Monthly Archives: July 2009

Guineas Gone Wild

Stem wall made from gravel-filled polypropylene bagsWe’re starting to gain momentum again.  Once we started filling and stacking the bags I felt rejuvenated.  It was exciting to see the building finally rise above ground level.  Things really took off this past weekend when Justin and Melainia came out to help.  The larger bags filled with gravel weighed well over a 100 pounds so I was extremely glad to have the help.  We’ve decided to forgo the bale curb, which was going to prevent water from wicking up the stem wall into the bales since the gravel in the bags already breaks the capillary effect.  That saves us quite a bit of time and allows us to avoid using some lumber.  We’re currently working on building the frames for the doors and windows which are pretty thick since they’ll be bearing some of the weight of the roof.

Guinea flockThe guineas got released into the wild about a week ago and have been doing really well.  They go back inside their coop at night without us having to do any training.  They herd so close together they practically walk like one organism.  They’ve also shown off their flying skills and you’ll randomly see them roosting up in the trees, especially when they get spooked.  They don’t seem to be ranging for bugs very much yet so we’re going to stop free-feeding them and see if that motivates them some more.

We also seem to have a runt in the bunch which is quite a bit smaller than the other birds.  It seems to have a breathing problem and you can see it breathing hard a lot of the time.  I’ve also noticed it tends to split from the flock to warm itself in the sunlight.  We got some antibiotics for a couple of our chickens that seem to be having a problem, so we started giving some to the runt too to see if we can clear up his problem.  From reading we’ve found that they’re susceptible to lung infections caused by increased humidity since they’re originally from Africa they’re not adapted for humid conditions.

Captured trouble makerSpeaking of wild animals we’d been lucky up until now not having any animals get into our food but that all ended in the last couple weeks.  A family of raccoons found our chicken food bag and tore it open and must have eaten around 20 pounds of feed or more.  I tried scaring them off by yelling and throwing rocks, then by firing a shotgun near them, and finally by letting of a leftover firework mortar after them.  You’d think they’d get the idea.

But no.  I put the chicken feed inside the tool tent and they ripped a hole in the tent and went to town again.  That was the last straw.  So I went out and bought a trap and baited it with the chicken feed.  Within minutes of turning off the light to go to bed that night we’d caught one of the juveniles.  I’m pretty sure there were 4 altogether including the mother.  I know because their eyes glow in the beam of my headlamp.  We started to take the little guy to a nearby national park which turned out not to be much of a park at all and ended up dropping the guy off with some chicken eggs for a snack about 10 miles away near a creek.

I was worried we wouldn’t be able to catch the others as easily since they’re smart critters and I figured they’d be onto us, especially the momma.  So the next night I put the trap inside the tool tent and disguised it as the chicken feed back.  Again within minutes of turning the light off to go to bed we’d caught the momma and boy was she pissed.  She was growling and lunging at me.  We let her go in the same spot we’d let the baby go hoping they’ll reunite and not return.

Last night we caught another juvenile and hopefully tonight we’ll catch the last one.  I figure we’ll leave the trap around for whatever comes around.  We did have a brief run-in with a opossum but it hasn’t come back.  One problem is the guineas also like their feed and I caught 3 of them in one swoop yesterday, so I may have to start baiting the traps with something else.

The garden at roughly 2 monthsIn other news, the garden has exploded and we’ve already learned a couple lessons.  The first is that we don’t need to plant nearly as much summer squash.  One plant is probably plenty, instead of the 4 we’ve got now, not to mention the 3 zucchini plants.  Also, we need to give them MUCH more room.  We’re also going to grow a lot of the plants on trellises, like the watermelons, canteloupe, and cucumbers.  They’ve probably already traveled about 15 feet or more along the ground from where they started.

A couple of the crops that I’m particularly going to focus on growing correctly next year are onions, potatoes, and tomatoes.  They haven’t done so hot and they’re the main staples I’d like from the garden.  So we’ll see how that goes.

Some Assembly Required

300 Straw BalesWhile not much has gotten done on the building in the last couple weeks, that’s about to change.  Last week we collected 300 straw bales left in the field for us by a very cool farmer about 30 minutes from us.  We had the bales sized and tightened to our specs and he only charged us $2/bale well under the average $3.50/bale, mainly because we picked them up out of the field rather than him having to collect and stack them himself.  It took us about 6 trips with 2 trucks and a rented trailer to get them all.  The hauling and stacking was satisfying but it did leave some nice scratched up forearms.

We’re still a good ways from being able to stack the walls, but it’s reassuring to see them there and ready to go whenever we are.  We’ve got them stacked on top of pallets and covered with a couple big vinyl tarps and hopefully they’ll stay dry enough until we can get a real roof over them.

Daniel grabbing straw balesOur 1,000 misprinted polypropylene feed bags arrived in the mail last week as well.  That was the main hold-up on building the stem wall, so today I’m going to the hardware store to pick up a few more things and get the gravel ordered and we should be back in business again probably tomorrow morning sometime.  Unfortunately because of 2 weddings this weekend construction will grind to a halt for another 3-4 days, but after that we’re really kicking things into high gear.

Daniel announced he’s going to be leaving next Wednesday on his big canoeing trip down the Missouri and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans.  He’s been excited about it for awhile now and we’ll be sad to seem him go, but we’ll make sure to send him off right with a full belly.

Turnip, radish, and summer squash harvestSpeaking of full bellies our garden is really starting to produce.  Corn is starting to develop, turnips and beets are ripe for the picking and the squash and zucchinni are in full swing.  One problem I’ve just noticed since getting back from our 4th of July trip is that some of the squash and zucchinni are rotting on the blossom ends.  I’ve done some research and it appears to be a calcium deficiency which is easily solved by adding a little epsom salt mixed with water.  I hope that does the trick.