Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sooooooooo Close!

But today was too rainy to finish it! The coop is nearly done, really nearly! The inside needs perches, the outside got 2 coats of paint, still needs the second half of the hardware cloth and the door! - OK, and the flower pots, and the ceramic sun nailed to the wall, and the window box, and the chandelier, and the loft with a flat-screen tv......

Peter and Dave, working together!

We brought the hardware cloth down a foot below ground.

We were able to get two more panels of hardware cloth on the coop before it got too dark to see the staple gun - whoever invented the pneumatic staple gun should get a Nobel Prize! I love the staple gun!
Meanwhile, the little chicks (who are getting pretty big) got some new digs, only the BEST cardboard box condos for my girls! I have no decent chicken pics this week, next week I promise!

Did a bunch of garden stuff too. Put the fourth bed in place and filled it up with nice topsoil, mulched between the beds with newspaper covered with straw, re-mulched around the rasberry plants, and finished evening out the area by the stone wall where the new compost bins will go. Have been putting the chicks in a pen over the garden beds and they have been digging, pooping and scratching nicely so I hope to plant them next weekend and into the week.


AND I have a new Best Crush - check out designer Alabama Chanin. I had been eyeing the Alabama Chanin Stitch Book for a couple of months, and splurged, and am hooked, completely hooked on hand-sewn, cotton knit clothing. Went thrift shopping and got this t-shirt for 2 bucks:

and I made it into THIS!:

Of course it is not as great as Alabama Chanin's corset tops, but I love it and am on the hunt for another t-shirt!

(anyone know how to do this so if you click on the picture it will go to a website? Turn a picture into a hyperlink? On Blogger?)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chicken Coop is Getting There!

Busy - lots of work this week, but we (Dave, though I did hand him several tools!) got a lot done on the coop, AND we added a 4th raised bed. The Chicks are getting really chicken-y and the back room is smelly - hopefully the coop will be done next weekend, the weather will cooperate and the big girls can head out to their new digs. Meanwhile:

Chicken Coop

Nest boxes went in, 4 is probably overkill for 8-9 hens, but while you are building...

The doors on the back of the coop to access the nest boxes, each door will allow you to stick your hand in two of the boxes - see why we did 4? Nice and symmetrical!

We got the door on, the ramp up, and began digging post holes for the outside run!


Got a 4th bed put together and dirt delivered for both the bed and under the chicken coop.

Got the winter rye turned under - I have been letting the big chickens hang out in the beds, they do a great job scratching and digging in the turned up dirt. As it turns out, winter rye inhibits seed germination which makes it a great living mulch to use in preparing a new bed, but maybe not the best for a working bed? Anyway, since our frost date is technically May 15 I am early enough turning it all under that it should be nice and composted enough by planting time.

Did plant chard seeds in the patio bed next to the rhubarb, it was so warm last week I had to plant something!

Gratuitous Chick Photos


The Little Ones First Time Outside

Saturday, April 10, 2010

First Half of the Weekend!

Another gorgeous day! We have been up to a great deal over the last week:

Non-Backyard news:
#1 - a NEW TRUCK! It is yummy, and we love it! Honda Ridgeline, but being a Harry Potter kind of family, I keep referring to it as the Ridgeback, which would be OK if it were green, but it is white. It had it's very first christening big ole' blob of bird poop plopped on it the other day, so it is truely ours! Why a new truck? The big Battlestar Galactica white "mini"van had a leaky head gasket, and it finally stopped running.

#2 - Elder darling son got into Carnegie-Mellon! YAY! He is pretty sure this is where he will go. We are all happy and relieved!

Back to the Backyard:
It is all chicken coop all the time! Got a ton done today:

(ignore the underwear on the clothesline!)

There are nice big screened windows, front and back. Leaning on the wall is a plexiglass window
which we will put in for the winter time and remove in the summer. The door is made, should get the second window and the door finished tomorrow, and hopefully finish the run next weekend, then I think a thrift store run will be necessary because really, such a glorious coop will need a chandelier don't you think?

While Dave was working on the coop, I started cutting the winter rye in the beds so it can lie for a bit then get turned under. I had a brilliant idea: let the chickens do some of the work! So Roberta, Mavis, Lulu and Mini got to spend the day outside in the garden beds:

They were SO happy digging, scratching, picking at bugs! They will be out again tomorrow! The little girls are not really ready yet unless it gets warmer outside than expected. They have been named. The two Buff Orpingtons are Buffy (I know, clever huh? snort!) and Bella - went with the vampire thing, the Ameraucanas are Agnes, the light one, and Ethel, the darker one. Ethel has really nice wing coloring, I am curious to see what she looks like as she grows up. Interestingly, the chickens have yellow-orange legs, but the two Ameraucanas have greyish blue legs!

Bella (smaller one) and Buffy (bigger)

Ethel and Agnes (aka: Effie and Aggie)

How about the brown shiny bits on Ethel's wings?

On the cooking front - I am having alot of fun with sourdough, so far the favorite is - waffels! I am using the sourdough starter from my new favorite book that I have a crush on: Urban Homestead, from the folks of the Homegrown Evolution blog which is my newest blog crush. The blog is really interesting, funny and chock full of information on more things than you can imagine from beekeeping to backyard eco-systems to bicycles and garden gnomes.

So - you get a quart-size mason jar and put in a cup of unbleached flour and a cup of warm water and stir it all up. Cap it loosely and set it on the counter. EVERY MORNING remove a half a cup and add a half a cup of flour and a half a cup of water. After a week or so it should be smelling all yeasty-like and be pretty bubbly. Then you can stop tossing the extra you pour off every morning and make yummy stuff with it like pancakes or waffles. I got this recipe from an old sourdough cookbook my friend Molly gave to me awhile back - Take a couple of mornings and don't pour off any starter from the jar, just add the flour and water so you have enough starter to make the waffles with about a cup left over to keep the starter going:

2 Cups starter
2 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp cooking oil (I used half melted butter)
1 egg-lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
mix these all together, (remember to add flour and water back into the starter jar) and get your griddle ready. Right before you are ready to make the waffles, stir 1 tsp of baking soda with about a Tbsp of water and stir it into the batter - don't beat it, stir it in gently so as it begins to foam up a bit, you retain the bubbles. Cook the waffles - eat them! You can use the same recipe for pancakes.

Monday, April 5, 2010

It Was a Beautiful Weekend...

For building stuff!

Remember, we took off the manky old roofing material 2 weekends ago, then it rained a great deal:

This weeekend, we put nice new roofing material back on the treehouse henceforth to be called the Coop:

Then got to work on the interior:

How about that for a nice floor! The hole in the floor on the right is for chicken access. They will have a ladder/ramp up into the coop from below. The doorway will be for me to get into the coop to clean it.

The big girls got to play outside quite a bit, it has been so warm. First they hung out in a modified playpen I trash-picked, but then my friend Jude brought over an abandoned play-yard, that I think, based on the warning lables, people actually put their children in?..

Well, the chickens love it! They are so big, and really, the only one we can reliably tell from the others is Mini - she still is small, her coloring is different, she has a much lighter fluffy chest and rear end and not much of a tail. I am curious to she what she looks like when fully grown.

My other little project was a DIY chicken feeder - took a nice sturdy plastic pot bottom and drilled a hole in the middle. Got a 2 quart paint mixing bucket from Home Depot, any decently sturdy plastic tub with a lid will do for this, and drilled a hole in the bottom of that as well. I cut 6 holes out of the bottom edge of the plastic bucket with an exacto knife, the holes are about the size of a quarter, they probably could be bigger, and used the shortest bolt I could find in the basement to screw the two together:

Except for the fact that someone is generally roosting on top of it, it is working well as a mid-size feeder!