What do you do when a friend texts you and says she has a bunch of Concord grapes she needs to get rid of from her yard, and wants to know if you want them for your chickens? You say YES!
Last Sunday, I went to my friend’s house to pick up the grapes. When I arrived, I was shocked at how full her vines were. We grabbed bags and started picking. 4 full grocery bags later, I knew I needed to come up with some uses for these juicy beauties in addition to treating the feathered ladies.
Out of curiosity, I weighed my bounty when I got home: 14 lbs!!!!! Time for juice and jelly! After setting aside 4 lbs for the chickens, removing the stems and leaves from the rest of grapes, and giving them a good wash, I set apart the grapes for juice and jelly, and got to work mashing and simmering.
Here are the recipes I used:
Grape Jelly: http://www.pickyourown.org/grapejelly.htm *Note: I also used the no sugar pectin and the lesser amount of sugar.
Grape Juice: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/making_grape_juice/
I admit that I got a little impatient with the juice straining through the cheese cloth, so I busted out my juicer. This resulted in A walking into the kitchen as I’m trying to hold an unbalanced juicer on the counter as grape seeds were shooting out of the port on the lid. It was a pretty hilarious reminder to be patient and trust in the process!
Remember, even if you don’t grow something yourself, there are still lots of ways to make your own delicious eats from the gardens of family and friends, or from your local farmers markets.
P.S. The chickens were so thrilled with their grapes!
Over this past holiday weekend, we had time to really finish up a lot of projects in the yard. We have planted what seems like pounds of wild flowers, Quaking Aspen trees, Dwarf Pines, and pruned our Peach tree which is starting to produce fruit for the first time. We really focused on being as diverse as possible with our flower selection while still concentrating on pollinator friendly choices. While out dead heading some potted flowers, we ran into a “local” foraging from our hive. It’s rewarding to see them able to provide for the colony using our yard.
So far the early bloomers that they seem to favor have been Allium (a wild onion) and Salvia (a Sage with columns of small purple or blue flowers). While we wait for other flowers to grow out and start to flower, they have been making use of the potted flowers, as seen above. We hope to see our poppies, Snow in Summer, Blanket Flower, Bachelor Button, and Sun Flowers develop and bloom soon.
Below, the Allium was frequently visited by foragers gathering nectar during its short bloom.
We are excited to see what late spring and summer will bring as the hive’s population continues to expand daily. In the past, we have seen low yields from plants that are “self-pollinators” and hope that frequents visits from the bees will help resolve this issue.
Our next update will focus on our potted and hay bale gardens, but first, one more bee photo. Stay tuned!
As we continue the battle against wet and cold weather, it’s time to start planting. We have some starters that are outgrowing the indoor greenhouse so it’s time to turn the soil. What better way to do so than with free (almost) labor?
The girls cruised around for about an hour in this raised bed and had a blast. They turned everything over about 5-6 inches deep and fed on lots of weeds and insects. We want to be careful about the amount of waste they leave in the garden on the field trips. Chicken manure is extremely valuable as a fertilizer, but when its fresh it can be harmful. Chicken poop is very high in nitrogen and can burn plants if it has not been cured (aged) before use. We keep two large trash cans near the runs, as soon as one has filled up, we let it age for as long as we can, turning it once a week while filling the other. As soon as it is empty, or the other one is full, we switch.
I’m sure we get some weird looks from the neighbors as the ladies follow along behind us in the yard looking for their next meal.
Upon returning to Colorado in 2015, we decided to make an effort to provide for ourselves in as many ways as possible. We have always kept a garden when living conditions allowed. We shop local, read labels and make informed decisions about what we purchase. We wanted to see how much we could produce on our own with limited space in an urban setting. We have a 1/4 acre yard that has become our hobby farm.
It all started here…..
We raised three Barred Rock hens from a local feed store. To our surprise, hand raising chicks was time consuming, earned us some weird looks from friends and family, and was ultimately a lot more fun than we had anticipated. Funny little creatures.
They eventually grew out to be too big for the brooder, but too small to be alright alone outside. After finding a deal on a previously loved coop, it was time to start a coop remodel and move the little dinosaurs outside.￼￼￼
After what seemed like months……
It finally happened! All of our hard work, time, feed costs etc, lead to our first egg. It was tiny, dirty, and made a delicious breakfast.￼
So here we are. We are now getting over a dozen eggs a week between the three girls.chickens are cheap. Hatchlings can be found for under $4 a bird. It costs us about around $13 a month in feed, the coop is paid for, minimal energy costs for a heated waterer in the winter. We end up giving a lot of eggs away to friends and family. We also compost and age chicken manure which we use as fertilizer and mulch for the gardens. It has ultimately been a rewarding experience and just one step in being able to provide for ourselves and others. Next step, bees!
Thanks for reading,