Category Archives: Ranch Garden

Fresh Growth (or: Spring is Coming!)

Green things growing, birds calling, kids playing all day out side – these things tell me Spring is coming!

lilacbuds

I wait through the lovely Holiday season…
I wait longingly through January and February – those two eternities of blizzards and snow and bitter cold.
In desperation, I thumb through the seed catalogs and order some strawberry plants and zinnia seeds. “I will have some bright color in my garden!”

So, when the weather actually starts to mellow, and the biting cold wind softens to a gentle warm breeze – I head out doors. I take my camera and I go searching. Searching for any and every hint of Spring. Of sunshine and warm air. Of new life and the color green.

And yesterday I found some.

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I gently pulled back the dead leaves and grinned when I discovered green beneath them. I stared in delight at the tiny peppermint leaves that were uncurling. After I’d snapped a photo, I carefully covered them again with the leaves, to insulate them from the cold nights and the last few snowstorms that are surely coming.

springbuds

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I have a nice greenhouse in my yard, although I haven’t used it so far. (crazy, I know!!) I have been to scared to plant stuff in it – thinking I don’t know enough about greenhouses to actually grow things in there. I mean, if you go to our trusty friend Google, you will find articles that make your eyes glaze over and your mind shut down. talk of ventilation, fans, heaters, thermometers (remote, no less!!) drip lines and self-watering and timers and hydroponics.

While all that is good, I simply want to grow a tomato plant in there, with no heater, and nothing I need to buy, if possible. (except for the plant, of course!) So I decided this year to just dive in and see what happens. If I fail – well, I haven’t invested in fans and thermometers and special drip lines. If I succeed, perhaps I can help someone else who just wants to grow tomatoes. :) I am all about simple, by the way. I may have the ability to devise or follow elaborate schemes, but rarely do I have the funds.

dirt

After a trip to my new favorite store (Menards), where I bought several bags of the cheapest potting soil I could find, I went to my trusty Wal-Mart and picked up a few tomato and pepper plants. I was going to get a cheapo thermometer too (just because it would make me feel more authentic) but I forgot.

I came home and filled some plastic pots with the soil, added my plants, and watered them well. Now begins the waiting! I love planting – but waiting is so hard! To fill my time, I plan to keep planting in there til the greenhouse is full of all kinds of plants. it’s a big greenhouse, so I may as well fill it up, right?! :)

tomatosI am hoping I will have a nice, picture-perfect kind of journey in my greenhouse this summer to share with you. 😉 But – grow or fail – I will try to keep you updated. :)

What signs of spring have you found this week? If you live somewhere sunny and permanently summer, please go out and enjoy some green grass and sunshine for me, will ya? :) Thank-you.

 

diy pallet chicken coop

DIY Pallet Chicken Coop

I like chickens.

A lot.

Maybe because when I was small, I remember walking out to my mother’s chicken house, and gathering eggs…I’m not sure why I like them so much, but every spring I look at the signs that say: “Chicks here!” and want them so badly. We recently got a Murdoch’s  Farm & Ranch store in our town. I love Farm & Ranch stores, by the way. Anyways, so when they started advertising ‘Chick Days’, I stopped in a few times to let the kids look at the chicks. At least that was my excuse! It was actually a good excuse for ME to get my chick fix. I have tried 3 times to keep chickens here, and they always get eaten – either by fox, coon, or skunk. I had told myself firmly that it was a waste of time, money and energy to try again. But on the third trip to Murdoch’s, I caved. I got 3 Red Star, 3 Buff’s, and 3 Wyandottes. I like variety. I also was trying to get cold-hardy birds, since they will be living in a drafty coop most of the year. If they survive.

I knew the set-up I had been using was not going to work, so I set out to build me a coop. Now, as you know, I am not a carpenter. I do, however, believe anyone can do anything if they want to bad enough. I think more ‘skill’, and ‘talent’ is in our hard work, than in natural ability. I think anyone can be a musician, great cook, cowboy, writer, or, yes, even a carpenter, with enough learning, perseverance, and hard work. I know certain people can naturally do certain things alot easier than others. But usually its more experience or desire than actual talent.

Case in point: My Cowboy never wanted to be a carpenter. Never enjoyed it. But he is an excellent carpenter. He can build anything, without a plan. And it lasts, believe me. Why is he so good? Because he started when young, and worked with his dad, who taught him all he needed to know, little by little, hard day of work after hard day of work.

Me? Why, I had a dad who despised carpentry, never built anything he didn’t have to, and therefore most of my family is slightly lacking in carpenter skills. (except for a few brothers who actually enjoy it, and learned later. ) So I had no examples, and certainly no help building things. But I have built my first freestanding, semi-solid, totally un-square, sorta-kinda-cute, and totally functional structure! It held my chickies for the first time last night, and despite the multitude of cracks, they (the chicks) are still all there this morning! I hope the critters don’t find a way in – cause I have certainly tried to make it critter-proof, if not weather proof.  It does keep out the rain, thankfully, as it rained last night. Here is how to build a coop on the cheap frugal, with minimal zero expertise…

I dug about 24 of these 1×4’s out of the ranch dump. They are from a fallen windbreak, I think. They are 8 ft. each. I had to jerk out about 4-6 old nails out of each one.


Then I got 3 old pallets that were sturdy, and nailed the boards over the cracks. Instant studs! Yay!

I cut out a section of the one pallet for a nest-box entrance, and made a nest box out of scraps I found in the barn.

I missed taking pics of whole sections of the process, but anyways, here it is – the nest box isn’t finished yet, and it need some paint. The roof is longer in the back to help protect the nest box from rain/snow. (that sounds good, anyways…the real reason was because i didn’t want to cut metal, and this piece was basically the right size.)

 The front. I did have to frame this, since I just couldn’t wrap my brain around how to cut/fasten a door in a pallet. It was pretty easy, tho. Took me two tries to get the angle right on the door cross-support. Just being honest here.

The inside. here you can see the pallets. I used some corner braces to fasten it to the floor. I couldn’t think of any other way. Didn’t have long enough screws to screw through the oak stringers.
Check out my skylight! I wasn’t sure how to build a window, so I found this piece of clear roofing, and it works great as a skylight. Some days I will have to leave them in the coop all day, and I wanted them to get light.

Frank painted it last night. Well, some of it. See the nest box out the back? It missed getting painted, but I will finish it soon. I am quite pleased with my little coop. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but functional, and not totally sloppy-looking. And I didn’t have any help from the master carpenter, aka: My Cowboy.  The cord is for the heat lamp, in case you wondered. Its still pretty cold here at night. (30º – 40º)

I was so worried last night, I kept waking and wondering if the fox/coons had found a way in to the coop…I went  out this morning and there they all were – hale and hearty.   I got that Tom Hanks/Castaway moment of “I can build! I have made a chicken coop!” Ha ha!

I had several things I wanted in my coop.
1. Easy access to the nest box from the outside. Check.
2. Natural light source, so I wouldn’t have to run a light. Check. I have to have a heat lamp, but don’t want to have to run a light when they are grown.
3. Door big enough for an adult to get in, if necessary. Check.
4. Somewhat rustic/cute. Check.
5. Critter-proof. Check.
I am satisfied.