Friday, August 31, 2012

Garter Snake in garden bed

This morning while harvesting Kale for the goats, I surprised a Garter snake hiding under the plants. That is a very good news. Garter snakes eat slugs, and not surprisingly, that bed was devoid of slugs this morning. I will research a bit more about those and see if I can provide them hiding spots and other things they like, maybe rocks exposed to the sun, I know lizards like those to warm up in the morning. This is another benefit of having the hens contained. They would have made breakfast of that small snake. Where hens roam, the small fauna disappears.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012 Accomplishments so far

Sometimes it seems we are fighting a loosing battle, so it is good to look back and see what was accomplished. Here are the accomplishments we have made in 2012:
  • Barn clean up. Although there is still to do, the barn is a lot cleaner, particularly thanks to rodent trapping.
  • Front Yard cleaning. This was started in late 2011, and is still ongoing. Compared to Summer 2011, the yard is a lot cleaner now.
  • First full honey harvest. We harvested one full honey super, which yielded 2 gallons, or about 25 pounds.
  • Poultry flock contained. The hens used to escape and roam throughout the property. They are now contained in the corral.
  • First garden. The hens used to destroy our garden. Now that they are contained, we grew beets, carrots, salad in the cold frame, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers.
  • Installation of a greywater system. Nasturtium, sunflowers and bamboo is growing from the water.
  • Kitchen electrical is fixed. We had a rusty outlet which eventually melted, opening the whole kitchen outlet circuit. This is fixed, thanks to Jack and Andy.
  • Hot tub is cleaned and running. It had been sitting for 2 years, and was dirty. A few parts still need replacement.
  • Flower beds along the driveway. We planted a few flowers along the driveway. They have a semi-automatic watering system that appears to work well.
  • Some perennials planted (blueberries, apples, cherries).
  • Pasture sheds sided. The 4 pasture sheds are now sided, although some work still needs to be done on them.
  • Brush mower fixed. This tool helps cutting grass too tall for the riding mower (along the street).
  • Hay collected for the winter. Cutting the tall grass along the street with a sickle makes great hay for the goats.
Next is to set goals from now to the end of the year:
  • Finish the pasture sheds. Siding needs more screws before the windy season comes in.
  • Plant cover crop in the garden. Field peas will provide poultry feed.
  • Plant a winter garden.
  • Remove the junk along the corral.
  • Finish the hot tub solar heater. Purchase hot tub replacement jet pump, light, heat exchanger.
  • Clean the driveway of all the grass.
  • Add forced ventilation to the compost heap. This will speed up composting, and improve the quality of the compost (less weed seeds).
  • Clean up the garage, sheet-rock the South wall, install shelves, setup a mini-greenhouse in the window for 2013 Spring planting.
  • Stain deck, at least the floor, railing can wait.
  • Replace the electric water heater. Corrosion has damaged the lower heating element, and soon or later, the heater will leak. Better replace it soon.
  • Breed Dolly, our LaMancha goat, to have a continuous supply of milk. Jubilee, our Nubian, will go dry in January. Dolly needs to be trained, she is too wild at this time.
There are more things to do, but this will keep me busy until the end of the year. By then I can assess the progress for the whole 2012 year, and set realistic goals for 2013.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Rat trap this morning

Rodent trapping is a never ending chore in the barn, as they keep coming from the nearby lakes. The barn is now free of "residents", but still get "visitors". Because there is no available food except the one set in the trap, the visitors usually get trapped quickly, and don't have a chance to take residence.
After a few weeks catching rats, mouse have been the problem, mostly because the mouse traps I had were not sensitive enough. I just received "The better mousetrap" from Intruder, and those work great. I have caught many mouse with them. The fact that mouse are now more a problem than before suggests that rat residents have effectively been eradicated.
As far as rats, I lost a trap a few days ago. I thought a rat got partially trapped and escaped with it. I found the trap this morning, the rat had his two front legs caught.

Not a happy sight, I don't like to make animals suffer. This rat must have died of thirst. This was a first rat I caught in a while, while many mouse have been caught in the past few weeks.
A year ago, I started cleaning the barn. Rat fras was a big problem, due to residents. Today, the barn is clean of rat fras, and only have some mouse fras around the rat traps, from which they can eat the food without triggering then. To solve this, I will set a mouse trap next to each rat trap. The traps are cleaned and reloaded about once a month (or after a catch), and checked every day.
The previous owner used poison, and dead rats would be found in the open. I don't see the point with poison. You still have to regularly reload, so why not reload traps, that way there is no handling of dangerous substances and disposal of contaminated bodies, and no impact on their predators.
For me, trapping is the way.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Goat Breeding Time!

Jubilee, our Nubian goat, has 5 months left in milk. I need to put one of the other does with the buck. I have a LaMancha, and an Angora, none of them being human friendly, so I'll have to train the one I'll breed. I'd like to breed the LaMancha, but she is the most unruly. We'll see!