Wednesday, July 31, 2013

We Have New Additions to the Farm!

We have a new rooster!  We named him Beetle Juice! We had too many drakes and found a man that took two of our boys, that left us with three drakes.  He gave me a Dominique rooster.  I just love this boy, he's very sweet (for now) and he's just learning to crow so he is quite entertaining.  It's been a few days here with him trying to make friends with all the other animals.  The pecking order with chickens can feel so cruel, and as a "mommy" you just want everyone to get along.  He is trying very hard to find his place and last night he went and got on the roost all on his own.  It was a very proud moment for me to see him make the effort to take his place on the roost.

If you have never added a bird to the flock, it can be very stressful for everyone, especially the new bird and the human that wants everyone to get along.  There are a few tips to adding a bird to the flock that will ease a lot of the stress.

First, keep your new bird in a separate pen for a few days and up to a week.  This allows everyone to see each other, but keeps the new bird in a safe situation.  When you are ready to allow the new bird in with the established birds, move the new bird to the roost at night when everyone is sleeping.  This allows the bird to sleep on the roost and in the morning the chickens aren't as suspicious of the new bird as they would of been during the day.

If chickens are in a coop and run all day and night, there can be a lot of stress and pecking to establish order. Tight spaces can cause a lot of scuffle and pecking on the new bird to let the bird know who is in charge.  Be sure to watch how the chickens treat the new bird.  Chickens can draw blood and could cause injury to the new bird.  If you are introducing a young rooster to the flock and have an older rooster, there could be a lot of fighting and even death to the new bird.  Sometimes you might have to take the dominant chicken out of the pen for a few days and let them re-establish their place in the pecking order.  This is only necessary if the dominant chicken is being aggressive and acting like a bully.

In our case, we free range our birds.  When a new chicken is coming into a free range situation there is a lot more space and room for the birds to interact.  The new bird can keep it's distance and still learn about it's new home.   Beetle Juice is doing well settling into his new life here with all of our animals.  He gets out of the way of the goats when they are running around and tries to make friends with the chickens, but gets away quickly if they try to peck him.  He's had a few chest bumping squabbles with a couple of hens, but I'm glad to see he's standing up for himself.  The ducks are even letting him know he's way down on the pecking order even to them.  I can't help but laugh when a duck drops that head and stretches out their neck and chases after him.  He looks at them like they are crazy.  I don't think he'd ever seen a duck or a goat close up before. 

I am very happy to add this little guy to our flock and am very excited to watch him mature and grow into a beautiful rooster.  I have always loved the Dominique breed and have hoped to have one.  I always buy my chickens from the hatchery as a mixed flock of hens.  I buy the rainbow layers from McMurray Hatchery.  So they pick the breeds that I get and I'm okay with that I love the mystery and surprises as they grow.  I haven't gotten a Dominique yet, but now I have a beautiful boy.  Of course, now I need to get a few hens of the same breed so that we can continue the lineage.  I plan to order a few as soon as I get my new batch of chicks out of the nursery. 
All the new chicks at two days old

We ordered twenty five chicks and got them last week.  The rainbow layer pack from McMurray Hatchery sends us a variety of breeds that lay white, brown and if you get Arcauna or Americana chicks, blue eggs.  We love the colored eggs they are always a conversation starter when we share our eggs.  They are all a little over a week old today and are growing well and getting their little tail feathers jutting out.  I can't wait to see what they will all look like when they get fully feathered.  It's exciting to watch them grow and change. 
The Guineas at two days old

We also got fifteen guineas.  I have always wanted guineas but they can be a bit expensive.  There was a "sale" so I ordered them and am so excited to have them as a new addition to our hobby farm.  Guineas are wonderful protectors to the farm and great little alarm systems.  The will kill small mice and rats, snakes and eat loads of nasty insects like ticks.  They generally like to roost in trees at night but that leaves them exposed to predators.  I am going to try very hard to train them to go into the house at night like the chickens and ducks.  I have read up on teaching them and will work hard at making sure they want to come "home" at night.
These Guineas are adorable and look so sweet!
We are also adding ten Khaki Campbell ducks to our duck flock.  Like I mentioned earlier, we had too many drakes for our flock.  We had five drakes, we found a home for two drakes, and now have three drakes.  We have eight females and the three drakes.  When the little ones are added to the flock we will have eighteen females.  That should balance things out with our three drakes.  I also want to get more Indian runners, but they weren't available to order when I ordered my chicks.  Khaki Campbell ducks lay a lot of eggs, they are the most prolific egg layers of all the ducks, and are a pretty chocolate brown color.  They will be a wonderful addition to the duck flock. 

The Khaki Campbell ducklings at two days old
I just love duckling faces, they are the cutest things, but they are far from loving or cuddly.  They really don't enjoy being held or bothered by humans.  It takes a long time for my ducks to get comfortable around me, and they never turn into little lap ducks.  I have read about a lot of peoples ducks following them around and being great pets.  I don't really push myself on the ducks to be "pets", I let them be ducks and let them take their time to feel safe around people but never so safe that the lose their natural defensive's. 
Look at that face!
I'm really excited to have all the new babies here and our new rooster.  It's so much fun to add new birds to the farm.  Now that I have them all, they are keeping me very busy.  It's worth all the work to see them grow up to beautiful, happy free ranging birds!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Powdery Mildew Strikes

I noticed yesterday that my squash wasn't looking right, I played it off to the heat of the day and waited to see what it looked like this morning.  The leaves have been yellowing and spreading out a bit, my output has slowed way down too.  

I noticed this morning a dusty coating on a lot of leaves and some were splotchy with green and yellow.  Even some leaves have brown crispy edges and they are rolling up.

I realized immediately that powdery mildew is taking over within my squash plants.  I hurriedly and checked all my other plants and thankfully it's just this one area of my garden.  I can't say  I didn't half expect this because we have had so much rain.  I was just hoping they would be resistant to it but obviously my squash plants aren't resistant.

What is powdery mildew? A fungi is what causes powdery mildew.  It is caused by many different species of fungi in the order Erysiphales.  The fungi is spread by the wind blowing the spores that land on plants and cause the white spots on the leaves.  This can live year round by landing on the soil and surviving the winter and once the beds are dug again the next season the spores are sent back into the air and the life cycle begins again. 

I can't tell you how devastated I felt when I saw the leaves on my plants.  I went inside and mixed up a great organic homemade fungicide and went out to spray the leaves.
After spraying all the leaves I will wait and see now what happens.  I have read that a 50/50 mix of milk and water is a good preventative and I may try that if I don't see any changes this week from my other spray. 

Here is the recipe for an organic homemade fungicide that I use.

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 liter water

I mix it up and put it in a clean spray bottle and spray my plants.

You can also use 3 ounces of minced garlic soaked in 2 tablespoons of mineral oil for 24 hours.  Strain out the garlic and mix with 1 teaspoon dish soap into 1 pint of water.  Pour into a spray bottle  for fungicide and pest control.  Garlic is a well known fungicide on it's own.  I will be mixing that up for later use, but I need a new clean spray bottle.  Don't reuse bottles because you don't know what sorts of residues are left in them. I'm out of clean bottles so I need to get out and buy a few to have on hand.  When I get them I will mix up the garlic spray to work on  all my plants.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cute Garden Ladybugs

I wanted to share a cute craft for the garden.  If you are like me you might have a garden bed that is lacking a lot of color.  It has shape and a lot of greenery but not a lot of color.  I have a bed like that, not because I don't try but because my dogs will not stay out of it and stomp anything I plant.  I have decided to create a bed of color with "things" instead of flowers.  My petunias and zinnias are giving me a little flower color in the broken birdbath I turned into a planter, and I have my elephant ears that give me some body in the bed with their big, broad leaves.  I have a couple little ceramic planters, but what was growing got drowned with all the rain.  So, I gathered some rocks from around the property. I soaked them in a bucket of bleach and water and then rinsed them and set them out to dry.  The next day we painted them red and dotted them black.  I am going to let my quick crafty lady bugs put a pop of color in this bed. 

This is a great craft for the kids to do and will give them a bit of pride when they see they have added their own art to the landscape.

A quick, all over coat of red on a washed and dried rock

Ready for the black dots

Black dots, a couple of eyes, and some antennae, with a little happy smile and we have a cute garden  ladybug

What a great way to let the kids create a few artsy crafts that will add some zip and color to any garden bed or flower pot on the porch.  I am going to get some green paint and we are going to try our hand at making some rock frogs too.  I will share that craft when we get all of our supplies.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Rain, wet, moisture...Mushrooms

It has rained non stop for weeks here in north Georgia.  It has been great in some aspects, the temperatures have been milder, but the wetness and moisture is miserable.  Humidity has been high and even if the temperatures are low, when you step outside you are soaking wet in just a matter of minutes.  The one thing that I have been seeing a lot of with all this rain is an abundance of wild mushrooms.  I am not one that is tempted to find edible mushrooms and eat them, but I do find them to be curious and love to squat down and take a look at how they are formed.

There are so many different kinds of mushrooms, it's really interesting to see the pictures of them.  I've read that there are over 10,000 mushroom species in North America.  It amazes me that there are that many different kinds of mushrooms.  Living in North Georgia, we don't have that many different kinds, but the ones that I come across are always interesting to stop and look at and snap a picture, if I have my camera.

I was surprised to find out we have a mushroom club in Georgia.  Now that would be an interesting club to join.

I think one of the exciting aspects of mushroom curiosity is that they make wonderful photograph subjects.  I love to get a picture of a mushroom to see if I can find out what species it is, it's like being a mushroom detective!

Snapping a photo of a mushroom in the wild gives me a chance to practice my photography skills and use different angles and lighting approaches.  And, it gives me something to ponder on and research.  It's just good fun to learn something new!

 Because of the moisture mushrooms are everywhere around my place.  Some of them are growing on dead branches laying on the ground.  Some on the bark of trees and some just at the base of tall, living hardwood trees.
I love the one that grow off the side of a tree on the bark.  They look like little woodsy sea shells.

There are all sorts of mushrooms growing.  I could spend all day searching for different ones and taking pictures of them.

I hope that the rain eases up a little bit so things can dry out, but then again it's nice knowing I don't have to get out and water my garden or worry about drought this year like so many other states.  I would like to send all of those drought burdened states a little "rain" care package to help them out!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Obsessed with a weed

Amaranthus spinosus
I have this weed growing in my yard out of nowhere.  It is annoying and has thorns on it, so it's very undesirable to have on the path to feed the animals.  My husband mowed it all down and it has popped back up and is growing stronger than ever.  Today I went out to straighten up my concrete pavers and I started to dig it up and I have a nice pile of it now.  I am going to toss it in the fire pit and burn it.  It seems to just be in one certain area and I am not sure what has brought it here.

I tend to wear flip flops outside a lot, it just makes it easier to spray off my feet when wandering around outside.  I also like to have them on to empty and fill the duck pools.  Every time I go outside with my flip flops on, I get spiked with one of the thorns on this weed.

Look at the thorns on these things!
I hope digging it up and getting the roots will eradicate it from my yard.  The chickens and ducks and goats just walk past it.  That makes me think that it's toxic and they know not to eat it.  So, no help from them, I'm on my own to get rid of it.  I don't want to put any sort of chemical down on the ground because the ducks and chickens and goats eat all around that area.  I wonder if vinegar would kill it?

My chickens aren't laying that well lately, and a few of them are molting.  One poor girl looks like she has been through the ringer.  I hope that they start to get their feathers back in shape soon.  I picked her up and a lot of feathers stuck to my shirt.  I have to say that was a very creepy feeling, like I had been holding a chicken leper!  The girls that are laying have found a new spot to make a nest and I am very proud they did, I put a cabinet up that we are going to make a two leveled nesting cabinet and now that they are laying on the bottom the next level will be just as easy.  Of course, once we get it all finished and ready for them.

I found your new hiding place!
In the meantime, they can lay their eggs on the bottom level all that they want.  I just hope that the other girls finish their molt and start looking like chickens again.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Little In Love With Basil

My Potted Basil ((Ocimum basilicum)
One of my favorite plants in the garden and in pots on my deck, is basil.   Basil is a gorgeous plant, it grows easily and quickly into a bushy, full, tender leaved plant.  This plant is an annual, which must be planted by seed each year.  It has glossy-surfaced leaves and the plant reaches about eighteen inches in height when mature. The plant will bloom tiny white or purple flowers on spikes. However, leaves are the gardners harvest so once you see the flowering spikes, it has given the plant a signal to stop growing.  So, although beautiful when in flower, seeing them tells you that your plant has reached it's full maturity.  

The seeds can be sown directly into the garden after the last frost, in early spring.  Basil likes to be planted in full sun, in well-drained soil, and thrives well using composted manure or other organic materials as a mulch. Basil can be affected by too much water, be sure not to over-water the plants.

When grown in pots by the front door or on a back porch, basil will be a repellent against mosquitoes.   In the garden planted as a companion plant it will be a repellant from mites and aphids. Basil can slow down the growth of milkweed bugs, and this allows it to be a useful fungicide.

Basil is easy to start from cuttings. Use a tall glass or a bottle and fill it with water.  Cut a 4" to 6" piece of basil and remove the lower leaves, leaving about three sets of leaves on the stem.  Put the cutting into the water and in about two weeks there will be nice roots allowing you to plant it in a small pot with quality potting soil.

Whether you plant basil to harvest and eat or for a repellent for insects or even as a annual flower for it's beauty in the garden, you can't go wrong with this plant.  I love how it looks and I love being able to harvest the leaves and make a tasty salad or pesto for pasta.  Basil is a wonderful herb, plant and green that even beginner gardeners can grow and harvest.

I wanted to share a delicious way to use your basil with this recipe:

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 1 Cup



2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano or Asagio cheese

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts (any nut can be substituted such as cashews or pecans)

3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste



 Combine the basil in with the nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.
 Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It's not raining...YET!

I just went out to feed the chickens, ducks and goats.  The ground is a mucky mess with mud, and the grass is growing like crazy because of all the rain.  But, it's not raining yet, I may be able to get out and work in the animal house this morning.  I am so in love with our baby chick.  It is getting big and is much more mature than the hatchery chicks, which is surprising to me.  It really makes a difference when baby chicks have a "mommy" chicken to teach them all their chicken ways.

Our "home made" baby chick
I can't wait for this chick to grow up and I can tell if it's a hen or a rooster.  At the moment, I think it may be a rooster.  It's got really thick legs and it's getting it's comb already.  I think I read somewhere that roosters get their combs earlier than hens.  I may be wrong but in time we will know for sure, won't we?

I made such a delicious cake this past weekend for fellowship at church.  I feel compelled to share the recipe.  I made it exactly as the recipe suggests, but next time I think I may try apples instead of peaches.  The cake was so moist and tasty, even my husband ate some of it and he hates peaches.  That event will go down in history, that he even tried something out of a pan that is made with peaches.  This recipe is called Gooey Peach Cake and I found it on Pinterest.  Yes, I am still addicted to Pinterest.  I love that site and have found some amazing recipes from other pinners.  If you want to check out some of the recipes I've found, just check out my boards.

I planted some seeds left over from a spaghetti squash that we ate for dinner one night.  I laid them out on a paper towel for a few days and let them dry a bit.  I planted them last week and hoped that they would grow.  I'm always leery about seeds from vegetables from grocery stores.  You never know if they have been genetically altered or treated not to sprout.  I am excited to see that they all have sprouted and are growing now.  I hope they do well and I end up with some spaghetti squash.  I love it and would love to have an ample supply of it, because it's expensive to buy in the store.  I will keep my fingers crossed that I see some squash growing this summer and if I do I will propagate the seeds to plant for next year.
Spaghetti Squash is sprouting
I have a lot I want to get done today so I better get off the computer and out in the humidity.  Even though it's cool in the morning you can still feel that humidity.  I can handle heat, but humidity makes it miserable. I hope if you are looking for a good treat you try that recipe!  Here is too a great day for everyone!