Signs of Spring... In December!

  We had a warm November this year, and one of my Buff Orpington hens went broody with a clutch of 25 eggs nestled atop a pile of straw bales.

  The blessed event occurred on December 4th with 17 peeping chicks peeking out from their mother's wings on the following day.  They were greeted by freezing temperatures, so I brought them in the house to stay warm near the wood stove.

  After a week, I moved the brood outside to a pen, with a brooder lamp for supplemental heat.

  They are 25 days old today, and all 17 are alive and well!

  Here are a few family portraits from their first week...


Winter Veggie Gardening With Cattle Panel Hoop House VII

To keep the rebar from splaying outward, they need to be secured to the sides of the raised beds. I debated several options, and finally decided on using 2x4 boards screwed to the bed sides to hold them in place.

The view from outside the Hoop House

The View from inside the Hoop House


Winter Veggie Gardening With Cattle Panel Hoop House VI

To stabilize the structure, I will be adding framed ends in the future. Also, to hold the edges of the cattle panels together, use hog rings or fence wire. Just be sure that the loose ends face inward, so it does not puncture the plastic. Speaking of plastic, I use 6-mil CLEAR construction plastic bought from the local lumber yard.

More to come as I complete the project.

Winter Veggie Gardening With Cattle Panel Hoop House V

Now lift and push up from the end of the cattle panel not butted up against the rebar, and make an arch. Set the end down inside the rebar on the edge of the beds, and voila! The hoop house begins to take shape. My beds are 16 feet long, so they required 4 cattle panels to be erected. There is two more inches of panel at each end, so it hangs off the edge of the boards. This will allow for a dead air space at the two ends when covered with plastic, to help retain warmth. It also allows for framing the ends without going outside of the hoops.

Winter Veggie Gardening With Cattle Panel Hoop House IV

I have marked the sides of the beds every 50", since the cattle panels are that wide. Set the first panel down so that it butts against the rebar on the edge of the bed. Notice that the "bars" on the cattle panel run length-wise on one side, and width-wise on the other. I use the lengthwise bars on top to prevent the welds from breaking due to less stress on the welds from bending them.

Winter Veggie Gardening With Cattle Panel Hoop House III

Now add mulch in the walkway between the beds. I am using materials delivered by the Asplundt folks after an ice storm. The mulch will help control weeds, keep your feet dry, and prevent the soil from leaking out from under the beds! I will eventually mulch around the entire frame to help insulate the soil from the cold, and again, to prevent the soil from leaking out.

Winter Veggie Gardening With Cattle Panel Hoop House II

Fill the beds with soil. I am using 7 year-old barnyard compost.

Winter Veggie Gardening With Cattle Panel Hoop House I

First, construct the edges of your raised beds, just like you would do for a Summer Veggie Garden. The entire frame is eight feet wide, sixteen feet long, and the two beds will have a 36" internal width. The boards are 2" x 10" dimensional pine lumber. Note the rebar pounded in along each side. The rebar has two purposes. One, to hold the Cattle-Panel hoops onto the frame, and second, to keep the soil from bowing the edges out. I used 24" rebar pounded in to the ground leaving a few inches above the outside side boards and flush with the boards on the inside of the beds. Because I live south of the 40th Parallel, I oriented the beds north-to-south.


Backyard Bunting Trifecta!

What an incredible Spring Migration it has been here on the farm. Looking out my home-office window, in an area roughly 12-15 yards square, I have observed as many as 35 Indigo Buntings, four Lazuli Buntings and a female Painted Buntings simultaneously - all consuming mass quantities of millet seed!

It all began with the arrival of a regular flock of a dozen or so Indigo Buntings. This in itself is unusual, because we usually have a few pairs that call the farm home, but NEVER this many!

This was followed by the arrival of the first Lazuli Bunting on 13 May, to be followed by others over the next few days until a total of five - two pairs and a transitioning male - had arrived. This is incredible... these birds "normally" regularly occur as far east as the Colorado Rockies, and yet I had FIVE in my yard in south-central Kansas! Is God Good or what?!?!?!?! The last Lazuli, the paler male, was observed on Friday, 22 May.

Then the trifecta occured on 15 May with the arrival of a female Painted Bunting, which remained until 24 May. So from 15 May thru 22 May, I had ALL THREE probable buntings out my office window. And as if that was not enough, a male probable hybrid of an Indigo x Lazuli Bunting arrived on 20 May, and remained thru 23 May.

The maximum number of male Indigo Buntings observed together is 21, observed the evening of 26 May, 2009.

So, below I have posted a few photos to confirm my observations. Most were photographed thru a window screen, as explained under the Painted Bunting entry.


Bob Broyles 26 May, 2009

Lazuli Buntings - Butler County Records!!!!

Two Male Lazuli Buntings amongst the Indigo Buntings

Two Male Lazuli Buntings

Male and Female Lazuli Buntings

Male and Female Lazuli Buntings and apparent hybrid Indigo x Lazuli Bunting with prominant white wing bar. Photos taken thru a window screen for the protection of the birds.

Apparent Hybrid Male Indigo X Lazuli Bunting

In the center of the frame you can see an "Indigo" Bunting with prominant white wing bars, which is probably a hybrid between an Indigo Bunting and Lazuli Bunting. Note also the female Lazuli Bunting to the right and in the foreground and the male Lazuli Bunting at the left border. Photographed thru a window screen. (see under female Painted Bunting)
Another photo of the apparent hybrid and the female Lazuli Bunting

Female Painted Bunting - Photographed Thru Window Screen

This female Painted Bunting arrived just after the Lazuli Buntings, and in spite of my scouring every tree and shrub in the area, no male was located. She was last seen Sunday, May 24th. The poor quality of this image is due to shooting thru the window screen. I had removed the screen for photographic purposes, but the Buntings were hitting the glass, and I did not want to improve the quality of the images at the expense of the birds, so I replaced the window screen.

15 Adult Male Indigo Buntings!

What an incredible Spring! Here you can see 15 adult male Indigo Buntings feeding on millet. Last evening there were 19, and I just looked out (Tuesday evening 8:15 PM May 26th, 2009) and counted a record 21 Male Indigo Buntings! God has truely blessed us!

There are five of them in the River Birch tree in the top photo, and four of them in a vertical row to the right of the female Cardinal in the bottom photo.