The Productive Backyard

A place to share garden and outdoor spaces plans and activities.
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Harriet
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The Productive Backyard

Postby Harriet » Sat Aug 09, 2008 10:44 am

The Productive Backyard

Here’s a space to discuss the chores and pleasant efforts that bring something from the land into your kitchen and home.

Vegetable garden harvests,
Egg gathering,
4-H projects,
Canning/freezing/putting up,
Orchard fruits,
Composting and
Livestock appreciation!

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Harriet
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Re: The Productive Backyard

Postby Harriet » Sat Aug 09, 2008 10:57 am

Here's a July epicurious article, with photos and links, about the current surge in backyard chicken flocks. (aritcle also has link to their previous article on resurgence in container gardening) We went out to our local old-time general store where I first bought supplies for hens 22-23 years ago, and the storekeeper tells me that his business in equipment like waterers, wire, feeders, etc. is way, way up because of so many new flocks in our area. We had thought it would be hard to find feeds since so much of our area has gone to housing developments and almost the whole county is now within some town limit. But several nearby garden centers have started carrying them lately and we actually have a choice.

Anybody putting up or freezing produce and fruits these days? It's definitely the time for it. Dh's uncle had a mystery squash in his garden where he thought he'd planted yellow crookneck plants, and I was able to tell him it was patty-pan. For that, he gave me a bag! Yum!
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Dove
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Re: The Productive Backyard

Postby Dove » Wed Aug 13, 2008 12:40 pm

Hi Harriet. The chickens will be a fun addition to your household. A Df had them for many years & her kids loved collecting eggs. Beware of foxes & hawks, though -- she lived in a very rural aread & had a lot of trouble with them. Ended up building portable coops with chicken wire that could be moved all around the yard. Also, she lamented that when her dh took over feeding chores he was careless with the seed & attracted rats.

There were some great info in the article & links you posted. Your flock will sure lay a lot of eggs. Any chance your dd will start a little side business selling the extra ones?

Every summer I plant tomatos & lettuce & enjoy having fresh salads & BLT fixings right outside my door. Deer ate the lettuce two years ago so I now plant in containers on our deck. More for fun than food I planted pumpkins this spring & the vines are taking over a huge patch of yard. I had no idea the leaves would be so huge! The deer nibbled on them a few weeks ago but it was a good thing as I can still count over 30 flowering buds. If they all mature I'll have to put a "Free Pumpkins" sign by the road :) . I'll be experimenting with pumpkin recipes this fall and toasting the seeds.

Would like to expand our veggie selection next year to include cucumbers & a few other veggies, as well as some herbs.

I have a question for all you tomato lovers out there: which is your favorite kind to grow? I've grown Roma in the past & switched to Beefsteak but the Beefsteak seem not to be as red & juicy as I would like, plus they seem prone to splits in the skin starting when they are very small. I want to try a different variety next year.

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Harriet
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Chicks Arrived Tues Aug 12

Postby Harriet » Wed Aug 13, 2008 1:50 pm

The call came at 9 a.m. Tuesday after the hatchery’s Monday hatch 2,000 miles away – our regular mail carrier was offering to bring us the chicks on his route, but we declined and drove out, to get them in our hands and home as quickly as possible. Dd9 caused quite a stir in the post office with everyone interested to peek in the air holes to see her peeping babies!

For the first time, I ordered fewer than 24 day-old chicks. Had always wished we could back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but hatcheries were scared to try it then, because there wouldn't be enough body warmth. Now some hatcheries solve this with 2 strategies, so you can order as few as 3. They put in a warming pad, like a camper’s hand-warmer. When these arrived, the pad was still warm to the touch. They also put in a gel that the chicks peck to get moisture, which helps them avoid stress. Plus, you must pay for the insurance expense I had avoided in the past. So these 9 were just as expensive as ordering 24 the old way. You actually end up paying for the privilege of getting fewer chicks. Many people consider it worth it, though, because they have no desire to later cull (kill) chickens they won’t have space to rear. I didn’t want dd9 getting attached to any we couldn’t keep, so with the price the same either way, we chose to order fewer.

As soon as we opened the shipping box we nestled a half-gallon jug of hot water in so they could snuggle to it, and they cuddled right up and started falling asleep.


ChicksArrival08.JPG


Dove, the Burpee variety Early Girl was the one my father's sister and brother, who went to Farmer's Market, used to insist was the most important variety to plant, because it was the earliest maturing to have the best "real" taste of the bigger ones.

You remind me I do need to say that we're aware every varmint around will have our hens marked for death! We've lost them to several in the past. Not much of a problem in populated areas (except for maybe dogs) but chancy where there is wildlife. We will make sure these are housed tightly every night - dh is frowning at our admittedly older henhouse now, thinking he should do some extra fix-up.
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sherinjoy
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Re: The Productive Backyard

Postby sherinjoy » Wed Aug 13, 2008 3:43 pm

Harriet, Love the stories - keep 'em coming! So many memories of my childhood with bunnies and chickens in the backyard - the rabbit hutch and the chicken coop.

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Harriet
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Settling in Wed Aug 13th

Postby Harriet » Wed Aug 13, 2008 8:13 pm

We ordered nine biddies - 3 New Hampshire Reds, which are my dad’s choice for livability/strength (gold now as chicks - they were tired from bossing everyone on their trip and wanted to sleep by the gallon jug in the picture below); 3 Buff Orpingtons (yellow as chicks), for my ideal of a golden, calm, pet hen; and 3 Black Australorps (black/yellow as chicks), for what I remember of their intelligence and being strong, long-lived heavy layers.

I like full-size chickens for their old-fashioned look, but also for hardiness, long life, fewer predators. Also we want variety so we have a better chance of telling them apart. We heard white chickens attract predators more, so decided to avoid those this time. We ordered all pullets because, again, I don’t want to cull any roosters. So these are sexed, but if one rooster got past the sexers, we'll accept him. When we used to order 24 we’d have several roosters that got through, and have a problem with fighting.

We think the Australorps are more intelligent from the beginning – already doing “tricks” of coming when tapped for, “roosting” on fingers at 36 hours old. The New Hampshires are bossier and active from the beginning, hopping over other chicks like checker pieces (one reason the flock will be strong, though). The Buffs are already even-tempered pets and fall asleep in your hand, nestle under a hand like it is a hen, accept being picked up while Australorps figure out how to back right out of your hand. Fascinating.

ChicksBrooder08.JPG


Our homemade brooder is a cardboard box with high sides. At first, we just put in many layers of newspaper cut to box-bottom size, and we sprinkle their chick feed onto it. They are not old enough to search for feed in a feeder yet, but they have a scratching instinct to perfect. Some people like paper towels for fear a slick surface will cause a leg problem. But I have never had that happen. As the papers are soiled, we can just roll up and throw away a layer at a time – chicks don’t have to be lifted out to stay clean. Later, we’ll set a feeder in and give them different bedding to scratch in, even grass clippings.

Inside it they only need two things at first: the waterer (you just invert a quart mason jar onto it – costs a dollar or so) and some low-tech heat source. At first, I like a gallon jug of hot water, which chicks find very comforting like a big mama hen. One jug of water as hot as my tap will get it will stay warm for 3 hours, so I get up once in the night and then dh changes it when he gets up. In a night or two I may switch to a plain light bulb rigged to work with instructions on the net (most people use lightbulbs), but it seems more natural for them to sleep in the dark at first. If I just put them outdoors, they might not need any heat in August here, but I want them safe while they’re babies.
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Harriet
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Re: The Productive Backyard

Postby Harriet » Thu Aug 28, 2008 12:00 am

Oh, yes I love to see a double yolk fall into a bowl!

Finally getting to at least a couple pics I meant to post earlier. Here looking through the "doorway" dh cut for her after her charges went into their "duplex". (2 cardboard boxes dd10 taped together all over, then really taped well at the cut-out pass through.) Wonderful for keeping everything clean as she can line bottom of one side while chicks are on other side. We all picked the chick we thought would be brave enough to first go through the door and we were all wrong. The sensible, calm one walked right through and the ones with all the bravado were last!

ChickDoorway.JPG


They are ready for their house and it is ready for them - they have been outside. But wild weather was terrible, so we pulled back a bit on that. No reason to terrorize babies. Last evening thunder and lightening as bad as I've ever seen and right now a torrent. Dh wants to buy them a motion sensor light!

Names so far -
Dot, for her Morse Code
Alice, after faithful hen on Green Acres
Fay, after tropical storm that made us bring them back inside!

Here is Alice, smuggled in by dd10 and watching tv from her basket.


AliceBasket.JPG
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blessedw2
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Re: The Productive Backyard

Postby blessedw2 » Thu Aug 28, 2008 3:34 pm

baby chicks are so cute Harriet. I bet your dd10 is thrilled.
OUr neighbor had chickens (free range) until the coyotes took them one by one (through our back yard to the marsh) , I still miss the rooster crowing. we live in city 1/2 arce to 2 acre lots where you can't have chickens any more, but one of the kids we know at school has 3 acres next to the forest preserve across the road and they have chickens but no one is supposed to know about them. :D

How great! Good for you!!! I know you will enjoy them.
it is always a joy to be here with you!

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Sunny
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Re: The Productive Backyard

Postby Sunny » Fri Aug 29, 2008 1:29 am

Harriet.....those baby chicks are so cute. They look so soft and fluffy. I would just love to cuddle and gently hold them. Give them a soft pat for me...
Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible. --- Francis of Assisi

Indiana

Re: The Productive Backyard

Postby Indiana » Fri Aug 29, 2008 9:32 pm

I love the duplex. That was a fantastic idea.

Hmmm how is dd10 going to smuggle them in for TV viewing when they outgrow the basket....


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