Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chickens to the Outdoor Pen

We have been extremely busy of late during this glorious spring. We have plowed, gardened, gotten our seed starts going, landscaped, fenced....,you name it. And our chickens have now graduated from the basement to the outdoor coop. They really have enormous individual personality and I highly recommend them to anyone who likes animals. Now days even most suburban neighborhoods allow a few chickens and I wish we had done this when our kids were young.

We ended up with two roosters and this guy is named Carmine. He is the smaller of the two but way more agressive and he comes right up to you with his skinny neck, puffs up his chest and tries to crow which comes out almost like a crow but strangled. I named him Carmine because in almost every unit I was assigned to when I was in the Marine Corps we had a scrawny Italian kid from Brooklyn or there abouts who thought he was a gift to women, was always getting into fights, wore a gold chain with the Italian horn...and generally was a great guy to hang out with. This rooster has a big personality and reminds me of those guys from long ago. 

They have settled into their outdoor coop quite nicely but they still havent roosted on the roosts. Holly talks to them and they respond which is not surprising to anyone who knows her as she is just an animal person like me. She really, really, has gotten into the whole chicken thing and I actually feel kind of bad for not making this a priority sooner.

It took a day or so before they ventured to the outdoor pen but they seem to really enjoy it. We have watched them eat bugs, take dust baths, and display their individual personalities. So we have a new hobby...chicken watching!!

One of the things we need to do this year is submit soil samples to the University of Missouri Cooperative Extension to test for PH level, Potassium, Phosphorous, Manganese etc.and they will send you a report advising on the appropriate amounts of lime to spread for Ph levels, nitrogen and other mineral requirements etc. You then can have a specific blend brewed up by the feed store and rent one of their giant spreaders which you tow behind your truck.

We dug down 6 to 8 inches in 18 different holes around our pastures and put them into this bucket and mixed it well then took about a cup and a half and submitted it. I know our Ph is going towards acidic and we want about a 6 - 6.5 so we will have to spread lime this year and my plan is to go with a mostly Nitrogen based fertilizer mix but we will see what the sample tests out as (I will post a scan of the results if I can to show you what we look at). Bottom line though, no matter what the results are it will involve lots of $$$$. And for those our pastures are not going to be organic. We are developing a small lab at the farm and can determine the Ph levels of the soil and run other tests (some of the stuff we need to test on our own is vey pricey) but we dont have a centrifuge which limits us somewhat (looking for one on Craigslist but so far...) and the price of the testing from the University is very low so we use them. Frankly, the only reason we want to do some of this ourselves is because we like self sufficiency and we are interested in it.
We had already tilled the garden beds and added what we wanted to incorporate and we decided to get smart this year and use the tractor to make the planting furrows rather than doing it by hand. We tried the middle buster on the Kubota but the furrows were too close together so we switched to the IH and it was just the right spacing.

We made furrows in three of our plots while the fourth will be mounded for mellons. Our 5 year plan is to greatly expand based on what we have learned so we can focus on commercially viable plantings.  

The IH performed well but the lack of power steering sure gave me a workout. There is nothing more satisfying than spending a day on an old piece of machinery, hearing the sound of the old engine, smelling the freshly turned earth, feeling the sun, and just enjoying all that we have been blessed with.

There is so much chaos and acrimony (elections anyone?) being pumped into our homes 24/7 that I think a lot of folks have lost sight of what is important and what is not. We look at the drivel that passes as journalism now or the morally and intellectually vacant offerings of network TV and we just reject them. Can anyone actually respect an elected politician once they have been dragged through the mud on prime time during an election? When I was a young Officer of Marines it was constantly drummed into us that familiarity breeds other words, dont act a fool in front of your Marines and never let them catch you in a lie...too bad most politicians never learned those lessons. So we focus on local issues, we mostly ignore what is happening on the national stage and though some say we shouldnt bury our heads in the sand..I firmly believe we are happier and better off for it. I think we were born a couple generations too late!



  1. trying to post a comment again...WOW, everything is LOVELY! adore the chickens. Judy & Holly, the flower gardens are a delight for the eye. I love this blog. lol


  2. Thanks Mamita; we are really enjoying ourelves this year and starting to see the results of our labors!

  3. I've always wanted to ask, did you have gardening experience before moving to the farm? I assume Alaska had a short growing season, but did you garden there? you inspire us, and we always feel wonderful looking at your green landscape. :) when you bought your peeps, do they know how many roosters, or is it a gamble? sorry for the questions, but I think you are the people to ask! thanks.

  4. was mamita again. :)

  5. Thanks Mamita, we started gardening in Alaska and eventually built a garden shed with a small green house on one side but we had never really owned land before so we were pretty green moving here. I mean none of us had driven a tractor or even owned animals beyond a cat or dog before but in some ways that gives us freedom...we dont know any better that we cant do something! As for the peeps, you can get them sexed like we did or you can do a straight run and take your our case they made a mistake and we ended up with two roosters. We just study up on something and go for it.