Gardening Proverb:

"To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves." -- Mohandas K. Gandhi

Friday, October 31, 2014

Kraut for All - All for Kraut!

Call me Mary Jane! (that whole farm-girl thing...)

I made sauerkraut for the first time Thursday... we'll see how it turns out.   : )

I was at Spicer Bros Produce in Oregon City last week and was shocked to see the biggest cabbage ever! I eat cabbage all the time... fresh, sauted, steamed, roasted, there is always both green and red varieties in my frig!

Being a lover of kraut, but never attempting to make it myself, I took the challenge and bought the 15.26lb monstrosity.  I found a recipe on wikihow and started the endeavor.




I purchased a glass crock specifically for this task at World Market ($14.99), with rubber mouth seal and stainless top. The neck is smaller that the body of the crock, which is a bit of an issue but I made it work. I would recommend to buy (if you don't already have) a crock with no 'neck'.

It took me over an hour to slice-and-dice the beast, but we have kraut - should be done in time for Thanksgiving!! Will let you know how it turned out...

PEAS OUT!
~GP

Saturday, October 25, 2014

2015 Garden Calendar

They're here!!  They're here!!

The 2015 Garden Calendars have just been delivered and are now for sale at The Wade Creek House. Pick yours up today - they also make great holiday gifts! 
Only $15.00


Calendar sponsored in part by:

Please support these small local businesses 
that support our community!
(click on the name to link to website)



This year, $3.00 from every calendar sold will be donated to the SEED project, helping to fund continued education and outreach at the garden located at Estacada Jr High

SEED broke ground during the winter of 2010-2011 at the Estacada Junior High on a lovely pinwheel-shaped garden, using donated funds. The garden was first planted by students on Earth Day 2011.

SEED wrote a successful $2,000 grant to the Whole Foods Kids Foundation to expand and build a second garden at Estacada Junior High. This row crop garden capitalizes on the long-standing partnership between the Estacada Junior High students who volunteer weekly at the Estacada Area Food Bank. In Spring 2014, this garden was built and planted, and is being maintained and harvested by students providing fresh produce that the Food Bank otherwise would have to buy at great expense.



Join us in supporting our local school garden!

For more information about the SEED project, please visit seedestacada.org


Enjoying the Summer harvest & settling in to Fall

This summer seemed to go on forever! The long, hot & dry days made for amazing melon and squash harvests! Some of the sweetest Hermiston watermelons I've ever tasted... I ate about 6 of them.   YUM!!  I tried growing a few melons in my garden this year, but with the lack of rain (and normal irrigation from yours truly), it was a meager harvest. I did get a few which were tasty, but will definitely try again next year with a bit more TLC.  : )


Mini Honeydew, Tigger melon & Sugar Baby watermelon


The rest of my garden did great - tomatoes, corn, chard, garlic, beans even my Rose Finn potatoes, which I mostly neglected, were the biggest I'd ever grown! I'm saving these as seed potatoes for next year.
Tomatoes: Red Romanian heirloom, Pineapple, Indigo Rose,
Purple tomatillio, Walla Walla Sweet onion

I tried something new with potatoes this year - growing them in burlap bags. This is something I will try again next year and see if I can perfect. The idea is good.... I took a burlap coffee bag and folded it down, adding 3" straw to the bottom and 6" of compost then planting a few 'Purple Peruvian' fingerling potatoes. I added finished compost as they grew, until the bag was 1/2 full and left them to do their thing. To harvest, I just lifted the bag and everything fell out the bottom, which had rotted out - quite easy! The potatoes were small and scaly, mostly due to my neglect, but this is pretty slick and will keep trying!
Growing potatoes in burlap bags!

The one disappointment? Moles! This is the first year I have really had an issue with them. I extended my garden to the North this year and planted my carving/cooking pumpkins and tomatillios in the deep compost. The moles had a great time tunneling in the deep beds which in turn left the plants roots starving for water and nutrients. I did get a few small pumpkins, buttercup & patty pan squash.
Patty Pan & Buttercup squash; 'Knucklehead' pumpkin
Up against my greenhouse, I back-filled the 9" drop and planted ornamental gourds. This faces West which was perfect! I planted new (to me) varieties and was pleasantly surprised with the harvest! I am going to dry these little 'Spinning Gourds' - they will be excellent for my "natural ornaments" class at The Wade Creek House next winter!
Counter-clockwise from bottom left: Lil-Pump-Ke-Mon, Orange Cutie,
 Batwings, Spinning Gourds, Gobblin Eggs (center, black), 


PEAS OUT!
~GP

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner!!

April 12: 4 days old
Yes, I did raise another batch of (26) Cornish Cross meat birds again this Spring. I'm not going to break it down play-by-play... you can read my blog from last year (Chick to Traeger in 8 Weeks) to get all the details, but I will give a few pointers from what I learned this year.

I was a bit disappointed this year as the birds overall ate 25# more food, but weighed over a pound less per bird! I'm not exactly sure why that was but they still taste awesome and Traeger up nicely... YUMMM!!!!

I will tell you that I found it much easier to raise them last year (February-April), than this year (April-June). With the colder weather earlier in the year, it definitely keeps the smell down, and I think - even though I keep heat lamps on them - they eat more because its colder and they need that extra energy.

April 19: 11 days old
This year I went thru 475 lbs of feed, and 11 (eleven) 40# bags of bedding pellets.

Feed companies cut back quite a bit on issuing mfg coupons and didn't run any feed specials at the "Chick Workshops" this year, so I had to really watch for good deals. The best deal I found was when Wilco ran an in-store coupon for $4off/bag of Purina feed (limit 5 bags). I had to hold the feed a couple months longer than I would've liked, but $20 bucks is $20 bucks! The best "non-sale" feed prices I found were at Clackamas Feed & Pet Supply - plus they are a local family business and really awesome people!!
April 20: 12 days old

April 25: 14 days
This year, instead of giving antibiotics when they starting sneezing, I started diffusing Young Living Essential Oils. When they were a couple weeks old, a few started sneezing, then a few more... tho they were probably just clearing their sinuses of debris (mostly chicken-dust), I was not going to take any chances. I diffused Purification, Theives, and Ravantsara (not all at once) at least 1 hr a day. It seemed to help and after 1 week, there was hardly a sneeze to mention.

May 1: 19 days old
They enjoyed time outside and got more plump by the day. 2 days before slaughter, I heard this crazy noise coming from the greenhouse... I'll be damned if one of those birds didn't stroke out!!!  What a waste of good meat - he was a big bird, too! I Googled to see if I would be able to somehow save the meat. I was not able to locate that kind of info in a timely manner (not sure i was searching correctly), but what I did find was a bit of info stating that once the birds heart stops, it's hard to drain. Plus I was NOT prepared for that kind of event, nor will I ever be.. I leave it to the professionals - Scott & his team over at Harrington's Poultry Processing in Boring, OR.  Thanks again!!!
May 10: 31 days old

Anyway, I ended up with 18 birds in my freezer this year ranging from 3-6 pounds (the other 7 went to a friend). One nice thing I found with having smaller birds this year, is that the 3-4 lb birds fit nicely in my crockpot! Just add seasoning and go!  : )

May 14: 35 days old
I already have plans in the works for a new home for next year's birds... they will have a new dedicated 36sqft home off the greenhouse (I refuse to vacuum chicken-dust out of my greenhouse ever again!) with an easy-to-clean concrete pad (like the greenhouse floor), and easy access to the lawn (no more packing them in my Trug-Tub!). I will post updates when construction gets underway later this Fall.

Again if you're thinking about raising your own birds, do you research, read my blog (Chick to Traeger in 8 Weeks), and/or post a comment on my blog as I would be happy to answer any questions!

PEAS OUT!
~GP

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hen, where is my egg??

My hens started molting the first part of October (2013). The Ghost Hens didn't molt last year, so it was their time. I've not had 1st year hens molt before so when the BJG went into molt that was a shocker for me. The amount of feathers in the pen one morning had me panicked that a massacre had happened (again)... nope, just molting, mom!

Ameracauna:  "Puff" (hen) and "Osprey" (roo)
I was getting 30-35 eggs a week late August/early September. The first week of October, I was down to 19 eggs a week, and still on the decline... by the first week of November, "Puff" (my Ameracauna hen) was the only trooper, laying 5-6 eggs a week for me! By the end of December, egg production was coming back around.

I integrated their layer feed 1:1 with an 18% "feather fixer" feed and added a 3rd fount with vitamins and electrolytes to help them thru this rough time. 200lbs of mixed feed lasted the entire molt (Oct-Jan). I've not been thru a mass molt like this before, so I'm not really sure if the food and/or water did any good, but I like to think it did. It kills me that molting takes place in the fall and winter months... don't they know it's friggin' cold out???

Icicles on Coop
(open run protected with plywood and greenhouse panels)
We had some wicked-cold weather the first week of December, with overnight temps in the low-teens and single digits for 5 straight nights. I normally don't put supplemental heat in my coop but with the poor hens molting, and the East wind kicking up, I thought it might be a good idea.

I've had my founts on heating elements as most nights were at or below freezing December & January - the
first part of February wasn't much better with a snow storm followed by freezing rain. I have a couple B9 submersible birdbath heaters that I put under my founts; they're on a timer most of the time but this winter they've been running nearly constantly. These are great little heaters - it keeps the

Not sure about the snow!
water from freezing, even during the single-digit nights!

Anyway, the hens have been troopers and have finally come out of molt - on Feb 19th I had my first "5 Egg" day of the season! (would have been 6, but a Cooper Hawk got one of my BJG late January).

PEAS OUT!
~GP

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Crop Rotation - Chicken Style!

So in the midst of all the Cornish-Cross meat-bird craziness last Spring, I acquired 6 new chicks.
I wasn't planning on getting new chicks until 2014, but I went to a chick workshop, and they were SOOO cute, and I just couldn't help myself...

Mar 9, 2013: baby chicks - 4 days old

I got 3 Ameracauna and 3 Black Jersey Giant pullet chicks... AWWWW!!!!!
Jersey Giants are the largest chicken breed - I got Black JG, but there is also a white breed. They take 2 years to fully develop and are layers of XL brown eggs. Fully grown, hens can weight up to 11lbs!
The Ameracauna chicks are a standard breed and are "easter egg" layers - eggs will be shades of cream, blue, and green.

Mar 16, 2013:  chicks are 11 days old
The Ameracauna chicks are different colors - one brown, one red, and one white.
They started their new life in one of my blue tubs, and eventually got upgraded to a 3'x3' box with high sides - turns out they're jumpers!!

Mar 24, 2013: 19 days old - starting to feather out
See how the red one is spralled out? This behavior doesn't change much... it's pretty funny in fact! I call this one my "Sun Goddess". Wherever there is sun or warmth, this one is flat out soaking it up!


Mar 30 - first day outside
The same day I had the Cornish-Cross birds out, these guys also got their first taste of the outdoors. (As you can see, the red one found a cozy spot!) These were very excited and started pecking and eating grass right away!


And again, my WR hen - one of the "Ghost Hens" - is curious, and not one bit excited about MORE critters taking up space in HER yard!!


April 6, 2013 - 1 month old

At 4 weeks, the Ameracauna chicks are really starting to show their colors! The white one is knows as a "splash", with the black and white color. And you can tell the Jersey Giants (BJG) are going to be big birds!

April 21, 2013: 6-1/2 weeks old

Most chicks are fully feathered at 6 weeks and can slowly be acclimated to outdoor living if they were raised indoors (like these - they are sharing floor space in the greenhouse; the Cornish Cross are in the next pen over!)

May 9, 2013:  9 weeks old
(May 9) Black Jersey Giants enjoying the great outdoors
June 1, 2013: new chickens have free fun of the yard


Unfortunately, the "splash" Ameracauna started crowing (I knew he was to pretty to be a girl!!), so he was transplanted to another flock who had just lost their rooster. I had named him "Osprey" since he looked like a raptor when he would fly, but that name did not suit his new digs... he is now known as "Ozzie".  : )

There is another Roo in the pack - the red one (I call him "Red Roo") has not yet started crowing but is definately NOT a hen. So I only have 1 hen out of the 3 Ameracauna chicks....How's that for bad luck! Fortunately the seller is going to replace them with new chicks Spring 2014, so we'll start again and see what we get.


Osprey & Red Roo (Ameracauna)

The Jersey Giants were the first to start laying (mid-July) and by mid-August all hens were on board - sometimes 6 eggs a day! The (2) Ghost Hens lay light brown to pinkish eggs, the (3) BJG lay light-to-med brown eggs, and the (1) Ameracauna lays cream-to-blue-to green eggs (depends on her mood I think).



The new flock was slowly integrated with my Ghost Hens and they do get along well. Osprey is gone, but Red Roo is still here. He is the bottom of the pecking order - I believe that is why he is slow to mature. He hasn't started crowing, but at first Cock-a-Doodle, he's outta here!

PEAS OUT!
~GP

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Chick to Traeger in 8 Weeks **WEEK 8** (The final days!)

April 18-22 (week 8)

This is the final week for the chickens - they have a slaughter date on the 22nd, just 2 days short of 8 weeks.
I ended up with 12 pullets and 16 cockerels.

On the 20th we took our last field trip outside for a few hours; I had to use the garden cart to haul them as they were now too big to fit in the blue tub! It was a lovely day and was enjoyed by all.
4/21: getting ready to go to "freezer camp"
I took their food away at 5pm (4/21) but they still had water. Best to do this 18-24 hrs prior to slaughter, this allows most of the food to pass thru the birds and reducing the risk of contamination at slaughter.

A primitive yet effective way to get a ballpark weight on some of my birds!
So now I was really curious as to how heavy some of these birds were! They had eaten nearly 450lbs of food - averaging 17.5lbs per bird!!  I have a small kitchen scale but couldn't keep the birds in the basket to weigh them, so I rigged this system with an old fish scale, a nylon strap and one of my small garden tubs. I weighed 6 birds, most of them coming in around 5-6 lbs - not bad!!

The butcher was right... I am taking 26 birds to him!!  : )

Sunday evening (4/21), I went over and picked up some poultry crates from Harrington Poultry Processing.
First thing Monday morning (4/22), I loaded the chickens in the crates, strapped them down in the truck, and dropped them off at Harrington Poultry Processing at 8am.

'Ol Betsy loaded with chickens! Off to Freezer Camp!

At 1pm I got a call - the birds were ready for pick up! When I got there, they had 5 boxes of chickens - dressed, bagged, chilled and ready for the freezer. Scott (butcher) couldn't believe this was the first time I'd raised birds and whatever I was doing, it was right! "Some of these are as big as turkeys!" he exclaimed.

5 boxes of bird!

When I got them home, I weighed them - yes, I did VERY well!  : )
5+ lbs: 8 birds
6+ lbs: 14 birds
7+ lbs: 4 birds (1 of these maxed out my scale at 7.5lbs, I think it was at least 8lbs!)

the 6 biggest birds - one in front is over 7.5lbs!

26 birds = 161.45 dressed weight
+ 5.41lbs of gibblets (heart, liver, gizzard)

We roasted 2 on the Traeger that night, rubbed with olive oil and fresh sage and rosemary, fresh ground pepper and sea salt... AMAZING!!!

It is definitely easier and much cheaper to go buy chicken at the store, but you don't know how it was raised and the horror stories you hear really make you think twice about visiting the meat department...
These birds were humanely raised with love and care, and as you can see I was rewarded for it! They have great texture and flavour and it only took 8 weeks!

Can't wait to do it again next Spring!
Count: 26 in the freezer... and all is well.

PEAS OUT!
~GP


PS...
Here is the cost breakdown in case you're thinking about raising your own birds for meat.
(Keep in mind that this was done in late winter/early spring in Estacada, Oregon - if you have the room (and are doing this later in the year when the weather is nicer), raising your birds outside where they can forage will cut down on your feed costs. And I couponed like hell for the feed! It's a good idea to hit as many of the "chick workshops" as you can - the hosting feed store will usually be running specials on feed and supplies so you can stock up!
I attended "chick workshops" at Coastal (Gresham & Oregon City), Wilco (Oregon City & Canby), and Burns Feed Store (Gresham). If a feed rep (like Purina or Nutrena) is on site, they will also usually have mfg coupons to use in conjunction with a sale. Bonus!!

As you may recall, my neighbor split the cost with me for 6 of the birds - her cost was $12 per bird.
My actual cost was much higher as I had expenses for feeders, founts, etc as noted in purple - I will be able to reuse these items in the future. My cost ended up being $18.33 per bird for my 20 birds (not including time & labor). I think it's worth every penny!!!



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Chick to Traeger in 8 Weeks **WEEK 7**

April 10 - 16 (week 7)

I added a second 2gal fount to the pen; at this point they're eating 50lbs every 3 days, so that warrants additional water, too! I cannot stress the importance of FRESH WATER EVERY DAY.



With me working full-time and the weather not being cooperative, it hasn't been conducive to outdoor activities so the chickens have not been out in a couple weeks... too bad, I think they like being out on the grass! I keep the pen clean as they spend all their time on their bellies - they waddle to-and-fro, but I do make them stand to eat and drink, cause it's the only exercise they really get!

Contrary to what I've read, I also have not had any "pecking" with these birds. The radio has been on 24hrs/day from the start and I think it really does calm them and make them happy.  I have had no cannibalism of any sort and am glad to not have to deal with that!


Look at them - they are HUGE now!! From what I've researched, dressed birds (slaughtered) will weigh in at about 4 lbs. I think mine are about there!



Next week they will be in my freezer!

Week 7 complete and all is well.
Count: 26 birds

PEAS OUT!
~GP

Monday, January 6, 2014

Chick to Traeger in 8 Weeks **WEEK 6**

April 3 - 9 (week 6)

On the 3rd, we finished the 50# bag of 20% Flock Raiser and started the 50# bag of 18% Chick Feed - 4 days later we finished the 18% and started back on 20%.. they are eating like pigs!!! It's a crazy amount of food. I will tell you again, you have to experience it to believe it!

4/5: final pen size - 8'x4'   (32sf)

The pen was again expanded to 8'x4' on the 5th - this will be the final size of the pen. The research I found states you need aprox 1-1.5sf per bird. That's pretty accurate as they don't move around very much. The pen size is now 32sf which is plenty of room for the final weeks of growth.

The heat lamps are turned off during the day as the greenhouse warms up, and turned on at night to maintain a 65deg temperature.

Another nice thing about housing them in the greenhouse is it has a concrete floor... easy to clean! A straight edge shovel and my garden cart make quick work of cleaning up the pen, plus this is AWESOME compost for my garden!!

Even though they do not have free access outside, the pen is next to a 5'x6' south-facing window that lets in lots of light for them to enjoy.

4/6: getting fat and sassy!
I have now been picking up 1 or 2 birds every day to feel how much weight they've put on... they don't have much for feathers (bred that way), so the weight is all in the meat! Getting the Traeger warmed up!!!!

Week 6 complete, and all is well
Count: 26 birds

PEAS OUT!
~GP

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Chick to Traeger in 8 Weeks **WEEK 5**

March 27 - April 2 (week 5)

March 28th was a big day!
It was the first time the chickens had been outside and the outdoors and green grass! They didn't seem that impressed with it all, but enjoyed being out on this beautiful Spring day, nibbling on the grass and waddeling around.



I fenced off an 6'x6' section and put water out for them - they wouldn't be out long enuf to need their feeders.
This was also a surprise event for me... how the hell was I going to get 26 chickens out of my greenhouse and onto the back lawn? AH-HA! I have a 15gal trug tub!! I packed 4 chickens in that tub - that would be 6 trips to get them out and 6 trips to get them back to the greenhouse... WHEW!! That was a workout! I never had the need to pick them up, but oof-da! they are HEAVY for only 5 weeks! At least a couple pounds each...



My other hens weren't sure what to make of this racket!

WR hen curious about what's going on in HER yard!

Our 2nd field trip out was on March 31st - which happened to be Easter. Once again I had to get out my blue tub and make 6 trips out and 6 trips back! It's worth it - I really enjoyed raising these birds so if makes them happy, I'm happy! Luckily we had a couple days of good weather that allowed the chickens some "turf time".

3/31: Realxing on a pleasant Easter day!

Hard to believe this journey is already half over... I called the butcher and made an appointment for April 22 (that is 2 days shy of 8 full weeks).  He was surprised that I still had all 26 of my birds. He said that usually you loose birds within the first 10 days and that if I still had all my birds now that I would most likely be bringing him 26 birds... We'll see!

Week 5 complete and all is well.
Count: 26 birds

PEAS OUT!
~GP

Chick to Traeger in 8 Weeks - continued...

Well, we're half way thru the process and I have dropped the ball getting my information out to you! I will be posting the remaining 4 weeks the next few day to get you caught up... after all, chick season is just around the corner and I'm doing it all again!


PEAS OUT!
~GP

Friday, January 3, 2014

Chick to Traeger in 8 Weeks **WEEK 4**

March 20 - 26 (week 4)

Boy are they growing fast!! Though the pen was enlarged to 4'x4' only a few days ago, it seems they outgrow their space so quickly! They appear to nearly double in size every week. I had no idea - and honestly wasn't expecting - the growth rate was this rapid! They are all feathered out now and you can tell which are pullets and which are cockerels - looks like I have pretty close to a 50/50 mix.


3/24: feeders are up off the ground to chickens have to stand to eat

3/24: aerial view of the pen
each chicken will eat 17.5lbs of food over the 8-week growing period

We started a 50# bag of 18% chick feed on 3/22 and finished it on 3/28.
A 2nd 30lb galvanized feeder was added to accommodate all the hungry mouths. I take up their food each night (so they can't gorge themselves), and when I come in the morning to feed, it's like a stampede! 26 chicken squawking and jockeying for a position at the feeder, it's hysterical!

As the chickens got bigger, I placed blocks under the lengths of unistrut to raise the height of the feeders; the fount is not hanging - I am using planter hooks to keep the fount stationary - the chickens are a bit rambunctious and tend to knock the fount off its base and soak the bedding!

I bought some crickets to see how they would like them - figured a little extra protein (and exercise) couldn't hurt.... they wanted NOTHING to do with those crickets! Those that I couldn't re-catch hung out in the coop or managed to escape by climbing up the wood walls, seeking shelter and safety in nooks and cranys of my greenhouse. Hey, at least the spiders had good eatin'!


Week 4 complete, and all is well.
Count: 26 birds

PEAS OUT!
~GP

My list of Yarden Events that you need to check out!

February: Yard, Garden & Patio Show (Convention Center, Portland)

March: Plant Nerd Night (check out Mike Darcy's calendar for date/location)

April: Gardenpalooza (Fir Point Farms, Aurora); Annual Chicken Chat & Coop Tour (The Wade Creek House, Estacada)

May: Spring Garden Fair (Clackamas County Fairgrounds, Canby); Annual Garden Event @ The Wade Creek House (Estacada)

July: Cracked Pots @ Edgefield (Troutdale)

August: OAN Farwest Show (Convention Center, Portland)

September: Gathering of Gardeners (Village Green, Cottage Grove, OR)

October: Apple Tasting @ Portland Nursery (50th/Stark, Portland)