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!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Food Snobs

It's time for me to recognize that my girls are food snobs. Oh sure, they love the treats we give them---bread, pasta, rice, melon rinds, and those scrumptious smushed Japanese beetles that we pick off the raspberry plants. But just this week they've proven themselves to be as fussy and lazy as spoiled cats. 

When we first began raising chickens, our poultry consultant recommended that we feed them food from a reputable company such as Purina. He discouraged us from buying the bags of cheap feed at the farm store. Like dog and cat food, poultry feed comes in a few different formulas for different stages of life. There's chick feed, of course, followed by different blends for egg layers or for birds raised as meat production. Our first girls started out with Purina chick grower and then moved on to Purina Layena. 

After a while, I became aware of genetically modified crops, and I realized that Purina very likely uses corn that has been genetically modified. We switched to organic hen food, alternating between two brands. We tried Organic Pride (from Mounds) and the Willy Street Coop's own soy-free organic blend. In the end, we decided that Organic Pride had less waste at the bottom of the bin and the girls seemed to prefer it. 

Just in the last month, egg production has been down significantly. Two of my girls have given me an egg or two per week, which is pretty poor. I know they lay fewer eggs in extreme heat, but this month has been pleasant. We decided to change their food to see if that would make any difference. 

Early this week, we scooped the Purina feed into their food dishes and watched them run frantically from one dish to the other. All four hens eyed us wildly, certain there was some kind of horrible mistake. They returned to the hanging food hopper, the only dish with a bit of organic feed remaining. Then they sulked in a corner and refused to eat until their evening ration of Japanese beetles. 

So. That's the way it's going to be? We returned to organic feed and the girls dramatically swooped in to fill their little crops. I'll give the Purina to a neighboring chicken farmer. But the cleaver and soup pot await those who do not lay eggs. Nope, I'm not kidding. We're limited to four hens and they're not simply pets. I hope they're paying attention to my daily pep talks! 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Apiary Update

This is just a quick update on our beehives. In July, we had such an extended heat wave that one of our top bar hives experienced a damaging meltdown. You can read the details of that on my July 22 post. But there is good news---the damaged colony is rebuilding. This week I noticed a new hatch of bees taking their orientation flights in and out of the hive, staying within a few feet of the hive while they get their bearings. (I avoided picking tomatoes in front of that hive while they were doing that!)  They have about eight combs now and the colony is obviously queen-right. We're a little more hopeful that this hive will be able to survive the winter. Aren't they amazing little creatures?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Onion Harvest

A week ago my onion bed looked tired. The leaves had been flopping over for several days and it wasn't due to lack of water. The plants were finished and ready for harvest.

At the end of April, I planted a hundred purchased Copra Hybrid onion plants and forty onion "sets" of generic purple onions given to me by a fellow gardener. Onion sets are tiny little bulbs that were sown the previous year and then stored over winter for spring planting. Onion plants, which look like a bundle of thick grass, were seeded a few months earlier and then gathered for transplanting. Both methods are tried and true, although sets are sometimes more disease prone. I planted my onions in a 12'x3' raised bed in full sunshine where they have grown without much fuss.

Last week, after carefully lifting the onions out of the soil, I gently rubbed them clean and placed them on top of the soil to dry for a week. It's important to cure the onions until the outer skin becomes dried and crispy.

Since it's been a rainy week, I transferred the onions to wire tables in the greenhouse and kept the fan running to dry them. The Copra onions will store well in mesh bags, so we'll use the purple onions first.

This is the first time we've grown onions at Red Bucket Farm. So far, it's been pretty easy and we're looking forward to eating this crop!