Getting the garden in place this year has been a real chore with the deluge of rain we have been getting in the Mid-Atlantic Region. So I have been filling my time, in between raindrops, doing a few little projects that needed done.
First we moved the rabbits out of the greenhouse into their own new digs. The housing use to belong to our chickens, but since we no longer can have them on our property (Thank you Baltimore County), it seemed like a great place to house our rabbits. I just needed to add a small rabbit condo to the mix.
We always have extra wood laying around and in this case I had an old antique secretary desk that was beyond repair. This made for the perfect base and 2 floors for the new rabbit condo. All I really had to do was add a third level (we only have two female rabbits housed here) and some ramps for them to climb.
Overall I think it turned out pretty good for just a few hours work.
Next I had to take the new chickens-our 6 meat birds-and get them out of the house. They were getting too big too quick for the extra large dog cage we were using. We are going to dispatch them next weekend, so I only needed a couple more weeks. I moved them into the greenhouse where the rabbits were to keep them out of sight of our 1 problematic neighbor.
They seem happier in the expanded space, I just hope no one tells them about our weekend plans!
Another project I have been wanting to do was make some dedicated space for our potato crop. We have done ok with potatoes the last few years but I am horrible about adding to the hills as they grow, thus reducing my harvest.
This year I decided to do as a friend of mine did last year: grow my potatoes in barrels! I cut three barrels in half, drilled in some drainage holes, and set them along the fence row where they will get plenty of sun all day.
Once having the barrels set, I mixed some our local dirt (clay), compost, and perlite to formulate a good bedding mix for the new potatoes. I scooped this into each barrel and leveled it at about 4 inches deep. This seemed a good starting point with potatoes.
I did this a few days ago and I just looked into the barrels this morning and saw several of the potatoes growing. When they get to about 6-8 inches I will add more dirt, burying the plants to about 4 inches again. I have already made up an extra barrel of the dirt mix and have it standing by so hopefully I will add more each week to realize a larger potato crop.
My friend that showed me this method got a great yield from his 1 barrel last year so I am real excited to see how this does for me.
This is just a few of the projects I have done over this rainy period. The last few days, there have been enough dry spells to get the garden in, so I will have several updates in the coming days.
If you have been following our bathroom remodel, sorry to say that it was put on hold for the last week. Although I do have at least one post to do about it, this week has been spent preparing for the inevitable Jonas Storm hitting the east coast. I am not a doomsday prepper, but I do seriously believe in prepping for the eventuality-nay reality-of natural disasters; like winter storm Jonas.
It is not just about going to the local big box and buying up all the necessities: water, milk, bread, toilet paper, etc. Although these are good items to make sure you have on hand. There are a lot of other preparing depending on the disaster that is going to hit. It our case in Baltimore-Blizzard Jonas.
Since our chicken coop is a mile from our house (due to local regulations), I went and took the time to wrap the entire coop in a heavy mil plastic to keep the majority of the snow at least outside. But with 60-70 mph wind gusts, I hope it will hold up.
I did make it to the coop yesterday morning and it seemed to be fine, but the worst of the storm did not really hit until yesterday afternoon. I am stuck this morning-even 4-wheel drives are not moving for a while because of the 4-5ft snow drifts surrounding them.
Next I concerned myself with the rabbits. Although rabbits handle cold well, I really did not want to worry about trudging through the snow to take care of them. So we decided to move them into the greenhouse.
There is not really much room in the greenhouse, but I nestled them into the back corner, covering the rear entrance. We use this entrance very little and with snow piled outside, the likelihood of needing it was less.
You can never have enough good batteries, especially if you get into a grid down situation. So on my stock up trip to Costco, I did buy extra batteries. I also made sure that my solar powered generators, batteries, and lights were fully charged. I love Goal Zero’s products, so I have most of their product line and solar panels. We do have a Honda gas fired generator, which I fueled and started just to make sure there were no issues.
So in comes Jonas! I did everything I could to be ready, but it seems, there could always be more. I forgot to dig out my heavy hat, gloves, boots and scarves. It was not too bad rounding them up, but I could have had them out and ready.
Spent most of yesterday transporting essential personnel. My wife is a nurse, so not going to work is not an option! I was hoping she would not get stuck there all weekend, but that all depended on transport picking up the personnel that could not drive in. They were able to get fully staffed so my wife was able to leave at the end of her regularly scheduled shift. But she did have to get a ride in this morning since my 4wd is plowed in!
I did take a little time to dig out the greenhouse entrance so I could feed the rabbits and fish, as well as check on the aquaponics operation. Although it was nice and toasty in the greenhouse, I was a little concerned about the amount of snow laying on our windows. Since we used conservatory windows, they are not built to withstand holding that much weight. I thought starting a fire in the Rocket Mass Heater might help to melt it off a little quicker.
The rest of my day was spent, shoveling and snow-blowing to insure that emergency personnel could get on our street if need be. The majority of my neighbors are either elderly or disabled, so it falls on the few of us able bodied to keep the road and driveways open to essential personnel.
My neighbors son-in-law, my brother-in-law, and I dug out most houses on the street. We live on a short section of one-way street, so there are only 10 houses on the block. Out of the 10, we dug out 6 before the worst of the storm hit. At this point we had already had about 15-18 inches, so I thought it would make it easier on us this morning.
Most of the work we did yesterday was gone! The winds, gusting up to 70mph, re-covered everything and pretty much buried any vehicle. There are a few people out shoveling, blowing now and I will join them soon, even though I am still trying to recover from yesterday.
I do love snow but Baltimore ended in a new single snowfall record of 29.3 inches. Add the wind to the mix and this was definitely one of the worst storms to hit our area in my lifetime. We are looking at cloudy skies and sun for the next week, so we should be able to recover quickly and get Baltimore “open for business” again!
It has been two months since I have shared anything. I thought it was only a few weeks, but regardless, not good for anyone blogging. These last two months have been so eventful and packed full of activities that it is hard to determine where to start.
Of course, trying to get ready for winter has been a priority. Cleaning the little homestead, pulling up the garden beds, pruning trees and arbor, laying new wood chips around the garden paths, mulching trees to protect roots from winter, cleaning out aquaponics tanks,setting up greenhouse, readying the animals (rabbits, chickens, bees) etc, etc, etc. I have pictures and will post more later….
Fortunately so far this year it has been very mild for us. We have stayed pretty consistently in the 50’s and 60’s-a good 15-20 degrees above normal for the Mid-Atlantic Region. They are even calling for 72 degrees on Christmas Eve, with Christmas Day in the 60’s! It has given me some extra time at least to get our gardens and yard together.
We have had a few health scares as well, both myself and my wife. My Melanoma keeps spreading, so keeping on top of it with my doctor has to be a priority. I was also diagnosed with C.O.P.D. not bad enough yet for oxygen, but fatigue and shortness of breath set in quickly.
My wife ended up with the hospital with what they determined a cardiac “episode” I guess they determine an episode when they cannot truly find anything, but all symptoms seemed like a heart attack to me. AT least enough to transport by ambulance instead of taking a chance driving her. She is back to normal, just have to be sure to see a heart specialist after Christmas to, if nothing else, get baseline readings.
We moved into our little homestead in 2005, with a plan to remodel the bathrooms and kitchen within a short time. We did do our guest bathroom about 4 years ago when my brother-in-law became disabled and moved in with us, but have not made progress on the other bath or kitchen. The beginning of November came and we made the determined decision to gut our primary bathroom. This is currently a work in progress, which was hoping to have done by Christmas, but things happen. We should be done early in the new year and I will do a post on the rehab as well as having a lot of pictures. Stay tuned…
Well, for now, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I will start posting more regularly again very soon!
The last few weeks I have been writing about the classes we undertook sponsored by the Maryland Department of Emergency Management(MEMA): Neighbors Helping Neighbors. (Previous posts:Sustainable & Resilient Communities, Disaster Readiness) Our final class was this past week and I am really thrilled that I took the time to be involved.
Since we moved to Maryland (August 2003) most of our natural disasters have only caused service interruptions of a week or less. If you remember the date, Hurricane Isabel hit us 2 weeks after we moved in to our nice little row home just across the street from waterfront. We quickly became educated in the need for preparing for these eventualities. Maybe it is 12 years later but the class was our next step in being ready and further educating us on areas where we may be weak.
The class information was well prepared and very well presented for anyone who is interested in not only being prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster, but those concerned about others within a community.
The overall takeaway from the class was getting oneself ready for eventual disasters or emergencies that may come along. Living on the east coast, our potential for hurricanes and flooding put us in a category of not if but when they will occur.
Although important to have a good mental attitude for any situation, but having a few supplies carefully crafted and stored is key to being in a position to survive AND to help others that are in need during a crisis.
FEMA & MEMA both recommend 3-7 days of necessary supplies, while our instructors think a 10 day supply is more adequate. I tend to lean in the more category, being somewhere between 10 and 30 days.
The basics of any emergency stock:
Water-The suggested amount of water is 1 gal per person per day. With only 3 people in our household now (I sure this number will triple in case of real emergency-kids and their families) That means for a 14 day supply, we would need at minimum 42 gallons of fresh water. (# people X # days = absolute minimum gallons needed)
Food-This is a gray area as to the amount needed, but having a good stock of foods on hand will be important to any survival plan. Be sure that it is shelf stable, long term storage. Don’t depend on fresh or frozen since during a heavy disaster there will most likely be no way to store these foods. If storing up canned foods (store bought) be sure to pack a can opener! Enter the homesteader: someone who grows and maintains a constant stream of food through gardening, aquaponics, or small animal husbandry. (rabbits, chickens, etc) Although as a suburban homesteader, we have home canned and dehydrated foods, we also have the ability with our greenhouse and aquaponics to refresh our food supply.
Radio & flashlight-Needless to say these need to be battery operated and you will not be able to just plug and play in a grid down emergency. This could be supplemented with the use of portable solar power. Having a rechargeable battery pack through the use of solar panels makes life a little easier in the worst of disasters. I personally like Goal Zero products.
Basic first aid-Bandages, compresses, eye wash, topical creams, scissors, tweezers, etc. During a disaster there is always the potential for some minor medical needs. Along with first aid, do you have anyone in your care that takes prescription medications on a regular basis? Having at least an extra month of those meds on hand could make the difference in that person surviving.
Extra clothes, blankets, and compact emergency tools-I am talking an emergency supply bag, many may call it a bug-out bag, but no matter what you call it, it is a part of necessary preparedness.
If you are not able to maintain yourself and family, how are you going to be a benefit to those in need in your community?
For more in depth information I invite you to visit one of my favorite websites. A. H. Trimble , instructor, teacher, author in the art of being prepared for any emergency situation.
I am taking advantage of the nice-but cool weather today to start preparing the suburban homestead for winter. Bees, chickens, rabbits, fish, the greenhouse, the aquaponics systems the garden, canning, freezing, dehydrating, and I am sure there are a few other things that will need my attention over the coming weeks.
This morning started at 5:30, fixing breakfast for the little woman. Yes she still works outside the home, which is why I became here “Homestead Hero”, as she calls me. Hero I am not, but it is a full time job to take care of a homestead-even a small 1/5 acre suburban homestead.
After getting her off to work, its time to gather food scraps and greens (grow in the garden and greenhouse) to feed the chickens. Taking food and water to the chickens is not as easy as walking out the back door since we can not legally keep fowl on our property. (In Baltimore County-must have 1 acre for any chickens) So I have to take a short drive of about 1 1/2 miles to get to the chicken coop on our friends property. This isn’t so bad and I really do not have to go every day since we installed the solar electric door to let them in and lock them up at night. But it’s nice to feed them greens and scraps to keep our feed bill low.
Once back from the coop, I focused on getting the bees wrapped all warm and toasty. We have had a few nights now at 30 degrees, so why wait until the last minute.
I start the wrap with a layer of 2″ foam board around three sides. This is held tight with a metal plumbing strap. Then I can surround the hive with straw bales. These serve as a great wind break and an insulator for the cold weather accompanied by high winds that we usually have here on the east coast.
In the third picture, many of the bees came out to see what was going on, almost looks as if they are getting ready to swarm, but they quickly settled back inside to their routine. I was going to start feeding them today, but with the activity I will just wait until tomorrow before I disturb them again.
While I was outside, I just checked on the rabbits. We have a mating pair of Florida Whites, of which our female is currently pregnant. She is due on the 27th, so I just added some straw in the cage so she could build a nice comfy warm nest to deliver the litter. I have the plastic wrap put up but have not surrounded the hutches with it yet. That only takes a few minutes to unroll and attached to the outside of the hutch, so I can wait until later this month.
Chickens, bees, and rabbits-check, check, and check. So on to the greenhouse. I have not been real active in the greenhouse over the summer, since all of my attention has been devoted to the outside garden projects.
Of course the last few weeks have been filled with canning, freezing and dehydrating our spring and summer crops. “crops” that makes it sound like we have so many acres, but we have just enough for one little homestead hero to handle. You would be amazed at how much can be grown on a 1/5 acre!
Anyway, back to the greenhouse. I wrote a couple of months ago about our cherry tomato plant in the aquaponic grow bed. I figured today was a good day to say goodbye to it-after 11 months of growing and fruiting. Yes it was still delivering cherry tomatoes, but the growth had taken over the greenhouse and the vines had rooted in several places throughout 2 grow beds.
It took some time to clean out the remains of the tomato plant, along with some lettuce, spinach, and mint that the growth had been hiding from me. But now that the grow beds are empty, except for a thriving mint plant in one corner, I can start to plant for winter growth.
While working outside I found some bean plants that had sprouted around my outside grow tower. I guess when I let some stay on the vine to dry for use as seeds next year, they must have fallen off and germinated in the ground around the barrel. There were six small plants that seemed to be thriving, even after the frost we encountered the last two nights. I thought this would be a perfect time to try green beans in our aquaponics system.
I installed one of our larger tomato cages into the center of the grow bed. Then I dug up the 6 bean plants and cleaned the roots for transplanting. This will be a first for me trying green beans so I am excited to see how well they do.
The other grow bed, with the mint in the corner is now planted with seed for lettuce, mescaline, spinach, and arugula. It is nice to be able in the winter to feed our chickens and rabbits fresh greens.
Part of preparing for winter is also thinking ahead to spring, so today I had a full load of wood chips delivered. I use these to spread on paths and walkways between the raised beds, as well as around fruit trees to keep roots warm in the winter.
Anyone like pumpkins this time of year? I did not plant pumpkins this year because it absolutely took over our garden beds last year. But I guess God had other plans for the garden this year as I have a great amount of pumpkins that grew. I think it fascinating that they are hanging from my tomato cages and green bean tunnel.
While working around the homestead today, I had an engineer here all morning checking, measuring, taking pictures and asking questions, readying our house for a solar panel installation. We are really looking forward to adding solar to our property, hopefully to help get our utility costs reduced and be more in line with our belief in sustainability and eco-friendly.
I think this is the first time I have ever written over 1000 words for one post. I hope I did not bore you, but there is always a lot going on at the little suburban homestead this time of year. This hero, although tired, really enjoys the activity.
Chickens have been an ongoing battle in Baltimore County for the last 5 years. We have stood at the forefront of the battle since losing our backyard flock to county regulations a few years ago. The battle has been hard fought but we seem at this point to be making some progress.
In September of 2013, our county council adopted resolution 73-13 directing the planning commission to research the possibility of allowing backyard flocks on properties smaller than 1 acre. As of yesterday the planning commission finally came up with a set of standards that they are going to put to a public meeting for input.
The proposal will be viewed and discussed by the planning board on Thursday June 4, 2015, with a preliminary public input meeting on June 18, before being sent to county council. Once at council, a second public input meeting will be scheduled, before being voted on by council.
The summary of the proposal would be:
Lot size must be a minimum of 5000sf
Coop building would come under the auspices of the local planning/zoning
Coop and run would need requird square footage to house amount of birds: i.e. 4 sf per bird in the run, 3sf per bird in the coop
No free-range-No roo’s
Annual permit and fee
limit of 4 hens up to 1 acre
I personally have no problem with the permit and fee, within reason, but limiting of only 4 hens seems a little too strict to me. Baltimore City and Annapolis City, have adopted only 4 birds per yard, but they are primarily row/townhomes with less than 2000sf of land. I have 1/5 ac which could easily handle 4 times that amount without issue.
My current chicken coop (the one that now houses my rabbits, since the county took my girls) was built to accommodate 9-10 hens with plenty of room to spare. Sorry rabbits, if this passes we will have to find you new digs!
Now is the time for Baltimore County residents and surrounding county residents wanting backyard chickens, need to stand together to make a strong show for the approval of any bill put forward. We will still fight for the regulations we would like to see, but at least this is a step in the right direction.
UPDATE: 6/7/2015 The planning board meeting on the 4th went without much discussion, just setting the public input meeting for the 18th. Please join and see information in the above 2 facebook groups. Would love to flood the room with supporters that night!
I love spring because I can get back into the yard and garden to clean up the winter mess and start the renewal process!
I hate spring because I can get back into the yard and garden to clean up the winter mess and start the renewal process!
When the weather breaks from a grueling cold, wet winter, it is great to be able to get out and start doing the things I love again. There is just so much to do and it seems I work from sunup to sundown just to get ahead of the curve on cleanup and preparing the yard and garden beds. This year adding the additional pressure to myself of teaching local enthusiast’s about aquaponics.
I do love aquaponics. I enjoy sharing with others, as well as
learning from others about aquaponics. It seems to me that possibilities are endless with what I can accomplish with an aquaponics system.
Insult to injury, this year we are also adding a new chicken coop for our 16 chickens. I have been working daily, at least on the non-rainy days, to get our coop built from recycled wood pallets. I think it is coming along pretty good! Tomorrow, if the rain stays away, I should be able to get the roof put on.
Of course, if you have followed our story, you know we can not have chickens on our property (County took them in 2013). I made a deal with a friend to use his property, which is about 1 mile away and has the proper amount of land, according to our county’s governing body. Our group is still working with the county to eliminate their ignorance when it comes to chickens, but it is a long slow process. Isn’t it always when dealing with any government agency.
Today is supposed to be 70 degrees and partly sunny, so I guess I should be out taking care of the rabbits, bees, and garden beds while it’s not raining. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice too, so hopefully I can get the chicken coop almost done!
I love spring because I can get back into the yard and garden to clean up the winter mess and start the renewal process!
I hate spring because I can get back into the yard and garden to clean up the winter mess and start the renewal process!
For the Mid-Atlantic region this time of year, the temperature normally hangs around 30 degrees or less. Cold temps added to the wind that always comes off the Chesapeake Bay puts a chill in my bones that is hard to shake, so working much outside doesn’t happen for me.
But yesterday and today are a couple of those “freak” days that usually happen in January or February-temperatures at or above 50 degrees. Yesterday was right at 50 and they are calling for 56 today, although tonight and tomorrow will be filled with rain and snow flurries-so they say.
Yesterday I took advantage of the day to clean out the rabbit
hutch. We only have 3 rabbits at present but, if you know anything about rabbits, they are highly productive when it comes to waste!. Our rabbit hutch is a converted chicken coop, so raking the droppings which have been mixed with hay is not an overly hard task. Then shoveling into 5 gallon buckets and transporting to my garden beds is pretty easy. I was able to complete all of our garden beds.
With the weather good again today, I hope to finish mulching leaves, grass clippings, and remaining rabbit waste to add to our permaculture (food forest) which we just started this year.Hopefully, I will get it completed before the rain moves in later today.
This added “mulch” will give us a great start in the spring for all of our gardening efforts. So I better run and get started to take advantage of this awesome “freak” day in February!
As winter sets in in the mid-Atlantic, its time to” winterize” our rabbits.Knowing how to care for rabbits in year round is important to keeping a healthy stock.
We raise and breed Silver Fox and California’s as they are medium to large breed rabbits for meat and fur, not to mention the manure for the gardens. Currently our breed stock is one Silver Fox doe and 2 California bucks. My other doe died this summer unfortunately so I will replace her later this winter.
Because of a rabbits fur they are more susceptible to disease and death in the summer than in the winter. Keeping them well watered, in an open area and out of direct sun will usually keep them healthy and happy during warmer months.
In winter, their fur will do well to keep them warm, but they need to be kept in a more confined area that keeps them out of the elements. They should be sheltered well from the rain, snow and wind.
We had built a very strong chicken coop to house our chickens a
couple of years ago, but if you have followed our blog you know our chicken story. SIde note: we are still fighting the county to get chickens legalized. Hopefully with the new council we will be able to make some progress. Anyway, the chicken coop converted easily and nicely into a large rabbit hutch. We have 5 large cages and 3 smaller ones which we use for the babies when they are weaned.
In the summer all of the cages get the cool breezes and are shaded well, We also allow them to run on the ground some during the summer (old chicken run) to keep their nails trimmed and give them some freedom.
During the winter they get out very little and I have to “pull down the shades”. The shades being large sheets of plastic that will protect the hutch from wind, rain, and snow.
As warmer weather begins to show its face in March/April I will remove the shades to allow once again for the cool breezes to keep them happy.
In winter, water is also important, as the rabbits will dehydrate quickly if not kept with fresh water. We don’t use heated water trays, so on very cold days and nights, I must change the water supply 2 to 3 times a day. A little ice does not hurt, but if the top freezes enough they cannot drink, I change the water.
I enjoy my rabbits and they are helpful to our family gardening and food supply-maybe not as much as the chickens, but I will probably keep them even if chickens are legalized.