Day Five – the Finish Line

It felt very odd this morning, not heading out to the field to move shelters.  I was done chores in about 5 minutes – top up waters, check feeders, and that was about it.

There are 73 birds in that hen house, way too many. At least 20 have to be sold ASAP.  That’s up to my older daughter, as 25 of these birds are really hers – she changed her mind mid-summer about having her own layer flock so decided to sell them as point of lays. Since they are due to lay at the end of November, I’d say we’ve reached that point.

5 Day Race Day 5 003 small

Motley crew

After chores, I drove the elder daughter to university (this is the last week of that; toes are pretty much healed), and got back in time for coffee and conversation up at Saanichton Farm around 10 am which was a nice treat after a week of keeping my nose to the grindstone.  It was a gathering of some interesting folk and our topics ranged from family history to immigrant labour to sustainable agriculture.

An hour later, with my coffee needs taken care of, I loaded up the car with empty feed sacks and empty paint cans and headed up the the recycling area at the landfill, and hit the feed store on my home.  After lunch I drained and stored all the hoses I’d been using to deliver water out to the field (5 hoses), tidied up the field shelters (lids and waters were spread all around the field, where we’d left them in the dark last night).

5 Day Race Day 5 006 small

It doesn’t show super well here, but if you peer closely, you might be able to discern 4 rows of greener grass where the field shelters went through during the summer. I had birds on the field in two shelters for 2 months.

I was just heading out the veg garden with wheelbarrow and fork when hubby came out and offered to help – so the potatoes were dug up in double quick time.  He went and spread them on the rack in the barn to dry, while I took the kale and weeds we’d acquired while digging over to the chickens to distract them from fighting over the pecking order.

5 Day Race Day 5 012 small

Prepping the garlic for planting.

We went back to the garden and between the two of us had the garlic bed dug, weeded and ready for planting in about an hour.  It is amazing how pleasant such work can be with company.  It almost didn’t feel like work.  Of course, it’s not a very big garlic bed :).  We got about 50 garlic cloves planted, which is not quite as much as I wanted to plant, but all that I had allowed space for.  If I get a chance, I will maybe plant another dozen somewhere else.

5 Day Race Day 5 014 small

The soil was in beautiful shape, and despite all the recent rain, fairly dry below the surface

By 630 pm it was dark enough to shut the chickens in for the night.  Because the hen house is new for them, I keep them confined to the house and lobby for a couple of days so that they identify it as their sleeping place.  With the pecking order issues of combining the flocks from two field shelters, half the birds were out in the lobby and did not want to go in.  The good news is that most of them seem to be roosting.  Henny seems to be holding her own in the pecking order battles – no one seemed to be picking on her, and I saw her attack a rooster and take a chunk of neck feathers from him.  She did give me a reproachful look this afternoon, when I was tossing some weeds in for them.

Astute readers will notice that I have not mentioned the nest boxes that I was going to assemble.  That’s because I haven’t done it. I decided with so many birds in there and laying not happening for another month that we needed the floor space more than the nest boxes.  But I am going to get those started this week, so that we can install them when the 20 birds are gone.

Everything else got done, with a little help from family.  That feels pretty awesome.

I’ve learned a lot from this race, which I’ll delve into next post.  Back to work tomorrow, which will be quite a change of pace after this week.  I’m ready for it.

Advertisements

The Five Day Race

Monday (today) marked the beginning of a race with myself to get a set number of projects done by Friday.

Here’s what I have to accomplish to win the race:

1.  The Hen House – patch rat holes in the walls and floor, line the floor with chicken wire.  Patch the door (two major holes, not from rats, just because this thing is made from particle board.  Yes, I know).  Replace the fascia board or whatever it is on the top front of the house so that the rain doesn’t do more damage to the top edge of the wall than it already has.  Do the same on the back end.  Take out the old wooden nest boxes (they were functional but difficult to clean out, plus the birds kept roosting on top.  Anything I used to block them from doing that allowed the rats a free passageway).  Assemble and install the new metal nest boxes (new is relative, I bought them 2 years ago).  Patch and/or replace the wire where needed on what we call “the lobby”, the covered area the hens access from the house, and from which they then access one of 4 pasture runs.  Put some scratching material in the lobby (old straw).

thanksgiving &mid Oct work week 007 small

not shown is another big hole at the bottom of the door.

thanksgiving &mid Oct work week small 008

holes that need patching. At least I’ve finished cleaning…

2. Chicken Run – not the movie.  I have 70+ pullets (actually 3 are roosters) out in field pens right now, and the minute I’m done with this race, they have to come off the field.  They will need some pasture, but they’re flighty at this stage, so it’s got to have good fence.  Not one of my 4 pasture runs for the hen house has intact fencing.  It’s all full of holes, falling down, or actually missing (because I started working on it last year).  I need to get one run ready to go by the end of the race.  I can get the next ones done once the chickens are in the house.

3.  Garlic – prepare the bed, plant the seed, mulch, fence.  Sounds so simple put like that.

thanksgiving &mid Oct work week 009 small

The calendula mark one edge of the planned garlic bed.

4.  Potatoes – have GOT to be dug up, before they rot.  Only about 40 plants, but they have been low on the list for weeks, and they are on borrowed time.

thanksgiving &mid Oct work week 010 small

The potatoes only go as far as those tall reddish weed stalks.

5.  Put garden to bed – turn over, green manure.  Just one half, the other half has so much volunteer kale,which we’re enjoying, that I think I’ll leave it be.  Weeds are a cover crop, right?

Some challenges I face:  the weather.  Forecast is for rain all week.  In practice what it seems to be doing is raining most of the night, clearing for most of the day and drizzling at dusk.  If that changes, it will probably be to more rain.   Other aspects of life will continue and I will still be involved.  You know, meals, laundry, errands, driving kids places, etc.  You notice I have happily ditched house cleaning from the list for the week.

I have a few positives going from the start line – thanks to some stat time in lieu that I had to use up soon or lose, I have no off-farm work till Saturday. That’s 5 days free for farming (and family and laundry and errands…). Also, my elderly neighbour, a retired construction contractor, who feels he owes me some help due to my daily visits to keep his veg garden watered over the summer while he had a broken ankle, has offered his expertise, and will bring his own tools. Yes! I’m more than happy to accept his offer.   Also, I got a couple of hours of work done on Sunday – a jump start, and hubby cooked an awesome meal that day which provided leftovers for today, so no cooking needed on day one of the race.  What a great support team I have.

My reward if I win?  Dry secure housing for my layer flock.  Happy hens who won’t be confined in pasture pens anymore, but will also not be free ranging over in my neighbour’s flower garden, like the last batch. Eggs!    A year’s worth of garlic, redeemable next July.  A couple months worth of potatoes, good until the New Year (hopefully).  A feeling of accomplishment, and a chance to finally write new stuff on my whiteboard.

I’ll try to post my daily progress here – I’m pretty motivated by the impending weather and it’s likely effect on my birds in the field pen, but I figure the motivation of proving to all of you that I am actually getting stuff done will help keep me on the straight and narrow.  Wish me luck!