Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!
Friday, July 29, 2011
While we were on vacation in the mountain west, my chicken sitting friend wasn't sure how to handle the eggs in excessively hot weather. Steve let the chickens out of the coop at 7:30am and returned around 8:30pm to lock them up. He was reluctant to keep the eggs that had been in the henhouse all day in the heat.
We did a bit of internet research and learned that all is well. When a hen lays an egg, it exits her body at 105 degrees. The Food and Drug Administration allows 36 hours for the eggs to be gathered and refrigerated at 40 degrees. Once an egg is refrigerated, it should stay there until used.
If you are reluctant about using an egg, crack it into a bowl and inspect it. The yolk should stand up tall and yellow, and there should be no odor. A small speck of blood is normal, but any more than a speck might be cause for concern. I have used all the eggs from the heat wave without incident.
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, consumers have little idea of the origin of commercially produced eggs at the grocery store. I'll take my homegrown eggs any day, even if they've been in the coop for the few hours.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I did a little internet research, later corroborated at my local garden center, which recommended the use of copper fungicide for early blight. This fungicide is not harmful to my bees or chickens, so I mixed some in my pump sprayer and applied one dose before vacation. Eric applied a second dose while I was gone, and yesterday I gave them a third dose.
Monday, July 25, 2011
In the week before our departure, I could hardly keep up with farm work and still prepare for vacation. The Japanese beetles hatched and began munching happily on my fruit trees, grapes and raspberries (organic treatment: neem oil). My tomato plants suddenly showed signs of early blight, which quickly ruined my entire crop last year (organic treatment: copper fungicide). Cabbage worms were working on my Brussels sprouts, and my pepper plants were still struggling with whiteflies. The bees were threatening to swarm again and needed some management. The local garden center was having its frequent customer sale, so I planted three new current bushes. On top of everything, the weather forecast predicted the worst heat wave in years. How could I possibly leave Red Bucket Farm at this time?
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
We think that the irregularities in shell quality are due to a change in diet. When we incorporated the pullets with the hens a week ago, we needed to provide chick food rather than layer rations. Layer rations are too high in calcium for the non-laying pullets; the extra calcium could damage their kidneys. So all the girls are getting chick food, and we're providing additional calcium for the hens with oyster shell in a small dish. Perhaps it took Hyacinth an extra day or two to discover the calcium supplement, which probably accounts for the irregular shells. Today her egg was normal again. Rosie and Wisteria have been unaffected.
Friday, July 8, 2011
The problem is tiny in size, but massive in scope: the gooseberry sawfly. The larvae of sawfly are tiny green caterpillars, less than an inch long. Their color blends perfectly with the leaves, making it nearly impossible to see them. But in the space of 24 hours, these little buggers can strip the bush clean of its foliage. Then the larvae drop to the soil to spin cocoons and pupate. The life cycle happens two or three times per summer. Just as the bush begins to recover, the attack happens all over again.
Sawflies are primarily specific to gooseberries, so removing the plants and the first few inches of soil should alleviate the problem. There is a chance that some sawflies will also defoliate currant bushes, and this was a significant concern for us at Red Bucket Farm.
I've been spraying the bushes diligently with soapy water, unwilling to take more drastic chemical measures on food crops. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem likely that this will adequately control the problem. We decided to eliminate the gooseberry bushes to save the currants.
Now we have three small raised beds waiting for their next job. We may plant leafy greens for the remainder of this season. Long term, we're thinking of more disease resistant fruit bushes such as goumi, sea berry, honeyberries or nero aronia. Meanwhile, we hope our five currant bushes stay healthy.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
There are good reasons for Rosie to take a day off this week. First, she's molting, which takes a lot of energy. Her chest is bare right down to chicken skin and she looks a little unsightly. (The photo above is from a few months ago.) Second, the weather has been hot with very high humidity. Have you ever seen a chicken pant? Finally, she has to tolerate the pullets and teach them the ways of the flock.
Today was pleasant and Rosie seemed relaxed. The chicks are understanding their place in the flock. And tomorrow morning around 6am, Rosie will give me another large brown egg. Thanks, Rosie!
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Every evening for the last six weeks, we've been schlepping the little chickens from the yard to the garage, where we knew they would be safe from predators. It was too early to lock them into the coop with the big girls, and too dangerous for them to remain outside in their day shelter which is not secure. Every morning we take them back down to the chicken yard. At first, I would scoop them all up and carry them in the large red bucket. As they grew, I would take two or three of them at a time in the bucket. Lately, we've been carrying each bird individually down to the yard in the morning, and back up the hill each evening.
We hope that tonight is their first night in the chicken coop with the big girls. Stay tuned for this riveting drama.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Curly toe can be caused by dietary deficiency or it may be genetic. In some birds it can be so extreme as to cause a serious disability leading to a limited lifespan. Or it may be simply a minor nuisance. So far, Squill doesn't seem to be limited by her curly toes.
Yesterday we realized that it would be a good idea to trim Squill's nail on the curly toes, just like you would trim the dewclaws on a dog to prevent the claws from growing into the flesh. One of my trusted teen helpers has years of experience trimming animal toenails, from dogs and cats to rats and guinea pigs. In fact, it's impressive to watch her wrestle a pet and pin it between her legs, quickly trim its nails and release before trauma sets in. We've never had a problem. Until yesterday.
So that's it. If you ever trim animal nails, have a small jar of styptic powder in your cabinet. We bought one of our own today and returned the original to the neighbor. It cost only a few dollars, but it is quite valuable when you need it.