Thursday, February 9, 2012

Catching Up with you Part 2

Thank you for your patience. Thank you for sticking with us.
Empty comb.
Honey Comb.
 We're going to go over a few more things that took place between September when Ben last posted and our catching up posts this week.
Emptied out Comb.
The top bar hive upside down on the table.
BEES !! - we had the most fun and educational, for us, experience with our top bar hive in 2011. So much that we are getting 2 more swarms this spring. OK so we tried hard to take care of our bees this horrible hot summer and set up a feeder for them in the fall incase that they had not been able to get much honey collected for the winter for them to survive. We checked on the hive in October and all was looking well. There was honey, the bees were cleaning house, and to our inexperienced eyes, looking good for winter. We went out in November to check on the hive again - and the bees were GONE. Not a single live buzzer in the hive. We are not sure what happened- wondering if maybe the queen died- which will make the bees swarm and leave.  We decided that since there were no bees - we would make sure there was honey in the hive. Boy howdy was there honey. We got a little over a gallon of some of the best honey EVER made out of the hive. This time around we are going to use the top bar hive again and also a Warre hive. Ben is excited to try both styles of hive to see which one is better for us. Bees are on order and hopefully will arrive in March.

Final Product !!!!!
Rabbit revisited - we had 3 adult rabbits - She, Her and Bucky. Got 2 more from PA, Izzabella and Minnie.  So that was 5 adult rabbits. She had never had a litter of babies. We had her for 7 months and she miscarried 2 times, and that was it. Her was the irresponsible mother who lost 2 litters of babies and had no instinct. Bucky is the only male. Bella is the pro-Momma and Minnie won't be old enough to breed until April. We needed to thin the herd out, and She and Her were relieved of duty in January.  Ben did a great job - handled it like a pro and we shared the meat bounty by having friends over for dinner a week later. Rabbit taste like chicken.  Another lesson learned.

Our fall/winter was a full season of learning new things. We did not have any squash out of the garden due to a bore beetle invasion. We spread a 4-6 inch straw cover onto the garden hoping to add more organic material and to help keep the moisture in for the 2012 plantings.
Looking back, we agreed there would have been a few changes we would have made to our 2011 farming life- so we marked'em down and will try something different this year. Isn't that all you can do ? Learn from your failures and try a different way the next go around.
I think the next posting will start in on the Plans of 2012, and how we are expanding and trying all sorts of new things. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Catching Up with you. Part 1

Yeah - we are pretty horrible about staying up with this whole blogging thing. But hang on to your pantaloons, cause it is catch up time !  Oct/Nov 2011 - our 30 baby chicks arrive. 10 each of Black Stars, Barred Rocks and Rhode Island reds. Didn't lose a single one !!! We had our first experience with a litter of rabbits. Our momma California kindled a litter of 7. We lost all but 1 in the first 48 hours, that one lone bun survived for 10 days and then also died. We thought we were done - it was an awful experience. the Momma was not showing any signs that she was going to handle kindling  next time around well and then ( trumpets proclaiming) our friends from PA brought us a very experienced Momma rabbit. Izzabella. Bella is a baby making pro as rabbits go. We made it through December with no bad weather and only a few days of really cold temperatures outside. As we were sliding into January 2012 - Izzers is pregnant.... and yes on Jan 2, she kindled a gorgeous litter of 9 buns. Holy Cow Batman !!  5 survive the first week and we are now hunting new homes for 3 of those 5, and keeping 2 back to add to our "herd". 

Our 30 baby chicks are growing like crazy, they should start laying eggs in April !!
We have2 roosters. Yes I know - that is unexpected. We never wanted roosters. EVER.
But when we did the meat chicken adventure last year, we got 2 exotic free chicks from McMurray when we ordered the meat birds. Hoping that the freebies would be hens... didn't happen.  The Colonel started crowing- Thanksgiving morning. We identified him as a Silver Spangled Hamburg and is SO beautiful, but the bird has an attitude. After we had a serious "coming to Jesus" meeting 2 weeks ago - he is now leaving a wide berth around the kids.
So then fast forward to the mid of January - Brownie our pretty Partridge Cochin is full feathered and has the ginormous feathered feet- We're working outside on a weirdly warm Saturday and we hear this horrible noise, sounds like something is dying...... oh no - its "Brownie" trying to crow.... so renamed J. B. in honor of the lead singer from WideSpread Panic. Those dying sounds have become a lovely baritone croon. So we have decided to split the flock. Our hard core egg producing hens are going to go hang out with Colonel in the back of the property. My pretty fancies along with JB are going to stick close to the house along with the goats. Oh let me get to the goats.... Persephone got all out of whack from the HOT summer we had and once the cooler fall temps came back. She went right back on track with her heat cycle. We talked and talked it over and last week when Persephone did her thing, we had male goat product ready and waiting at the Vets office. Hoping, wishing and praying that all worked out and we will have our very own baby goats in July.  A few days after that it was Groundhogs day. Ben surprised me with getting us another goat. A 7 month old dwarf Nigerian doeling from a farm in KS. It was another adventure for us. Got her home, she is a stinking cute black and white doeling named Sierra. Has some very good bloodlines and we are hopeful for her.  Heading back to the chickens : we have roughly 50 laying hens - that should be laying now... as we type. The entire flock molted this summer. Some days I was only getting 8 eggs a day... from 50 hens. And when November hit - the feathers were mostly re-grown and egg production amped up. We now get 20-30 eggs A DAY and this is before the babies from Nov. have even started laying.  So we talk to our dear friends at BadSeed Market - if they have need for more eggs . Yes they do. So we are in the process of getting our egg vendor license and will be selling all excess eggs to them. I'm already selling 8-10 doz a week to everyone we know and we aren't going to be able to handle the eggs getting ready to arrive in just a few short months. YIKES.  Ben's greywater system is starting to take shape in our backyard. Especially now that we have had NO snow to speak of and its almost mid February.  I'll do part 2 of this catching up later in the week... for now I am all talked out.

Mrs Phantom

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Water Conservation.

Water has been on my mind a lot lately. With the record droughts, pollution, and freshwater ice reserves melting, I find myself wondering what the future of the water in this country will look like. In that spirit we have started adopting some water conservation practices here at the farm.  1. No more bottled water. We invested in a water filter and some BPA free bottles. This should be a 2 fold savings. Less money in the long run than buying cases of water and less waste. (even though we recycle) 2. This   We don't use it for toilet flushes (yet) but I have been using it to keep the compost pile moist. 3. Our ducks make a incredible mess in the drinking water for the critters which caused us to waste a lot of water. To fix this I am going to build some duck proof waterers with a constant supply for the chickens, turkeys, and ducks if they can figure them out. To let them express their duckness however I am going to build a small pond with a recirculating pump into a small scale aquaculture setup. hopefully this will filter the water and feed the plants at the same time. 4. Our wash sink will be plumbed into a greywater system into the garden so we can start reclaiming some of the water we use for irrigation. Hopefully pictures will follow as I put these system together, so stay tuned.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fall Harvest.

The garden is dead. ( Long live the garden!) That doesn't mean I can't plan for next year. And I have found I work better with a goal. I think a , swing for the fences, harvest meal is in order. I had thrown the idea around for this year, but the dismal garden put the kibosh on that. What I have in mind is a multi course  meal  based off of what can be grown here, or very close. Chicken is on the menu for sure. Hopefully rabbit and goat as well. In a best case scenario there will also be roast pork. I am thinking October post frost, renting a tent, wear warm clothes, outside kinda meal. Semi formal. The more I think about it the more I realize that a meal this  will take a year to put together. We take for granted being able to get anything, anytime. If I want it for the party, it is going to take planning. So, that is the target for next year. Thoughts? Suggestions?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

As a PSA to our egg customers, all of our chickens have started molting. This means all of their energy/protein is going into new feather production. This also means no eggs. Hopefully this should only last about a month then we will be back up and running. In the meantime the folks BADSEED Farm & Market will be able to provide you with all of the eggs and late season produce you can stand. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The summer of our dissapointment.

Well the end of July is here and we should be up to our ears in produce. We are not. A combination of the late frost, overestimation of the soil quality, and lack/ untimely application of weed barrier, coupled with alot of off the farm work has led to a garden where the weeds are the only thing flourishing. Most gardeners have commented on the rough year we ( all gardeners/farmers) have had but it is still disappointing.
We might have had unrealistic goals for our situation. Diversifying  the animal side of the enterprise, expanding the garden by a factor of 10 and moving into a new, smaller home was alot to bite off.
The meat chicken experiment ended up being an unexpected sucess, so we are planning to do more of those next year. Also, we have found the property would lend itself well to meat goats on the back 2 acres, so that is in the works. As far as the garden goes, we have staked and spot fertilized the plants that were doing the best and we are planning to let them go until about the middle of September. At that point we are going to till in  everything and as much organic matter and compost we can get our hands on. From Then until mid October the chickens will have free reign, eating bugs and weed seeds. Then, in goes the garlic, carrots , and onions for spring crops.  This way we can hit the ground running in the spring. 

All hope for local produce to see us through the winter is not lost. The folks down at Urbavore ( a local urban farm that puts ours to shame) have a glut of produce that we are working out a labor exchange for. We "can" it, then split the finished product. Hopefully this arrangement will fill up the pantry a little more. Mrs Phantom Chicken  and I have sat down, and learning from our mistakes have a plan of attack for next year that should allow us to really maximize our production and minimize our labor. Please stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The first half of June

Having a hard time believing that it already well into the month of June. Things are going well here on the farm. The Cornish crosses are in the chicken tractor and are doing really well. We were able to harvest radishes Memorial Day weekend. It was a good harvest for our first attempt. We are also getting some good reviews from the occasional lettuce harvest. The cucumber seeds we planted are coming up beautifully. I am excited !
We lost alot of our tomato plants to a freak frost on May 1 and 2. But we have replanted and the plants have either little blooms or tiny tomaotes. It feels like something positive after the set back of the frost. We have carrots, beans and melons all planted and plants are sprouting. Accomplishments !!!
We got our first pair of meat rabbits in May, and Ben is now working on clearing the spot for the Rabitat. Its going to be on the edge of the chicken/goat yard. So we can see it from the house, but let them have some space. We are attending a ARBA picnic this month, hoping to meet some other rabbit people and learn more.
We are also going to be getting some Holland lop pet bunnies. =) I'm excited about that. The heat is getting to the hens, their laying numbers are a bit off so we are working on keeping the coop cool for their comfort and egg laying will continue. Goats are doing good - we're working on the numbers and looks like we will getting our dwarf doe, Persephone bred this fall. Ben is really excited about that. He has been waiting and waiting for the milking part of this adventure, and its finally going to be happening. There are so many other thoughts I'd love to try and get down to share - but I'm out of time. Please continue to follow us, and for more frequent updates please join us on Facebook.... just look for Phantom Chicken Farm.