Saturday, March 30, 2013

Taming Chicks

The chicks are growing so fast! They already have some feathers on their wings. I really want them to be tame - easy to pick up and call -  and to not be afraid of people at all. I've been picking each of them up a few times a day and holding them until they fall asleep (pretty much as soon as I pick them up) and then putting them back in the brooder. When I put them back they usually stand on my hand for a few seconds before hopping down. I also put my hand inside with their chick food on it and they go nuts for it - even though it's in the feeder 6" away...funny chicks. They push each other around to try and be the one who jumps up and sits on my hand. The two little black guys are still much smaller than the rest so they get pushed back all the time. Tiger head (the stripey one) pinches my hand when she (I'll just call them all 'she' until we know better...) eats off of it. They all go into a frenzy eating off of my hand and then they all fall fast asleep right afterwards. I gave them some grit to try yesterday and today (they went crazy jumping in and out of the container) and some yoghurt from my hand, too. They didn't like that at first and then suddenly they all wanted it.

Lots of poop...just about to change the bedding.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Peep Peep Peep

So I went with the intention of getting 6 chicks and came back with 11....

They were too cute! Also, the lady convinced me that adding adult laying hens to the healthy flock of chicks would be a bad idea because of possible disease transmission. Since the 6 chicks I'd already chosen were bred specifically to be meat birds (they'll gain weight pretty fast and be ready for processing by 4 months) this left us with no egg layers. Sooo I ended up taking 5 more chicks that are laying breeds/crosses. They're leg banded and will end up a lot smaller than the meat birds, so we'll be able to tell them apart. They 'meat' birds are Light Sussex crossed with various meat breeds. The 3 blonde layers are Light Sussex and the 2 dark layers are utility Welsummer with maybe Silver Leghorns. Oh, and I say layers even though all 11 of these chicks could end up being roosters! They all hatched between March 26th and I guess we'll know in a few weeks.

I tried to pick a variety of colour so they'd be easier to tell apart. They're so funny - they fall asleep mid eating, mid running around, mid peeping...and then the next second they're up and running around again. It's really cute when they fall asleep on their bellies and stretch their legs straight out behind them. 

Huddled before the heat lamp had warmed up enough. So much poop already and they'd only been in there for 5 minutes!

Falling asleep on the food trough. 

This one has the coolest markings. Wonder how he/she will look as an adult?

One of the laying crosses...although possibly a he. 

The three blondies are really calm.

I'm putting money on this little guy being...a guy. He stands up really tall all the time and peeps away when the others are sleeping!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Chicks Are Coming!!!

I pick them up tomorrow. Eeeeeee! 

I have to stop at a feed store to get a red 250 watt heat lamp (buying the reflector for $12 off craigslist), some chick starter feed, pine shavings and food and water dispensers. 

The first few days they'll be on paper towels on top of newspaper (with just newspaper they can slip and get something called spraddle leg). For the first week the temperature should be 32 C (90 F), but apparently you can tell if the temperature is right pretty easily by how the chicks are behaving - huddled together under the lamp, they're too cold. Huddled as far away from the lamp as possible, they're too hot. 

I made a brooder out of the bottom half of a vari kennel. I zap strapped the door into place and then zap strapped cardboard on the inside of that to stop shavings from flying out. The top is a sheet of hardware cloth. I didn't want to cut it in case we use it for something else later so I just folded it over the edges of the kennel. I think the heat lamp will be fine sitting on top but if that's too warm I'll clamp it onto something else. 

On a less exciting note (still exciting for me - I sit and look at the seedlings alll the time), here are the replanted kale, broccoli and arugula seedlings! Ready to go straight into the greenhouse.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Growing On Up

Today I transplanted the 5 melon plants (3 cantaloupe, 2 watermelon) and 4 of the tomato plants into bigger pots. I would have done all of the tomatoes but I ran out of pots...I'll find some more tomorrow. I'm hoping that the other seedlings will be ok in their little 1" pots until the move (tons of pots/soil on the farm - and the arugula, broccoli and kale will be good to go into the greenhouse asap). 

The seedlings are so pretty...they deserve SLR photos :) 
(also I should document them now, while they look this healthy. I'm kind of shocked I've managed to get them this far and I'm worried they'll suddenly die...especially after transplanting!)


New cucumber


Bell Peppers

Sweet Million Tomatoes

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Recycled Pots

I started some more seeds on the 21st - eggplant, cucumber, gold nugget tomatoes, parsley, peppermint, sage and thyme. This time I made my own pots since the fancy little seedling tray is all full. I used some egg cartons for the herbs and then toilet paper rolls cut in half with the bottom folded up like box flaps. Oh, and a chobani container (raspberry chocolate dessert yoghurt..yum...) and a cream cheese container. I poked some holes in the bottoms and right now they're sitting on an old baking tray on top of a heating blanket on very low heat. Hopefully they germinate as well as the last batch did!

We'll direct sow the bush beans, zucchini, butternut squash (or might start indoors later), snap peas, carrots, brussels sprouts  and various lettuces. 

I started the melons way too early....they're going to have to be transplated into bigger pots before the greenhouse is warm enough for them, I think. Oh well, if they don't like being moved we'll have to start some more later on. Trial and error!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Seeds in the mail

The seed order from West Coast Seeds arrived today! ...this is going to be one big garden. Too much for first time gardeners? I hope not!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Craig is a Genius

Craigslist is kind of fantastic. I already knew that, but I was never looking for such a wide variety of items on there before. Today I picked up 2 big rolls of chicken wire (actually, google tells me this is 'hardware cloth' and is actually a better option for keeping chickens safe than 'chicken wire') for $20 and a bunch of bamboo poles for trellises for $8. Just another Wednesday night...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Two Weeks to GO!

The furniture essentials are all bought and ready to go, the uhaul is rented (luckily there was a one way deal being offered or we would have been on 3 ferries in one day...), the chicks are ordered and the seeds have all sprouted! Oh, and all of our friends now know the big news (or they will soon enough with the speed of gossip). 

I've already learned a lesson that you don't need to sow as many seeds as the packet recommends. Maybe these seeds just did especially well but they pretty much all germinated and I had to do a lot of thinning. I ate most of the seedlings that I thinned so that they weren't wasted :D Baby arugula is already delicious!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to feel sad when I thin out the seedlings, but I do...good luck to me when it's time for the chickens to become dinner!

Speaking of which, six chicks have been ordered! They hatch on March 28th and they're a 'heavy cross' that the woman at the heritage hatchery says will be good for growing fast but also good for free ranging (still not sure about whether we'll have the chickens free ranging or in one of the fenced in areas). We also reserved 4 laying hens (Isa Browns - a cross between Rhode Island Reds and Rhode Island Whites) that are a year old to pick up mid April so that we don't have to wait 5-6 months to have fresh eggs.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Planning, Planning

The seeds are doing so well that I've now diverted my focus to the other parts of this adventure that need to be planned: house stuff and farm animals!

The house planning is coming along well. We've got a bed, coffee table, dining room table and chairs, TV stand, dresser, kitchen stuff and bathroom stuff. I think the only thing we still need is a couch - I've found a few people on CL who are willing to keep their couch (with a deposit) until we move on April 4th so that makes things easier.

As far as animals go, we definitely want to start with chickens. I think 10 chickens is good - 4 for eggs and 6 for meat, to start. We'll go with a dual purpose chicken. There is an old playhouse on the property that would be perfect as a chicken coop. It just needs some nest boxes and roosts and then it should be good to go.

And now I'm researching other animals...goats? sheep? rabbits? It will probably just be chickens for awhile but it's fun to think about...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Lights On

Who knew growing seeds could be so exciting?? This blog will soon become very boring with seedling updates, but until we actually move to the farm that's about all it will be.

I got some $15 craigslist fluorescent lights/fixtures. I didn't realize that they were miniature from the ad but it turns out they're the perfect size for my seed tray (we'll see if they produce enough light...apparently the seedlings will get really tall and 'leggy' instead of leafy if they aren't getting enough light). The basil and cantaloupe are sprouting now, too!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lil' Rocket

Look at the arugula go! It already sprouted yesterday - maybe that's why it's called rocket? The kale has just sprouted and so has the broccoli! Better go get those lights...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Plant a Seed

There's still a month to go before move in day but I have itchy feet! Nope....wrong expression...and google is not helping me. Let's just go with antsy - I am antsy to get going! 

I'm researching like crazy (current tabs include "raising chickens on pasture", "succession gardening" and "top 10 signs that you might be batsh*t crazy") but reading and learning is only helping to cure part of the restlessness. Since I've basically never grown anything, what better way to give myself a nice easy introduction than to, as they say in France, go COUILLES PROFONDES! 

 We have an 85' x 8' section of greenhouse to plant in. If I were a smart little newbie, I would buy seedlings at the beginning of April to transplant...but since I really want to get going *now*, I decided to try starting some seeds indoors to see what happens. I figure I can buy seedlings later if this fails.

The greenhouse all covered up for winter.

I bought a seed starting tray, some seed starter mix and, of course, seeds. I forgot labels so I made a little chart so that I know what's planted where. I moistened the seed mix in the bowl and filled the cells of the tray, and then poked little holes with the chopstick, planted 2-3 seeds per cell and covered them with a bit of soil (according to each packet - and the super handy West Coast Seeds catalogue). 

My seed sowing station.

I planted bell peppers, chilli peppers, broccoli, basil, oregano, cilantro, tomatoes and then some kale and arugula, just 'cause. I figure that the kale and arugula do well in colder weather so they can go in the greenhouse right off the bat in April with a head start - they could probably go in as seeds now, I think, if I were already living there (this is all assuming the seedlings grow...the green-ness of my thumb will be determined shortly). 

The tray came with a plastic dome cover so I covered it up and put it on the best warm spot I could find - the floor of the broom closet in the kitchen. I have to figure out a grow light setup in the next few days.

Seeds all planted...the whole things looks so cute to me!

The best thing about being new to all of this is how exciting everything is! I hope that doesn't fade too quickly.