Time certainly does pass quickly

I just revisited my blog and found that it has been over a year since I made a post.  WOW!  So much has happened.

My garden last year was a complete success and I learned that I have a tomato superpower.  I credit the tomatoes to my coop poop 100%!  I pulled brandywine tomatoes out of my garden that were as big as softballs.  Canned up 21 jars of them.  And my San Marzano’s were amazing.  Canned up 5 pint jars of pizza sauce with them. I won’t waste my time with the mini variety any longer. The seeds were moldy in every tomato I cut open at every stage of growth.  I’m thinking I got some GMO seeds.  The giant variety was the way to go.  I saved seeds from all of my best tomatoes and I have 2 heirloom plants and 3 San Marzano’s growing in the AeroGarden now. 

This is the time of year where I start to plan everything out.  I’m just going to focus on tomatoes, green beans and peas this year.  I also have some rainbow chard in another AeroGarden that will go out in my deck planters.

And – I am now up to 10 chickens and might be adding 3 more Orphingtons if their person has to give them up.  I’ve learned that if you have chickens and a garden, you want big fat hens so they don’t jump your garden fence and peck at your tomatoes and dig up your onions. Skinny hens are good egg layers, but mine are smart and agile and can go over an 8 foot fence with ease.

I hope you are all doing well and getting excited for a brand new growing season.

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3rd Green Egg

Today I collected our 3rd green egg in 4 days. Gloria’s laying schedule is a bit off but she’s popping out amazing (smallish) green eggs. She started about 2.5 weeks after coming to her new home so that’s good information when integrating a new lady into your flock.

Is it a flock of chickens or a brood? Just learned its a FLOCK of chickens if there are roosters. It is a BROOD if there are all hens. brood

Here’s a shot of all three of the green eggs. You can see that they each get slightly bigger.

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It happened!

It finally happened, Gloria produced her first green egg! Guess that means she’s finally one of the pack now. Only took her 2 1/2 weeks, but better late than never.

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What’s going on at How Grows It Farms

So I realized this morning that I had a draft that I had not posted (it was posted just before this one). There is lots of good information in that post even thought it is a little outdated, so I published it anyway.   Here’s the update to that previous post.

Bunny has been laying her magical pink eggs for some time now and we are very grateful to her.

I purchased another Americauna last weekend off of Craigslist from another local chicken keeper.  Her name is now Gloria and she is integrating with my ladies pretty good.  Nighttime in the coop is fine but there continues to be less and less yard/food drama. She hasn’t laid any of her special GREEN eggs for me yet, but it’s only been a week and she’s trying to fit into her new life. Gloria brings our hen count back up to 8 and I’m not sure if I’ll add peeps again this year.

About the VegTrug – I went to Home Depot and they had some that are about 3 feet hight, 4 feet long and about 8 inches deep.  I put that together with my new drill (WOOP!). I basically wanted to see how it was built so I can try to build more myself. It’s on my back deck and I plan to put some herbs in it, maybe some lettuce if there is room.  Stuff that I would use most often and close to the house for easy harvesting.  I would like to add some bigger VegTrugs on the south side of my house to take advantage of the best sun.

I’ve joined up with Terra-Organics.com to get fresh, seasonal, local, organic fruits and vegetables (they even do breads, coffee and herbs) delivered to my house.  I’ve been propagating Leeks, Green Onions and Sweet Potatoes that came in my box.  I’m completely fascinated by Leeks now and I understand that they grow very well here in the Pacific Northwest. This is in addition to the amazing local product that comes each week. I got a parsnip about as big as a baby’s leg in my first delivery!  We made a root vegetable stew that so good, it almost made me cry with gratitude! There are lots of CSA’s (Community Support Agriculture) like this around – heck you might even have one in your town.  If you like fresh, seasonal, organic, non-GMO food I would encourage you to give it some serious consideration.

What’s next for this Urban Farmer you ask? I think a Worm Composting Factory. I want the compost and the “TEA” so bad I can hardly sit still. I have this idea that I can use the “tea” for my starts in the AeroGarden instead of buying their nutrients. I’m also gathering info so that I can keep my plants up year round. I don’t have anyone to teach me these things so I’m doing a lot of experimenting and it’s definitely fun.

Farm Updates

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted here so I figured I’d post some updates.

1) Bunny started laying eggs!  I know – you have all been loosing sleep over this but tonight you can get some good sleep.  The story of Bunny’s eggs is a great life lesson for me.

Being an Americauna, Bunny is to lay (most commonly) green eggs or (medium commonly) blue eggs.  Rarely do you get pink eggs from them.  So for months I would go down to the coop, collect the eggs and there would be no blue or green eggs.  We thought Bunny was a dud, but we loved her just the same.  Did some research and found that 30 weeks is about the time Americauna’s start laying.  30 weeks came and went and no eggs.

Then one Saturday in November I was down doing some coop management and I saw Bunny get up off of an egg in the nesting box.  I had assumed that she was “practicing” her broodiness. The egg that she got off of was similar to the other light brown eggs my other hens lay.  Once she hopped happily past me and out of the coop, I picked up the egg – it was warm.  She had just laid that egg!  I picked it and ran in the house like I had just found the last Golden Ticket to show everyone.  The egg was “pinkish” with white speckles!  I decided to look back over the other eggs we had stored up and sure enough, there were more in there like this new one.  Bunny had been laying all along, just a different color.

I had completely overlooked these eggs because my brain was looking for a different color. The life lesson I got from that is to open my eyes to WHAT IS and NOT WHAT MIGHT BE. I am so grateful to Bunny for teaching me this!

The Bunny eggs are on the bottom left 2 eggs.

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I bought myself a couple of Aerogardens and have some Cherokee Purple tomatoes, Jalepenos, red peppers and some Vinca flowers growing.  There is also some lettuces and spinach growing in another one in the back room. I’m experimenting with one of the gardens that has tomatoes in it – trying a “bonsai” style of maintenance.  I’m trying to develop a healthy, strong stalk by cutting their tops off and extraneous limbs.  What I would like to see is the plant put it’s energy into the stalk and bush out more than reach for the stars. We’ll see what happens, but they are all off to a great start.

3) It’s that time of year that gardeners love most – SEED CATALOG TIME! I have been reading a book (I will purposely not include it’s title for reasons you will understand in a moment) about a family who moved to a farm on the east coast and decided to live by eating everything local either by buying local or growing their own. In the book it talked about GMO’s and anyone who knows me knows that Monsanto and DuPont and the others are my arch enemies. It was stated in the book that the big GMO companies were buying up smaller seed sellers and using the previous brand to pimp their own frankenseeds. It was said that Monsanto purchased Territorial Seed Company.  I about had a heart attack and decided to check into that to be absolutely sure.  Well, it ended up being a lie started on the internet.  WHEW!

So that got me thinking that I can only trust heirloom companies and decided to check around to see which company or companies were going to get my money.  There aren’t that many out there that are trustworthy so I knew it would be easy to make a decision.  I decided on the following:

http://www.highmowingseeds.com

http://www.territorialseed.com

http://www.seattleseed.com

At the time of this writing I just learned that Ed Hume Seeds are from Puyallup, Wa and are on the safe list.  HUH! How cool is that? http://www.humeseeds.com/

So, I’ll be getting rid of the other seeds that I bought that are not safe seeds.  I’m thinking FIRE is a good way to get rid of them.  Can’t compost them!

My springtime plans include building my own standing vegetable garden, worm bins and seed rack drying system.  The VegTrug gave me the idea, but it is not tall enough for me to work comfortably.  So I’ll be building my own.  My plan this year is to grow only what I am good at (tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes) and grow lots of them.  But I also plan to have a FUN garden space where I try out new things.  Rainbow Chard and Kale are going to go in those beds.

Winter Planting

I’m interested in doing some winter planning this year and the research that I have done so far is kind of confusing.  Anyone have any guidance on this? Not sure what I can plant here in the Pacific Northwest.  I plan to visit a couple of trusted nurseries and see what they say.  But I’d also like to solicite some good ol’ fashioned experience also.

Thank you in advance. 

No eggs for Bunny yet

So it’s almost been 30.5 weeks for Bunny and still no eggs yet.  I’ve learned that Americauna’s don’t start laying typically until at least 30 weeks, we we are still hopeful Bunny will pop out some gorgeous blue eggs anytime.

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As for the rest of the ladies, they are all doing fine.  Welsummers have been laying for several weeks now and their eggs are dark chocolate brown, sometimes reddish in color and are increasing in size.  Wanda looks like she is on the upswing of coming out of molt so she hasn’t been laying for a few weeks.  Lulu, Donna and Opal are laying occassionally. The attacks on the younger ladies seems to have quieted down a bit. Donna and Lulu are still sleeping in the old coop.  Seattle weather should turn more “normal” for this time of the year and we could see colder temps and rain this weekend.  I’ve been turning on the light in the new coop at night, but I’ll probably change out the bulb to a heat lamp and hang that for them this weekend.  It’s also time for a good coop cleaning.

I took down the temporary fence that blocked the ladies from the front yard when school started back.  I live by a school and the kids that walk by on their way to school love seeing the chickens in the morning.  I noticed that the ladies went right for the gardens out there and completely (almost too god) weeded them.  They tore up my onions again, but they seem to leave the tomatoes alone.  One added benefit of putting the ladies to work out there is that they dig up my potatoes for me. Having a partnership with the ladies is definitely good on my aging back. Next year I’ll plant all of the things that they won’t eat in open beds so they can weed.  And all of the lettuce and onions and such that they will eat in protected beds.  Being a good earth shepherd is very satisfying – not only to me, but also the ladies.

Of added note – we have an awesome new orange juice machine at work.  I brought a bag of orange rinds home for the ladies thinking it would be a good supplement for calcium.  Well, I dumped the whole bag out for them (about 15 lbs) and threw some in the coop.  It smelled really nice in there for a few days.  Then the rinds started to mold.  I really didn’t think anything of it.  Then I started to notice that the egg shells started getting weaker and weaker until a few eggs had no shell at all.  That’s weird to find laying in the coop.  I picked up some oyster shells and that fixed the shell problem, and I composted the orange rinds.  Note to self: either use small amounts of rind or none at all.

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