Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Steal of a Deal & Standing Water

Yesterday was an interesting day... but maybe I should back up a few first.  This past weekend I was up north for a wedding and thankfully our neighbor took care of the chickens.  Last week it started raining, twice real hard to the point that my swale filled up to the top.  When I got back from the wedding, the ground was wet and the swale was once again filled up... my response: "Cool, it's working!"

Monday, it rained again.  I went out and put down straw in the chicken tractor to help them stay dry.  Yesterday, it rained again... at this point, there was hardly a spot in the yard I could do without stepping in an inch or two of standing water = PROBLEM!  (We have gotten over 2.6inches of rain in the past week! - according to the weather underground)

Chickens internal body temperature is higher than humans... somewhere in the 107-8°F range.  Therefore, getting wet can get them sick!  Last night Amanda helped me move the chicken tractor to a dry spot... involving her in the tractor motivating the chickens to move, so I don't run them over, will they got to the dry spot.  We then added a tarp over the entire tractor and put down more straw.  All of which was done in the pouring rain...

Thanks babe, we both know I couldn't have done it without you!

Before all of the chicken drama took place, however, I had to run to Tractor Supply to pick up another bag of chicken feed...

As an aside, the 700lbs I first purchased is gone and my spare 50lb of Purina is also gone, as of this morning.  Friday I have a neighbor taking me out to get feed from a local Amish guy, so hopefully my bag from yesterday will hold me over till then!

So I bought my bag of feed and some oyster shells (those chickens go crazy when I throw egg shells in the tractor, so I figure some extra calcium might do them good) and then checked their price on T-posts to steak up the fruit tree's I just ordered... but none were out where they normally were... so I paid for the feed and shells and took them out to my truck.  Out in the parking lot I noticed bundles of T-posts!  I checked the price and headed back in to pay for ten of them... these things have thousands of uses... it's hard to imagine having too many!

As I paid for them, the cashier asked the manager to help me load them... "That's weird, I can do it myself just fine" I thought to myself... "Hmm, maybe they don't trust me?"

So I picked up the two bundles and tossed them effortlessly into the truck (sarcasm?) while the manager watched.  He then asked if I wanted clips, which I graciously accepted.  So off he went to get them, giving me time to think... that's dangerous!

After he brought them back I asked him about all the plants that disappeared, as I was hoping to buy another blueberry bush from him.  He had a phone call coming in so he quickly told me that anything on the pallets on the side were going to be thrown out and I could take whatever I wanted...  SCORE!

I came home with 1 very alive blueberry (and 3 pretty sure they are dead ones), 3-4 different grape vines, a Magnolia bush for my babe, and at least four fruit tree's including a quite alive plum, a torn up apple tree and two trees that probably won't make it, but I grabbed them as it was worth a shot to save them!

Needless to say, I've got a lot of plants to plant... what a terrible problem!

Once again, thank you babe for your help... I love you :-)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An update... Wow, it's been a while!

At this point is really hard to tell where I left off.  So I guess I'll start with the most recent activities an work my way backwards.

Any guess what I've been up to?
 ...Or maybe I'll jump around a little bit.

Dehydrator Blues

What you see above is the back panel to my Excalibur 9-tray dehydrator.  This thing has been a champ and I'm still quite pleased with it... but like all things electrical, sometimes they don't work right.

My wife and I had gone to the grocery store recently.  Being the type of person I am, we both always make a point to swing by the discount shelf to see if there is anything we like to eat on sale.  Well this time there were banana's on sale.  I bought a bunch!  When we got home and the kids were napping, I sat down and started slicing.  Before loading them into the dehydrator, I spray both sides with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown... they also dry better if I do.  I loaded them up, turned on the dehydrator and went about my life as normal.  The next day I came home and guess what... no heat (that means no dehydrating)!

So what you see above is the guts with the thermostat removed.  I contacted Excalibur ( and they promptly (sort of) sent me a new thermostat and a new diode after I paid for shipping.   Then I put the banana's in the freezer and waited for the parts to come in.  I didn't do anything with the diode, so now it's sitting on a shelf by the old thermostat... which I played with and think it might work again... maybe I have a backup now?  More testing for sure!

The thermostat - the diode bridges the gap between the two screws on the right, between the fan blades.
Well I replaced the thermostat and now it works... and the banana's are still in the freezer.  I'll have to get to that soon!


What a rototiller can do to a backyard...
So a bunch of weeks back my neighbor graciously accepted payment to help me roto-till my garden and also helped me by tilling up some contour lines in my backyard.   Then it became my job to turn those paths into swales.  The idea is that it is perfectly level and catches all the water run-off, holding it until it evaporates or soaks into the soil.  This helps reduce the need for watering things on the downhill side... which in my case means fruit trees and other food producers... like green beans :)  (We ran out of space in our garden this year.)

But anyway, this weekend my parents came up to help me celebrate my birthday and we, in general, had a great time.  One thing that I particularly enjoyed was my father's help digging the top swale.  Not only did we get it all dug and built, but I have found over the years that the best way to have a conversation with my dad is to take away the distractions, provide work (that doesn't require a lot of thought) to occupy one side of the brain and let the conversation occupy the other side of the brain.  This was one of those times when we were able to have a good conversation... the topic wasn't
too meaningful, but I still enjoyed working with my dad.

A swale
I don't know if you can see it, but basically I made a level ditch in my backyard... a fairly big one too!  This has taken a lot of work with a rake, pulling the dirt from the roto-tilled section towards the downhill side to create a berm of dirt... shallow enough that I can drive the mower over it without scabbing the lawn and ruining the blades.  But dad, being the very intelligent person he is, or maybe it's because it's the tool he had on hand, picked up a shovel and started digging it out.  Needless to say, it would have taken me a long time to finish up the first one without him.


Those birds are getting big!  However, they are not immune to harm.  This was evidenced on Monday night while I was moving the chicken tractor back up towards the house.  Real quick - they have learned to move to the front when I move the tractor, as that's where the fresh grass is... but since the made it to the back of the yard, I had to reverse directions.  Well I ran over one of them while moving it and it died (I've run over a couple that made it just fine).  Well I fired up the turkey fryer, scalded it at 148°F (Thank you Herrick Kemball).  Anyway, I got to the step in Herrick's instructional where you remove the intestines where I ran into a problem.  Step 7 goes over opening up the back end and states the following:

"Please Note: When you cut into the bird’s body cavity, no liquid should come out. If liquid (i.e. yellow-colored water) does come pouring out of the opening, the bird is sick. Throw it away. I have had this happen on two birds in ten years."


Well guess what I found?

It died prematurely... and ended up in the compost... bummer!
When I cut it open, not only did the yellow liquid come out, but there were two very full sack's of it (see arrows in picture above).  I weighed it after plucking and it came out at 2-1/2 lbs... I guess it wasn't too much of a loss, but now I can't help but be afraid the rest of them are sick!  Still no word on what this sickness is, but I'm hoping I don't ever see it again!

Well here's an older picture (3 weeks ago) if anybody is curious what the inside of the chicken tractor looks like.  I'll have to get more pictures on my pen drive... blogging is hard when you are away from your home computer and camera!

Not quite old enough to use the big feeder!



I got in contact with a nearby butcher who informed me this is called "Water Belly" and is quite common among fast growing meat birds.  My research says there's not way to cure it as it is a result of the cardiovascular system not being able to keep up with high blood pressure forcing liquid out into the body through the liver.  Can anybody verify this?


As I said, we celebrated my birthday recently.  My wonderful wife got me a new wooden handled, assembled in America (that's the best it comes these days, and she had to look hard to get even that!) digging shovel for fathers day and a 5 gallon crock for my birthday.  We can now make pickles 5 gallons at a time!  Yea... that's something I can get excited about!

Also, yesterday I went over to and took advantage of their end of season sale.  I spent a good bit of money with the hope that I won't need to take them up on their 1 year promise of satisfaction, but feel good knowing its there if the plants die!  So yea, that was a good chunk of birthday money (thank you parents / in-laws / grandparents!)... but I got the following:

Two Peach Trees
Two Pear Trees
Two Sweet Cherry Trees
A Reliance grape vine (seedless) - great for making raisins or eating
Red Rasberries

I highly recommend you guys get over there as they have some AWESOME prices right now!  I know a few of my buddies who are moving soon or have just moved... I can't think of a better investment than some fruit trees!

Okay, I'm late getting back to work.  Take care!