Ted’s essays

if an egg a day is good …

My wife cannot imagine breakfast without eggs. Even with her awesome wheat, nut, blueberry pancakes, maple syrup, bacon and sausage, there still has to be an egg on top. I cannot imagine a homestead without chickens. Even in a downtown tract home I had one. Now my flock is around 20. I feed them organic, non-GMO because we expect to eat the eggs and want a healthy product. I also supplement with a bit of oyster shell calcium and ample grazing space. The girls love it. Our springtime egg production is up to over a dozen a day. I will let a broody hen reproduce sometime this year to refresh the flock. After two years, production falls off rapidly, […]

playing in the mud

Sean called his Darby Adult Ed class “Mud Made Mankind”. He gave us a wonderful introduction to working with clay, glazes, potter’s wheel and much more. We found ways to mold clay that didn’t work. We found ways that did. He was a wonderful teacher, cheerleader and assistant. I entered the class with a specific project in mind. I didn’t care if was the only creation I made, but I was focused on getting this one done. As you can see here, we pulled it off… and I do mean WE … Sean was a big help in many ways. I have a carnivorous pitcher plant that seems to like its home, rewarding me with a fly-free laundry room […]

Spring full moon

My organic gardening mentor encouraged us to plant on every full moon. Not so much that it favored the plants themselves, but because it organized us to do regular plantings whether that was seeds, bare-root, or transplants. Get something started every full moon and you will always have a good garden. In Montana that assumes you have a greenhouse. We simply have too much winter cold to allow year-round outdoor plantings. What a blessed place I grew up in where we could. Lovely Nature was unfortunately taken over by lazy minds. Today, March 9th is a full moon. That is my trigger to consider planting something. Other signals from nature: The little budgies have returned to our neighborhood. The glaciers […]

outsmarting an egg sucking chicken

An occasional problem on The Easter Egg Chicken Ranch is the egg eating hen. When one breaks open an egg in the nest and discovers interesting goo inside, she may never lose that interest. It is a high-order problem as there is no way I know of to figure out who the culprit is and remove the problem from the flock. This ugliness cropped up recently with a new batch of hens coming on line. My flock now stands at 2 great, peaceful, compatible roosters and 18 hens who know which rooster is the leader of her personal flock with no jostling or squabbling over position in the grand scheme of things. Ah, but how did I outsmart the egg […]

snow season snapshot

I start here with the pretty stuff. This twelve-second video clip is the view out my studio window when the fat, fluffy flakes fly. Regardless of the work it brings to keep the walkways and driveways clear for safe travel, this classic snow falling look is calm and peaceful to watch from a nicely heated home. Next up is a movie of the work portion this recent storm brought me. On prior occasions I was under-dressed for blowing snow. I geared up with mask, goggles, super mittens and, well, I was quickly overheated and had to shed some of what you see in this video. snow blowing from Ted Dunlap on Vimeo. When we took on this new homestead […]

dam + ladder

Beagle Brain, aka: Scooter, our Beagle/Lab cross, the BLAB, inherited the beagle willingness to follow her nose wherever it leads, whenever she can. Our containment fence was not up to the task. She would challenge it. I would fix it. Rinse and Repeat. FINALLY I shut her exit down while the rented backhoe was available with a dam and its backwater flooding where the fence crossed the creek. Yay! Success! BUT The tiny dam I rebuild every spring to enable my irrigation to draw from what little bit the upstream irrigators leave in Bunkhouse Creek posed no barrier to the little trout living in the year-round stream. My Scooter dam and culvert, however, did make a barrier… One I was […]

building pad adjustments

My equipment operator skills returned quickly, but my foundation layout talent never existed, and did not magically appear. Said another way, my first shot was off a bit. I had to rework it before the concrete partners did their job. Part of my weakness is not having the cool tools that the real guys use, like a laser-transit and two-man tape measure. Watching them work had me forgiving myself for incompetence where I was outside my skillset and toolset. Thanks in part to a great community, the recovery was quick and not overly expensive. The track hoe I rented was just as cool as I remembered from past experiences. The first phase needed the loader bucket of the back hoe, […]

chicken art

My chickens produce this art. They do this work for chicken feed. We unceremoniously eat their art work. This is the third iteration of my Easter Egg Chicken Ranch. Pictured below is a two-day collection. Then there is the supply in our fridge… numbered to insure we rotate the supply.

hanging out with young chicks

I had a heckuva fight going on for several days with a hen who set her mind on raising a brood of chicks. NO. I have enough for now. No more this year. YES. It is my turn. I took to wearing my heavy leather gauntlet arc welding gloves to remove her from the nest. She graduated from pecking my hands and arms to flying at my face. I figured she would give up eventually. Then I thunk again. What is the problem? Don’t have enough eggs? No. Got some problem with free chicken dinner? No. Can’t give away excess birds? No. So I let her set on them. This afternoon was the coming out party for momma and […]

January tomato and pepper

I have never watch my tomato or pepper plants with such interest. My window-sill garden is growing well… much to my amusement. With this macro-watching perspective we can observe the flowers I pollinate with a paintbrush as they grow into pepper and tomato shapes. Next year I will start a month or two earlier. I am ready for those fresh fruits NOW.

first flower of spring

Okay, January 4th is not quite spring, but my first flower from my windowsill pepper and tomato garden has opened up.

pepper flowers

It is January first in Montana (yeah, kind-of everywhere today ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) with temperatures ranging from the morning low of -1 to a high of 20 degrees Fahrenheit. When I raised the thermal drapes this morning there was ice six inches up the south windows. The one tomato plant and one of my sweet bell peppers on my studio bench are starting to bud into flowers! I think I planted the seeds in pots on the October full moon; the 24th. I definitely planted lettuce, spinach, basil and oregano in the greenhouse on that day, but can find no mention in my notes of pepper planting anywhere. I think I remember doing them then. The greenhouse lettuce and spinach […]