Thursday, May 29, 2008

When Animals Attack

Approximately a month ago we bought 13 chicks and moved them out to our new hoop house last week. We found out last night we had a few weak spots that an industrious raccoon exploited last night and dispatched with 9 of the 13. One of the remaining had his wing tore off so we'll see if he/she makes it or not but have separated the injured one from the remaining chicks to aid in its recovery. The reason we could tell it was a raccoon was due to it leaving paw prints on the tarp around the hoop house as well as primarily tearing the heads off the chickens and leaving the rest.

Our younger kids were upset but the older ones handled this much better than last time when our chicks were stolen over 2 separate nights (see Stop Thief Part I & Stop Thief Part II). We'll be fortifying the hoop house today and will hopefully prevent this episode from happening again. We've decided not to put out traps due to the risk with our kids but instead spend the time and energy making the hoop house more secure. It is unfortunate this happened but since we just ordered 30 more chicks we're glad we found out with a small death toll then what could have happened when our additional 30 head out to the hoop house.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gardening When It Counts

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times is an interesting book that runs contrary to many of the gardening and composting books on the market. Steve Solomon's background puts him in the interesting position of understanding both sides of many of the gardening world, not just through research but actually doing it. The subtitle of the book is, "Growing Food in Hard Times" and in my opinion is a little misleading because many of the people that have seen the book on my car dash while reading have asked if it was one of those survivalist and coming Armageddon books which it is not. Mr. Solomon does a great job of helping the amateur gardening understand some way not to garden like:
Why you shouldn't buy seeds in a garden center (Home Depot/Lowes anyone)
Why the popular Square Foot Gardening may not be best
Using dull tools
Using wood in your compost
...and the list goes on.

Chapter 1 - Introduction
Chapter 2 - Basics
Chapter 3 - Tools and Tasks
Chapter 4 - Garden Centers
Chapter 5 - Seeds
Chapter 6 - Watering ... and Not
Chapter 7 - Compost
Chapter 8 - Insects and Diseases
Chapter 9 - What to Grow ... and How to Grow It
Chapter 10 - Bibliography

Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

Recently a conversation came up in a poultry forum about using DE in chicken feed and why some was okay for consumption and others has the usual 'dangerous to animals' disclaimer. Here is an interesting article posted by a company the 'manufactures' DE and why some is considered a dangerous insecticide and others is not. I've posted the part specific to the categorization as an insecticide however I'd recommend reading the entire article.

With the help of Arizona State University, the Perma-Guard product was patented as a “wormer”. Unlike most worming products, the Perma-Guard product was not a deadly poison. Strangely, this caused a problem. You see, once you claim that a product can kill bugs, it has to be registered with the EPA, classified as an insecticide, and sold under a different label. So today, our pure, food-grade, organic diatomaceous earth is sold in two bags. One bag is labeled "Fossil Shell Flour," with no warnings of any kind required on the packaging. It is certified organic, is perfectly safe to add to feed or mix with water and drink, and it is as safe as spring water. The same diatomaceous earth, is packaged in another bag that says it kills bugs. This package, called "Grain Protectant", and is required to have warnings on the label, like “CAUTION - Keep out of the hands of children.” DE in this package could be mixed with stored grain. A single treatment would keep the grain absolutely free of bugs and free of poison residues — indefinitely! With the Grain Protectant label, it is an insecticide and must not be fed to animals. (huh???)