years - they had grown old, died and the house sold to people who acted like renters for a few years. It was weed choked, neglected and filled with debris.
The soil however, was still great! Worth every bit of extra work to have a healthy area without any chemicals. Our entire lives seem to be filled with chemicals! Its in our drinks, our water, our food, the air, we should be taking some measure, some step somewhere in our lives to leave the chemicals alone. This is 100% my mini rant on the subject. I know many people will praise weed killers, bug killers ect to the sky and back. At the end of the day the choice in your garden is wonderfully that - your choice. You have full control over what you eat, how you eat and how its grown! Which is why gardening ROCKS!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Indoor Starters

So far we've started cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes & kale indoors. The cucumbers died the first few days out due to a cold snap so we direct sowed into the ground and are hoping the warmer weather this week helps.
We planted the squash and pumpkin in the main garden with mini DIY green houses to get them through the first few days transitioning outside (tomorrow's post).
So that leaves us with tomato and kale babies inside along with our beautiful sweet banana peppers - we plan on planting them soon but for now they are safe indoors.
The kale and tomatoes need time to grow as well before we take them outside, right now they are basking under the warmth of a grow light.
In the future we hope to have a small green house set up that they can thrive in for a while outside instead of our office/workout room.


Also I have tons of my peas starting to come up! I can't wait for them to grow! This year is by far the best early growing season! Tons of rain, not a lot of freezing or cold snaps.
Tonight for the first time since fall we have fresh grown lettuce for dinner! Fresh picked lettuce is so much sweeter than what you can buy!

Have I mentioned how much I love spring? Or gardening? Or eating fresh food? I'm not sure words would ever do it justice! I LOVE spring! So for now that's what's growing indoors, waiting to outdoors.
I also have the basil and aloe plants but they are year round inside plants. Next year I may need to move my large aloe outdoors or harvest it down quite a bit - its growing quite massive!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Egg Shells

Chickens need a few extra supplements - the main one is calcium. You can give them several different things to help with this. Many choose calcium enriched feed, oyster shells or the budget friendly way is to wash, dry, crush and feed them back their own egg shells.

If I only use one or two eggs at a time, they normally end up in the compost bin. However, on the weekends we love to have a large lazy breakfast. Using anywhere from 9-12 eggs!
On those days I save up the egg shells, wash them, dry them (can take a few days if you have higher humidity in the air) I normally leave them to dry for two days (or more if I forget them).

The rest is easy, add them into a high side bowl and mash them down. Breaking them into fine bits.
A few other chicken bloggers recommend using a food processor. I just can't bring myself to lug it out of my storage, grind them up, wash it and put it away.
Its much simpler for me to do it by hand - however depending on age and physical ability - grinding it in a blender/processor works too.
I personally think its therapeutic to smash things to bits every now and then. ;)

Once crushed fine, feed them to the ladies! I don't have a regular system for this yet so I put it on a dish and set it out for them. They go wild for it!
Eventually (later on this summer) I hope to have a dispenser in their chicken run. I've seen many great ideas of how to make or reuse different products and am in the process of searching through yard sales and thrift stores for something that works well.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Basil & Mint

Mint - once established will thrive! Getting seeds started is harder, which is why I was deeply thankful to find established Mint & Spearmint in my front yard! Also thankfully they are in areas that won't move into the rest of the yard.
When I went outside to snag a photo for this blog my girls came running! They just can't believe that I would pay attention to anything besides them - so as an added bonus here are some lovely shots of my hens playing in the mint!
Again since my mint patch is so firmly established - they actually help keep the weeds around the mint down, eat the bugs and my mint thrives with their extra attention. Crazy sounding? Yup. Works? Yes it actually does!

Basil - I LOVE basil. Seriously I add it into so many dishes. I bought a beautiful container of basil at the local nursery and found that it had four small plants in it.
We gently separated them, and they have really taken off in the last few weeks!
I can't wait until they are huge! I'm not picking any leaves off of them yet, I won't until the leaves, grow into steams. I want these plants to last for several years not just a season.
Another month or so of growing and they should be ready - fresh herbs really add something special!

Again with most herbs its easier to buy a growth than to get seeds to establish. Herbs are tricky in the first few stages. So many things can go wrong.
When I can I try to buy healthy plants and then baby them along until they are large and healthy.