My trio of garden beds are finally complete, and just in time too. I now have an empty compost pile and the entire chicken pen floor has been dug out at least a foot deep.
I keep trying to get cheap wood chips from local tree companies for the pathways and chicken pen, but it seems everyone else has the same idea and I’ve had zero luck. The cheapest I can find them for sale is $20 a yard plus $100 delivery, which would make a single truckload cost around $400 and I’ll probably need two to last me the year. I’m pretty close to buying my own wood chipper and putting up an ad for tree pruning services!
Everything I planted in the first bed is really taking off and if you scoop any of the material out it’s totally chock full of worms. I have one of my young does living over the unfinished beds while I work on them so she can fertilize. Once winter rolls around again I’ll probably try to install rabbit cages over every bed. Might as well get the manure where you want it without the shovel.
I also potted up my baby tomatoes today. I had three out of the four varieties I planted germinate well, even the old Prudens Purple seeds from 2008! When I told the seed company about it, they said tomato and pepper seeds can last a decade or more if stored in cool, dry conditions. Wow!
The lacinato kale is also feeling frisky and setting flowers. I’m looking forward to another boatload of seeds like last year, this will be my second variety. Kale is such a workhorse in the garden.
I wrote some time ago about fermenting grain for my chickens. Back then I was doing it in a large glass jar in my kitchen. Yeah, that was never going to last.
Last fall I started getting serious about fermented grain. I tried so many times to grow fodder for my hens over the winter, but nothing I did could prevent mold from taking over every tray. I wanted the girls to have something ‘alive’ to eat during the cold months, so I set up a 5 gallon bucket beside the coop and dumped in a bunch of different grains and covered them with water. That’s about how hard it is to get started.
Currently I use whole corn (it’s crimped in the photos because the feed store gave me the wrong stuff last trip), whole wheat, whole black oil sunflower seeds, whole millet, whole oats, whole barley and some wild bird seed that the wild birds couldn’t care less about.
It worked great. I read somewhere that you could add layer pellets to the bucket too, but when I tried that I soon had a case of moldy top scum on my hands. I dumped that batch out and started over, and now I don’t put regular pellets or crumbles into the mix. I haven’t had any more issues with mold.
After a while I got adventurous and started adding things. I got some kelp powder, turmeric, garlic powder and cayenne. Now each time I add new grain to the bucket a tablespoon of each supplement goes in too. It smells great and the birds love it. Not simply the chickens but also the pigeons, ducks and pheasants.
The cayenne keeps rats away and was the trick to jumpstarting my Ameraucana hen into laying again this spring after she seemed a bit ‘stuck’. Did you know cayenne is one of the ingredients in the special red-factor ‘color enhancement’ food you can buy for canaries? Birds don’t have the ability to taste capsaicin so to them it’s just extra delicious.
The first spring litters are now almost three weeks old and everyone is doing great. All kits are fat and happy and just starting to foray out of the nest boxes. Soon they’ll be munching fresh greens alongside their moms.
This first litter is out of Caraway and they are half Champagne d’Agent, a quarter Standard Rex and a quarter Creme d’Argent. Half the kits came out agouti with a little white spot on their foreheads, and the other half came out looking like black otter Rexes (which is what their grandsire was), with some frosting on their bums that is very similar to Silver Marten markings.
The next litter is out of Esther, and they are the Creme d’Argent/Champagne d’Argent crosses. They all came out agouti colored but I’ll be interested to see if they develop any white frosting as they mature. The one white kit in the nest is a Californian baby that was transferred as a day old to even out the litter sizes.
Litter three is out of Samphire, and are our pure Californian bunnies. These little guys are just starting to get their dark points coming in.
And finally, litter number four is out of Fire Opal and are the purebred Standard Rex buns. She only threw three bunnies this time, so I took four bunnies away from Caraway (she had 11) on day one and transferred them to Opal’s nest. They are the agouti and solid black colored ones.
It looks like the solid Rex kit is an opal like mom, which is a blue coat with a reddish undertone and cream belly. Very pretty.
Kit number two is either a broken blue otter, or a broken opal. Also very pretty with a nice pattern.
And lastly, the third Rex kit appears to be a broken black otter. You can see the snips of tan around the nostrils, eyes and ears that give it away.
Happy Easter everyone!