Homestead Update Mid/Late July 2016Posted: July 22, 2016
A long overdue update. There won’t be many pictures, I’ve been very busy and just haven’t had time to keep this space updated and still get my needed mental health downtime.
The big news is that the chicks have arrived. We started with 6, one died when the heat lamp fell off its clamp and broke her neck (my fault), and the 5 survivors are chirping away next to me as I write this. They’re over two weeks old at this point and I hope to get them outside in the next couple days. Spring chicks would need to stay protected for longer but it is so warm here that I want to get them acclimated as young as possible. I just need to finish building the enclosure for them. The hard part is done (setting the posts) and I have the fencing materials in the garage, just need to install. I’m doing 6 foot tall 2×4″ welded wire fencing, with an eventual roof of the same material (needed for night protection if we do colony rabbits and possibly for chicken protection/escape containment), and an extra 2 foot tall piece of 1/2″ hardware cloth to keep the chicks from getting out while they’re small and again for rabbit containment if we do colony in the future.
I’m hoping the city will be reasonable and let us temporarily have 5 (over the limit of 4) until they’re a little older and the one who leaves will integrate into a friend’s flock better. After all, my 5 very young pullets are currently the equivalent of maybe 2 adult hens. But we’ll see how that goes, since I was just served yet another code complaint about our compost bin. Another modification (sigh) and it should be okay. If I didn’t believe in composting so strongly I would have given up a long time ago, which is probably what the neighbors who keep complaining want.
More annoying is that I’m being mandated to clean my rabbit cages of poop daily. It’s an annoying amount of extra work but I’m trying to see the silver lining and perhaps that will take care of the fly population that’s built up with my current once a week cleaning. I don’t know how people are spotting “problems” with my rabbits without trespassing.
My property is so unconventional it’s just a lightning rod for busy-bodies who don’t understand the non-aggression principle. I had to talk on the phone with the code compliance manager and my alderman about the current code complaint. Both erroneously thought the white structure was another compost bin, not our chicken coop, then had an audible pause when I told them we were getting chickens and, yes, have the permit. They’re bracing themselves for more complaints but in actuality have been quite reasonable to deal with, all things considered.
The alderman let me know that I may lose the ability to grow veggies in the sidewalk strips next year. It’s completely legal the way the law is currently phrased, but said he doubted it was the law’s original intent to allow veggies instead of ornamental plantings. He told me the people complaining about other things are mainly mad about these perfectly legal plantings, so they’re nitpicking other things. I don’t get this separation of ornamentals from edibles in American culture but he said he would let me know if it was changed for next season. If it does change, I will request being grandfathered in because, while I love flower, and will put flowers and herbs in those beds if that’s all I can, I probably would not have spent the money and time to add the compost and raised beds.
We’re starting to get tomatoes (losing some to BER this year but not as bad as last year) and jalapenos. We’ve got more beans than we can eat and am mostly giving away the excess, though have sold a little. I bought a pressure canner and canned one batch but my variety doesn’t stand up very well to canning. We’ve got WAY more zucchini than we can eat and have given away a lot. I’m even pulling plants. I was hoping I’d be more successful selling them since it’s a unique variety. We’re also getting a lot of cucumbers, enough to feed my, Alpha’s, and Beta’s (new this year!) voracious appetite for them. Marketmore is a dependable and very tasty variety. Garden carrots don’t save a lot of money but they’re superior to any summer carrots I’ve bought at the farmer’s market in the past.
I’m dealing with two major pest issues. At my home garden, our sowbug population is out of control and they’re decimating our green beans. (Thankfully the bean planting at our microfarm is quite successful.) I’m pulling the mulch off of beds and using beer traps to try and get them under control. I’m really starting to question whether mulch is a good solution for my climate.
At the microfarm, a combination of squash bugs and yellow striped cucumber beetles have killed something like 75% of the winter squash I planted. The pest population size is bewilderingly high considering there’s been no garden on this property for 2 years and it’s surrounded by small grain, corn, and hayfields for at least half a mile. I tried handpicking the bugs (and eggs in the case of the easy-to-spot squash bug eggs) but it’s too time-consuming. I bought all the winter squash we could eat last year for something like $70, tops.
I think that covers everything. I need to get off the computer, eat breakfast, and get outside to work before the heat gets too intense. This summer we’ve already run the AC triple what we did all last year. Southerners would no doubt laugh at what we call intense heat here, but 90+F days with very high dew points aren’t enjoyable, no matter what you’re acclimatized to.