Category Archives: orchard

Work Day

Actually now that our brutal winter appears to be over (man that was a miserable 2 weeks!) pretty much every Saturday and Sunday will be a WorkDay for the foreseeable future.

Steven the ChainSaw Master!

Steven the ChainSaw Master!

Karen was focused on getting the mess from cutting down the diseased trees in the front yard cleaned up. Our nephew Steven came over to help cut up some of the brush and logs. He did a great job except for his answer when his Aunt Tuey asked him how many times he had operated a chainsaw before, the answer s should not have been “never”. These two fruitless mulberry trees were infected with sooty canker so we are trying to get as much of it hauled off in the dumpster rather than grinding it up for mulch.January7

Brian brought his own tools for todays work party

January 22

Just about ready for concrete

Just about ready for concrete

My son Brian and I focused on getting the Bathroom(s) ready to have the floors repoured. Additionally we removed the doors, who in the world puts 24″ doors in bathrooms?, and got the rest of the drywall down and in the dumpster. We have decided to focus on getting the bathrooms completed then moving on rather than the shotgun approach we had started out this renovation with.

Raised boxes for the new bareroot trees

Raised boxes for the new bareroot trees

An E-Mail from the UNCE orchard staff that the bare-root fruit trees I ordered will be coming in within the next two weeks, possibly as soon as next weekend has created a bit of urgency in my orchard. Above can be seen the 4 raised boxes that were installed to get the replacements trees roots up a bit to avoid the “wet-feet” problems that cost me so many trees last year. I ordered 10 new trees this year to replace the 9 that didn’t make it last season, 3 just never leafed out and the remaining 6 I drowned. Hopefully this years “raised boxes” plan will alleviate the drowned issue. January6

Sundays first collection

January5

Saturdays haul!

Saturdays haul!

Operation Rooster Removal has started paying off already. The girls are putting out between 4 and 9 eggs a day now. Plans for the coop area include setting up another isolated run and get some form of rotation going so that at least during the spring and fall the girls can cycle through some pasture area. Also on the chicken agenda is figuring out a breeding pen arrangement, I would really like to expand my GCM flock without expanding my mutt flock.

Tagged , ,

Progress, Obsession, or Therapy?

Thanks in large part to the moderation of the weather I have been getting more hours in at The Fruity Chicken on the weekends. I like to think I am making steady progress on my goal of making my 1/4th of 1/2 of an acre as productive and interconnected a Chicken Ranch/Orchard/Garden as possible. To that end I have been making major changes to my Chicken Run.

Chicken Yard

A panoramic view of the Chicken Yard at The Fruity Chicken

Their are no big changes in philosophy in the management of the chicken run this year, just minor refinements.

Chicken Yard

The Juvenile Pen

Brian and I moved the Juvenile Pen from it’s former place against the block wall out to the wire fence that separates the Orchard Area from the Chicken Run. This change moves what had become a bit of a stinky area further away from the neighbors and also gives access to the pen without opening the gate to the Chicken Run.

Forage Area

The Forage Area

On the opposite (West) end from the Juvenile Pen a third of the Chicken Run has been fenced off to create a forage/pasture area. This area has been tilled and seeded with Scratch, Pigeon Feed, Buckwheat, and Dry-land Pasture mix. The Scratch has milo. sorghum, and corn seed; the Pigeon Feed has various field peas, oats, wheat, millet, and safflower; the buckwheat is pretty much buckwheat; and I have no idea what is in the Dry-land pasture mix but it sounded good.

Run

The open area where the Juvenile Pen used to be

Originally I had planned on running a wire fence from the corner of the Juvenile Pen to the block wall separating the run into 3 roughly equal sections. The central area, containing the coop, would be occupied all of the time while the flock would have access to one of the side areas at a time on a rotational basis. That plan is still under review. Currently I am leaning towards leaving the infrastructure as is and only giving the chickens access to the pasture area for short (1 or 2 hours) a couple times a week while leaving the West end behind the Juvenile Pen open. In that area I would like build and place some breeding pens like Barbara’s over at The Crowing Hen. For some reason certain members of my family, co-workers, and friends think that this is turning into a bit of an obsession.

 

 

Over in the Orchard Area things are focused on cleaning up so that I can rework the planting sites for the trees I lost this year.

Clean Up

Pumpkins left over after removing the vines

The Comfrey  I planted this year are doing well.

Bocking 14

One of my Bocking #4 Comfrey Plants

Comfrey

Comfrey Plant I got from the Korean Nursery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The plant above on the left is one of the one year old plants I got from Coe’s Comfrey which is a Bocking #4 variety while he one on the right was purchased at a Korean Nursery in Pomona CA. It is pretty obvious they are different varieties, the Bocking #4 grows much faster and has larger leaves.

The Mulberry trees are doing great as well.

Mulberry

Mulberry Tree just outside of the Chicken Run

Mulberry

The Mulberry to the West of the Orchard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both of these trees came from the same Korean Nursery as the unknown variety of Comfrey shown above. They are growing fantastically, there are two others Mulberry Trees from another source in the Chicken Run that are growing well but don’t quite compare to these two. It is great getting back into full swing working on this project and as I’ll post about soon all of this is about to get both easier and harder at the same time.

While some may see my focus on progressing this project as an obsession I like to think of it as my Sweety does, Karen says that “Chicken Therapy” is the best thing that has happened to me in a long time.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Fall Fun?

86477e2a5be8409c9e7ea8699f5232b3

The days are finally cooling off a bit and it is back to being pleasurable working in the garden. It is so pleasing to see that the girls are finally getting back to business after 3 floods and a molt.

Todays Haul

It had gotten to where I was lucky to get 2 or 3 eggs a day and now I’m back up to averaging 7 or 8. Last week on craigslist I found a 10’x10′ chain link dog kennel for a very good price that only got better when I picked it up and found that it was brand new! Maybe tomorrow I will start on separating my Chicken Run into three sections. The plan is to have a central area with the Coop, Duck Pond, Feeders, and Waterers with a large foraging section on either side. What I am envisioning is the flock only having access to one flanking section at a time while the unoccupied section has some type of pasture recovering/growing in it.

Pumpkin Patch?

Will they eat it?

Today I started cleaning up the tangled mess of Pumpkin vines between the Orchard rows. In the Upper picture you can see that I found quite a few pumpkins that the girls are sure to like come winter. The Comfrey that I planted earlier in the year is doing quite well and I even found a Swiss Chard plant that I had forgotten still plugging along.

Tagged , , , , ,

You make me spin right round baby

During an early morning web-crawl I stumbled upon an interesting post over at Permies.com about SPIN farming that intrigued me. I began researching and became even more interested and as usual my head is now “spinning” with ideas for my Orchard/Garden/Chicken Corral. On first read the concept seemed to be a strange marriage of Square Foot gardening and Multi-level marketing.

I first became enamored with square foot gardening back in the 90’s when we would spend as much of the summer as we could in our R/V next to the beach in Oceanside CA. San Diego’s public television station had Mel’s show on everyday during the week and it just made so much sense. I couldn’t wait to get the book and have since given several friends copies of the square foot gardening book whenever the discussion came up about growing vegetables. It was familiarity with square foot gardening’s simple common sense approach to backyard gardening that made Dave Wilson’s Back Yard Orchard Culture ideas so attractive when I discovered them last summer.

Am I planning on becoming a locally sourced produce entrepreneur? I don’t think so. It isn’t the marketing/business model of SPIN that I am interested in. From what I have read so far Small Plot INtensive gardening is the exact same concept as Square Foot gardening but with an added marketing component, my garden/chicken farm is relaxation/therapy for me. Growing stuff and tending my chooks helps refocus me and keep me going in a positive direction, it most certainly is work but it isn’t a job!

The part that grabbed my attention though is the suggested bed configuration of relatively long narrow beds that you can easily step across and straddle. Currently I have my sunken beds and my Half-Assed Hugelkulture beds between the rows of trees in my orchard. The orchard is laid out with with four rows 9′ apart with the trees spaced 4′ apart within those four rows. My sunken beds are 6′ long and positioned in between the trees in the first three rows. Basically: Emerald Beauty/bed/Gold Kist/bed/Splash ; Santa Rosa/bed/Royal Rosa/bed/Dapple Dandy ; Flavor Grenade/bed/Blenheim/bed/Mid Pride ; Flavor King/bed/Flavor Delight/bed/Arctic Star. My three Half-Assed Hugelkulture beds are in between the last two rows of trees. The Half-Assed Hugelkulture beds are going to stay where they are and in fact as soon as the weather breaks I am going to add a fourth bed in between those last two rows of trees. All of them are 4’x4′ straight out of Square Foot Gardening, I am comfortable with that configuration and think that I will have plenty of room around them for the tree branches. The Sunken Beds are another matter, their E-W orientation in line with the trees is a bit confining and I am finding it a bit difficult to work in them. Truthfully it has become an overgrown mess. I’m thinking that if the existing Sunken Beds were replaced with a single 2′ wide by 12′ long bed run N-S between each of the first three rows of trees I would have much better access while at the same time reducing competition for nutrients. Additionally I lost several trees this year due to wet feet, this new configuration would increase the distance between the beds and trees reducing the possibility of over-irrigation.

Last night I was thinking about how I had things all mapped out in my head in regards to garden projects for the fall, now one little blurb I read on the internet has turned my head upside down. All of those well thought out plans have rolled away across the tile floor leaving a big vacancy for new ideas!

Tagged , , ,

Update! Schmupdate:(

A week of plusses and minuses. On the plus side my two new Mulberry Trees are doing great! They have already started putting out new growth, they do appear droopy at mid-day but by morning they are perky as can be. Currently I am watering them daily and probably will for the next couple of weeks, by the end of July I hope to have them down to an every other day watering cycle. All four of the comfrey plants are sending up new leaves and seem to be doing well on the greywater irrigation system. I did hit all of them with a shot of miracle grow solution with a bit of Sprint 138 Iron Chelate thrown in  for good measure.

I have mentioned Sprint 138 on this blog before but it bears repeating, this stuff is great! Expensive yes, but it works to correct chlorosis caused by Iron deficiency extremely fast and effectively. Our soil here is heavy clay and very alkaline, two things that hinder plants access to iron. I have used Ironite and Sulfur but neither one work very well in our soils and what little gain you get is gone by the next year. As of now I can’t talk about the longevity of Sprint 138’s effects but I can say that a week after applying a half a shot glass of the stuff around the base of a bunch of anemic looking yellow leafed fruit trees they were a healthy dark green.

On the Minus side I may have caught one of my egg eatin bastards but I ain’t caught em all yet! I still got eggs disappearing even with a couple that I caught red-handed, so I’m moving on to phase II.

Over on the TBN Ranch Blog I read some good information about controlling this nasty habit. My Granddaughter, Alexa, is going to help by collecting eggs more often, My sweety, Karen, is going to make a couple of mustard filled eggs, and I installed privacy screens over all of the nest boxes today. I am leaning toward the outta sight outta mind theory, in the juvenile pen where all of the suspects, and convicted felons are hanging out I have been getting 4-5 eggs a day out of 6 hens and no evidence of pecked eggs. I believe that even though there are proven egg eaters in there they aren’t breaking them because they can’t walk by and see the eggs in the back of the pet carrier they are laying in.

Another minus was the loss of the two spraddle legged Barnevelders I mentioned last week. Realistically their loss at this stage is more of a -/+ in that their passing now saves them a lot of suffering for little gain.

On the plus side is the 2 healthy Barnies I still have!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also started a new fermented feed batch, I dumped out and thoroughly cleaned my buckets, enlarged the drain holes a bit then put fresh scratch in the inner bucket. This time I am starting the fermentation culture with both Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) and Yeast. The yeast was just plain old bread yeast that I proofed in some warm water with a bit of sugar, when it was good and frothy I dumped it on the scratch and filled the buckets with just enough water to cover. After working in the orchard for a half hour or so the mix was bubbling slowly and smelling yeasty so in went about a cup of ACV and a 1/4 cup of brown sugar for good measure. This batch is gonna set till at least Monday and maybe longer so it gets a good start. Additionally I found a bag of raw soybeans in the barn, so I boiled 2 cups of those to toss in the batch to boost the protein.

It’s been hot as hell here lately and fixin to get humid due to the monsoons sweeping up outta Arizona, but I gotta say that even a smoking hot, muggy, sweaty day spent working in the Orchard/Chicken is hard to beat!

Tagged , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , ,

Closing a few loops

My best friend’s son Cody had his first successful hatch today and I think he’s hooked. My recurring chore of hauling mulch went off without a hitch with the one exception that John wasn’t there to discuss whats going on with my pluots or to see my super duper silenced air gun. This weeks load of mulch went into the chicken coop, I had filled the bottom of the henhouse to a depth of 10″ about 3 months ago. In that time the depth had shrunk to about 4″ due to the girls scratching it out under the sides and natural composting action. The mulch had also reduced in particle size from large shreds down to pieces 1/2″ and smaller.

My Sweety Karen came out to practice her Photography skills at The Fruity Chicken Orchard/Chicken Ranch today while I puttered around. She did a much better job with her Olympus than I do with my I-Phone.

I finally got around to setting up my compost bins on the west side of the henhouse. The idea is that I can go out once a week or so and rake up the girls feeding area and dump it all in the bins. Just cleaning up the accumulated mulch, chicken poo, and dried up vegetable scraps filled up one of the bins. Every ten shovel fills or so that got dumped in were followed by two bucketful’s of vile smelling water from the duckpond. All indications are that this compost pile should heat up rather quickly so that in a week, maybe two, I should be able to turn it into the second bin and start refilling the first.

That vile smelling duckpond is also on my radar, I know that it is full of valuable nutrients just waiting to transformed into something useful. The first level that will be implemented in this system is the introduction of duckweed into the pond. For a couple bucks I got a plastic baggy of water and a little bit of green stuff. Truthfully I felt that I got ripped off till I dumped it into a bucket that I had half filled with water from my Koi pond. That stuff goes everywhere, in addition to the bucket I now have several plastic shoe boxes with it in it. I read that it doubles in anywhere fro 24 hours to 10 days, we’ll see. I do know that the little bit that I put into the Koi pond seems to have multiplied several fold overnight.

Over at The Soulsby Farm Blog they had an interesting article on rain gardens, now we don’t get a lot of rain out here in Vegas but the article did make me think that I could do something similar in the outflow from the duckpond. The same drip irrigation system that refills the chicken waterers twice a day also refills the pond and creates a small amount of out flow. The challenge will be finding appropriate plants that will be able to tolerate our scorching heat while having wet feet. If anyone has suggestions please let me know.

The theme of this post ties into my overall purpose in writing this blog. Now keep in mind that this a personal purpose not some bigger than the sum of its parts, gonna change the world kinda purpose. Am I a great writer like Sara over at A Scribe’s Tale? or an amazingly talented Artist/Photographer like my sister Lorri over at The Eff Stop? The answer to both questions is an obvious NO! What I am good at is putting concepts together. Thats what I am doing on my Blog. Stealing other peoples ideas, twisting them about, then talking about how I think these ideas are going to work in my situation, and finally documenting the success or failure of my efforts. Yeah I sometimes am trying to entertain, brag, stimulate, or maybe irritate readers. My core philosophy is to keep focused on the things I have control of and to make things better one little thing at a time.

In summation if you have ideas or are doing things that might help in my situation, please comment and let me know about it. Or you can just like my post, you can be sure I’ll surf on over and glean something useful to plagiarize.

Tagged , , , ,

Much ado about Mulch

I started this weekend trying to fight off that wee little bugger in the back of my head that was arguin for havin a layabout weekend seein as how my sweety Karen was off an adventure with my sister Lorri. Thats Karen in the picture to the right, it was taken in the lava tubes on the Big Island of Hawaii the year our oldest son graduated from college. I love this picture of Karen because I think it truly shows that inner light that burns so fiercely in her, don’t tell her I posted it though cause she’ll kill me.

But I digress. Mulch….yup I got up early Saturday morning and went out to the UNCE orchard and saw my buddy John. He filled my truck up and smashed it down with the tractor really good so I could close the cover. He also hooked me up with the chelated iron that works in our calcareous, heavy clay, and high PH soil. Sprint 138 right around $100 for 5# but it only takes an ounce per tree of bare root size and it WORKS! I have tried everything from Ironite to Sulphur and nothing will lastingly green up plants in our terrible soil, but this stuff does!

Once I got all that mulch that John had wedged in the back of my truck out I had a fairly respectable pile. Did I break out the Garden Fork and Wheelbarrow and spread it all out? Hell no! it was frickin hot yesterday. I did plant a couple of Artichoke plants and sowed some Indian Corn seeds both of which my afore mentioned sweety, Karen, really likes. Oh I did set up my new fangled ScareCrow Sprinkler thingy, I’m hoping that this will keep the pigeons from chompin up all my sprouts.

But if not it should be worth a laugh or two watching it get unsuspecting little egg thieves like my Granddaughter Alexa. She absolutely loves the chickens and sees absolutely no conflict between her love of Katy Perry and her love of chickens. And yes she will be mad at me the first time she gets sprayed but then she will have a blast trickin everyone else into the kill zone.

SQUIRREL!

I scraped back the mulch about midway between my dripperlines to see how moist the soil is getting. These photos are from two separate rows, as can be seen the soil is moist. In fact in the area in the right hand photo it was dripping wet!

The most encouraging thing I found is in the third photo WORMS!!!!! They are a sign that I am moving in the right direction.

My greywater system has a 32 gallon rubbermaid garbage can for a surge tank, originally the washing machine we had would 3/4 fill that on every cycle. After 12 years that damn thing decided to up and die! The replacement high efficiency top loader my wife replaced it with only uses about half as much water so I’m thinking that each load is discharging about 25 gallons into the orchard with an average of 6 loads a week plus I have a sprinkler valve that comes on every other night for 1 minute which also puts in roughly 25 gallons, I estimate the orchard is getting a total 225 gallons a week. With 400 sq ft being irrigated this is a little over 1/2 gallon per sq ft. What’s all them numbers mean? I don’t know but I do know that is a whole lot less water than the same square footage of lawn takes in this wicked climate. So did I accomplish anything this weekend? You Betcha! I got a load of mulch picked up, unloaded, and spread out; I collected 3 dozen eggs 20 of which I put in my incubator to see if my cocky little Marans rooster is gettin busy; I enjoyed a nice BS session with the UNCE Orchard manager and got a bag of the right kind of Iron supplement, he also sicced me on Master Gardner Fran with whom I had a very informative discussion about what will grow during the summer to feed my chickens and finally I did squeeze in enough time to read a couple hundred pages of Dianna Gabaldon’s 6th installment of the Outlander series! What a great book, really makes you wanna be a sassenach hatin Highlander!

Tagged , ,

How important is Mulch?

My plan for tomorrow is to go pickup a load of mulch from the UNCE orchard, am I going to do it? I hope so. It has been a hectic week at work and I keep finding myself slipping into rationalizing sitting on my ass all day reading instead of spreading mulch in the 100 degree sunny day predicted for tomorrow.

The reality is that it needs to be done. Mulch is a key component of all of the individual projects that collectively make up whatever it is that I’m trying to create.

The Backyard Orchard Culture philosophy that I am trying to follow not only stress’s mulch’s importance but the 17 year history of the UNCE expiremental Orchard has proven that it is vital for an orchards success in my area.

I have seen with my own eyes that my greywater irrigation system does not work properly without mulch, transpiration and evaporation prevent the flow of moisture between my dripperlines and that isn’t even considering the perceived need to sub-surface irrigate with greywater to isolate potential pathogens.

Finally my chickens are pushing the limit of capacity in my neighborhood so I need to keep them as unobtrusive as possible and I have found that a deep litter system, really just mulching your chicken coop, really cuts down on the flies and all but eliminates any odor issues.

So am I gonna get my butt up and go visit John at the orchard, BS about guns, find out what type of Iron Chelate I need to get to treat the chlorosis I got happening , and load up the truck with mulch? Yup I probably will…..I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Tagged ,

My eye Your eye

We had a Professional Photographer show up at our door a couple of months ago who offered her services in return for room & board.

She set out to document a day at the Fruity Chicken Orchard. This was in mid February and we were putting our last couple of trees in the ground.

I have always appreciated good tools but never viewed them as part of an interesting composition, although I’m sure the Kool Krew were convinced they were the main focus.

Who would have guessed that something as routine as staking and painting tree trunks could look so interesting.

Usually it’s just me working on my little project, a camera shows up and my nephew suddenly becomes helpful.

  

My Sister Lorri has a definite gift for finding the beauty in everything and capturing it on film.

Tagged
The Idiot Baker

(mis)adventures in the kitchen

Home on the Hill

A permaculture garden

The WordPress.com Blog

Chicks and Fruits in Las Vegas

Comfy Posy

Who knew, right?

Old World Garden Farms

Gardening, Cooking & DIY Living

kalegrower

Get Dirty!

Bygone Basics

Preserving our heritage, because we CAN

Emily's Vegetable Patch

Backyard Hobby Farmer

Suburbutopia

Life on the mini-farm, with just us, the neighbors, and the zoning code.

I hope this works....

If you don't experiment, you don't learn.

Full Hearts Farm

Growing the things we love!

The Angry Dwarf Dairy

Urban or Rural? Yes, please!

Shoreline Cluster Poets

building a creative atmosphere for writers on the Connecticut shore & beyond

:: in a mirror dimly ::

An imperfect and sometimes sarcastic perspective on following Jesus by author Ed Cyzewski.

Heritage and trail cooking

Just another WordPress.com site

1840farm.com

Living and Writing at the Intersection of Family, Food, and Farming