Category Archives: Las Vegas garden

I’ve got a headache

Headaches, do they really need to rule your day? or are they more just a symptom of apathy or depression? Today mine is all about the weather drying out and my sinuses protesting the change. Looking back though I realize that just maybe “i’ve got a headache” has been my internal excuse for just veging out rather than getting to those projects that need to get done.

Just about my biggest “headache this past year has been attacks on my flock. If my recollection is correct my flock has been hit by no less than 3 dog attacks, 1 coyote attack, and one disease infection. This repeated building up and then having my flock decimated has taken it’s toll, while still maintaining that my chickens and ducks are livestock it is very disheartening to see their lives wasted.

To that end I have been working to build housing that is more secure for them at night and also more aesthetically pleasing (gotta keep Tuey happy now that we’re up on the hill).

coop

Sample Design

Tuey saw this coop in Fernley last year when picking up some Crested Cream Legbars and liked it so much she took a picture and sent it to me. Since last summer I haver been supposed to build a prototype, but that damn headache kept interfering.

Escape Hatch?

Escape Hatch? 

Last weekend I finally got started by building the floor and run.

The Floor

The Floor

Overgrown Nails?

Overgrown Nails?

The above pic shows what happens when you forget to flip off the repeater switch on your nail gun after sheathing your shed roof.

Today I started on the framing for the hen house.coop8 coop9 coop

Tomorrow I hope to get the sheathing on (I am not gonna turn that damn double tap back on!!) Then my Sweety, Karen, can start painting. Having a project going sure does push those pesky headaches into the background.

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Things Knead to get done

Last weekend I planned on continuing my more detailed exploration of small-scale fodder production, during the week leading into the weekend I collected stats and took pictures. On Friday something clicked in my head and I had an overwhelming urge to make bread from scratch, BOOM distraction #1.While searching for a recipe (Sponge method had stuck in my head as being the “better” way to make flavorful bread) I found this great Blog about food that appears to be very down to earth and real and not filled with foody propaganda. The phenomenon of “trendy” has always intrigued me. Last year Paul Wheaton’s highly practical permies.com got me thinking about the permaculture thang and inspired a post, now a well written blog on real food made my head leap to the religion of foody’s. SQUIRREL! Back to bread.

Sponge after an overnight ferment

Sponge after an overnight ferment

Post Kneading

Post Kneading

Ready for first rise

Ready for first rise

post second rise

post second rise

finished product

finished product

It can only be genetic, my Grandpa used to make bread every Christmas and Thanksgiving. I like to believe it was probably a connection back to his Momma or maybe even his Grandpa kinda like it is with me. My sister, Lorri, tells some great stories about our formative years and has done a great job of painting a very vivid picture of the Great man who was my Grandpa on her Blog “The King of Isabelle Avenue”. Lorri’s posts sometimes make me laugh but never fail to make me cry.

SQUIRREL

The second thing that hit me was the reality that while I had been fat, dumb, and happy believing that I had been living up to my responsibilities to my Sweety, Karen, by working on the house, the reality was that I had been rationalizing dumping the moving responsibilities on her. In acknowledgment of this fact I am diligently trying to direct my weekend project efforts towards rectifying this issue. First Step was setting a goal in my head of getting Karen’s birds moved up to Clayton.

First panel cut free

First panel cut free

The Aviary

The Aviary

Results of cutting a couple hundred hog rings

Results of cutting a couple hundred hog rings

We worked together and got her outdoor aviary disassembled, loaded, and moved up to Clayton on Saturday. While not a total resolution to the Bird’s it is a start. Now Karen needs to decide on the place so I can get a few more blisters hog ringing that sucker back together. That gets us to the first part of this week and Karen tackling one bedroom at a time at the old house when she gets approached by a neighbor who is going to have to move because their landlord is selling the house they rent. They are a really nice working class hispanic family with kids going to school in the neighborhood and are interested in renting our house……around the end of the month! So now the terrible process of emptying the Griffith house of 30 years worth of accumulated stuff is being accelerated. And I wonder about getting nostalgic and a bit depressed all at once?

SQUIRREL

What else could happen along with all of this? My sons Husky, Michone, broke into my coup for the second time in less than a month last Saturday night. Laura Rittenhouse wrote about her experience with this type of terrible event on her blog, in fact it rather knocked her for a loop. I work very hard to keep a more detached mindset towards my flock, constantly reminding myself that they are livestock and steadfastly refusing to name them. All of that sounds good but even with the plan developing for our “processing” this spring break when my nephew Grady was here it still gets to you. Approximately ⅓ of my chickens and all but 2 of my ducks were killed in the first attack, the second attack got another 5 chickens and both of the 2 remaining ducks (including the one exception to my naming rule, Ducken, the little drake who thought he was a chicken). Am I mad about this? Not really, more just sad. There are 2 fences between where Michone is supposed to be and the chickens and she was just following her instincts. If you read this Laura I hope you find your way back to the Blogosphere, I truly miss your wonderful writing style and so want to learn more about bee-keeping and everything going on at your new place.

SQUIRREL

This mornings attempt

This mornings attempt

Back to the present, the two loaves that I made this morning wouldn’t take near as much flour and seemed to be slow to rise. The finished product turned out good but different than last week, a little denser, a little less sweet, and slightly nutty. Trying to expand my bread making knowledge I reviewed everything I did and used , this led me to discover that not only do I have selective hearing (Karen tells me about this all the time) but apparently I have selective reading as well.

Fancy Flour

Fancy Flour

I picked this up at Trader Joe’s yesterday thinking that it was that new fangled faux wheat flour that is really just bread flour with a little bit of bran ground up real fine and used it 50/50 with my regular bread flour. Looking at the label now I can’t explain how I came to that conclusion. My wheat bread ain’t bad though.

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Who says Main Street is dying ?

My Sweety, Karen, needs space at the new homestead for her business supplies. She has a 10×10 shed at the Griffith House but it just isn’t practical to move. Ideally we wanted to get a 25′ or so long construction office trailer or a conex but with construction picking up the prices of these have risen out of our price range. My good friend Paul,

Paul was my Hero growing up on Isabelle.

Paul was my Hero growing up on Isabelle.

the modern day Fred Sanford, has been on the lookout for a solution. The first try is affectionately known as “The Bomb Shelter”

"The Bomb Shelter"

“The Bomb Shelter”

is surplus from The Nevada Test Site, is built like it was intended to survive a nuclear blast, and seems to have a faint glow on moonless nights. While a definite hit with Ajax it would be fair to say Tuey was a bit underwhelmed. Sensing the lack of enthusiasm surrounding his first try good ole Pauly went into all out scrapper solution mode. The result being “The General Store”

The General Store

The General Store

While not in anyway fitting Tuey’s original vision I think this 10’x20′ beauty may make the grade. Old Town4 Old Town3 Old Town2 Old Town1

 

Offloading and setup was a bit of fun (Tommy kept running away squealing louder than Alexa cause he was scared!) but the final result came out just a bit of OK

General Store next door to the Jail

General Store next door to the Jail

Things are slowly starting to shape up around here, we finally moved in last month…sort of…but thats a story for another time.

 

 

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Chickens, Tortoises and Goats Oh My!

While Gooey is the lone representative of the “Goats” group we hope to expand our herd next year. It did finally dawn on us this evening that Gooey was behaving and not screaming constantly for the first time in about a month, I am pretty sure she just went through her first season. Lexi thought she was just trying to talk to the other goats across the street. 🙂

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Ajax on the other hand has 3 sorta siblings hangin out in the brooder tank. They are probably not going to remain permanent residents but they sure are cute.

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Last week my sister in law brought over a bunch of pumpkins that she had got for free after Halloween. She had cut them in half to get at the seeds and was just gonna throw out the rest. I knew the chickens would like them, especially after they got a bit funky, but Ajax surprised me. He devoured half a punkin in about a half hour! And he didn’t start from an edge, he started chomping right in the middle of the smooth intact outer skin.

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My Sweety, Karen, and I have been working on our new to us house up at the Fruity Chicken all year and are getting close to moving. This is quite a big deal for us seeing as how we have been in the same house for 27 years. I think we both though it would be easy because it gets us closer to one of our Granddaughters and gives us more room than we we’ve ever had during our life together. Leaving the little house in the barrio where we raised our three awesome sons isn’t turning out quite like we thought it would be. We will get there though!

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Fodder 2.0

 

Last year I first gave Foddering a try. The concept is very appealing, turning 1 lb of nutritious seed into 5-6 lbs of more digestible highly nutritious fodder by just adding two ingredients, water & time. The system became more and more refined during the winter until I thought I had a fairly efficient system as outlined in my Chicken Fodder post this past January. Over on BYC the thread “Growing Fodder for Chickens” is what got me started on Fodder and the thread is full of fantastic information, but beware it has just reached 2500 posts and is still join strong!

How I began this year

How I began this year

This years Fodder season started up about a month ago when temps finally fell below 80 degrees. Last years setup was working OK but the warm temps and winds dried things out too quick and cut into productivity.

After some thought and a bit of fiddling around I came up with this indoor rack along with slightly modifying my process.

Seed

Seed

The first ingredient is the seed. Last year I tried several different kinds and have settled on Red Wheat as the primary ingredient and soak mix My Sweety Karen gets me that is mostly safflower. Barley and Oats caused way too many issues with mold last year.

Seed

2 Cups

 

Fodder Bucket

Bucket

2 Cups of seed go into a pail with water and a splash of bleach to soak for 24 hours.

Fodder

Holy Pail

 

Two Buckets

Two Buckets

 

Rinse Multiple Times Daily

Rinse Multiple Times Daily

After soaking for 24 hours the seed goes into one of 2 perforated buckets that act as colanders allowing the seed to drain. While in the pails the seed gets rinsed as often as I remember to daily.

The new improved indoor rack

The new improved indoor rack

After spending 2 days in the colander buckets the sprouting seed gets spread out in the bottom of one of 8 perforated prep trays to be rinsed once a day. The newest tray goes into the bottom of the rack and works its way up to the top as the oldest of 6 trays get used. 2 trays are always empty, I have found that rinsing the used tray out then letting it sit in the sunshine for a couple days has helped cut down on slime/mold issues.

Fodder02

 

 

Fodder06Fodder04

 

All of our Critters go GaGa over Fodder!

All of our Critters go GaGa over Fodder!

Fodder07

Fodder03

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Preserving not Rotting

So many of my posts have been about the breaking down of material into compounds that are beneficial to the garden/orchard, this post is about the flip side of that process. The orchard is still in its infancy but has given me a few tasty morsels to whet my appetite for the bountiful harvest to come in future years, the garden is a bit of a shorter term dynamic though.  Tomatoes are producing well and while not quite bountiful enough to call for an adventure into canning there is a bit of excess. In my head tomato’s are too valuable to allow to leave in other way than through your digestive track (funny I love giving away eggs but aint nobody gettin my maters!) While harvesting in the 100+ heat last week the idea of sun-dried tomato’s popped in my head, I have no clue what inspired the idea but it seemed like a good one. After some research I discovered that tomato’s dried in a dehydrator are supposedly inseparable from those dried outside in the sun, the only difference being a distinct lack of the subtle flavor notes of fly shit.

A big meaty Roma Tomato

A big meaty Roma Tomato

I thought I had a nice picture of the large basket full of beautiful ripe tomato’s that had been harvested from my garden just waiting to be cut up and placed in the dehydrator. Apparently I got a bit distracted and taking that shot got overlooked. I do have a good excuse though, my second Granddaughter Avery Lynn was born last week and her pictures kinda took precedence.

Granny Tuey and Sweet Avery

Granny Tuey and Sweet Avery

My Awesome Son Mikey & his Exceptional Daughter Avery

My Awesome Son Mikey & his Exceptional Daughter Avery

The basket of maters contained Roma’s, Early Girls, Sweet 100’s, and grape tomato’s. The sweet 100’s did not make it into the dehydrator in fact I am still trying to figure out how they made it into the basket seeing as how my standard harvesting practice involves eating those wonderful little suckers as soon as they come off the vine. The grape tomato’s on the other hand are a still a disappointment , I didn’t like their funky after taste from last years crop but decided to give them a second chance. I found a different hybrid to plant along with the previous one hoping for a better outcome but must say I was disappointed. If anyone has had better results with these prolific little beasts I would sure appreciate some tips.

Roma Tomato's halved and ready to be dried

Roma Tomato’s halved and ready for drying

Quartered Early Girls

Quartered Early Girls

Halved Grape tomato's waiting for improvement?

Halved Grape tomato’s waiting for improvement?

I took a hint from Laura Rittenhouse’s Gardening Blog and left the skins and seeds intact, some sites recommended removing the seeds and “schmuts” before drying but I thought that I don’t do that before eating them fresh why would I take away part of the flavor that I am trying to concentrate? Laura’s post confirmed that I’m not the only one who kinda likes tomato seeds and skins in their sauce.

The Roma's really came out nice

The Roma’s really came out nice

The Early Girl's really shrunk up

The Early Girl’s really shrunk up

Tomato Raisins?

Tomato Raisins?

I haven’t tried them yet but have learned one or two lessons from this first run.

  1. The Roma’s definitely need a slit down the back of the skin
  2. Next time I will sprinkle them with just a little salt while on the trays about 2 hours before turning on the dehydrator
  3. Eat the early girls fresh

The Roma’s produced the best finished product by a wide margin and is it any wonder? I believe these tomato’s were developed for preserving. Resting after salting is to allow the salt to dissolve and get into the tomato’s before they form a skin, I ended up with salt crystals on the outside of the finished tomato’s. The Early Girls took a long time to dry and their more delicate flesh just kinda broke down rather than forming the expected leathery texture like the Roma’s.

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That’s just my bucket of Comfrey Tea

When asked by my granddaughter, Lexi, “what died in here!” what do you think my answer was? Last month I made FPE (fermented plant extract) with some of my comfrey, my post Comfrey Fermentation outlined the procedure. The result was a greenish liquids that smelled a bit like canned green beans with a slight alcoholic edge. This month I decided to try making just straight comfrey tea. Not the kind you drink but basically broken down (rotted) comfrey leaves.

Comfrey Plant ready to be harvested

Comfrey Plant ready to be harvested

This past Monday I went around to all of my comfrey plants and cut out all of the flower stalks then pulled off about half of the leaves from each plant.ComfreyI ended up with a good 5 gallon bucket of comfrey which I then firmly compressed by liberal application of my foot, I stood one-legged in the bucket.Comfrey3After filling with water to the level of the compressed leaves I added a second bucket with holes drilled in the bottom. Comfrey5 Comfrey4This bucket was then weighted down with a large brick. Not much happened the first day, I had read that due to its low fiber content comfrey breaks down amazingly fast, so I was wondering when something was gonna happen. When I checked on it yesterday (day 2) there was a couple of inches of oily looking brownish muck in the upper bucket but no smell that I noticed. Everything I had read also talked about the stink and I was thinking “yeah right” then I kicked the bucket a bit. Oh Lordy!!!! what a vile disgusting reek emanated from the tiny drops that landed on my hand! I ain’t talking anaerobic compost pile stink, Lexi hit the nail on the head. This stuff smells like DEATH! Now I’m kinda scared to load it up in the backpack sprayer and dose my orchard with it, the cops might come over looking for dead bodies. I’m thinking this stuff is gonna be a soil drench application possibly followed by a lacto spray to try to neutralize the stench before the neighbors call the authorities.

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Monty Chill Who?

Tuey and I just got back from an adventure to the Washington DC area. Why is it that schools feel the need to force Elementary and Junior High students to go to amazing places that 90% don’t give a shit about? DC was packed with bored students and frustrated Teachers/Chaperones who obviously did not want to be there. Yes there were some that you could tell were truly absorbing the history that surrounded them but they were a very small minority. Enough ranting, On to my post about Karen and I’s awesome herb garden tour at Monticello!

MonticelloWe joined a group of 15 or so mostly local herb enthusiasts for a 2 1/2 hour tour of Thomas Jefferson’s herb garden bright and early Saturday morning. Originally we wanted to do a behind the scenes type tour but it was sold out, I noticed this herb tour on their special events section and Tuey thought we should give it a go. Something different you know. MarshmallowWhile everyone else was taking up close shots of herb specimens and taking detailed notes about what Monticello’s gardeners think he might have used them for I found other things to occupy me. Tuey at MonticelloKaren was obviously intrigued by the garden and watching her intrigued me. LadybugsThis example of insect fornication also intrigued Tuey enough to call me over to get a shot with the I-Phone. Tuey tooIt was truly a beautiful morning and the information was fascinating but it came through fairly quickly that Jefferson was more of an intellectual and a gadget guy and not a man of the land. Earlier in the week we visited Mt. Vernon and there it was obvious that Washington was a man intrigued by agriculture but that wasn’t the case, at least for me, at Monticello.Tormented TueyThis look on Tuey’s face is the result of the lady with the glasses repeatedly asking for the correct spelling of exotic herbs like thyme and rosemary.Swing SetI really liked this setup because it is exactly what I am doing with my tomatoes albeit with an old swing set frame in my case. SalveThe final part of the class was making a salve. Pot MarigoldThis was the main ingredient, pot marigold. While I discovered a lot of ideas in the gardens, it was this part I got the most out of. A couple of the women in the group were amateur herbalists and one was even studying to practice professionally, talking to them I realized that the Korean Natural farming techniques I am doing in my orchard/garden are really just being a herbalist for my plants/soil. While they are much more precise with their methods we found that we were all trying to do the same thing, making chemicals or compounds within plants into a readily available and usable source for the patient. It even turned out that there were two plants/herbs that both Herbalists and practitioners of Korean Natural Farming looked upon as necessities in our herbal toolkit! Stinging Nettles and Comfrey, one Lady even had a jug of Stinging Nettle Tea and they all agreed that all the cautions about Comfrey and liver toxicity is just another example of the FDA performing unrealistic studies. All in all Tuey and I both enjoyed our excursion to Jefferson’s house but I think all of those East Coast Wiccans kinda disturbed my Sweety’s chi. Karen

 

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Mulching for Max

Gardening in the harsh desert climate of Las Vegas really brings to the forefront the necessity of utilizing every drop of moisture as efficiently as possible. The Fruity Chicken orchard/garden utilizes several techniques to help maximize this utilization. My baseline moisture is supplied by a sub-surface irrigation system over the entire area whose primary source of water is greywater from laundry. This system does have a supplemental input of fresh water of approximately 35 gallons every other day during the height of the summer which I estimate to be about 1/3 of the total input. This freshwater input tapers down to 35 gallons a week in the fall and 35 gallons a month through the winter months. My orchard/garden area is currently 20′ x 40′, due to the 6″ to 12″ layer of mulch over the general area the soil stays reasonably moist year round. On the the other hand my raised beds are above this moisture source necessitating a drip system to keep seedlings and shallow rooted veggies thriving.

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The drip system in my main 4’x12′ beds is 3 laterals running the length of the bed with .9 GPH emitters spaced @ 12″ intervals, this system runs 1 hour a day early in the morning applying roughly 35 gallons a day. Up to this point in the season this system has thoroughly watered those beds and resulted in enough seepage coming out of the downhill end to keep the comfrey planted there to scavenge nutrients flourishing. With the recent increase in heat the moist area has been noticeably receding, rather than increasing the run time on the drip system I have been focusing on mulching to reduce loss through evaporation. In the picture above the green mulch that was planted initially can be seen, this is primarily red wheat which has really exceeded my expectations.

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That green mulch gets cut down about every other week and laid between the crop plantings. Now that the heat is coming on that mulch just isn’t enough so I have started supplementing it with straw.

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My experience with trying to mulch with straw hasn’t been positive but this time appears to be different. In the past I had done things the traditional way, spreading straw over the whole bed then pulling that mulch aside to do my plantings. This method always resulted in straw blown around everywhere except where it was needed, due to already being used to cutting and placing small amounts of green mulch I just kinda kept up the same process. Rather than throwing down a big ole flake off the bale I have been sitting down next to my beds with a pile of straw, picking up a handful, tearing it in half and then sorta weaving in between the established plants. This method has resulted in the mulch being where it is really needed and staying in place, a side benefit is that I am spending quality time up close and personal with my garden. Pests get spotted sooner and so far have been able to be controlled by manual means rather than using chemicals. Additionally it is right in my face when a plant is struggling a bit allowing me to either adjust my spray mixture or do some spot amendments such as a leaf or two of comfrey smushed up and pushed under the mulch for a bit of boost.

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A Duck!

My sister Lorri probably remembers which uncle it was that always asked this question. All I remember was that according to my Grandmother the answer given by all severely inebriated people was “because one foot is both alike”

Pastries and Other Great Vegetables

Max asked:
Why is a duck?

Max, to be honest, I have no idea what you mean by that question. I’ll give it a shot, though. I practically never walk away from a challenge.

To start with a basic interpretation of your question, I’ll say that a duck is, in most cases, because he is not naught. This, however, is a common answer that even a pre-schooler could provide. Let’s go for a more in-depth analysis of your question. To do so, we shall switch to the plural and refer to our good avian as “ducks.”

Indeed.Therefore, why are ducks? This is a much more complex and is, in fact, an extremely challenging question. Ducks have many purposes, not all of them yet known. At least one of the purposes, as demonstrated by Sir Bedemir and King Arthur, is to use ducks as counter balances on scales (particularly useful when…

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