Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mid-winter update

Two eggs per day now...usually. It's easy to tell who's egg is who's since they are such different colors. The light colored one is Cleo's and the darker one is Blondie's. Blondie's eggshells are very thick and kind of hard to break. Cleo's crack very easily and it's mostly yolk. I think she is a Jersey Giant. Hopefully they will all be laying very soon.

Fall Elderberry cuttings 

Elderberry cutting in 10"pot
The elderberry cuttings I took in the summer have done well. They are indoors and continue to put on new growth. It's basically a bullet proof plant to propagate.

Most of the goji berry cuttings have done well also. I have at least a dozen of them growing in pots indoors now. I believe that I paid around $15 for the one that I bought and it was about the same size as the ones I have potted.

Propagated goji
The goji's are just ridiculously easy to propagate. I don't remember having a single one not strike.

I cut up a long branch that fell off into little pieces and nearly all of them are now growing. Only the green section of the limb didn't take, all of the woody pieces are living in a couple of coffee cups filled with rain water.

Probably 10 or 12 4" long cuttings.

A few of the fig cuttings are now growing in pots. But I didn't have one hundred percent success with them.

I have a few of the raspberry root cuttings that are still going but they haven't been very vigorous. I think they are dormant.

Most of the comfrey root cuttings survived but the cats were eating the leaves and they got set back some, they are starting to rebound now. I put several goji, elderberry and comfrey plants from cuttings into the yard in the fall. The elderberry I put into a raised bed is going good but the cold hurt the goji a bit. The others in the yard got hammered by the chickens so it remains to be seen if they will come back up in the spring. I think there is a good chance they will.
Persimmon seedling

There are a few seedlings coming along quite well at the moment as well. Back in the summer I put about thirty wild persimmon seeds in a flat and of those two germinated. I put them in pots in the fall and they are indoors now. Persimmons grow very slowly. The tap root goes way down before the above ground growth shows itself. Both of them still have the seeds attached.

Lately, I've started a few citrus seeds from some fruit from the market. I've got four grapefruits growing from seeds I started with the damp paper towel method.

I also saved ten quince seeds and put them in a damp paper towel inside a zip bag and one of them germinated. It's now in a pot.

Quince seedling
Five tangerines germinated using the same method as well. I transplanted those over the weekend.  They are yet to break the soil.

I saved a lot of Bosc pear seeds and they are in the refrigerator until spring because they need to be stratified before they will germinate.

Although the fruit trees in the yard are said to be dormant over the winter, that isn't exactly the case. Buds have been forming on a lot of the trees and also some of the shrubs have them too. So they aren't totally "asleep". The apricot has by far the most but the peaches also have a lot too. The last frost date for us is the last week of March, so it's just around the corner.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sheet mulching

The county mulches Christmas trees every year and puts them out in various locations and you can go and shovel up as much as you like.
The place near me is right next to this pastoral looking horse farm, which is actually in a very urbanized area across from a mall.

Little Creek Farm is it's name.

Pitch fork is best
for mulch
Almost three years ago we sheet mulched and piled compost over the nuisance ivy and monkey grass. After a while we put strawberries in that spot. They did well, but this past summer the English ivy (Hedera helix) and especially the monkey grass (liriope muscari) got the upper hand again.

We had to go over the strawberries too, which is sad but there was no way around it. The grass had taken over the patch.

Sheet mulching
This time we are not going to try and combat that niche with another ground cover. We are putting raised beds on the flat next to the house. It's the only area receiving good sun year round. And the white wall amplifies the light. It's facing east. We would very much like to be able to grow a bit of annuals and every other place in the yard gets shade.

First you lay down the cardboard and soak it with water. I always flip it over after one side is wet because it never seeps all the way through. After that pile on the wood chips. Six to eight inches at least. If you can time it with a rain event that is better. You don't want the cardboard to dry out on you. It doesn't really start breaking down until its saturated.

Some people recommend newspaper but the Sunday paper costs $2 and that won't cover anything much. Thick cardboard boxes are the best, think refrigerator box. Or two or three layers of thin cardboard like beer containers etc. Lawn bags also work well and you can get them free from around your neighborhood already filled with organic matter. Here is a pretty good video of the process.

It's amazing how fast the cardboard will disappear. Actually it is consumed by various organisms. Mostly by fungus here though.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

ICE Cold

The other night it got down into the teens! Our thermometer read fifteen degrees. That's cold for us. There was a sheet of ice over the pond.

I could see the fish hovering near the bottom motionless. I tried to break up the ice sheet some and it was about a half inch thick.

Chicken on ice
Officially it was nine degrees but it didn't get that cold here at the house.

Chickens are pretty weird sometimes. Yesterday when the pond was frozen they went down there to drink.

Blondie walked onto the ice and stood there drinking water while her feet were submerged in ice cold water.

She didn't seem to notice it at all. She stood there for five minutes without any noticeable reaction, like it was summer. Weird.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Coop renovation

The weekend before last we built a new coop for the chickens.

The old one was only meant to be temporary anyway and it was difficult to deal with. I didn't expect the chickens to start laying yet and there wasn't really a spot for nesting boxes.

This one is a easier for them to access and they have a nest box area contained inside the coop. It's the part on the left. Those boards swing up on a hinge to the right. They have been laying there already. They can go underneath the nesting area too, so if I don't let them out at daylight they've got somewhere they can go to get down off the roost.

They seem to like it so far.

It's all repurposed scrap material. Building out of scrap makes the job go really slow. Hunting pieces that will work and then having to go to plan B when you don't have the right material will double the amount of hours in a build. That and having four chickens and a dog right in the middle of the construction zone. It also rained about four inches the first night after I started the build so it was a mud bog the entire time. Never fails...