Saturday, August 11, 2012

Homesteading Improvements

     Now that my summer time off from teaching has come to a close, it is time to get things ready for fall.  I am in full-swing on campus for the next 2 months & my project days are limited to weekends.  There are a few things that I have wanted to do, but I put them off.  Now, I must do them.  I have been needing to modify my compost bin, because I have more stuff than room to stir it.  Also, I need to prepare my garden bed for fall planting.
     Thankfully, the sun is hidden behind the clouds this morning, because it is very hot down here in the deep south.  It is extremely humid and it only takes about 5 minutes of being outdoors here for you to be dripping with sweat.  This is what my bin looked like when I first set it up:
I drove 3 pieces of scrap 1x2s and stapled my extra chicken wire to it.
      This worked nicely until my chickens came & I started putting their bedding into it.  They do a lot of pooing.  This will help fertilize my garden, but it does take up space until it breaks down.
I pulled up 2 of the stakes & re-drove them in in a line to widen it and added 2-2x4 scraps to square it off.  Then I added another scrap of wire.  It is open in the front so I can stir easily.  It is also on a slight slope with the opening uphill, so it is not going anywhere when it rains.
      My bin is now over twice as large as it was.  As I stirred it with my stiff rake, I noticed how much had already broken down, but I need a fork for stirring.  I use a rake and a shovel and it can be a bit heavy after a heavy rain like we recently had.  My husband left me a pile of grass clippings in front of it waiting for me to add it to my bin...when I was off, it was raining, so it started breaking down on the grass and killed my grass.  It will not take long at all for it to grow back.  We are in need of a cut again, so that is what I get to do this evening IF it does not rain today.
     My garden bed was only half filled this spring.  My husband is going to bring me another truck load of dirt to fill it to the top.  Then I will add my compost & diatomaceous earth to it and use ground cover over my soaker hose.  I had plenty of tomatoes this year, but I could not keep the squash bugs under control.  I have learned more about companion gardening and plan on using more this fall.
     Once I get my new dirt, I will show my before & after pictures.  If I do not get it this weekend, I will have to get it next weekend.  I have plenty to do around here to keep me busy, like keeping the coop clean.  I modified the inside of their coop a few weeks back.  We went into a wet season and all of their food that they dropped on the ground around their feeder got wet & spoiled...causing a ton of flies to make haven in and out of their coop.  This was utterly disgusting.  I had to empty out their coop and spray it down with bleach water, sprinkle the DE, then replace the shavings.  I was planning on doing it in another month or 2 but the flies moved that date up.
     I moved their food inside the coop to prevent any water spoilage on the ground.  I also moved their nests down to the first floor, cut the 2nd floor back a few inches so I can reach the eggs in the farthest nest, and I cut out the lower roosting bar.  They hardly ever used it & it was in the way of hanging their feeder and reaching the last  nests.  Now when they roost on the "high bar"  all of their droppings are on the 2nd floor & I scrape them with my small shovel into my big dustpan and carry it out to the compost bin.  They rarely poo on the 1st floor now, so I use a deep bedding method down there.  I just scrape, sprinkle, & replace the shavings up top.  It has made my job much easier now.
This is the original layout when they were younger. They had an upper & lower roosting bar and all of their nests were upstairs.

This is how it looks now:
Upstairs with high roost.  The second floor is at window height and allows them to see outside and catch a cool breeze when they are resting inside.  When it turns cold, we will shut the windows and hang a light if needed.  We only have a few weeks of really cold weather.  The rest of the winter is pretty comfortable.  They may not need a heat lamp at all down here.

The nests are all downstairs away from the windows and weather.  This placement for the food makes it easier to refill.   Before, it was under the coop in the run & I had to bend down & unhook it to refill it.  I need to refill their nest with grass clippings, but we will have to have no rain for a few days.
     Now, with the food inside, I do not have to go into the run at all unless I want to pet them & check their bodies.  This means less contamination on my shoes!  I have a pair of shoes that are marked with a "C" for chickens so they do not get worn anywhere else.  We leave all of our shoes at the door anyway and the "C" shoes along with my hospital shoes get a nice dose of Lysol spray.
     Well, I have enjoyed sharing our homesteading improvements with you.  I am always looking for ways to simplify our living, so feel free to share your ideas & improvements with me.  I pray your day is full of God's love & joy.
God Bless,
Marla B.

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