The chickens were the focus of the 2014 project. The basic box was up at the end of 2013. It needed to be trimmed out and painted. Work is underway late April.
Black locust fenceposts went in after the windows were finished and the door was hung.
Below is the completed compound with POW-camp-style fence additions on the outside along the deer fence. I was not altogether confident that I could keep predators out. But so far, so good.
I got five Aracauna chicks from my friends Ed Bruske and Lane Green at Spydog Farm about seven miles away. Here they are in their new house on Day 1. The place is nice and clean. It won’t stay that way for long. Aren’t they cute! I named them: Gladys, Mabel, Pearl, Edna, and Solange.
Here are the girls toward the end of July. I kept them inside their compound for the first month. Among other things, I was concerned about how Scooter the cat would treat them.
In August, they were getting bigger, and looked like they could stand up for themselves. So I let them start ranging through the orchard. They had developed a gang mentality so I thought they would intimidate Scooter by sheer numbers,
These were the very first eggs the girls produced. Yes, they are blue-green, characteristic of the Araucana breed, though occasionally now I get some that are buff and some that are bluer or greener.
Scooter has developed into a chickenherder. They show each other a lot of mutual respect. I’m much more concerned about Death-From-Above — hawks, owls, and eagles, all of them pretty abundant around here. Bald Eagles have especially been coming back strong and they nest in the Battenkill River corridor about a quarter-mile from the house. So far, no strikes. Sad to say, though, in October Solange died after flying into the plate glass window of my office sliding door. RIP. Four girls remain.
The fruit trees continues to come along in their third year. Only two Northern Spys and one Japanese pear produced fruits, and I pinched back twice as many as actually set, to save the young tree some energy.
The garden seemed to be pretty much up-and-running for the 2014 season, but interesting problems developed. After two years of being relatively left alone by pests, a lot of my crops were getting hit hard. Peas were chawed down to the nubbin. Ditto some of the kale, collards, salad greens. I suspect chipmunks or voles. In June I very laboriously attached an inner screen of chickenwire along all the individual bays of the picket fence, with a 12-inch apron coming out along the outside edge. Maybe I should have used the material called hardware cloth, with the little quarter-inch square openings, but that would have cost four times as much. I continued to have trouble all summer and fall. Some of it was insect and disease damage. My fava beans got hit by some blackish crud. All nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants) did well. Onions were a failure; they just didn’t get much bigger than the “sets” I planted in May. Had a decent crop of potatoes. Tons of cucumbers. They really kept coming. Lots of raspberries and strawberries. I tried growing tomatoes and peppers in the hoop house through the summer, to see what supercharged heat would do for them. They produced prodigiously, but the plants got super-leggy.
One thing I did early in the spring was to run some buried hoses from porch faucet, under the porch, and then about 8 inches underground into the garden. Also over to the hoop house so the hose wouldn’t be just laying on the grass all the time. It worked really well and wasn’t too difficult. In the fall, I blew out the lines with an air compressor.
The garden hose stores up neatly inside the fence — yay….
On July evening, everything is coming along nicely.
Here’s the scene in October. Many of the beds are already cleaned out for the season.
October in the orchard. There are five new plum trees (hard to see) going down to chicken house. The red vine is Virginia Creeper.
The end of another lovely, satisfying season… this is the chicken house in early November. The moon is rising.
Winter comes on early. Waking up to a morning dusting a week before Christmas. Not much to worry about, right?
One night before Christmas, an icy snowstorm struck the upper Hudson Valley. Imagine my shock to look out the window and see this. Totally my bad. The fact was, I had a set of 4 x 4 braces for the roof ridge made up from the previous year all ready to pop in….and I just forgot. Duh…. I heard the forecast but it just didn’t register, or prompt me to go get those braces out of the shed and pop them in. What a bummer….The damage seemed pretty total.
I mean, what do you think?
However, once the ice that was hammocked up in the center melted, and I poked a drain hole or two in the very strong plastic, and all that weight came off, I was able to get in and brace up the center ridge pole and kind of return the thing to at least a semblance of its correct shape. Further examination suggests I can patch together the broken ridge pole and the three broken hoops (the rest are okay). I’ll know in May sometime. Might also have to replace the main plastic cover, but it is designed to be changed out pretty easily. That’d cost about $150. Notice, I lost a nice winter lettuce crop. Advice welcome….
Eventually, I got the ridge support posts back in and propped up the structure back into its normal shape. You can see the posts in there if you look closely. But I will have to patch in a lot of new pieces of Sched-40 PVC pipe and new connectors this spring. I kinda think it can be done.
Snow on snow on snow…. This is how winter developed. By February the entrenchments were several feet deep. The chickens seemed to do very well. They roosted up in the rafters of their house, and I’d installed rigid foam insulation with a mylar finish, so I think their own body heat keep things pretty tolerable. Each hen supposedly generated 10 watts.
The girls got used to circulating back and forth from their house to the sheltered spot under the back deck where my office walk-out is. Usually they move in a group, but sometimes they make the long lonely walk solo. I don’t know if this is Gladys, Edna, Mabel, or Pearl
Apart from salvaging the hoop house, the big project for 2015 is to reconfigure the garden beds. I’m disenchanted with the raised beds and grass paths. I’m going consolidate some of the beds and lay down wood chips in the paths. I will eliminate some of the paths altogether. Also will make the perennial beds a little bigger