Growing 100 Pounds Of Potatoes In A Barrel

Ever since I read last winter about how you can easily grow up to 100 pounds of potatoes in buckets and barrels I knew I wanted to give this idea a try this summer, and so I have.

Back in June I planted regular russet potatoes in one large plastic container in my front garden using the barrel method, and I planted sweet potatoes in another large plastic container out on our back porch using the same system. The only thing I did to the two plastic containers I used for my potato growing experiment was to drill plenty of drainage holes in them. I put the one with the sweet potatoes in it out on the back porch because it’s a really ugly old red plastic container but as it turns out, the sweet potato growing in it is really quite pretty.

See what I mean? Look at how long the vine is. I’m guessing it’s at least 15 feet at this point.


By my dates, the sweet potatoes should be ready to harvest in just a few weeks, and with this barrel method, no digging is required; all you do is haul the container out into the yard and pour it out onto the ground, and then pick the ripe sweet potatoes up and wash them off. Voila! At least that’s how it’s all supposed to go. We shall see…

Chicken coop

Breakfast With The Ladies

There’s something reassuring about the daily routine of knowing that you have to get up pretty early every morning to let the chickens out of their coop, where they’ve been closed up overnight to keep them safe from predators, and feed them their morning feed ration, plus refill their water. They’re always so chatty and happy to see me. They start every day in a good mood. Chickens reallly never do wake up on the wrong side of the roost. They’re the eternal optimists.

Purina Layena vs. Flock Raiser

Well, it’s been about a week since I switched my flock from Purina’s Layena, which has 16% protein over to the same company’s Flock Raiser crumbles which has 20%, and I have to say that I’ve noticed an almost immediate difference in the hens’ well-being.

In addition to switching to the higher protein feed, the other change I made was to begin mixing crushed oyster shell in with their feed. I tried offering it free choice in a separate dish but no one was touching it. So I just started mixing a small amount in with the Flock Raiser and that’s the feed mix they’ve been getting every day. The changes I’ve seen have been pretty obvious.


For starters, they’re all eating about twice as much as they were previously, and they’re picking up weight. I didn’t think they were undereating when I had them on the Layena, but now I wonder. They’re really eating quite a but more of the Flock Raiser each day than they were of their previous feed.

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Rosie the Orpington Hen

Just a Swangin’

A little while ago I went out to feed the chickens some leftover scraps from last night’s supper, and I noticed that Rosie was nowhere in sight. But since she’s an incredibly loud chicken, I could hear her happily chattering away somewhere nearby.

It didn’t take me long to find her; she’d somehow gotten over the fence around the chicken run, and then she’d jumped up onto the monkey bars on the kids’ swingset, where it certainly appeared to me that she was having a grand old time swinging herself back and forth.

See for yourself ;-)

Woohoo! We Have A First Egg

Even in the midst of our egg drought, the occasional bright spot makes an appearance, and that’s what happened today when I checked the nest boxes.

It’s been weeks since I got much of an egg haul from our little flock of hens, so my expectations are pretty low when I make my cursory check of the nest boxes each day. Today, however, I got a nice surprise.

Behold! The very first egg from Emily, our Silver Duckwing Phoenix pullet.


Emily was hatched around the first week of February, so it’s about time for her to start laying, but I was still really surprised to find this first egg today. With Gladys and Birdie on strike from molting and the other four pullets
too young to be laying reliably, I’m just not used to finding eggs in the nest boxes lately.

And this egg was different from any I’d gotten previously. It was white, with a light creamy tint rather than tan or brown. And the only egg layer in the flock who might lay an egg of this color is, you guessed it, the Phoenix hen, Emily. So this egg must be Emily’s first egg. Oh joy! Maybe this means she’ll start laying regularly.

I took this prized Phoenix egg up to the house to show the fam whereupon 4 year old G asked to hold it. She promised to be very gentle with it. Of course, as soon as I handed it to her, she promptly lost her grip on it and dropped it, smashing it to bits on the kitchen floor. Oh well. There will be other eggs from Emily. We hope.

UPDATE: it appears that Emily’s egg laying wasn’t a fluke. Once again today Emily presented us with a lovely cream tinted egg. Let’s hope she keeps up the good work!


Emily the Chicken Loves to Swing

Have you ever seen anything like this?

C, our 7 year old, got this supercool Hearthsong swing from her grandparents for her birthday, and all the kids love hanging out in it; It easily fits two kids… and a chicken.

That’s right, a chicken.

Emily, our Silver Wing Duckwing hen has taken to joining the kids up on the swing, She never gets up there when the kids aren’t on it, but she happily hops up right up into one of the children’s laps when they’re swinging, and once she’s in a comfy lap, she promptly falls asleep. It’s pretty hilarious.

Here she is on my niece NC’s lap this morning.

My Chickens Are Molting

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about how my two most reliable, mature laying hens had suddenly stopped laying, and at the time, it seemed potentially related to a round of antibiotics I’d given the whole flock in their water. Now, though, I think I know what’s really going on. My hens have stopped laying because they’re molting.

With one of the two of them, my Wheaten Marans named Gladys Kravitz, the fact that she’s molting has become increasingly obvious as she’s become increasingly bare-feathered. Gladys has bald batches all over at the moment, and she has no real tail feathers. Maybe you can kind of tell how funky she’s looking from these photos I snapped of her today.




The other of my two mature layers is Birdie, my Easter Egger, and she also suddenly went a few weeks ago from laying 5-7 eggs weekly to laying 0 eggs. I don’t see any feathers missing from her but I see plenty of her feathers all over the ground and the floor of the chicken coop, so I know she’s going through a molt as well.

While Gladys and Birdie are both older than 12 months, the rest of the 6 hen flock that I have at our house right now is made up of pullets younger than 12 months old. That’s why they’re not molting too. Hens usually don’t go through their first “hard” molt until the late summer or fall of their second year. And when they do go through it, they usually quit laying for between one to three months. So at the moment I have two hens who aren’t laying because they’re molting, and four hens who are still too young to be very reliable layers at all. This adds up to me getting about four eggs a week out of a flock of six chickens. Pretty shabby egg production.

Molting apparently takes a lot out of a chicken because new feathers – which is what Gladys and Birdie’s bodies are busy producing right now – are made up of about 80% protein. And pullets’ bodies are busy too as they’re gearing up to become egg-making factories. M

Given that all six hens need extra nutrition at the moment, I decided this week when we finished up our most recent 50 pound bag of Purina Layena chicken feed to switch the whole flock over to a higher protein feed. Now they’re getting Purina Flock Raiser crumbles. The Layena had 16% protein while the Flock Raiser feed has 20%. I’ve also begun offering ground oyster shell in a dish with their feed every day to strengthen the quality of the egg shells the hens are producing.





Building a Dry Streambed

This morning I’m sitting out on our front porch, drinking tea and watching a heavy rain fall in the garden. It’s a very relaxing way to spend a Sunday morning, and it’s a lot more relaxing than it used to be before I fixed the drainage problem that used to plague my garden every time it rained this hard, causing water to pool up right near the front of the house. Previously, whenever it got wet enough, one particular area near the front of the house turned into a muddy mess, with plants falling over and soil eroding. So last summer I decided to do something to fix the drainage problem once and for all.

Not so long ago, the idea of me “fixing” anything myself would have seemed pretty ridiculous both to myself and to people who know me well. I just wasn’t a person who took on projects that required fixing anything. I was literally afraid of things like hand tools. But one of the best things that becoming a self-taught gardener has done for me in the past few years is that it’s largely removed my previous fear of DIY projects. What I mean is, now that I’ve tried my hand at putting in a garden, and I’ve seen that I actually can do stuff like build a raised bed and grow my own pumpkins I’m no longer afraid to at least try things, even if I know they may end in failure. I’m not afraid to pick up a hammer or a shovel and at least give some outdoor project the old college try. And that’s what I decided I’d do with this drainage problem in my garden.

I’d always loved the look of a dry streambed running through a garden, so I did some research to figure out how I could maybe create a dry streambed in my own garden to divert excess water away from the garden and house when it rains hard. Once I’d read up on how you build one, I just started digging out the pathway where I wanted mine to go. It was a messy project, and it took multiple weekends. The ground was baked very hard, so I had to get it really wet to dig out the pathway where the streambed would go.





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