Sunday, August 31, 2008

Storm update and new rainbow seeds!!!

The storm is still not cleaned up in most places, there are still palm trees snapped in half on the side of the road, my neighbors still have a tree crushing their house and my other neighbors' cars are still smashed underneath another tree. There is so much damage that I guess the tree removing people are very backlogged. It's sad because we've gotten rain everyday since then and it's just raining right into my neighbors' house and there's nothing that can be done about it while the tree is still there.

On a brighter note, I went to the nursery and 'accidentally' bought these:

As I've said several times before, I LOVE planting seeds that give you surprise colors and shapes of fruit. For this season I've chosen a gourmet blend of jewel tone beets, mixed colors of tall trailing vine nasturtiums, the 'brightest brilliant rainbow' variety of Quinoa ("keen-wa") and 'carnival blend' carrots. This will be in addition to the easter egg radish seeds I already have. 5 varieties of surprises!!

I am hoping that I can use netting or something to be able to see all the different colors of quinoa and keep the thieving sparrows away. I've never grown it before
and I don't know anyone who has, so if you have, let me know how it went!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Terrible Monsoon at the tiny farm!!!

Usually here in the land of no rain we welcome the monsoons, without them we wouldn't get to our annual average 7" of rain. They occasionally break some tree limbs and some flooding, but last night we had a storm that put all the other ones to shame. We had 100+ mph winds, penny sized hail and floods. The chickens were fine, the ducks ended up being fine, but they got a little roughed up. Lots of my neighbors have no power today and it's supposed to be 103 and very humid. Here are just a couple of pictures of the damage, all of these are within a block radius of my house and there were a lot more but you get the idea from these.

Completely uprooted
There are two cars crushed under this giant tree
This took out the roof and part of the front of the house
no more porch

My wildlife rehabbing neighbor rescued this hurt swallow from floodwater

This photo only shows 2 of the 5 trees that were uprooted in front of this complex

Needless to say, most of today will probably be spent cleaning up and doing minor repairs to the tiny farm. We're thankful that all our animals seem to be okay.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ducks and the plumbed duck 'pond'!

The ducks are 5.5 weeks old now and nearly full-grown. They spend most of the day hiding out in the damp shade except when they hear the back door open which means it's time to start making noise and coming out from under the bushes to see if I have food.

I got very sick of taking out the dirty duck water every morning by hand with buckets, so I found a sturdy kiddie sandbox/pool in a bulk trash pile and added this faucet to it for draining. (The stick in the picture has nothing to do with it) With a couple rubber washers, some silicon sealer (which was probably unnecessary), and a brass fitting for the top side (also from the aisle with the hose spigot parts) I now just turn the knob and drain the water using a 6' hose. The pool is elevated on cinder blocks to help get enough gravity for it to drain and I may add one more row of 4" block to improve drainage pressure. I don't think this would work with those blue molded plastic flimsy pools, it needs to be a sturdier plastic, but this will be well worth your time if you have ducks.

The pond
Inside of the pond: the drain
Edit: I'm finding that it takes about an hour to drain with a 6 foot hose, this is a little slower than I would like and not quite the distance I would prefer. I may adjust this drain to fit a large pool hose so it will drain out faster and farther. Either way, it still beats using buckets.
Underside of the duck pond

New chicken coop pics!

As promised, here are a couple pictures of the $25 coop rebuild. It's approximately 4'X 8'. I had part of the basic frame from the previous version of this coop but changed the shape a little and added more structural support. It will get painted very soon, we've been having so much rain it hasn't stayed dry long enough to get that done yet. Also, I need to reattach the door. I estimate the materials cost (if I had to buy it all new rather than use mostly recycled [clean] materials I found in the neighborhood bulk trash piles) to be in the $150 range or more, so I'm proud of my recycling savings.
P.S. I did this entirely 100% by myself.

Roxy on the nest
These 5 nest boxes are enough for 20 hens, but I'd rather have too many than not enough and this makes it less to worry about when I get more hens (the next round of chicks should be here in 3 weeks!)

Here's a photo of a Rhode Island Red looking less than excited to have her picture taken. She's my loud somewhat annoying hen. She's such a good layer though I haven't been able to bring myself to get rid of her.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wild passionflower

Here is a passionflower that just showed up in my garden. I noticed it several months ago and it's finally blooming! I have seen this plant for sale at the desert botanical garden's plant sale so I think it is somewhat local to here though I never see them. It sure is a nice change of pace to have a passionflower volunteer instead of that stinky lantana that shows up everywhere and is impossible to get rid of.

The ducks and the chickens are together in the animal pen, at first the chickens were afraid of them, but have since realized they are twice as big. It makes feeding difficult as they currently need separate feeds and the chickens would be happy to eat all the layer pellets and then have the duck food for dessert. Roxy the chicken watched the ducks swim around in a little tub I had out for them and decided it looked like a good idea and has now taken to wading in the ducks' water.

One of the reasons I haven't been posting as much recently is because I've been so busy rebuilding the chicken coop. I've got new chicks on the way soon and want to have a space that will be comfortable for 11 hens. I did it now while it's still hot because it is bulk trash time, so there is all kinds of stuff to look through along the street. I was able to find enough lumber and materials to recycle from the bulk trash that my entire coop rebuild cost $25. I also found a heavy-walled small kids pool/sandbox which I grabbed for the ducks. I plumbed it so now it can drain through a hose coming out the bottom and I don't have to empty dirty duck water with buckets at dawn everyday. I'll post pics of all this soon.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Update & how to remove juice from prickly pear fruit

I know I have been way behind on posts recently. I've been busy working in the yard, helping my Mother-in-law and watching the olympics. The yard is coming along, we've gotten half the black plastic up, maybe a little more. There were so many layers of it and it's been there for more than 15 years, so the soil is the crappiest it could be. I've been digging holes in the ground and dumping in my compostables in hopes of improving soil quality, maybe bribing a worm or two to take up residence. We've had a string of fantastic monsoons that have knocked down trees, which is usually bad, but the upside is that one storm knocked several pads off a neighbors good-fruiting prickly pear. They said I could have them, so that will be about 6 or more free prickly pears for the native front yard.

On the subject of prickly pears, I read about a great way to get the juice out without getting poked to death with all those tiny tiny spikes. (You may as well take a bath in fiberglass with a few bees mixed in for good measure) Someone on the Phoenix Permaculture site gave me the idea to first freeze the fruits, the freezing causes expansion and the juicy cells bust open, and then thaw them in a strainer. I put a paper towel inside a sieve to act like a filter and rested the sieve on a bowl. After a couple of hours there was juice in the bowl, then I mashed open the fruits with a fork and the rest of the juice came out. All juice no tiny spikes. I'm sorry I didn't think to take pictures.

The ducklings are just shy of a month old and are in the mobile coop which has been placed in the chicken pen. They're doing well, they're very cute and love pieces of grape. The new chicks get here in a month, so I'm working to get everything ready for that too!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ducks first swim!

Here are some photos of the ducks first swim, which was actually about a week ago, but I'm just now getting around to posting the photos. I wasn't planning on getting in with them, but it was a lot of fun.
People told me that ducklings would be smelly and messy. It turns out they were telling the truth! The ducks have now moved outside because they are so stinky. I have never seen another animal make such a mess. They are tiny poop catapults. However, since they are so much cuter than most other animals, I don't really mind it, but they definitely needed to be moved to the outdoor aviary. Luckily it has cooled off a little from last weeks 115 degree temps.

We've been getting a lot of okra, which I love, but I understand that most people may not like it. I learned that in a lot of cultures, people grow the okra and dehydrate it, then crush it into a powder that serves as a thickener for other recipes. That as well as it's pretty hibiscus flower are great reasons for people that hate okra to grow it. :)