Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tinker Time at the Farm

 Zhen is learning how things work by taking them apart.  We have stashed away all sorts of old electronics for a time when his interest and capabilities met at the right place.  Zhen has a natural interest in computers, hard drives and motors.  He is fascinated at the moment by factories so when offered the chance to start taking equipment apart he jumped at the chance.  

He has gone through several factory ideas.  A Toy Factory, A Chocolate Factory (where he tells me he will make chocolate and sell it to my Toy Factory to make toys with chocolate), and after this days's events.....a Robot Factory where people can download their brains into the body of a robot.  He might be on to something there.

He was tasked with the challenge of taking out as many screws, cords and connection points as possible.  His commitment to the task was impressive.  And his excitement about what he might discover about how things work was even more impressive.

Zhen was very happy to have removed one of the motherboards and here is showing off the underside of the motherboard where he discovered soldering.  

His quest became to remove the hard drive, which he did and was even more excited when he learned he could open the hard drive and see what was inside making the computer think.

[ Quick real life moment: As I type this, he has come to sit next to me and wants to know why he keeps seeing his name in the typing.  I haven't answered yet and his most recent attempt at getting an answer was "Excuse me Mom, I don't mean to disturb you, but...." And so I am stopping to read to him and end this post ]

Over and out from Tinker School 1.0


Progress Continues on the Fort

It's hard to keep up with the progress reports but now that the roof is up and metal layer is ready to go, I figured this is as good a time as any to post some new pics.


This image below gives a good view of the roof line.  I've been searching for the right term and it might be referred to as a hip roof.  But I could also be completely wrong.
Whatever it's called, it will be the home of a pulley and hook of some things can be hoisted up to the top level of the fort.

The proud builder.  Trooping it in 96 degree weather to build this!!

Let's hope for cooler weather for the builder this weekend.

~ Mom

Thursday, June 24, 2010

THE Fort

I thought of a lot of clever titles for this post but really the only one that does the thing justice is THE Fort.  Devon has kicked it into high gear and the weather has been absolutely no help.  Even on Father's Day he spent the day picking up additional supplies and working away on this thing.  What a Dad!!!  By the time it's complete it will be like a giant trophy in the yard, I keep teasing him.

Enjoy some pics from Father's Day...

The plan is for a 2 Story fort with closed lower level and open crow's nest style deck on the upper level.

The trusses are being supported by a custom dead man.  Once the trusses are all in place and the center beam is attached, he plans to knock out the dead men.

Ahhh...the 4 Wheeler.  An invaluable tool.

Personally, I am super excited to play in this fort.  We plan to make the right side have a shutter window with counter for Zhen to open up shop.  As we get better and better at growing our produce and of course keep our hens producing he should have a good little shop.  He's very excited about the new business prospect and we're starting our search for some scales, old cash register, farm baskets, signs...etc...  

Stay tuned for more......

~ Mom

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Egg Bound Chicken

Monday night was a true test of my farm girl skills.

I went out to the chicken run at about 8:00pm as dusk was settling in.  I noted that the birds had come into the coop as usual to roost...but there was one missing.  I looked around and found Sweetie Pie standing still like a statue in the back corner of the run with her beak slightly open.  She had her tail tucked down and just gave off a feeling of something being very wrong.  I was nervous for her and coaxed her down on her butt.  She obliged with virtually no response.  Like I wasn't really there.  Her eyes were looking somewhere else off into the distance, or into nothing at all.

I left her for 20 minutes, thinking maybe I had just caught her as she was about to lay and it was a timing I had not experienced before.

When I came back down it was quite a bit darker and she was still down nested in a pile of straw.  But nothing on her expression had changed and I knew for sure now that something was wrong.  I immediately suspected she was egg bound.  I picked her up gently and placed her in the coop so I could keep her safe inside while i went to get a bath set up for her.  The timing, of course, was absolutely horrible.  It was the mosquito hour and dark as could be now.

I had some fresh blackberries I picked earlier that day and some fresh cherry tomatoes...her favorite.  And I placed them on a paper plate, crushed them all up and sprinkled with oyster shells.  I thought that maybe if I could get a strong dose of calcium into her system that it would help her pass the egg.  But it was useless, she was so out of it that she didn't even look at the food I placed in front of her.

Now, time was I went up to the house again and I changed into long pants and shirt and filled a big bucket full of hot soapy water.  I poured it into a large tupperware and mixed cold water from the hose to create a warm soaking tub.  I figured the warm water would help relax her muscles and maybe even lubricate her vent enough to allow the egg to pass.  Being egg bound can be fatal and combine that with such a hot humid day I was really nervous for her.  I was able to coax her into a sitting position into the water and held her firmly there for about 20 minutes...or until the mosquitos had no more places left to bite me or her.  She seemed a bit more alert in the water but still oddly calm.  I noticed at about 15 minutes that she passed some sort of mucous into the water.  I then gently picked her up again and took her down to the coop.  I placed her on top of a pile of fresh straw in a nest box and left.  I half expected to find her the next morning face down in the coop, having fallen from the nest.  But there she was standing next to the door waiting to be let out in the morning.  She was alert and looking almost back to normal.  She took it easy that day and sat on a pile of straw a lot more than normal.  I checked the nest box and there was a malformed egg in there and I suspect it was hers.  Thankfully by end of day she had roosted again as normal and seemed to have made a full recovery.  I am so relieved.  And what a boost for my confidence as a farmer!  BRING ON THE GOATS!!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

How Green Is My Garden

Keeping up with the ever changing growth in the garden seems to be a challenging one for me.  But I have finally been able to sit still long enough to pull the photos from my camera.

This year one of the challenges we knew we would face when deciding to grow a lot of tomatoes in our raised bed gardens was support.  Traditional cage structure would not work because we ran the risk of puncturing the weed barrier at the bottom.  Neither would stakes for the same reason.  In order to get either in far enough to truly offer support from a strong storm or wind we would have to go too deep.

So we came  up with this clever (if I do say so myself) design of horizontal support structures.

4' tall 2x4s were used for vertical supports and farm fencing for horizontal support
The plants seemed to be spurred on by the addition of the second level and grew vigorously to pop through the top

Sneak Peak of Dad building roof of Z's fort

So far we are completely pleased with the supports.  We had a nasty storm whip through here that brought some strong winds.  The tomatoes did not budge.  Now we just need to get them happier with their soil conditions.  One step at a time with the garden.


And now for some more garden views....

Cucumber Vines and cucumbers...opted for a pickle cucumber


We were plagued with blight for a bit but Devon nipped it in the bud.  Now we are facing the dreaded end rot.  Ugh...we lost a lot of tomatoes to it last year.  It's a tough one to combat.  We've applied a smattering of crushed oyster shells that we feed our chickens for the calcium they contain.  But the balancing of water is tough in weather that will go for days on end dry and hot and then pour rain out of the blue.  In a raised bed you really feel the effects of slight changes.  And heat in the soil is a concern of mine too.  I know that tomatoes like the sun so we just have to find the right balance.  Gardening is tough.  It's a bit of chemistry, a bit of horticulture, a lot of sweat and a lot of luck!  :0)  But we love it...and eventually we'll get it right.  
I am trying my own home brewed fertilizer right now.  Here goes


Bumpass Bigme Juice

8-10 crushed farm fresh egg shells (washed)
1/4 cup of spent coffee grinds
2 rotten banana peels
tap water

In a large glass canning jar ( I like the kind with a handle as it's easier to handle and pour ) crush the egg shells.  Then drop the banana peels and coffee grinds onto the top and crush all together.  Fill the jar about 6/8 of the way full with water and cover the top with a piece of saran wrap and secure with a rubber band around the lip of the jar.  There is something about the plastic top and complete cut off of air  that have a catalytic effect on the mixture.

Allow the mixture to sit in a room temperature area, even getting scattered direct sun is good.  I've experimented with it after letting it stand for 2 days and now am "brewing" it for day 6 of a 7 day trail.  Tomorrow is show time with another test set of plants.  The first test was applied to 3 tomato plants in one box and 1 plant in a different box.  

Stay Tuned for Pictures of Fort Progress............


Zhen shows off his chickens

These are about a month old when the chickens came home.
This is Zhen showing his friend Julia how cool baby birds can be.
She was a little nervous at first so Zhen talked to her about them and then showed off some of his best chicken wrangling moves


In the end she decided she felt most comfortable when Zhen held the birds and she just pet them.  He happily obliged. 

~ Mom

Friday, June 18, 2010

Surprise in the Hen House

This morning I headed down for my usual routine of taking the babies from the hay loft into to the fenced in baby pen to run around.  First I go to the main coop and open the door for the hens (who by the way area already calling me all morning to get down there and let them out) and to my great surprise I see the the coop!!  My guess is that they maneuvered behind the lid closing the entrance to the coop and walked on in.  I am just not sure if they decided to do that last night or this morning.  I hope for their sake that they did it this morning.  Now I am letting them stay in the coop while the others have been sent to their pen to roam around and find bugs.

She was practicing roosting
Then she got interested in the camera.  Chickens are VERY curious.

Something new everyday with these birds!
Best thing is ... they are all getting along.  The older birds did not seem the least bit interested in establishing dominance so it must be a size issue.  They realize they are babies and therefore....they know their place.  I have noticed amongst the babies that the runt is the boss...ha ha...figures.

They look so teeny weeny in the yard.  I would let them run inside but they've figured out how to squeeze through the fencing so they are kept in the coop all day still.  They seem to want to really be set free but they'll be food in no time at this size.
Probably 2-3 weeks they'll be big enough to not be able to fit through the holes and then I'll just have to worry about flying.  I guess it will be wing clipping season soon.

~ Mom

Thursday, June 17, 2010

May 25th in the Garden

I realize how late I am in posting these pictures and believe me, I wish I had posted them so they would be in the right month listing....but se la they are.

So this is what the growth looked like in the garden on that day.

Raised Bed Gardens Row

             Summer Squash, Assorted Peppers & Spinach....yummmm                             

Radish, Peas & a Baby Summer Squash

Tomatoes                                           :0)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Final Countdown

So the eggs have been removed from the turner and placed flat for the final 3-4 days of incubation. I have no idea what to expect!

The temperature has been maintained at 95.5 and the moisture has been regular though I do not feel like the eggs absorbed much moisture so I am going to take the advice of a neighbor and seasoned chicken wrangler and start misting them with at water bottle a few times a day.

The first round of babies that came home a couple of weeks ago are healthy and prospering. They spent their first night in the top loft of the coop two days ago and it worked out well. I am hoping they put on weight a little faster because I will need them to be able to hold their own in the pecking order soon so they can be integrated with the older hens. Knowing how bad Cinderella got it from Sweetie & NoButt when she moved in, I'm trying to postpone as long as possible. I have a feeling Cinderella is looking forward to moving off the bottom rung and establishing a higher position in the pecking order. Thankfully there are 4 birds entering together... like a little gang of baby birds.

- Mom

Sunday, June 13, 2010

So Dad, After 1st Grade Comes College?

Zhen was under the impression that his friend would be going to College after her next year in 1st Grade... she just graduated Kindergarten. Zhen has been in a montessori environment with mixed age groups, but will be starting a traditional public Kindergarten experience in September. He is very excited to ride the bus and make some friends that live near him.

So tonight I explained to Zhen the process of going through the public school system from Kindergarten --> 12th Grade --> Graduation and College if he chooses. To which Zhen declared that he will be going to a school to learn about Trains after his graduation from 12th Grade.

After asking if he will be learning how to drive them, build them, fix them... he interrupted and said, "I don't know, but I will be learning everything there is to know about trains."

Okay... digitally documented for posterity sake....

~ Dad

Redemption Song

Axel F

Today's Quote

"Factories Make Things, They Don't Do Things." ~Zhenerbee

*Said in response to an idea that Dad had about building a new factory... something that we like to do around here a lot. Which clearly does not make us Factory Builders, simply for the doing's sake. Now back to building....

Building - Toys, Technology and You

Mr. Kurzweil routinely taps into early memories that explain his lifelong passion for inventing. “My parents gave me all these construction toys, and sometimes I would put things together, and they would do something cool,” he says. “I got the idea that you could change the world for the better with invention — that you could put things together in just the right way, and they would have transcendent effects. NY TIMES

Thursday, June 10, 2010

We Are Incubating!!

After our failed attempt to hatch eggs at Odyssey Montessori we were lucky enough to score some more eggs and have 12 eggs sitting in the incubator right now. Woo Woo
On the 15th we'll take them off their turner and let them sit still....fingers crossed and on the 18th we'll have a new batch of babies.
The barred rocks are doing great....getting big with lots of pretty feathers coming in. They are strong fliers already and still very leery of me so it makes the transfer from brooder box to their run around pen in the grass a comic sight to experience.

.....8 Days & Counting.........

~ Mom

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First Harvest

The first crop of spinach has been picked, blanched and packed for freezing.

Bumper crop of lettuce will be harvested tonight for dinner. And pulled the first radish today...looks perfect and yummy.

Finally we have also harvested the first round of sugar snap peas. YUMMY....

Grow Garden Grow.....

I can not wait for the tomatoes and cucumbers!!


Zhenerbee Farms Ledger