Monday, March 30, 2009

The Coop, Day 1.

Ok... well, I was hoping to frame the coop with old barn lumber, because we have a lot of it, the thing is, it is apparently imported from the petrified forest. 2x4s are easier to work with and cheap.

Here's another thing, having a plan may make things go more smoothly and quickly, but it is not nearly as much fun. I envision this as a 4 day project. Tomorrow (or whenever the next nice day is) I'll hopefully get to the roof and siding. Bought some steel roof panels for that. Day 3 will deal with nest boxes, doors, and miscellaneous stuff, day 4 we paint.

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Good Food. You are invited to Eat Here.

Our food blog has transitioned to invite only. If I haven't sent you an invite and you'd like to read it, leave a comment here or send an email. It's not dramatic and we're happy to explain.

Chicken coop.

Time to build a chicken coop. I honestly have no plan at all for how to best do this. I know a couple of things - I'm cheap, I want it to be at least 6'x8', and I don't want to have to rebuild it in 3 months. The coop needs nest boxes, perches, and about 4 sq feet per bird (according to everything I have read) of floor space. It also needs a small chicken door, and a big peoplr door. Needs to be proof against raccoons and the black cat that lives in our garage. 

We're planning on having a flock of no more than a dozen birds at a time. This makes 48 sq. feet just about right. My uderstanding is that if birds have a lot of room to roam (these will) then they actually need quite a bit less room than that, cause they'll pretty much spend all day wandering around outside and then return to their roosts at night to sleep. Better safe than sorry though, so a minimum of 6x8 it shall be.

It should not be excessively drafty, but there should be good ventilation so that we don't develop excssive moisture/humidity in the coop.

Regarding the cheap factor, here's my plan of attack - start with all of the junk that is on the property, build as much as possible with all this scrap, spend ONE DAY messing with the scrap, then go to Carter Lumber and buy whatever else we need.

Here's a small selection of the exquisite scrap that I have to work with. This should be fun.

Random bits of OSB, etc scavenged out of the dumpster from the roofers last year. 

Look - a nice wooden window just sitting in the garage!!! I wonder if I can find the handle to open it up.....

Have a couple 6 1/2 '  (4"x4") fence posts leftover from the garden fencing. 

Lots of barn lumber, also the barn doors. These doors have blown off their hinges twice since we've moved in, , and we've decided to quit patching them and just side over them over sometime later this summer. Probably should save some of the lumber for that... 

We also have a bunch of 2x4s, 1x10s and siding left over from last year's barn repairs and door builds, though admittedly this isn't scrap as we still have a lot of repairs left to do this year. Eh, we'll pretend. As long as I don't have to buy it this week, all is good. 
We'll have an update on progress later tonight. 

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Chickens have arrived!

At 6:30 this morning (on our day off), the Post Office called to say our chicks had arrived! They actually arrived yesterday and spent the night in the Post Office. Bill went out in the dark to the frosty car and brought them home.

They were all huddled together in a lump in their box, but everyone was ok after the journey from Iowa.

We took them out of the box one at a time and dipped their little beaks in water so they would start to drink. Eventually (after tasting the wood chip bedding) they found the food too.

The black ones are Barred Rocks. There should be 8 females and three males. They are an old breed and are good egg layers, as well as good for meat. They also brood and forage well and are cold hardy. So these we are keeping to be our farm chickens.

The yellow ones (there are 15) are Cornish X Rocks. They are meat birds and will turn about half the food they eat into delicious stir fry. Even though all the chicks are 2 days old, the Cornish rocks, or broilers, are nearly twice as big as the Barred Rocks. They are not particularly intelligent birds, and if we wanted to breed them they would be fairly useless. But, because we had to order 25 chicks (so they could keep each other warm during shipping) we have a small brood of these guys. In about 8 weeks they'll be 4 pounds and in the freezer.

While most of the chicks make sweet, soft chirping noises, one broiler has an ear-piercing churp. We have named him Thai Basil.

This lone ugly ducking is Fuzzy Longbottoms. S/He is a bonus rare breed chick, perhaps a Dark Brahmas.

The brooder box is kept at about 95 degrees. Every week we'll make it 5 degrees cooler until it's down to 70. In 3-4 weeks (or when Thai Basil's churping drives us crazy) we'll move the chicks out into the garage and eventually into their coop or the freezer. Until then, Bernie and Sugar will probably be sitting quietly together outside the chicken room door.

Random adorable chicken photos:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Planted peas...

...radishes and carrots this evening. Don't have much exciting to say about it, but we've been using our blog as an almanac of sorts to keep track of the seasons.

The dove on our window sill is still there. At last count she had two eggs in her nest.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Bird House

I suppose this is what we get for naming our house after a bird...first the Screech owls in the porch and now a dove on our bedroom window sill:

She is driving the cats bonkers. They take turns pressing their little noses against the window and staring at her with malicious, but completely futile intent.

Some random photos of neat old things in our house. The front door knob:

Lamps (?) at the front door:

A CFL upgrade for outside lights:

And the adorable mutt being...adorable:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Owls and other critters.

We've had a lot of critter activity lately. Last week, I was assaulted by an angry deer in the backyard, last night, a pack of coyotes went tearing through the front yard. The opossums and raccoons are active, and a black cat has moved into our barn.

We've also had a lot of birds. Today was the first day for bluebirds and cedar waxwings.

Last Friday while walking Sugar in the evening, I caught a flash of movement that turned out to be a Saw-whet owl, the origin of our house's current name. One owl landed on a branch in a maple, about 20 feet up, and called out for about 5 minutes until a second owl flew right on in. Saw-whet are friendly little owls. They're one of 4 species of owls we've seen on the property, and are by far the tiniest and cutest. Coming close to the saw-whet in diminutive stature is the screech owl, which we have a large number of on the property. These fellows don't strike me as particularly cute. I always think that they want to fly into my face and tear it up. We have a pair of these eastern screech owls living in our front porch this year. They show no apprehension about our presence at all. The 2 of them sat and watched us work in the yard for about 20 minutes.

Dustin Diamond

Tiffany Amber Thiesen

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Signs of Spring

Perhaps the inevitable madness that comes in March (Go Orange!) is perfectly timed to coincide with the spring fever that makes any outside job, no matter how tedious, seem fun and desirable. We are preparing for a few days off at the end of the month, which means a trip to Tractor Supply in the new truck!!

We'll be preparing the garden, including much needed fencing. Last week Sugar flushed and then chased a small pack of deer and one very frightened squirrel out of our woodlot. Then last night, Bill and Sugar were snorted and stomped at by an aggressive buck who may have been jealous of their charm and good looks.

We're also planning to build a chicken coop and start on winter firewood.

Some proof that spring is arriving: Bill pressure washing in a t-shirt and some crocuses!

Friday, March 13, 2009


Last weekend it was beautiful in Indy - 70s and sunny. So Bill and I decided to go to Milwaukee, where it was 40 and raining...a lot. There was even still snow on the ground! Our purpose in going was not to prolong our winter, but to see SU play Marquette.

Milwaukee is a great city, and Syracuse won the game (needing only one overtime to do so). The Bradley Center is a beautiful venue and the Marquette fans were awesome. There was even a bus load of Chrysler employees who were transfered from CNY to Illinois in '06 that sat next to us, emboldening our cheers.

We're planning a return trip to Milwaukee when the weather is a bit more cooperative, but this weekend was a perfect time to visit the art museum, which is housed in an insane building that Bill kept referring to as Starfleet Command.

The museum's special exhibit was "Sensory Overload" which involved fun modern art to freak you out, including an infinity chamber meant to make you feel as if you were floating in outer space.

This is Matrix (I think) - a room with LEDs strung floor to ceiling at exact intervals. It was fun to walk through the strings and see mathematics at work.

My favorite was this piece of a few different shaped mirrored vessels sitting in a mirrored box:

Sugar didn't come, but spent the night at puppy camp, which tired her out enough to allow me to take a photo of her being relatively still on the car ride home:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Small Farm = Small Truck.

On account of the new great depression and all, Ford is practically giving away cars. Seriously. There are some unbelievably good deals to be made with increasingly desperate car salesman. The price on this was less than what some folks that I know paid for a USED Ranger just a few years ago. Here's Captain Jack, our new Torch Red Ford Ranger. Bonus points if you can figure out why it is called Captain Jack... We traded away our green Saturn, the car that I spent countless hours sitting in stuck in traffic on the DC beltway. All of those horrid memories can now leave me, and stay with the car. I hope the next owner deals with less traffic in it than I did.

Sugar is afraid to jump up into the bed of the truck. She prefers to ride in the cab.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spring is coming!

I know it I moved from making winter socks:

To making spring socks:

A robin and a white-throated sparrow showed up at our feeders today, so I know I'm on the right track.