Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Babies' day out

Since it was so nice today (the high was 56, but it felt much warmer) I put Juju's chicks out in our extra hutch. It faces south so was very comfortable. They spent the daylight hours feeling the breeze and hearing the other hens.

I had planned to put them in a cage in the chicken yard so they could interact a little with the flock, but given the ducks delinquency and subsequently the now smaller yard - I felt it wasn't the best idea.


The ducks have turned into delinquents.

They have always assumed the role of rooster since they became part of our flock, but now they are just bullies. They went from pulling out the occasional tail feather to stripping the back of the neck.

So they now have their own space. It is a pain to take care of them - but worth having less stressed out hens. They now taunt the ducks by sitting on their house (the curtain lasted until the wind storm last night)

Did I say we need a new poultry set up yet?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dinner Tonight

After today's labor, comfort food sounded good. And growing up my favorite was Mom's beef Stroganoff.

The only problem is I no longer have condensed cream of mushroom soup in my house.

So I made it. Simple roux based white sauce (thick) with baby portabello mushrooms. One for today, 2 for the freezer.

If only I could can it.

Think Spring

It is the last day of my 4-day weekend, and I was determined to make it count. The sun came out and even with the wind it was a good day to be outside. I find it so easy to get caught up in the day to day indoor stuff, that the outside does not get the attention it needs.

I have an overall plan for our yard - in so much as I want out house to have curb (and back alley) appeal. With more chicks coming and a plan for bees in the future, a nice looking view for the neighbors is the easiest way to sell our lifestyle to the community. (that and fresh eggs)

So with this in mind, I went out to build the first raised bed (with a plan of 5) in our alley parking area. There is space for 3 cars - we only use one space so the remaining area will be a raised bed garden that will be mulched along the paths. I envision zucchini & tomatoes in the beds with nasturtium growing out the sides (I left holes in places for just such a use. There will be sweet peas (or real peas) on 6 foot trellises between the beds, creating a partial screen. Or maybe sunflowers. oh oh Potatoes.

So far it looks like this:

I did sort of build a bed last year - but I never finished it. It was a wood frame surrounding a potato box and 1/2 the frame had wood on it. But it looked bad - and was virtually ignored along with the spindly tomatoes I had planted in it. By the time winter had rolled around most of the planks had fallen off and the box inside was droopy. Even the frame was falling apart at the seams. (It was, along with the failed quail hutch, a bad design and execution) I had already dismantled it, salvaging what I could - the potato box went to the garbage and the soil into the new bed.

Here is the view from our neighbors' back yard:

The pallets are from another neighbor - I had planned to dismantle them and use the wood, but they are so well put together that I end up breaking the boards and the nails stay in the 2x4 frame. I keep them stacked up neatly while I figure out the best plan of attack.

The small box is a nest box we salvaged - I will build a trellis with 2x2 and chicken wire for the above mentioned peas. There is room for 2 more large beds (roughly 4x6) along the retaining wall + up to three more nest boxes.

The bed is filled with layers of compost, straw from the hen house and rabbit hutch, old potting soil & dirt from putting in the flagstones. It took about 3 hours to assemble and fill. Right now I have old storm windows on top - to help heat it up (and break it down)

Back to the job of scrounging up materials (as of now this project has cost me a tube of caulk . . . so 3 dollars - I wish to stay in that budget.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

This is not working

The duck pond is frozen every morning. I go out with a bucket of hot water to the sounds of the ducks banging their beaks on the layer of ice. But I had not seen this before:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Late Start

The girls don't have school until 10:30 but forgetting that I got up extra early and made muffins. The pears we have all ripened at once (as pears are wont to do) so I had enough to make 2 batches - on regular and one with whole wheat, oatmeal and honey.

I then sat with my coffee jealously reading about the NW Flower and Garden show going on in Seattle right now. And about CSAs already delivering lettuce and cabbage
- it is a zone 8.

Juju got up about 7 and after trying a muffin cleaned her chick box. The chicks waited patiently on a chair for her to finish. It is hard to believe they are the same age - the NHR is twice the size of the NN (as you can see) She is more independent also - no longer complaining when they are separated. The NN, however, woke up Mesha the last time she was left alone in the box.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Hubby Loves Me

The barrel is from the local brew store and held malt extract - best part is the lid can be removed for cleaning. I am hinting for 2 more.

This one will go by the back stair (right behind where it is now) after we rig a stand for it.

Is it spring yet?

Outside might be threatening snow, but inside we have broccoli, lettuce and morning glories.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

New nest

With winter here for a few days (he he) I really needed an alternative to the preferred outside egg laying places the hens and duck have been using.

A 4x4x12 piece of wood and a heavy duty rubber band from the kitchen junk drawer seems to have done the trick.

There are also 2 thrifted file holders (one is to the right) that they use, although I will need to either rebuild the side of the coop to incorporate traditional mounted boxes or build a new coop as I need the floorspace to keep my growing flock happy. This playhouse come coop was only meant to hold 5 hens - current head count is 6 + the ducks. But Juju's chicks will be added to the mix come spring and there is the meat chickens (for 8-12 weeks) to consider also.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Today Hubby (with a little help from me) started making "Not as Pale as Death Ale" a new kit from our local brew store. This style of kit has both uses an extract syrup, but also malted grains that must first be boiled.

The hens approve of this, as the used grains go to them afterwards. (Tweedle dee and Tweedle dum are standing in the middle of the barley pile) Some also go to the quail and Juju's chicks.

I ordered a half dozen Dixie Ranger meat chicks and the same of Cornish Crosses today and by the time they arrive in late March I hope to have an in with other home brewers (hello craigslist!) so I can supplement their feed with more spent grains. If this is successful I will need to build a solar dehydrator so I can store the wet grains again. I have been thinking of building one anyway as my Excalibur fills up quickly during harvest and it seems a shame to waste the dry heat of Colorado during that same time.

The brew store gives theirs to a friend who makes dog treats with them, but I brought some eggs with me when I was in last to see if I can be second on their call list.

Hubby is enjoying his new hobby. Between this, seed starting, and blacksmithing he cannot claim boredom. Although he has tried.

Here is our brew cupboard in the office.

Upper right is the bottled Maibock that will be ready on Valentines Day. Lower left is an IPA to be bottled on Saturday and lower right is the new Pale Ale that is just started. The bottles in the back are sanitized and waiting.

We need to come up with labels now.