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.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Spring thus far.

Lots going on here.  Our first chicken tractor in up and running.  the 14 tractor store Cornish rocks are liking the new digs, unaware that 25 Cornish crosses will be joining them in a couple of weeks. the garden is doing ok. we have lost some tomato plants due to the cold, but we have lettuce and radishes ready for harvest. hopefully we can get some more plants in the ground this week. meat rabbits are settling in nicely. will be checking the doe tomorrow to see if she is indeed with child.  All in all a busy time on any farm, especially a urban one. Sorry for lack of pics, to tired to fight with computer. check out our Facebook page. Mrs Phantom Chicken farm has some good ones up.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Learning Curve

Both of us were so excited- seeing the tomato seeds we had waited on, planted and cheered for- were finally growing. Out of the 70 seeds we planted we had 2or 3 of each variety pop up, so roughly 23 seedlings.... then something happend. Not sure what but the  seedlings aren't doing so great. Utter disappointment.
We are trying to do a ( 8-10 customers small) CSA this year. We have the space and we love to be in the garden. We shared a load of produce last year with friends and neighbors and after doing re-search this winter, we decided to try our hands at this new  project. So we picked the seeds we wanted very carefully.
And now to have this tomato issue crop up has taught us - maybe we need to stick to buying tomato plants. We can grow everything else from seed- but we are not tomato growers. So now I'm online hunting, making phone calls trying to find heirloom variety tomato plants. I've found 5 of the 8 varieties we had picked. Praying we can get them all ordered and here soon. We have people counting on us this year for their tomato needs, plus our own. We shall see. Ben and I are not easy people to give up and give in. We take each challenge as it comes deal with it and move on. On a positive note - radishes, peas, carrots and lettuce are coming up. Chard, kale and other greens are planted. Herbs are in and we are still excited. Happy Gardening.

Friday, April 1, 2011

You say TaMayToe, I say TaMawToe

We finally got the last batch of seeds that we had ordered and got them planted last night. It was all our tomato seeds. Ben was getting a little nervous, afraid that they would not get here in time, but they did. 7 different heirloom breeds. I can't wait for you to see how fabulous these fruits have the potential to be. First is the awesome Roma, San Marzano. It has a really unique history from Italy and then it made its way across oceans and ended up in Peru and now its here for all to enjoy.

Black from Tula

Next, we have the beautiful Black from Tula. It's supposed to be knock
your sandals off  tasty and it has the most unique coloring. I can not wait to try this one out. Its supposed to slice up great and I hope ours look as good as the ones here in the picture.

Now we move to the roma Amish Paste.
Amish Paste
 Sources say its one of the best sauce tomatoes out there. Ben is anxious to get these beauties off the vine and into the sauce pot. On to the Giant Belgium. Just look at the picture. Can you imagine - the info on this great tomato says to expect fruits upto 4 pounds, yes thats right 1 tomato can weigh 4 pounds. Can you say AWESOME ? !!!

Giant Belgium
Chocolate Cherry
Ben is totally indulging me with the Chocolate Cherry. I love little tomatoes, the ones you can just pop into your mouth and enjoy. Or maybe toss a handful into a salad for a quick supper. I hope mine look as good as the ones in the picture.

Next up is The Mortgage Lifter. Another tomato with a cool story behind it. The Mortgage Lifter tomato was developed in the early 1930's in Logan, West Virginia by a radiator repairman, M.C. "Radiator Charlie" Byles.
Mortgage Lifters

Without any experience in breeding, he made a successful cross of four of the largest tomatoes he could find - German Johnson, Beefsteak, an Italian variety, and an English variety. Radiator Charlie sold the first seedlings of his new tomato in the 1940's for one dollar each to customers who drove up to 200 miles for his famous plants that bore tasty tomatoes averaging two and a half pounds. With these sales, Charlie managed to pay off his $6,000 mortgage in only six years, and so the tomato was named Mortgage Lifter. See told you - cool story.  On to the Mule Team tomato- could not find any neat pics of this one but the info on it says a high yielding plant with near perfect blemish free skin. OK sounds good to me. Last one is Riesentraube, and again Ben is indulging me.

These little maters grow in clusters like grapes. A German variety of tomato that the Pennsylvania Dutch was growing in the 1850's. These little ones are also supposed to be phenomenal for tomato wine.... Hmmmm not sure if I want to try that, but I'm sure they will be fabulous for eating !!  So here's to hoping that the little seeds we planted last  night will give us some of this same beautiful fruit. Will keep you posted on how the seeds do.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Urbanite, and the Godess Refusa

One of the great things about living in America is the ability to buy new stuff whenever we desire it ( notice I didn't say need) One of the problems of living in America is that we often do. This means that the waste stream is MASSIVE. Most of it could easily find another use.
Things to do with waste.
Recycle, donate working things to charities, or re-purpose it.
That is where Refusa comes in.
Refusa is a relatively new deity. Gaea's third cousin, she is the Goddess of Trash.
Some would think this a lowly position.Not so, for she presents us with the most challenging of dilemmas.  What to do with the stuff we are done with without simply throwing it out.When she deems you worthy of dealing with your own trash she will often bless you with the most common element after carbon, and hydrogen. Urbanite.
Urbanite takes many forms. From wood, to metal , to glass, plastic, brick ,and rock.
notice the shape, like a bag of quickcrete
a sample of urbanite

our gifted clothesline
Just today after picking up yet another bag of trash out of the woods behind the house She blessed this house with a clothesline pole.
And you know what I am going to use for the new foundation for the post?
You guessed it.

Getting Settled

We have been at the new place about 3 weeks now. Flock and goats seem to be settling in nicely. The first few days with the goats were especially rough, we kept having great escapees - and we learned that there is no such thing as "goat proof". We planted strawberries, and the seeds Ben has started in the basement are coming up, slow and nice. We had hoped for nicer weather to get more accomplished as we prepare for our first year doing a CSA, but that is not to be I guess, and we will do our best with what we are dealt. Bees arrive next week.
Another new adventure to be trying.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Change of venue.

Big news from your local Urban homesteaders. We are moving.
An opportunity has opened up for us to Rent a house with 3 acres.  Around one acre is clear with the other two needing to be cleared.
The plan is to try to do our own CSA this year so if anyone is interested the cost is going to be 600$ annually.
That will consist of 26 weeks of produce, and  include 1 dozen eggs.
We are excited to be able to expand really give this a go.  Stay tuned for pics of the new farm.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Batton down the hatches.

Spent 30 minutes buttoning up the farm today in anticipation of the freezing precipitation and COLD weather we are expecting. The heat lamp involved in the coop fire was inspected and replaced.
    The layer crumbles we use   have gotten some heat lately because Purina, who makes it, switched from paper bags ( compostable) to poly bags ( not so much). Instead of adding to the waste stream Jenifer and I have been saving them.

  Today I put them to good use as windblocks. I stuffed them in every crack and open gap in the drafty goat shed and covered the doorway with them. The goat shed is now ready for the -12 degree night on wed.
I don't know about anyone else but I am SO ready for spring.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Farming Addiction ?? We got One, ok maybe Two.

Ok so about a month ago one of Ben's favorite blogs that he follows was talking about this show off of the BBC- about farming during the Victorian Age of Britain. Sounds interesting so he searches YouTube and finds it.
He watches all 10 full episodes of it in like 3 days and then watches it again. I'd say this is serious......
then he hears that there is a new show coming out of the same group of people doing the same type of show except now set in Edwardian times.  He gets all excited and then he can't find it. He searches for days trying to get access to the show..... BBC is kinda stingy that if you aren't in the UK you can't watch their programming online until someone pirates it onto YouTube ( which we are SO thankful for). I was not into the Victorian one... I tried to watch a few episodes with him and it was not catching my attention. However the Edwardian one DID. One simple 15 minute clip and I was HOOKED. I loved it. 
Now I'm going back and watching the Victorian age one. I wouldn't except that the things they talk about, techniques that are brand new to that time period are exactly what we are trying to do as Urban Farmers trying our hands as self sustainability. Growing food for us and for our animals, storing foods to last the winter for both man and beast. Home remedies so you wouldn't have a vet bill, tried and true methods that helped shape the farming community of Britain. Its amazing that information that was brand new 100 plus years ago is still very much what we need now.  If you have a few hours.... settle down in front of the computer and watch these shows. Who knows - you might learn something too.  I posted the first episodes to both shows. Enjoy.

Victorian Farm 1/36

Edwardian Farm 1/48

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Eggs and Garden Porn

January is a cold and dreary month for us farmers and avid gardeners, that is until we start getting in the mail our garden seed catalogs. Ben calls the catalogs - Garden Porn. It makes you want and long for things that you can't yet have because the ground is a frozen solid chunk of earth and its so cold nothing will grow..... these catalogs make us long for (and possibly even yearn for) Spring to arrive so that we can dig into and smell earth in our hands.
Ben and I have agreed that the catalogs that are really picking at our interests this year are :  and the Bakers Creek . Wow totally drool worthy. A new one that we happened to receive this year is . Amazing the seeds available and great information.  Needless to say our list of seed purchases keeps growing.
Last night, Ben and I sat at the table for over an hour, pouring over catalogs, deciding what seeds to get for our home garden and then ones to use for the market garden. We are excited about this new endeavor we are trying. The first big meeting for the Independence Farmers Market is this month. We are so glad that we're going to have the opportunity to participate in this wonderful market.

Now on to the chickens - we have 34 hens and 2 ducks that are our egg laying machines and they are doing us proud.... most of the 34 hens are just now turning 6 months old - and we are starting to be over run with eggs. Its a wonderful thing after raising them and caring for them to see the "fruits" of the labor we put in.
This week alone - Sunday through Tuesday - we have had 52 eggs laid. Thats right... pick your jaw off the floor. We are ecstatic !

As the new year begins - keep an eye out for Phantom Chicken Farm - we are growing and trying new things.