E Skov

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since Jul 22, 2014
Central KS, Zone 6a. Summer High 91.5F (avg), Winter Low 17.5F (avg). 35.7" Annual Rain
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Recent posts by E Skov

I don't know if it would actually work, but I have okra and tomatoes planted in the same bed this year and those okra plants look like they would maybe support some tomato vines. They are certainly pretty tough, and standing about 5 feet tall right now, though I think the tomatoes would try to smother them if they were mixed (presently the tomato plants are trellised along the north side of the bed). Maybe find a cherry tomato variety that doesn't grow so large (a 'patio' type), and that would have the best chance of success?

Getting away from annuals may be the best bet. I could really envision a tomato growing up into a a pine tree or over a dogwood or plum thicket...though I have to say, I've never actually seen it.
3 years ago
Here's the promised picture. It's certainly greener, though how much of that is the heavy rainfall we've had this year and how much is due to the swales is an open question. It certainly seems that it has helped, the infiltration is so fast I don't usually see standing water, and haven't seen much overland flow during our storms.

The woodchips are free from the city, so far I've filled my car twice.
3 years ago
I eventually decided that I wanted to put chickens or ducks on this slope eventually, mixed in with productive plants that I could keep mostly out of their reach. A larger, deader area up top can be used for the housing. If chickens, I'll move a compost heap up there too (difficult ground to grow on and the chickens can work it over!). I also wanted to be able to divide into paddocks, so I eventually decided to do hedges on top of swales to divede the areas up and hopefully hide any eventual fencing.

So what I ended up doing was putting a swale about half-way down the slope, which has a hedge of Black Chokeberry (Aronia) started on it. At the base of the slope is another swale, this one is presently planted with a wildflower mix, but I was going to get some Buckbrush (aka Coralberry) to plant along there as well. A few Serviceberry and Redbuds are on the margins, a Buffalo Currant (1 of 4) survived on the slope in the center, and the far fence (from the perspective of the picture) now has a 5 Gray Dogwood running down the slope. 8-9 Comfrey plants are scattered throughout. Most of the plants seem to be doing alright currently, though I haven't seen a whole lot of growth I am hoping that they are putting in roots and getting ready for a big second year. I planted seed for Purslane a few weeks ago but haven't seen any poking up yet. I also have Goji seed and Sea Buckthorn seed, but I haven't tried germinating them yet... will probably try to give them a year in small pots so I can give them a better chance of surviving behind the fence. Oh yeah, we also replaced the fence

Getting some vines up into the cedars is intriguing, I hadn't heard of Mouse Melon before. Something else to look into. I'll try to get a picture taken from the same angle soon for a comparison.
3 years ago
I know it isn't exactly what you're after, but I did just get some root crowns from Horizon Herbs recently. Their prices are reasonable ($3 for 1, $2 each for 6 and $1.50 each for 20) and the crowns really are as "generous" as they claim - most were around 5 inches or so. I ended up cutting some to plant a total of 10 (I think) from my order of a half dozen. Should send up shoots soon with the spring rain we've (finally) been having, we will see how they do.I ordered the Bocking 14, but they do have True Comfrey as well.
4 years ago
I had a couple of thoughts.

First, the Kansas Forest Service (Yes, it is a pretty small agency ) sells Siberian Pea Shrub, and they mention that the bushes are especially attractive to grasshoppers. They mention it as a potential problem (though they also say that the bushes tend to withstand the damage just fine)... but in a chicken pasture this could be great! So even if the seeds or leaves aren't too palatable to the chickens, we do know they love grasshoppers.

Secondly, the Contrarian Farmer article that Druce linked to got me thinking. He mentioned chickens feeding off his haystacks. I live in town, but I do have some lawn to mow that I can't let the chickens onto directly. Now I'm thinking about making hay from grass clippings. Has anyone else done this? My thought was to spread the grass to dry then rake into a chicken-wire cylinder under a cedar tree to store it relatively dry. Then just let the chickens access it over the winter and they will pick it apart through the wire. If it doesn't work, and it turns smelly, I can always spread it out to kill the anaerobic bacteria and then toss it into the compost heap.

I was also thinking that bugs and new green growth are a great feed supplement most of the time, but in winter fresh food is harder to come by. So I looked up bushes and trees that have fruit that can hang into or through the winter. Right now I'm planning to put a hedge of coralberry (buckbrush) along the front of the chicken/duck paddocks - these last at least part-way through winter. Redbud trees have a legume pod that hangs at least into February. No idea if the chickens will like it, but at least the songbirds don't take it before we can give it to them. The other sources of fresh food will be food scraps from the house and access to compost, deep litter bedding, and the forest litter along the hedgerows.
4 years ago
If you are looking at rabbits you may want to check Joel Salatin's books or videos to see if you can find out more about his rabbit tractor system. All I know is that he figured out you could lay down hardware cloth or chicken wire (one of these) ahead of the tractor by a few days at least, that way the grass grows its way through the mesh so it can be eaten, but the wire is still there to protect the rabbits and keep them from digging up the rhizomes. The other system he called Racken (for rabbit / chicken) and I think that one involves a moveable traditional rabbit hutch combined with chicken tractor... but I'm not sure. I wish I could remember more about these, but I've only read about them and haven't seen any pictures/diagrams/videos, etc to get the ideas more embedded. I've looked into rabbits a little bit, but I'm honestly not familiar enough with the subject to know how to avoid the disease issues if you don't do a raised hutch. I think there were some threads about colony-raised rabbits around in the "critters" forum that would have valuable information and people more knowledgable than I.

As far as the four strategies, it may work best to do all four. Think of #1 as a hub within the larger run or paddock system (#2). The hub may end up being fairly desolate and ... poopy, so this might be the best place to put compost and deep litter and allow compost-utilizing animals (I'm thinking chickens, but there may be others) free access to help aerate the piles and keep the bugs down. Supplement feed with #3, especially during the winter, but during the growing season put weaned litters of kits or meat birds in tractors or paddocks over grass (#4). If any one food source is getting short, you can fall back on the others... or similarly, cut back on the others when any one becomes particularly abundant. Of course, it only sounds this simple when it's written down, otherwise I would be able to talk about the system I have instead of proposing one

As a fellow shy non-schmoozer I can't help with concern #2, but this is definitely an area where others on the forums have some experience.
4 years ago
In Manhattan, KS there is a requirement to keep livestock housing a certain distance from neighbor property lines, I think it is 25'. This does limit my coop location options quite a bit, as my lot is only about 60' wide, but generally isn't too obtrusive. A law that established a shorter distance to a neighbor's property and then a longer distance to their actual dwelling might be a better way to formulate the law. There is another law specifically stating that domestic fowl are not permitted to "run at large" within the city limits, which I guess this means you could walk them around on tiny leashes if you wanted to. Otherwise, that's it. Other potential problems are just governed under the laws for public nuisance... so noise or odor problems are still taken care of, but without arbitrary legistation. I was actually really (pleasantly) surprised to find how little regulation they have here.
4 years ago
Many thanks to everyone for sharing advice! It's a lot of help to be able to bounce some ideas around. The plan I've worked up will have a traditional coop-and-run along the back fence as the hub, with three paddocks as radiating outward, divided by a wire-and-shrub hedge. By using ducks, it will be easy to get fences down to around 2 1/2 feet, which should be more aesthetically pleasing than a higher wire fence and let me simply step over them when I want to. I worked up a plan that can put some of these hedges on or near contour so I can pair them with a series of small swales. Those can be deeply mulched to absorb spilled water (and hopefully smell). I've put together a plants order I'm giving the final thoughts to that will consist of dogwood, aronia and buckbrush (also called coralberry) for the hedges, and I already have an order pending that includes some redbud trees, golden currants and serviceberries. I can get goji seeds to help fill in some spots with a good nitrogen fixer.

I looked through some videos of different breeds of ducks, especially where a couple breeds were present, and these seem to confirm the hatcheries' general consensus that the Welsh Harlequin are relatively quiet (probably quietest other than Muskovies). That makes them my top choice, at least for now... I'll probably go back and forth a few times.

All that said, it seems that there isn't much difference in planning for chickens or ducks at this stage of development. If I decide to go with chickens I'll just have to go with a fairly heavy, docile breed (Buff Orpingtons... maybe Barred Rocks) that aren't as interested in escaping, stretch some wire on poles above the hedges, and maybe clip a few wings if that doesn't work. It doesn't seem like it would require the 6' tall fencing I led myself to believe. Beyond that, I would have to modify the coop design, and I could move my compost pile into their run and let them work it over (instead of doing it all myself), then maybe fence off some more fragile plants within the paddocks. ...That's pretty much it.
4 years ago
Thanks Jack, I've been watching the Duck Chronicles but I do have a few to catch up on this weekend. Those and a few of the podcasts are actually why I started to give ducks a second look. (Somehow I got it into my head that they need at least a kiddie pool of water with daily changing, which just doesn't fit with my environment. However, a couple gallon dish so they can wet their heads is pretty feasible, especially if incorporated into a swale system.) In your videos it seems like the chickens have always been separated from the waterfowl... have you ever tried pasturing them together?
4 years ago