Friday, September 23, 2011

Guineas a Go Go

Let us in!

Were's the door?

9-22-11; We kicked the 4 oldest Guinea's out of the aviary due to their aggressive and competitive personalities. That was no easy feat as they really did not want to go. We did this because they have been just plain mean and have been harassing the smaller chickens and guineas to the point of them staying in the chicken coop all day and not coming out to feed or drink. These guys reacted to the boot out with constant chatter in the way only a guinea can do. And it was loud! But we did our best to ignore it and kept on with our chores. We provided them with food and water close to the flight run and they ate off and on all day. Not to much bug activity this late in the season. They ventured from the immediate area for very short periods visiting the ducks and geese in the duck yard and they even flew up to the roof of the barn. By the way - nails on a metal roof is almost as bad as nails on a chalkboard, LOL!

When evening fell, these silly birds didn't roost in any of the available trees in that immediate area so for their protection, we closed the other birds into the aviary and let the adult guineas into the flight run. That was easy as they really wanted back in.
Today we put them back outside and they stayed pretty close to the flight run and visited the ducks and geese again. They don't seem to aware of the need to roost at night so I guess we'll be putting them back into the flight run again tonight. I hope we can keep this up until the younger guineas get bigger. And I guess when winter comes they will need to spend it in the aviary. All I can say is that if they continue to harass the smaller chickens, those guineas could very well wind up on our dinner table as I hear guinea meat is quite delicious.

2012 Straw Bale Garden Design

Well here it is. Drum roll please :-) ................ My 2012 Patchwork Prairie Straw Bale garden design. Click on the picture for a better view.

I'm quite please with myself as I worked it out with Excel inserting shapes to get the bales, whiskey barrels, work bench plus decking for chairs and a table. What a cool program for designing gardens! The garden entrance gate is on the west side near the whiskey barrels, the beans are on the north and so on. With all my excitement in designing this garden I totally forgot to consider companion planting, shesh, LOL! My garden book that features this subject is tucked away in a box somewhere so I Binged "companion planting for gardens" and found a good site that explains it in a no nonsense way. Wohoo! After consulting this information I see that I don't need to change a thing! All I need to do is add are some pest deterring flowers and herbs which I can do when I begin planting. By the way, I chose to use straw bales due to the poor quality clay soil here and the unbelievably high cost of having top soil hauled in. Straw bales are also cheaper than lumber for raised beds and the straw will compost and improve the soil for future gardens.

What you can't see in the picture is the watering system I will have. One or two long soaker hoses connected to a timer so I can water while I'm at work and then off the timer so I can water when I get home from work. We still have some drip irrigation hose left from a previous garden and we may use them, but for now I'm going with the soaker hoses as we already have those too. Additionally, we fenced in my garden spot and will complete it with electric wire on top and rabbit fence on the bottom to keep 'said' critters out. My first and last garden here was a disaster as the deer and rabbits ate everything down to nubs on the ground! I believe I'll have the advantage this time. And who knows, I may have enough excess produce to can! That would be just too Cool!!! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Meet Rocky

This is our Ameraucana rooster. He's such a beautiful bird and quite a happy feller with 8 hens to keep him crowing. Several of his hens are also Ameraucana's and I can't wait to see those blue and green eggs!

We Have Beans!

This spring I planted some pole beans next to the deck in hopes that the plants would wind their way up the deck sides providing for an easy way to harvest the beans. The plants would also serve as a privacy barrier on the deck. I chose a variety called Kentucky Wonder, which is stringless and has brown seeds. I normally opt for bush beans but I wanted to see how my idea for pole beans would turn out. As the season progressed, extremely high temperatures and a draught assaulted Missouri. I watered my beans faithfully for about a month but the high temperatures made it hard for me to continue in my faithful efforts. 
Now that those high temperatures have passed and we have had a few rain showers so I have been planning my fall preparations for my herb beds. I figured I would just be tearing out the beans in an “oh well, better luck next year” frame of mind. Much to my surprise today, I found loads of nice looking green beans on my plants. The foliage is dying back which makes it so much easier to see the bounty these plants have produced to spite the harsh temperatures and lack of water. They aren’t the most glamorous of beans but they are beans :-)

 I steamed a batch this evening and ate them plain. They were delicious. However, their being stringless did not happen. Tomorrow I will remove the strings and use a nice Greek recipe I found in my Traditional Greek Cooking book that was given to me by my good friend John. It sounds awesome, however I did change the recipe a bit. I’ll use;
A couple of pounds of beans
½  cup of olive oil
1 pound of tomatoes
1 TBSP tomato paste
a few shallots
2 TBSP chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste.
After rinsing and trimming the beans sauté the onions, combine strained tomatoes and tomato paste diluted in 2 cups of water. Bring this to a boil then add the beans. Simmer until all of the liquid is gone and only the oil remains as a sauce. 
It’s nice to try new things and I really like the flavor of these pole beans so next year I will give them a place in my new garden. So, the spot I used for these beans this year will once again be used for my herbs.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Getting Ready for Winter

It’s only September but as far as I’m concerned, it’s never too early to get ready for winter. Our 8 chickens recently saw 3 more chickens and 7 guineas move in so the coop needed to be remodeled to accommodate the whole brood comfortably. The coop, by the way, is nestled inside a very roomy aviary and measures 12 ft wide by 4 ft deep by 8 ft tall. The Aviary is 12 ft wide by 24 ft long with a 12 ft ceiling. Our birds have 2 large summer roosts inside the aviary but winter here in Missouri is too cold for those. We installed 3 stair step roosts on one side of the coop and situated it for ease of cleaning and placed a single roost on the opposite side. The single roost is for our original 3 production reds - the queens of the coop. This remodel also allowed room for nesting boxes and even food and water if necessary. Since it completion, all our birds have been roosting at night in the coop and have completely stopped using the summer roosts.   

The pictures below are of the aviary and the newly added roosts in the coop. 

Outside the Aviary and inside the flight run.

Looking into the spacious Aviary. Note the summer roosts on both sides.

Blossom doing her quality inspection.

Chickens and guineas getting comfortable.

Morgan, Harriet and Blossom. The Queens of the Coop.