Category Archives: sustainability

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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Why did the goat climb the tree?

 Why did the goat climb the tree? Because Gooey loves Shanda! That’s why. My sweety, Karen, is so upset because her sweet little baby goat, Gooey, has decided that our Daughter in Law, Shanda, is her momma and will do anything for her. Gooey moved up to The Fruity Chicken a little over a month ago and Shanda jumped in to bottle feed her when Tuey couldn’t make it up the hill. Little by little Gooey started patterning on Shanda and now while she is still excited to see Tuey she goes bonkers when Shanda comes around and follows her everywhere. How much you wanna bet that there’s another goat baby in The Fruity Chickens herd? Our goal is to move up the hill this summer and I can see my Sweety deciding Gooey needs a “friend” soon after that.

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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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Wormy Permie?

In my trade if someone just ain’t right they get labeled as wormy, having just wormed my flock I think I understand the term a little better now. Surfing the blogosphere via categories I think may interest me it hit me that the term permaculture is being rather rapidly possessed by people that could use a good healthy dose of Wazine, or maybe even Swine strength Ivermectin.

There are Blogs where outlines for designing a permaculture haven are being developed with military precision and a rigid adherence to a formal Dogma that I have yet to find. Then there are the “certificate” holders that wax poetic about the near mystical experience they had digging a hole for an outhouse at the direction of some self proclaimed Permaculture Guru, and they paid “tuition” just for the honor of creating a place for this person to take a shit!

Where is this seemingly unreasonable rant coming from on such a hot, muggy, miserable Sunday afternoon? I read a post where a common schmuck, like myself, was worried that what they were doing on their little piece of Heaven might not “really” be permaculture because they were thinking of using a tractor! First off I need to clarify that in my little world wormy is most definitely a negative and possibly slanderous term, schmuck most assuredly is not! I am proud to be just a common schmuck and use it as a term of respect. Again, in my world, a schmuck is someone who just tries to do the best they can with what they got. The key point being TRYING, if your not trying to do something you might as well just go check yourself into somewhere where you ain’t gotta do nothing. OK that last thought didn’t quite develop properly but I think you get the picture.

I absolutely love Paul Wheaton’s site: permits.com there is lots of interesting information and a whole lot of schmucks. Those schmucks take the form of greasy haired hippies, serious engineer types, housewives (or househusbands), wannabe farmers, and generally every other type of person you can imagine. They are all great people just trying to make things better one little bit at a time. If what their trying works out they go on their and share their success, if it doesn’t they share that to. Again the key point being is that it is just a bunch of people like you and I trying to do something, they aren’t worried about following some set of rules, their just doing. To wrap up this silly little rant please don’t let the thought of breaking some “rule” of permaculture, or anything else for that matter, stop you from doing what your instinct is telling you to do.

Now for something completely different:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK maybe not completely different. I decided to apply some of the principles I had learned long ago from the many National Safety Council conventions I attended. In the hierarchy of safety the most effective way to control a hazard is to remove it. Have you seen any of those Public Service Announcements about being sure to remove the door from your old refrigerator so a kid won’t suffocate in it lately? Didn’t think so, in fact if you ain’t over 30 you probably don’t have clue what I’m talking about, refrigerators used to have handles that latched them closed and kids would be playing hide and seek or some other game and get locked in them then suffocate. Just like in my war on the Space Alien Trained Evil Egg Eating Chickens, the refrigerator industry tried everything they could think of until they finally just eliminated the hazard. Since latches were removed from refrigerators the number of kids suffocating accidentally in them has plummeted, first results on my roll out nest box modification looks almost as promising. My sweety, Karen, showed me some fancy roll-out nest boxes in a chicken magazine, they wanted $50 a piece for them suckers! I Say No Way Jose! An old cage pan and a pair of tinsnips and I got roll-out 1.0. Hopefully this will fix the problem by eliminating temptation.

 

The nest box choices have been reduced from 6 to 4, with the 2 grey ones having been retrofitted with roll-out 1.0 devices. If this continues to work I plan on out fitting the to blue nest boxes with some sort of glued in shelf just inside the opening. The eggs laid in them currently naturally tool to the front. My little BCM dominant Barnyard Bastards have all escaped from the juvenile pen and are running with the big girls now so I expanded the roosting space by constructing the lovely ladder type monstrosity seen above. Wrestling that thing into place resulted in me being soaked completely through, did I mention that it is hot and muggy here today?

My mantra for the week is going to be “just keep trying” and I hope that all of you do to. If by chance your the one that was worried about using a tractor, try not to worry about the little things, I read your posts and your doing some amazing stuff, keep up the good work!

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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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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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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.

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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!

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Chicken Forage part 2

This morning I set up a dinner table for my chickens next to their coop. The idea came from this article I read over backyard chickens.

Some stuff in that article seem a bit off to me, like worrying about your chickens eating where they shit. Come on! it’s the other way around, they shit everywhere! when one dumps a really good one the others come running over to see if there might be something good in it. In my opinion to many people try to apply human sensibilities to animals and trying to keep your chickens eating in a clean sterile environment is just nuts. But the idea of putting something in my run to get the girls to jump around and put a little effort into getting their food seemed to mesh well with other stuff I had read regarding foraging and paddock systems.

I got lucky in finding a local restaurant that the chef was willing to give me scraps from the kitchen as long as I provided a couple of clean buckets. This morning the girls first take out order came in, I wasn’t sure what to expect but if todays haul is typical we hit pay dirt! The buckets had melon halves that still had plenty of flesh, carrot peelings, bell pepper cores and tops, scallion roots, and all of the seeds out of the melons. As you can see the girls went nuts.

With these great vegetables and the cooked rice I have been getting my feed bill should stay under control. Currently I have been going through about 1/2 a bag of all-purpose pellets a week for my 25 chickens, 5 ducks, and 1 ducken.

The pellets are provided all the time in my treadle feeder which really helps keep down the amount the pigeons eat. When I first got this feeder last year it took my chickens about a week to figure it out but now when they hear the door go CLACK they come a running!

Overall I’m finding that while my situation may not be perfect for a by the book paddock/forage feeding plan as Paul Wheaton out lines in his article, Raising Chickens 2.0, with a little creativity I can create a hybrid system that should make for happier healthier chickens and lower feed bills.

As I was going back through this Blog post it dawned on me that the key to making foraging work for a suburban flock is for the flock tender to do the foraging. Most of us don’t have the resources to produce our flocks entire feed needs. Either we are short on space, the climate is a bit challenging, or any other number of things such as regulations restrict our plans. Instead of throwing in the towel and relying on commercially produced feeds I am discovering that you need to think outside of the box and focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t.

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Chicken Forage

I read a very interesting article about raising chickens that advocated a paddock system as a way to reduce feed costs. The area in use for my flock isn’t big enough to separate into areas that would have time to rejuvenate between rotations but being roughly 20′ x 60′ I believe I can devide the area in half and still not overcrowd the girls. For a foundation I am going to plant a red mulberry tree in each 20’x30′ paddock, then I need to find some durable shrubs that will hold up to both the chickens and the hot dry summers here in Vegas. Does anyone have any suggestions? Will chickens eat rosemary? I know that stuff is tough and who knows maybe it would preseason my unwanted roosters! Bamboo is another plant I was considering, I have two big clumps of oldham bamboo that I can cut a chunk out of to transplant into the paddocks. I was kinda thinking that I would put a clump of bamboo near the overflow of my duck pond in the one area then place my 2′ diameter water basin in the second area with the bamboo located in the overflow from that. There is irrigation lines that have drip manifolds in both areas that are on a time clock to fill the waterers. I would sure appreciate any advice, expert or otherwise.

Max

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