Half of my back yard used to be wild blueberries. We’ve had older people tell us about going blueberry picking there when they were younger. I’ve been picking blueberries there since we’ve moved in, but each year it seems to get worse. The patch, which I would assume used to be half an acre, is now nothing more than a few square feet. This year, I was lucky to pick a small handful of berries. We had a very late, heavy frost in June, that may have killed a lot of the blossoms and we’ve had very little rain this year.
The summer we bought the land, we mentioned about cutting them down and burning them. And we’ve mentioned it every summer thereafter, for the last 8 years. This year, as you may see in a previous post, I wanted the bushes near the chicken coop cut down so I could go in and clean out the garbage the previous owners threw there, concerned about my birds getting injured during freeranging. That prompted my husband to basically start whacking everything. He cleared out a lot by the coop. Then he went to the woods near the old Apple tree. He even has his little backhoe down there to try and remove the roots and stumps of the alders. Which brought him to decide it was finally time to do the blueberries. Initially we thought we’d just do half of it, then we’d still have some for next year. So half of it is done, and it looks amazing!
I had him cut around the few trees that were there. Here is a little oak and a little maple that I’m hoping will now grow. We still may cut the other half of the patch out, as we really don’t think we’ll get much out of it anyway. We’ll see how it goes. There probably won’t be any burning, as it’s been very dry this year. Here’s the other half of the patch, so you can see some of what had to be cut.
Borage is an herb, though some people may not know it. It usually has purple flowers on it that have five pointed petals. The leaves appear silky, they are covered in bristles. Both the leaves and flowers are edible, but some people are put off by texture of the leaves.
I originally planted borage for my rabbits. It is said to stimulate and increase milk production in does, so I planted some “just in case” a rabbit is not producing any milk. I’ve only planted it two years and have never needed to test this out.
You can find several recipes for the use of borage in such things as fresh salads, shred it for in a cream cheese spread or add it to lemonade. With a light, refreshing cucumber flavour, my favourite thing is to freeze the flowers in some ice cubes and just add them to water!
And if that wasn’t reason enough to plant it, the bees love it!
Being mid-April already, I’m way behind. I actually just got my seeds planted. I did a little heirloom tomato, some portulacas, poppies, and some peppers. This is the last time I will be trying peppers. I never do well with them. I like growing things that are simple, but unusual. I hope I get lots of these tomatoes, they’re going to be gorgeous.
This year I’ve dug all the ground out of the gardens, and I’m going to replace it all, as last year all I grew was grass. When the weather warms, I’ll be planting some lovely varieties of pumpkins this year, as well.
For now, the quince bush is still standing, because the bush saw blade for dull before we got to it. I really wanted to get it cut down early, so new growth would have a chance this year. But we did get a lot of the blackberries cut down. There was so much garbage in amongst them, it really was time to clean it all up.
All that brown area in the back was all blackberries. It’s still a work in progress, but you wouldn’t believe the stuff we hauled out of there.
Update: May 23
We finally got the quince bush cut down. I can’t believe how big that thing actually was! We’ve still been having chances of frost at night, so my tomatoes still sit on the table. I dig up the flower garden this year and brought the lavender in for a bit. I trimmed it up before replanting it back in the flower garden.
My poor lavender.
The weeds are growing back pretty fast after the clear cutting
Tomatoes and peppers doing well
Where the quince once stood. Don’t worry, it’ll be back.
In short, you don’t. Well, at least, I don’t. But I ant put my all into it. I have a full time job. Because I know I cannot make money on my animals. I don’t know how other people do things, but here’s what I do. I make sure my “farm animals” pay for themselves. Or at least, that’s the goal.
I started with rabbits. My pet rabbits. I spent money out of pocket to build a building with 4 pens. The building is 10x12, so I’ve got 4 pens up one wall that are 3x3. The other side of the building was supposed to be walled off for chickens. Then I added the outside runs for each rabbit pen. My building is super sturdy, and made with rough lumber, second hand windows and door and OSB. (The OSB was a bad idea) But before the chicken plan hatched, I decided I wanted to breed rabbits. So, out of my pocket, I bought material and had my father build me a stack of cages from wood and hardware cloth and plexiglass and litter boxes. It was heavy, but the hardware cloth was hard to clean. Then, I had to source rabbits. I found a breeder that bred Mini Rex and I requested black. Inside I got Cricket, a chocolate. When the next litter was born I got Apollo, a black. Then I had a litter. And I couldn’t sell them. Then I sourced a pair of Netherland Dwarfs. Chester and Mystery. And we had a litter. And I sold my them all but one. I took that money and bought 5 cages. Then I sold the heavy wooden cage. I took that money and bought another ND doe. Had another litter. Sold them. Sold Mystery. Bought more cages. Bought water bottles. Sold more rabbits. Bought more cages. And so on. So the building and initial start up cost me all out of pocket. But now, they pay for themselves. I sell rabbits, I get new stuff. New cages. New rabbits. New bottles. New dishes. Shavings. Food. And I may have some to spare incase vet care is needed. Sometimes things get tight, and if I have to, I’ll still buy food out of pocket. But I haven’t had to in a while. Will they ever make enough money I will need to claim the income? Never. Can I ever make a living off of these rabbits? Not even close. But I love them.
Well about 3 and a half years ago I decided I was ready for those chickens. Again, I spent out of pocket. I built a small 4x4 coop with an 8’ run. Then I bought 6 Barred Plymouth Rock chicks for $5 each. I had waterers and chick feeders given to me. And I built a larger feeder from a bucket. Then I had to give away 2 of the birds because I ended up with 3 roosters. Because people don’t normally pay for roosters. Then my rooster died. And I drove an hour to get a new one. And he attacked me. A lot. With only three hens I could only really get 3 eggs a day. And I live in a place that problem are more concerned with how much stuff costs and not how good it is for you. So I sell eggs for $3 per dozen. Because if they’re cheaper at the store, that’s where people will go. So these three hens are making just enough to cover the cost of their feed. A year and a half ago my father decided it would be nice to hatch some eggs. And it failed. The thermostat wafer was toast. So we bought a second hand incubator. We split the cost. I bought eggs. We hatched them, and kept them all but a few roosters. I got rid of my mean one and kept the son. Then I got rid of him. And all I jr other roosters except one. Then I had too many birds and had to build another coop. This one is 12x14 with a 12’ run. It costs a small fortune. Then, because these chicks weren’t laying and costing me a lot of money in feed, I bought 3 more hens and got 2 for free. They were laying eggs. And then the chicks started laying. And then I finally got my birds home. Then I bought a couple more hens. So now, I have hens laying eggs. So I’m selling eggs. And I’ve got more customers. And some of those customers will wait for my eggs, because they’ve learned that fresher is better. So at this point, the birds are paying for their own feed. But then winter rolls around and days are short and so is the egg supply. And I’ve had to start buying their feed out of pocket. What do I do? Sell chicks. Yup. So far this year I’ve only run about $2 short for feed. I’ve added supplemental lighting and now, at January 15th, I’ve got about 10 birds that are laying. I’ll sell 5 dozen eggs this week. But unfortunately I’ve also had to buy eggs from other people to sell, just to keep my customers. Thankfully we all charge about the same, so I’m not losing, but I’m not gaining, either. This week should help. I sold a decent amount of chicks last year, which helped. If we can get incubation down, we can do better this year. Also, most of our chicks are mixed breed. I use the little coop as a breeding pen, but that means I can only hatch one purebred breed at a time, as I’ll still have three other breeds of rooster in the big coop. Once the weather warms up a little more, we’ll start hatching again and hopefully can get more batches in this year. That will garner more money to hold us through the winter months.
And just to touch on cattle quickly. I don’t know a lot about them, but I know my uncle just had to butcher his bull. He was a beautiful bull that was quiet and kind and served his herd well. But something happened and he became infertile. So what do you do with an infertile bull? There’s really only one option, unfortunately. And he’s got to sell two cows, one is bred, because he doesn’t have room in the barn for them. And he doesn’t have the money to build the barn bigger. And no one is interested in the cows for what they’re worth. And the work is getting hard, because he can’t afford a tractor.
So what’s the moral of this seemingly downhearted story? Do it for love. I love my rabbits. But I had to spend money to get started. And now they support themselves. And if they don’t, I have to sell more rabbits. It’s a hobby. I’d love to make money. But I know, that it’s all going back to them any way. I love my chickens. If it becomes too expensive to keep up with the feed, I’ll have to cut back on chickens. But for now, they usually pay for their own feed, so it’s not so bad. And they’re highly entertaining. Especially in the summer. They’re therapeutic. So, if you want farm animals, do it for love. Do it because you enjoy it. Thankfully, farm animals will help you pay for their keep. Unlike your dog.
Its that time of year again. Fall. Don’t get me wrong, I love fall, but those beautiful colors don’t last long. And then it’s winter. And I hate winter.
The top of the coop needs to be closed, and the bird netting on top of the run needs to come off. I made the mistake of leaving it on last year and the snow almost pulled my whole run down. Before I do this, I’ve got to take the roof shingles off the nest box. The younger birds are standing on it and I’m concerned they’re just going to fly over the top. I’ll replace it with rubber, hopefully that will make it lighter to lift as well.
There’s garbage in the yard that needs to be burned. The blueberries, blackberries and quince all need to be cut. And trees need trimming. Unfortunately the bush saw is broken. Now what do I do?
The blueberries haven’t been cut or burned off in years, and we’re not getting much yield from them any more. Cutting them down, we won’t get many next year either, but the following year should be better. So much to do, and with daylight lessening in the evenings, not much time to do it.
I’ll leave the rabbit and chicken waterers out until it gets colder, then the rabbits water bottles will need to be replaced with dishes and the chickens nipple waterer will need to be replaced with a regular one.
On my he bright side, I’m getting new cages for some of the rabbits. I’m finding the large 24x30 cage trays are difficult to handle when full of water (from a leaky bottle) and especially when frozen, so I’ve got 24x24’s coming to make it a little easier.
Here we are nearing the end of May. I've got newly hatched chicks, hens sitting on eggs, hens are laying about 12 eggs a day, baby rabbits being born...and a garden to plant. I've been letting the chickens out trying to coerce them into tilling up my raised garden beds for me. But they also tilled up my planters and the driveway and whatever else they can dig up. I wanted to get my planters by the doorstep done so I seeded them and covered them with bird netting. Hopefully I can remove it without any interference once the plants get bigger.
The chickens did do a decent job of tilling the garden beds for me. But I quickly realized that before I could plant, I'd need to put up a fence. Not only would they be in it, so was the cat and the dog. I bought some 1x3 8' strapping and had the guys cut them in half for me. When I got them home my husband cut points on one end of each board (except for two), so I could drive them in the ground. I decided to fence them both in together so I'd only have one gate to build and use less fencing. After I had them all in the ground I just took a roll of chicken wire and wrapped it the whole way around, stapling it as I went. I bought four corner braces and screwed together a couple boards to make the frame for my gate, attached to the last post with small hinges. And I used a hook and eye for a latch. Done. And it didn't take me veryingn at all and was relatively inexpensive. (Less than $40)
This year I rotated my crops. Planting the pumpkins where I usually do the tomatoes, and vice versa. I cut back a little bit, hoping I'd have more luck with crops if I had less to focus on. Last year I grew about 3 cucumbers. Which was probably plenty for me, but not worth the space they took up. Also, I decided on just two varieties of pumpkins this year instead of trying 4. I chose to forgo the jack-o-lantern pumpkins and the Dill's Atlantic Giant. I've only planted white and blue this year. My friend is planting regular pumpkins and we've decided on a trade when the time comes for harvesting. I also chose not to do peppers or corn this year. Never had much luck with either, so why waste my time? I did however plant both black and cherry tomatoes this year, along with spinach, borage, carrots, and I bought some green onion and garlic bulbs to try my hand at.
I also scaled back on flower seeds. No need to waste my time and money on things I can't get to grow. I actually bought an echinacea plant yesterday, because I've tried for years to get them to grow.
I must mention that I did not start any of these plants in the house. I direct seeded everything this year. With all the extra animals and working on different projects I just don't have the time or space to plant inside and then try to acclimatize them outside before planting. I think a small greenhouse is in my future plans.
Oh, and you should see the blossoms on my apple tree this year! Hoping to actually get some apples!
Since the chicken coop is almost completely finished, I figured it was time for some extra protection for my girls. I contacted our local SPCA and asked if any barn cats were available. They said they had them all the time. Which is great for someone who is looking for one, but seems quite sad for the cats. Spay and neuter, people!!
Back on topic here, I went to pick up my cat Thursday night. I have swore dog crate set up in the coop. I put in a cat bed, a litter box, and a couple dishes. I plan on keeping him in this crate for a couple of weeks. I know it seems cruel, but he needs to know this is his home. I don't want him running away.
This is poor guy is estimated to be around 5 years old. He's a very sweet cat, so I wonder if he hadn't been someone's pet at some time. He is neutered (though one of his testicles hadn't descended, so they had to search for it), then he got an Upper Respiratory Infection (URI). He was on antibiotics which gave him diarrhea. He seems to be on the mend, but it's a wonder that he even trusts people. He looks forward to getting a few good behind-the-ear scratches.
So, if you're in need of a barn cat. Try contacting your local SPCA. He was completely free, neutered, vaccinated, and came with a flea treatment. I did make a small donation. Barn cats are not usually listed on the adoptable pages, so send them a message and just ask!
This guy came from the Queens County SPCA.
Sept. 10: A little more than 2 weeks later I decided it was time to let Felix out. He took off this morning and was back by the time we got home from our drive. Now he's just chill in' in the yard with me.
Its that time of year again when the land provides! My garden is doing poorly this year. I may get some tomatoes in a few weeks, maybe one pumpkin of I'm lucky. The cucumbers haven't even started to crawl yet. The carrots aren't doing too badly and I've got plenty of dill seed. I was hoping for some quince this year but that doesn't look like it's going to happen. Next spring I will have to cut down the bush and see if that helps.
Something that I do have is wild blueberries and blackberries! Out behind the rabbit building is an abudance of blueberries and all along the edges of our property are blackberries. It's been a very dry year so they're not as many as last year, but there's always enough to for me and a few friends! It's great that I don't have to tend them and I get a great harvest. This fall we may now off half the blueberries to see if that helps with production the following year but we haven't done it since we moved here.
I won't have much of a garden this year. I planted all my seedlings out and they all died. I was so anxious to get my garden planted that I didn't take the time to harden them off before planting. What I should have done is set them out in the sun for a few hours a day for about a week. They all got sunburned and what had actually survived got killed by a frost I didn't know we had...,
I did plant out the rest of the seeds. I believe I can see some carrots starting. Something is better than nothing I guess.
My my gardens are so full of weeds it's not funny. I'm not sure how to correct the problem. It seems like endless pulling.
I also have have a few flowers coming up, the hollyhocks are receiving from last year and I should see flowers on them this year. The pansies are thriving and the lavender is growing new shoots. Also hoping to see flowers on them this year.
I have very few blossoms on the young Apple tree. Which is better than last year, but still looks pretty sad. The old trees are covered. I haven't even thought about checking the raspberry plant. I really should do that.
Dear husband has been clearing out from underneath the old apple trees, so I can try trimming it up next spring. I am also planning to cut down the quince bush so next year it will regrow. Quince only grow on new wood.
We've officially started the chicken coop. We've got a couple walls frames up, but couldn't do much else until we had a floor. The DOT finally lifted the spring weight restrictions and we had some rough fill delivered. I picked up all the lumber to do the floor. Hopefully progress will be quick.
Ive also decided it was time to put the plants out. They were taking over my table. According to the Farmers Almanac, I should have waiting until this weekend. Oh well.
Update: Finally getting somewhere with this chicken coop! I'm hoping in about a week I should have my chickens home with me.
Here we are. Still need to add the roost and droppings board on the inside, stain the front, and build the run. At the top, you can see that's it's open. It was supposed to have plywood on it, but as I sat inside painting, I looked up and loves what I saw. The sky. The tree. Sunlight. Felt fresh air. So now we are going to attach hardware cloth to it, and put some lexan over it on hinges so it can be opened in the summer and closed in the winter, but I'll still have the extra light. I'm so excited to get my babies home!