I can’t believe I have been away sooo long. 2014 brought so many different things. Winter brought an ice storm, spring brought flooding rains, summer brought severe heat, and well fall, I’ll get to that in a bit. For me personally, it was a crazy year. For the garden, it started off good, but then I got busy and the garden hit some pitfalls. The chickens and ducks also had their ups and downs.
Above is a picture of my back yard after the flooding rains. The ducks only had to exit their coop to be able to take a swim. At that time, I only had potatoes planted in the garden and thanks to our sandy soil the water drained away in a matter days and I ended up with a bumper crop of potatoes.
2014 brought some new baby chicks. Where I live roosters are “allowed”, but I don’t want to upset my neighbors so I always buy pullets to ensure I don’t get roosters. I bought two batches of babies last year, with the first coming from my local feed store and my second batch from TS. As luck would have it, I got one rooster in each batch. I have to say the roosters were beautiful, but they had to be re-homed. Thankfully, a kind couple who live in the country took them in and they have lots of room to roam and many animal friends.
My veggies in the west garden did not do well this past year. I finally figured out I had nematodes. Here is a picture and information about nematodes. I talked to our local extension office and they could give me no real way to get rid of nematodes. They said I could solarize the soil but there was no guarantee that would work. Solarizing the soil is basically baking the soil. Black plastic is placed over the soil and the heat from the sun kills the insects. I had to make a decision to completely remove all the soil from the beds, figure out a way to raise them, and keep the native soil and nematodes out of the beds, or just remove the west garden. For now, I have done away with the west garden. My hope is to plant some fruit trees in this area. Bu first I must find fruit trees with a root stock that is nematode resistant. Until I do that, the ducks and chickens are enjoying the extra space and fertilizing the area for me.
Overall, I would say the most trying time of year was fall. I live in the panhandle of Florida and over the past few years that I have had chickens I have had my trouble with the black bears. This fall brought with it a bear who was unlike any other bear that had come my way. On November 2nd, I awoke to the bear having broken into my chicken coop and him sitting by my coop still feeding on some of my girls. I lost 7 of my chicks to the bear that night. I was beyond upset and contacted the Florida Wildlife Commission. This was not my first time talking with them. They agreed to send one of their contractors out and have him put up an electric fence around my chicken coop. My ducks have their own coop on the opposite side of the yard from the chickens, and the contractor assured me that bears do not like ducks, as they are noisy, and they should be safe. Well, a couple of nights later the bear was back and after much work was able to break in my duck coop and killed both my girl ducks leaving the two boys. I moved my boy ducks in with the chickens, which in hind sight is what I should have done to begin with, so they could be protected by the electric fence. After losing my ducks I once again contacted the FWC and they told me they thought this bear was the same bear causing trouble at other houses in my area. They sent out a biologist and contractor and they set up the bear trap. On the second night the bear was trapped and the biologist and contractor took him away. It took me many week ends, but I put an electric fence around the entire area where the chicken and ducks are allowed to roam. Now they are safe. It broke my heart to see the boys so depressed looking for their girls. They have adjusted to the girls being gone, but even now, months later, do not like to go into their own coop. They want to be with the chickens.
I am looking forward to 2015 and all of the ups and downs it is sure to bring.