Chicken Killed Last Night

We heard some commotion late last night and I went out this morning and there was a chicken dead and partially eaten in the coop. I checked and the electric fence was still on and surrounding their area so I assume it wasn’t a ground based predator. I haven’t been closing up the coop at night, mainly because I don’t want to go out every morning and night and open and close a door. However I guess I’ll have to re-think this.  I would love an automatic door, but those a re a bit pricey. I’ll have to look around the internet for a more affordable option. There was a lot of brush in this area before the chickens were moved there and I think that protected them as there wasn’t a good landing place inside the fence.  However chickens doing what chickens do the area is opened up now.

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Big Toad

For some reason I am seeing more frogs and toads this year, maybe because we are actually living here. I’m happy as this indicates to me a healthy eco-system.  Today I stumbled across the biggest toad I’ve ever seen.

Big Toad

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Time To Split My Tractor

My 1964 Ford 4000 shreds the starter gear and according to the Internet the ring gear needs to be replaced. While gear is a very reasonable  $30, you have to split the tractor, which for a person like me that hasn’t done it before sounds like a day to take it apart and a day to put it back together.


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Chicken Coop – Rebuilding the Roosts

With the size of my flock increasing I didn’t have enough roosting space. Also I got a 10 spot nest box from Craig’s List that I hadn’t planed for when I build the coop. Therefore I decided it was time to re-work the coop a bit. This involved changing the direction the roosts went and hanging the nest boxed on one end wall and adding sheet metal on that end wall. I still plan on enclosing 3 walls of the coop with this metal that came from an old shed that was being torn down. The birds have done quite well through 2 Michigan winters (some of the worst on record) in this coop with the 3 walls covered with plastic or a tarp, so I’ve decided to make it a bit more durable.  I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to make the walls removable, I like the air flow they get in the summer with only the 1 wall the nest boxes are up against.

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Beehive Update

Went out to check on the bees today.  There still appears to be a lot of activity, bees flying in and out.  This has been a crazy busy year for me so I did not give them the attention I should have.  I hope to focus on them over the next six weeks or so and get them ready for winter.  I’ve had such a problem with mice that I’ve decided to go with Michael Bush’s recommendation for a top entrance as you can see from the video below.


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Husqvarna Axe Review

After buying several Axes on the cheep and being very disappointed I decided to get something of quality. A well know manufacture of quality tools is Gransfors Bruks, but they are well over $100. While I’ve no doubt they are a fine tool, I just couldn’t justify the cost. In doing my research I found that Husqvarna brands a line of axes that were receiving good reviews online from people that were actually using them. Further the price was much more reasonable, about half.

Multipurpose Axe
I started with a 26 in. Curved Handle Multipurpose Axe. The handle is a bit short for heavy chopping, but I don’t plan on using it to cut down trees. My intended use is for taking off small branches for something that has already been cut down. Granted I could use my chainsaw for this, but I find a sense of satisfaction in using the axe, plus it is much quieter.  I’ve also used it in clearing paths in my woods.  I have several machetes, but I’m finding they don’t work as well against the thicker, woody brush in the under growth in my mid-western woods.  This axe has worked quite well in this work.  It also came very sharp and I’m finding it easy to keep sharp.  I’ve been very happy with this axe.

Next I got a 13 in. Curved Handle Hatchet just because it was on sale. My son likes it better as he finds he can control it better after his growth spurt. I find I use it most near the wood stove to split off small bits of kindling to start the fire.  Again it came very sharp and I haven’t had to sharpen it yet.  Another recommended buy and I consider this a great value.

Splitting Axe
I finally got a Large Splitting Axe (3.3 Lbs) With 30″ Handle. A splitting axe is different than a maul in that it is lighter and has a sharper edge.  To be sure I didn’t really need this as we have a 22 ton log splitter, however I enjoy splitting nice straight grained wood.  If I have to split everything by hand it would be a lot more work.  Some of the trees I’ve ended up with do not split well and have a lot of branches and forks that make splitting then hard even with the hydraulic splitter.  But I’ve found with the easy stuff it actually takes less time than using the hydraulic splitter.  If you have access to a log splitter than this is more of a “nice to have”.

I have no regrets in buying any of these items and will never buy another cheep axe from a chain store and I recommend you do the same. These are tools that can last generations. If I could only buy one it would be the multipurpose axe in that unlike other things labeled “multipurpose” it really does do most jobs fairly well and if you find yourself needing to pack tools into your work site you would only need to bring the one item. These heads are hand forged in Sweden which appeals to me as the blacksmiths arts always interested me. This does make the finish of the metal a bit “rough” compared to other tools, but I like it better anyway.


Multipurpose Axe

Small Hatchet

Splitting Axe

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Electric Tractor Update

After chasing down poor connections and bad spots in the wiring the Elec Trak is in much better shape.  We had a broken steering shaft due to a front spindle getting very hard to turn.  I never realized that the steering wheel could exert enough force to snap a steel shaft.  However in looking at the shaft there is a hole through it one way and a key cut the other way that intersect causing a week spot.  That has all been sorted out with a new (to me) shaft installed.

E-20 RelaysWe got some rebuild kits for the relays that basically consist of new leafs and contacts.  This has resolved the problem with the PTO contactor dropping out.  They were very easy to replace, just being held in by a metal clip.  Notice the shinny ones on the left..  I think I will go ahead a replace the rest of them the next time I work on it.

E-20 Back TogetherSince all of the problems (other than the brakes) have been solved I put all the covers and panels back on.  This is the first time they have been back on since the day we brought it home.  All things considered this has worked well for us as a mower and it is nice to not have to buy gas to to cut the grass.  It is almost quiet enough to listen to music while mowing without ear muffs, however the noise of the mower blades moving is just a bit too loud, think of a fan.




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Fungal Activity In Wood Chips

About a year ago I got several truck loads of wood ships dumped on my property from some tree clearing that was being done about a mile away.  I’ve used some of them around various plantings I’ve done, but barely made a dent in the pile.  My wife got some roses that me and my son planted by the front porch and we decided to put down a thick layer of mulch to help keep the area moist.  SWMBO approved of a base layer of these wood chips from tree clearing and we will come back with a prettier layer of mulch to top dress it.

However as I was digging into the pile I fond an area that was dense with mycelium hyphae and I was very happy to see this.  Having a fungal web in the soil is supposed to be very good for plants so I started putting one scoop of the dense white stuff in each wheelbarrow full of wood chips.  This should help to improve what is basically yellow sand as soil in the planting bed.

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Planting Update – Paw Paw, Wood Phlox & Comfrey

Wood PhloxAn update on some of what we have growing.  Many of the areas we only mow a couple of times a year now have wood phlox growing.  While we did not plant it I think it is very pretty.



Paw Paw TreeSeveral years ago I planted a couple of Paw Paw trees.  They are native to Michigan and are supposed to product a fruit that tastes like banana custard.  This fruit isn’t commercially available do to the fact it doesn’t ship.  The trees are just now starting to grow, this one being about 4′ high.





Finally our comfrey is doing quite well so now I’m cutting it and feeding it to the chickens.  It is reported to be high in protein and good as livestock fodder.


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Hen Sheltering Chicks

It was a cool evening and the chicks were out running around and one of the hens kept her wings out a bit form her body and the chicks would go in and out as they felt they needed warmth.  There are at least two hens looking after these 3 chicks, kind of a “it takes a village” type of thing.

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