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CHANGE ONE THING

CHICKEN RETIREMENT

My first batch of chickens turned two years old the end of June and it’s been in my mind that they have aged out. I was a bit concerned that I was not adding a fresh batch of chicks to the flock this year. On the other hand, I know chickens live an average of 5 – 7 years so I wondered where I picked up that “two year” limit.

It turns out that two-year number is what is touted by high-production chicken farms because after that two-year mark, a hen’s laying will be less regular. Instead of laying an egg nearly every day, they might drop down to 2-3 eggs a week. To these big producers, a hen isn’t worth keeping past that mark even though a chicken has a lot of egg-laying left in her. Backyard chicken keepers don’t have to fret about that two-year “limit.”

I found an interesting article that explains that “hens are worth much even beyond their laying years” and reminds us of the various benefits backyard chickens contribute. Click the link to read “Hentirement” by Noelle Moser (a.k.a. Kuntry Klucker).

“HENTIREMENT”

A DAY WORTH LIVING

Smile!

MORE PREP FOR WINTER

Outdoor activities have slowed down significantly over the past few weeks. Several days after the green beans were picked, we went in to clear the Three Sisters Garden. We found another gallon of green beans.

I processed 16 pints of green beans from the Three Sisters Garden. Ten were pressure canned, five were failed canning (my error) and were put into the freezer, and one was just blanched and frozen. For a crop I figured was going to be a flop, I certainly got a nice harvest.

Green beans are easy to can

Since the last update on upgrading the greenhouse, we managed to get the hardware cloth over the hoops. After Oscar finishes putting the hardware cloth on the ends (in the next two weeks), I’ll watch the weather to determine when it’s time to put the plastic on. The first frost date is expected around October 31st so we could have most of October to get everything finished.

Today, we moved all the containers we want to spend the winter in the greenhouse.

Cauliflower, broccoli, beets, cabbage, herbs, and miscellaneous plants are in the greenhouse

As ever, I haven’t accomplished as much as I wanted to do but I think this looks pretty good!

PRESSURE CANNING INSTRUCTIONS – NESCO SMARTCANNER

As I worked on canning the green bean harvest this weekend, I encountered a problem I have had before with my Smartcanner.

It’s not the Smartcanner’s fault. When I flip back and forth between water bath and pressure canning, I get confused between the instructions for each. There is enough of a difference that it will cause canning failure so I had to come up with a solution.

Part of the problem is the font size and formatting in the instruction book. So, I created my own sheet for each set of instructions.

The new instruction sheets are in a larger font, that doesn’t require reading glasses. The important aspects are in bold type. I added boxes that I can check off as I work through the process so I don’t lose my place. I slipped them into a sheet protector so that I can erase the check marks, ready for the next use.

I keep the easy to follow instruction sheets in the drawer of my canning table for easy access.

PRESSURE CANNING – NESCO SMARTCANNER

□        Put jars in canner

□        Add 8 CUPS HOT WATER

□        Valve @ “EXHAUST

□        Press “HIGH

□        Press “TIME” to set to number of minutes required in recipe

□        Press “START

□        Digital chase will rotate until correct internal temp reached (up to 30 minutes)

□        One BEEP – Control Panel will read “E10”

□        Will countdown to “EO” and BEEP 3x

□        Change Valve to “AIRTIGHT

□        Will chase until pressure reached and BEEP 1x

□        TIME will count down

□        BEEP 3x when countdown done – display will read “OFF

□        Let canner set for minimum 1 HOUR before opening lid and removing jars

GRACE

LAST HURRAH?

I haven’t been in the Three Sisters Garden for two or more weeks. In fact, I’ve been completely ignoring it.

The corn was done. The squash had powdery mildew. Bugs had destroyed the sunflowers. It was so overgrown, I had to shove my way through the plants to get to the other end of the rows and I couldn’t get to the plants to treat them for the issues that had developed. I had only picked ten green beans so figured they were a bust too.

Furthermore, when I went in the last time, I came out with welts and blisters all over my arms from pushing through the jungle.

With all this, I figured the Three Sisters Garden was done and I put it on Oscar’s list to pull everything out and put it in the compost pile.

We ran out of time – or maybe it was enthusiasm – this weekend so it didn’t happen. On Sunday or Monday, I noticed some green beans peeking out of the tangle. When I came home tonight, thinking I might find enough green beans to have with dinner, I donned a longer sleeved shirt and trekked in for one last harvest.

Look what I came out with!

Almost a full basket!

I picked almost a full basket of green beans, two zucchini, and one crookneck squash.

There were even three more of these!

I should have enough green beans to can another five jars, maybe more.

Not tonight though, “longer sleeves” does not equal “long sleeves.” I need to go wash my arms, neck, and chin with Dawn to remove whatever allergen is on the bean plants that’s bothering my skin. Then I’ll add a good spritz of Windex for the itching.

PREP FOR WINTER

In North Carolina, winter is not on our doorstep by a long shot, but it’s certainly on my mind and homesteading tasks are geared toward preparing for winter.

Since both of us had Labor Day off, we slept in until 8:30 a.m. Then we got right to the day’s major task: cleaning out the chicken coop. It’s a big job! Thank goodness Oscar was there to help.

I use the deep litter method in my chicken coop. The deep litter method involves allowing the chicken waste and bedding material to decompose on the floor of the chicken coop instead of being scraped out and replaced on a weekly basis. As the bedding gets dirty, you just toss on another layer of pine shavings. This keeps the smell down and the chickens healthy. Most appealing, though: you only have to clear everything out twice a year, instead of every week.

First, we emptied all the spent bedding out of the inner coop – all the way down to the floor.

Scraped down to the hardware cloth

The chickens were not impressed with our efforts. At first, they hid in a corner of the run. Eventually, though, we didn’t pay enough attention to keeping the run door closed and they snuck out. Oscar said, “I guess we aren’t going anywhere today.” (I only let the chickens free-range when I’m at home.)

Some of the hens kept coming in to complain that they needed to lay an egg and there was nowhere to do so. (They still refuse to use the fancy next box I have for them.)

When we finished clearing the inner and outer sections of the coop, we put a new layer of sand in the bottom of the inner coop. Then filled it with new bedding.

It didn’t take them long to find their way back into the coop

The compost pile received a major contribution. The spent bedding will continue to break down into some awesome soil over the winter.

We need to pick up more sand and bedding for the outer coop; but first – I need a shower!