Tag Archives: urban farm

chicken check-in

We still have the chickens separated for the sake of quarantine.

Katniss & Primrose are still inseparable.

And they are growing like weeds.

Unfortunately, the weather has been mostly terrible so they have been pretty cooped-up. They need a lot of practice exploring the world, because they have a lot to learn about it. It’s so strange to have babies in the house again. They are getting braver and testing their wings little by little. We have read that we need to quarantine them for 30 days, but I’m not sure how easy it will be to keep them separated for so long. We are anxious to see how Pepper & Lenora treat the little ones, and to get these ladies out of the brooder and into the world.

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mystery feathers

I have a question about chicken feathers. Not when they get all ruffled like Ramona here. I love when they do that. My question is about Pepper Walker.

Chicken experts, please tell us novices – why does my chicken have whiskers on its butt?

None of our other ladies have these sticking out, hair-like feathers. I thought this might be a temporary thing, but they seem to be sticking around.

You know what is not easy to photograph? Tiny hair-sized feathers on your chicken’s butt. They sure enjoyed the glimpse of sunshine we got in the afternoon.

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Smart Water for Chickens

We have been surprised and delighted to find that keeping chickens is lower maintenance than we expected. The only chore we try to pawn off on each other is changing their water. We have a standard metal waterer that they like to stand on, which means inevitably they poop in it. We could get creative with what we have, but even if we stopped them from standing on it the water still gets dirty. We wanted to try something with a smarter design, so we got online and ordered some poultry nipples.

I ordered from this seller on Amazon and received them almost immediately. It cost $11.49 for five nipples, including shipping. If you don’t have the ability or tools to put one together yourself, you can order a bucket with nipples already installed for $35 from The Garden Coop folks.

Then we went to our co-op to get a food grade bucket. Instead of buying something brand new, we paid 50¢ for a used peanut butter bucket. Ramona approves.

The order included handy instructions for “Mounting your nipples.”

The special tools you need are a drill, a 5/16 drill bit, an 11mm nut driver for the drill, and thread tape. Thread tape is in the plumbing section and costs about a buck. It makes the fit more snug to prevent water leaks. You can also add some silicone caulk, but so far this seems to be water tight. I pre-drilled the holes with a smaller bit first, because I have cracked plastic when drilling through it before. This bucket is pretty tough, though. I did run into a problem. My nut driver was the right width, but not deep enough to fit over the poultry nipple. I tried for awhile to screw them in by hand and it absolutely wouldn’t work. I finally had to jury-rig a socket from a wrench set and a screwdriver bit on the drill to get the nipples attached. Success!

The chickens are like this:

They started pecking at them in under a minute. Fingers crossed that they figure it out! We are leaving the old metal waterer in the coop until we are certain they all are experts at drinking water from a poultry nipple. If these babies can do it, I think our flock can too.

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Grow up, Squash!

One of the coolest things about a community garden is seeing how people garden differently and learning from their experiences. We share a few collective plots in our garden for the food bank & shared harvests. One of these plots has turned into an experiment in vertical squash production. A fellow gardener built a trellis from salvaged material for the collective winter squash.

I have been peripherally interested in trellising squash for the past two years. The sprawling vines of a squash plant take up a lot of room, so growing it vertically saves quite a bit of space and I suspect the vertical space provides extra ventilation to help with the mildew that plagues squash. It just seems like a good idea, and the squash seem happy enough to climb up the trellis.

I am not a very tool-savvy person and I haven’t dedicated the time to engineering this sort of project. So imagine my excitement to watch squash growing like this on trellises we didn’t have to build.


There is some mildew on the lower leaves, but otherwise the plant seems healthy. Most other squash in the garden were 75% mildew at this point.

I am worried about that the weight of heavier squash might pull them off the vine before they’re fully ripe. So far, I haven’t seen many issues with this at the community garden so it may not be a problem after all. Plants are pretty smart about gravity, so they might know how to handle it. If you’re worried about the weight, you can fashion a little hammock for the squash. The trellis method is more labor-intensive than letting squash grow across the ground, but since Krista & I seem to have an affinity for making gardening projects more labor-intensive than other people (see: our potato stacks) that shouldn’t be a problem.

This method wouldn’t work with very large squash like the hubbards, but I can imagine acorn squash or sugar pie pumpkins getting along fine without ripping down the structure. A major limiting factor for how much squash we plant is always space, so I’m excited about the possibilities. Have you ever grown winter squash vertically? Share your experiences!

xoxo,
Jess

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And I will eat them in the rain

And in the dark.
And in a tart.

Of course I’m not talking about green eggs and ham. I’m talking about the tomatoes that won’t quit. Before we get to the tart, a few memorable tomatoes.


the tomato monster


jaune flamme and chocolate cherry tomatoes, both delicious beyond words


most of the tomatoes we grew are average sized and then there’s this guy


for scale

And now for the tart.

The recipe is this French Tomato Tart from David Lebovitz‘s blog. Except instead of the tart dough in that recipe, I made a whole wheat cream cheese pastry dough. I’ve been dying to try this. I gave it a whirl with whole wheat pastry flour in this cream cheese pastry dough recipe. This turned out better than I expected, even using lighter neufchâtel for cream cheese. The pastry was so good I saved the scraps and made us a homemade Pop Tart with some of our preserves for dessert.

note from Jess: I worked an insanely long day the day this tart happened. I came home to find this delicate morsel waiting for me. It was unspeakably good. I can’t even talk about it, except to say that you should Definitely make this recipe.

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Adventures in Vertical Potatoes

In 2009, we grew poatoes in stacked tires on a lark. That was fun. The potatoes were delicious and we were converted to enthusiastic potato growers. Occasionally, I come across something about how important potatoes are for self-reliance gardening and I think that we really need to grow more of them.

In 2010, Krista built wooden stacking potato boxes. I wrote about why we switched from tires to wooden stacks here. We also grew potatoes in burlap bags from local coffee roasters, although apparently I have never blogged about that. I found burlap bags to be an unsatisfactory way to grow potatoes. The burlap bags were free though, and I composted them afterwards. No harm, no foul.

I buy our seed potatoes at a local nursery. I wrote about the varieties we planned to grow here if you are interested. We planted them in our faithful wooden stacks again this year, but we have been more attentive about mounding the plants regularly. Hopefully our diligence will be rewarded with a better yield. We haven’t harvested yet, but the plants are much taller and heartier than we have ever grown before.

The neighborhood deer have been voracious this summer, causing serious damage to the potatoes a few weeks ago. We covered the stacks with deer netting and as you can see, the plants grew back with a vengeance. The wooden stacks work well with deer netting because you can tuck it all around the edges.

This is a sort of experimental method, so we’ll report back when the plants die back. We planted late this year so we have weeks to go before harvest. And then? Potato salad, potato tacos, potato soup, roasted potatoes and colcannon for us, and maybe some of our hard-earned tips for growing vertical potatoes for you.

xoxo,
Jess

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hurray for the first tomato!

Growing tomatoes in the northwest is always cause for celebration. This year, with a record-breaking wet spring and a chilly start to summer, we decided to really celebrate our first ripe tomato.

And we literally only have one ripe tomato at this point. I hope to have a lot more, but this good-sized, bright yellow Limmony was the first to cross the finish line.

To really do it justice, I made a balsamic reduction, bought some smoked mozzarella, and harvested some basil to go on top. Now I really hope we get a lot more tomatoes. We found a little blossom end rot in the community garden that we’re trying to nip in the bud. It’s important to celebrate the small successes!

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