Sunday, June 29, 2014

Garden Journal #9 (and some chickens)

Meet my nemesis: the Squash Beetle. 

Today we waged war against this guy and at least 100 of his friends. Probably more. I armed myself with the following and spent a good hour and a half picking off bugs. 

The arsenal: a bucket of soapy water, a butter knife, neem solution and a whole lot of Diatomaceous Earth (DE).
The Plan: pick off whatever bugs we can, dunk them in soapy water. Shake leaves to knock large quantities of insects into the bucket. Use wet knife to scrape eggs off leaves. Spray the underside of leaves and around the ground with Neem solution, causing insects to flee to higher ground where they can be picked off and dunked in the bucket. Heavily sprinkle the ground with DE to discourage anyone who fell off the plant from climbing back on.

It does seem rather unlike me to use natural and safe products that encourage genetic defects in the target insects. Its a bit like chemical warfare but this way I don't end up hurting the good bugs, like the bees and butterflies and spiders. No innocent bystanders, like flowers, were treated in this process.

And when we finished it looked a bit like it had snowed in our garden.

I moved a few vines off the ground and tried to encourage some trellising with a piece of wire shelving, since it worked well before.
pumpkin, tomato, cucumber and pole beans
 The plants in our tiny space are so very intertwined that getting rid of this pest is crucial to the survival of everything. This particular insect feeds off the juices of the leaves, stem, fruit anything it can stick its needle-like tongue into, eventually killing the entire plant. I only lost 2 pumpkin plants in this battle. I did have to uproot a sunflower that was getting chocked out by the beans and acorn squash, and pull out almost all my mulch. Hopefully that's goodbye squash beetle and not a hello to the grasshopper who loves to lay eggs in bare dirt...

So grateful we have chickens! 

Which brings me to our next project:
A chicken house remodel. The babies' feathers have grown in (the stubs of wattles and combs are showing now! I expect eggs in about 4-6 weeks.) and so they no longer need momma hen to snuggle them at night. This means we have 5 chickens demanding space in a house built to spaciously sleep three. For a while now, Ferdy has been putting herself to bed in the nesting box in the shed. Ella was distressed two nights ago and couldn't go to bed without being pecked. All signs of over-crowdedness. Time to add a wing to the house. 
Naturally the girls wanted to help,

with some safety gear.

Welcome to the luxury nesting area and sleeping quarters:
Again, using only repurposed materials, we added a spacious room to the coop. The girls were apprehensive to climb in at bedtime, but they all had plenty of space once I got them tucked in.

 All that's left is to coat the inside with food grade oil and paint the outside before the next heavy rainfall. But for now, we just needed to get the house in place before nightfall. And we did!

It's a bit dark to photograph after lights out, but you get the idea. The babies are not quite ready to roost while sleeping, but now they don't have to fight for space once the time comes. Nor do they have to worry that they are sleeping under someone. I will have to install the fan next, but that's easy and then everyone will sleep extra comfy and I'll start giving eggs away again.

And now on to more important things, like giant chess.

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