Saturday, 28 September 2013

Passing of Ryan Rooster

Today is a sad day; my favorite rooster died last night. He was a cross bred frizzle rooster, his mother's name was Eagle and his father was Raoul; he looked just like his dad.
He was an old boy for a rooster; five years at least, but I kept him because he had beautiful babies and because he was a gentle, caring boy, good with chicks and hens and people of all heights and shapes.
As is the way with these things he got into a fight with one of his grand sons and lost the fight. He was in intensive care overnight, but the hot day and his advanced age did him in.
 I will miss him.
Ryan Rooster a month ago.

I am looking for homes for some of Ryan's grandsons as I am going to have a Salmon Faverolles rooster next I think;

This little boy is still waiting for his adult feathers, but he will be steel grey I think and a full frizzle look.

Some good news for the day;
I have one little Minorca chick hatched! They are so cute; with their short little beaks and big eyes.

The Minorca is the one with her face away from the camera (of course)

So beautiful, I love baby chickens.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Carrot towers; an experiment in intensive growing

My little Purple Dragon carrot seedlings are growing up so fast so I thought it was time to start experimenting with ways to grow them.

We have no topsoil here at all (well a few centimeters in some places) so I have been thinking about raised beds for carrots for a while, then I came across this idea, called a flower tower and thought "Why not try it with carrots?"

As you can see, I built the frame as per instructions (see the 'flower tower' link)

Then I found a stray piece of PVC pipe and thought it would make a good water delivery system.

So out came my trusty drill

Dozens of holes were randomly drilled all over. I also plugged one end with a sink plug.

The pipe went into the middle of my frame, plugged end down.

Then I filled the lot with potting mix and compost.

I also added some PVC pipes through the bottom, sticking out about 25cm, to provide supports for the cover.

The seedlings were poked through the shade cloth into the potting mix. A job which took ages.

I planted a tomato and a love-in-a-mist in the top to provide colour and shade to the carrots (and maybe even tomatoes)

And marigolds around the base, for companion planting and for more colour.

The wire cover went over the whole lot and the seedlings watered in

Then I added an old sheet over the cover because it's a windy, hot day and the little seedlings need all the cover they can get for a few days.

The result so far is a mysterious, sheet covered mound. I have some concerns about this method;
If the carrots grow straight down, will I be able to harvest them?
Will I be able to keep the water up to them?
It is a time consuming business, putting the carrots through the shade cloth, is the yield worth the time?

I only planted 10 carrots in the tower as a trial run, but if it works there is room for 50 in just this little tower so the method certainly is space saving.

I will keep you posted on the progress of this experiment.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Its Spring, get outside

I love being outside; the sound of life busily happening all around me, the smell of flowers, hot earth and animals (even poop), watching animals and plants doing what they do and the feel of the sun and wind on my skin. At this time of year, if you live in a humpy, there is a lot to do outside which apparently keeps me healthy and will prolong my life.

This clip just confirms what I knew all along. I bet you did too.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Ostara; the Spring equinox

Happy Ostara everyone,
It's that time of year again; eggs, fertility (rabbits) and planting seeds. The spring equinox is one of two times in the year when day and night are of equal length, this day marks the middle of spring (for the planet not the calendar). It is the time for birthing lambs, first chickens hatching and summer vegetable crops being planted.

This year for Ostara our little Grove (a small group of witches) built a sacred garden bed and planted it with corn, beans and pumpkin (the three sisters).

We measured the bed using our Athames and a cord in the traditional manner

The bed and the post positions were marked out with gypsum (no ritual significance in gypsum, we just had some)

We measured and measured again; my High Priestess is a Libra.

The quarters (four directions) were marked with posts, then the cross quarters were marked with more posts (steel pegs really)
A poly pipe frame was added, then wire around the base and a bird net over the top.
Oh and a gate was added. 
The bed is made up of layers of newspaper, alpaca poop and bladey grass mulch in a no-dig garden style.
It took us about half a day to build the bed, but it was time well spent.
Then we held our ritual where we blessed the seeds for the year's planting and planted our crop in the garden.

I found the seed blessing below online, but I can't seem to find it again; so thank you to whoever wrote it. We held our seeds and said this blessing over them before planting.

Seed blessing
Now the dark half of the year is passing
Now the days grow light, and the Earth grows warm
I summon the spirit of these seeds
Which have slept in darkness
Awaken, stir, and swell
As you are planted in the Earth
To grow and bring forth new fruit.
Blessed be!

And this morning when I got up, one of the hens has hatched a chicken; perfect timing.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Seedling area update

It has been a few weeks since I received my Diggers Club order and set up the little seedling time for an update. The Diggers Club seeds have proven very fertile with most seeds germinating within days of being sown. I have developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for my planting and potting on (I just love the official sound of that; really it's just the way I do things for now).

I sow the seeds in punnets of potting mix, label them and put the date on them.

When the seeds have germinated and are big enough to handle, I pot them on individually into newspaper pots filled with compost (to give them a burst of nutrients when they need it).

How to make paper pots (although I use several layers of paper to make them last longer)

Once the seedlings have recovered from potting on, I move them to the second plant stand in the vegetable garden area to grow up enough to plant (or to wait until bed space is available).

So far this SOP is working really well and I have been able to produce lots of tomato (Black Russian), carrot (Purple Dragon), rocket (Pronto), broccoli (Purple Sprouting) and Love-in-a-mist (Blue). The beetroot (Heirloom mix) has sprouted in it's punnet, but I haven't had time to pot them on yet.
 A weekly water with fish emulsion mix cures the leaching of nitrogen from the compost by the newspaper pots that was happening to begin with.

I water the seeds in punnets with pure water every three days or so and the seedlings with the water from the chook's drinking container when I wash it out (about every two days). The vegetables in the beds are surviving on the water from the sheep trough when I change it (about every three days) and the washing and rinse water from clothes washing (once a week). This system means that I use every drop of water twice (the shower water drains to the bog garden site, which will be planted with comfrey, banana, Louisiana iris and sweet potato, but isn't yet) and I can survive for much longer on our single tank of rain water.

In other news....
I have a hen sitting on some Minorca eggs, thanks to the kindness of one of my friends (thanks Zoe) who gave me a dozen fertile eggs. I thought it was time to introduce some new blood into my flock, and fertile eggs are the best way to do it. When chickens are raised in the flock from the egg up they do not introduce new diseases and the trauma (to the chickens) of introducing new flock members is eliminated.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Short drop toilets

This may be a bit of a taboo subject in polite society...but it is a very important subject for those of us who choose to be responsible for as much of our own lives as possible; toilet designs.
Until recently I have been happy using a short-drop toilet design on our block; this consists of a vase shaped hole about 1.25 meters deep, 60 cm wide at the bottom and tapering to about 40 cm wide at the top. On top of this pit is placed a movable pedestal made from half a plastic live barrel with a toilet seat bolted on top. A tarp stretched over a poly pipe hoop frame completes the set up. We 'flush' by sprinkling a can of lime over the contents to lower the pH and make the contents more worm friendly and less fly friendly. This kind of toilet means that I have to dig a new hole every school holidays.

Lately I have been experimenting with adding compost worms to the mix. Once a new hole is dug and in use for a week or so, I tip in one container of compost worms from the worm farm at school. This makes the hole last roughly twice as long as previously; presently 20 weeks is the record. This means I have to dig less and can avoid the deconstructing and reconstructing of the toilet for a bit longer.

My new plan consists of digging a big enough pit to hold a year's worth of...well....contents, and adding worms to that. I am hoping this will allow enough time for the worms to reduce the contents to worm castings and baby worms, which will then burrow away to seek a new life in a far off place, thus keeping the pit level to an acceptable level permanently (or at least a very long time). Then I can build a more permanent and attractive structure over the top of the pit.

According to the World Health Organisation Pit Latrine Designs, when digging a pit toilet you should allow  0.06 m3 per person per year. In our house that equates to (0.06 x 4 = 0.24 m3) to allow for visitor usage as well. This isn't a huge hole really. I have calculated this to be about the size of a 240 liter fridge.

I am currently digging away at the pit for this toilet and will post more photos as I get to each stage. The ground is very hard at the moment due to the dry weather so going is slow. The next question will be "What do I build the toilet shed out of?"

Do you take responsibility for your own waste?
Would you like to?
Any ideas or comments welcome.