Tuesday, May 31, 2011

clipping wings

Hubby is always up for teaching. So when we found ourselves with a house full of kids this afternoon he decided it was a perfect day to clip the flocks' wings. (Out of respect - the only kids in the photo also had a parent on site)

The girls really didn't need it done yet - they are not yet flying. But each child got to try it. (There's something to talk about at the dinner table!) Who would have thought this chore would be so exciting!

The quail also got their wings clipped. Despite their small stature, they can jump to the top of the rubbermaid tub. Clipping however, did not lessen this as they are truly jumping.

On a side note - check out the tips of the brown leghorn (now named Heather by one of the participating children BTW) I have never seen anything like it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Heavyweight Champion

The chicks are barely 6 weeks old.

In this corner, wearing the buff and black feathers, weighing in at 1.2 pounds Amerucana the Beautiful!!

And in that corner, in all white, weighing in a 5.6 pounds Quesadilla the Monster of Cornish!!

The chick fight was postponed - prompted by loud protests from both contestants.

They retired to the coop and had a friendly drink together.

adventures in smoking

With my goal of making bacon this year I am smoking a couple pork roasts today to bring to the Memorial day soiree we are attending. Although we had used this technique for a turkey at Thanksgiving and prime rib at Christmas - Hubby did all the work. So last night I rubbed the roasts with garlic and rosemary to sit overnight

Step one - light charcoal.
This took 3 tries. In a fit of insecurity I put the roasts in the oven covered with foil and with a pan of water - just in case.

Step two - argue with grill
I want to cook the roast at 250. The grill wants to be at either 400 or cold. The roasts are on the top shelf with a loaf pan full of water between.

Step three - crockpot
I placed the finished roasts with a cup of stock and a sliced red onion on low to hold until dinner.

Step four - shred & serve
It turned out dry but tasty - nothing some apricot bbq sauce can't fix. Need more practice.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

peeping tom

As I guessed - the layers are now all roosting. The Cornish cannot fly that high.

trial & error

Building this raised bed was . . . frustrating.

I have always relied on Hubby to do all the "manly" stuff around our "farm". But as his health continues to be questionable I have to face the music.

This started out as a pallet sized potato box from Costco, and a vague idea of wheelchair accessible gardening.

I placed it in the unused part of the back parking area (there is space for 3 cars - I have 1). I layered twigs on the bottom and then used chick straw, horse manure, spent potting soil etc. to fill it 3/4 full. And there it sat - for over a month. I had thought the thick cardboard sides would stand up to any rain until it was filled with cucumbers or some other viney crop that would mask its, well, trashy looks.

Then it rained. For a week.

The box bulged, leaning to one side. I didn't really notice it until I was talking to neighbors across the alley. I looked over and thought "I should put my Mazda on blocks to complete the picture."

One of the most important things of an urban farm, I think, is to make it pleasing to the neighbors - not having an eyesore (and sharing eggs) goes a long way when you need help wrangling an escaped animal. I was not holding up my end of the bargain.

Low on cash I looked around the yard. Spying the leftover lengths of old fence board from the coop I had an idea. I cut them to match the height of the box and connected them with finishing nails and a single piece of lath down the middle. Carefully carrying them to the box, one fell apart - it's nails sliding effortlessly from the old wood. Another one broke at a weak point of the lath. I added a second lath to each.

Now I had 4 sides leaning up on the box, and no way to connect them. I had $6. So I went to Lowes and picked up 8 of those metal corner connector thingys from the lumber area - plus 2 flat ones - one of the sides was threatening to break again.

Feeling a little smug about my genius I nailed 2 sides together with the connectors. The finish nails did not have large enough heads and slid out of the metal braces. Found larger headed nails. Then realized I really should use a 2x2 for the nails to go into on each corner. I scoffed. Once it was together it would stay together surely - it was a box, not a house, how sturdy did it have to be?

The cardboard was too curved for all 4 sides to be at a 90 degree angle.

I flattened the metal corners a little bit and nailed it all together. I growled at my deformed creation - telling myself it would be fine. Ignoring the finish nails poking back out from the pressure of the cardboard box of soil and general bad workmanship I insisted that I had other things to do, so I put my tools away and left.

2 sides fell over within a couple hours. This was not going to work.

During lunch with the family I turned over the project in my mind. I certainly couldn't ask Hubby - I do so hate to admit not knowing how to do something as easy as this (anyone remember the geek's attempt to make a lamp in Breakfast Club?)

Then I remembered the shelving I dismantled back in January. Most of the 2x2's were used to make a cold frame covers for Hubby's P-patch, but both bottom pieced were still leaning on the shed along with an old 2x4.

Time to ask for help.

Hubby showed me how to rip the 2x4 into 2x2s. Together we connected the 2 bottom frames on one side (with screws!) and Juju helped me carry it out to the box - placing it to be finished the next day as we were quickly losing daylight. We were 1 2x2 short but that, I was sure, would work itself out.

The next morning before anyone else was up I screwed in the 3rd 2x2. With the 2 flat metal connectors I joined 2 short ones to make the last brace. I nailed in the already cut fence boards to the frame and cut the cardboard box so it cannot be seen about the wood.

Now it is not done. I need to acquire 1 more panel of old fence, but I learned a number of lessons and new skills in the building of this simple project. Hubby joined me with his morning cup of coffee as I was cleaning up and commented that this was exactly how he learned most of the "manly stuff" he knows.

Trial & error - who knew.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Days off?

I was rereading passages from the Encyclopedia of Country Living (again) this time on garden plans. She (Carla Emery) said that she tries (starting in February) to plant something everyday until midsummer when she tries to put up something everyday until harvest is over.

I am not there yet.

But my 2 days off were spent mostly outside. Mostly weeding. Mostly alone.

The girls did help - especially weeding the easily pulled items from the alley parking area. But short attention span theater got them early on.

I also got the first raised bed in the unused area of alley parking (nearly) finished. But that is another story.

I mowed the lawn for one of our favorite neighbors, who offered me an unwanted volunteer wild plum tree and a number of perennial herbs that are having border conflicts. But they will have to wait for tomorrow.

I am pleased with what got done, although my shoulders and hands have protested.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Oh that's what it is for

There has been much investigating (by the laying pullets only, the Cornish can't get up there) of the roost the last few days. None of the hens stay on it long - mostly they look like neophyte tightrope walkers as they wobble from one end to the other.

So far they have been piled in a corner to sleep at night. But when I went to close them in before turning out the light and saw this:

both Cuckoo Marans, Sheena and the Brown Leghorn

I think the meat chickens will soon find themselves alone on the floor.

ladies, it's raining!

It is a wonderful morning. I have my coffee and there is a thunderstorm.

The hens are trying to huddle under the eves to stay dry, but it is not working.

Yet, on the other side of their run is a cozy house, with food and water. The light is on to keep out the dampness, and a couple inches of straw/hay mix is on the floor. It is chicken paradise.

Which they are ignoring.

Crazy chicks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A new day

I am sitting down to coffee in my favorite NPR mug. Mmmmm coffee.

The poultry have been fed. We have lost 2 quail so far - both were the smaller than the rest and less robust (obviously) - which brings us down to 9. Mesha wanted a full burial and funeral for them both but I demurred. Part of raising livestock is loss. Some makes us shrug and say "Meh" and some makes us sad, but it is part of a balance.

I need to get one (or 2) small chicken tractors built. I would like to separate the Cornish and feed them high protein game bird food - it's not organic, but since I have it . . . . Also planting can happen in earnest now that the rains have stopped.

Hubby is out of commission for awhile, as happens now and then, so I really wished I had listened to Mom when she was teaching those time-management classes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Newest residents

Driving to Kiowa and back was just over 2 hours.

It was a strange drive to the SE. First the middle class suburbs of SW Denver then through walled and gated communities of million dollar houses with their private golf courses and horse corrals. (These two areas were actually dotted throughout the drive) It wasn't long before I could no longer see the mountains in my rear view mirror. Trees were lone sentries on an arid landscape of rolling hills (well save for the previously mentioned private golf courses). It was a different dryness than say Eastern Washington. The area seemed to be hushed, ready to shout "Surprise!" when the rain finally came home, having worked late on the other side of the Rockies.

Then at Franktown the gated communities became intertwined with ramshackle farms (many for sale) and small towns sporting a post office, feed store, town diner and a Walmart. The trees, almost all evergreens of one sort or another, were back lining both sides of the highway giving travelers a feeling of welcome. I felt relaxed here - despite the Walmarts.

On the way there I was serenaded by the morose stylings of Robert Smith. The drive seemed stretched out, as it usually is when one does not know where they are going. The Cure just seemed appropriate to the dark clouds and brown grass that back-dropped the scenery.

The country store was small and dusty. Were it not for the helpful clerks, I don't think I would have found anything. The aisles were narrow and crowded with feed and country style decorations. I stepped over or pushed aside half filled boxes of weed killer to get to the counter.

But I left with a dozen baby bob white quail, a new larger (Purple!) waterer for the coop, locally grown organic starter, and commercial game bird starter (higher protein, no other kind available)

The ride home was much faster and upbeat. Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers were regularly interrupted by the quail, whose peeping is much larger than they are. Even now I can hear them, even though they are in the basement behind 2 closed doors.

And yes, Mesha squealed in happiness - I had not yet even taken them out of their carrier box (reused from the mail delivery) It turned out I had only 11, but it is hard to count them when they are trying to jump out of a box 8x their height - and succeeding. They are fast and fearless.

I am not driving to get my $2.70 back.

In the first photo notice the quarter on the saucer for size reference. The marble in the last photo is a shooter. I could not have planned that pose.


It's like those home improvement reality shows when the owners are living in the house during a major remodel.

The chicks are in their new home - sans nest boxes, and a roost, and shutters to close at night and keep out the rain. And there are no shingles or tar paper, no window seats.

They are practically doing dishes in the tub and cooking with only a microwave and a toaster oven.

They do have an apple box full of hay to nest in at night - well Quesadilla, Cacciatore, and Dumpling fill that up. Sheena and the other girls have a pile of straw under the playhouse sink.

But they are much happier than they were 2 days ago.

So is Mesha.

(I don't
know what is up with these pictures today. After 2 years I may have to break down and read the directions for my camera. Or I could just call the help desk and ask vague questions - they love that)

Sheena is . . .

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Morning After

I admit to some concern when I got up extra early this morning. I wanted to check on the chicks - if there was a massacre I planned to clean it up before waking the girls for school.

The cats had refused to come in last night, (I saw a few of the other neighborhood felines skirting our yard) they are very territorial of the yard in general and (at least Butters) chickens specifically.

But they are all accounted for.

So I went back to bed for another hour.

Not exactly farmer material am I.

Monday, May 16, 2011

shanty town

The chicks are too big to come inside at night to stay in the rubbermaid bin.

The coop is not done.

I could blame it on 2 days of rain, and my work schedule being incompatible with working outside.

But really, we have known we needed a coop and where we were going to put it since they were first ordered in January.

Once again (and I am feeling bemused here) we have put off until tomorrow what should have been done yesterday.

So for tonight only (in theory) they are staying in this claim shanty. I added a wooden box and a lot of straw that they are currently kicking around. I had to put them inside (to very vocal protests) but now, 5 minutes later I can no longer hear their indignant chirping.

(interestingly enough, I have been hauling said wooden box around since I was in college. It belonged to my grandfather on my dad's side. I am not sure why I wanted it at 18, but it has served many purposes over the years)

The fox has been out and about - I guess we will find out if our pen is "critter proof."

Monday, May 9, 2011

teenagers now

The meat chicks, when they stretch up as far as they can, nearly touch the screened top.

We haven't had a problem with them pecking each other . . . yet. Hanging weeds distract them, and the occasional dozen pet store crickets are entertaining, but they need to go outside.

The coop still needs a door, and the yard a gate. And I need to get a larger feeder and waterer. Finishing this is today's only goal.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I think these are yellow podded peas.

In my usual detail oriented fashion, I forgot which of the 4 types of peas I planted where. (Labels? Plant tags? Whoever heard of such things?)

But I do not recall seeing red tinged leaves before so it is a pretty good guess I think. We will find out soon enough.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Lazarus Lettuce

Notice the brown dried leaves.

This is one of the lettuce starts that died after planting outdoors.


Not even the recent snowfall discouraged it.

This years garden is back on!