Saturday, July 27, 2013

Other backyard projects

With a month since the last rain, we're spending more and more time working outside -- enjoying the weather and getting more things growing.

Right now the vegetable garden is in full swing. We have taken down the greenhouse and are back to a regular garden plot. Improvements include wooden walkways and more square footage. In various stages of growth are peas, beans, tomatoes, asparagus, potatoes, squashes, herbs, lettuces, kale and other greens, beets, carrots, and more! My favorite lunch these days is a scramble made of veggies that are ready and our eggs. The other day, my 12 year old wrote up a recipe for scramble:


  • 3 kale leaves 
  • 1 tsp of nutritional yeast
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 frying pan 
  • 1 stove 
  • 1 cup of ham
Close your eyes and throw all that random crap in a pan. Cook on high until you set the smoke detector off (that means its done). Put it on a plate then force feed it to your family. Hope you enjoy!

Besides the vegetables, another major project this summer has been the aquaponics system -- it has now been expanded to the deck. The main components of the system are two insulated barrels containing tilapia, a solar heater, and gravel grow bed that acts as a giant filter. Richard has spent many hours configuring these systems. I get to take over when it comes to the gardening part. Plants really thrive in the fish water! I hope I'll be able to grow veggies in this bed through the winter.

After a year and a half of keeping tilapia, we're now on the third generation of fish. We still have some of the original fish for breeding. These are in the tank in the laundry room. We have eaten some of them -- most of the larger fish from the first generation were smoked last fall. I had imagined the fish tanks as being a source of dinner all the time, but I don't actually feel like having fish very often


The newest backyard project has been an expansion of the worm composting operation. We've had a worm compost bin for kitchen scraps for many years, but last year when we had a surplus of "red wigglers", we advertised them on Craigslist and had a surprising response. So -- long story short -- Richard is now breeding them to sell in Spring 2014. The new bins are in the shed. He's hoping to get 100 bins going by Fall! Care involves adding shredded cardboard, scraps from the local produce store, chicken manure, etc. and monitoring moisture. Under good conditions the worms should double in population every 3 months. Between now and Spring, we need to get a website going and figure out packaging.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Older chickens...

It has been four years this month that we've had chickens -- hard to believe. Of the original flock of four hens, we have one left -- Fancypants Johnson. Two of the hens were sold a couple of years ago because they weren't getting along with the younger chickens, and one was given to someone with a farm last year because she started crowing.

Chickens can live as long as 10 years, but the average lifespan is 5 years. After 3 years old they're not very productive egg layers, so on a real farm they're usually replaced by younger chickens before they're 3. 

In the case of Fancypants, she is still productive; probably because she has taken lots of breaks from egglaying. She doesn't lay eggs during the dark months of winter, when she is broody, or when has molted her feathers. But I figure she has laid about 600 eggs in her lifetime! Last week, she started up again after spending 3 months broody with chicks, and she's all of a sudden putting out an egg every day, which I think is amazing at age 4. The downside is that she was very noisy about getting back into it. She had early morning squawking attacks four days in a row, but now has quieted down some -- lucky for her. I was really thinking that if she didn't adjust we would have to make a difficult decision and it was weighing heavily on my mind. She is the most tame of our chickens and the only one that the kids still call by name.
Update: toward the end of July she's back to her old self and is pretty calm and quiet...