New Fall Garden Raised Bed
Here is our new raised bed. I have 43 Georgia Collard plants, 25 cabbage, 10 Romaine lettuce, 10 hybrid broccoli and 3 basil plants. In addition, I planted 12 coffee tree seedlings, one variegated turmeric, 4 Chinese water chestnut plants and one tea shrub in pots.
One of the terrible problems with this property is that it is covered in Coggon Grass also know as Japanese blood grass. It is a horrible invasive species found throughout the South. It has very sharp pointed ends to its roots and shoots and penetrates weed block cloth without any problem. It is extremely difficult to control. We set out a few tomato plants back in the spring, and dug out all of the grass and roots and laid down multiple layers of weed block cloth. The grass has taken over what is left of the tomato plants.
So my brilliant idea was to cover the ground with the heaviest plastic sheeting I could find at Home Depot, then construct the raised bed out of 106 light-weight concrete blocks. The bed was then filled with about 4 tons of compost from the local landfill. Our landfill charges $25 a ton for really nice compost. The compost is very light and fluffy. We filled the cells of the concrete blocks as well to increase the growing area and to further stabilize the bed as it is only held together by gravity. We are composting some of the manure from the livestock to use as fertilizer on the raised bed as well.
Despite the fact that we get lots of rain here, it doesn't always come when you need or want it. We added a soaker hose with a timer, so that we can water the bed when needed. The timer actually works very well. You just turn the dial to the amount of time you want, and it ticks and counts down the time and shuts off the water when it is complete, sort of like an old fashion kitchen timer. We kept forgetting to turn the water off.
In addition we added an inline water filter like you see used on RVs. I'd rather use rain water on the garden, but we haven't set up a pump to water the garden from the rain water we collect. The chlorine in the county water is detrimental to the beneficial bacteria in the soil, so filtered water is better than plain county water. Any one who has owned goldfish or tropical fish knows that the Chlorine in tap water will kill them. It can't be good for anything living. I haven't drank tap water in at least 15 years. I am a firm believer in the Pure 3-stage water filter. The third stage is dolomite which restores the natural flavor to the water that the mechanical and activated charcoal filters have removed.
These cute little birdies are Royal Purple Guinea Fowl Keets.
These little guys are lightning fast. Guinea Fowl are probably the second best watch animals from what I'm told. Pea Fowl are supposedly the best. I do know that Guineas are very skittish birds. The keets make baby chicks look like stoners in comparison. For keets every event is "The sky is falling". As babies they can be incredibly loud when they aren't happy, somewhere in the neighborhood of twice as loud as baby chicks.
This is what they are supposed to look like once they get their adult feathers. I didn't realize that Guinea Fowl came in so many color variations. Since purple is my favorite color, I chose this variety.
This cute little dynamic duo is Link and Zelda. They are Brown Caramel Pygmy Goats. They are brother and sister and are about eight weeks old in this picture. Zelda is a screamer. She bleats constantly and pretty much at maximum volume until she gets what she wants. She is terrified of people and very fleet of foot. She is nearly impossible to catch. Link could not be more opposite. He rarely bleats and if he does, it is usually very softly. He is so sweet and friendly. If you sit on the ground, he will climb into your lap to be held and petted. I can't imagine a sweeter animal.
Here is Little Mama, a Grey Agouti Pygmy Goat showing off her Easter bonnet. It is part of her spring collection and available at fine grocery stores nation wide.
This blue-eyed little charmer is Blinky. He has the classic Grey Agouti coat, but I'm not sure if that black mask of his would disqualify him in the show ring. But with such beautiful blue eyes, who cares. He is a newcomer to the herd, but gets along well with the others. He doesn't pester the does too much, but he is still young. Here he is on tether enjoying his favorite blackberry briars.
Here is Little Baby Goat since renamed Kika. Kika means corn nuts in Spanish, and boy is she nuts for corn. She is your best friend as long as there are treats to be had. Kika is a Grey Agouti Pygmy Goat. Her playmate is Lambeau. He is a bottle fed bummer lamb. He is a Gulf Coast Native Sheep. He was born premature and his mother would not nurse him, so it was up to us to become his surrogate mom. He bonded with us completely. He has no use for any four-legged creature with the possible exception of Kika with whom he loves to play king of the dirt pile.
Hello everyone. A little progress has been made on the homestead since the last post. First off, I'd like to give a shout out to Mr. Lewis Taylor Jr. of Taylor Concrete & Construction for my terrific septic system installation. Lewis, his father, and his entire crew could not have been any nicer. Lewis certainly knows his way around an excavator. It was amazing to watch him operate that machine. Here are some photos I snapped of the installation.
Here you can see the drain field domes installed in the trench.
Here is Lewis and his nephew digging the second trench.
Here is the septic tank installed. I didn't get a photo of it before they covered it up. You can see the manhole covers for access to the tank.
Here are some pictures. I have a couple of videos of the baby goat being more adorable than should be allowed by law, but the IPhone is filming them sideways. I haven't figured out how to rotate them. I'll post them as soon as I can fix them.
Here is the newborn kid. Mom is busy eating the placenta and umbilical cord. This is instinctive for the mama goat because the placenta will attract predators. Baby goats are probably the cutest animal I've ever seen. The kid probably weighed all of three pounds at birth. These are dwarf goats. I'm not sure if they are Nigerian or Pygmy goats. The man I purchased them from told me they were Nigerian Pygmy goats. They have beautiful silver and black fur that is about 4 inches in length.
This is one of the Rhode Island White chickens that we hatched out in the incubator. From the first and second batches we had one chick hatch out of 10 eggs. The third batch was nine out of ten hatched. However one died several days later. They are so beautiful when they are a day old.
Meet Xena, the Livestock Guardian Princess. Xena is a AKC registered Anatolian Shepherd. She was first runner up in the cuteness pageant losing out losing out to the baby goat.
Here are the three little pigs sort of like in the story. I have to keep building them new houses. So far we've managed to keep the big bad wolf (a.k.a. coyotes) from hurting the three little piggies. Of course now they aren't so little. They probably weighed 15 lbs. when I got them and now weigh about 100 lbs. each. I had no idea that pigs could be so entertaining. When they are young they play just like puppies do. They are so smart as well. They love food and will sing for their supper.
Well the homestead is growing rapidly as far as the animal residents are concerned. The current tally of critters is...
16 Rhode Island White chickens
2 Buff Orpington hens
10 Pekin ducks
9 ducks of undetermined breed... probably Khaki-Campbell
3 Yorkshire-mix pigs(2 gilts and 1 boar)
1 very large potbelly pig boar - rescue
6 dwarf goats of undetermined breed
8 Texan Pioneer Pigeons
3 Gulf Coast Native Sheep (2 ewes who are both pregnant and a ram)
1 Anatolian Shepherd puppy named Xena, the Livestock Guardian Dog.
The only animals currently on my wish list are rabbits. I'd like to get New Zealand and Californian rabbits and then crossbreed them for hybrid vigor.
In addition I'm collecting duck eggs for the incubator. The ducks didn't lay any eggs from the time I got them about 3 months ago, until a few days ago. Then it was like someone flipped switch. I've been averaging about 5 eggs a day, but I had a daily high of 14. The duck eggs are HUGE. We had ducks when I was a kid, so I know I've eaten duck eggs before, but I really don't remember eating them. I love the ducks. They are so much serene than chickens. Chickens are so mean to each other.
All the animals are pretty wonderful except the buck goat. He will head-butt you in a heartbeat if you turn your back on him. His previous owner had roughhoused with him when he was young and then let him develop this nasty habit. Well now full grown at about 80 lbs., he can seriously hurt you when he catches you unaware plowing into you like a run-away freight train. I've had to segregate him from the does because he constantly tries to mount them. Two of the does are his daughters, and I don't want them breeding. I'll upload some pictures soon.
After growing the first few batches of fodder with good results, I started having trouble with white nasty mold. I discontinued growing fodder after I had mold in all the pans. I was reluctant to use bleach in an attempt to stay as natural as possible, but now I don't think it is possible to grow fodder without bleach. When I begin the second attempt, I'll not only add bleach to the original soak water, but I'll also add a smaller amount to each watering.
The second issue I had was the flies. Apparently there were fly eggs that can survive an undetermined amount of time in the grain. Within a couple of days of harvesting the first trays of fodder, swarms of tiny little gnats or midges appeared in the house. I hate flying insects especially houseflies, so I wasn't thrilled with this development at all. The problem was that they were so small that they couldn't be killed easily with a fly swatter. Even after the fodder growing was discontinued, the swarm persisted for weeks. Most of them died by drowning themselves in my coffee<yuck>.
The homestead is growing population-wise with the addition of lots of animals. Most of the animals would definitely enjoy nice green fodder, so I will put the fodder growing back on the front burner soon.
While surfing YouTube I came across the subject of growing animal fodder. The videos said that sprouting grains would increase the bioavailability of the nutrients from around 30% for whole grains to 70% for sprouted grains. Barley is supposed to be the grain of choice for a small indoor fodder systems, but I'm not exactly sure why. I tried to find Barley. Being in the deep South where Barley isn't grown, I couldn't find a source at all. The local seed stores called multiple distributors without any luck. I was able to find feed wheat locally at $11 for a 50 lbs bag. I have no idea what variety of wheat it is.
I have seen several custom built fodder systems, I but used what I had on hand. The shelving unit is a 3 tier wire shelving unit I purchased from Home Depot. I had purchased 2 of them and was using them side by side as a seeding station with my aquaponics setup which is on hiatus until I can build a new one on the farm. I scavenged one of the shelves from the second unit to make this a four shelf unit. I have this on my kitchen counter for now. I plan to switch to a full sized wire rack and increase production as I get more animals that will eat fodder. Right now we only have 16 chickens (6 of which are about to be harvested). Click here for a link to the shelving unit at Home Depot.
The black greenhouse trays are the ones that are commonly available. Click here for a link for these on Amazon. These are 10" by 20". They over hang the shelves, but the trays are sturdier than I imagined. I used the "no holes" variety of the trays and drilled my own holes. I started out drilling drain holes at one end of the tray with the smallest drill bit I had (1/16 inch). The water would not drain because of the surface tension of the water. Not wanting to add something like soap to break the tension, I re-drilled the holes with the next size up (3/32 inch). That seems to work just fine. The two empty trays on the bottom are to catch the water. I placed a piece of 1/2 inch PVC pipe the length of the shelf to slope the trays to allow water drainage. I alternated the slope on each shelf. This allows me to water the top tray and the water flow will zig-zag down through the trays ending up in the empty trays at the bottom. I do not reuse the water. I've read that reusing the water increases odor and the likelyhood of mold/mildew.
I start the process by soaking 2.5 cups of the wheat berries in water overnight for roughly 8 -12 hours. In the morning I remove the day 8 fodder from the pan and wash out the pan with dish soap and water. Then I add the soaked wheat berries to the pan and spread them out evenly. Then I rotate the pans advancing them one slot. That way the day 1 tray is always on the bottom right. I don't like to pour water directly into the day 1 pan because it redistributes the seeds unevenly. The down side is that I have to move each tray either one spot to the left or up to the next shelf and rotate the tray to make sure the drain holes are on the correct end and the trays are lined up so that water doesn't go all over the counter.
This picture shows the final product after 8 days of growing. This is ready to feed to the animals. Please be careful feeding this to rabbits. Freshly grown fodder has a much higher moisture content than a rabbit's normal food of hay and pellets and can easily give them diarrhea. Any changes to animal's diet should be done gradually over a week's time to prevent G.I. tract upsets.
In my expanded system I plan to automate as well. I'll add 2 large reservoirs, one for fresh water and one for waste water, a pump, a timer and some LED rope lights. The counter top system I have currently gets adequate light from the Northwest facing kitchen window. In addition I plan to upgrade to some sturdier pans. I like the looks of these pans.
I will always try to post links to items I have used. I find that sometimes the hardest part of these projects is tracking down the supplies and equipment you need to accomplish your goals. Feel free to post any comments or questions you have, and I'll answer below or send you an email in response.