A Bachelor Pad

How do you gain more peace around your homestead, improve flock dynamics and have less stress for your hens? Build a bachelor pad! We now have all of our adolescent roosters separated from the rest of our flock in their very own bachelor pad. Peace at last.

Our back yard and porch have been a construction zone for months now. We are redoing some things with permanence in mind and expanding/improving others. Our chicken pens have been falling apart slowly over two years thanks to termites and other factors so it’s time to redo them. This time we contracted a local mason and friend to do the bottoms of the pens in cement with thick beams set into the cement; we contracted our friend to do the work because Dave has been so busy with not a lot of time for projects right now and it would provide some income for our friend. Using the cement will prevent termites and should last for years to come. We are also in the middle of expanding and improving the back porch to create a screened-in outdoor living area and our outdoor kitchen on the other side.

The chicken pens now have a cement base with inlaid posts, welded angle-iron doors that wont sag over time, a strong high-quality wire sewn to the rings along the cement and new (but cheaper) wire covering the rest of the pens and the top. The pens are also taller and stand alone from our bamboo fence – this will come in handy when we need to redo the fence someday! We also had a greens feeder box poured and have future plans to cement in another for feeding mound termites to our chickens and a covered dust bathing box.

The best addition to the chicken house by far was the bachelor pad. We separated off the behind piece of the main chicken run complete with doors to get in and out and added another coop door that goes directly into our blackout pen inside the coop. Now only the mature adult roosters that we select for breeding and guard duty will be living with all of the hens. This gives us more control on genes but it also means less fighting, less stress on the hens, less noise and fewer injuries to more important birds. We have more peace in the general flock and that is wonderful. Already the dynamics of the flock are so much better it amazes me. 10 adolescent roosters really did stir up trouble. Now with a pulley system installed on the door for them we don’t even have to enter their pen to shut them up at night or let them out in the morning. So nice!

The expansion to our back porch is in progress, though the cement work part of that is finished. The rest will likely wait until after our upcoming furlough is over and we are back home. We plan on extending the roof over the expanded part of the porch as well as length-wise on the opposite end of our porch to build our outdoor kitchen and have a place for our workers to be during their lunch break. It will be so amazing to have a screened-in outdoor living area that we can use to relax outside in during the evenings or host parties in. It will also be amazing to have our outdoor kitchen so the heat and general mess of vegetable prep work gets moved outside. It will give us options to make efficient rocket stoves for canning, etc.

Another future expansion that will help us with the back porch will be the addition of a garden shed/green house. Or should I call it a shade house? It will give me an area to work on garden things like starting seedlings and cuttings, sifting compost, storing tools and sprays, etc. Basically it will help clean out the pump house and the back porch of garden things. It will create a place free of toddlers, cats, chickens, etc. that seedlings will be safe. We may even put a rain collection system on it to have water inside for seedlings and washing equipment. I’m very excited about this and hope it will allow me to get even more out of my efforts in the garden.

Our garden is doing well right now for being in the middle of dry season with an impending furlough. I’m limited now on what I can plant (basically just lettuce and radishes) because of our timeline. I do have some new varieties I am trying right now and look forward to after furlough to keep trying some new things. Right now I am searching for a green bean that does well here and holds up well to canning; our current variety is doing very well and has superb flavor (one of the best I’ve ever had) but still cans up a little too soft. Other new fun things are a tiny cucumber the size of a kumquat, an heirloom variety of garlic and a giant radish that has a record of over 100 pounds (averaging 10-20 pounds) that supposedly has a different flavor and is good in soup. We will see.

This dry season has brought with it a battle of aphids, far worse than any previous year, both green and black. They are attacking so many of my plants and I’m having a hard time finding an organic spray that works well on them. They are destroying my mustard greens and have severely stunted half of my beans. A vinegar solution is next on my list to try before going to more extreme measures like diatomaceous earth. One unusual but good thing happening in the garden is a carrot has flowered and is going to seed – normally it takes carrots two seasons to go to seed with a winter in-between! This is an heirloom breed that was developed in India so maybe I’ve found a variety that can go to seed here! That would mean so much to local gardeners who have to buy expensive seed each time they want to grow carrots here.

Some other things happening amidst the construction have been two batches of kittens and some canning. The kittens are adorable and bring much joy, especially to Daniel, but they also bring me work with feeding them (bottle feeding in the beginning because their mom didn’t produce enough milk), monitoring our toddler playing with them and locking them up each night so they are safe. We have found homes for all but the crippled runt and they will be going to their new homes starting today. This is only the first batch. The second batch are only two weeks old but we will be looking for homes for them soon. The canning has been a catch up and also preparing for Dave being gone for three weeks. I used to can a lot but this last year has been so crazy hard that I just didn’t do much of it; now with focusing more on our home I’ll be able to do more of it and it will make life easier for me when it comes to meals. We are looking into ways to get more canning jars here so I can do a lot more canning. Im really excited at the prospect. Having meals where all I have to do is open a jar or two and reheat will be a huge relief.

A few other things have been difficult in-between the last time I wrote and now. We have had to deal with driver ant attacks lately which are never pleasant and I helped out with a wedding that ended with the husband being admitted to the hospital the evening after the ceremony and he died a week later. We have started to use the technique of lighting the ants on fire to kill them instead of just spraying them with diesel. This has been much more effective and gets rid of them instead of just redirecting. For the wedding I did the Bride’s hair, eyebrows and nails and took wedding photos for them. I still can hardly believe that he went into the hospital that evening and died a week later leaving his young widow behind picking up the pieces. Such a shock.

So things are plodding along, growing and expanding and always changing. Dry season has been so hot here lately and dry the world around us is slowly turning brown. The air is often filled with smoke with a constant cover of haze from people burning their fields all over the countryside. The grass has started crunching under my feet as I walk and deep cracks are appearing in the ground all over. Just now a cloud cover with a nice breeze has blown in to make it rather pleasant compared to the scorching sun earlier today. I’m going to go take advantage of that by going out to work in the garden now.

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