Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The house bunny

He is definitely a pet.

Even if he were not bred for that purpose the newly named Sgt. Peppers loves to be held (on his back having his tummy rubbed)

We will need to have him neutered and an indoor setup acquired. He will live in the play area of the girls and the outdoor hutch will once again be ready for meat or angoras come spring.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Project finished and at it's proper home

Many thanks to New Belgium, Sam Adams & Flying Dog (the cable pattern is called Tipsy and I found it went smoother with a beer or 2). Also to Jeremiah, RuPaul's Drag Race, Lost in Austin, & Drag U. (All perfect excuses to sit on the couch)

It is, after all, Jammie Day

Merry Christmas

The girls were up at 5:30 am. Rules are they can go through their stockings, but that is all until we are all up. There was squealing to be heard so Hubby and I got up knowing the cat carrier in front of the tree was causing it all.

He is a Holland Lop and yet unnamed. Hubby found him about a week ago on Craigslist. Not a meat animal, but a pet. He is ensconced in the outside hutch.

By 6:15 I was back in bed. Much to the disappointment of the girls the rest of the gifts would have to wait. They had plenty to play will (a DS game for Juju, LPS for Mesha) and Hubby had coffee.

Now it is noon, all the gifts are open and Hubby is taking his nap under this quilt sent by Mom. It is one of the last quilt tops made by Grandma Lundborg and edged with a black border to fit our bed.

Hubby blacksmithed me a candle holder. I think it is beautiful.

He took inspiration from the curves of flower stems and leaves.

Hubby received a beer brewing kit, an herb starter kit and a new book on blacksmithing. All things needed by the person holding down the fort on our urban homestead. The new projects - not to mention starting our tomato seeds the first week of January - is sure to keep him busy once the girls go back to school.

It has been a good morning. New coffee (Thanks Potter!) and the girls are playing happily.

Enya, Canadian Brass, George Winston, and Bluegrass are providing the Holiday Soundtrack.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

visions of sugar plums

IF I leave the door open
IF the light is on
IF it is below freezing

This is where Harley & Quinn spend the night.

But they still can't figure out how to get out in the morning - when the door is closed once more.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

We will have a white Christmas

This is the first time I have seen a good snowfall since living on the family farm in 1996. Except for the 2 hours to shovel out the coop and my car it is GREAT!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Pears went on sale twice in the last month at work - just under 50¢ a pound. I couldn't find them at that price in season!

I bought about 4 flats.

2 got dried (what has not been eaten already is in the large jar), 1 got eaten fresh - and one was lost to what I call harvest fatigue.

This happened to me this summer and fall more often than I would care to admit. I would have the produce and put off processing it until it was too late and became chicken food.

When they went on sale again yesterday I bought the last 3 flats of perfectly ripe Bartletts and processed them as soon as the girls went to bed. We now have 6 quarts of pear sauce that will hopefully tide us over (with the applesauce Mom gave us) until next season.

Goal #1 for 2012 - process fruits of our labor as we get them.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

waking up late

It was 8am when I opened my eyes this morning. My alarm clock had given up and shut itself off after I ignored the 6am music and subsequent reminders afforded me by the snooze button. I started the coffee before heading outside into the morning sunshine.

The ducks were not pleased. They had hovered around the coop last night until I let them in (apparently the continuing snow was an affront to their dignity) and now were trapped inside. They are still unwilling to "stick their necks out" so to speak to open the hinged rubber door themselves. In fact only Alice and Sonja had ventured outside, so the coop was a noisy place.

I had one more bag of stray/hay mix left so I spread it over the snow and poured a bucket of hot water into the "pond". Leaves of cabbage were also tossed into the yard, as well as a handful of scratch into the coop.

With the price of straw and hay going up (along with everything else) I am less generous with it than I have been in the past.

The quail are much more stoic. They are much more comfortable in their new hutch and do not try to escape when I open the doors these days. I swapped the frozen water bottles for new ones, gave them food and some cabbage leaves and they were happily scrambling over each other to get at it all.

In less than 30 min I was back inside, having my first cup of coffee before going out again to shovel the front and brush off the cars. We only really got enough snow to be a hassle.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

A place of their own

When Sonja and Heather were introduced to the flock I put a narrow roost above the "pond" in a space too small for the other hens to give them a place to escape from the hazing.

They are finally using it.

Above them is a dowel - but that is for breaking ice in the morning - I don't expect to see them use it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Making Due

Next year I have a plan for the duck pond. It will be a small trough of some kind with a drain hose/valve combo near the bottom. I will be able to empty it into the surrounding landscape during the dry summer days killing 3 birds with one stone (clean pond, watered AND fertilized plants)

But for this year we have an old plastic drawer - it holds just over 10 gallons and the ducks enjoy bathing in it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Where am I?

It feels like MN today - the sun is shining and it is 4 degrees or something close to that. I have added a kettle of boiling water to the duck pond twice this morning and it is slushing up again. The light has been on in the coop for the last 3 days - the reflector covered lightly with foil at night. I have not replace the water inside - so the ducks don't spread it all over the dry straw again.

All the poultry got bacon drippings today - city version of suet I figure.

Why oh why did I forget to order firewood?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Snow days

With the snow and the cold the ducks have decided to nest in the coop at night. I have had to make a couple concessions for this.

1. take out water dish - as they spread it all over the place.

2. hold door open with a bungee cord during the day. This of course means that I have to open the door in the morning for them and close it at night - the chore I was hoping to avoid with the dog door installation. However, as you will see with the video the ducks are wary of sticking their necks out.

BTW Heather was already outside.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

friends in need

I had to clean the coop before work today.

The ducks, with the nights getting colder, are still refusing to sleep in the dog crate I bought ESPECIALLY for them. They decided they want in the coop at night, and can't figure out the dog door. I obligingly shoved them inside last night and this morning found all the straw soaking wet and the waterer that I thought was out of their reach on a milk crate empty on the floor.

An hour later, with the floor bare, and the light on to hopefully help it dry, I remembered I had not yet bought a new bale of straw. I ran out the door to work, asking hubby to have the girls fill it with the shredded paper from the office when they got home from school - it was snowing and I couldn't see him easily maneuvering the feed store parking lot.

It was not enough.

I got home after dark and it was getting colder. The paper once spread out came out to only 1/2 inch deep on the floor.

Luckily I have friends - ones who also have livestock.

1/2 hour later Juju & I were picking up some loose straw from Rana & Niels. An hour later I was still at their kitchen table with a glass of wine enjoying the conversation while Juju watched Harry Potter with her kids. Honestly I don't know which part I appreciated more. We got home right before bed and now the poultry and the children are tucked in for the night. The straw mixed in well with the paper, creating exceptionally fluffy bedding.

This lifestyle I have chosen would go smoother, I think, If I were a type A personality and not a procrastinator.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Duck egg?

The girls found and extra large egg yesterday. On the left is a white egg from either Sonja (Blue Andalusian) or Heather (brown leghorn) who just started laying in the last week or so. In the middle is an egg from Alice the Ameraucana.

Could this be the first egg from Harley on the right? Hubby and the girls looked it up and he insists that Welsh Harlequin ducks lay cream colored eggs, but I am not sure.

Juju says we should make brownies to test it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


It was a quiet (and warm) day here. We had a couple neighbors over for a shared meal. While preparing food I thought about where the food came from.

1. chicken raised by us
2. pickles, cucumbers grown by a neighbor & canned by me
3. butternut squash grown by a neighbor
4. pumpkin for pie from the museum (sweetened with local honey)
5. raspberry chipolte jam made from homegrown raspberries by a friend
6. all eggs used from our hens

All else from the grocery store and Costco.


Thanksgiving was a traditional harvest festival adopted to focus on early pioneers not starving to death. I would like to have it be a harvest festival for us also. I want us to appreciate the work involved in feeding ourselves.

The girls proudly told our guests the name of the chicken we were eating (Quesadilla). Juju made the biscuits we served herself, and Mesha helped with the chocolate mousse pie.

I have 2012's goal.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Cadbury was gone this morning.

I found the cage open when I went to feed him.

We don't know if someone left the door open, or he jiggled it until the latch slid (as he has done in the past) but he was neither under the shop or the deck - his usual hiding spots.

Mesha briefly mourned before asking "Can we get a girl and boy rabbit now and eat the babies?"

I guess sometime in the last year he had moved in her mind from pet to possible breeding livestock.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Saturday Night at our home

We are partial to post apocalyptic movies. Currently we are watching both seasons of Jeremiah on Netflix. Any idle screen time I try to spend knitting. At least I know that if electricity becomes unavailable we can huddle up in our sweaters.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Knitting project

Although this will not be posted until after Christmas, this project is the coolest thing I have ever done.

After I had moved out to be the city girl in college, my little brother had sheep. I don't remember them much. I remember one was named Wilma. That there was a little brown one (that I have found out since was my mother's) I remember hearing about hoof rot, and needing more bedding hay. But to a neo-urban princess, this was all background noise.

The sheep were sheared, as sheep usually are, and mom and dad found themselves with bags of wool. They were cleaned and carded and stored until a time they could be used.

And they were stored.

The sheep were sold, my brother graduated from high school.

The wool continued to wait.

My family moved across country to Minnesota.

And stored some more.

My father died and the wool went with my mother to her new house.

And the wool was stored again. Some was given away I am told.

My brother is now 36. For 20 or so years Mom has had this part of his history. He is now a urban man, he has no interest in gardening. I suspect that he only does major yard work if it will improve his property value. Spends his days in an office, his evenings with friends. I cannot imagine him with livestock of any kind. I am quite sure he shakes his head when he reads my posts, possibly trying to figure out how, exactly, we could have the same parents.

This summer, Mom had the wool spun. It had to be reprocessed first, but I have a grocery bag of yarn, of which I am making an afghan. I need to have 9-12 patchwork squares done. I have 3 done.

The beauty of this project nearly makes me cry.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

I like how Fugly turned out. Hubby picked the side that 1/2 the stripes are red, the other still green. Mesha had the idea for how the eyes should be done, Juju the mouth.

As with my other squash, this was picked to early, but it turned out fine for this application.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How I spent my days off

I love my pressure canner.

Our kitchen is small. On either side of the stove (with 3 working burners) I have about a foot of counter space - most of which is taken up by our coffee pot and grinder to the right and a jar of utensils on the left. Hubby was laughing at me cause while batches were in the canner and after I washed up the dishes used I was leaned against the counter knitting. (No Megan, your gloves are still not done.)

I was thrilled to have some food safe buckets - I do not have a stockpot so I had to heat up things in batches in my largest saucepan.

At the end of the day we had 6 quarts of chicken stock, 3 quarts tomato sauce, 3 quarts garlic basil pasta sauce, 12 pints roasted tomatillo enchilada sauce, & 9 pints yellow tomato salsa.

The salsas are extra mild - the girls insist that mild in Colorado is much hotter than mild in Minnesota, and they are probably right. Although it was mostly by accident - I had chopped up our Long Jim Chilis and our green peppers as they ripened, and forgot to label the freezer bags, so they got mixed together.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

This weeks project

After the ramp got put in last month it was soon realized that the sidewalk was not wide enough to accommodate hubby's chair. I, in my usual fashion, ignored this until the ruts in the grass were getting deep.

Laying flagstone is like putting together a puzzle of which you don't have the picture. We had these laying around - most we had dug up when we put in the chicken yard, although some were shamelessly stolen from the lower yard path that is not used much. It took me 5 days total (during which the ramp was unusable) - I only worked on my days off (meaning unusable for nearly 2 weeks) save for yesterday when I placed the last 4 stones and sanded the top. It is not a professional job and will need to be tweeked with packed soil to keep leveled, but it works.

Friday, October 21, 2011

boy vs girl

On the left is one of our female quail. She is the only one I can pick out of a lineup because of her beak. On the right is (I think) the top male quail - he fluffs himself up the most when I walk up to the hutch. The quail are not named - mostly cause I can't really tell them apart.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sick Day

Today I spent in bed, succumbing to some bacteria or virus.

I just want to say I am so thankful I am not doing this alone. Hubby and the girls did the morning chores and I got to sleep.

Friday, October 14, 2011

To do list Fail

Today I had plans:
1. attach old quail hutch to chicken coop as nest boxes
2. wash and hang out laundry
3. finish leveling flagstone to widen front walk.
4. crockpot dinner

Instead I found myself running errands with the girls - including a hour long stop at Claire's. The price of having daughters with allowance burning a hole in their pocket.

I also slept in - something I rarely get to do as on my usual days off their are children to get off to school.

Dinner was fishsticks and sweet potato fries. Yea Costco!

Why do I feel so tired when nothing got done?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Outside roost

Before work today I decided to clean the coop. The ducks, in their enthusiasm, had splashed water all over the straw and the floor was wet. Unfortunately time ran out before I could finish. Since the hens have yet to figure out the dog door I planned for them to spend the night outside so I could finish the coop in the morning.

This wooden ladder was part of the haul the haul that got us the new quail hutch. When I came home, however TweedleDum was missing - I found her inside the bare coop alone. She is apparently outside the pecking order that has Pippa on top and the new younger hens (as expected) on the bottom.

I watched TweedleDum unsuccessfully try to get out the door while I was inside the coop. She has the general idea that pecking at the door moves it, but hasn't put it together yet. I finally shoved her out to sleep with the rest of the flock.

Harley and Quinn still refuse to sleep in their new crate - although they create quite a ruckus when one of the hens decide to go in there.

Monday, October 10, 2011

"New" Candle

I am one of those people with containers of "stuff I might use someday" especially craft type stuff. One of these shoe boxes is filled with tea light tins, various sized wicks and old candle wax. The wax is usually scented and I plan someday to make new tealight or jelly jar candles with it. Today however I noticed the designated bathroom candle had reached it's end - with still a 1/2 inch a wax below the wick.

Hmmm. I quickly filled a tin can from the recycle bin with some of the said old wax (this one a spicy autumn scent) and placed it into a pan of water on the stove. It tipped over. I patted the wax dry and tried again - with a little less water.

The metal anchor of the old wick was removed and a new wired wick was pressed into the still soft bottom. Add melted wax and we have a new candle that fits easily into the old holder!

I can't decide if this project is brilliant or just kinda weird.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Quail appetizer

We caught the quail. And decided that this was the perfect time to try one. It was quickly cleaned & dressed in the kitchen sink. I rubbed a generous amount of bacon grease on the carcass, sprinkled it with pepper and baked it while I got pizza. It was done when I got back, so while dinner baked we tried it.

Mesha thought it was the best thing ever. After Hubby, Juju and I had enough of the little bird, she finished it off, bringing me a small pile of bones. She had been hesitant to try it (although intrigued by the tiny drumstick) but has now decided that she would like to eat another one tomorrow.

Juju is still not sure about eating cute animals.

PS I had to carry the hens to their entry and push them through the flap. I have done this both in and out and they have not yet figured out that the translucent piece of plastic will move out of their way. The ducks and in their usual spot next to the window and protested loudly when I triggered the motion sensor. (Inside their kennel is dark) I already know the poultry don't really like change. Any bets on how long before any of them figure it out?

Good Day

Today was near perfect. Mom & Potter are visiting so the six of us had breakfast at the new local cafe - thereby acquiring a smorgasbord of leftovers for the hens (chili relenos to strawberry smothered pancakes)

Once home again Hubby, Potter & I readied one of the newly acquired hutches for the quail. The one I had built for them was just too small and the wood floor was difficult to keep clean. There had been a rabbit in the "new" hutch previously and the nest box was chewed up and there were holes in the back and bottom. Hubby replaced the boards I removed and cut off the back legs, allowing us to set the hutch on the raised area next to the fence. Straw in the nest box, a small sand box (for dust baths) some branches and it was ready.

That, of course, was the easy part.

Moving the quail was a challenge, and they protested loudly. We have 3 females and 6 males - 5 more males than needed. During the across yard transfer, one male flew off, but the remaining 8 birds are in their new home - and seem much less jumpy with the extra room.

Next on my agenda was a new chicken door for the hen house. I am lazy by nature, and the idea of letting them out in the morning and in at night was too labor intensive for me. We had acquired a decorative metal door with a dog door that was just leaning against the shed for the last 6+ months and that seemed just the ticket. I figured the light coming in would entice the hens out in the morning and I would put on the light inside to entice them back in at night. So now their entry is taller and narrower, but still plenty big. Worst case scenario (foxes and coyotes feeling lucky) I could rig piece of mason board to slide in for a solid barrier.

Next up - ducks. They hate the motion light above them and I have been meaning to build a crate for them to bed in at night or for rainy weather. But this lovely dog kennel was a mere $16 at the local thrift store. Score!

We removed the door, tossed in some straw, add a wood ramp and Voila! Honeymoon Cottage!

I do need to cover the ventilation on the top - to block both the backyard lights and rain (snow) but they seem pretty happy.

Then I notice it is 5 pm. I had planned to make soup in the crockpot, but with these projects and other distractions I had completely spaced it. Once again I am happy to be in city - a short jaunt to the local pizza joint and we have dinner.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


What? Need I say more?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I love you day?

Yesterday I came home to detritus spread out over the yard.

Well, NEW detritus.

In the back driveway, by the as yet unfinished (and mostly ignored) deep bed was a stilted rabbit (?) hutch.   By the gate a dozen old foot long railroad ties and parts of trees.  In the lower yard, under the clothes line, a wire critter cage.  Also on the back walk was another, rather disreputable looking, hutch.  On it was a sign, obviously penned by my youngest child, saying TO MOM.  In it was 2 young hens.

Hubby was on the deck, rolling back and forth on his back wheels looking very pleased with himself.  Except for the new hens he had gathered this all for free, with the idea of meat rabbits, or better quail hutches, or both.

But he knew I wanted a couple more hens.  "Happy I Love You Day!" he said.

Sonja - a Blue Andalusian
Heather - a Brown Leghorn
 I had been really bummed that we had ended up with 2 roosters this spring.  Hubby took the girls to to a poultry swap in Denver and bought these two girls from a 10yr old girl.  They are 14 weeks old, about a month younger than our other hens.  We waited until dark to put them on the roost in the hen house.  The girls named Heather - as that had been the name of our other leghorn.  Sonja Blue is the namesake of the other.

Today was rough on them - it was rather like a couple of 10yr olds showing up at a party of 16yr olds.  They stayed mostly in the house - with occasional foray into the upper parts of the fencing.  We will need to install some high roosts outside I think.

Hubby knows how to make this girl happy.

Friday, September 30, 2011

All the girls are laying now.

Although, Alice hasn't quite got the nest figured out yet.

To back up.

Our children are sleeping in the guest room tonight as I try to organize their play/craft area. (A trip to IKEA today ended with some white shelving with an attached desk.) If I haven't mentioned it before, the hen/duck yard has a window into the basement. The ducks don't like to go into the chicken house at night, choosing instead to sleep by said window. They get really upset and noisy when the motion detector light by the back door comes on over their heads. Apparently, light from where I was working was also bothersome, as they were quacking and attacking the window with their beaks while I was sorting through endless amounts of craft paper.

Envisioning hairline cracks in the window I decided to chase them into the hen house so I could continue to work in peace.

There are 3 ways to do this:
1. bang on the fence with a stick, following them until they go in
2. chase them with a flashlight over the fence until they go in
3. go in and chase them in

Option 1 only got them 1/2 way before they stopped in defiance.

Option 2 meant going in and finding said flashlight.

Option 3 was successful. And the above egg was found in the yard. I am surprised it was not crushed in the mayhem.

Hubby said she had been trying to use the nest the last few days, but Pippa would race her to it, hop in and not get out until Alice gave up and went back outside.

UPDATE: After posting this I went back downstairs to work - to find the ducks outside, quacking loudly at the light again.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This morning's gather

I definitely need 2 more hens.

The Ameraucana hasn't started laying yet, but I would like white shelled also. Maybe an olive egger also.

I'm chasing the rainbow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dream Farm

Because this should be written down somewhere . . .

3-5 acres
all buildings (and gardens) fully wheelchair accessible
small orchard
pond (fish?)
Chicken, ducks, turkey and whatever other fowl catches our fancy
Rabbits - meat & fiber
a cow
green house
able to be off the grid (solar, well, masonry stove, cold cellar)
grey water irrigation system

oh yeah . . .
walking distance to
library, thrift store, 7-11 and coffee shop
biking distance to
work, school, farmers market, wine bar, Target

Sunday, September 25, 2011



The difference

I read regularly about "them that's doing" on various blogs. Mostly these are neo-rural farmers making a go. I read about how while coffee is percolating at 5 am they are doing chores and coming in for a welcome cup of joe an hour or so later.

I get up at 6 - and I get my coffee before chores.

Although my favorite NPR mug fell recently and I have not yet found a new favorite. It is strange not having coffee with Bob Edwards.

It's the little things.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My favorite pepper

The chocolate peppers have been by far the most prolific. Even these days, when the nighttime temperatures demand we cover them at dusk they still produce (I picked these all yesterday)

On top of this they are thick walled and sweet. Juju likes taking them in her lunch - the color grosses out the other kids at the table who have only seen the green, red, yellow and orange ones available at the local store.

They are sliced up and in the freezer, awaiting salsa canning day.