Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Backyard Chickens

Our work continues on the chicken coop area, but this is the busy time for our home business as we build for the holiday season, so that cuts into our farm work time, which is a bummer.  I can tell the days when I spend more time inside on our Etsy business and less (if any) time outside.  I am stiffer.  My mood is not as light and I don't sleep as well.  All good reasons to get outside every single day! 

I'm looking forward to the time when the transition from working primarily on the Etsy business moves to working primarily (if not completely) on the farm business.  The day is coming!  We're working hard to take smart steps towards that day - to follow the plan as best we can to get us there.

So back to the chickens...We decided with fall coming quickly that we wanted to get the hens' current area in better shape in case rain and cold come early and the new coop is not ready, so yesterday we gave their yard a good cleaning, as well as the coop.  

We needed to modify the coop some by adding a board to give the nesting boxes a lip to keep the hay in a little better.  We exchanged all the glorious muck at the bottom of their coop for fresh sand/soil.  We added all their muck to a bed that Rich had tilled and pulled blackberries out of, so come spring it will be ready for planting!  After the initial tilling in of all the blackberry roots, we will move to a no-tillage system to help the soil, but the initial time we had to break them up.  I'm sure we'll still fight with the blackberries sometimes, but that's the way of it in western Washington.
This used to be all blackberries.

Our soil here is not great for gardening because it is comprised mostly of sand.  And...although it has great drainage because of all the sand, it actually has too good of drainage and does not hold nutrients very well either.  We're building the soil by amending it with compost that is mostly kitchen wastes, grass clippings and leaves.  We will grow green manures in time.  

To aid in our building of the soil to create a moisture retentive, fertile soil we put straw in the chicken area (not the coop).  

They love to scratch through it.  It was entertaining to watch.  Meanwhile, they will poop in it.  It will decompose throughout the fall and winter.  Come spring, we will work it in.  It's an experiment. We'll see how it works.

So, the chickens have a clean area for now.  Depending upon how long it is until they move to the new coop, we may have to pull the straw out and put it elsewhere if it gets too yucky.  Of course, it will be helpful where ever it ends up. 

Next week, we'll go for a fall walk around the area.  It's definitely coming on fast.  Fortunately, it is still fairly dry, so we can get some work done, but the rains will be upon us soon!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Chicken Coop

We've been working on clearing the area for the permanent chicken coop and yard.  The spot they are in now will become part of the herb garden.  Boy, will that ground be rich with all that aged chicken manure!
Area for new chicken coop

The area we will be moving them to had a cedar tree that had broken off at about 15 feet at some point and needed to be removed.  It was growing into an old evergreen that is probably about 80 feet tall at this point. So, that is our task at hand.  
Old evergreen that the cedar was growing into

Rich downed the remainder of the cedar.  Always hard to cut down any tree because we like to leave things as much like we found them as possible, but we knew it needed to be done.  We believe in responsibly managing our  small wooded area. Sometimes that means having to thin and take out what is damaged or leave it to decompose and enrich the soil continuing the cycle of forest life. 
Downed cedar tree

Generally, evergreens are very abundant here in Washington.  However, we have quite a few hardwoods on our property, along with just a few evergreens.  We consider ourselves fortunate to live on this wonderfully diverse piece of land.  We are planting goldenseal and other native medicinal plants, so the hardwoods that grow in that area are perfect for them (unlike mostly dense evergreen stands). 

Big Leaf Maples

Back to the cedar...we still have work to do to finish removing it, but we got a good start the last couple of days.  We will sell the cedar boughs to crafters.  The larger parts we will use around the property for garden beds, etc.
Hauling cedar boughs to the lower part of the property for easy access

We need to get the foundation of the coop in before the rainy season begins, so that's in the next couple of weeks most likely.  We want the hens in a little more protected environment for the fall and winter rains and cold.  The coop they have now is okay.  It keeps them dry, but it's not a great design, so we're eager to get them into their new "digs" as soon as we can.

We're looking to make a fairly simple design that, of course, meets our needs and the needs of the hens.  It will look similar to the following pictures (from Wikipedia), but with our own modifications.  We want to have easy access to the nesting boxes and for cleaning.  The one we have now (an A-Frame) is a pain to clean and we like our hens to have a clean home.  Well, as clean as it can be with chicken poo around.

That's it for this week.  Hopefully, we'll have more progress to show you next week!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fall Planting

Fall is a great time for planting.  It allows roots to get established before the next growing season.  Fall is also a good time to visit nurseries because they often have end-of-the-season sales.

So...last week, we felt compelled to wander through a local nursery to check out their offerings.  By season's end, plants do get picked over pretty well, but we always find something that is on our list for the farm.  With a tight budget, we generally only buy sale items or inquire about wholesale policies.  We were able to get some foundation stock plants that looked healthy.

We bought two more blueberries bushes (Duke and Bluecrop), another tea plant (Camellia sinensis), cone flower (Echinacea purpurea) and a couple of ground covers.  

Next on the list are a couple of fruit trees when we have the funds.  With their long maturing times, it's imperative that we get them in the ground soon.

The nursery we went to also had gorgeous Stonecrop (Sedum 'Autumn Joy').  I would have loved to purchase one, but we're working hard to stick to our list of just what's needed for the farm at this time, but I thought I'd include a picture of it.  It was covered with bees, but they are hard to see in the photo.

We also saw a little frog in their ground covers (always a good sign).  The plants were moist and seemed somewhat cool.  We tried to get a photo, but the frog was moving through them pretty quickly.  I imagine we were part of the incentive to find cover.  We got a picture just as he was going behind some leaves, so now it's a seek-and-find photo. 
Can you find the back of the frog?

Sunday, August 31, 2014


It's been a long time since we've written.  We've been busy with our home business (Paws In Time), working on the house and getting the outside cleaned up, so I have not taken the time to write.  I'm hoping to change that.  If nothing else, I plan to at least post a monthly update. 

For a quick update on the house...we've pretty well finished the bathroom.  It took a while.  Rich did a great job of texturizing the walls and painting.  We put up shelves for decorative purposes and towels, etc.  We do still need to add shelves in the closet, but we decided it was more important to put our money and efforts into the outside projects at this point.  We can live with the house the way it is for now.  Granted, there is still a lot more to be done inside. However, on the outside, we need to get fences up, gardens going, and plants and trees in the ground.  


We want to transition to Huckleberry Hill Herb and Fruit Farm being our main source of income as soon as we can.

We know it is where our hearts and interests lie.  It's where we feel we can make a real difference.  As we learn more about the community and talk with people, we realize there is a demand for the powerful healing fruits and herbs that are (and will be) growing at Huckleberry Hill.   It's important to have local food choices - to know where your food comes from, how it's grown and to experience how nutrient dense these foods can be when grown in a synergistic manner with nature and by nurturing the earth where they're grown. 

We are eager to get plants in the ground, so they can start maturing.  I'm excited to get the foundations of the different gardens in place, so we can really get moving with all this.  We have the plans drawn out, but it can be maddening how slow things move sometimes.  Honestly, much of what slows us down is the lack of funds.  We do not want to acquire a debt to do this, so it can be slow going at times, but we'll get there! 

Here are some of the projects we have accomplished in the last few months:

We added a small flock of hens to our farm last June.  We needed to build a safe chicken yard, so we put up a temporary enclosure.  Fortunately, we found a coop on Craigslist for $30.00 last fall that we just had to modify a little.  We are going to build a permanent and larger coop soon.  That is our next project after fixing the deck.  (We don't want the deck to fall down this coming winter - priorities, you know.)  We are happy to be getting three to four eggs a day!  They are busy girls!  It's been fun watching their antics and getting to know them.  They all have their own distinct personalities.  We plan to add more hens, so we can offer fresh organic eggs at our farm stand.

Pumpkin - Buff Plymouth Rock

Cinnamon - Partridge Plymouth Rock

The girls

Rich added some outdoor lighting: 

We planted the beginning of our tea plant garden:
Camellia Sinensis - Tea Plants
Got to love the deer proofing.  We need proper fencing!

Beautiful Tea Plant Blossoms

We've cleared and cleaned, and cleared and cleaned some more:
This will be part of the herb garden.
This will become the berry room.

Future location of the children's garden.

Rich saving a volunteer sunflower.

We've started herbs:
Thai Basil
Borage.  Such beautiful flowers!

Next time...our plan for the property.  How the "big picture" looks.  Plus, I will be adding a recipe page soon.  I've enjoyed creating recipes with the bounty of our garden and look forward to sharing the recipes!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

DIY Home Improvement

Our home online business has slowed down now that the holiday buying season is nearly complete, so we will hopefully be able to write more often.  We make the majority of our income online with our handcrafted jewelry line.  We don't make a lot, but we enjoy what we do (most of the time), and it is much less stressful than my previous state education job.  Additionally, it allows us to 1) work at home 2) keep our own schedule 3) have time to continue our quest to build a more self sufficient life.  At this point, we do count on the holiday season for some extra income.  Generally, it helps pay taxes for the year.

Our business, combined with continuing to work on the house, has kept us very busy.  I have been spending a lot of time in the bathroom.  Thankfully, not due to any unfortunate need to be frequenting it, but because we have been working on getting it in shape!  Yay!  I will be happy to not take showers while looking through the 6 mil plastic into the walls and finally having the ceiling insulated and enclosed!  No more worry of spiders crawling out of the ceiling down into the shower with me.

Rich has been working hard and aside from one breakage of a pvc fitting has done a great job.  It's now hard to imagine that it once had a rotten ceiling that had to be removed, holes in the floor, leaking pipes, and a disgusting toilet.  We still have a ways to go, but it's coming along.  Here are a few pictures:

Bathroom at the beginning - Deceptively "okay" looking
Torn apart and a new window!

Torn apart

Working on plumbing

Putting in a new ceiling fan

Lots of work

Getting there

Love having enclosed walls!

Almost there!