No More Rock….

Nope, I’m not switching over to only country music, or R&B, I just don’t want to mess with rock anymore. Rocks in the post holes, Rocks when we dug the paths, rocks when we replaced the paths, rocks when we lined the paths… NO MORE ROCKS!!

Let me back up. If you remember – the wife and I have embarked on the quintessential Urban homesteading project – removing the front lawn to grow food. We started it back in March/April… you can see the beginning here:

https://littlehouseon17thstreet.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/what-is-that-glowing-orb-in-the-sky-why-isnt-it-raining/

As with all of our projects – we do it by the littles – as we have money, as we have time… as we have energy…

…So you can understand why it’s taken so long. There is quite the draw on these 3 resources in my life lately.

However – the primary pathways are in. The river rock to divide pathway from bark dusted garden paths is mostly in – I’ll need another load before it’s all done. The garden boxes in the center are built… some dirt is in place in the boxes as I level out the outer beds… believe it or not, it’s beginning to look like a garden and less like Chernobyl.

The lawn gets its edge stones, just needs a bit more work and it's ready for plants.

The lawn gets its edge stones, just needs a bit more work and it’s ready for plants.

Shut the Door!

An unusual thing happened this morning. I got out of bed before 6 am.

Thing 3 had just gone back to sleep in her crib, and Ben had the coffee on so I figured I might as well stay up and take a cup out back to enjoy a rare moment of peace and quiet.

The opossum peeking at me from the back corner of the garden, however, was enough to throw off that thought process.  Little pointy head. All teeth. Little waddling “run”.  Ugh.  So that’s what is chewing on my little pumpkins and pooping all over the garden. I had strongly suspected raccoon, but that little guy indicated otherwise.

Ben joined me and we got to talking about opossums and what strategies we might try to convince them to head elsewhere. I pointed out a gap in our bamboo “fencing” rigged up around the garden where it looked like something possibly climbed it and caused the cross-pieces to pull downward.  While we were looking at that, the girls started getting stirred up inside the coop and clucking. A rat came tearing out from the eave of the coop roof, scrambled down the siding and dove out of sight. So much for a quiet and relaxing morning in the garden.

I spent the rest off the morning inside researching how to identify opossum and raccoon poop and reading Internet horror stories of opossums getting inside people’s houses.

The neighbor kid came over later that to play with Thing 1 and Thing 2.  I promptly kicked the three boys outside and decided to try and throw together a batch of granola bars despite Thing 3’s insistence at attaching herself to both my legs and crying (brothers woke her from both nap attempts this morning–might seriously be time to get Project Third Bedroom started. . .).

Thing 3 finally contented herself emptying my cupboards, the granola bars were mixed and in process of  getting smoothed out into the pans when next thing I know, three boys come bursting through the kitchen door from outside, all yelling and hollering something that sounds like, “GET IT! IT’S IN THE HOUSE, GET IT!!”

Something big, sleek and black streaked past the corner of my eye, toenails scrabbling to keep traction as it hit the hardwood floor.  Three boot clad boys pounded the floor right behind it.  It rounded the corner and fled into my bedroom.

My first thought after the morning I had: “WHAT kind of rodent did THOSE BOYS just chase into my house?!?”

As the boys and I collided around the corner–Thing 3 scooting on her butt right behind us–the animal began to squawk and bock and flop and flap back and forth across my unmade bed, three sets of grubby little hands reaching and diving after it.  Chicken Nugget, you stupid chicken, don’t you dare poop on my bed!!  (And yes, of all the chickens, it would be Chicken Nugget to end up in the house.)

Thing 3 thought the whole fiasco pretty entertaining until Chicken Nugget found the bedroom window and started flapping her wings in a desperate attempt to escape.  The flapping wings hitting the window freaked her out and she began shrieking.  The boys continued trying to corner the chicken which only resulted in more flapping against the window and more shrieking baby on the floor.

“EVERYBODY OUTSIDE–NOW!!” I yelled.

The boys vanished.  Three faces soon appeared at the outside of my bedroom window (though the  look on those faces when the chicken hit the window again gave me something to laugh about later).  Chicken Nugget tried to squeeze under a chair in the bedroom.  At that point I easily grabbed her and tucked her under my arm.  (“Yay!  My Mom got her!” I could hear through the window.)  Out went the chicken.  Baby got scooped up and snuggled until she had calmed enough to stop trembling.  Granola Bars went into the oven.

Lesson learned?  Don’t get up before 6 am. Oh, and when baking Granola Bars, shut the back door.  One simple step to keep life that much more sane.

Curious about the recipe?  Like most of the recipes I use, I originally found it on allrecipes.com. . . but have changed it a bit since.

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This is the version I used today:

4 ½ cups rolled oats

¼ cup wheat germ

¾ cup flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup coconut oil

½ cup maple syrup

1 cup applesauce

2 cups assorted chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and unsweetened shredded coconut

First, make sure the back door if firmly shut.  Then go ahead and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease one 9 x 13-inch pan.  In a large mixing bowl combine oats, wheat germ, flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, and applesauce.  Stir in the chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and unsweetened coconut.  It takes a bit to mix and make sure all the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated into the liquid ingredients.

Lightly press mixture into the prepared pan.  Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool for 10 minutes then cut into bars.  Let bars cool completely in pan before removing or serving.

My Life As a Country Song

I came home tonight from work to find Thing 2 curled up on the couch, his head nestled what appeared to be VERY uncomfortably on the rim of his puke bucket, the wife yelled from the kitchen which has lately began to look a lot like the Nalley factory that we were out of Mustard Seed – the tone in her voice told me it was serious, and on top of it all – Thing 1 informed me that yet another chicken had gone broody… I’m up to my ears in projects, there’s stuff all over the yard, in the house…

I didn’t realize that my life had become a country song.

Thing 2 is taken care of – the chicken had already been caged, and it’s a good thing the store is 5 minutes away.

That’s the interesting thing about ‘farming’ in the city. The country life follows you – the good and the bad. Living within city limits, we’re finding that we have to find creative solutions to the not-so-awesome-parts of keeping a large garden, chickens, bees, and complete green space overhauls. With these come tools, feed, equipment, and periodic headaches.

We’re having to now deal with the raccoon that is taking out our produce in the garden and investigating our chickens… We’ve had to figure out how to deal with broody chickens effectively (UPDATE: 5 days in the hole took care of Arugala – she’s all good.), finding ways to deal with the flies that come from having free range poultry… finding counter space to put a decent beet harvest, 25 pounds of pickling cucumbers, and all the canning supplies… then there’s weeding the garden, reclaiming the lumber in the driveway, ordering gravel… then there’s the projects…

…you see, country living in the city isn’t all roses like some of the hipster urban homestead blogs would have you believe. It can be gritty, chaos laden, smelly, dill pickle-y… it’s kind of like making things from Pinterest – the pictures look so sweet- but in reality… it doesn’t always work out as it should… (Speaking of this phenomenon.. you have to see this if you already haven’t… http://www.boredpanda.com/funny-pinterest-fails/) and there’s always some slight downsides to every endeavor…

Life itself is two-sided. You can’t have the good — you can’t reap the rewards without the challenges. The proverbial vegetables won’t grow unless it rains… Trials bring growth.

Would I trade it? Nope. Not at all.

Because in addition to all of the above… today I bought my lovely wife a pickle crock, the house smells like pickled beets, sweet pickles, dill pickles, and the beautiful jars full of color are beginning to fill up the counter. I spent part of my afternoon with my bees, I bought a pellet gun… *whistles*… I’m wearing overalls right now… (seriously.. I am – they’re fantastic – how often do you get to wear overalls!?!)

Life brings challenges and frustrations sometimes. It wouldn’t be life without them. You can’t have the good without the bad… to an extent – how could you know the good if it weren’t for the bad?

Yup, my life has become a country song – and I love it.

 

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WHAAAATTT??? A Local Food Marketplace… in your pocket?!

… there’s an app for that. At least an experimental app for that. 🙂

Huge thanks to Becky B. for sharing this via Facebook today – as soon as I saw it – I knew I had to share.

The ingenuity of young people never ceases to amaze me – though to be fair I could do without that whole YOLO trend… let me rephrase that… the ingenuity of young people channeled in a productive direction never ceases to amaze me… 🙂

http://www.wired.com/design/2013/07/a-market-that-lets-you-buy-from-your-neighbors/

Now… legality in the U.S.?? The FDA won’t even let people sell raw milk – I can’t even imagine the legal fight to allow you to sell your own produce, honey, from your home here in the U.S.

What say you?  Is a barter system better? Should there be a way for you to sell your excess to your neighbors? Can this be done small scale in a neighborhood sans app? Curious to your thoughts.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

… well, because she was flung there when the tractor-trailer that was carrying her and hundreds of her sisters rolled over in the middle of downtown Salem.

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No, really. An entire semi-truck full of Foster Farms chickens tipped over in the middle of Salem today, and chickens (and chicken manure) were everywhere.

The driver was fine – but about half of the chickens on the trailer weren’t so fortunate. Other photos that were provided by the Statesman Journal (www.statesmanjournal.com) showed the aftermath and the cleanup effort which lasted well into the afternoon hours even though the crash occurred early this morning.

Apparently, speed may have been a factor in the accident and the load seems to have shifted, causing the truck to tip onto its side – sending the cages that the chickens were being carried in tumbling across the road – breaking open scattering live chickens and corpses everywhere.

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All photos credit Zach Urness (Statesman Journal)

Foster Farms issued the following statement:

TRUCK ACCIDENT IN SALEM, OREGON July 9, 2013

This morning, a Foster Farms contracted trailer truck transporting chickens was involved in an accident on Commercial Street in downtown Salem, Ore. The driver is in good condition but was transported to a local hospital as a precaution. No other people were involved in the accident. The driver works for a hauling company contracted by Foster Farms, she is not a Foster Farms employee. We are cooperating fully with local police as they investigate the accident. The birds are being hand-collected and per USDA regulation, any fatalities are disposed of and do not enter the food supply.

We are committed to the safety of live poultry during transport and have maintained an exemplary safety record. We regret that the accident occurred and promptly took steps to rectify the situation.

I don’t know this for certain, but it seems they were likely shipping chickens from their Canby, Oregon production plant and I can only assume that these birds were on their way to becoming Corn Dogs in the Corvallis, Oregon Corndog processing plant.

The people of Salem have been quick to jump on the “EWW!! LOOK AT THAT! How could you show pictures of dead chickens?!?” bandwagon on the Statesman Journal’s comments section, like they don’t have a clue that that small piece of Foster Farms chicken breast that they have with their health conscious lunch – once looked like one of those white birds in the streets of Salem. (Granted – likely less contorted and lying in the middle of the street…)

We have taught Thing 1 and Thing 2 from early on where their food comes from. I fish, I hunt, we keep chickens – and it’s important to me that they understand that when we have meat, in order for them to eat, something else had to die, and not to take that for granted, and not to be wasteful.

Sadly – this was horribly wasteful, and yet another reason why I would desperately like to see us utilize less large scale agriculture, and switch over to more numerous family farms, backyard flocks to sustain the family, or at least use sustainable agricultural practices such at those at Polyface Farms and the numerous echoes of their strategy to produce for these large scale operations.

At the same time – we have to put our money where our wishes lie. This goes right back to what we talked about with Monsanto. We are getting what we pay for. Every time I give in and buy a corn dog – I’m voting with my dollars to continue this type of large scale agricultural practice… we as consumers have to be willing to stand up for what we believe in not just in words but in actions.

So why did the chicken cross the road – it seems that she didn’t really have much of a choice…

… Good thing we do.

“Pale Clucker”

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This is Arugula. She is an old bitty.

She’s always grumpy, pecking at the other chickens. Always whining about things. Constantly squinting. Seriously… she looks like Clint Eastwood.

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Today, Thing 1 came in from getting the eggs and said – “MOM! I can’t get any, Arugula is sitting in the box, and when I try to move her, she pecks me… she’s also barking at me or something.”

Those of you with chickens of your own are already nodding your head in recognition – but for us, we just came across our first broody hen. 

Chickens – like all women have an internal clock, and now and again – it gets the better of them and like ‘Loretta’ in the Life of Brian, they exclaim loudly and clearly to the world – “I WANT TO HAVE BABIES!”

So – the old bitty absconded all of the other chickens eggs, and laid on them as though she was going to hatch them. Blissfully unaware that they are unfertilized. In her mind, if she lays on them long enough – some sort of immaculate conception will occur, and the chicks will hatch out.

Silly Old Bitty.

The problem with broodiness in hens is it throws their system for a loop, slows down to feeding and watering, makes them susceptible to illness and mites, and basically takes them out of the laying chain for almost 9 weeks total.

It is therefore vitally important to break the broodiness as quickly as possible both for egg production, as well as ultimately the health of the bird and the other birds in the hen house, as broodiness begats broodiness. 

I read numerous methods of breaking a bird of broodiness, one of which involved dunking them in ice water. (no thanks) the science behind that is to cool off the bird since their body temperature increases while they incubate the eggs. Dunking them in ice water will reduce its overall body temperature as quickly as possible – however, this also sounded the most abrupt and unhealthy to me, and didn’t rank high on my list of fixes.

I needed however to get her off the nest, off of any of her eggs, and away from materials where should could stick herself down into and keep that temperature up. So the answer that seemed like it made the most sense to me was to get her up off the ground, on wire. 

I hit craigslist looking for free rabbit hutches. No deal. Posted a status on Facebook looking for rabbit hutches. No deal. Considered absconding a shopping cart from one of the many abandoned shopping carts in NE Salem for a moment – (fully intending on returning it… even though it might have been caked in manure…)

I finally settled on building a wire cage out of my 2×4 wire fence, and cable ties – kind of like how we built the hoophouse. Here’s the “Pale Clucker” in her new jail cell until she’s broken of her broodiness.

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She’s about 4 inches off the ground – gives her air circulation underneath as well as on top and all around. She’s got food and water – inside the coop so that she doesn’t get dismembered by raccoons… should be good to go. 

The judge was fairly lenient, her sentence is only a couple of days – we’ll let her out after that and monitor her behavior to see if she’s still acting up, and if so – back in solitary for a bit if not – back with the rest of the girls.

Maybe a little time in solitary will make her less like an old bitty. The odds aren’t good.