Sunday, April 25, 2010

A few more little projects

I decided that I needed a break from power-washing and re-staining the fence, so I stopped by my favorite stone store and picked up a little more flagstone and a few more pieces of limestone chop block. I put the flagstone across the front of the coop - but I didn't get quite enough so I will have to get a little more to finish it up. The chop block went on the end along with a little of the left over dirt from the other raised beds. A quick stop to Home Depot and I got a Jasmine and a few deep red geraniums to make it look a little more finished. The downside is I like it so much that I think I should add another little flower bed on the far end of the coop too!

The chick(ens) and really at home in the coop now - they enjoy the roosts that are outside - in the late afternoon they get some nice sun and the girls like to perch there and sun bathe a little.

I did manage to get some staining done - but I admit I didn't make much progress. I spent a lot of the weekend doing things with the kids - they deserved it after so many weekends of working on the coop and yard and helping care for my mom (she has been recovering from several surgeries the last few months).
This week I have to hit the road for work again, so the staining will have to wait for the weekend. I am hoping to maybe get one side fence done - but it is fairly slow going. I tried using a power sprayer but to be honest I don't think it was a lot faster than just using a paint brush - so I think I will keep working away at it the old fashioned way :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

A New Gate

The gate to enclose my backyard is in! This means that no deer can get in to eat my garden and hopefully fewer stray cats will use my gardens as a litter box!

The problem now is that between the coop and the new gate - my old fence looks pretty shabby. So the next step will be to power wash the old fence and re-stain it. I am hoping to get a little done tomorrow - but it Saturdays are busy with swimming lessons and things so I will have to play it by ear.

In chick news - they finally figured out to go up into their house at night and to come out on their own in the morning. I have to start thinking about a way to divide the house so that the new chicks can go into the house a few weeks after they arrive. The new chicks arrive in one month - two white Silkies, a bantam Barred Plymouth Rock and three more Easter Eggers. The three Easter Eggers are for my mom - they will stay with me until they are big enough to go outside - then they will move into a horse stall at my parents place.

The garden is doing well - I think by next weekend I will have broccoli to harvest! It has been a cool rainy week, so as long as we get one more week like that I think it will keep growing and not bolt. The Chinese Cabbage bolted so I had to pull it all out, and I harvested the two head lettuces I had. They were both very good. I think it will be too hot soon for more lettuce, so I am going to plant pole beans where the lettuces were and maybe radishes and pumpkins where the cabbages were. I hope I can get that all done this weekend, along with the fence work - we will have to see.

My yard doesn't look very nice for pictures right now because the grass is too long - but my lawnmower starter broke so it is in the shop until next week. So please forgive the shabby looking yard in any new pictures in the next week :) I hope I can get it all spiffed up in the next few weeks - when the new babies arrive I really want to have a coop warming and new chick welcome party out in the yard! Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Teenage chickens and veggies galore!

Pouf (on the left) and Milkshake (on the right below) are both showing really pretty coloring. It is hard to see on the picture of Milkshake, but the kind of golden caramel color around her head outlines the edges of her feathers so she has kind of what they call a "laced" pattern. We are still not sure if Pouf is male or female but I'm still thinking maybe male - but only time will tell!

Cadbury is also a laced pattern - she has black feathers with a silver outline. Amelia for all her bravery is rather dull looking - her body is mostly a kind of ashy gray with a sort of golden layer over the gray and then black feathers on her head.
She looks like she is getting kind of a ruff or beard of feathers around her chin- that may give her a bit more style! What lady doesn't look better with a beard! :)

Not only are the chicks growing but so is the garden! It has rained for a week and the garden has been loving it. The asparagus that I planted has shot up so I was able to fill in the bed with dirt around the little stalks and they are ready to just grow for a year and hopefully put down strong roots and have some I can harvest next year. The spears are so thin right now that they are about half the size of a pencil - next year they should be a little bigger. I am so excited to have my own asparagus!

The tomatoes have set tiny fruit the size of a pencil eraser (below right) and there are quarter sized heads of broccoli also forming on several of the plants. The tomatillos are loaded with flowers and are also setting fruit - that is the little green thing that looks like a paper lantern. I love tomatillo salsa and chicken enchiladas verde so hopefully I will be making some with my own tomatillos this year! I need to find out what to do about the plum tree - the branches are so loaded with fruit that they are bent way over - so I think I need to probably removes some fruit from each branch to keep the branches from breaking as they ripen and to allow the tree to put more energy into the remaining fruit. My daughter is thrilled - she was very disappointed last year when we didn't get any plums.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lovely spring day in the garden

I finally got back out into the garden today after nearly a week cooped up in the house. Who knew a silly thing like a broken nail could have such a big impact! On the last day of building out the hen house, when picking up one of the pieces of plywood, I slipped and it fell and snapped my finger nail about half way down my finger. I happen to have acrylic over my nails, so it didn't tear my nail off totally, but hurt nonetheless. Anyway - I put a band aid on it and went about my work. Tuesday night the finger with the broken nail was hot, red and throbbing - never a good sign. I went to the doctor and it turned out that I had a staph infection from the skin breaking under the nail. Anyway it was several days before I could get my finger back into a glove so I could get back out in the garden, but today I was finally able to get back into the dirt! YAY!

On Thursday I had sprinklers moved around a little and raised some up to accommodate the new raised beds and now all the beds can be watered on an automated schedule which will be much easier than having to hand water all summer. With the sprinklers moved I was also able to get the asparagus root stock planted in the corner bed. I would post a picture but it looks like shallow dirt at this point - hopefully in a week or two there will be more to see. I didn't realize it but when you plant asparagus they recommend barely covering the roots and leaving just the top of the crown exposed, then as the shoots start to emerge you keep adding dirt until it is about 6 inches deep. So right now the little roots went in near the bottom of the bed and I covered them, and will gradually fill up the bed as they grow - if they grow. Wish me luck!

This week I have to spend away from home to help care for my mom - who has a broken pelvis - so probably no new updates until the end of the week when my new gate goes in and the yard is finally enclosed.

The chicks are still doing well, but they seem to struggle a little with the ladder - so they haven't been utilizing the run much unless we help them down and then back up again at night. I may need to adjust it somehow so that it isn't as steep, but as they get bigger it might be OK. I guess we will just have to keep helping them and see if they can figure it out.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Moving Day!

Moving day has arrived! The coop is all stained, the roosts are in and the ladder is done. The picture on the right shows the "fully furnished" version of the hen house with paper shavings for bedding and the roosts in place.

The chicks were nervous at first but very soon after being put in the hen house they found their way down the ladder and were pecking around in the grass and checking out the dust bath we made for them (under the house in the white block area). I am so thankful to be done enough to have them outside and get my living room back to the way it was meant to be - chicken free! I still need to build nest boxes and add them, but these girls won't start laying for at least another 20 weeks so I have some time for those!

The garden is also growing like crazy and starting to really look like a garden - not just little green shoots coming up. The mesculin that was just a few little leaves poking up into the air is now nearly ready to harvest. I am hoping to harvest some of it for a family dinner on Sunday.

The picture of the lone flower on the plum tree that I posted back in early March? Now the tree is covered with tiny green fruit that with luck will ripen into delicious plums. I say hopefully because last year with the drought we had the tiny little green plums all fell off - but there are so many this year that I have hope.

I have people coming to reposition some sprinklers to accommodate the raised beds later this week and the gate to enclose my yard at my alley entrance is scheduled for next week, but right now I am just going to enjoy being done with the coop!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Nearly there...

After about 10 hours of work on the coop this weekend, I was able to finish the hen house part of the coop! There are Plexiglas windows on the end to let in extra light and on the front there is a small door that can be opened to access the nest boxes and collect eggs without having to go into the coop. I still have to stain the cedar siding and one piece of the door frame - but I think I can finish that one night this week. I also need to build the nest boxes, add roosts to the interior of the hen house and a few in the coop and I need to add rungs to the ramp from the coop to the hen house. I also have some linoleum tiles that I may add to the floor - especially under the roosts to make it easier to clean. Then I will be 100% finished. So with luck the chicks will be moving into the coop by Friday night!

The picture on the right is looking into the coop through the hen house access door inside the coop. The nest boxes will go along the front where you can see the inside of the egg door.

From inside the coop there is a large access door to allow cleaning the inside of the hen house easily. The small door on the right has a ramp that comes down from the hen house to the floor of the coop. The ramp needs rungs still and needs to be stained.
The floor of the coop also needs gravel and sand and I need to hang the food and water feeders from the floor of the hen house. I guess thinking about it there is still a lot to do - but at least all the work that is left is light work - no more heavy lifting, no more jigsaws and no more skil-saws! I guess I will still need to cut the roosts to length - but those are small compared to what I have done the last two days!
I will try to get new pics of the chicks and garden in the next few days - both are growing very quickly. The chicks really turned a corner this week and are looking much more like chickens than chicks. The are awkward teenagers now! :)