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, April 20, 2012

Rosie's Eggs

This is Rosie, a Red Star (hybrid sex link), who is now approaching two years old. Rosie is the boss of our flock and a very heavy producer of beautiful brown eggs. We're noticing that as she gets older, her eggs are changing.

Rosie was hatched May 17, 2010, and began laying eggs on September 22, 2010. Since then she has given us 530 eggs, which averages to 28 eggs per month for eighteen months. In the photo above, Rosie's egg is the lovely caramel brown color. In my egg journal, her eggs were first described as large and brown. After her first year, the description changed to jumbo brown.

Sometime over the winter, Rosie's eggs began to change. They first developed hard lumps on the ends. Initially, I thought it was a calcium deficiency, but I learned that it's really an excess of calcium. Later, little sandy bits (also calcium) appear randomly on the shell. The color has faded and the strength of her shells has diminished significantly. I'm sure she's getting enough calcium, but I wonder if her body is absorbing it properly. The good news is that she seems otherwise quite healthy and unconcerned. She's down to about 25 eggs per month now, which is quite remarkable for her age.

In a commercial facility, Rosie would have been dog food months ago. I won't be able to keep unproductive chickens indefinitely, but for now Rosie's future is secure. We think she's amazing!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Moving the Greenhouse

On Saturday we moved the greenhouse to a sunnier location. The aluminum frame greenhouse with polycarbonate panels isn't very heavy, so carrying it intact wasn't as difficult as anticipated. After removing the plastic shelving units and all the plants and seedlings, we unscrewed the greenhouse from its 4x4 wooden base and attached it to 2x4s for carrying up the hill. Next we carried up the wooden base itself and set it on the lawn.

Preparing the new site was most time consuming and labor intensive. We leveled a site with concrete blocks. In the photo above, you can see the kids in the background bringing up the blocks from the old site.

Once the bricks were in place, we transferred the gravel flooring from the old site to the new, using a wheelbarrow and old fashioned elbow grease.

Finally, we placed the 4x4 wood foundation on the bricks and reattached the greenhouse. I was surprised how quickly this project transpired---just a morning's work, less time than assembling the greenhouse when we first built it.

The new location is significantly more sunny than before, and will help extend the growing season in spring and fall. Also, it's closer to the house and more convenient for retrieving fresh herbs when I'm making dinner. We're happy with this improvement to our urban farm.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Milky Anti-freeze

Record setting warm weather in March produced a very early blossom period for fruit trees and bushes here at Red Bucket Farm. We knew it was too good to be true. This week's sub-freezing temperatures have Wisconsin fruit growers in a panic.

I inquired on the yahoogroups organic fruit tree growers list whether there were any practical, organic measures I could take to protect my backyard orchard trees from overnight freeze. There was plenty of expert advice from the folks on that list. I learned that cellular integrity starts with calcium. Getting minerals and carbohydrates into the cells will lower the freezing point inside the cells and provide some frost protection.

Last night and tonight I sprayed my fruit trees and bushes with a mixture of water, milk (for calcium and phosphates), molasses (for carbohydrates) and fish emulsion (for minerals and oils).

Early this morning our thermometer indicated 31 degrees, and the water in the chicken coop was not frozen. We may have avoided serious damage last night as the breezes kept the air moving. After a windy and cold day today, the wind has calmed down tonight and the forecast is for slightly colder temps than last night. We are worried that tonight will be more difficult for the blossoms and tiny fruit.

Sometimes it's strangely stressful to be an urban farmer. My livelihood certainly does not depend on my fruit crop; I was simply looking forward to my homegrown fruits. Whether the fruit survives or not, it's gratifying to live a little closer to the elements, to be aware of every degree of temperature and the changing breezes.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fruit Blossoms

The unusually warm spring weather in March has brought early April blossoms to Wisconsin. All eight blueberry bushes at Red Bucket Farm have fruit blossoms as seen above. It's taken a few seasons to establish these bushes, and we're pretty happy to see them blooming enthusiastically.

Our three-year old peach tree is full of pink blooms and the bees are busy pollinating them. This year we'll remember to thin the fruits for increased harvest. The younger peach tree and apricot trees have finished blooming.

We have three varieties of sour pie cherry trees--Meteor, North Star, Montmorency. They tend to bloom and ripen at slightly different times.

All eight currant bushes are blooming, seen above. The bushes are heavily loaded this year and we're hoping for an overflow crop. We're looking forward to a large batch of currant jam.

Finally, the ubiquitous dandelions have begun to bloom. Most folks see them as weeds, but to me they are bee food.

Enjoy the spring blossoms!