Chicken tractor and call for advice

After days of rain, the sun came out this afternoon. Yay!!! It can get pretty dreary in the Seattle area during springtime, so sunny days are greatly appreciated. The nice weather today gave us (well, Derek) the opportunity to finish and deploy the chicken tractor. You can see the tractor in this video. The great thing about the video is that Lily (my 5-year-old) spontaneously decided to help me narrate the video. Apparently, she really has been listening to me when I talk about all our sustainability projects!

The chicken tractor was the big positive event of the weekend. Some other things in the garden have not been going well, or are at least raising questions for me. So on to my requests for advice:

  1. I have mushrooms growing in the soil in my greenhouse.  The soil in the greenhouse came in a huge batch I had delivered last fall from a landscaping company.  These are small brown mushrooms that I can easily remove, but what does this tell me about the soil? Good, bad, or indifferent?
  2. Ants have made their way into the greenhouse.  These are red and black harvester ants, the kind that build large ant nests.  Any suggestions for deterring them from the greenhouse?
  3. I think my LED lights are a bust.  I selected the LED light panels because of their low energy usage.  I’ve been keeping track of the progress of my plants compared to Sinfonian’s and DoubleD’s and my plants are definitely behind in their growth. So I am thinking about a new system, but want to keep the energy usage as low as possible.  Any suggestions?

Here’s hoping everyone caught at least a few rays of sunshine this weekend. 

Sandy

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9 Responses to Chicken tractor and call for advice

  1. DoubleD says:

    Well that was sweet to listen to your five year old participate in the video creation! The tractor looks very portable and sturdy and the chickens look like they are enjoying the sunshine and grazing.

    On your questions:
    1. Mushrooms in the greenhouse soil – No worries. I get them quite often too. It means you have mushroom spores in the soil, high organic matter, and moisture. I just pull them out and lightly cultivate the soil with a hand rake.
    2. Ants. No suggestions for you on this one.
    3. Lights. I was wondering how the LED’s were going. Sorry to hear they are not performing as you had hoped. I guess I will be sticking with my lights as they are. Not sure what would be a low energy set up – but generally flourescents are not as energy intensive as regular bulb lights. I use a panel of 4 full spectrum (grow lights) and they work well for me. During the height of the planting season I often wish I had a second light set up for the overflow – but it is only temporary and I cannot justify the cost for the limited useage a second light set up would get.

    Good work on the chicken tractor.

  2. Dan says:

    I can help with the ants. You can kill off ants pretty fast by pouring boiling water at the nest sight. That is as long as you will not scald your plants well doing it. You can also mix boric acid with sugar or corn meal and use it as a bait.

    I don’t think LED’s in general are bad for plants, I think the problem is there is not an affordable LED available yet that is intense enough to grow plants. I just e-mailed an LED company close by that is producing 100 watt LED bulbs that they are using to replace street lights. I asked about there cost, I have yet to hear but I imagine they cost to much. I will keep you posted on their reply.

    If you are looking for a highly efficient grow light your best bet is a T5 fluorescent light. You can only find them in hydroponics stores or online, hydrofarm makes a really good one.

  3. Garlic Man says:

    Mushrooms: I agree with DoubleD and I don’t even pick them out, I just cultivate them. They are just showing the decompostion process at work.

    Ants: Dan is right about the boiling water and to make this more effective here is what I do in TX to get rid of fire ants…

    Poke a deep hole in the ant mound with a shovel/rake/tool handle and pour the boiling water down the hole. You want to get the queen. Sometimes I used 10% vinegar(not boiled) down the hole. Vinegar is an herbicide and will kill any plant or roots it contacts. One last thing about ants: Use food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) to prevent them from where ever you spread it. You can dust DE using a Turkey baster or flour sifter. It doesn’t take much. DE is to hard-shelled insects as razor blades are to us. It gets in their joints and they die from descication(they dry up/”bleed” to death)
    For more, see http://www.dirtdoctor.com/organic/garden/view_question/id/1111/

    GarlicMan76458

  4. Garlic Man says:

    btw, DE in not toxic to worms or birds or humans. It is in some dog, cat and people foods… but don’t breathe the dust, wear a mask when dusting.

    GarlicMan76458

  5. Dan says:

    Hi, I forwarded you guys the e-mail I was sent from that LED company. Interesting stuff.

  6. Thanks, everyone, for all the advice. So glad to hear the mushrooms are not a bad sign.

    As for the ants, I do have some food grade diatomaceous earth on hand and could use some of that.

    And for the LEDs, looks like the light output is just too weak. Bummer indeed.

    Sandy

  7. sinfonian2 says:

    Hey there, just got some time to visit my favorite sites, so great post. Glad your girls love thier cool new play house and sorry your seedlings weren’t as great as hoped. At least you have a greenhouse to catch them up in.

  8. Pingback: Tomato before & after and plum in bloom « The Zero Fossil Fuel 10 Year Challenge

  9. Great tractor. Here’s our Joel Salatin-inspired version:

    http://blog.optoutenmasse.com/2009/07/chicken-tractor-101.html

    For our harvester ants, we’ve used a combo of boric acid + cat food + sugar. Also used DE on other occasions. Only problem is we have not yet killed the queen(s) after 10 months of chasing them around. They simply pick up and move to a different area of the garden; sometimes as much as 100′ away when we find them making a new nest. Frustrating…

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