This year’s chickens

Two-week-old White Rock X meat chickens

The White Rocks have arrived. Yes, 40 more White Rock Cornish X males, here for the fattening and then away for the slaughter. We got two-week-olds for the same reason as last year: save time and care with so many things going on! Their new chickenhouse isn’t quite ready, so I set up temporary quarters in the barn, 2×10’s surrounding a 4×8 sheet of plywood. A brand new feeder and waterer, some fresh wood shavings, and they’re let loose to do what they do best: EAT! (But there are PLANS to get them properly outside this time, eating bugs and romping in the dirt…)

Another hand-watering method

Hand-watering onions

Another fine temporary measure this spring (and another of the many things the trusty Kubota compact tractor can do) is our new spot-watering method. Michelle waters in a last, experimentally late tray of onions with a slightly modified, inexpensive ($5) plastic watering can that holds about 2 gallons (8 l), and has big holes for fast, high-volume output. These cans we usually plunge into a rain barrel (or snow barrel) for filling, and to speed that up, I cut a squarish opening in the top (I always forget to cut the opening to the back, so water doesn’t escape from the top when pouring when full). The trick here is that the water comes from the Kubota’s bucket, maybe 30-40 gallons (110-150 l) of it, depending on how carefully the drive.  You fill up, then head over to exactly where you want, like a movable rain barrel! The whole thing is quick and  easy, good for watering in new seedings and transplants, until I hook up the field-long irrigation pipe. Quite the luxury, in a way, but the tractor’s already there, and we gotta keep things moving along! :)

Hauling water with the front-end loader

Starting the new chickenhouse

Building the new chicken coop

Forty two-week-old meat chickens arrive in two days: now sounds like a great time to begin building a new chickenhouse. It’s not like we’re starting from scratch. The plan is to reassemble and repurpose the once-and-formerly-future farm stand. With its fairly massive floor, 6×6 rough cut cedar posts, and galvanized roof, it should be a fairly solid and complete framework, just add some studs and plywood. Except, the stand was completely taken apart for the old-farm-new-farm move, with the exception of the base, which was only cut in two. So it’s kind of a puzzle. Michael gets to work! (Elsewhere today, another shopping trip to our farmers’ market…our attendance record is so far perfect…)

Skinning the hoophouse

Hoophouse: getting the plastic over

This is the spring of Finally… Today, we finally got the plastic on the hoophouse, can’t believe it’s been over a month since the frame went up! Anyhow, it’s done! A kinda huge turnout of people: Libby, Jordan, Andie, Tom, and Lynn (planting grain elsewhere during the hoophouse skinning). A bit of a breeze, but it didn’t get in the way. First, the ends went on, and then, the big job, which with a lot of hands is pretty simple. Started by pulling the plastic over* and loosely fastening it at one end (the many hands really help)…

Hoophouse: plastic half on

Next, we slid it along. I’m on the ladder, putting UV-resistant greenhouse tape over the edges of the ribs where they join the ridge, so they don’t rub on the plastic (clearly, that’s a one-person job…could’ve been done ahead)…

Hoophouse: plastic on

Get to the other end, and fasten it! There’s still a fair bit of wood work to secure it all, and electricity and then the squirrel cage fan to install, to inflate the double layer of plastic, but the main job is basically DONE. One more thing on the new-tiny-farm start-up-from-nearly-scratch list, practically checked off! (I should move the jumbo rain gauge to a completely unsheltered spot…)

*It’s a lot easier to lay the plastic out lengthwise beside the frame, then pull it over from both ends in one shot. We did it this way because there was only one tall stepladder, and to avoid catching the breeze on the full length of the plastic as it went up—a completely calm day is best, but with a lot of people, you can handle a little wind. (Photos 1 and 2 by Andie)

More onions

Red Wing onion seedlings

A last tray of onions—Red Wing hybrid red onions that did well last year—is hanging around the seedling room. What are they doing still not in the ground? Well, most of our onions—Stuttgarter-type yellow cooking, yellow Spanish, Red Wing, around 3,o00 in all—are already planted, in two sections, far apart. As I jigsawed together this season’s garden layout (now with the garden MAP), these guys just didn’t fit in the first two onion plots. So, they’ll get a bed of their own, somewhere, real soon, and we’ll see how they do compared to the others. Timing!

Water pipe

Irrigation pipe

A bonus this spring has been the steady rain, not too frequent, like, once a week or so, and somewhere around 1″ (2.5cm) each time. Perfect! Still, today, in the middle of a hot, sunny stretch, thoughts turned to water (not that it was ever far from mind). Out came the coils of 1″ water pipe. In our barebones spot irrigation system, there’s 1″ pipe and a bit of 2-1/2″ pipe, endless 5/8″ garden hose and 50′ sections of soaker hose, the gas-powered irrigation pump, and even 55-gallon barrels and watering cans. Not to mention, piles shut-off valves, quick connectors, and various hose fittings. For now, all that I’m looking to set up is one central line running from the well pump at the house, right down the length of the side-by-side fields, where it can feed the garden hoses. So, uncoiling we go…