Rural Lifestyle

Life in Rural America

Category: Homesteading

Farming Gardening and Homesteading

Spring is the Season to Plant Fruit Trees

Peach tree

Spring is the season to plant fruit trees. Every spring I look over the fruit trees, try to determine what new trees the farm needs and go from there.

  • So far the spring of 2015:
  • 5 peach trees
  • 1 pear tree
  • 2 blueberry bushes

This makes a total of:

8 peach trees. Three of the older trees are rather small and not doing well. I might have to replant next spring if they do not make it. In all I am rather disappointed in how my peach trees are doing. Some of them have been in the ground for several years and do not seem to be growing.

Mr Man The Rooster Has Passed Away

Mr Man, our Buff Orpington rooster

Kristy and I knew it was just a matter of time, but we held out hope. We hoped that somehow Mr Man, Kristys Buff Orpington rooster would recover from his stroke. We held out hope that one day he would be back on his feet protecting his girls.

That day will never come.

It started the morning of Sunday, July 27th. Kristy and I walked out to the chicken yard to check on the flock. We found Mr. Man laying on his side unable to walk. We thought that he was suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. He was brought inside to cool off. By Monday morning he had not improved.

He was not eating or drinking on his own. So Kristy and I started giving him pedialyte, gerber baby food and water with a syringe, but with no needle.

After a few days of force feeding Mr Man seemed to regain some of his strength. He was kept in the bathtub so his poop was easy to clean up. By the end of the first week he started growing, however so weak he was.

Farm Update October 19 2014

Tractor with auger working on chicken goat yard

Things are moving along nicely, but there is always some kind of setback.

When my wife and I moved to the farm I seriously underestimated the time and effort needed to get things up and running. When we moved here in August of 2013 my main goal was to get the small chicken yard built, get the septic system put down, get the water working, then get ready for winter. Winter of 2013 – 2014 here in southeast Texas was rather harsh, by our standards anyway.

Spring 2014 started out with around 18 – 20 new chicks. Things were looking up, then then it went to hell. My wife and I moved to the farm with 13 hens. We lost all of the new chicks to various predators. When the new chickens were moved to the new chicken yard, a couple of Rhode Island Reds kept jumping the fence. My dogs ended up killing those two Rhode Island Reds.

The good news, things are on the upswing.

Chicken House / Chicken Yard

Remember the videos and articles about building a new chicken house and chicken yard? We are almost finished with the yard. I have a 10 foot gate temporary attached to close the chicken yard entrance with a section of cattle panel and some 2x4s. A section of field fence still needs a top strand of barbless wire ran.

All Of The New Chickens Are Gone

Chicken flock November 23 2014

I need to explain the title in a little more detail. When my wife and I moved to the farm in July – August 2013 we brought with us 13 hens. These hens were a year and a half old.

Between February – March 2014 my wife and I bought around 20 chicks. These chicks were only a day or two old and were bought from local farm supply stores here in Jasper Texas.

We are back to 13 hens and one rooster. Some of the original chickens disappeared, and the new ones took their place. But we are back to the original number we started with.

Between a chicken hawk, fox or coyote, and my dogs killing the chickens, the ratio of new chickens that have died sits at 100 percent.

My wife and I loaned a rhode island red rooster to my cousin, he is doing good. My wifes buff orpington rooster had a stroke. Those are the two extra chickens we have left out of the new we bought.

Update on the New Chicken House

Outside of chicken house

Awhile back I started building a new chicken yard. Now that the yard is pretty much complete (for now), the time has come to build the new chicken house.

The size I decided on was 16 feet by 16 feet. 16 X 16 = 256 square feet. I figured 256 square feet was enough to accommodate roost, laying boxes, storage cabinet, water barrels and batteries for the solar power.

The laying boxes will take up 6 feet on one wall, and the roost takes up around 12 feet on another wall. The laying boxes in the new chicken house will be modeled after the laying boxes of the old chicken house.

An 8 foot wide leanto will be built off one wall. Which is where the solar panels will be installed.

Inside the house is a steel storage cabinet 36 inches wide and 18 inches deep. This is for tools, nails, screws, paint, chicken feeders, waterers, just your usual stuff.

Buying Chicks in the Summer

Chicks inside chicken coop

For the most part buying chicks is a springtime activity. The local farm supply stores start getting their chicks in around early to mid February. Then there are the Easter colored chicks. Please do not buy colored chicks for Easter. You do not know what breeds you are getting, what sex, and the “new” quickly wears off.

You may think that after the feed stores stop selling chicks in the spring that there are no more on the market. That is simply not true. Some hatcheries sell chicks all year long. Where do you find these hatcheries? On the internet.

My wife and I had never bought chicks over the internet. We had always gone down to the local feed store, bought whatever chicks they had in stock, then went home. After buying our first set of chicks over the internet, I doubt we will ever buy from a feed store again. The process was easy and straight forward.

Some of the popular hatcheries:

  • Cackle hatchery
  • Ideal Poultry
  • Murray McMurray
  • Privett Hatchery

Tractor Auger for Chicken Yard Corner Post

Auger drilling holes for corner post

While working on the new chicken yard I figured I would go the glorious route and do as much as possible by hand. However, that mind set changed when I realized how much effort I was putting out and how little work was getting done

In our age of machinery we lose appreciation for hard work. I wanted to be able to say yes, I have set fence post by hand. This included everything from digging the corner post hole with diggers, to notching out the H-brace by hand with hammer and chisel.

After setting 5 post I said “screw this, it is taking too long”, and called my uncle who has a tractor auger. I still have around 15 corner post to set. Doing everything by hand is taking too long and I have a lot to do before winter sets in.

Since I am using telephone poles for corner post, a regular 6 inch auger was going to be too small. It just so happened my uncle as a 12 inch auger bit.

The Season of Plenty Beans Figs and Potatoes

Snap beans for a shtf survival garden

The season of plenty is upon us. On Saturday June 14, 2014 the grandkids, my wife and I dug 4 1/2 bushels of potatoes, beans are doing good, fig trees have figs on them.

Here in southeast Texas we had an unusually cold and wet winter. We got snow 4 times this year. One of the storms blanketed the farm with 3 inches of snow.

Around 1964 there was a storm that dumped 2 feet of snow in southeast Texas. My dad remembered having to get the chickens out of the snow and put them in the chicken house for the night. Nobody I talked to remembers a winter like what we experienced here in Southeast Texas in 2013 – 2014.

Because of the cold wet weather I postponed planting potatoes for a couple of weeks. Instead of planting in mid-February we planted in early March. This meant the potatoes would be ready to dig later. Instead of mid-late May, the potatoes were ready in early-mid June.

Tips on Storing Home Grown Potatoes

Half bushel of fresh potatoes

How do you store potatoes? So far this year the potato harvest has gone well. I have probably gotten close to 3 bushels, and that has not even made a big dent in the garden.

If you had a shed or a barn, you could put down a layer of hay, layer of potatoes, layer of hay, layer of potatoes,,,, until all the potatoes are covered with hay.

Space the potatoes so that they are not stacked on top of each other. The spacing allows airflow and will help prevent potato rot.

The layers of hay add a cushion between the potatoes and will help prevent rot.

  • Keep the potatoes out of direct sunlight. It is ok to put them in the sun for a little while. But do not leave potatoes in direct sunlight all day. Sunlight releases a toxin in the potato, which will turn the potato green.
  • Be careful when harvesting potatoes as to not bruise them.
  • Do not wash the potatoes, just wipe the heavy dirt off.

Besides a shed or barn potatoes can also be stored in a bushel basket.

Tips on Digging Backyard Garden Potatoes

Grandkids digging potatoes

Nothing brings mankind closer to the earth than digging potatoes. There is a certain joy in working the soil, planting seeds, watching the plants grow, taking care of the plants, then harvesting the fruits of your labor. This is especially true with potatoes.

Digging potatoes like opening a present, you do not know what it is until you open the box. The same is true with potatoes. You do not know what is in the ground until you start digging.

There are other options besides digging potatoes by hand.

Middle buster or plow

If you have a tractor, hook up the middle buster or plow, whatever you have, then slowly run the blade through the middle of the row. The potatoes will roll up to the top of the ground. Once the potatoes have been rolled to the top of the ground, simply walk along and pick them up.

Using a middle buster or plow to harvest potatoes is quick and easy. When you are dealing with a lot of land, quick and easy is good.

Potato fork

Planning a New Chicken Yard

Chicken House on legs

Before my wife and I moved to the farm, with the help of friends and family we got a 75 feet long by 35 feet wide new chicken yard. With 2,625 square feet 100 chickens could fit in the yard and each chicken would have 26 square feet. It is recommended that each chicken have at least 10 square feet in the yard. That is double the minimum needed square feet, but there is little to no room for fig trees, blueberry trees,,,, or anything else.

It is time to build a new chicken yard.

The old yard is 75 feet X 25 feet.

The new yard will be 200 feet long, 100 feet wide on the back end and around 175 feet wide on the end where the chicken house is going to be.

The original chicken house is 6 feet wide X 8 feet long.

The new chicken house is going to be 18 feet wide and 20 feet long.

Planting Fig Trees in the Chicken Yard

Update on the Chicken Flock

Buff Orpington chick about 6 weeks old

When my wife and I moved to the farm in august 2013, we arrived with 13 hens. The hens were a little over a year and a half old. Those 13 hens were laying around 9 – 10 eggs a day.

With that 9 – 10 eggs a day I tried to estimate how many chickens and eggs my family would need during a long term SHTF situation. In a previous article we got an estimated number of around 75 chickens or so to satisfy our egg and chicken meat production needs.

In the past 3 months something happened that has thrown a serious kink into my chicken flock plans.

Out of the original 13 hens, only 8 remain.

Out of the 24 chicks my wife and I bought in February 2014, only about 12 remain.

In other words, we have lost about 1/2 of our flock in the past few months.

A Fox Appears

Lost a Rhode Island Red Hen

Rhode Island Red

Monday April 21 one of my best Rhode Island Red hens got out of the chicken yard and the puppies tried playing with her. Lets just say things did not turn out too well.

A couple of weeks ago the puppies tried playing with the same hen. A lot of the feathers on her neck were pulled out. Besides a couple of small bite marks she was otherwise ok. It looked like she was going to make a full recovery. Then Monday came along.

After my wife and I got home from work I opened the chicken yard for the chickens to free range until dark. The puppies were roaming free while the chickens were in their yard.

Maybe around 6:30 or so I opened the chicken house and that is when I saw her. She was in the nest with a broody Australorp. I knew right then something was wrong. She was missing feathers around her vent and she acted scared.

I picked her up out of the box and that was when reality set in. She was more than just scared, she was missing chunks of flesh under one of her wings and around her vent. I am going to guess she jumped over the fence of the chicken yard. The puppies saw her and and tried to play. Chickens just are not as durable as puppies.

One of my Silver Laced Wyandottes Died

Silver Laced Wyandotte

The day start out as any other. I woke up, threw some clothes on and went out to the chicken house to let the chickens out. This has been my daily routine for 2 years.

Today was different. When I opened the door, one of my Silver Laced Wyandottes was laying on the floor dead. I opened the door to let the chickens out, then grabbed the Silver Laced Wyandotte to get it out of the chicken house. The body was cold and rigor mortis had set in.

A couple of days ago something killed one of my Black Jersey Giants. That is two of my full grown hens who were 2 years old have either died or been killed. That sucks. It really sucks. These hens were in their prime years, spring is here, egg production is picking back up and bam out of nowhere this Silver Laced Wyandotte dies out of nowhere.

On Friday, April 4th my wife and I picked up a Satsuma tree along with 5 bags of cow manure and compost mix. We already have two Satsuma trees in the ground and growing, but we wanted a third tree.

Instead of burying the chicken, or throwing it out in the woods for some wild critter to eat, I planted the Satsuma tree on top of the Silver Laced Wyandotte.

Hopefully the circle of life will continue.

Predators Killing My Chickens

Chickens in the chicken yard

Something is killing my chickens. In the past 2 weeks my wife and I have lost 3 chickens. Overall we have lost something like 5 or 6 chickens.

  • 1 Speckled Sussex about a year and a half old
  • 1 Rhode Island Red about a year and a half old
  • 1 Barred rock pullet about 6 – 7 weeks old
  • 1 Australorp pullet about 6 – 7 weeks old
  • 1 Black Jersey Giant about a year and a half old

The Speckled Sussex and Rhode Island Red just disappeared. One day they were there and the next day they were gone. No pile of feathers, no blood, no nothing, just gone.

The Black Jersey Giant was a different story. I found it inside the chicken yard half eaten.

The Barred Rock pullet, all I found was some feathers.

The Australorp pullet, something had killed and gutted it.

Chicken Hawks

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