Sunday, March 29, 2009

Quail Egg Pictures

That's right! Two posts in one day...I just had to post a picture of the quail eggs in my incubator. Prior to this endeavor, I had never seen quail eggs before. I think that they are kind of pretty. There are three varieties in this photo. The only ones that I can identify are the Texas A&M's. They are the cream colored eggs with the big brown splotches. I purchased an assortment of eggs from someone on the Backyard Chickens website, but I couldn't identify them. When Brad at Rich Heritage sent a shipment of only Texas A&M eggs, it helped me to narrow things down a bit. I could have some eggs hatching in about a week or so, while the ones from Brad will be at least 10 days later.

Thanks again, Brad for allowing your quail to come live with the Martians!

New Homesteading Projects...

Yesterday's weather was sunny and beautiful! The high was somewhere in the vicinity of 68 degrees. We had received an email from the nursery, stating that our raspberry canes would be arriving this week. After months of trying to figure out where to plant them,I finally had to make a decision. After consulting with TheMartianMan, I decided that the best place was near our second driveway. It was important that the raspberries not be too close to our chain link fence as they can become entangled in the links. But it was equally important that they not be able to spread willy-nilly all over the yard. We wanted a controlled bramble patch!

I hauled out the edging bricks that I got at the Habitat Re-Store and arranged them in an arc, right at the end of the driveway.Then I tilled the space and pulled out any rocks that I found. I added some maple leaves and tilled again. A topping of mulch completed the task. We are supposed to get some rain this week, so the soil should stay nice and moist until the plants arrive. It looks a lot nicer in person. I waited until today to take the picture and our weather is fairly gray, rainy and dreary. When I plant the raspberries, I will also add some companion flowers to brighten things up and attract bees and other pollinators. My neighbors are used to my yard always looking neat with lots of flowers. I don't think that they'll be disappointed with the outcome in a couple of months.

The tiller that I used was the Mantis tiller that I picked up on Craigslist last year for $150. It wasn't even one year old at the time of purchase. For anyone who is not fond of equipment that makes a lot of noise, the electric Mantis tiller is a very quiet option and does not require a lot of muscle power to keep it under control. It really does a good job for such a small machine!

I also finished the Quail Jail! Well, sort of... We have all of the pieces cut but assembly is not possible for two reasons: 1) We need to buy longer screws to hold it together and 2) There is a truck in the way of the stairs that lead to the 2nd floor of the carriage house. The truck was a freebie from my dad. It needs a new transmission and does not move on its own. Unfortunately, it is in the wrong parking bay and blocks the only access to the 2nd floor. So, if we put the Quail Jail pieces together now, we will have to carry it in one piece to the second floor. Although it won't be extremely heavy, it would be pretty awkward to carry.

The good news is that TheMartianMan and his friend should be pulling the truck out of the carriage house and replacing the transmission. A working truck will make it much easier to haul firewood that we find at the curb after people have had trees cut down and reduce our firewood expenses.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Balancing the Budget...

Here is the latest tally of what we've spent so far to get our property ready to be an urban farmstead. On the right side of the blog, you will notice that I added a ticker to help to keep track of the money generated by the incubator. After all, it has to pay for itself! I have separated the expenses by category:

CHICKEN EQUIPMENT - Budget $200 - Only $103 left!
Children's Playhouse..................$80
Plastic Dishpan.......................$ 1
Plastic Crate.........................$ 1
Diatomaceous Earth....................$15
Crushed Eggshells.....................$ 0
Poultry Waterer Heater................$ 0
Poultry Feeder........................$ 0
Oyster Shell Dish.....................$ 0
Brooder Construction..................$ 0

Garden - Budget $300 - Only $150 left!
Member to Member Seedswaps............$ 5
Mushroom Kit..........................$28
12 Raspberry Canes................$26
Assorted Fruit Order..............$63
Plant Labels..............................$ 3
Recycled Wood.........................$27
Concrete Edging.......................$2

Aquaculture - Budget $300

Miscellaneous - Budget $200 - Only $13 left!
1000 Mealworms........................$20
Oatmeal...............................$ 4
Aquarium Brooder.............$ 0
Potatoes..............................$ 0
Plastic Bins..........................$12
Quail Supplies....................$23
Quail Eggs.........................$29
Welded Wire.....................$26
Chicken Eggs....................$74

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Doing Time: Construction Of The Quail Jail

Last Sunday, while puttering around in the carriage house, I found several old window frames. The glass was missing from each, so I decided to use them in the construction of a dual cage for the quail. I used a frame that once held two panes of glass and mounted 1/4 inch welded wire to it. This would be the floor of the cage. The daylight hours were waning, so I put the project away until I had more time.

This week, I selected twin frames and mounted 1/2 inch welded wire to construct the sides. The sides will also be hung on hinges to create doors. The front panel will consist of more 1/2 inch welded wire and the rear wall and top will be plywood. The plan is to set the quail hut inside the chicken pen, which should make cleanup easier. A side benefit is that in the event of a quail jail break, the birds will be unable to escape from the chicken pen.

Once finished, I'll take a trip to the Re-Store to get some suitable paint. Yeah... I know that the birds won't notice the paint job but if I'm going to go to the trouble to make it, then I want it to look good! Besides, I think we can squeeze a few bucks out of the budget for paint. I'll post pictures, when its finished.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Incubator Is Here!!

I was so excited to see the UPS delivery truck pull up in front of the house a few days ago. Our Brinsea Octagon 20 incubator arrived! We set it up on my dresser to see how it works and to make sure that it is consistent in holding the temperature and humidity levels steady. Today is Day 2 of its operation and it is running like a dream. We decided to start with some quail eggs to make sure that this thing is as foolproof as the company says.

We logged on to the Backyard Chickens website to see if someone had any quail eggs for sale. Luck was with us and we now have 20 eggs on the way. The seller had an assortment of goldens, chocolate and Texas A&M quail. Though eggs that are shipped through the mail have a decreased likelihood of hatching, we have high hopes that we will at least get 5 birds out of the deal. Any more than that and we will consider them to be purely a blessing.

Today, we had beautiful sunny weather and it was actually warm enough for me to get outside to work on a farmstead project:

I made a makeshift table out of a couple of halved pallets and some of the lumber that we got from the Habitat Re-Store. Last year, the groundhogs launched an attack on every cabbage, collard, squash, and cucumber plant that I planted. This time around, we decided to plant the cabbage and collards in 5 gallon buckets that will be raised up on the table and out of the greedy reach of the groundhogs.

I've been told that we'll have nice weather tomorrow, too... If so, then I'll be busy storing away the remainder of the firewood pile in our carriage house for next year. We still have wood on our porch that we will continue to use, but this pile will likely not be needed. It is about 2 cords of wood left over from our original purchase of 10 cords. I'll probably order another 10 cords for next year. I really like having a surplus.

I might even have time to start building a cage for the quail! The weather will need to warm up a bit more for me to start construction on the chicken pen, though.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Did I Really Just Blow The Budget?

I have spent the past couple of days trying to justify a couple of purchases for the urban farmstead. I finally decided to post what I have done here and let the inhabitants of Earth judge the Martian:

First Scenario: I had completed a list of the various fruits that I would like to be grown on our property. Right now, we only have an old mulberry tree that produces fruit. Anyway, when I tallied up the strawberries, blackberries, grapes, vine peaches, blueberries, etc. The total was $68. I thought long and hard about this and then looked in my cabinets, deep freezer and two refrigerators. I decided to skip grocery shopping for the week. We probably would have spent around that amount buying food at the grocery store. We actually don't have to grocery shop too often because we are really stocked up. Given the uncertainty in the economy and the job market, we try to have food stored so that we won't have to buy much in the event of a layoff at TheMartianMan's place of employment. So, should I add the cost of the fruit plants in to the farm budget or is it really about the same as buying groceries? After all, these groceries will be on the table during the summer and fall!

Second Scenario: As you probably know, we really want some chickens. Our desire was to actually breed some unusual breeds. Now that I have a friend who is willing to hold a rooster or 2 for me at his farm, I actually have the opportunity to be able to breed 1 unusual breed. The problem is that for the breed that I want, I cannot seem to find chicks ANYWHERE!! So I must hatch eggs if I am to get these birds.

So I browsed around on Ebay and saw a used top quality, almost foolproof incubator. It works kind of like the rotisserie that they advertise on tv during the holiday season: Set it and Forget it! Though I bid and bid and bid...someone else won the item. Then a miracle happened! I remembered that I had a stash of American Express gift cards. They were left over from a vacation that we took last May. The cards were free to us since we cashed in reward points to get them. There was a grand total of $325. So, I used them to buy the brand new version of the top quality incubator. Since I bought it with free money, should it count against my budget?

Before you answer, I also have three plans for recouping the money that I spent for the incubator. The first plan is to hatch out some specialty breed eggs for others and sell them to people like me who cannot find them anywhere. This would help me to recoup some, if not all of the money over time. The second plan involves possibly ordering up some quail and selling quail eggs and or birds locally. I believe that there is a market for it. The third plan is to sell the incubator on Ebay when it has paid for itself. The auction that I was bidding on taught me that this particular model of incubator holds its value and that people are willing to pay an awful lot of money for it, even when it is used. I can also do a combination of any of these three plans and probably MAKE money on the deal. So, given all of this rationalization (fooling myself) that I have done, should the incubator count against the farm budget?