Accidental Chickens!!

May 26, 2015 - 5:22 pm

So… 

The weekend had a big surprise. In a word, CHICKENS!!

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I am part of the local Buy Nothing group on Facebook, and someone posted this weekend that they needed to re-home three young pullets and a coop. I put my hand up as interested, and they chose me, so  we now have a small coop and three new girls in the family. On the left is Zoe, a Rhode Island Red, in the front is Inara, a Buff Orpington, and in back is Kaylee, an Easter Egger. Most of my friends should get the reference. 

Here’s the coop:

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It looks adorable and cozy. I had been planning to build a coop this summer and get chox in the spring of 2016, so this seemed like a great way to shortcut and get a nicely made coop. Until I noticed the tiny access door, the lack of ventilation, and lack of roosting poles— there are only wobbly sticks at floor height. wtf?

There is also a tray that’s meant to be pulled out for cleaning. It slides quite freely. I’m going to have to figure out how to block it in to keep rats from squeezing in and enjoying a chicken dinner with a side of eggs and scratch. The little tiny bolt latch looks like it would take a dunce of a raccoon about a minute to open. Half of the roof and the lid of the nest boxes cantilevered off the left side also opens part way, but neither provides easy internal access for cleaning.

Oh, and the nest boxes are at floor level without any real separation from the rest of the coop: 

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right now I have grit and water in one, and the girls are puppy-piling in the other to sleep. Once I get roost poles in I’ll chivvy them out of that area and figure out some way to make them more nest-y and less floor-ish. I think another front board and curtains might help. I may place boxes in them for a bit if they don’t take a hint. They are still several months from laying.

So this coop needs some emergency upgrades to make it comfortable, safe, and secure, and the coop build-out is still on plan for some time this summer. This little coop will become an isolation coop, which isn’t a bad thing to have. Once I give it ventilation and a roosting pole, nice waterers, and upgrade the security it should be cozy for some youngsters or a sick hen.

Expect coop projects this week. I have a waterer half built and hardware cloth to put on the bottom of the coop, as well as a hole saw to make ventilation holes under the peak of the roof and roosting poles to put in.

But first, a chicken movie, and then more pictures! The girls had never encountered fresh greens or strawberry tops before today, so were a bit non-plussed by their introduction to dandelion greens, but they started to catch on pretty quickly. The movie was shot after the photos that follow, when Inara had decided the greens weren’t a tentacle monster and she could inspect them herself.

Zoe and Kaylee were first out of the nest box after I put in the greens:

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Zoe pulled off the one dandelion flower and raced back into the nest box with it, then Kaylee started nibbling on the greens:

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Zoe came back for another taste:

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And then Inara got into the action, and I thought to switch to recording video. 😀

 

Planter Rennovation

May 1, 2013 - 8:01 am

Yesterday was a busy but reasonably productive day.  The most interesting thing I accomplished was renovating the planter pots on my deck, and I thought I would share that process.

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Plants are not designed to live in pots, and they resent it. The develop root systems that press up against the edges of their containers like prisoners against the bars of their cages. If there are multiple plants in the same pot they will wage war for space. All of this root growth in the end keeps the plants from thriving, because the roots rapidly fill the spaces that could hold air and water. To have nice looking pots it’s important to empty and replant them every year, even if they are going to stay the same.

My goal for my deck planters this year is to increase the number of hummingbird and butterfly attracting plants we have. There were a few last year and we enjoyed them, but we want more. To that end I’ve bought a wide variety of sages and other plants that will flower prolifically and attract critters. 

I started by lifting the existing plants out of the two biggest pots, and then dumping the remaining dirt onto a tarp. The picture up there was after the first pot was emptied. There were some overgrown sedums other small succulents, dahlia tubers that survived the winter,  black mondo grass, and crocosmia bulbs in the second planter that missed their close-up. The plants I wanted to keep were divided- at least half of their growth from last season will be moved to the garden beds because otherwise they would over grow the pots- and the remainder were potted up with the sages and other plants. 

I use mats of small succulents as a living mulch in pots, because they are very thrifty with water. Exposed soil will rapidly dry out, but covering it with these little plants helps keep everything in the pot healthier. Their root systems are superficial and so don’t compete much with the deeper rooting plants. I’m happy with how these pots came out.

First pot:

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Second pot is to the right below. The one pot I didn’t renovate is on the left- it gets done today!

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The dirt in the planters is just fine, the overgrown roots have to be removed. The third pot I renovated shows why repotting is so important:

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There was a Russian sage and a curly sedge in the pot. They were waging an underground war that had completely clogged the pot. I trimmed off the bottom 6″ of roots from the pot immediately, and then thinned the roots down to more moderate sizes and repotted them. I had planned to add canna bulbs and dahlias to this pot and the 4th (which was planted identically) but I like the sage and sedge and they certainly seemed to thrive, so I decided to just re-pot them, again with succulent mats: 

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I bought some additional planters which will receive the cannas and other extra plants today. I have a fair amount of extra plant material which will be moved out to garden beds. That which I wasn’t ready to plant yesterday got covered with some potting soil, watered, and then covered with the tarp to keep it healthy. Here’s a picture of post watering pre-tarping:

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Note if the tarp had been black this would have been a bad idea, because it could have cooked the plants. The silver side of this tarp was ideal for this job. If I hadn’t had the tarp I would have just dumped more potting soil over them, or tucked them into an empty garden bed if they were to rest for more than a day or so. 

I’m looking forward to having these pots all summer. They were a delight last year, and I hope this year they will be even better!

Yesterday’s goals:

  • Illustrator class for at least an hour
  • Complete flyer for Hack Your Clothes night and get it posted
  • Begin outline for Machine Knitting class
  • Begin tee shirt tutorial
  • Show up at Metrix for the proto- textile class night
Yesterday’s other accomplishments:
  • Submitted a pattern proposal for a new sweater pattern
  • Posted FO pics for a sweater from last weekend’s photo shoot
  • Renovated three of four deck planters
  • Extra meditation
  • Drew a sketch for the hack Your Clothes flyer
Today’s goals:
  • Blog post
  • Zentangle
  • Finish planters
  • Boot up the mini and start clearing it off
  • Go to Metrix to retrieve power brick and talk to Matt
  • Begin outline for Machine Knitting class
  • Begin tee shirt tutorial
 

 

 

 

 

Spring, Seeds, and the World’s Most Spoiled Birds

April 10, 2013 - 11:13 am

I have a pair of green singer finch.  They are in a cage designed for breeding cockatiels or single parrots- in other words it’s gigantic for finch. They get live mealworms and the best organic birdseed, and warm water for bathing at least once a week. I even lined their nest with a knitted yak cozy:

Spoiled birds.

The thing I struggle with is keeping their greens fresh.  they enjoy them for approximately a microsecond after being picked. So I’m going to replace the floor of their cage with garden flats full of tasty greens and grasses.

I started the seeds over the weekend, and they just started to sprout.

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I’m watching them grow hour by hour. I love Spring! I’m sure the birds will be happy when they get access to the flats, but I want to wait till there is enough growth to support them. 

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Henrietta and the Strawberries

April 6, 2011 - 5:01 pm

Strawberries are perverse plants.

Last spring I built them a lovely mound.  I amended the soil.  I planted 4 varieties developed in the region, mixing ever-bearing and June bearing so we would have a big initial crop and then a constant small supply.  I trimmed their runners, so the mother plants would focus on their own roots rather than offsets.  We let each plant set a few fruits, but plucked most of the flowers.

And then suddenly it was winter before it had ever really been Fall.  I never put them properly to bed; I just left them to their own devices.  Today I perhaps reaped the rewards of my inattention, except I prefer to believe it’s their perversity, not my lack of care, that made such a mess.

They had, somehow, migrated.  Instead of neat little offset rows of plants, they were scattered about with big empty spots and over-tight spacings.  This could have been the work of raccoons going after grubs.  It could have been the work of the cats and dog.  But I think it’s the plants.  They had also set a bumper crop offsets on the driveway and brick paths.  Lots of perfectly good dirt, but nooooo, let’s set down roots between these two bricks!  grrr.

All is now orderly in strawberryland again.  Runners are trimmed back to the mothers so I can weed around them, and all the weeds are removed.  The volunteer poppies and parsley have been heeled in elsewhere in the garden.  The offsets are re-planted in the inexplicable bare spots.  All that remains is a good feeding and some mulch, and they should be good for the season.

It felt good to be out digging in the little plot of Earth that’s mine to tend.  I had a very grumpy day, but there is something relaxing and, well, grounding about tending the land.  Even though it was cold, even though there’s now hail coming down and I’m still shivering, it was good.  I’m still a bit down and disheartened, but no longer ready to chew nails and snap at people.  I feel much more at peace and ready to face the things that must be dealt with.

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In other news, Henrietta is all spun up, plyed, and awaiting finishing.  250 yds (unfinished) of worsted-ish yarn from 4 oz.  I’m pleased.  🙂  As ever it’s shockingly darker than I expected, but I like it.  I want to try to make a wrap of some kind, but I believe it will need to be mixed with another fiber; 250 yds isn’t a lot to work with, and I expect to lose at least 10% in the finishing.

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The tags are for me to remember what end to start from when knitting, since I set up what should end up being gradual color shifts.  I racked my brain trying to come up with a way to mark the yarn that would survive a fulling, and then realized I have plenty of scrap fabric and a laundry marking pen.  I made up tags, lettered them sequentially (writing on satin is hard!)  and tied them to the starting ends of the skeins, so I’ll know where to begin when I start knitting, no matter how long the yarn marinates.

It ended up that my first ply– the one that was split as a single length of the braid– is much shorter than the second ply.  I *think* this is because I slipped into semi-worsted point of contact spinning, rather than the honest long draw I was doing on the first ply.  Semi-worsted is much more well suited to cuddling on the couch watching tv.  🙂

Garden Clean-Up

March 8, 2009 - 8:37 pm

I’m organizing my thoughts for the 2009 spring garden clean-up.

I need to:

  • photograph- I want before and after pics!
  • rake and weed everything
  • pick up trash and fallen branches
  • start lamiastrum flats for keet
  • start indoor seeds
  • plant bulbs

Distraction and follow-through

February 22, 2009 - 9:01 am

So the Macho Ficchu is done, save only the finishing and the FO pictures.  Yay!  The stupid thing is that I stayed up til 4:30 working on it.  I was kept company the last couple hours by a good friend from Australia over Skype, or I never would have stayed up so stupid late.

Mcho Ficchu detail

Mcho Ficchu detail

I also did something that wasn’t on the agenda- I photographed my stash.  The pictures aren’t great because they were taken in the basement with a flash camera, so the color is off.  But they should at least help me remember what I have, once I link them to the stash database on Ravelry.

For today I want to do the final finishing on the Ficchu, which should be quick, get the knitting bags done, and then when Z gets home we’ll tackle the house cleaning.  If he is effective at it, I’d like to take him out to Target to spend his gift certificate from my family and also his allowance.  Oh, and the garden work, if it gets warm enough.  It peaked at 34° yesterday, so gardening?  Not so much.  Today is forecast to make it to 42°, which is vaguely plausible for digging holes in the ground.

For the moment I’m still lazy in bed.  Which I think is entirely justifiable, since it’s Sunday morning and I have only slept 4 hrs.  😀

Finishing

February 21, 2009 - 8:31 pm

It used to be that I had a gajillion things going, and nothing got done.  Pondering this morning, I realize I’ve kind of moved on from that phase, and I’m not quite sure how it happened.  I somehow got the knack for finishing.

Right now I have two knitting projects on the needles, and three knitting bags in my backlog, one of which (apologies, Summer!) I’m still trying to find an interfacting to allow me to complete.  And it’s making me feel a bit queasy.  I want to get the shoulder wrap (Macho Ficchu!  hee!) off the needles this weekend and get back to the yak socks.  And I want to get Squid’s bag completed and off to her, as well as Andey’s.  Summer’s too, if I can make it to the fabric district to scour the shops for a heavy black interfacing that won’t shrink when ironed.

Seriously.  What good is an interfacing that shrinks during the iron-on process, leaving awful bubbling puckers in the dress fabric?  I had a terrible moment with that when the adhesive was setting and I couldn’t find a free corner to get it off already.  I did manage to peel it away from the silk beore they were permanently bonded, but I was terribly worried that I had just destroyed the precious sari silk.  phew.

Also on deck this weekend are tasks in the “maintenance” category, which is stil one I struggle with.

I have bulbs that were purchased too late last fall, which have sadly wintered over in their bags on the front porch.  I’m hoping I can pop them in the ground now and coax them into surviving the insult.  My spring pansies suffered the same fate, as well as a few perennials that had the poor planning to go dormant before getting bought from the garden center at Home Depot, and so were rescued from the trash pile.  I look forward to them being lovely black eyed susans and daylilies and I forget what in the fall, but first I have to convince them that they are only dormant, not actualy dead.  🙂

The fish tank… eh.  The light bar has been broken for ages.  All of the lovely plants that were the purpose for the tank have died, except for one lotus that refuses to give up the ghost.  I at least need to change the water in the tank, and return carbon to the filter now that the snail plague has been erradicated.  I would like to dismantle the light bar and determine what parts are needed; I finally found someone at the company who will help me restore it.  Alternately, I could declare the project dead, and dismantle the whole tank.  I’m down to a couple bottom feeders I should be able to dump on some nearby pet store, or send away via Craigs List.

And last but not least, the truly uninteresting but essential maintenance task- house cleaning.  I’ve been out or busy for three weekends now, and the house shows it.  I’ve spot cleaned a room here or there, but the place needs a good sweep and vacuum, and the bathrooms are in sad states.  Somewhere this weekend that must be addressed.

Saturday morning 9am.  We’ll see how far I’ve gotten with this by Sunday night.

Garden Plans

February 2, 2009 - 8:29 pm

Gardening starts with seeds in the winter.  Today, with all the snow, feels like the *perfect* day to be starting garden plans.  Here’s what I’ve got:

From the Home Depot sale on Saturday:

veggies:

  • Peas: Dark seeded early perfection
  • Peas: Sugar Snap
  • Mesclun Salad Greens

flowers:

  • Marigolds: scarlet starlet
  • Cosmos: bright lights
  • Oriental poppies: Pizzicato mix (amapola oriental)
  • Sweet peas: Royal Family
  • Zinnia: envy (It’s chartreuse!!!)
  • Nasturtium: Empress of India
  • Zinnia: candy cane
  • Sweet William: tall double
  • Viola: Helen Mount

Also pulling out of the fridge from last year

veggies/herbs:

  • Basil: summerlong
  • Basil: dark opal purple
  • Beets: Detroit Dark Red
  • Lettuce: little Ceasar
  • Greens: Mesclun spicy (raddichio, endive, mustard, etc)
  • Smart Pickle Cucumber
  • Broccoli Raab
  • Spinach: Early Prolific

flowers:

  • oriental poppy “Brilliant red”
  • sunflower: Mammoth Grey Stripe
  • cosmos: bright lights (oops!  Forgot I had this!  it’s a 2006 packet, though, and I got limited germination last year)
  • Zinnia: candy cane (same as the Cosmos.  At least I know what I like!)
  • Sweet peas (recovered seeds from last year’s plants)
  • Catnip
  • Nasturtium: Empress of India (ok, this is embarrassing.)

On their way from Thompson & Morgan:

  • Cauliflower: Gitano F1 Hybrid (Romanesco)
  • Datura meteloides: Evening Fragrance
  • Swiss Chard: Bright Lights
  • Alcea rosea: Chater’s Double Icicle
  • Nigella damascena Moody Blues
  • Nicotiana: x sanderae: Fragrant Cloud
  • Zaluzianskya capensis seeds: Night Phlox
  • Radish: Rainbow Mixed
  • Lobelia cardinalis: Queen Victoria
  • Buphthalmum speciosum
  • Myrrhis odorata

Yet to find:

  • variegated horseradish
  • Borage (Borago officinalis)

I planted a lot of shrubs last spring, but the dogs have eaten or trampled pretty much all of them.  🙁  I’m hoping they come back form the roots.

My first outside garden chore after the general clean-up and starting some flats of Lamiastrum for Keet is going to be putting up a fence to keep them out of the area I’m trying to establish in back- which is most of it.  They’ll have a concrete patio and a service corridor on the far side of the house as well as two large beds on the driveway side of the house that have huge old azaleas.  And by huge I mean 15′ or so.

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