Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hog panels, Wheat Straw, and Chicken "Haircuts"

We are finally catching up on a few things here at the Hoosier Country Homestead.  We needed to because most of our garden is doing very well, which meant we needed to get the tomato cages up and also strings and such for the pole beans to climb. Also there was the usual weeding, weeding, weeding and we're trying to do more mulching this year.

1 - 12 foot and 3 - 8 foot tomato beds
Red wires ties holding hog panels together
I promised in a comment on another excellent homesteading blog (the comment hasn't posted so I won't name the blog yet) I would get pics up today of the hog panel tomato cages, so I'll start with those:  Like many folks who grow tomatoes we found the usual wire cages you find in stores to be not up to the task of shoring up an actual tomato plant.  Since we grow actual tomatoes we needed to find an alternative to the usual commercial offerings.  I don't remember where, but I found somewhere on the internet where someone was forming hog panel into circular cages.  We modified the idea and use them almost 'as-is.'  We grow our tomatoes in beds, but I think this would work even if you grow in rows.  We cut the panels to the length of the bed with bolt cutters then simply set the panels in the beds over the plants in a teepee.  We use plastic wire 'zip' ties(red in the pic) along the top where they join to hold them in place. We invert the panels from the way you set them for hogs, so that the larger openings are at the bottom.  This makes it easier to get tomatoes on the inside of the teepee.  Sometimes simply weaving the plants through the openings is sufficient, but we also use some of the green garden wire to guide them onto the panels.  We've done this for four years now and found it be an excellent solution.

Pole beans - Look for yellow strings...
We're doing a lot of pole beans this year in addition to our usual 3 - 4'x8' beds of bush beans.  We like
the beds for bush beans because you can plant close together (usually we put 4 - 8' rows in each bed), and still reach them from the edges.  Even in my mid-50s the miles are starting to show and I appreciate not having to get down quiet so far to pick.  Since this is our first year for more than a few pole beans we're experimenting with poles and climbing strings. Here a pic of the one bed. You can barely see the yellow string in the picture but they run from the outside edges of the bed up to the old tree branch.  The rest are in a row in a plot. I'll keep the pics coming and let you all know how the different methods are working out.

We're also doing more mulching this year. We're using wheat straw and are hoping to keep a little more moisture in and a few more weeds out.  I'll let you know how that works out for us, too.  Another thing I'm trying this year is the use of diatomaceous earth for bugs.  I dusted our potatoes with this today.  I'll should get an idea of how it works pretty quickly since the potato bugs seem to be out in force early this year.
Green beans
Peppers and cabbage

A load for the brush pile!
Here in NE Indiana we're at the tail end of "tornado alley".  Most years we can plan on a dozen or 
storms that could generate a tornadoes.  Some years less and some years double that.  We had another big storm early this week that knocked out power for us for the better part of a day and for the better part of the week for others.  This storm generated 7 tornadoes in our area. There was fatality in a local town as a tree fell into a house.  We had a bunch of branches knocked out, but no real damage.

Fred the Cockeral Pre-"Haircut"

Fred Post-"Haircut"
De and I broke down and decided to give our polish chickens a 'trim'.  They have the crested heads, and the feathers had gotten into their eyes enough it was clear they were struggling to see.  Since this is our first year with chickens we we're sure exactly how to do this, but with a little on-line research we were ready to give it a shot.  I did the holding and De was the "hairdresser".  We'd be interested in thoughts from anyone who has done this before.  Too much?  Not enough?

Finally, De and I read that chickens like to have something to do in their runs.  I took some of those branches knocked down and rigged up a little outdoor perch. It seems to be a hit, for whatever that's worth.

Col. 1:9-12,


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