Spring Cleaning, 2011

Yep, it’s that time of year again. As in years past, we try to find a day when it’s not too wet to muck out the coop.

Amazing how much poo can accumulate in the course of a year.

This past year we actually layered the litter in the coop between wood shavings and straw. Between getting the coop mucked out too late (I was so sick when we ought to have done it – John was too busy going between the hospital, getting kids places, and handling work, etc.), the excessive rains of last year, and the wacky pH of the soil – we felt strongly we had to mix things up a bit. We just can’t handle another dismal garden year on the equivalent of Garden 2010!

It was interesting to note how much more it seemed that the litter had already started to compost down some!

We also decided to switch which garden plot the contents would be added to. This year, it’s to the new garden plot. (Well – it’s not so new any more, but that’s what we call it!)

Always exciting – yeah, not! – to find a surprise egg. Only two this year, thankfully!

The girls always love it when the nest boxes get spiffed up. They have to come right away and give them a spin to see how they feel.

Empty! At last!

The broody mama part of the coop all ready for new chicks.


Funny how the girls are thrilled to have the contents of the coop to dig through out in the garden plot.

It’s always nice to get this chore done, and look forward to chicks, Spring, and the garden to come!

Getting Ready for Winter

This is a very pretty flower I picked up at Home Depot in late Spring. I wanted it in the vegetable garden because I felt it would attract pollinators. It did. It’s lovely. And, it’s pretty darn hardy. Today I transplanted it out of the garden – which hopefully will get tilled tomorrow – and into planters on the front porch. Here’s the info about this flower – Sunny Day Tickseed – a type of coreopsis. But you wanna know what bugs me about this plant? This little blurb on the plant identifier tag: “Protected by US Patent Laws and/or Canadian Plant Breeder’s Rights. Illegal propagation is prohibited.” Okay – how stupid is that?! I’m sure someone somewhere thinks it’s a good thing to have intellectual property rights to the propagation of this plant – but one has to wonder… what if it accidentally is propagated naturally? Will I be prosecuted? Ugh!

I hope this pictures comes out okay… In the background – see that truly BIG pile of leaves? The boys worked hard today to amass it. They’re planning on building a fort from the raked up leaves. Ummm… today was one of those rare REALLY blustery days here in Oregon. Supposed to be tomorrow, too… This Mom can’t help but wonder if this plan may somehow be, well, difficult to execute fully. 🙂

ALL of the animals are loving the leaves. Pepper likes to roll in them. Jake and Caleb like to curl up in them. The chickens like to scratch through them… And soon, I hope, they will be moved to my compost heap – helping to make wonderful compost for my garden one of these days!

Today John worked hard to finish up pulling up all of the remnants of the garden. The chickens LOVED following behind and scratching through everything.

Wow – it’s that time of year ago – time to start strategizing what next year’s garden will be.

It’s wild how strange it is that we’ve come full circle. No more green beans… This will be my garlic patch – and soon! Thanks to Danni‘s and Melinda‘s examples and excellent information – I will FINALLY – after years of feeling completely inadequate and definitely not smart enough to attempt it – plant my first garlic patch. Woo Hoo! I’ll be sure to report later!

And here is my piled-high compost heap. The girls are investingating – trying to determine if there’s anything worth finding in there.

And here is my new composter. Kinda wild, huh? It’s called Earthmaker – it’s an Aerobic Composter. It involves a three step process – it has three different compartments – see?

Interesting, huh? I like it thus far, and will be sure to give updates as to how effective it is – or is not!

It occurred to me today – Hey! I should harvest the seed from my basil! Why have I never thought of that before? So, I went out with my scissors and a saran wrapped basket (so anything that escapes a seed pod will not be lost between the slats of the basket), and went to work. Here’s a peek. I’ll probably get around to coaxing the seed out of the pods tomorrow – I’ll be sure to report back! But here’s a great resource I found online about harvesting basil seed.

So – it’s true… it’s full force fall with winter on the way. I find it nearly impossible to believe it’s only a week until November. But I think I’m ready for it now. I think the fact that it hasn’t been horribly soggy has helped. I may even be ready for the rain. We’ll see!

What Grocery Store Waste Costs You

This from this week’s Parade Magazine:

Food prices are rising, but your grocery bill might be lower if you weren’t paying for an estimated $20 billion worth of food that supermarkets throw away each year. Stores in the U.S. waste twice as much food annually as those in Europe, and a recent U.N. report found that total American food waste—including what we pitch from our refrigerators—is worth $48 billion each year. One reason is that, since food travels 1500 miles on average to reach your plate, some of it spoils in transit. Also, Americans are used to huge displays of fresh food at the grocery store, so some produce is piled up for decoration rather than sold. But now supermarkets are trying to cut waste—or at least find more environmentally friendly ways to handle it. Stop & Shop/Giant-Landover has reduced the number of items on display and asked suppliers to use smaller boxes, resulting in less waste. Supermarkets in Nashua, N.H., and Deerfield Beach, Fla., make compost out of spoiled produce, meat, and even flowers. Still, keeping food from the trash pile in the first place would be best. “We waste between a quarter and a half of all the food we produce,” says Jonathan Bloom, a journalist who blogs about food waste. “If there’s a silver lining to today’s rising grocery prices, it may be that they force us to value our food more.”

The week of the rooster!

This is Joe… He’s a young, pretty dumb raccoon that comes often during the daytime hours to hang out on our back porch. Our dog doesn’t seem to mind much – unless the chickens are out free ranging – then she gets hacked off. And – oddly enough, our cats don’t seem to give a rip at all! I personally think Joe’s front right paw is injured. I also think Joe may need to go on a little trip to the woods where he can live somewhere other than suburbia!

Jess took this picture the other day. This is Jake (one of our kittens) realizing his sneaky hiding place to observe the chickens was no secret to anyone and he may as well come out from under the car! He’s such a goof!
Isn’t this the sweetest little flower?
Caleb – hanging out on the top of the chicken run. He loves hanging out and watching the girls do their thing! Now that they’re all so big, he just watches – doesn’t seem to have much interest in having any run ins.

Here’s Harlan – never far from the girls – keeping a close eye on them and everyone else! He takes his job seriously.
Henrietta is by far our most social girl. She is not at all opposed to just hanging out sitting on my lap while we’re out in the yard. She is very intrigued by my air cast, though!
Here they are – playing follow the leader yet again – it’s always a riot, though, when they all end up in the corner and wondering why the heck they are there!
Do you see rooster here? Cause I see rooster here!

Here are the baby girls – out for a field trip to the yard. They seem to enjoy the outdoors quite a bit. They are just about three weeks old.
There is nothing quite so right as a flock of free ranging chickens in your yard, garden, and compost heap!
Our week started – for all intents and purposes – when Harlan (yes, as in Sanders, you know, the KFC founder – yes, that’s what he got named!) the Welsumer Rooster came to stay last Sunday. You’ve never seen such a stunning, sweet-tempered specimen of rooster! We learned in pretty quick order that he’s a right at 4:15 a.m. every morning to rise kind of a guy – and that’s when the crowing would start. Then the rooster a couple of blocks over would answer, then Harlan would answer back… and so on, and so forth…

Suffice it all to stay that the neighbors are not thrilled.
I can’t say as I blame them. While we all in this particular corner of the world are on 1/2 to 3/4th acre plots the house direct to the West of us is the least amused. Today they made it clear that Harlan would no longer be tolerated.
We’re bummed – we really have come to love him. He’s absolutely hilarious to watch, and is quite intelligent – not to mention, of course, beautiful to behold. But we want to be good neighbors, so Harlan will return to Sno-Kit Farm tomorrow – much to our sorrow. We hope that in the near future we will have a home of our own with enough elbow room to welcome him back to our flock. Thank you, Sharon, for sharing Harlan with us for this week!

[Here’s Harlan – sunbathing – BUT – keeping an eye out on his flock! It was hilarious when he’d doze off – startle and awaken, then hop up on his feet and crow for all he was worth to prove his vigilance!]

School is out for the summer. It will be wonderful to have the kids home. I love this time of year!

They’re getting bolder!

It’s absolutely amazing to me how much these chicks change – nearly hourly! When they first came home I thought we’d have enough chick starter to last a lifetime! Of course, that was back in the day that it took them slightly more than 24 hours to go through a quart of the stuff. Now – they go through at least two quarts in 24 hours – sometimes more!

[Henrietta and Hallie perched.]

It’s fascinating to watch their feather development. It’s so interesting how one area will start to feather out, and then over the course of a day or two flush out to full blown feathers – not just little nubbins with fuzz at the end! Henrietta seems to be the leader of the pack in terms of development – and boldness! Hallie is next, I think. Although Millie seems to be the first with feathers on the back of her head thinking about coming out. Little Bit is still the smallest – but probably the spunkiest. All but Millie – until just this morning – had made the journey of flying up to the edge of the brooder. I was actually typing this post when I heard – clear from the other end of the house! – a chick squaking for all she was worth. I was convinced a cat had made it indoors without my knowing about it and tore off for the other end of the house. What should I find? Millie perched on the side of the brooder – squaking off about her accoplishment. I hadn’t realized before just this morning that a small chicken was capable of palpable pride – but apparently they are!

I continue to go out to the garden or compost pile and bring in worms every few days. It’s – admittedly – SO entertaining watching the girls carry on about them. Little Bit – for being a small little chick – can gobble down a herking huge worm!

We’ve had a couple of pretty funny incidents in the past couple of days with Henrietta convinced she should fly further afield than we thought she was capable of. One day Jessica was out in the pantry watching the chicks – Jake (one of the cats) was lazing around – watching for his opportunity to get a tasty chick snack, and Pepper (the dog) was looking on. Henrietta was perched on the side of the brooder and decided to fly down and land on Jake! Jake – my mouser! Luckily Jessica was at hand and quickly retrieved Henrietta before Jake could even react. Phew! We have gone to great lengths to make certain that the cats ARE NOT given access to the pantry unless someone is in there to observe and possibly intervene!

John has drawn up the preliminary plan for the coop. It looks amazing. He’s so gifted! We will try and begin construction this week. The weather doesn’t look too promising, but the girls are growing so big it is blaringly apparent that time is of the essence!

Day Two

I think the things I am most surprised about thus far are:

  • Our chicks eat a LOT!
  • Our chicks can dirty their water in seeming SECONDS!
  • Our chicks are already trying out their wings!
  • Our chicks already seem quite a bit bigger!

Last night – even before we had thought of heading to bed, we were astonished to see the biggest of the chicks flapping her wings and trying to get up to the top of the waterer! By early this morning, she’d managed the feat! We’ve named the biggest chick Henrietta. The next to the smallest one William has named Millie. The other two are nameless as of yet – but there’s plenty of time.

We found Caleb – our Maine Coon Cat kitten sitting in the brooder with the chicks tonight. He had then herded into the corner behind the feeder. I can just imagine the dialogue going on in his head… “Hmmm… which of these tasty morsels shall I try first?” Caleb is very Garfield-like. At seven months of age he weighs 10 pounds – and he’s not fat! – he’s just something akin to a linebacker in build. After a swift removal from the brooder, a firm scolding, and speedy escort out the back door, the chicks seem to have recovered from the trauma. Phew!

All in all, it’s been a pretty quiet day. We did decide that the smallest of the chicks must be younger. One disadvantage of buying from the feed & seed store – no exact dates on birth of these girls.

We’ve talked it over and can’t decide if it’s just us, or if the girls have doubled in size in one 24-hour stretch of time. They did go through an entire mason jar’s worth of starter in that same amount of time. Four little chicks! Who knew they could eat so much!

Right now we’re trying to decide how often we should change the litter in the brooder. It’s not smelly. But I can’t seem to find a real clear answer on how often or what signs trigger the need to change it out. When the time comes, I’m sure my compost heap with sing the hallelujah chorus – rice hulls AND chicken poop! The stuff dream gardens are made of!