The Gardenisto

The Coffee Plants Are Flowering

| April 3, 2017
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

I’m taking a couple week break from the WY homestead to check on things in Southern California, and the coffee plants are flowering! Most of them are mature enough to flower and fruit, but with the Southern California weather being as hot and dry as it has been this summer, I didn’t think they would. Sometimes it’s okay to be wrong, Especially when that means coffee!

Coffee Arabica Flower 1

Coffee Arabica Flower 2

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Chicks Are Grown Up and Laying Eggs

| October 28, 2016
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

We lost a chicken this spring, and replaced it with two chicks mid summer so that we can maintain a regular production of eggs. Well the chicks started laying, and at almost exactly 16 weeks. Check out Rosa’s first egg! She’s stoked too. She kept checking it out.

rosas first egg

We recently renovated the coop, and there is room for a couple more if we really wanted, although 5 chickens is a good number for us. Fortunately the younger girls were eager to integrate with the older hens, and started free ranging on 5 acres with them.

After they feathered out, the young girls were able to get big and strong free ranging with the hens, and hardly required feed this summer. A single 40lbs bag of feed lasted 3 full summer months for two growing pullets and 3 full grown hens. Feed is always offered, but they were filling their crops on seeds, bugs, grasses, and scratch, and had little to no interest in their layer feed.

If you consider hens will consume 1/4 lbs to 1/3 lbs per bird per day. At 40lbs, one $16 bag of feed should last a single hen between 100 and 120 days. 5 hens should cost as much as $80, or as little as $60 for cheaper quality feed.

I’m sure we’ll square up on feed costs when winter rolls in, and the girls free range a whole lot less. OR we can consider the coop costs partially recovered, but getting 2-3 eggs per day from 3 hens, and getting two young ones up to speed for dirt cheap is pretty awesome.

Considering a dozen organic free range eggs cost over 5 dollars. The economics of chicken keeping works for me.

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My Best Friend Luna

| October 25, 2016
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

This isn’t a typical Gardenisto post, but I felt like I’d share because it was an important part of my everyday life. I lost my dog and best friend Luna to cancer on Saturday October 22 2016. She was a Catahula Leopard and Aussie Shepherd mix. For anyone who has had either breed, you know how intelligent and incredible they are. Luna was exceptional, even for an already exceptionally intelligent breed.

Luna

My Best Friend Luna

My sister brought her home to my folks place from an adoption center in California, and she immediately became my best friend. Working from home, programming and developing software, meant I got to spend every day with my best friend. Only more recently, by collocating in Wyoming for the last two years, have I really had to spend any time away from her. Besides distance from the rest of my family, its been the hardest part of being away from California.

She was always upset when I left, and resentful for a short while when I got back, but would always forgive me and we’d be best buddies again. I felt guilty and depressed every time I left.

Its taken me a couple days to post this, even though I knew it was only a short matter of time before I’d lose her. I thought I was mentally prepared, but it still hurts. I’m not sure of too many things I can do to honor her memory. I’m not sure how many people understand what its like to loose a dog and companion like her. She was not a pet, she was a friend. I’ve had other dogs, and they were pets. Luna thought she was people, acted like people, and so we treated her a lot like people.

I decided sharing my loss with my internet followers, readership, and friends might be a good way to share her memory, if not just help me vent a little. I’m deciding on which framed picture of her to put somewhere around the house in Wyoming, because I still like seeing pictures of her; even if it does make my stomach sink, my throat hurt, and eyes tear up.

I have tons of great memories, but I also feel robbed of at least a few more years of memories. I already miss her very much. I’m depressed and really just devastated.

Chicken Coop Remodel

| October 11, 2016
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

At first glance, the chicken coop looks the same, but its about twice as big now.  In a two day effort, we increased the size of the chicken coop to house two more chickens.  This years 2 pullet addition required just a little more space and required that we remodel.

The little girls have caught on and are following the big girls in at night, and it couldn’t be a day too soon either, as we’ve already had night time lows down to 25F.

What was the old coop is now the gable, and two larger sides were added.  It has a hinged roof on one of the new sides, for even more access, the latching side door was re-used, and so was the nesting box with hinged roof.  Access is easier than ever, and a small solar led helps guide the youngest chickens around in an otherwise dark coop, before the battery dies for the night.  The new roofing on the sides was made to match the original simulated copper roof, and a couple small gable vents were added.

The attached run was removed because it was hardly used. We also have electric fencing and plenty of safe spaces from predators for the chickens during the day and night, so it became unnecessary.

Check out the photos below, and you’ll see the remodeling process.

 

inside-coop-1

Pic 1: Inside of coop shows new framing extensions off of old corner stud 2×4, and old materials used in addition flooring.

 

old-and-new-materials-inside

Pic 2: New front wall around doorway materials, old materials used for flooring of additions, and a side wall with door re-used

 

coop-construction

Pic 3: The strip down, and new framing process. You can see the outline of the old coop.  Joanie, a speckled sussex assumed the role of project supervisor and would often enter and inspect progress.

 

coop

Pic 4: A finished remodel.  Some materials have since been cleaned up to remove rust/screw discoloration.  All screws were replaced with zinc t5 screws.

coop-remodeled

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Quail Coop and Quail Run Upgrade

| October 6, 2016
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Although I was happy with the look and engineering of my quail coop, I still had a major drawback. Odor. The quail would would get water on quail feed that they had scattered on the floor and the coop would end up smelling bad enough to annoy me.

 

Quail Run

 

I decided to let them have a run outside for food and water, and the coop purely for warmth and protection. I prefer to let the quail have a more natural habitat anyway, and I want them to maximize sunlight in winter. The result is happy quail that spend time outside when they would like, but can get shelter, warmth, and dust bathe inside in pine shavings when they want to escape the elements.

 

Quail Coop and Run

The run is 4 feet by 4 feet, and about 4 feet tall with a steep roof for snow loading. It is wrapped in 1/2 inch hardware cloth, and has a large door for ease of human access. A small 2 foot bridge connects the run to the coop. The coop is 1.5 feet by 4 feet, with a steep roof, a door, and 2 large plexiglass windows. The coop also has a hardwired bulb for warmth, and the quail water will utilize a thermostatic heating element to keep from freezing.

 

Quail Coop and Run 2

 

I also did a little faux painting with rattle cans to turn my donated green metal roof into a more aesthetically appealing rustic tin color. I also painted, stained, and white washed the coop and run. It looks a little like a child’s doll house now. No the craftsmanship is not shoddy, its simply reclaimed lumber made to work for my application.  So if you seed odd cuts and shapes, that is why.  Leave a comment, an let me know what you think, as well as any other suggestions for quail keeping.

 

Quail in Run

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Chiladrona Rabbit Stew

| September 9, 2016
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

I came up with a new game meat stew recipe, specifically for rabbit meat. Although I am sure any good dense cuts of meat would work well.

So the name is a word play on the words ‘Chile’ and ‘Ladrona’, which means thief in Spanish. I wanted to do a chilindron rabbit dish, but am not the biggest fan of the bell peppers typically used in the dish. I wanted a tomato wine base like a chilindron or a cioppino, and a chile pepper base like a posole. Because I ‘stole’, different concepts to make the dish, but they all had pepper in it, its called Chiladrona.

I have only tested with a couple servings, and its pretty good. But I tweaked it a bit at the time of serving.

Start by stewing rabbit, or meat of choice, in a slow cooker with salt black pepper and a bay leaf for a couple hours. To tenderize it prior to finishing and serving the meal.

Ingredients
Olive oil
32 Ounces of beef stock
1 tbsp paprika
2-3 Bay Leaves
Salt to taste
8 whole black peppercorns
1 onion finely chopped (a blend of sweet and red is nice)
1 large bunch of parsley
1-2 lbs rabbit meat
2 tbsp chopped garlic
4 ounces of red wine
1 can of finely diced tomatoes
6 Dried California Chilies
2 Dried Guajillo Chilies
2 tbsp Bacon bits, or little bacon fat (Optional)
1/2 tbsp oregano

Recipe
Add a teaspoons of olive oil to a medium sized stock pot, and saute 3/4 of the onions until opaque. Add bacon to this step if desired.

Add 2 tbsp garlic and stewed de-boned rabbit meat.

Once the meat and onions have browned, add 4-6 ounces of wine.

Reduce liquids until half remains.

While the liquids in the stock pot are reducing, prepare your chilies in a separate container. I use a tall wide mouthed jar. Add a pinch of salt, half a can of tomatoes, and all of your chilies. Process in to a runny base with an immersion blender, or use a regular blender if you don’t have an immersion blender. Add a splash of stock or water if too thick to completely blend.

Add the rest of the cans of petite diced tomatoes to the stock.
Add the runny chili paste to the stock pot.
Add the beef stock to the stock pot.
Add paprika, oregano, and salt to taste.
Crack the whole black peppercorns in a mortar and pestle, or a mocajete. Add the cracked black pepper to the stock.
let simmer on the lowest setting, string occasionally, until the flavors start becoming well incorporated. 20 minutes to 30 minutes is a good time estimate.

Add 3/4 of the chopped parsley to the soup and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Serving
Serve with chopped onion and chopped parsley liberally garnished on top. Its a very attractive dish, my photo doesn’t do it justice. I’ll have to work on getting a better photo.

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Brewing Dandelion Burdock Beer 1

| June 15, 2016
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Dandelion Burdock Beer was originally a brew made from lightly fermented root extracts. Much like sarsaparilla and other ‘root beers’. Nowadays its an uncommon and overly sweet soda that is, more often than not, made with little to no genuine ingredients. Dandelion Burdock has a somewhat acquired taste, you either love it or hate it like one hates cough syrup. I personally can’t get enough of the stuff.

A few companies exist today that make a decent Dandelion Burdock soda for those who wish to try one ready made; Fentiman’s being one of the best and most available.

Although Fentiman’s is a good soda, I wanted to brew a more authentic one. I decided to take a stab at an ingredient list from many online sources of information, as well as my own careful sampling of flavors in commercially available sodas.

I’ve made Ginger Beer, Birch Beer, and Cream Soda, so I also had some previous experience with similar lightly fermented brews, and various ratios of ingredients required.

20160614_092443

The recipe below is what I decided would be my ‘base’ recipe to test. The recipe makes 64 fl. oz. in a common growler with an airlock.

Ingredients:

Sugars
Dissolve Sugars and molasses into boiling hot spring or filtered water

  • 1 1/3 cups sugar dissolved into 10-12 fl. oz. water
  • 2 tsp. Molasses

Tea 24-32 fl. oz.
Brew Tea to a dark, rich aromatic consistency.

  • 2 dandelion tea bags
  • 1 burdock tea bag
  • 5 star anise ground coarse
  • 3-5 small sliced pieces of ginger(like 5 thick quarters)
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice

Combine sugar, strained tea, and top off to 64 fl ozs with natural unsweetened apple juice.
Add 1/2 tsp bread yeast to growler.
Ferment until airlock bubbles every 3 seconds. Let bubble at this rate for a two hour minimum for good carbonation. Cap and then Refrigerate to terminate fermentation.

Dandelion Burdock 1
Dandelion Burdock Losing Carbonation

Results
These are my tasting notes for the above Dandelion Burdock Recipe, that I’ll keep as DB Recipe #1.

  • overly sweet- reduce sugar 1/3 cup
  • acidity slightly higher than desired
  • under-fermented with nasal overtones of sulfur gas from yeast, use different yeast
  • Apple juice imparted too much apple flavor, use an apple+pear+grape mixture for more balance
  • More potent Dandelion and Burdock flavor to be desired, double dandelion and burdock values
  • More anise, fennel, and herbal/spice flavor to be desired
  • A little cloudy, possibly boil all liquids together, filter, add irish moss to last 5-10 minutes of boil. Possibly use gelatin for fining, and siphon into a secondary fermenter/growler prior to cold storage.

Although I gave my Dandelion Burdock brew a fairly heavy bit of scrutiny, It was still very enjoyable, and a great first step toward improving and refining an even better beverage.

I really encourage others to take a crack at brewing some Dandelion Burdock, and would love input and opinions. Please leave me a comment, or stay in touch with me on twitter, if you do brew a DB. @Gardenisto

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DIY Skull Mounting Bracket

| April 26, 2016
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

I finally got around to making a skull mounting bracket ad putting the antelope on the wall. Last year I cleaned and ‘bleached’ an antelope skull to make a nice euro mount. I may eventually put a post up about cleaning and preparing a skull in the euro mount style, since everybody asks how I did it.
Euro  Mount Bracket
Anyway, I needed to make a mounting bracket for the antelope skull, So during a recent internet outage, I took a short break from work and finally made a bracket. I took a 3/4 inch wide scrap piece of steel, trimmed it to about 10 inches, and made a 20 degree bend near the middle. I ground the surface. to rough up the texture of the bracket, and painted matte black for a simulated wrought iron look.

I drilled two holes for matching black screws, and voila! An easy and professional looking, nearly free skull mounting bracket. It cost about 50 cents, and took less than 30 minutes to make.
DIY  Euro Mount  Bracket

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Starting Fig Cuttings

| April 25, 2016
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

All of our fig cuttings rooted! I have a lot of experience propagating stubborn plants, even going so far as to do it for others by request. I have used different layering techniques, and even plant tissue culture to be successful, but recently I cloned Lattarula Fig cuttings. I have never started figs from cuttings, but they are fairly easy by comparison to other plants; which was a welcomed surprise. If anyone is interested in increasing their success rates, here is the method I used.

1.) Get a large clear Tupperware container. I like large takeout soup containers. It should be large enough to place the entire cutting into a soil-less media and still have room for leafing out, and unconstrained rooting.

2.) Prepare sterile coco fiber(my soil-less media of choice), rinse and ring out if it seems salty. Fill containers with well drained coco fiber.

3.) Dip the cutting ends in rooting hormone, organic options do exist, but I won’t get into that here. This step isn’t ‘necessary’ if you prefer not to aid in root growth via a chemical means.

4.) Place all but the top 2.5-3 inches in the media.

5.) Add a liquid fertilizer to filtered, preferably sterile water, and water in the cutting. Just water enough that beading of water on the inside of the clear container is visible, and no more.

6.) Loosely cover the container with plastic wrap or a lid. You want some gas exchange, but you also want to maintain a high moisture content.

7.) Keep in indirect light and keep warm. If you have a heat mat, use it to apply bottom heat. Try not to exceed 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with a sweet spot around 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

8.) Keep the humidity high, by adding water to the coco fiber media as needed.

After about 2 weeks there should be enough root growth to reduce the humidity, and reduce the watering. When a small root ball is visible, remove bottom heat and slowly increase the lighting the figs receive. After 3-4 weeks, plant up cuttings into a light organic potting media, and keep well watered, but not damp.

Don’t be fooled by leafing out, sometimes a plant will leaf out before or during rooting. Don’t reduce heat or humidity, don’t increase light, and don’t transplant until a root ball is visible and healthy.

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Quail Coop Revisions

| December 10, 2015
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

We raise our coturnix quail in WY. The temperatures from mid summer to mid winter range from 90+ degrees to -25 Fahrenheit, and the wind during different parts of the year can be 50+ mph.

This requires a flexible coop. One that is as good in summer as it is in winter. With the weather being awful now, I wont make any changes to the current design that you can see in pictures. Except the addition of a new circulated, heated water system.

Quail Coop Glamour Shot

Quail Coop Cock Walk

The design includes a few basic things that allows it to work.

The coop is mostly solid walled with good ventilation. Its built onto a stock tank, so the 1st foot of wall from the ground is solid metal and totally draft free.

A dark colored 25 watt bulb was wired into each covey, and the common area, and is enough supplemental heat to keep quail happy. These bulbs turn on with a thermostat when temps go below 35F.

During the summer the front swinging hutch style window/doors allow a ton of fresh cool airflow through 1/4″ hardware cloth. I placed mirror hangers on the door frames and covered them 90% with plexiglass panels for winter. They provide insulation and draft protection.

Removable wooden panels cover wire mesh vents at the top of the coop during winter. There is still plenty of ventilation, just no drafts.

The bedding is a combination of straw, pine shavings, and sand. Which allows fairly easy clean up, whilst providing a good war bedding, even if the heat bulbs don’t operate.

I often wonder how miserable they are and check on them, just to find they are all content in their winterized coop.

They are fine in some really terrible weather, even without additional heat. Any aggressive males can be placed in the cock walk. An internal elevated caged area that can also be used for controlled breeding. A shroud over the bulb keeps the bulb from getting dirty.

I hope this helps anyone considering raising quail in a cold area. Leave me a comment or send me an email if you have any questions.

I’m already bouncing around new coop ideas and improvements, but for this winter in WY this will suffice.

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