Monday, May 30, 2011

Chicken Coop ~ A Reality

This weekend my dream of having a chicken coop and chickens started to become a reality.  Once again plans changed and instead of building the coop in conjunction with the green house and dog kennels we decided to make chicken tractors.  This way we can move them around and help out our lawn and other areas with good fertilization.

Scott has been looking online for ideas and found a fun looking one on craig's list I believe, so that is what we are building.  We are trying to recycle materials we have and that some friends have also.  We are getting some old ceder siding from one of Scott's co-workers and we have a ton of fencing that was around the back yard when we moved in, to make the run.  We also have some shingles that we found in the old "out building" that we got rid of last year. 

Yesterday I ordered my first batch of 7 babies from My Pet Chicken which is where my sister orders her chicks from.  I wanted chickens that were winter hardy and good layers so I chose Red Stars, Buff Orpingtons, Leghorns, and Dominiques.  They should be here the week of June 13.  There are a few other breeds that I want but they were not available until later in the summer.  Those are Australorp, Wyandotte, Easter Eggers and Salmon Faverolles.  I'll get those later on.   

We are building 2 tractors and each will hold 8 chickens.  We plan on having layers and fryers so I also tried to choose breeds that are dual purpose.  The Red Stars are great layers and the roosters make good fryers so I ordered more of them and also did a straight run (which is cheaper) that way if we get some boys we can use them for meat.  I know for some people that is a hard concept, eating your pets, but I'm not getting chickens for just pets.  We are getting chickens to be more self sustaining and also we know how and where the chickens were raised.  Being a hunting/fishing family our kids are used to that process and can see animals for their beauty and for their food possibilities. 

So far in the building process we have the bottom run areas framed in and stained.  Next we are going to put the fencing on them and work up.  We have spent a lot of time on the layout of the tractors, trying to make them efficient and easy to maintain.  Seeing as how we did not have any green treated wood on hand, we used the 2x4's that we had and stained them the same dark brown as our garden fence frame.  That way the wood that will be exposed to the elements and the ground for the run will be protected.  I'll try and get some "Progress" pics posted soon.  Now I need to start looking for chicken feeding/watering supplies and a heat lamp to keep the babies warm.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fishy Fishy

This weekend my parents were up at their camper and my sister and the boys came down, so we all hung out on beautiful Lake 26.  (Yes, I know it is a silly name for a lake, but it is different and I believe that everyone on the lake likes it.  Besides, there are so many Long lake, Bass lake, Clam lakes and I bet you probably won't find another Lake 26 out there.)

Most of the weekend, the weather was great, so we did a lot of fishing.  Well if you can call it fishing.  The five kids had their poles (1 Iron Man, 2 Cars and 2 Princess) and us adults were the worm attachers, the fish removers, the caster (except Adin - he did well casting) and the pole holders when the kids got tired.  Everyone caught a bunch of sunnies, a couple bass and a small perch.  Adin caught a nice bass that we saved and froze until we get more "keepers" for a meal.  He was pretty excited and even kind of put his thumb in it's mouth to hold it - for just a split second.  He also had to measure it with his little tape that he got from Grandma and Buppa.  It was a good 10 inches.

I even got to do some fishing and caught the biggest fish of all.  This fish wasn't paying attention and got a wee bit too close to the edge of the dock and got wet up to his arm pits.  I was pretty impressed as he did not get scared, kept his balance and didn't go under the water and didn't even drop his fishing pole.  Buppa (Grandpa) had to measure him to see if he was a "keeper".  Adin didn't seem to think that was very funny, but the rest of us did.  We had to pick on him a bit as he wanted to measure everything that was caught.  All in all it was a great weekend of fishing and we look forward to a lot more fishing this summer.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Trial Run

Today I actually made and canned my baked beans.  I cut down the recipe to make only 4 pints (because that is what fits in my vintage canner) and began canning.  It took a while, and Adin almost missed the bus because I wasn't watching the clock the way I should have, but now we have 4 nice looking pints cooling on the counter.  After this batch I am not near as scared of a pressure canner as I was in the past.  It was actually very simple, now just to try them and see how they taste.  If they are good, I'll make some more, if not....back to the drawing board.

Update:  Beans were pretty good, not as sweet as I would have liked and the sauce was pretty runny.  But.. all in all for a trial run they were good.  I have found a few more recipes that I will be trying.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hummingbird Happiness

Every spring I look forward to the return of our hummingbirds.  Here on the "farm" so to speak, we have some very chatty, terriorial, and curious hummingbirds.  They are always entertaining.  This year is no different.  I always put up 2 feeders for them to cut down on the violent fighting.  Who would have thought that little tiny hummingbirds can be so agressive.  "Holy cows" as Adin would say.  It is fun to be out in the yard or the garden and hear their little chirping throughout the yard, to see them flitting around the feeders and zooming through the air. 

Yesterday I had a pleasant surprise.  I was watering one corner of the garden with the hose on a soft cone spray and all of a sudden one cheery little male humming bird flew right into the fine mist in the middle and chirpped happily in the water.  I wish I had a good camera to be able to get a picture of him, it was the coolest thing to watch.  He sure seemed truly happy playing in the water, just like my kids on a hot summers day giggling away.  I had to chuckle at his anticts and can most definately say that you don't see that every day, but I hope I will get to see him playing in the water again.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Busy Weekend

Adin snuggled up to Elle

This weekend, the kids and I were in Ashland at my sister's house for our annual yard sale.  My goal this year, other than getting rid of baby and little kid clothes, was to make enough money to cover my spring gardening expenses for seeds, starting pellets, etc.  It was a successful weekend and I even came home with some extra money and a trunk of plants.  We brought home our tomato & pepper seedlings along with some daffodils that were growing in Greta's woods, some lily of the valley and a rather large rhubarb plant.  We had some rain on Saturday, but thanks to my Dad's HUGE tarp we made a make-shift tent over the slab for Nico's new garage where he will be opening a care repair and detailing shop.  We all had a ton of fun, but the busy weekend really pooped us all out. 

When we got home, after driving through some nasty storms, I found a wonderful surprise in the garden.  Lots of green and some very sweet smelling Lilacs!   I love the smell of spring. Things really took off over the 4 days I was gone and the rain really gave things a boost. 

Here is a tour of our garden.

Sugar Snap peas on the left.
Shelling peas on the right.
I have to get the fence in for the shelling peas.

Green Beans and Wax Beans
Every other row - Wax beans are slower coming
up than the Green Beans.

Adin and the HUGE asparagus

I can't wait until next year to harvest. 
Soon tomatoes will join the asparagus.

Lizzy weeding

Elle weeding
Hopefully Tuesday and Wednesday are nice so I can get some more things planted and the yard mowed again.  Holy jungle.  Happy gardening to all.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Crazy Critters

This last week has been interesting around here with critters. 

First we had a nice black bear clean up one of the hummingbird feeders.  Fortunately he/she didn't break it, just liked it clean.  Yum, bear slobber.  I haven't put out our regular feeder because of our lovely neighborhood bears.  Sorry no pics this year of the bear.

Next we had a rock dove (pigeon) that Lizzy thought was a chicken wandering around the driveway.  Normally this would be no big deal, but this was a banded bird and really not that afraid.  I got about 2 feet away from it and it just walked away and didn't fly.  Very weird.

Lastly we have a local porcupine who likes to dine on our back door in the evenings.  He is a cute little thing, but isn't very cute when he is chewing on our house.  The first night we saw him, I watched him waddle along my day lily bed on the south side of this deck, climb the steps and head directly to the door.  I took this picture from the sun room, that is why it is funny looking through the screen.  He sure didn't want to leave.  Scott went out there and had to chase him away.  He has been back for nibbles a few times since that first night we saw him.  Little pain in the butt, I hope he finds a new home soon.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Trials and Learning

I found this great website this week, it is called Pick Your Own .   It has almost every canning recipe that I have wanted.  I discovered it while looking for a recipe for canning my own baked beans.  There are so many very exciting things on here that I am looking forward to having some harvests.  Maybe I should wait until more things are actually planted in the garden.  (By the way.... my peas are now peeking through the soil.  So exciting.)  Not knowing if I'll like this baked bean recipe, I decided to buy some dried beans before I go through all the work of growing, shelling and drying my own beans.  I also decided that if I"m going to can these, I should probably try out Grandma's pressure canner to see if all the rings and valves still work.  I was a bit nervous and the temp began to rise and then the pressure after I put the weighted gauge on.  There was some leaking at first, but then they all went away.  I am impressed that this 64 year old "vintage" canner is still working.  Now to make the beans tomorrow.

Not sure if anyone else out there has watched the show "Extreme Couponing," but I have seen it a few times and it got me thinking about actually couponing more than what I have been. I asked a local gas station if I could get the old papers before the tossed them. Now every week I clip the coupons that I want and go from there.  Granted I don't take couponing to the extremes like on the show, but today I did save $74.  One thing that bothers me about this.... most of the time to get the best deal you have to buy the smallest container allowed by the coupon which leads to more packaging waste.  I guess I'll just have to "Extreme Coupon" in my own fashion and be frugal by continuing to buy in bulk when it works best.  I am hoping by the end of the summer I'll have a lot of my own product canned and not only save money on the product, but reduce my part in impacting the environment negatively. 

While I was clipping coupons, I realized how many there were for laundry soap and how expensive all that stuff is.  On one of my many blog scanning evenings I came across a recipe for laundry soap, so today, instead of buying laundry soap, I bought the last ingredient to make my own.  Now right off hand I can't remember where I found the recipe, but I'll do some digging and find the blog and give the recipe owner full credit.  This afternoon I made up one batch (it has to sit for 24 hours) and tomorrow I am going to bottle it up in my good old milk jugs that I used for collecting maple sap.  I love reusing things when I can. 

So as you can see this has been a day full of trials and learning that will continue into tomorrow.  I hope that tomorrow will be as successful as today.  Until warmer weather brings more garden growth I'll keep learning and preparing for the harvest.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Happy Heart

Today has been a fabulous weather day.  I didn't have to go to work until 10 this morning, so I was able to get into the garden and get some stuff planted.  I also got to get back into the garden for a little while after work.  My garden is my relaxation, my oasis, my piece of mind.  It makes a bad day better and makes my heart smile.  I am in a good mood now.  Some days I would like to hide in my garden and let the world happen around me, oblivious to anything but what is growing.  How peaceful that would be..... Back to reality!!! 

My list of things that got planted today:
Green and Wax Beans
Ice Berg Lettuce
Onion seeds (for green onions and for my sets for 2012)
Carrots (added to what I already planted)

I was getting a bit silly when planting my spinach and cilantro.  I decided to do a patch work planting.  We'll see how it looks.  I also discovered 3 very small leaf lettuce plants coming up where I had cilantro planted last year.  Some how they self seeded from the other side of the cilantro last year.  It was a pleasant surprise.  Maybe next week I'll be able to get some of the pumpkins et al. planted outside.  I am going to baby my peppers in the house for a good few weeks yet.  Now I am just waiting to see new baby green peaking up from the soil. 

Our humming bird friends came back today, so I dusted off my feeders and filled them up.  I have 2 feeders again this year just in case my 2 very territorial males are back.  Man did they fight last year.  For such tiny little birds, they can put up a rather large fuss and make a ton of noise.

We are due for some good storms tonight, so I am looking forward to hearing the thunder roll.  Here is to a nice night of rain to water all of my newly planted seeds.  Happy growing little ones.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Planting, Grinding and Fire

This last week has been pretty busy around here. We have had some goofy weather and it continues, but we got a lot of different things accomplished.

On the planting front, I got my peas and some of my carrots planted in the garden. More of my asparagus are coming up. I am so excited. I also started some basil in the house. I should have done that a long time ago.  Now with the nice rain that we are having they should get a good start. 

This weekend Scott bought a stump grinder that he found on Craig's List.  It is a nice one and boy does it run smoothly.  I am astounded that it cuts hardwoods much better than soft.  Give me a big old oak over a pine any day.  This afternoon when the rain stopped for a while I tackled 3 stumps.  We have tons to go as we are no longer going to rent a dozer to pull them out.  The stumps behind the barn that need to be removed so we can add on are just going to be dug out by hand.  I know, lots of digging and more physical work, but a lot less money and a great work out. 

Last weekend we did a couple of small controlled burns down by the barn to get rid of a lot of leaves and brush.  Seeing as both of us are fire fighters we were prepared and actually they were the best behaved fires that I have seen.  The project went the exact way that we wanted it to go.  It is great when a plan comes together. 

Today I helped Scott do some of the building projects in the barn to construct the walls to form his shop and installing the door that will lead into the hallway between the green house and chicken coop in the future.  I love working with wood and doing construction. 

Now I have to wait out a week of rain and jump back into the garden as soon as I can.  I am hoping that we are past our last killing frost here, but you never know about Wisconsin in May.  On a final note, I was able to find my Grandmother's Presto Pressure Cooker/Canner circa 1947.  All parts found and she even found the instruction book.  It is a smaller one and can only hold 4 pint jars, but that is ok.  We'll see how it works later in the summer.  Very excited to try it out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Plant A Tree

Adin's Special Tree
I know that National Arbor Day was last week, but today Adin brought home a lovely Colorado Blue Spruce that was given to each of the students in our school from the NADF and Wal-Mart.  Pretty cool.  He was so excited that as soon as we all got home, planting that tree was the first thing we had to do.  So the planting commenced. 

As usual the girls ended up being the ones to really get into it.  Adin had fun running around being silly, he did pick the spot for the tree to reside.  It is a lovely place on our hillside just north/downhill from the campfire pit and will form a nice view as you drive up the driveway.  Now just to protect it for many years so nothing runs it over, eats it or digs it up.                               

Tonight we also had our first campfire and hot dog roasting of the year.  The kids love to do that and it was a perfect night.  It was so nice to see the sun and smell campfire smoke.  Brings back memories of the river.  :)  After supper, Scott and I walked around the garden to continue planning for our terraced addition to the yard and garden.  We have a lot of big stumps that we have to get rid of some how.  Wish we had a bulldozer.  Hopefully we'll get that all taken care of in the next couple of weeks so I can get my potatoes and pumpkins planted. 

We had planned that we would acquire wood and materials for the green house/chicken coop/dog kennel addition as we went and then all of the terrible storms happened in the south and we had to change our plans.  Buy the supplies now before the cost of all that building materials sky rocket and we end up paying a ton more for it all.  We now have a rather large stack of lumber in our barn.  Yeah for summer projects, now we just need the warm weather.