Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hot Days, Frosty Nights

We have another frosty night ahead, apparently. We spent a good half hour covering the fish tank, the grow bed and the greenhouse plants with various tarps and cloths. We closed the greenhouse up early so hopefully it will retain enough heat to stay above 0. 

Nathan has gone to check the fish water temperature in the middle of the night the last two nights (*note that I never volunteer for this task) and it has stayed consistently between 18-20 degrees. There's a small aquarium heater in the tank, it gets covered at night, plus we attached insulation around the outside of the tank. Those things all seem to be working to keep the temperature up. 

First net full of Tilapia going into their new home. We transported them in that black tupperware in the back of my car - going around corners was a little sloshy but all fish were fine upon arrival.

They like to hide in dark corners and in some plant pots that Nathan put in the tank (or "pot plants" as Nathan says they call them in Australia. I'm not so sure about that...) 

Salad greens looking good in the grow bed. 

Tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini.

I took Magpie away from the other chicks to have her photo taken and she wasn't too happy about it. She is *loud*!

It was so hot in the greenhouse today...and yet Abby and Ryan insist on lying in there, panting away.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hillbilly Deluxe

Such a pretty truck...Ryan is apparently bored in the back.

So we decided to put something a little more interesting in (on) the truck.

Just kidding! That isn't Nathan's truck...but that is the truck we saw when we pulled up to do our little Tilapia deal today (from the guy who had advertised the fish in the classifieds a few weeks ago).

When we pulled up to the interesting property I was just about ready to jump back in the car and drive away, but the guy turned out to be really nice and he had a pretty cool tank/grow bed set up.

We ended up with 58 (if we counted right) Tilapia fingerlings (1-3" long).

The dogs don't really care - they would rather play in the sand pile.

Woolly Bully doesn't care either. He just wants to ram in the mulch pile. He got out through an open gate the other day and dove head first into the mulch. He's pretty nervous so he ran back in when Nathan walked towards him.

 We forgot the camera with the fish pictures in the greenhouse. I'll put them on tomorrow!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Greenhouse Update

Everything's growing really well (including the weeds).

Clump of oregano (I couldn't bring myself to thin it)

Mulched tomatoes - these are the first ones I started, back at the beginning of March. They're "Sweet Million" cherry tomatoes and they're already about 8" tall.


Kale - it's at the end of the greenhouse where it should be cooler. It's doing much better than the kale outside, a few feet away.


We went on a mission today to find a bigger pump for the aquaponics. The volume of the grow beds has to be about the same volume as the fish tank for the filtering/cycling effect of the system to work properly (plus it's nice to have more grow beds) so a bigger pump was needed to supply water to three beds. We finally found one at a pet/pond supply store.

We're going to pick up 50 Tilapia tomorrow! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Spa Day

Don't worry, not dead.

Just resting after an intense first dust bath. 

The chicks all seemed to discover dust bathing yesterday. Apparently they do it to clean themselves and to get rid of parasites. Our hens seem to spend a large portion of their time at the little spa that they dug out next to a tree. It's pretty funny to watch.

Magpie's name should be Elvis. What is with her head feathers?? 

Abby looking a little too interested in the chicks.

 This is the chicken feeder that I made. I drilled a bunch of 1.5" holes in some 3" pvc. It should theoretically hold a bunch of food and self-fill as it empties, but the food seems to get a bit stuck in the elbow joint. It's still too big for the chicks but the hens use theirs. 

We are 2 days away from fish! Nathan got a test kit yesterday for the water. pH looks perfect at 6.8.

The water gets pumped out of the big green fish tank and into the grow bed.

 As it fills the grow bed, the water feeds the plants (after the nitrogen cycle has taken place on the fish waste water due to bacteria in the grow bed media). The water fills the grow bed slowly and then gets gets siphoned out quickly back into the fish tank due to this very cool (*nerd alert*) bell siphon that Nathan built, causing an ebb and flow effect through the bed.

The water in the tank was a balmy 26 degrees yesterday afternoon. We have to get some shade mesh for the tank - heat might be more of a problem than cold.

Oh, and one more bit of news...we go pick this up this afternoon:

I'm very jealous...but I've been assured that I will get to drive it (and not just from the backseat) as much as I want.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Before and After

The front yard is done! 



We bought the little bedding plants, lavender and rosemary and our landlord got us tulip bulbs, the rhododendron and two hydrangeas. 

We finally slowed down our egg eating enough to collect a full dozen! 
(friends and family in Vancouver - can you please keep your old egg cartons for us?)

Abby and Ryan have been coming into the chicken yard with us in the morning to help check for eggs. They're really good with the chickens - they just walk around them and ignore them, and the chickens don't seem to care about the dogs. 

The naughtier of these two likes to jump up into the hutch-coop and squeeze through the tiny hole into the nest boxes to sniff around when we aren't looking....guess which one that is...

The chickens haven't escaped since we blocked off the hole they were jumping through, so no need for wing clipping. Now when we walk in there they all run to us looking for worms and usually they let us touch them and pick them up.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Eggciting Gardening

Ok that was a pretty bad pun...but we did have some chicken help the other day in the front garden, no yolk. We were digging out all of the weeds and realized that the chickens could help us move the soil around a bit (and it was full of worms and other juicy bugs). 

We brought Speckles, Mother Clucker, Denise and Dorothy out one at a time on a rotating garden helper schedule. They were pretty content scratching around for bugs.

 We found this guy (I think it's a Western Redback Salamander) before the chickens got him.

Yesterday we went and checked out a livestock auction (no, we didn't come back with any more animals). We never even made it to the livestock part of the day! It took them 3+ hours to get through the farm equipment so we ended up leaving before they started with the animals. We did get to see all the animals in the barn - the lambs were tiny and adorable. Maybe it's a good thing we left when we did...

We woke up this morning to a strange scene - the farm gate was open, the landlord's truck was gone and there was a burn mark in the grass outside the greenhouse with an empty, blackened garbage can next to it. It turns out that our landlord woke up in the middle of the night and realized it was frosty out so he drove over to the farm to try and heat the greenhouse up. He attached a pipe to the heat vent of his truck and ran it into the greenhouse, and he lit a fire in the can outside the door and used a fan to blow the heat in. The seedlings all seem fine today (his and ours) - the thermometers apparently read -1 degree outside and 3 degrees inside at around 4am. The fantastic guard dogs never even woke up in the night...

Friday, April 19, 2013

Mother Clucker!

Only 3 eggs this morning...we're blaming Mother Clucker but it may have been any of the ladies who slacked off today. 

In other news, finding Tilapia for the aquaponics was turning out to be the hardest part of the setup - Nathan was thinking he was going to have to order them online and have them shipped for a pretty high cost. We were looking through the local newspaper the other day at lunch and just happened to look at the classifieds...and we spotted this! The only ad in the section:

He should be ready for the fish soon, maybe this weekend.

I planted some more bush beans, edamame and butternut squash today. Everything seems to be growing well (the weeds, too!).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Empty Nesters

The chicks moved out today...to their new coop. They seemed pretty happy to have more room to run around. We hung the heat lamp on a chain attached to the ceiling and zap strapped the wire up the chain, along the ceiling and out of the playhouse coop. We closed the coop door tonight to keep it warmer but we'll open it during they day so they can have the outdoor part to play around in, too.

We had 4 fresh eggs again for breakfast and then a giant harvest of our veggies for dinner!

Yup, that's the giant harvest. 8 arugula leaves. That's ok, they topped our delicious homemade pizza.

 Hot genoa salami, green olives, onion and garlic (and the patented sesame seed crust). 

Ham, sundried tomatoes, blue cheese, onion and arugula. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mohawk Chick

 Just sitting down to do some blogging...

Look at Magpie's new head feathers! Very strange.

We got 4 eggs again this morning! Even later though...this time they only laid them around 11. 

The little brown chicks hang out together. They all like running around in the sun in their coop (they come inside after 'play time'). 

Today Nathan worked some more on the aquaponics set up - he siliconed a piece of aluminium mesh over the bottom of the big tank and started building the drain pipe.

I prepared the rest of our greenhouse beds and transplanted the cucumbers, melons and gold nugget tomatoes. Then we got the rest of the drip irrigation set up - it's set up for 40 minutes every morning at 7:00 am.

Morning scritches for Barney.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Look what we woke up to! Well, kind of. It seems that we are up earlier than our new hens lay their eggs. They laid these for us at 10 so we went back inside and had a late breakfast.

Perfectly poached eggs! They were delicious.

Two of the chickens went on a little adventure before going back into the coop to pop out their eggs. They somehow got out of the fenced area (maybe flew over the low fence near the garage) and were clucking around in the driveway. We brought them back into the fenced area and they happily stayed there all day until they (the same two) escaped again in the afternoon. The other two had gone back up into the coop on their own like good chickens...a wing clipping may be in order tomorrow for the offenders. We want to let them free range eventually but we don't want them free ranging over the fence into the neighbour's yard!

Speckles is definitely the ring leader.

We built a door for the playhouse coop today and let the chicks hang out in the sun in there all afternoon. They're fun to watch! 

Everything that we transplated into the greenhouse yesterday looks good today! We woke up to a frosty car and were worried that the tomatoes might have died, but they seem fine. Tomorrow we'll prepare the soil in the other half of the beds and transplant the cucumbers and melons and start some more seeds.