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Sunday, March 26, 2017

About keyhole garden

In our high mountain desert when winter and summer have very little moisture and soil I've got on a pasture is lacking organic material (was overgrazed and became dry lot in the past) water conservation is very important.
Key hole garden building stage 1

Here is where I've got the idea.

It's called keyhole garden. Cold compost bed with compost pile in the middle
Hm... that got me started. If I make central basket bigger I can out my worms in there and itschiken safe :)

So I'e got busy asking for sticks (I have no trees that can produce anything of that sort yet. One man's trash is another's treasure, right :), it's tree trimming season now or just before and no large trash collecting days in the area (and cities now want home owners to pay 65$+ for that)
So, I made some calls, posted couple messages and got my materials. Logs were dropped by local tree service all nice and health and some are very good length and height.
And I also had dirt piles I needed to do something about... at least cover.
So here is my start, pull the temp cover out and make a general shape

 Like so... make a hole
 Start setting sticks
 and I've got a lot dropped of, good enough for more than one garden... beans trellises are in order :) the rest will be bottom of my hugel-BTE-cold compost bed
 And I've got grass and leaves.

 And truck load of logs
 So I put logs around, not all the way, but there will be more logs...
 Some of the logs were better for the start of a spiral bed... another dirt pile transformation :)
 Here is the start when I put most of the logs and made the flatter prep surface

And here is mostly completed keyhole, back side needs more logs, but one can see the layers here

dirt, and wood chips and whatever chicken poop and... used chicken bedding collected from my chicken coop,

then leaves

then grass.
 then a bit of compost, I don not have whole lot so I'm using that sparingly on this bed, when I bring more I put more of that and layer of wood chips on top
 and a bit of wood chips on top.
 and water well. keyhole garden and spiral garden are in front of the orchard, southern part of it.

More materials for the to be spiral. will be done in the same way.

Spiral garden started

I have plenty of very non demanding ground cover like plants that will produce, protect from rabbits and loosen the soils there.
Walking onins do well on the 'perimeter' so rabbits have not that much interest

Nettle,,, will think where to put it later... for now in the garden because the plent needed to adapt to my soil...
 These onions will remain in the garden, but maybe not,... will decide later do I move them to spiral garden or not.
 Ans these I'm hoping to naturalize there. For now in the garden. I'll need a tree in the center of the spiral and some bushes... I did not decide, but for the ground cover in spring I do like these...

Lavage will go there with time. also horse radish. somewhere near the exterior wall of the garden, where taller stumps are

And I do like some daffidiles, for now I enjoy them in the garden, maybe I'll leave them there

Meanwhile in the garden overwintereed char got a very good start. I think I like that method a lot.
 Here we are.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Chicken feed, different free or economical things, bugs, chicken care in emergency

When winter is long and it's snow melt snow melt...

 there is no green... and birds do need some extra protein and grain to stay warm. The cops are insulated but not heated.
Things that stretch feed $$$ are fermented feed and fodder and other occasional supplements (bugs naturally)
I did good bit of log work. Free logs need to be checked even if tree service instructed to not bring buggy stuff. At times they do not notice, at times bugs come unseen. Taking log it's the job of the property steward to always check the supplies and manage the site appropriately so enough of good bugs are on site and also birds to control whatever unwanted bugs there may be.
I have 20+ domestic birds and plenty of wild birds to deal with the bugs. Logs are checked, each one before it's used. If there are bugs found this is what is happening to the bugs
 stripped clean.

 or that.. some ...shhhh.. about to go down and be gobbled
that's when rooster calls everyone

 Or this

Only once I did see log with these. If you see a log with marks like that, they are very particular large holes, irregular profile. These are carpenter ants. They are no good. Period. 0 tolerance policy on site for any pest of that sort.
 close up.
 Logs like that or any suspicious logs are burned swift and fast

Logs like that can not be used anywhere in landscape at all, one risks to bring the colony in and that's no good.

Ways to controls carpenter ants or other not desirable ants if one of these logs is on site by tree service mistake or accident (still a misstate drop off, they did not notice or did not see these, ants were hiding in bark):
  • Do not take new logs at ants fly season. May miss them. If you have to only take green logs from healthy tree removal.
  • Always watch and observe your logs. As soon as the pile is dropped of, check each log, have drop off site 100 feet from any building or structure if you are not using these logs immediately, I do use the logs on the day of the drop off, rarely on next day (weather permitting). I always look through all the logs and sort these same day.
  • I have large fire pit where I can utilize unwanted logs.
  • Have tree service watch for you, good relationships help a lot and tree service one works with n regular bases. Out of many truck loads of logs I've got buggy logs only once and not many of them (3).
  • Ants are nocturnal, also the flight time is April-May in my area. So in cold weather any present bugs will be staying in the log hiding.
  • If you have wild birds on site they will be interested in the logs and will be cleaning. If there is a lot of interest go observe why is that so.
  • When you tumble logs the stuff comes out, watch what comes out. Always.
  • If you found ants, like carpenter ants, they do not like borax, it kills the queen in the nest. Mix borax with powdered sugar 1/1 and leave it there for them, they will bring that in. Results in dead nest.
  • Infected logs cut and burn asap. Fire takes care if any bug problem.
  • If you can not burn logs same day (wind, rain). Treat the perimeter with diatomatios earth generously if you do not have anything else on site. DE is not a cure but will keep them more contained.
  • 2 things get bugs on contact: 1) horse stables and barn powder. Has Permethrin. Treat the logs every hole and around the logs. tested on test carpenter ants, 100% of test ants were dead in the jar. 2) In organic poultry management they use spinosad. This one also takes ants down on contact. spray the log, holes, around it. Both are non selective.  Insecticides for horses link for reference.
  • If the ant flight season is just about, additional precautions need to be in place if such a log landed on site. Treat all the logs (all exists holes) with permethrin dust (cheaper than spinosad to get). It's used to treat lice on horses and in barns. It's systemic and toxic to aquatic life so proper precaution should be made accordingly. That's your overnight treatment before such a log goes into the fire. This one kills ans on contact. 
  • If you have nothing else at all 409 general purpose cleaner kills ant on contact, and wasps too.
  • In cold weather this kind of a thing is not necessary if you are burning the logs same day, ants will stay in the log whatever was outside red robins will clear spotless. Burn the logs asap, when fire pit is hot no ant will escape. And check the birds clean up job t just in case. It's the winger weens and not winged queens you want to eliminate. Workers without a queen will not make it and be dead and eaten by birds next day when they go wonder for trouble.
  • Also ants want dead decaying not dry wood. So know your bugs, go hang out with entomologists :), it's some fun learning anyways. And very useful when one uses eco materials. 
Let's put it this way carpenter ants and termites have 0 tolerance on my site and that's a forever policy.

Will chickens eat ants? Yes. So will red robins (I have crew of 20+ on patrol... they do eat my berries too, but they control lots and lots of bugs).

Note regarding ash and ash borrowers. Counties that are under federal infestation control have specific policy: all the wood stays on site. No tree service will bring you wood outside of the country or are where any kind f ash borrower control is present. And one can tell the tree service specific list of tree species that are needed and list of species not to bring on site.

Fermented Feed

Here are color ranges of chicken eggs. With access to bugs chickens for me lay through winter. Big white one - gees.

Also fermented feed is used in winter. Very good on cold nights, good for the gut health.
I use 2 bucket system. One with holes one without. I do rinse my grain twice , esp useful if one has in fermented feed sunflower seeds.
I mix the feed twice a day, so it stays nice and ferments
 I have a bit of heat near by.
And that's how it's fed.
They eat it quite gladly.

Chickens also eat snow in winter-spring quite ok.

My fodder system is quite high tech. Flood and drain twice a day, shoe boxes based

 Chickens go for it and like it.
The preferred grain I sprout is barley
 I did wheat and sunflower.
 Sunflower I only sprout, and do not like it much, I sprout for 3 days not longer, sunflower can get moldy
Other grains I sprout 7 days. Soak for 8h, rinse well, set at the bottom f the stack.
Feed on 7-th day (top left)


Here is how I test the grain. It's feed grade barley. One needs to use not heated not  treated grain, organic sprouts always.
 One needs to make sure the grain was not heat treat, that will not sprout.

Gees egg compared to chicken... Texture is ore rubbery I'd say...

Chicken in winter cleaning bugs at the property
 I made them some roosts from branches
 And fodder fcourse :)

Winter nest set up. I use dry grass

I use tire for the dust bath, in winter I use a bit of coarse sand and ashes. That's why I have logs and burn them too, and no one denies good kebabs, right :).

Here is a tire upscale with the permission f the photos owner from local chicken forum. Whoever has ducks and has logs that's a creative way to make a pool. One truck tire (same I use fr my dust bath)
Logs and large trash bag. Trash bag is a liner and  bad water can be dumped.

In winter I have visitors.
That would be the fox checking  chicken house 
 Fox hunt
 and more fox hunt
 They came close to the house, surprisingly...

Once large fox got the hens. This one

 Dressed wound with vet wrap and cleaned and tended prior
 Attack sites

 Fox got this one at the neck. Very lucky hen

Fox proof entrance.
 2 injured hens in treatment area
 In hospital pen
 4 days after
 Long coat. She was de-feathered very badly back, both sides.
 Largest wound, longer than 3cm
 Next day. The dark stuff I pulled later again next day when it started loosening a little, could have done it first day not was nor 100% clear was that blood clot or something else in blood clot, it closed up nicely in 4 days. No red is good, the tissue is naturally swollen, one needs to watch it for infection, any bad smell.
Wound was dressed and cleaned twice a day till it closed. It closed in 4 days completely forming a nice scab. Still one needs to tend to it and check the hen daily for a week or so, large wide wounds like that an re-open if chicken dust themselves in mulch. Also the rooster left her alone but I still was watching them closely. The coat has 5 layers flannel, so a rooster can not do anything.
She still has a smaller coat and resumed laying in less than 3 weeks
 Other hen is fully recovered as well, resumed laying in 1.5 month.

PS: ameraucana passed that year from internal injuries, fox got her by the neck. Wyandotte is still here, more skittish so after the fox attack and first one to alert the flock.