Jason

Jason

Well our chickens are about 7 months old now and we are currently getting five eggs a day (one per hen).  Beautiful, tasty, brown eggs.  I'll post a picture of a carton full shortly.  The portable 'Chicken Tractor' coop is working well for the birds.  They're happy as long as we move them once a day, onto a fresh patch of grass.  There are a couple of issues with the chicken tractor though. I forgot that chickens love to take 'dirt baths'.  When the portable coop is over a nice patch of grass with no exposed dsand or dirt, the chickens will scratch a hole down to the dirt to lay in.  I ended up with little football sized holes all over the back yard.  Also I'm kind of tired of moving the chicken tractor every day.  Anyway, I'm halfway done with an 8ft x 16ft coop that will be there permanent home.  I'll use the little portable coop to introduce new hens into the flock.  We have three new Araucana chicks (about 3 weeks old) who will move into the portable coop in about 2 weeks.  More pictures coming soon.

We have chickens at the new Yardstead!!  We have 4 Golden Comet hens.  I went home to visit my dad and he insisted a take a few chickens from his new flock of baby chicks.  The baby chicks were about  2 weeks old at the time.  I brought four baby chicks home with me without telling Mary, and without any supplies.  I wasn't sure how she would react but she was delighted.  After a quick trip to a farm supply, and about $20 later, we had a waterer, a feeder, and some chick starter feed.  We kept them in a box for a few days, while I built them a small portable chicken coop.  I have several pictures of the chickens and the preperations for the care of the chickens and the chicken coop, which is based on the "Chicken Tractor" principle and is portable.  Check back soon or click the little bird and Follow us on Twitter for live updates.

We have some nice Sugar Baby watermelons coming along in one of our garden beds.  These are fairly small melons with a very sweet flavor.  We have three plants which have completely filled in the 4 x 8 ft bed with vines.  Each plant typically has 3 or melons growing at a time.  These watermelons are a little smaller than a soccer bal when mature.  I have one in the fridge now, for slicing later!!

Well it's been quite a while since I posted anything!  But now I'm back and ready to share my latest vegetable gardening experience with you.  This spring I started a 4ft x 8ft raised bed, which I filled with assorted pepper plants.  I have a lot of pictures from buidling the beds up to current pictures like the one above , with a daily harvest from the pepper patch.  Currently in this 4ft x 8ft garden bed, I have one tabasco plant, three habanero plants, three jalapeno plants, one poblano plant, three banana pepper plants, three green bell peppers and one orange bell pepper plant.  All of them are grwoing well and producing plenty of chillis.  Over the next several days I hope to go back through setting up the beds, planting, and growing the peppers.  I have a lot of pictures throughout the whole process.  I will also provide some delicious recipes, such as for this Habanero Jelly I am eating at the moment wioth cream cheese and crackers.  Stay tuned!! 

For the last couple of seasons, I've been using a solution of milk and water to treat powdery mildew on my squash, zucchini, cucumbers and mellons.  Here is Jacksonville Beach, FL, the cucurbits seem to very vulnerable to powdery mildew.  We have seen powdery mildew on some of our cucurbits every season.  We try to raise and maintain our gardens without using chemicals, so I sought out a more natural way to fight the powdery mildew.  I stumbled upon some research that shows a milk solution is effective for fighting powdery mildew.  I use a generic 32oz spray bottle (pictured above) to apply the milk solution.  I add 1/4 cup of milk to the bottle then fill with water.  I usually spray all the squash if any of them are infected.  I try to wet the leaves on the top and bottom.  
My experience has been, that if i catch the powdery mildew early, when the plants are still healthy but are showing white spots, treating them for 3 or 4 days in a row, usually clears up the mildew.  When I start treating plants with milk after some of the leaves have withered and others leaves are yellowing or brown, the plants are less likely to survive, but some do.  Early treatment, consistent over 3 or 4 days, seems to be the best solution for treating the powdery mildew.

After about 3 weeks of growth, the squash in our spring garden, started getting a powdery mildew infection.  In the picture above, there is a health young squash on the left.  The young squash plant on the right is starting to develop Powdery Mildew.  The first signs I usually see, are the small white spots on the leaves (visible on the squash to the right).  You can also see the affected leaves turning yellow around the edges.  If this infected squash were left untreated, the leaves would all yellow and the plant would die in around 3 weeks or so.  
Here is Jacksonville Beach, the powdery mildew has been particulary bad, and a constant problem, on all our cucurbits.  I was able to save several of our squash plants, but a few withered and died.  I use a solution of milk and water to treat the Powdery Mildew.  I mix a quarter cup of milk in about half a liter of water, and apply with a spray bottle.  I try to coat the leaves on both sides with the milk solution.  It works pretty well.  I usually takes about 3 or 4 days of spraying everyday to get rid of the powdery mildew if you catch it early enough.  I have found that if you start treating the plants with milk after some of the leaves are yellowed and brown, it may be too late.  I also try to remove any infected leaves from the plants, to try and prevent spreading.  I'll post another article soon with more details on powdery mildew treatments.

It took about 2 and a half weeks for our seedling to grow big enough to be transplanted into the garden beds.  The garden beds have been built and filled.  The bottom 2 inches was filled with top soil, and the rest was filled with our own compost made from yard and garden waste.  We usally try to follow the plant spacing recommended on the seed packet, but this time we don't have the space.  As you can see in the pciture above, these squash are only about 2 feet apart.  I'l let you know if we have any problems with crowding.  

I had some left over pine 1x8 8ft long boards, so I decided to use them for our garden beds.  The wood isn't pressure treated, and the boards aren't really very sturdy, so I don't really expect them to last more than a couple of seasons.  As you can see in the above picture, I used 3 boards to make each bed.  One 1x8 was cut in half to make the ends, and the other 8ft boards comprise the sides.  I cut some 6 inch long pieces of 2x4 for backing in the corners where the boards are screwed together.  I did'nt want to use pressure treated lumber, because I'm afraid the chemical treatment of the boards, could leach into the soil and eventully contaminate our plants.  This may not be a real danger, but I'd rather be safe than poisoned.  I had recently brought in a load of top soil to fill some holes in the yard, so I used a bit to fill the bottom 2 inches of the beds.  The quality of the top soils was pretty bad (mostly sand and small mulch shavings) so I filled the beds the rest of the way with some good compost from the pile in the background of the picture above.  

In preperation for our spring garden, Mary and I went through all of our seed packets we had been saving.  We had some in the fridge and some in with our garden supplies.  We were only planting two 4ft x 8ft garden beds to start with, so we selected a few of our favorite vegetables.  We started yellow sqash, sugar baby mellons, and cucumbers, in peat pellets (see above picture).  All the seeds started out like normal and looked pretty good.  I also bought a couple of tomato plants from a local nursery, which I planned to plant in a compost filled truck tire.  In the next few articles I'll detail our planning, planting and harvesting of our spring garden, and some of the things we learned along the way.   

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