We Won! A Locking Door Kit from Chicken Guardian

Chicken Guardian personally delivered our prize and set down to visit with us on camera.

We won this newly designed locking door from Chicken Guardian. The Chicken Guard locking door kit makes your coop very secure. The folks from Chicken Guardian were driving thru our area and stopped by for a short visit.  We sat down with them and discussed the new door and other new products that they are now carrying.  We will be installing the new door when it cools down a bit here in East Texas.  Stay tuned for that.  In the meantime, you can join our conversation

 

Why I built a Holz Hausen Wood Pile (A circular wood pile)

We have always stacked our wood on landscape timbers and cement blocks without any issues.  But living in the city we bought a half a cord at a time at the most.  That amount of wood would last a couple of winters, since we only used it for ambiance and not warmth.

Log-Splitter Required

We had some mulch delivered that came with “some logs” and we have had to fell a couple of trees and suddenly we had a couple of cords of wood.  I decided to buy a log-splitter to take care of it all.

Squirrels Attack

Our new fireplace is huge to look at, but actually has a very small firebox.  So the old style wood stack wasn’t working for us.  The squirrels were making the wood fall and we were afraid of the whole thing coming down.

Internet Search Begins

I started looking on the internet for some ideas and came across the Holz Hausen method that is used across Europe.  It looks so neat and tidy and quite frankly, just looks freaking awesome.  I thought I would give it try.

The advantages that I read are:

  • The logs are slanted inward, so the water runs off and keeps the wood drier.
  • It cures faster due to the chimney effect
  • Can use different lengths of wood to build
  • Will stay neat looking as you use the wood
  • It is strong and won’t fall down (I have verified that so far)
  • You can build it tall

    A Holz Hausen Wood Pile, the European style of stacking wood.

Please watch the video for more details.

 

5 Reasons Why We Had Our Shed Built

Chemical Storage

One of our first planned expenses was a shed or storeroom for chemicals.  We don’t believe it is safe to keep paint, fertilizer, etc in the same area that we build things.  Also, we run a business out of our home that uses chemicals, so we have more than the average person.  Building a chemical storage building was our first priority once we got moved in.

Research|Research|Research

I did extensive internet research on the type of building I needed.  Some of our chemicals cause metal to rust so anything that had metal was out.  This included plastic premade sheds since they are fitted together with metal.  We decided that a good old fashion wood building was our best bet.  I first priced out the local big box and building it ourselves.  I looked at prefab online.  I also saw an ad for a local company that would build on site.  The build on site was just a couple of hundred bucks more than my son and I “DYI”ing it.

The “Build On Site” Won

these are the reason why we are really happy with the results:

1.  Quick turnaround.

2.  Price.  As I watched them build, I realized I had not actually calculated the whole price to build it myself.  I forgot many of the small items that would have added up.

3.  Freed our time to work on other projects.  As we watched, we figured it would have taken us a good two weekends as we probably would have tried to “reinvented the wheel” on too many things.

4.  Well built by experienced workmen.

5.  Level.  This may seem minor, but we ended up building on a slope.  Their experience here ended up being VERY important.

Truth in Advertising

I called to order, expecting that perhaps the ad was going to be deceptive and there would be a lot of add ons or a horribly long wait time.  Neither proved to be true.  I ordered and it was built within a week.

New Shed

New Shed at The Chicken Poop

Side View of Shed

Side View of Shed

Shed matches the barn

Shed matches the barn

Five Hours in 28 Seconds

We did a time lapse video of the shed being built.  It took two men five hours from the time they drove on the property to when they left.    Everything was done on site.  We were very impressed.

Hope you enjoy the video.

The Chicken Run

The Chicken Coop

We had a very unusual sale of our old house.  The chickens had to stay!  We hated to leave them behind, they really were more pets than anything, but in the end, it was for the best.  We did not have a coop at the new place, so this kept them safe and gave us time to build a new coop in due time.  We decided that we upsized our property from a zero lot line to 20 acres, we needed to up-sized our home for the “new girls”.

Exercise is Important

At our old house, the girls had free range of our backyard during the day.  We had a hill that they loved to climb, so even though it was small, they got lots of exercise.  I built a small run so they had shelter in bad weather and they had a coop made from an old playhouse.  You can see the old coop here.  Our four girls were safe in suburbia.

Free Range?

Now out here in the country (we are nine miles from town) we have a few more predators to worry about.  We have also decided to have a few more girls than before, probably around a dozen or so.  We want them to be as free range as possible but still be safe.  So we compromised on a 700 square foot run.  We will probably let them out of the run to play when we are out and about, just not all the time.

Predator Safe

We built the run out 1/2″ hardware cloth all around, top and down the sides buried two feet out.  This prevents any animals from being able to dig their way into the run.  The cloth is 4 feet wide, so we worked with 16 foot long boards.  We used cedar posts that had been cut and left on the property from the previous owner.

As you can see from the photos.  The roof was our hardest element in the build.  The run is on a slope.  We just put us a board with a stop for the roll on top and a stop on the bottom to keep it lined up away we went.  It goes really smooth with two people.  We also found that using a scaffold is helpful.

Chicken Run with Cedar posts and roof frame

Hardware cloth buried

Closeup of stops for roof setup for Chicken Run Build

Our Roofing Setup to build Chicken Run

Adding roof to Chicken Run

 

Automatic Door

Chicken Guard Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener

We cut a hole in the metal barn. This was the hardest thing I had to do.  It wasn’t hard to do physically, it was just hard to cut a hole in a good building.  But I knew this was the best solution for run/coop setup.  We covered the hole with wood, so the girls will not be cut.  We decided to go with an automatic door since the barn is a fair distance from the house and we wanted to make sure the girls could get in and out when they wanted.  This door is programmable by either time or light sensor.  We have it set by sensor.  We will write a review of this product once we have the girls set up and we see how it works out.

 

Chicken Feeder

We left our old feeder with the girls at our old house (condition of our sale was to leave our chickens and coop behind).  Since we plan on more than 4 chickens, we also wanted to up- size the size of the feeder.  We went with the Grandpa feeder that holds 40 pounds of feed and is supposed to be rat proof.  Again, we will review this product as soon as we have some experience with it.

Chicken Waterer

We are also trying out a new system of water for the girls, so stayed tuned for more info on that.  We also like to have a place for them to play in the water.  We just had a tub of water at our old house, but have upgraded to a kiddie pool.  We will let you know if they like it or not.

Perches

We have a variety of perches for the girls, including an area, where the dominate girl can reign over everyone else.  Can’t wait to meet her!

Please watch our YouTube video to see a tour of the door, feeder, watering system and the perches.  Thank you and see you soon!

Precision Pet Wood Treadle Chicken Feeder Review

Precision Pet Wood Treadle Chicken Feeder Review

About 5 months ago I purchased the Precision Pet Wood Treadle Chicken Feeder because of a rodent problem. I was seeing small rats getting into my hanging feeder. I also saw droppings all around the feeder. I was very concerned about diseases in and around the girls.

Precision Chicken Feeder Review

Stop Feeding the Rats

I read that treadle feeders should eliminate or reduce problems from rodents. At the time I only had 3 chickens and I didn’t want to spend a lot on a feeder. I was using a Precision Pet Cape Cod Coop without any issues. The Coop seemed to be built reasonably well; therefore I felt that another one of their products should also be reasonably well built.

Read the Instructions: All the Instructions

The first thing I noticed when I received the feeder was that the instructions were simple to understand pictures. Unfortunately in my exuberance to get it built, I missed the slant board that feeds the food to the front of the feeder. Taking apart one side to install it not a problem. Reinstalling it became challenging because it does help to have extra hands to hold parts in place. This is where the problems started to show up.

chicken-treadle-feeder-page-description-03

There are small tabs that fit into holes on their opposite piece that if not seated properly will pull the star nuts out of the boards so that it can’t be tightened. Also don’t use a cordless screwdriver because even with good control it is very easy to over-tighten and remove the star nuts (reinserting does not fix it).

Nutty Solutions

The next issue I encountered was the flange nuts used on the moving parts of the feeder work themselves off. I have had to reinstall them at least once a week. The easiest solution would be to change out the flange nuts to nylon lock nuts because you need to be able to adjust the tightness to make the parts move correctly.

Clever Rats, Better Solutions

As I said earlier, I purchased this feeder because of rodents. The first day I had completely closed the feed lid, a rat chewed his way into the feed. The rat jumped out when I checked it that night. There is a small gap behind the treadle cover that with very little chewing, the rat was able to crawl in. I solved this by screwing a piece of plywood into this area of the gap.

bar added to keep rodents out

Help Wanted: Fatter Chickens

As I said, the star nuts are easy to pull out. Thankfully I had plenty of drywall screws to hold it together. If you have the drywall screws, I would add them at the initial build. I recently found out that the cover door was not opening with my lightest girl. The feed had caused the provided screws and nuts to partially dislodge causing the cover to stick.

Chicken Training

Before I purchased this feeder, I read about how to train the girls to use this type of feeder. Many people commented that their type of treadle feeder (multiple manufacturers) had holes to prop up the cover so that the girls would learn where the food was. Many said theirs came with at least two holes so that they could begin partially closing the cover to teach them to step on the treadle platform to open the cover.

chickens having some dinner

6 Week Learning Curve

There are no feeder training instructions nor are there any holes in the side to insert a screw to hold up the cover in this model. I had to drill my own. From what I read, most people were able to completely close the cover in two weeks. It only took my girls six weeks (I think my girls maybe very special), so don’t give up hope, they will figure it out.

Specs

clip_image001

Cost between $55 and $75

Final Impression

This is one of the items that I believe is very beneficial to have if you have any kind of wild bird and/or rodent problem. However, the old saying “you get what you pay for” holds very true to this product.

Fab or Flub?

Flub. In my opinion, if you have any carpentry skills this would be a good time to break out the table saw and build your own. I am already seeing some plywood delamination on my feeder. If time or skills are not your forte, I would invest the money and look into metal feeders.

A 30 Year Project Is Finished!

A 30 Year Project Is Finished!

The Evolution of our Front Yard

Have you ever started a project with the intention of just completing it and getting on with life? That is what I planned to do during the spring of 2015. I live in North Texas and we had an extremely wet spring. When I bought my zero lot line house 30 years ago it was in a new development. I picked the lot that was the highest in the neighborhood as a safeguard against flooding.

Front Yard is Finished

Fast Forward 15 years

Everything was fine for about 15 years. I was talking to my then neighbor and he mentioned that water levels were getting close to the back door. I also noticed the water was taking longer to drain out of my backyard. I decided to install 4 surface drains at the low areas with a pipe to the street to move the water out faster. This took care of both of our concerns. Flooded Backyard

I don’t seem to have any photos of the flooded front yard.  But the backyard drains into the front.  I know this is a horrible photo, but it was a horrible night…..

Fast forward 13 years and I was finding that between the dogs and the chickens the drain pipes were getting clogged with dirt and not functioning well. I decided to install a French drain with gravel and landscape fabric (next to old drain) to improve the drainage. FYI, this is not inexpensive both in energy expended as well as money (we live with clay soil).

The Pile in the Driveway

I ordered 4 tons of river rock gravel which was too much, but a blessing in disguise. I think I overestimated the actual size and volume of the trough. Once the drain was in and covered with the rock (but not dirt at this point), my wife and I saw how beautiful the rock actually was as a path. By utilizing the excess gravel as a path we could create a low, low maintenance yard. Rock Pile

This photo does not do this pile justice…my back will tell you that the pile was much bigger.  I moved the rock in 5 gallon buckets in a two wheel dolly barrel.  Many buckets! 

Coming out of a severe drought, this sounded like the responsible way to go. I should point out that for 30 years I have tried many different yard styles (mostly different types of grass with NO luck) because this area is heavily shaded with oak trees. So this really solved many different issues for us.

Winter before Reno

You can see from the “before” photo that there were no elevations and not much interest in the yard.  Just lirope and the cannas during the summer. 

Two years ago I tried to cover the yard with lirope just to give the yard some life and even that failed. I got a few patches to grow, but nothing attractive. The only thing that grew well was the cannas. Time to start thinking outside the ’neighborhood’ box, everyone had some type grass yard and I wanted something different.

Digging the Trench

The very first thing we did was call 811 before we started to dig and waited for them come out and mark all of our lines. 

Lines marked by utilities

Utility Marking…different colors are for different types of lines. 

With the digging of the trench, there was a lot of dirt in piles that started to take of a life of their own. Instead of piles of dirt they created different elevations to plant on. The clumps of lirope stayed in their oasis as did the cannas.Trench with rock layer

After I dug the trench, I put down landscape cloth and a layer of the river rock.

pipe and drains added

Then I laid in the covered pipe and tied in drains where I knew the water really pooled. 

Zips Ties were used and drain covers added

I used zip ties to attach the pipes to the drains and put the covers on the keep the rocks out of the pipes. 

Covered the pipe with landscape cloth and rock

I covered the pipe with landscape cloth and covered it with the river rock.

A number of years ago we bought field stone to outline some of the paths and borders we tried to create. We had a lot that no longer defined anything and some were buried.  It became a treasure hunt to find the rocks.  We then started to move the stones around and redefined the yard.

With the drain installed I decided that the excess gravel would be used to create the path over the drain pipe thereby eliminating the need to add dirt back over the pipe and help increase the water flow into the drain.

This last weekend we had 7 inches of rain in three days and I must say that there was very little water pooling and that was only when we had an inch drop in 15 minutes. I think this can be attributed to the fact that I used flexible corrugated pipe with slits in it instead of rigid pipe with ½” holes.

The Cost Rundown

What did this cost? The biggest expense was the drain system which includes the gravel-around $300. The plants and mulch another $75. So for under $400 we now have very nice place to sit outside and enjoy our little slice of heaven.

The view from my chair

From Playhouse to Chicken Coop

From Playhouse to Chicken Coop

From Playhouse to Chicken Coop

Around three years ago we decided we wanted to raise chickens. If you have read any of my previous articles you will see what a relatively quick coop and run I put together. We bought the coop online and it was cute. I built the run and truth be told: it was ugly. I just didn’t want to spend a lot of time and money on something that may not be a long term desire.

After losing three of the original five girls to possums (they are just plain mean suckers) our enjoyment hasn’t waned; it has just grown. We recently decided that instead of fixing the defects in design it was time to just start over.

Run=Ugly

My wife finally shared with me that she thought the run was really ugly and that she wanted something a heck of a lot more attractive than what she had to look at. Plus, I think she could see I was getting very antsy not doing anything after a very busy spring redesigning the front yard (another story sometime).

I was going to build from scratch and create my own unique design (and probably spend way too much money). I had the basic essentials (waterer, feeder, etc) so all I had to do was build around these things and I would have a new coop.

Ugly Runthe after photo of the new coop

The wall next to the house:  Before and After

As you can see, the tarps and buckets were taking over the small space.  But even my wife will admit, the run did keep the girls happy during wet or bad weather.

Pinterest for Ideas

I spent a good deal of time and scoured through various articles in Backyard Chickens and Pinterest trying to come up the perfect idea for our backyard. I guess I should mention that my wife loves to watch the girls out of her office window. Of course, the girls also love to tell her when it is time for a snack whenever the backdoor is open.

the girls at the back door

A Friend Helps

I have always believed the good Lord will provide when the time is right. About a month ago I told my best friend my plans to build a new coop. He told me that his adult daughter had a playhouse that she was ready to get rid of because her daughter had a new play/gym house. He sent me a picture and I immediately saw possibilities. It was definitely smaller than I envisioned but I thought I could make it work. I picked it up and brought it home.

the playhouse brand new

The Build Begins

The first thing I did was temporarily put it together (without the roof) so that my wife and I could figure out what to do with it. It is important to understand that the dimensions were approximately 43”x 43” x 62” tall. It was way too small and I wasn’t going to fit in it to be able to do the chores needed. One of the biggest problems with the old run was it was too short to get into and stand up. I was tired of doing the crab walk!

The Floor for the Chicken Coop

I am a collector of building materials. I had been given a 4’x8’ pallet l with OSB board on it. At the time I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. When I got the playhouse, it fit on the pallet with room to spare. We tore down the old run, moved their coop and I started the project.

Pallet Floor with vinyl and hardware cloth

I first leveled the ground for the pallet. I took ½” hardware cloth and wrapped the pallet below grade to minimize digging from unwanted critters under the pallet. I had some reinforced vinyl that covered the pallet to make it weather resistant and prevent splinters into the girls’ feet. I left playhouse put together off to the side so that the girls would get use to going into it and on it.

After the pallet was ready I moved the playhouse onto the pallet. Time for the real work to begin. The first idea was to raise the roof about two feet so that I could stand up in it. We decided to use transparent corrugated roofing panels for the wall extension. We used panel closures on each end to minimize any drafts.

The Roof of the Chicken Coop

Next I stripped the “shingles” off the roof, rebuilt it with plywood and tar paper to make sure it was dry inside. I reinstalled the “shingles” and the roof was ready. I used 2×4’s as the support legs. I used bar clamps to set the roof.

I put the clamps at the desired height, my son and I lifted the roof over the supports and set them on the clamps which made adjustments very easy. The actual opening was 21.5 inches to account for overlap of the panels on top and bottom.

Plywood added to the roof for strenght and warmth

roof remodeled

We closed all the openings and added some decorations.

Chicken Nesting Boxes

The first item was to replace two of the four small windows and build two nesting boxes for them. Because of the small size of the original coop there wasn’t any room for a nesting box on the inside. The girls would either lay under the old coop or hide the eggs. As soon as I built the box they took to it, even with all the noise from construction.Nesting Box Open  Hinge on nesting box

A hinge makes it easy to collect the eggs from outside the coop.

Bike innertube to keep out water

A silicone bead along the hinge and along where the box is attached help keep the water out.  But the innertube on the hinge should really make the difference.  Our first rain is this week and we will know for sure.

nesting boxes seen from inside the coop

Here is a view of the nesting box from inside the coop.  We have wooden eggs as recommended.  The girls took to the new boxes without any problems.

Chicken Poop Hammocks

The girls were still not sleeping in the new coop because I didn’t have a perch for them. I wanted to make an easy to clean system. I knew I would be using sand on the floor but I still didn’t want to get on my hands and knees so I added small poop hammocks behind each roost bar. Occasionally they sleep the opposite direction but for the most part they have performed as expected. They and the roost bars are removable for easy cleaning.

Poop Hammock Explained

The Chicken Coop Doors

I needed to build doors before I let the girls sleep in their new digs. The playhouse came with two openings for the kids. One was just a 43”x 17”opening and the other was a43”x17” opening with a little door and window in it. The opening became my door, so that I could installed a full length door albeit only 17” wide.

On the girls door I took the play door out turned it upside down and made the window the new chicken entrance. To close the door I used single shelf tracks and cut them to size. Much cheaper than using “C” channel. I had an old rigid chair mat that I cut up for the door so that it slides up and down. I am in the process of building an automatic door opener out of a car antenna (still have a few bugs to work out).

Chicken Door from inside coop

Chickens Door from the Run

Human Door

You can see the transparent corrugated roofing panels that enclosed the Coop extension here.  This makes it bright for the chickens while they are in their coop during inclement weather.

extension panels

Here is a good view of the transparent corrugated roofing panels before the chicken run is attached.

The Chicken Coop Windows

There were three more windows that I kept intact. I put ½”hardware cloth over them and then attached two tracks to each one so that I could install clear Plexiglas when the weather turns colder and wetter. I am leaving them open now while the weather is nice.

window with removable plexiglass

The Run

I purchased 48” wide hardware cloth so that I could build the chicken run without any overlaps. The run is 4’x8’ which is small for 4-6 chickens but girls are only in there when the weather is bad. I covered the chicken run with polycarbonate roofing panels to keep them out of the rain and hail. I used plywood for the back as a wind and rain screen. I built a two and half ft. wide door so that this winter I can put a hay bale inside to help keep them out of the mud.

perches and dusting box

We added a bench from the old playhouse front porch for a perch along with a branch.  We also have a dusting box with sand and ash.  They use that every day.

Water and Feed

I attached the waterer from the old run to the back wall and kept the bucket outside. I decided to keep the feeder in the run because of room as well as keep rodents away from the girls at night.

chicken waterer with chicken nipples

Another thing that I built was a feed catcher. My girls are very sloppy and throw food out of the feeder. This was adding to the rodent problem. Now I can recycle the feed back into the feeder.  I already see savings!

feed catcher

Weather Protection

With the reinforced vinyl, my wife came up with the idea to make a removable wind/rain screen on the screened sides. We hang them on the outside of the chicken run during inclement weather. They tie off at the bottom with bungee cords and eye hooks.

Ready for Rain

rain tarps are stored in the chicken runDuring good weather we roll the weather protection screens up and store them inside the run out of the way.

How Much Did This Puppy Cost????

And for the final question you might have…how much did it cost?  Well, remember that I got a $600 playhouse for free.  I also mentioned that I am a collector of building materials, so all the wood you see in the photo above, free.  I did sell the old coop on craigslist for $125.00 so that offset a lot of the cost.  I paid for the hardware cloth, the roof panels you see above in the run and the transparent corrugated roofing panels.  Also had to buy the panel closures for those panels on the coop.  I bought some odd and end pieces of hardware like the brackets you see above.  I did reuse hinges and door latches from the old run.  I had to buy the shelf tracks for the doors and windows, but I had the Plexiglass and I had the plywood for the coop roof.  Lets see, what else…oh, the door lifting system that doesn’t work yet.  That is a whole other article.  As soon as it is up and working, I will let you know all the details.  But at this point, I think I am out about $75 bucks.

Best of all, my wife is very happy with it.

Doug’s Smoked Turkey Recipe

Doug’s Smoked Turkey Recipe

  Delicious recipe for Turkey Brining a Smoked Turkey

I have been asked for my recipe for what my family deems the best turkey they have ever eaten. After 33 years of preparing the turkey for Thanksgiving I think we have a winner. For many years I cooked the turkey without brining it; then about five years ago a friend of mine and I were talking about trying this additional step and I must say it brings the turkey to a whole new level.

Turkey Brine Recipe

2 gallons of water

3 cups of canning salt

3 Tbl minced garlic

½ c roasted vegetable stock

2 Tbl ground black pepper

½ cups Worcestershire sauce

2/3 cups brown sugar

2/3 cups apple cider

Combine ingredients in stock pot, stir and then heat up until salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.

Preparing the Turkey

I don’t buy expensive turkeys. In fact if the grocery store is giving away a turkey if we spend x amount on food, so much the better. We try to get two 15 pound turkeys so that there will be plenty of leftovers for everyone to take home. I start the thawing the turkeys in the fridge, 3 to 4 days before Thanksgiving to make sure it is completely thawed.

The morning before Thanksgiving I will remove the turkeys from the packaging. I remove the giblets and put them aside for gravy. I cut off the tail and toss it (my wife does not like it). I thoroughly rinse off the birds and then place them in 2 gallon food safe bags, place them in an ice chest and then fill them up with the brine solution. I always completely cover each bird. Seal the bags and cover with ice. (if you don’t have a good ice chest, make sure you have ice the entire time) You are now done until Thanksgiving morning.

Our family has dinner around 1:00 pm so the following ritual is what I do to eat around that time.

I get up at 5am and start the smoker. I want the temperature to be between 230 degrees and 240 degrees. I put 3 or 4 cups of wood chunks in a bowl of water to soak, to increase the smoke effect. If you have read any of my previous posts I use a propane smoker because it simplifies my life. I add hot water to water pan.

I will remove the turkeys from the brine and thoroughly rinse them off to remove excess salt and then pat them dry. Place the turkey breast side up. I take a ¼ pound of butter and put half of it inside the bird. I then take my hand and slide it between the skin and meat and then insert chunks of butter into the skin cavity. I liberally season the birds inside and out with seasoned salt and lemon pepper. Tie the legs together so that they won’t over cook. I have an instant read thermometer that I insert into the thickest part of the leg (don’t let it touch the bone).

By this time the smoker should be at temperature and I will put the birds as close to the middle of the smoker as possible. I drain the water from the soaking wood chunks and add them to the wood pan. The next step is very important. I set my alarm for 3 hours so that I can check the temperature and water level. I then I go back to bed. Remember nobody likes a grumpy cook.

If everything is going as planned I will need to add hot water. One thing to be aware of is depending on how fatty the bird is the water pan will fill up with grease. You don’t want to let the pan run out of water. Depending on my mood I will add a little more wood. Not really necessary but it can’t hurt. Avoid opening the smoker as much as possible because of heat loss.

Keep an eye on the temperature and the birds should be ready around 12:30. Flexibility is important. Smoking is not an exact science, it is an art.

I will pull the birds when they reach 160 degrees and cover them with foil, and then let them rest for 30 minutes before I carve. The birds will continue to cook and will reach the cooked temperature of 165 degrees.

The turkey will be one of the moistest bird you will ever eat. Some of your guest may comment that the turkey isn’t done because it is still pink. It is pink with a smoke ring. The temperature will tell you that it is done. The pink will tell you that you are fixin to go to taste heaven.

Bon Appetit

Giblet Gravy Recipe

3 or 4 cups of water

1 cup of diced celery

1 cup of diced onions

2 or 3 Tbl flour

Salt and pepper to taste

All of the giblets including the necks

Place in a sauce pan and cook on medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and everything except the necks (remove the necks and strip the meat off if so desired, discard the bone) and broth into the food processor. I will add about a cup of liquid to processor and chop it up to desired consistency. Return it back to the sauce pan and stir in 2 Tbl of flour and heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thank you to Karen at the Graphic Fairy for our vintage image.

Hugelkultur

Hugelkultur

Hugelkultur Garden

After another year of drought, I started to investigate gardening styles that use less water.  I live in North Texas and our summers can be brutal even without a drought. We have been in a twice per week water ration for a couple of years now and so I thought it time to investigate gardening alternatives.

I came across an old gardening technique called ‘hugelkultur’, that has the benefit of drastically reducing the water to maintain it. The exact origins are sketchy but from I can find, this was a old German farming technique.  It would provide both a way to dispose of larger pieces of wood and branches as well as building up the nutrients in the soil.

Simply put, it is taking old decaying wood and burying it under soil, then planting on top. I can see a couple of ways that hugelkultur would come about. Using old, dead rotting trees that would be very difficult to move is one way it could have happened.  The other way may have been after clearing a wooded area, piling up the unusable wood and branches without burning them up. What they would be doing in essence is composting this organic material to create a long term nutrient feeding source for their crops.

One of the interesting concepts about this gardening technique is that you can create natural micro-environment areas within the garden with these mounds.  Depending how they are orientated, you can have plants that need less sun on the north face and full sun on the south face. Plants that are more delicate than others may be able to utilize the mounds a wind breaks.

There are a couple of different ways to construct a hugelkultur. One of the more common methods which utilize existing soil is to dig out a trench 1 to 2 feet deep, fill the trench with rotting wood, branches and logs. The basic idea is to lay down the largest wood on the bottom, next medium size logs or branches and then twigs. What you just created is airy environment for the roots of your garden. On top of this, add some grass (this can be clippings or sod that is overturned on the pile) or straw, add some leaves, then add a layer of compost and top it off with the dirt from the trench. Remember you have built a mound that is close to 3 times the area you dug out. Be sure to water each layer as you go to help maintain the moisture throughout the pile. It is not uncommon to make a hugelkultur bed 6 feet tall with the trash wood taking up most of the space. The wood pile maybe 4 to 5 feet tall. So with some of the pile buried you can reduce the overall height without reducing any of the benefits.

Instead of just planting just on top, you plant all over the mound.  This increases your garden area without using up extra land. The first year you will have to water as usual. As the wood decomposes it will act like a sponge and adsorb the water as it trickles down. With each progressive year the wood decomposes more and more and will be able to water the roots. Experiments have been done to show how the plant roots will attach themselves to logs and be able to have constant supply of water.

Another way to build the mound is right on top of ground using the same building technique.  I have built my in my raised bed garden box because I have an extremely small space and this helps corral it.

The more seasoned the wood, the better.  As the wood decomposes the organisms need nitrogen to build cell structure. Wood is considered a carbon source which organisms use for energy. So by using seasoned wood some of the nitrogen needs have been met.

What I have just described is the “textbook” hugelkultur recipe. As I have said before I have a very small yard and chickens so I needed to design a bed that uses a very small footprint and I could protect from the chickens. This year have two raised beds 7′ x3’x2′ feet. I half filled up the beds with rotten wood. Then I layered leaves, grass, alpaca manure, compost and dirt from an old garden I had. I will be using compost that I have been producing as mulch once all the vegetables are established. One of the reasons I started with leaves was so that I could fill in a lot of the holes around the wood. Any holes or low spots I will fill in with compost. I built these two beds in December so that it would have time to start composting and settling before my first plantings in February

Last time I tried this method I had limited success on one of the beds. The reason I redid this is because I only had about 3 or 4 inches of soil material for the plants to grow in. When I pulled the tomato plants at the end of the fall, I noticed that the roots were not as large volume wise as my plants that had 1.5 feet of soil.  I broke the bed down and rebuilt it with less wood and more soil and amendments. I am very excited to see if this program is going to work as well as everything I have read says it will.

The best way to garden is to put on a wide brimmed straw hat and some old clothes.

And with a hoe in one hand and a cold drink in the other, tell somebody else where to dig.

Improve your Chicken Watering System

Improve your Chicken Watering System

This last weekend I was reading the many forums about chickens and gardening because it was just too cold to play outside.  I like the temperatures to be at least in the 60’s before I go out and tackle my many elective tasks before Spring gets here (silly me).  I noticed a reoccurring theme.

How do chicken owners keep up with providing fresh, clean water for their girls?

As I said in one of my earlier posts, I do a lot of research before embarking on a new project. I read about a very simple system using something called chicken nipples. It involves a gravity fed watering system.  I did not want to go to the expense of building a float valve. I would be concerned if the system failed and flooded out the backyard.

Chicken Watering System

My system simply involves a clean 5 gallon bucket, some hose, a couple of quick connect fittings, PVC pipe and a couple of nipples.

Chicken Nipples on PVC Pipe

Quick Connects for Chicken Watering System

Quick Connect for Watering System on Coop

Inside the Chicken Watering Bucket

The bucket sits on top of the run to make it easier to change the water. I have included some pictures to show how I built this system and it has worked very well.

There is a simpler version that just uses a bucket with nipples on the bottom of it.  Since my coop is only 40″ tall and I don’t want to have to crawl into the run every time I need to change the water,my system works for me.

Little Maintenance

One of the many reasons I like this system, is that I work, and the girls are a hobby. I don’t have a lot of time to do maintenance chores during the week.  The problem with the gallon type of ground waterer is that the girls can make it filthy in very short period of time.

5 Days Supply of Water

I have been using the nipples since I built the run and I have never had to clean the drinking portion of this system.  When I change the water most of the time I will wash out the bucket with soapy water and rinse thoroughly. If I am in a time crunch I will spray the bucket out with household vinegar and rinse it out.  Using these two cleaning methods I have not had any mold grow on the bucket.  There have been a couple of occasions where the water hasn’t been changed for 5 days, without any problems.

I also add one tablespoon per gallon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar with ‘mother’ (ACV) to their drinking water for a couple of reasons.

  1. The vinegar tends to control or slow down the growth of mold in the water if it doesn’t get changed as frequently as I would like.
  2. The vinegar acidifies the girls digestive system which reduces some of the bacteria (salmonella for one) as well as aids in helping breakdown some of the minerals they ingest.
  3. I am from the old school that says if someone has been doing this for a long time and has continually seen positive results why argue with it.

Coop Queen Nipples

There are two styles of nipples, saddle which involves drilling a hole in a PVC pipe and snapping the nipple on to it.  The other is a screw on type which goes on the bottom of a bucket.  I try to keep my business with American companies.  I found “Coop Queen” on Amazon and have talked to them and found them to be very helpful when I had I little drip problem.  I got a 2nd set from them and they solved my drip problem completely.

Chicken Nipples

I have just a couple more thoughts on waterers.

  1. The reason I use quick connects is I can remove the bucket quickly and usually not get wet.
  2. Yes the nipples must be facing down. If they aren’t they will leak.
  3. It took my girls a couple of hours to figure out how to use the nipples, but once one of them uses it they all will use it.

Keep the Water Cool in Summer

Another feature I like about the bucket and PVC pipe system is that I can throw a couple of frozen water bottles (unopened) in the bucket during the summer to cool down the water.  Chickens need water for egg production as well as survival. During the hottest part of the summer I will provide a second one gallon waterer for them in another part of the yard to make sure they can easily stay hydrated.  I will throw a frozen water bottle into the gallon waterer to cool that water.  I keep a 2nd set of water bottles in the freezer and switch them out during the day as needed.