Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spring is coming!

Spring is coming, spring is coming! Last week we turned some of the raised beds and started some seeds inside. While watering tonight I snapped a few pictures to share. We've got tomatoes,broccoli, escarole, peppers, and some basil going now. Here's some of the progress:

Mom loves these new seed starters she found.
Some of the trays that can be planted right with the
 started seeds. All snug in our great soil

Also, our sweet little chickens are really growing! They are just about 4 weeks now and have lots of feathers. With temperatures rising we are going to put them on the porch during the day. They are starting to fly and getting a bit too adventurous to be in our bathroom all the time. It's getting very messy!
One of our naughty Welsummer babes roosting up on top of their crate.

There are some pluses to them being in the bathroom still. They get lots of attention, and always seeing us come in and out so they will be plenty comfortable with us when they move outside. They sure are messy though! Since they've started jumping out they have left messes all over the bathroom and even in the tub! Thank goodness they are still cute.. For now. They are starting to get to that really goofy age that all chicks go through.
Here they are checking me out through the opening in their brooder that they are quickly outgrowing. Sixteen chicks certainly was a lot to take on. But, we are looking forward to adding them to our wonderful flock that we have outside now. Just today, while the girls were running around free outside I had two come meet me in the front yard. We certainly have some spoiled hens, at least they lay lots of delicious eggs!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Barley growth

Well our barley project started quite sloppily the second weekend in February. However, things have really worked out well. Our makeshift stand works wonderfully to keep the seed wet and draining at all times. It can hold 6 trays, which is how many days it takes to really get nice growth. Once we get this going for a week or two more we will be producing 4-8 pounds of fodder every day for our sheep and chickens!

So, if you are interested in trying this out, here is how we put everything together..
trays we bought, with holes in the bottom for draining


  • 25 lbs bag barley,whole (wheat works as well, but barley really took off easily)
  • two 5 gallon buckets, cleaned out
  • 7+ gardening trays (with holes if you can find them, if not prepare to drill some holes)
  • Drill, for holes in one of the 5 gallon buckets and maybe the trays
5 gal bucket for draining with holes drilled

The holes in the bucket weren't so bad, but I don't think I'd enjoy putting holes in all those trays! It only took about twenty minutes to put in the holes, I probably put in about 50 small holes to help it drain.

So one tray will yield about 5-8 lbs of lovely fodder coming from one pound whole barley, which fills up a one quart jar. Colder months will obviously yield less fodder. We are doing ours inside right now (in February) and it's about 65 inside. So far, so good. It doesn't need direct sunlight, especially since it needs to stay wet at all times. Wet and draining at all times, remember that!

Now once we have some holey trays& one holey bucket, let's begin! 

  • Measure out about 1 quart of barley, mason jars work well for this. This will give you about 1 pound of barley which will fill those trays out nicely. 
  • Put the barley into the bucket without the holes& cover it with water, plus extra for it to expand.
  • Let it sit like this for twelve hours, then pour into the holey bucket for draining
  • Once you've drained some of the excess out it's time for the trays. You still want everything wet remember!
  • spread it out into a nice layer, between 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch so that it stays wet but still drains nicely. 
  • Now it's just watering, 2-3 times a day. I pour  a bit on to soak everything and have it drain into other levels. During the day I take a spray bottle of water and just spray any spots that seem to be getting a little dry
  • After about 7 days, you will have lush, green fodder your pets will LOVE!
Our makeshift stand for draining and growth inexpensive and
not too difficult at all! Works wonderful

A small tip, once it's ready for the chickens/livestock, you'll want to break it up. For chickens its nice if you break into smaller pieces and get your fingers in there to break it up, this way they will eat all of it. For other livestock, we give it to our sheep, we give nice clumps that they just pull apart happily.

Here are the ever so exciting shots of the barley at different points. I skipped the beginning, that's just boring. But, tried to get the most important parts. The first two days is REALLY boring, but don't lose hope! Once you start to see those little white "strings" coming out, things will really start happening!

Day 3, finally showing some growth!
Day 4, a nice little mat forming
Day 6,  looking great
Day 5
Day seven, ready to go!

It all broke up pretty nicely for all the critters, but look at that thick mat! We were really excited with how this first week went, here's hoping it keeps going so well.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Barley, Eggs, and Chick News

 A few very exciting things to tell. First, we are growing fodder! Last week we got the barley and trays, built the stand for the trays, and put holes in the bottom one of the buckets for draining. Monday morning, we started the growing process. It's simple and very exciting, well exciting for us..
We have two trays going now and a third one started.
This morning, when we went in to water the top layer, we saw some small sprouts starting!! Very good news for our first time doing this : )
Now I know it is hard to see, but I took a picture anyway and hope that you can see too. If not, we'll have more pictures coming this week as the growing continues. This picture is 60 hours into the start of the process.

We are growing this barley to have fresh, clean feed for our sheep and chickens year round.

Second fun news, our littlest Silkie has finally started laying! She was one of the adopted ones we got in the spring to make sure my little silkie, Nugget, wasn't lonely. Now they have moved in with the other teenage girls and everyone is very happy together. Here is her first egg! I put it next to the brown egg so you could see the difference in size, isn't it cute?

Last piece of news for today, our new little munchkins turned a week old on Monday! Just nineteen more weeks until they could possibly be laying. At least they are cute now. 
Here's a shot of one of the chicks taking a small sleep with me last night.
And, yes, she is still alive. They just sleep funny.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Buy Local!

As we move closer to the warmer weather, we can start to think about all the coming fresh produce. I think it's important to inform people about buying local and supporting local farms. In case you are on the fence here are a few reasons:

Local food is better for you. It hasn't traveled for miles over the course of few days losing nutrients on it's way to you. 
Since it doesn't have to travel it's picked at its peak. This is why it looks and tastes better. You can't deny a nice fresh jersey tomato in the summer is much better than the bland, off color tomato you get in a food store in winter. 
Buying local supports local farms and families. Unlike the corporation, this skips the middle man and goes to the beautiful green farms you drive past. This also means you are putting money directly into our local economy.
It keeps farmland intact and the important skill set that comes with farming will continue to be shared.This will have a positive impact on our future in this area!

So with that, here is a link to NJ agriculture. From here you can find community markets, roadside farm stands, and even the "pick your own" farms! Spread the word : )

Thursday, February 7, 2013

laundry detergent

We've finally decided enough is enough with the huge plastic containers and ridiculous prices for detergent. I did a little research and found an oh-so-simple recipe for making our own dry detergent. It only takes three ingredients and will save bundles of money..

1 bar Fels Naptha
1 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda

I grated up the fels naptha bar with just a regular old cheese grater. Mixed in with the borax and washing soda and shook it up. It looks nice in one of our million mason jars we have around our house.  Best part about this, it only takes ONE tablespoon with a normal size load of laundry!

This link has a whole bunch of other great recipes, answers some questions you may have, and also lists other soaps you can use. Hope it's helpful!

New Munchkins !

This morning I sent out this message, "a box full of happiness" with this picture:

We got 8 Welsummers and 8 Cuckoo Marans. We got this different breed for our flock to add some new colors to our eggs. These ladies will lay chocolate brown colored eggs! 
We love the new baby noises, and so did our silly pyr mix, Christian.. he was hoping to get a look at these little noise makers.

We've got them all set up in a crate with a heat lamp and lots of food and water. Over the next few weeks we'll handle them as much as we can so they learn to love and trust us. We'll have more new pictures to post soon! But, look at all those little ones!