Monthly Archives: June 2012

Barney(s), Comfrey, and Mullberry’s

My Barney hatching went off OK I guess. A 25% hatch rate ain’t great but at least I got 4 cute little Barnevelder chicks in the brooder. WOW that sucks! I just went in to take a picture of my 4 Barney’s and noticed that two of them are having leg issues. ūüė¶ Karen and I just put hobbles on them but I don’t have very big expectations, I tried this once before and all it did was delay the inevitable.

You can see the one in the foreground that is rocked back on his bum, him and the one behind him are the two having issues. They were fine yesterday, I wonder if I am doing something wrong during incubation? Karen thinks maybe the flock they came from is inbred? If you have any ideas let me know!

Tomorrow I am going to plant my two Mulberry trees, one positioned on the west end of my orchard to provide shade from our brutal afternoon sun. The other I am going to plant just on the outside of the Chicken run so that eventually its canopy will overhang the run to provide some shade and drop fruit into the run. Both trees need a little trimming so I bought some rooting hormone and am going to try propagating a couple new trees. While I’m at it I am going to cut a stalk from my Timber Bamboo and try potting up several cuttings to see if I can get the start of a windbreak going.

The 4 comfrey plants are going to be planted in my orchard, two at the head of the lanes between the first two rows. I think I am going to put the last two at the bottom of the center two lanes where the ground dips a bit causing the area to be a little moister than the rest. I’m not quite sure on that though, the idea of putting in a fourth 4’x4′ raised bed keeps popping back up in my head so we’ll see.

Lastly I am struggling with an egg eater(s), I have isolated the likely culprits but my egg production hasn’t gone back up. Before putting them in quarantine I would find 4 or 5 broken eggs a day now I’m not finding any broken eggs or shell remnants but am only finding 1 or 2 eggs daily.

If you have any advice I could sure use it on any of these issues.

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Barney is Stressing me out!!

As all of my loyal readers are already aware of I have a batch of Barnevelder hatching eggs that are due to hatch today. If your new here you can read about my acquisition of these eggs in here: The Carrot and The Stick

I set 16 eggs 3 weeks ago but half of them candled clear at 2 weeks leaving 8 at lockdown last Friday. Last night I noticed one pipping and lo & behold I had one cute little Fluffy Butt waiting for me when I woke up this morning!

When I left for work there were 2 more pipping the thought of which kept me totally distracted all day at work. Karen moved Barney #1 to the brooder and let me know that Barney #2 was hatching and #3 and #4 were pipped. I hurried home expecting Barney #1 & #2 to be in the brooder all fluffed up and fine but that was not to be. Barney #1 is doing great but #2 has what I believe is a prolapsed vent, which basically means its intestines were outside. Hoping it was just the umbilical I snipped it off but it is leaking yellow bile looking fluid and I don’t hold out much hope for poor #2. Barney #3 and #4 appear to be doing OK though and I have moved them into the brooder.¬†

Above is from right to left Barney #1 #3 & #4 . Hatching chickens shouldn’t be this stressful!

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A Day at The Fair

Karen and I are spending the day running her booth at Everybody’s Bird Mart at the L.A. County Fairgrounds in Pomona CA.

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We came down Friday evening and spent the day Saturday picking up supplies both that Karen needs for her business and for her booth at the bird mart. She probably thinks I haven’t noticed but she is employing her infamous “carrot & stick” tactics.

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After getting all of her running finished we went by Holt Garden Center in Chino, CA where she found me 2 nice Pakistani Mulberry Trees and 4 Comfrey Plants. The Mulberry’s are going on the west end of my orchard where they will serve many purposes. Being a rapid growing tree they should start providing afternoon relief from the brutal summer sun by next year, their long fruiting period (2 months) should distract the wild birds from the other fruit in my orchard, Karen loves he taste of mulberries and is looking forward to making jam, and finally the my chickens are gonna love foraging under them!
The guys at Holt Garden Center knew exactly what Comfrey was and had a bunch of it! The owner is Korean and apparently it is very popular in oriental herbal medicine. So now I have four big plants to put between the rows of my orchard, hopefully they will grow as well as sources on the Internet claim. Comfrey is a ” bio-accumulator” that accumulate’s nutrients and minerals in the soil that may not be readily available to other plants because of other factors such as alkalinity and through composting converts them to more usable forms. In addition it is supposed to grow very fast and chickens love the greens.

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A Goodun

Looking back yesterday was a goodun. I don’t particularly like fictitious holidays, it’s one of the things that my sweety Karen and I see eye to eye on. I remember wondering what was expected of me our first valentines day together, Karen removed all doubt by letting it be known that she would kick my butt if she got roses or candy on February 14th. Her position was “You shouldn’t need a special day to prove you Love me”, that reaffirmed what I already knew….This is the girl for me!

We have always done things for each other because we wanted to, not because the calendar said it was time to. Karen always understood that to me Mothers Day and Fathers Day were literal, and I wanted my sons to understand that to. While always being willing to help them do what they wanted for their Mommy, it was them doing it. This philosophy has helped our sons to appreciate the little things instead of being a slave to societies pressure towards more.

Karen loves 6 cheese bagels from Einstein Bagels so I got up early and went and got a dozen, while I say this was for her it was really a little self serving. By getting Bagels I made Karen happy, avoiding going out to breakfast like we usually do on Sundays and was able to get an early start up at the Orchard. My goal at the Orchard was to put in a another 4’x4′ raised bed, modify the greywater drip system, work on my feeding setup, move the 2&3 month old chickens out of the Juvenile pen and move the newest chicks into the Juvenile Pen.

This is my latest modification to my high tech foraging/stimulation table ( really its just 4 old logs with half a sheet of old warped plywood on top). I drilled a 1″ hole in the middle of the plywood then screwed my self feeder bucket down over the hole so that the trigger thingy hung down underneath. I have to admit that I ordered my fancy self feeding trigger off of E-bay for 4 or 5 bucks then paid $7.50 to have it shipped from England. Since then I have read that a teaspoon works just as well. The bucket is kept full of 19% all-purpose pellets. While my fancy Treadle Feeder is kept full of Lay Pellets. Each feeder holds about half a sack of pellets and usually the Treadle Feeder needs to be refilled every 3 weeks and it appears the bucket will need it about every 2 weeks.

The Pullets (I hope) that I booted out of the Juvenile Pen mixed right in with the big girls, in the foreground above you can see my GCM that I hatched out earlier this year. They really go nuts for the rice mixed with fermented scratch that I give them. My newest batch of mutts moved right into the Juvenile pen and booted the quail outta their little hidey-hole. BCM genes must be really strong cause all of these little fluffy butts look just like every BCM I have hatched out but not a one of their mamas is any kind of Marans. Their Daddy is but their mommas are outta that gaggle in the picture above.

Now that I have spent so much time talking about my Chickens I realize I didn’t take any pictures of the other projects from yesterday, I did accomplish all I set out to do and will blog about it when I have pics. Having the guilt free 5 hours to spend puttering with things that I wanted to get done was wonderful, the sunburn on my back from 5 hours spent shirtless in the 113 degree sun not so wonderful! And sorry I don’t have any pics of me shirtless, I’m self conscious since the Dance Network incident.

Obviously my day up to that point had been pretty nice, but towards the end of my time up at The Fruity Chicken my son Thomas came home and we had one of those conversations that make me proud of the boys I’ve raised. It wasn’t the subject in particular but more the fact that he brought up a topic that his older brother Michael and I had been discussing earlier in the week. He had some thought provoking takes on my thoughts and we had a pleasant 30 minute dialogue. The key factor being that not only do my sons listen to what I have say they care enough to think about it and have strong enough character to tell me if they disagree with my point of view. What more can a man ask for out of his sons? This scenario repeated itself later that evening when Michael called to wish me a happy Father’s Day and discuss Thomas and I’s earlier conversation. Truly I am blessed, my three sons Brian, Michael, and Thomas are all three intelligent, hard working, thoughtful young men that even though they may not recognize it are developing strong characters with a social conscience I don’t believe I had at that age.

So Fathers Day 2012; while being just another mass marketing, consumer driven, fictitious holiday was actually a day full of gooduns. Three boys to make a man proud, butt load a tasks done well, an honestly earned sunburn, a drool covered pillow kinda nap, all topped off with a eat enough crab & hushpuppies to make you sick kinda dinner with the woman you love? Yup them are all Gooduns!

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Chickenshit

Quite possibly I have mentioned before about my trials and tribulations of incubating hatching eggs and feeding my chickens, but I can’t find anything in the BB & COC (Bloggers By-Laws & Code of Conduct) that restricts duplicative content or just plain rambling. So be forewarned both may be inadvertently or purposely included in this post.

It is entirely Karen’s, aka my Sweety’s, fault that I am borderline OC about incubating eggs, Last summer she brought home an LG circulated air Styrofoam incubator with automatic turner and gave it to me. When I asked her what this is for, she told me that she thought maybe Alexa, our 6 year old granddaughter, and I could have fun hatching some chicken eggs. Alexa and I did have fun and had several successful hatches last Summer and Fall.

Then late last year my psycho Step-Mother in Law, Mary (anyone that lets Xanax dissolve under their tongue then washes it down with Miller Lite is the definition of psycho) decided that I was stalking her with a high powered rifle and was planning on shooting her and her whole family. To retaliate for this unacceptable behavior on my part she repossessed that lovely little LG incubator. In her mind I’m sure this move worked perfectly and put me in my place, after all it’s been over 6 months and I still haven’t shot her or anyone else with a high powered rifle.

As a side effect of the Xanax/LG/High-Powered Rifle drama of late 2011 Karen, the above mentioned Sweety, finally decided to stop letting others profit from her talents and opened her own business. One of her early customers asked if she knew where to get any Mille-Fluer chickens. Instantly I jumped on the opportunity to satisfy that Obsessive-Compulsive yearning that had been lingering int the back of my brain all winter. I found a Great Lady on BYC that raises Mille Fleur d’Uccle chickens and ordered a dozen hatching eggs. Once those and a dozen Marans, 6 Black Copper Marans & 6 Golden Cuckoo Marans hatching eggs from ¬†The Fancy Chick were on their way (you can’t have a half full incubator) I “remembered” that I didn’t have a big incubator anymore! Karen helpfully pointed out that she didn’t think there was any way my little Brinsea would cut it for the 2 dozen expensive hatching eggs we had on the way and insisted on buying me a new incubator. In my head I was thinking,¬†I love it when a plan comes together!, when Karen went one step further. While I was looking at inexpensive LG’s all the while kinda sorta hinting that maybe a HovaBator Genesis wasn’t all that much more, Karen insisted that her friend had told her that those Yellow Brinsea ones were the best and thats what we needed. On top of that when she went to the Brinsea website she decided that the digital would be much easier to use and ordered me a Brinsea Octagon 20 Advance.

As I have discussed here before I work very hard at trying to avoid buying commercial feed for my Chickens. Why? Well we all know that chickens are meant to be foragers and consume an omnivorous diet. Given those facts a varied and diverse diet must be better not only for their health but also for their quality of life. Eating the some old stuff out of the same old feeders just cannot be very intellectually stimulating for a chicken. In addition to my high tech foraging table, I engage in what I like to call Feed Ur Chickens Krap U Pickup or Fuck Up for short. Karen thinks I Fuck Up daily but in reality I usually only Fuck Up once a week or so. My sons do their best to Fuck Up at work whenever possible usually about 4 or 5 times a week. All of these Fuck Ups (Feed Ur Chickens Krap U Pick Up Sessions) result in quite a lot of free feed for my girls. A side effect of my chickens diet though has been loose runny stools.

In an attempt to firm their poop up a bit I am trying another technique I read about on BYC,¬†Fermenting Feed. This technique is discussed at length on BYC’s Meat Birds Forum, basically it involves soaking whatever grain based feed your using in water that has been inoculated with yeast and or some type of acidifying bacterial culture. Most people are using a dual bucket setup with the inner bucket drilled all over to create a colander/strainer device, and inoculating with a glug or two of unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar such as Bragg ACV. This type of ACV contains “Mother” which are active bacterial cultures, these cultures ferment the feed which when eaten by the chicken help acidify the gut and boost the pro-biotic cultures in the digestive system. Or so the theory goes, all I know for sure is my girls love it. Supposedly it also boosts the protein content of the inexpensive Scratch I am fermenting and should allow me to cut back even more on the expensive lay pellets I use to supplement my Fuck Up system.

Have I mentioned that it is stinking hot here in Vegas and I am going through Orchard/Chicken withdrawal due to this unreasonable heat? No? Well I fully intend to get up early tomorrow and spend the morning modifying my greywater system, hopefully that will generate some fodder for discussion here.

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The Carrot and The Stick

These little Fluffy Butts were hatched last weekend. Their mommas are Easter Eggers, Cochins, Barred Rock, Black Sex Link, Rhode Island Red or maybe just Mutt.

One week later and all you can tell for sure is that their daddy is my Black Copper Marans. Which is good seeing how all I have is two BCMs, the rest went to the Santa Ria priest a couple months ago.

It’s so warm¬† HOT here that these chicks might get to go to the Juvenile pen as early as next weekend. I have found that, if the weather allows, my chicks socialize better and are generally healthier if I get them into an outdoor pen as early as possible.

 

I haven’t planted any carrots yet but my flock sure like the greens from what I believe were the safflower seed in the sprouting mix that Karen gave me from her stash. I think I’ve mentioned on here before that my Sweety has a supply business for exotic birds, she also has quite a few parrots and the like that are her “babies”.

 

 

I have always suspected that one of those “babies”, an African Grey Parrot named Sheila, might rank a little higher up in the pecking order in our family than Karen admitted. First off Karen has always been Alpha around here and for a few years I actually thought that I was her #1. It wasn’t but a few years after our¬†3rd son was born that it finally sank in that I actually ranked #4 behind those 3 boys . The rankings of our three sons; Michael, Thomas, and Brian are dynamic. Mikey could cement the Alpha position by getting¬†busy and knocking Erin up, but I digress. I had always thought I had a firm hold of the #4 spot until I came home Wednesday to find a 4’x4’x6′ tall cage for Sheila right where my favorite chair and reading lamp had been.

 

Was this the stick trying to knock me down a notch? I think not.Why? Because Karen shows her Love and affection in so many ways; driving to Utah to get me those “special” eggs when we both know that I have way to many chickens already, finding a new place for my chair and reading lamp, not putting my chair out for trash day, bringing me little surprises back from her feed store forays such as Coturnix quail, and most of all by Loving me enough to be secure being who she is. I find that I have very few knots on my head from that stick and really have quite a surplus of carrots in my life.

 

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Productive? What’s Your Price?

A nice surprise this morning prompted me to take a little look back at how productive things have been around The Fruity Chicken.

 


These 11¬†fluffy butts were hatched out over the course of the weekend. I had set 20 eggs 3 weeks ago as a test¬†to see if my new BCM roo was doin his business. Eleven out of twenty ain’t bad for a youngster that just started crowing a month ago! These babies mamas could be Easter Eggers, Barred Rocks, Black Sex Link, Cochin, Rhode Island Red, or maybe even a mystery hen but those Black Copper Marans genes must be pretty strong seeing as how they all look alike no matter what color egg they came out of.

My Sweety, Karen, has been working on developing her Exotic Bird business.

She has a website at www.gotbirdslasvegas.com¬†but don’t bother clicking on it yet. Karen, Cammie, and Oscar were basically comatose on the day they planned on building the site. ¬†Karen is focusing on mobile services for owners of Exotic Birds in the Las Vegas valley. These services currently include; grooming, feed, handmade toys, and custom order cages. Now that I have inserted the obligatory plug I can go back to what this post is about, productivity.

Karen has a very strong creative side and wants to do more with her business than just be a mobile pet shop. Thats where productivity comes in, she had this idea for making birdhouses out of license plates and in preparation has been hoarding plates now for about 5 years. We went into full production last Sunday.

We have our system down now, I fabricate the wooden carcass; cut, bend, and attach the license plates; then drill the entry holes. Karen takes care of decorating stuff such as painting, installing perches and chimneys and all the other little fur-fru involved in making kitschy craft stuff.

All of this was very relaxing (at least for me) and has me almost looking forward to the Pomona Bird Mart later this month. But still I think I would rather spend that weekend puttering around my chickens and orchard in the 110 heat we have been having. And just in case any of you are join “awe isn’t Max sweet to help Karen out like that” forget it! She’s bribing me, she thinks she’s being subtle but I got it. One of her customers from southern Utah was supposed to drop off a couple dozen hatching eggs of Barnevelders, Spanish, and Basque chickens but they kept “forgetting”, now that her birdhouses are done she has time to make a “special” trip just to pick up my eggs. Isn’t she sweet?!

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Back to Work

Today is Sunday but this post isn’t a lament about the end of the weekend, just a continuation of my pondering on the role of work in my life. Is fulfillment found in the absence of work? Are relationships fostered and strengthened by sloth? Does retirement mean mean the end of productivity?

Currently I am employed as a representative for a Labor Union, did I choose this profession? No, work like this chooses you. The men and women who early in life actively seek positions representing for the rights of others are, in my opinion, the scary ones that often give organizations like Unions a bad name.¬†SQUIRREL¬†What I am trying to get at is that even in a position where your labor serves others daily I have found that the sense of accomplishment/fulfillment generally only endures approximately 3 days. In the field it’s said that a dozen atta-boys are wiped out by a single fuck-up, it’s the same when you’re trying to help people. All it takes is one unreasonable person in self denial to wipe out a months good work.

I have been very happily married for over 25 years, and that doesn’t mean that everything has been wine and roses. Like any couple Karen and I have had our ups and downs but in retrospect the downs have usually begun and been fostered by a lack of effort on one or both of our parts. A good relationship must have a basis in consideration and respect, both of which can easily be taken for granted. The effort a couple put into maintaining a happy, health relationship can take many forms but in my experience the benefits are long lasting and the payback far outpaces the input.

One of the wonderful things about being in a Labor Union is that your career and the relationships developed during that career don’t evaporate when you retire. To one extent or another most Unions have retiree’s clubs with functions that allow members, retired or not, to come together, socialize, relive, and share. This interaction of the past, present, and future is something that is sadly missing in modern America.¬†SQUIRREL¬†Over the years I have noticed that the retirees that do the best and live the longest are the ones that keep on working. Not necessarily for wages but in some endeavor that gives them a reason to get up in the morning and feel like they’re needed. That could be taking care of their grandkids, volunteering in the community, being a campsite host, or pursuing a hobby.

The unifying concept I am trying to express is that the most satisfying labor you can perform isn’t necessarily for wages. Work performed for the benefit of others, either directly such as volunteering at local charity, or indirectly such as trying to make this world a little better by trying to practice a sustainable lifestyle, is much more lastingly satisfying than just making money. There are a lucky few where these two types of labor coincide but unfortunately that is more the exception rather than the rule.

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To much shit goin on so here’s a recap of my greywater system.

I am jonesing a bit because I’m going to be tied up most of the day this Saturday which is going to severely impede on my weekly dose of chicken and orchard communing. Rather than breaking my cycle of blogging I have put together this recap of what I have accomplished so far on the Orchard side.

I have a 1/2 acre lot on the East side of the Las Vegas Valley (Nevada), water is expensive here so the previous owner just turned off the irrigation system about 6 years ago, since acquiring the property about 3 years ago I have been exploring different ways to utilize the land, cut down on dust, and not bankrupt myself with water bills.

For various reasons I kept coming back to fruit trees. A little research led me to a system of high density¬†orchard keeping called “backyard orchard culture” and low and behold the University of Nevada has an experimental orchard here that has been testing those practices in our valley since 1995! That was huge, now I knew it could be done and more importantly what to do do and what not to do.
I put my orchard in 4 N-S rows 9′ apart. The 2 Eastern most rows have 7 trees each spaced 4′ apart and the 2 western most rows have 4 trees each again spaced 4′ apart.

Now comes the Greywater part. I’m cheap and hate wasting anything so I got to thinking about greywater, my laundry area is on the back porch and had been just dumping in the backyard because I hadn’t tied it into the septic system yet. I had to install a surge tank which collects the water from the washing machine and allows it to be released in a slightly slower manner into the drip system.

 

The drip system came from Irrigray¬†and is designed to handle greywater, it came ¬†with a filter, 5/8″ poly distribution line, and 150′ of 1/2″ dripperline with 4 gallon per hour drippers built into it every 12″. My orchard area has a slight N-S fall to it so I ran the dripperline 1′ north of each line of trees, these lines are run E-W and therefore end up being spaced 4′ apart.

To cover the drip lines I hauled in enough ground up tree trimmings from the tree service companies to cover the entire orchard area to a depth of 6″. The system has been operating now for 4 months. I can go anywhere in the orchard and pull back the mulch, even dead center between twosets of lines, and the soil is moist and full of worms. The filter is a 400 micron filter and it is claimed you only need to clean it twice a year, I have cleaned it twice now and neither time did it need it.
I am currently using ECO brand laundry detergent, it is supposed to be Bio-Compatible rather than Bio-Degradable. From what I have read the¬†difference between the terms is that bio-degradable just means that the substance will break down into it’s component parts,whatever they are, when exposed to the elements and bio-compatible breaks down into environmentally friendly components. The main reason though that I chose this brand as opposed¬†to Oasis, which is the main one you find recommended on the web, is that my local Costco carries it.

Isn’t that a nice picture? This is a view looking down into my surge tank, on the right you can see the black ABS drain pipe coming from the washing machine. The white 3/4″ PVC just below the drain pipe is connected to an automatic sprinkler valve. My son, who lives in the house at The Fruity Chicken, currently doesn’t do enough laundry to supply the water needs of the orchard. Rather than install a parallel irrigation system I ran this line to supplement the greywater, currently this valve is set to run for 2 minutes once a day.

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