Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fifteen Days and Counting

Photo from Metzer Farms

I'm talking about my order of Sebastapol geese and Khaki Campbell ducks. This time of year is always exciting especially when I have an order of birds coming via mail. It's kind of like waiting for Christmas or a new baby to be born. (Alright, so I am being Anthropomorphic)  Not at all like strolling into the farm co-op and buying new chicks. There is the preparation of arranging the nursery (brooding area) getting in the supplies, and looking ahead at what you need to do for when the little things grow up. Then you wait. Fortunately raising them is only a 3 or 4 month process as opposed to 18+ years, doesn't include labor pain or changing poopy diapers and satisfies my need to have babies around. I also don't have to worry about college funds:-). Right now I am in need of what I call the play pen.
This will be a fenced area off of the two current runs and coop area and will include doors from each run that I can open independently to allow birds from one or both runs access to a large grassy yard. It wont be as predator proof as the runs themselves because the birds wont be spending the night in it. Because I have predatory birds on my property it will be netted on top.(see Feb.12th post-Harbinger of Spring) Right now I have to be outside in the yard watching and listening  for hawks and eagles while my chickens are out in the yard. A play pen will allow all my birds access to grass and give me the opportunity to be doing other things without worry. If I am in the garden or otherwise working outside I can let them out to roam the property giving the play pen forage some needed rest. I will post photos of the new digs as we build it. Undoubtedly The Man will have some new fangled gadget that he will want to put on this. Can't wait to see what that will be. It's always a surprise. But then again,  maybe not.

I have decided to try and grow sweet potatoes this year and no I am not in Texas. I know we are not suppose to be able to grow them here but I have a plan. I am going to order slips from a seed company here in the North West that claims they have a variety that matures in 80-90 days. Using paper pots made by yours truly, (see last weeks blog) I am going to start them indoors. Then using the same technique I used for growing potatoes last year I will plant the started vines in the garden, pot and all when it warms up some. (I may rip off the bottom of the paper pot before planting). What I did last year for regular potatoes was create raised beds with chicken wire and straw. (See photo) To do this you take a length of chicken wire that will make a circle about two feet wide and wire it together to form a bottomless basket. Place the basket on the ground where you intend to grow the potatoes and pile good well draining composty soil mixed with bone meal in a hill in the center. Start lining the inside of the walls with straw pulling the soil up against the straw as you go and refilling the center as you need more soil until what you have is a wire pot with a straw liner and soil inside.This worked really great last year with my regular potatoes and when I was done with the pots the soil and decomposing straw made lovely friable soil for the garden bed. The only thing I did different was I dug a hole in the native soil the same size as the wire "pot" so there was more depth, put down a layer of good yummy soil and then planted the seed potatoes covering them with another layer of good soil. As they grew I kept adding straw and soil until the pot was fully line and filled in with soil. Each one of these "pots" yielded 15 to 20 lbs. of the best tasting taters I have ever had! But back to the sweet potatoes. They will need a trellis to climb and although I would like to grow them on the wire fencing the deer would just eat them. So I would rather tease and tantalize the little #$%&@  and keep them just out of reach. Using a wooden spacer fastened to the fence post I will put up another piece of wire fencing just out of reach of their cute little noses and grow the vines on that. Now that's the plan. We will see if it works. With the use of a dark mulch to warm up the soil I am hoping for the best.

Last but not least I want to introduce the latest member to our flock. Her name is Sophie and she is a white Silkie hen. She is integrating nicely and has learned quickly that when I call the flock to go in for the night she and the other two silkies can just wait outside the gate (instead of going in) and they will get special treats. Now all three beg like dogs for their share of the nightly scratch served separately. Perhaps they would like it on a silver platter with their tea?


Megan said...

Sue! I totally built these potato towers last month and the potatoes are finally sprouting. I love that they provide some organization and keep the hens at bay. Thanks for the great idea!

Leigh said...

Very interesting about the potatoes! I'm going to do some experimenting until I get the best method figured out for me. We've done very well with sweet potatoes though. :)