Posts Tagged ‘farming’

Guinea Monsters From Hell


Poultry scares the living crap outta me. Too many negative experiences with geese, turkeys, roosters, and chickens as a child, I guess. (Did you know that chickens are the closest living relative to the T-Rex???) It’s not that an angry Charolais mama cow or a  Belgian draft horse in training aren’t unnerving…but they can’t FLY. They don’t have creepy, naked, talon-y feet and BEAKS. They are too big to really sneak up on a girl.

My sister the Shrew tried to adopt two 3 year-old guinea hens from our friend Jacqueline in August. Or maybe one is a hen and one’s a rooster…whatever. That lasted all of about 15 minutes. In her defense, she thought they were properly contained, and Jai, the Ginormous White Slobbering Dog created a diversion by running off into the woods. While BigGuy (Shrew’s husband), the Shrew, Danny Boy and I were running/driving around the neighborhood looking for Jai, GusGus (Walli the Corgi’s little brother) evicted them from the barn.

guineafowl

After a night or two we were pretty sure a fox, coyote, wolf or logging truck had done them in. I was relieved, to say the least. Birds are FOOD, not friends. Then neighbor Elsie called Lois to ask if she was missing some funny-looking, big, gray and white birds. Neighbors always call Lois when strange creatures appear at their homes. (Itchy the pony was under Barb’s deck once, and the big horses went to Cook for coffee years ago.)

Lois rounded up a posse of friends and their children, complete with a roll of netting and landing nets. After  a good bit of whining, I went to observe only. I had a gun, just in case, but didn’t really want to shoot the birds in front of other people’s children.

It ended up being a moot point; Guineas are like the Harrier aircraft we saw at the airshow this year– they can take off straight up. And then they blend like ninjas into the northern MN swamp. I was pretty sure they would make their way to my house, to eat me in my sleep.

Over the next few weeks, they were spotted at three other neighbors’ houses. All attempts at capture were futile. At one point, Lois & Co. even tried guns and mirrors (Guineas are notoriously vain). She briefly had them back at the Funny Farm, locked in a horse trailer, hoping they would learn The Farm was now home. No good; they were back at Lori and Steve’s not a week later.

Just when I was hoping Mother Nature had disposed of them for me, I got a Facebook message from yet ANOTHER neighbor. We tried to give her the fowl for her birthday, but she didn’t buy it. Smart woman.

As soon as the neighbors saw that we would shoot them if we had to, to make the neighborhood safe, they decided the Guinea Fowl weren’t so bad. “What’s a little bird poo, weird noises, roosting on vehicles,  and feathers compared to the benefits of the birds?” they asked.  So they eat ticks. Yay. Ticks are gross, and deer ticks spread Lyme’s Disease. Eat ’em all, I say, but stay away from my house. I will spray us all with DEET instead. And keep the lawn mowed. Maybe even build a moat.

Why did the Guinea Monsters cross the road? Apparently Neighbor Carol feeds them and they like the company of her chickens. She LIKES them. Thinks they are cute, even. They come when she calls. I think we were all pretty ok with Prickles and Eggo (yes, Lois let Anthony name them-makes it even harder to shoot them.) living out their creepy birdy lives across the road.

But they like to roam.

fat cat

Luckily, my cat keeps tabs on everything.

What is GF Peaches looking at? Guinea Monsters in my Great Aunt Emily’s Rugosa roses. IN. MY. FRONT. YARD.

guineafowl, roses

Not cool, Lois! It’s like they KNOW I can’t shoot in that direction.

There is one other redeeming quality that has kept them alive thus far: they run like hell from me. Even when I’m not actually chasing them.

Today, however, I see that they dug up the sage I planted.

guinea hens with sage

I know, I know, they didn’t actually damage the plant-they were just looking for bugs. But still. Poultry. Right next to my house. Sort of messing with my plants.

I wonder how long they would need to be in the slow-cooker to get rid of the gamey taste…

Very nice, informative article here. They really are great for gardening, if you can get over the whole bird thing. Feel free to post recipes, if not.

Weekly Photo Challenge: BIG


Great Pyrenees

Jai is a BIG lapdog.

The Weekly Photo Challenge asked that we write about what “Big” means to us. I chose one of my sister’s dogs, Jai. He lives at  The Funny Farm  and is a rescued Great Pyrenees PUPPY (14 months, 120 lbs).  Jai is short for Ginormous, White, Slobbering Dog. Think puppy brain in a pony-sized body….He digs BIG holes, runs BIG laps, needs BIG toys, and cleaning up after him is a BIG job.  :/

herd, goat, llamas, sheep, pony, great pyrenees, dog

Jai meets his herd.

Great Pyrs are bred to protect livestock.  Lois is hoping he will help keep farm creatures IN the fence, and deer, coyotes and wolves OUT of the fence. These dogs are mostly nocturnal , gentle with children, and love to roam their territory. They are working dogs, but Jai takes naps, too. He’s just a baby.

working dog, great pyrenees, couch

He takes up most of the couch, and likes to snuggle in bed, too.

great pyrenees puppy, The Funny Farm, Cook, MN

Ginormous bone, purchased in the hopes of saving furniture.

Jai, Great Pyrenees puppy

Jai, Great Pyr puppy

Normal dogs play with sticks; my sister’s dogs eat trees.

Mastiff, great pyrenees, corgi, walli pajari-williams

Mr. Stinky Droolface, the Old English/Bull Mastiff Grampa dog of the farm is actually bigger than Jai. Stinky weighs about 180 lbs, but at 10 years old is slowing down considerably. When he was a puppy we called him the Mastiffosaurus Wrecks. At one point my physical therapist recommended I stop visiting my sister until he outgrew the puppy stage. He kept knocking me over by accident.

Of course Walli the Corgi refuses to be left out. She’s 6 months older than Jai, and one-tenth his size. And come to think of it, ten times the attitude. Size is relative.

Mastiff, Great Pyreness, Corgi playing

Walli Pajari-Williams goes to work every day with her mom, Lois, at Cook Dollar Barn , while Jai, Stinky, and GusGus take care of the Funny Farm.

What breed do you think Lois needs next? What’s your favorite?

For more details on these breeds, visit the links below.

Great Pyrenees

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Mastiff

I Have Worms


I first heard about composting with worms from my daughter, whose science teacher had  a worm bin in her classroom. Said daughter started cleaning our refrigerator to feed the worms for extra credit. The more I read about composting with worms (vermiculture) , the more intrigued I became. Mrs. Bidle (who also taught my sister and I in high school) asked if the worms could spend the summer at my house. Of course I said yes, and almost two years later I’m still waiting for her to start a bin of her own. 🙂 Hopefully, this will help.

Why Worms??

Because I am not a patient woman. Nor do I have a big budget for gardening. I want to grow the most food and flowers possible for the smallest investment possible, AND I have a chronic health condition that limits my physical ability. (It’s like having a 12 year-old ADD brain in an 80 year-old body some days.) It quickly became apparent that worms could be a big part of the answer I was looking for. While I am doing other things-or nothing- those worms are making dirt and fertilizer 24/7. AND eating what would otherwise be taking up space in a landfill to boot.

Which Worms?

These aren’t just any worms. Eisenia fetida is the Latin name for the worms I wanted. They specialize in eating food scraps and reproducing. And their poo is unbelievable fertilizer. My apple trees, for example, are from Idaho. They are NOT thrilled to be in the icebox of the nation. However, a friend taught me how to prune them and I added castings (worm poo) around the base of the trees and voila!

The biggest, happiest apple I have ever grown, thanks to worm poo.

I am not an expert. See the links at the end of this post for that. This is just a quick overview of what has worked for me.

  1. Keep an ice cream bucket in the freezer for food scraps. This eliminates fruit flies, smell, and best of all, speeds up the whole composting process. When the fruit and veggies freeze, ice crystals split open the cells, so the worms can break it down faster.
  2. Brown and Green. There is a specific formula for how much of each to use, but I wing it and it seems to work fine. “Brown” can be paper grocery bags, newspaper, leaves, etc. The worms need this material for bedding, and it also helps soak up excess moisture. “Green” is food scraps (plant only- no dairy or meat…they attract the wrong kinds of bugs and may also contain pathogens). Whole corncobs and apples will eventually break down, but smaller chunks are faster, so I usually chop up the food for the bins. If I don’t have time, it goes in the big compost bin outside, which I add worms to regularly.
  3. Black. Always cover Green with at least two inches of black, again to keep unwanted bugs from being interested. “Black” can be compost that is finished, bagged potting soil, or even garden dirt.
  4. Moisture. I keep my bins outside in the summer, so when it rains I cover them. Too much moisture attracts- again- the bugs you don’t want. The drain on my bin keeps clogging, so I just scoop out any extra moisture for super-concentrated fertilizer. A kitchen baster works great for this, too.
  5. Rotating where in the bin I feed the worms has worked best for separating the worms from their castings (poo). For example, I feed only on the left side of the bin for a few weeks, layering brown, green, and black. Once that side gets close to the top, I stop feeding on the left and  switch to the right and start over. The worms eat everything on the left and work their way to the other side of the bin. Then I can remove the finished product from the bin, and use it in the gardens.

I hope this helps you get started! I am all about guidelines and winging it– the details are here:

www.redwormcomposting.com  has tons of info on getting started and troubleshooting. Dear Family, please visit this site when you think my worm experiment has gone too far. 😉

www.lavermesworms.com is the Duluth company where my worms came from. Ellen has done great things with worms; check it out!

The Sister in the Basement


“There’s ANOTHER one??” my 10 year-old son asked. His eyes got bigger and his jaw dropped. I admit, it took me a few seconds to catch up.

“Another what?”

“Another sister.”

“What are you talking about? I have one sister; you have two.”

“What about the one in the basement??” He was worried now. I was checking him for obvious signs of a head injury. I’d been talking about using rinsewater from laundry to water the gardens, and he was asking about missing siblings. That’s when it hit me. I laughed so hard, tears almost ran down my leg. When I caught my breath, I explained what a cistern does.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cistern

POO!


Don’t be scared…it’s only fertilizer.

So my sister and I were sitting by the bonfire tonight, talking about all the by-products we use from The Funny Farm (now Cook’s Country Connection), and naturally the talk turned to poo.  Her critters produce a LOT of it. And since we are both avid gardeners, this is a good thing. The trouble is, all poo is not created equal. Thus, I decided to share an overview of the poo we fertilize with, and why. (Please note: NPK is the amount of Nitrogen, Phosporus, and Potassium in fertilizer. Most synthetic fertilizer is 20, 10,5. However, we prefer the organic, homegrown type that comes from all the critters. It takes a bigger volume of fertilizer, but it’s worth it. And free. And we have to something with all that poo!)

  • Horse/Donkey Poo: Little Bit, Itchy, Squirt, Toby and Jack eat a LOT. Horses are less-efficient at digesting than other farm animals, so they poo a lot, too. Cleaning up after them often requires a front-end loader and a strong back. That’s why I usually just supervise. Horse and donkey poo is “hot”, meaning it’s high in nitrogen and can burn plants if not aged or composted. (The average NPK for horses is .7, .30, .60.) Also, weeds can be an issue with horse poo, since a lot of the seeds pass right on through. However, every equine on the place is an eating machine, so there are large quantities of horse poo available.

Lois with (clockwise from bottom left) Itchy, Little Bit, and Squirt

  • Rabbit Poo: Zip the bunny was easy to litterbox train–unfortunately he had a tendency to chew on things he shouldn’t. Like wiring. Therefore, his accomodations were upgraded to an indoor-outdoor hutch with a wrap-around porch. Bunnies usually poo in the corner farthest from their food, so collecting rabbit poo is easy. The average NPK is 2.4, 1.4, .6. Bunny poo is already pelletized, so it’s convenient, too! And it’s safe to put directly around plants, like llama beans…no need to compost first. Luckily, Lois brought home another bunny today from our friend Diane 🙂
  • Worm Poo: I love composting! Two summers ago, our high school math/science teacher, Mrs. Ann Bidle, had a worm bin as part of a class project. When the project was over, she gave me the worms and bin 🙂 Most people know that earthworms are excellent for the garden. They aerate the soil, break down organic matter, and add vital good bacteria that helps plants grow bigger faster. I spread the castings from my worm bins around two of my apple trees this spring, and they are literally weighed down to the ground with pie apples. My lilacs love castings, too. I also add excess worms to my regular compost bins and piles to get things moving faster. If you want more info on vermiculture, check out this blog: http://www.redwormcomposting.com/getting-started/. Average NPK varies greatly depending on what worms are fed.
  • Llama Beans & Alpaca Poo: Talk about the perfect organic fertilizer! It’s compact, has very little smell, releases nutrients slowly, can be added directly to the garden, is easy to collect (they tend to go in a few central locations), and face it- Jill, Belle, Madelyn and Maddox are just plain fun to be around. The underbites and humming alone are priceless.

    Madelyn, one of the newest additions to the Funny Farm.

Lois and Jade sniffing noses with Bella Llama

Check out this Nicotiana I started from seed and transplanted to the flower bed that had llama beans. It’s easily twice the size of the others I started and placed elsewhere. The average NPK for llamas is 1.5, .2, 1.1.

WITH llama beans…

  • Dog/Cat Poo:   Unfortunately, dog and cat poo are NOT good for much. Never use pet waste in gardens or compost. (Assuming you have normal pets ie: cat, dog, rodent, etc.) If you know something we don’t, please let us know. The big dogs alone weigh close to 300 pounds, so you can just imagine the sheer volume of poo they produce.

Cats do reduce the amount of mouse poo on the farm, however. Which is good. Nobody wants mouse poo in their feed.

As you can see, using poo for fertilizer is not only good gardening…it’s a way of life on The Funny Farm. Any questions? Ask Lois…she is FULL of poo In fact, she’s the Queen of Poo. True story! Google it and see!!

What’s your favorite poo for gardening?

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