Growing Along

So we’ve got the garden started!  The hens were in the garden house for about a month and they chewed through all the roots, weeding and feeding as they went. Let me just say working chickens are entirely underrated. After they moved out we let the ground rest (and the chicken poop wash) in two days of rain. Two days after that, the ground was ready for planting and biodynamics indicated it was a good day to plant leaf foods.

We transplanted organic green onions that we bought about three months ago from the grocery store. Green onions are a grass so we kept them in a water/dirt slurry in the bottom half of an Aquafina bottle, mowing them when needed. Green onions are a great addition to most anything we eat so it worked out great. We sprouted the kale and spinach from seed and transplanted on the same day. It took about half an hour for all the work and we made a timelapse video. Timelapse makes everything look easy.

Since then, we’ve planted peas, cucumbers, celery and radish. We also started the peas and cucumbers early and from seed. The celery was an organic vegetable from the grocery store (like the green onions) that we kept in coffee cups and water until the leaves resumed growing. The radishes are just seeds yet and we sowed them directly. Hopefully they’ll pop up soon! We also sowed some more kale and spinach seeds indoors. Although the freeze date has officially passed (yay!) we have may hail dates ahead, and it’s a good idea to keep back-up seedlings so the garden can bounce back after a severe storm.

Also I’d like to share a recent failure. No mother hens have adopted the three chicks. We tried and tried with the hens but each one preferred the freedom of the flock to adoption. Oh well, so it goes. Good news is, the babies are nearing big enough to join the flock! Once they are as big as the smallest two hens then in they go. We’ll be back up to ten hens and an intact rooster. Aiming for that perfect dozen means keep buying more. Maybe Alphonse can help us out in that department. Time will tell! Until next week then, indulge in a little simple heresy.

 

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Chickens as Working Animals, and Planting with Ancient Farmers

Hello friends, and Happy Busy Spring!

So the garden house went up without a hitch! (pictures to follow…) The big chickens stayed in the garden house for about a month, sleeping in the dog houses, laying as usual, and chewing up all the greens, roots, and seeds. The whole space is bare now and fertilized thanks to the presents the girls leave behind, and no I’m not talking about the eggs.

We have a flat of Kale and more than a few spinach seedlings to move the garden house where they will be safe from bunnies – which are in vast quantity this year. On the sixth (in the moon-sign of Scorpio) we transplanted the potatoes before thy outgrew their pots. Hopefully, we won’t suffer a late freeze. They looked pretty weakly after transplanting but were perky the next day.

According to the ancient farmers we should transplant and plant leafy items in a Virgo, Taurus, or Capricorn moon-sign which just happens to occur on the 11th of April (Virgo) so that’s the plan. We also have Brussels sprouts, cucumbers and radish but as fruits and a root, we’ll have to wait to plant until the 14th and 16th respectively.

Since the chickens did so well in the garden we made them an official a-frame tractor so they might continue working in the larger yard.

It was a two-afternoon project for the four of us. It’s lightweight enough I can move it by myself, and once S’s water hauling muscles return she’ll be able to push it on her own too. The good news is the chickens can mow two tractor spaces a day. The bad news is we have to move them 2x a day or suffer a bald spot in the yard. Good thing we’re ok with baldness. 🙂

We are happy the chickens are working and they seem happy too. We’ll still have to mow but we get to mow a little less this way and that is very nice.

We do have a bit of bad news: we lost a chicken on Saturday. In the morning we went out to move the ladies and a black australorp was dead on the floor of the tractor. She was completely intact with no visible signs of trauma even on close inspection. We think she might have been egg bound. The night before, she was not in the coop with her sisters, but on the floor and unwilling to fly. After some reviewing and research, egg bound is our best guess.

When a hen is egg bound they cannot deliver the eggs they produce. An egg may enter the vent shaft sideways and become lodged, or caught in an interior pocket. If a chicken keeper is aware of the condition then they can sometimes help the chicken lay with warm water baths and a few other methods, but we were unaware and so the hen died. Now we know to count the different kinds of eggs and pay closer attention to the shells because brittle shells can indicate a calcium deficiency which might lead to an egg bound hen, and if untreated – the loss of life. Turns out calcium helps with the contractions that push the eggs out, not just for shells. Who knew?

Lastly, the Mama hen and baby chick adoption project was an abject failure. No hens were willing to take on the roll of mother and the babies are still in the brooder. They are just emerging from the gangly teenager phase, have full body feathers, retaining little tufts of fluff on their heads. Alphonse is definitely a rooster and has started funny teen rooster chortling. He sounds like a recording of a hen if you ran it through a pitch modulator with faulty electricity so sometimes the playback sounds normal and sometimes it goes too fast, too slow, high or low with no apparent pattern! Yet, without the protection of a mother hen the three are too small to join the flock. They go outside daily to their separate tractor – a rabbit cage without a bottom – and came in at night until Saturday night. On Saturday we cleaned and moved the brooder to the porch and have a heating lamp for when the low dips below 45 degrees F but otherwise they are acclimatizing to the light/dark and warm/cool cycles of outside life.

Well that’s enough for this post!

Until next time – keep it simple!

 

Minimalism and Consumerism

Consumerism is the act of consuming. We are all consumers. We consume air, water and food in order to live. We consume resources by living in modern homes. We consume media, and ideas, and attention.

Minimalism is living simply but it is not anti-consumerist. It is, however, anti-excess. Excess means different things to different people. Some religious orders value austerity as an external display of piety. Some non-deity based lifestyles consider attachment the root of all suffering. Minimalism is like these orders and lifestyles but with a little self-serving heresy in the mix. We’re all just looking for our happy place.

My kind of minimalism is, at this point, a self-serving way to make my life more easier. I’m not claiming a high-road because my road waves up and down, and winds back and forth. Today – at this very instant – I want less stuff because it’s easier to have less and harder to have more.

Am I anti-consumerism? Well that’s a can of worms.

As defined above, no I’m not anti-consumerism. However, if a star-consumer (in the market sense of the word) waits in long lines for the next itech or pre-orders that new whatever even though they have working tech and working whatever, well then YES! I am anti-consumerism.

Right now, we’re going through our bookshelves (again). There is a stack of about thirty books next to my desk to sell, and about 50 that went to the donation store last week. The further down the rabbit hole we go on our minimalist journey the more difficult it is to let go of things, but also, the more rewarding it is. So I guess we’re still on the donate side of the happy place.

➺ What about you?
➺ Where does your life fall on the
[ buy everything ————— happy place ————— donate everything ] line?
➺ Where is your balance between star-market-consumer and throw it all away?
➺ What works for you?

Until next week, keep it simple. 😉

 

How To Introduce a Hen to Baby Chicks

So the three babies are a week old. Rosemary, Vera and Alphonse are happy and growing. We hope to introduce them to the flock in seven to ten more weeks, depending on the weather and how quickly they swap chick fluff for pullet feathers. They could use an advocate when they join the flock so we are pairing them with one of our broody little hens, Demitasse. Initially we thought Demitasse and her sister Cappuccino were Easter Eggers, but it turns out they are Sicilian Buttercups.  Who knew?

Demitasse is low chick in the pecking order. We picked her instead of another quasi-broody hen so that she will have three friends, and if all goes well, the rooster Alphonse will protect her from the other hens when he’s an adult. We are not chicken psychologists so we’ll have to wait and see how this little social experiment works out.

In the following video you can see Demitasse in the small brooder with the chicks. We also outlined the plan in a little more detail. There are 5 steps to creating a surrogate chicken family.

  1.  Identify a broody hen.
  2.  Get chicks.
  3.  Place the hen in the brooder with 1 week old chicks.
  4.  Keep mother and babies isolated from the rest of the flock until fluff is gone. The chicks will be 10 to 12 weeks old.
  5.  Reintroduce the family to the flock.

How’s that for farm science?  We’re not sure how this is going to work out but we’ll let you know!

Baby Chicks and a PVC Chicken Wire Garden House

On Saturday we purchased three new chicks.

chicks2-2017bw

Aren’t they adorbs?!  We picked two Australorp hens and a blond rooster (center) who might be a Buff Orpington but we don’t know for sure. The hens were sexed and banded so we know, without a doubt, they are hens. We had to remove their bands Saturday night, and man, it just kills me to listen to their screaming as I poke the metal tag back through their wing. The rooster was not banded because we picked him from a straight run. So he might not even be a rooster. However,

we checked his feathers for pointedness 
and held him upside down to see if he would flail 
so all signs indicate that he is a rooster. 🙂

We also bought 5 lengths of pvc, some t-posts, and another roll of chicken wire to make a garden house.

greenhouseWe’re building a garden house for many reasons:

  • to put the big chickens to work tilling the soil and eating June Beetle larvae of which we have already seen three adult specimens. (AND IT IS ONLY FEBRUARY!)
  • to protect the plants from bunnies,
  • to protect the plants from hail,
  • and to protect the plants from the hottest summer sun (with a shade cloth).

All of this effort will hopefully stretch the planting season and let us humans enjoy the fruits of our labors. We hope…

I’m calling it a garden house because the structure is not insulated against the weather yet. We may decide to put up partial walls. Later we will cover it with contractor plastic. Which bothered my eco-minimalist sensibilities until I learned that plastic sheeting is as environmentally (un?)sound and lasts just as long as the pvc plastic panels in our area because of severe storms and hail damage we get every spring (and sometimes in the fall). 😦  It would be easy to enclose the garden house and we probably will – but we’re not there yet!

Either way – we’ll let you know how it turns out!

Minimized Wardrobe and Why KonMari Doesn’t Work For Me

The definition of “Minimalist Wardrobe” varies from person to person. Each minimalist has a different list of necessities. My capsule wardrobe is on its way toward minimal but I’m not there yet. Some minimalists have assigned 36 items as the ‘official’ number of items in a minimalist capsule wardrobe, however that number is perfectly arbitrary. The number pickers might also have picked 35 or 37. My capsule is a little larger: I have about 50 items now – excluding my three problem areas (scarves, bags, and jackets).

One very slow and easy way you can shrink your closet is by turning all the hangers backwards on the bar. After a year goes by, any hangers that remain backwards are items you have not worn so you can confidently donate them, knowing you won’t miss them.

You can adopt a similar year-long method for your dresser. Pretend you are packing a suitcase in one of your dresser drawers. Pick your favorite things and put them in the suitcase-drawer. As time goes by you may miss things in the other drawers and tire of things in your suitcase. When that happens donate the tired pieces and pull the new favorites from your other dresser drawers minding the mantra “one out, one in”. At the end of a year, any items that remain untouched in your dresser have got to go.

If minimizing your wardrobe is exciting and you just need a little motivation try the KonMari method. Pick a Saturday and inspect every clothing item in your house. If it brings you joy keep it – if not, let it go. My only peeve with the KonMari method is that all my jackets and scarves and bags bring me joy, but they are also sitting around collecting dust. The dust does not bring me joy but the KonMari method enables me, and I keep them.

Additionally, every packrat I’ve met has an emotional attachment to each of their items. Emotional fulfillment from items is part of why hoarding happens in the first place. The KonMari system calls for action based on emotional decisions. Unfortunately, the primary emotional decisions that led to hoarding behavior are justified by the KonMari method, so those who really struggle with letting things go will not benefit from the practice. They get joy from every item they own. That’s the main reason I’m not on the KonMari bandwagon (and why I have so many scarves, bags, and jackets).

Since October I’ve been paring down my wardrobe using the minimalist approach. If I don’t wear it and love it – out it goes. It’s taken some Saturday trips through the collection but now… I finally moved out of my dresser! Yay! This is my current closet sans jackets and bags, but all the scarves are there.

 

 

closetI don’t feel finished with this project quite yet. I’ve started drawing every ootd in my bullet journal and after a month – whatever I haven’t worn I’ll let go (at least that’s the plan).

The dresser is now the linen closet instead of the master bedroom closet. We’re almost to the point where we can put a bookshelf in there. On the bookshelf we’ll store our smaller and more meaningful Yule and Christmas storage instead of the mountain-of-brimming-gift-bags-piled-to-the-ceiling system we’re currently using.

Until we started this minimalist journey I really didn’t know how much stuff we had. Luckily, our house is growing and our piles of stuff are shrinking. However, Yule and Christmas decorations are one thing the kids will not let me toss. They have some kind of ornament radar and magically appear whenever the baubles come out of the closet. Our Halloween decorations (which live in a single over-sized plastic cauldron, covered with a gold and purple witch’s hat) have the same magical summoning effect. It’s the weirdest side-effect of our seasonal decorations.

Until next time – Keep it Simple!

Seed Starting Soon!

We’ve had another unseasonably warm winter. If this keeps up warm will be the norm and cold – a thing of the past. I visited one of my oldest friends recently, and it turns out we are both contemplating moving north to escape the heat. Neither of us knew that the other was even thinking about moving, but great minds think alike…

Until we move though – I’m going to garden here. So that means it’s time to plan and start seeds! Since I’m into the bullet journaling thing – I wrote it all down in there…

garden2017

We use the square foot gardening method. It is intensive so we have to keep the soil nutrient balance carefully managed. It needs composts now, but no manure (at least not yet). The rectangular plot is 16×4 feet. It’s the box on the left hand side of the spread. The adjacent list shows what’s planted in the plot and where.

Starting on the left you can see a to-buy, to-do, seeds to plant, and when to plant list. In the seeds column I wrote (4×4) behind peas and radish because they get their own little plots. Radish greens make the best salads. Last year the radish roots were woody and underdeveloped because the nitrogen level was elevated in the soil. It turned out fine though because the greens were plentiful and delicious.

This year we’re starting the seeds in 100% biodegradable paper cups. We’ll tear off the bottoms and move them directly into the garden, preventing most of the transplant shock.

We’re really excited to see the way this garden grows. Through successes and failures – we’ll keep you posted!

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