Friday, December 7, 2012

     Nine months.  Seems a little bit hard to believe.  I could have had a baby since I last wrote anything.  I tried to keep this up quarterly.  You wouldn't think that writing something once every three months would have been all that difficult.  However, in the infamous words of my grandson, " Oh contraire butt hair."
Once the hole was dug we placed the tarp.

Then we weighted the edges down with dirt.
The finished product holds over 1000 gallons of water.


    In reviewing my last post I noticed that there are several things I need to catch you up on.  The "water hole" that we dug worked out great.  The deer love it too.  Every evening we can find them out there just after the sun has gone down.  It holds the water great and it's nice to have in case of emergency.  We did not get the bee hive.  The long and short of it is that we could not afford it.  Maybe one of these days we will but for now there was something else I wanted more.  We decided to put the money into fencing.  We did not plant any wheat or oats.  We discovered that we need to get rid of the sand burrs.  We also discovered that there are only two times of year that you can spray for them and only one product that you can use that is effective on them.  We will be spraying in January and again in April of 2013.  We will be doing that for two years before we will start to notice any progress in getting rid of them.  This year was HORRIBLE with them!  They even started creeping up into our yard.  It's hard not to bring them up though when we use the same mower on the yard and the fields.  What can you do though?  Buying a tractor with a bush whacker attachment comes to mind but the money is a problem.  Another thing goes on the "wish list".
     Also, we did not get the cows.  We met a goat farmer through my grandson's Scout Club.  We went over to his farm, picked his brain and checked out his fencing.  During the outing we learned several things.  The first being that it only takes 5-7 minutes to milk a goat.  Woot, woot!  This is much better than the 45 minutes it takes to milk a cow!  I can handle 5-7 minutes twice a day much easier than the other.  We also learned that we will get approximately a gallon of milk a day from one female.  We really need two gallons a day.  When you consider that there are eight people in our family and the kefir we make every day, not to mention the butter and cheese we will need you can see that the milk will go fast.  We're going to start with one female and one male, then mate them and go from there.  We'd like to get up to two females and one male.  Keep one male for mating and the rest will go to meat.  We've got all the fencing.  We will be setting that up in March when we get the goats.  I am very excited about it all!
My girls.
One days worth of eggs.
The meat chicks.
They are growing so fast!
The eggs are so beautiful!
The Cornish chickens at eight weeks.  They weighed 9 lbs.

     Our chickens, or my girls as I affectionately refer to them, are doing fantastic!  They are giving us the best eggs I have ever tasted.  I learned quickly that some hens lay more than one egg a day.  We have 19 hens and one rooster.  All summer long we were getting two dozen eggs per day!  I think our highest daily production was twenty-eight.  It has been a real blessing because we have been selling the eggs and the money has helped pay for their food.  I sell a dozen eggs for $3.50 and eighteen for $5.00.  Even with winter here we are still getting an average of ten eggs a day.  I am very proud of my girls.
     We also raised and butchered 50 Cornish chickens.  The meat is delicious and even with the cost of the chicks, shipping and the food it is still cheaper then if we had bought it all from the store.  Once we get the goats going we will have chicken, rabbit, goat and deer meat in our fridge and freezer.  Once that happens we will no longer be buying any meat from the grocer.  I am thrilled about that because we will not be feeding our family any meats that have been pumped full of steroids, antibiotics or hormones.  That is a big deal worthy of celebrating!
You've got to love the full freezer!

     As to our new composting system with the leaves was a HUGE success!!  With what we saved up last year we kept the chicken run full all winter long (it helps to keep their feet clean and gives them lots of stuff to peck at instead of at each other, lol) and made enough soil to top off all of our eight raised beds, mom's flower beds, the flag pole garden bed and my herb bed as well.  We still have about two full trailers worth.  I'm donating them to a fellow gardener to top off her beds.  The way we figure it we will never have to buy a load of dirt again.  We are not growing anything this winter in order to give the beds a rest.  I'm calling it the "spa treatment". 
The soil we made with the oak leaves from last year.
The chipper shredder that we put all the leaves and compost through to make the soil.
Straw mulch in the beds.  Really helped with the water retention!
Installing the hoops and wires.

The first shade cloth up and operational.

Shade system opened up.
    The new things in the garden are quite exciting this year.  We designed and built a shade system that worked perfectly this year to help with the heat we had this summer.  We will need to replace the shade cloths with a better material but the concept worked just as we had hoped.  It kept the heat off the blooms enough to allow them to go to fruit as well as keeping the moisture from evaporating from the soil too quickly.  We also mulched every bed very heavily with straw.  That was also a great idea.  The straw kept the beds wet for three to four days after each watering.  It effectively cut our water bill by one third.  The rain barrels did great this year as well.  The ones in the garden need to be redone however.  They need to be raised up on cinder blocks and the pipes need to be taken apart and cleaned out.  That's not a big deal though.  With everything we do we learn something new or a better way to do things next time.
     The herbs did really well this year.  The heat never seems to affect them much at all.  I wish all the veggies we grow did as well.  I love the way harvest time makes our home smell.

Harvest of the herbs.
Rabbit hutch.

The new shed.

Building the new stall.

The new stall finished.
       We did get the new stall built.  We turned the old one into a shed and built the new one on the back of it.  We also built some new hutches for the rabbits and a new run for the meat chicks.  The next project we are planning for now is a good size green house.  We'd like to be able to grow our vegetables year round and get to eating seasonally.  
     Well, that's about all that has gone on here the last nine months.  I hope everyone else has had as productive a year as we have.  See you next year!


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