Update On My Potatoes Growing In Barrels

Tonight I dug with my hands down into each of my two barrels in which I’m growing potatoes – one with sweet potatoes and one with Yukon Gold potatoes – to see whether I could get a read on whether anything is happening down there beneath the soil. And this is what I came up with! Actual potatoes! One sweet and one regular!


The sweet potato is definitely a miniature, but the YG is nearing the size I’d expect one to be. They’re both healthy and firm and have nice skins and color.

I think at this point it’s just a matter of leaving my barrels o’ potato alone to keep growing for another week or two, or until the vines start to look like they’re yellowing and dying, whichever comes first. The sweet potato vine, which had been lush and green is suddenly looking rather puny. If it doesn’t perk up with a good watering in the morning, I may decide later this week that the sweet potato barrel is ready to harvest. We’ll just have to see. Perhaps there are other sweet potatoes under there that aren’t quite so petite.

dust bath chickens

Dust Bath Chickens

Did you know that while ducks like to splash around in water, chickens like to splash around in the dirt? Yep, it’s true; chickens like to cool down by rolling around in a nice dustbath. Here’s the dustbath area we have in our chicken run. Our chickens flail and dig around in it every single day, and particularly on super hot afternoons like we’ve been having this week.

Ironically enough, chickens dig in the loosest, driest dirt they can find and then rub it all over their bodies in order to stay cleaner. It turns out that taking these dust baths helps chickens prevent infestations from mites and lice that can get into their feathers, as well as into the scales on their legs and skin. That’s why it’s important to provide the right kind of fine, dry dirt or sand or even ash inside your chickens’ run or coop for the hens to get in there and roll around. The right kind of dirt keeps the chickens clean and comfortable.


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 Yukon Gold 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.