Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Low Budget Irrigation

The rats' destruction of the garden wasn't all bad; it did enable me to make some amendments to the raised beds that I should have taken care of before the plants went in, i.e., irrigation. Should have been a top priority seeings as we are dry as dead leaf come summertime.

My dream was to purchase a slew of ollas from the Dervaes family this year, but financially we couldn't swing it with all the other backyard costs. I decided to go super low tech with the plastic milk jugs I have been saving. Basically I took all the containers

and used a push pin to poke a load of holes in them with a fervor I might use to stick a voodoo doll of Dick Cheney. The little pin was easy to get through the plastic, which enabled me to finish all seven jugs in under 10 minutes. (If they would have been voodoo dolls, Dick would have certainly met his demise. Muuuuahahahahah!!!)  I then buried the containers about three feet apart in the veggie beds.

For some reason I thought that the earth pressing against the jugs would slow the water drainage down and I grossly overestimated the number of holes that I needed. After I filled the bottles, the water ran out faster than it took to fill them. Crap. Not what I was hoping to achieve here. I guess next time I won't get so zealous with the push pin.

That's the cool thing about the clay ollas, they slowly release water through their walls, which encourages the roots of plants to hug the sides of the pot and suck up all the moisture. Maybe I'll pick some up the next time we are in SoCal.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Catching Up with the Farm

My dearest, loyal IBFITC readers (I guess I'm talking to you mom and dad), I profusely apologize for the posting desertification. All I can say is that it was tax time, my busiest time of the year. I believe I've mentioned here before that I am a die-hard procrastinator. I don't just wait until the last minute to do the taxes, I wait until three weeks before taxes are due to start entering last year's books for our businesses. What can I say, I'm highly motivated by deadlines. So I guess I'll just give you all a run down on what's been happening around here over the last three weeks.

Here Comes the Sun

We've been approved! For our solar project that is. I know I never even mentioned it before, but it was one of those things I was meaning to get around to. The gray water system was supposed to come first, but then I found out about this great deal.

I've dreamed of living in a solar powered home since my college days, which was *cough cough* 20 years ago or there abouts (Yeah, I may be middle-aged, but I still have the butt of a 20 year old, so there!). With the $17 grand price tag being the cheapest deal I could find, I figured I'd be waiting another 20 years to realize my dream. But then I ran into this guy at a local Meetup for chicken owners in the Bay Area who works for 1 Block Off the Grid and he told me that I could get the whole thing financed through this company called SunRun, all for the low low start up cost of $3 grand. In a nut shell, the dealio is that you pay this up front cost for installation, SunRun purchases and owns the panels, and then you buy back the power your panels produce from SunRun for a monthly flat fee, which is pretty much the same as your current electric bill. The super awesome perks are that it's an 18 year contract where SunRun is 100% liable for the maintenance and upkeep of your system, including any damage that might incur to other people's property (you know, just in case those gargantuan panels blew off your roof and landed on your neighbor's). And your bill will not go up unless you are using more energy than you are producing with your panels so you avoid the yearly rate increases saving a ton of money in the end. Not to mention that all that guilty pleasure Facebook time won't be powered by dirty coal. Although it will cost more than buying the panels outright, we love the flexibility of not being responsible for them and that we can choose to buy the panels at the end of our contract or just let SunRun take them back. Who knew chickens could lead us directly to solar power?


I would like to report that the chickens are grieving the absence of the goats, but alas, I think they're a touch relieved that they don't have to worry about being stepped on when the nutty goat antics start in. Every morning Pop Tart greets me with the "mount me" pose so I give her a back scratch and a little rub on the sides of her tail, a daily ritual as regular and scheduled as teeth brushing around here. But that's the best I'm going to do for her when it comes to beckoning to be bred. However, I did have to cross that line with Sweet Pea this week.

I found my darling bird straining one morning and was wondering if she had an egg stuck or something. I fear egg binding like a rooster fears the presence of a fox in the hen house. The removal procedure is beyond unappealing (***WARNING*** graphic discussion to follow.), as it entails sticking one's fingers as far up the chicken's backside as it will go, feeling for the egg, and trying to carefully guide the egg out without breaking it since that could cut up the intestines and cause death. You all know how I feel about more death. So I picked up Sweet Pea to get a gander at what was going on.

Well I found half a poo hanging out of her vent along with a bunch of her insides. "Damn it," I thought, "Another freakin' prolapse!"  Yes, this was not my first experience with cloaca prolapse. When Eggo laid her first egg, the shell was soft and rubbery so the poor little babe strained so hard that her insides came out. Think of it as a really bad chicken hemorrhoid, like the kind ladies get when they give birth (consider yourself beyond fortunate if you have no idea what I am talking about). Most of the advice on the intraweb recommended culling, mainly because chickens get all riled up about blood and will peck an injured bird to death. I thought culling sounded a bit harsh and was glad that wasn't the prognosis for me after I gave birth to my daughter. Damn, that was ugly. Then I found some other handy advice that suggested sugar, witch hazel / Preparation H, triple antibiotic ointment, or honey to reduce swelling by slathering some on the vent and popping the innards back in. I like to cover all bases and thus made a concoction including all the above indications, washed down Eggo's back end, put the mixture on the bird's butt, and removed her from the others for a few days. She hasn't had a problem since.

In Sweet Pea's case, I didn't bother with the bath or the cover-all-bases remedy. I just stuck my finger inside to see, or I guess feel (strange how the inside of a chicken feels just like a vagina) would be the appropriate verb, what was going on and it seemed like she had a big crap that was distending her intestines (at least I think chickens have intestines) at a weird angle, kind of like diverticulitis, making it hard for her to get the doodie out. So I did what any caretaker would do and removed it for her. The DF feigned tossing his cookies as I scooped out a finger full of crap and flicked it on the ground. He swore he would never eat my cooking again. After all poop was removed, I pushed the bulge back in, which was a bit bloody from all the man-handling, and prayed that she would be fine. I couldn't properly tend to her that day as I had a shitload of errands to run. I'm happy to announce that her butt is fine and that she started laying eggs again the day after her injury.

OROAR Update

That electric fencing is really doing its job keeping out all the undesirables. In fact, most of the garden is recovering nicely with some peas and favas returning from the dead. The Zimbabwe bucket method was not as promising as I had hoped. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I used a toilet paper roll core smothered in peanut butter instead of a corncob (where the hell would I find a dried corncob at this time of the year I'd like to know) and placed it on a wooden skewer instead of a metal one, which enabled the critters to knock the stick into the bucket, thus ruining the trap. Well the electric fence is working. It's actually working so well that when I tried to put in some transplants, I kept getting a jolt every time I touched the wires. It's only on at night, but I guess the system will continue to discharge during the day. I'll post some garden pics once things get a bit taller.


According to the breeder, Lucy has been successfully bred! And as I suspected, she got her love on the day after we dropped her off. I admire her efficiency with the whole endeavor. Since she hasn't shown any signs of estrus in the past four weeks, it's probably safe to pick her up. We plan to head up there the weekend of May 1st, which is of great relief to the CW as her teacher has informed me that she has been crying at school because she misses her goats so much. We all miss them. Even the DF has remarked that things just aren't the same without all the "maaaaaah"s echoing throughout the backyard.

Well that pretty much wraps up things for now. Look for future posts on low budget drip irrigation, self-watering containers, and my family's farming background. It's good to be back.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Love Is in the Air

The goats were successfully dropped off for their month long lovefest. Well it's really Lucy's romantic getaway. Ethel is with the young does, showing off her impressive relative size, while Lucy is frolicking with the buck and nursing does. Fortunately, they are only separated by a chain link fence as they are very attached to one another. As they stood nose to nose at the fence line, I felt quite sorry for them; it's the first time they've been apart in eight months.

We had a wonderful time visiting the birth home of our girls, especially with all the one and two week dwarf goat babies running around. I can't wait until we have our own kiddies frisking about. However, the thought of having to inevitably give them away is already weighing heavy on me. Some people collect Hummels, stamps, comic books and whatnot; I collect pets. I know, I know, we're overrun with animals here, especially with the rats and everything. But seriously, how am I going to give up these 15 inch long, not more than 10 inch high, cubes of cuteness? Look!

In the right hand corner of this pic, you can see a blurry image of the stud who is going "to service" Lucy. He's quite a looker. I think they will have totally adorable babies. He might actually be Lucy's dad. Don't say "Ewww!" It's not like that with goats. I think...

I mentioned to Mary Jane, the queen of goats at Oops Ranch, that I thought Lucy was in heat a couple weeks ago so didn't know when she would come back around again. Mary Jane told me that it was common for a doe to quickly go back into estrus once she caught whiff of a buck. We took a little tour to see all the animals, mostly miniatures, that they breed and raise on the farm and when we returned to give our ladies one last goodbye (Ute teared up as if this were a final farewell, poor baby), I noticed that Lucy was showing signs that she was... well... um... ready. That didn't take long! 15 minutes of male goat stink and Lucy was in the mood for love. Look closely at her backside.

 Before we left, I saw that the buck himself was noticing Lucy's odor as it blew downwind in his general direction. I suspect this will be a successful arrangement, though I am anxious for the girls to return. I miss their silly mugs.