Chickens

New Nest Boxes

Lately we’ve been getting a lot of broken eggs in the nest box.  We have five hens sharing one box and I think it was just too crowded.  At least we hope that’s what’s going on and not that we have an egg eater.

We decided to build a new nest box for them.  It’s a free-standing box that holds three nests.  It took me most of Saturday to build with Rick’s help, but I think it turned out pretty well.

I started with a 1x3x8, a 4′ x 8′ piece of plywood that had an exterior finish on one side, some scrap lumber we had around the garage.

Rick was picking up more stone, so I drew the pieces I needed up on the plywood and cut them out with the jigsaw.  We miraculously got the camera to work, but no one was around to take pictures of me with the jigsaw.  My lines weren’t perfectly straight, but I figured the chickens wouldn’t notice.

I used some scrap pieces of 2×4 for the legs and attached them to the base.

By then the boys and I needed lunch and Rick came back with a load of stone, so I took a break.  After the stone was on the ground and everyone had been fed I went back to work cutting the pieces for the interior of the box.

I was glad to have Rick around for the assembly.  Some things would have been really difficult to manage by myself.  Here’s the basic construction nearly complete.  Just needs the last side and the roof.

I really tried hard not to over-engineer this project, as I tend to usually do.  When we took down the old nest box from the side of the coop, Rick commented that it was a virtual bomb shelter for the hens.  Haha.  Well, this one  is sturdy and I hope will be functional. See my sketch?  Not too over-engineered, right?

When we originally built the coop, we placed it next to the house.  And since our house is white with cream-colored trim, we left it cream-colored.  But since we were remodeling the coop a bit and it’s been moved to another part of the yard now, I really wanted to paint the nest box and the chicken coop some cute colors.

While I was painting the roof and in between coats on the nest box, Rick went after some too-long screws along the inside of the box with his Dremel tool.

After the roof was attached and the second coat of paint was drying, our neighbors came home.  They had left in the morning as I was setting out the plywood on the saw horses.  They were amazed that I had built the box!

We set the box in the chicken yard and immediately one of the hens took notice.  She tried to jump up and hit her head on the roof, which was overhanging a bit too far.  Rick trimmed it back a bit and then they were able to get in without much trouble.

We intentionally made it lower to the ground so the boys could help collect eggs. The chickens are getting used to it.  I was afraid at first that we’d have a revolt or that I made it entirely too small (the boxes are a cozy 11″ x 12″), but on Sunday they all hopped in (for some it took a couple tries) and took a turn.  We are probably going to locate it a bit differently than it is in the picture so they can have a bit more privacy, but so far so good.  Now I’m chomping at the bit to repaint the coop to match.

Did you complete any projects this weekend?

 

This post was part of the Food Soil Thread blog party!

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Categories: Chickens, DIY | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

Why I Blog and How I Became an Urban Homesteader

Four years ago, at the beginning of March, I started this blog.  At first I began tentatively, not sure who would ever read what I had to say, unsure of if I even had anything to say at all.  Unsure of what my blog was about (I hadn’t even really read other blogs), I titled it “Journeys and Adventures” and just sort of typed whatever came to mind, the latest happenings in our lives, reviews of articles I read or documentaries I watched.

I quickly noticed a theme.  I wanted to be a farmer.  But I lived (live!) in a city.  During my first month of writing I covered the garden or buying our first chicks in at least every-other post.  I did not know anything about “urban homesteading” or that people called themselves this or that other people we like me at all – playing farmer on little patches of earth, where ever their feet had landed them in life.

There were lots of Monday morning posts chronicling the progress of our garden over the weekend or the construction of our chicken coop.  And I began to understand that this was therapy – the gardening, the chickens, and the writing about it.  I took more pictures, I squeezed more into the dirt we had.  I found more dirt and eeked out more spaces to grow things.  I dreamed of a bee hive.  But this space remained a sort or personal journal.

One day, as Rick was reading, he asked why I didn’t make the blog public, since only friends and family had access to it at this point.  I thought about it for a while and decided I was afraid to put myself out in the open to any and everyone.  But he encouraged me to do it, convinced that people would like what I had to say, and enjoy reading about our crazy adventures in playing at urban farming.  So I did, and I decided to change the name of the blog too, so that it would reflect more of what it was now about.

I thought about the name change for a long time, mulling over terms like green, dirt, crunchy, city, suburbs, farming, etc.  Through lots of reading, I discovered the term urban homesteading and found it described what we were doing.  I still thought we virtually were alone in doing it, but I knew the phrase was the right one for our family and our journey.

A search engine led a writer for the Denver Post to my blog, and he contacted me, wanting an interview for a story he was doing on urban homesteaders.  Because I was skeptical (hey! I didn’t know this guy), I refused to be interviewed without Rick home, so I missed my chance.  Timing was off and he couldn’t come on the day Rick could be here.  But I was so excited when the article came out.  I discovered we were NOT alone.  There were people in my own neighborhood doing this.  People all over Denver!

Now look:

There is a reason I’m taking the time to write this trip down memory lane.  It’s not because it was my blog-iversary. It’s because today is the third Day of Action for Urban Homesteaders across the internet.

Back in February of this year the Dervaes family of Pasadena, CA trademarked the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading.”  I am not linking to who the Dervaes family is, but in short, they are a father and three grown children growing lots of food in a small area in California.  They are a family church, with the father being the pastor and to my knowledge, the children are the members.  A church of what is pretty unclear.  From what little I know of them, they’ve done a lot with their space and many in the urban homesteading community admired them.  I never really read much about them until now.

So the big deal?  They sent out cease and desist letters to bloggers, businesses and organizations (even a library) who were using the two trademarked terms.  They want credit with links every time the phrases are typed.  I’ve seen the letters.  They sent one to Denver Urban Homesteading, our local indoor farmers market, and had their Facebook page (and main marketing tool) shut down.  Problem is they don’t have the legal grounds to do this.  They didn’t invent the phrases, nor were they the first to use them.  And their trademark does not give them the right to restrict the use of the English language in the way they claim.  I know this because I know the owner of Denver Urban Homesteading.  James, the person I worked with on Denver’s inaugural chicken coop tour (with the Denver Botanic Garden’s) last year, and the one I helped to make the Free the Chickens video with, also just happens to be a lawyer.  Apparently the Derveas picked on the wrong homesteader.

Bloggers and urban homesteaders across the country have been outraged by the actions of people who were supposed to be leaders within our community.  A Facebook page was created and quickly grew to over 6000 fans supporting the canceling of the trademarks and begging the Dervaes family to, at the very least, help us understand.  There have even been claims that the Dervaes’ are plagiarizing others‘ work (some of it used to support their claim to the trademarked phrases?).  But the D-family closed all the comments on their many blogs.  They temporarily took down their facebook page.  They refused to answer email and letters.  The only communication was denial of any wrong doing and to claim they were being persecuted, they were under attack.  They did not (and still don’t) approve of the fact their letters were put out in the open.  A quick Google search will lead you to the letter if you want to read it.

Through all of this, over the last month-plus, I’ve stayed silent.  All this uproar literally struck fear into my heart.  I called my mom, nearly in tears.  I told my BFF.  I temporarily changed my blog name.  I followed fellow bloggers as they posted and united in two previous Days of Action (read my favorite post on all of this here, from Northwest Edible Life).  But I was afraid.  This blog holds my heart.  Like I said it is my therapy.  And it’s my personal journal.  And it holds videos of my boys’ first steps and first words.  I don’t want to loose any of it.  Not over words.

But I’ve collected my thoughts.  I’ve decided I can’t be silent because all of this is too important to me.

So, today, on this Urban Homesteader’s third Day of Action, I’m asking for your help.  Please go to Change.org and sign the online petition to Cancel Trademarks on Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading.

This petition is addressed to Jules Dervaes, and despite fears that he won’t listen to this community, the petition can be used to help support our cause in other ways.  It is a petition, a protest, and a plea to the Dervaes family.  Whether or not they listen, legal actions are also being taken.  Because like all the others, I too, am an Urban Homesteader.  Thanks.

Categories: Beekeeping, Chickens, Community, Food, Garden, Independence Days, Simple Living, Sustainability, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Three Cheers for Volunteers!

Last week we went out to the garden and found THIS!  Volunteer spinach!  Hooray!

We decided to take advantage of the nice weather by getting a bit of garden prep done and putting a few seeds into the ground.  Rick also helped the neighbor get more ready on his garden by digging out three tree stumps and getting some major tilling and composting into the beds.

Our neighbor is cracking me up.  When he first wanted to do the garden he gave me free license for garden design as long as it included corn and potatoes.  Now he’s got definite ideas about what he wants and doesn’t want, so we are modifying the plans I made all winter a bit.  I’m actually really glad, since it tells me he’s a lot more excited about his space than he is letting on.  We’re adding carrots and onions.  He’s from Indiana and missed the corn fields, so we are planting four long rows for him to walk through.  I talked him into beans with the corn, though he thinks he “won’t like how it looks,” he’s willing to let me try it since I keep telling him the beans will help feed the corn.  But corn and beans are still a few month off.  This is what we actually planted this weekend:

Plant something – spinach, lettuce (four kinds), radishes, and peas.

Harvest something – eggs, compost and a leaf or two of that volunteer spinach.

Preserve something – Ah – TAMALES!  My friend, Jen, came over on Saturday and while Rick and the boys kept busy digging out tree stumps, we made a triple batch of corn and poblano tamales.  We ended up with 90!  Jen took about 30 of them home and let me keep the rest.  She was super generous and I’m very grateful!  We put away enough for five meals in the freezer, and kept out enough for Saturday’s dinner and lunch on Sunday.  And – OH were they delicious.

We also learned about making lard – we rendered pork fat both last year and this year.  But we learned a bit more this time around.  We ended up coming up short, so we added bacon grease.  I knew I was keeping that around for something!

Waste Not – compost and recycling

Want Not – Sunday we bought a few new baby chicks.  I really want a hen that will go broody so we can have her raise future chicken generations, so we’re hoping the Buff Orpington will provide on that front.  We added another Araucana, because I really love getting colored eggs,  and I’ve been thinking of actually, finally, selling some eggs, just to recover the cost of the feed, so we added a third – a Black Star.  Wouldn’t it be great if one of them liked to lay double-yolked eggs?  We had one pullet in the last batch that laid them nearly every day like a champ, but she was killed by a fox attack.

Build Community Food Systems – Well – already mentioned the tamales and the neighbor’s garden.  That’s it for this week.

Eat the Food – lots of items from the pantry.  Nothing special.

Categories: Chickens, Food, Garden, Independence Days, Recipes, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Chickens Lay the Best Eggs

LOOK what we got this week!

Plant something – not yet… this weekend if it doesn’t snow though!

Harvest something – eggs! Even old Mayzie girl laid eggs and she’s four this year!  We’re so happy to be back in eggs from out own girls.

Preserve something – two quiches and a bag of soup went into the freezer – I’m trying to get some meals frozen for when the baby comes.

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.  And I’m seven weeks straight on planning meals!

Want Not – We scored some twin beds for the boys from craigslist.  They are a really nice set that can be bunked or not.  We’ve already set up H’s and he LOVES it.  We’ll be saving his other bed for the new baby when they are older.

Build Community Food Systems – shared some frozen green chiles and grape jam with my sis & bro-in-law.

Eat the Food – Duck was on the menu this week.  I usually have a harder time using our game birds than the elk or venison, but I am making a point to do it.  And I LOVE duck!  Served up two zucchini-green chile quiches using veggies from the freezer at brunch.

This is my favorite duck recipe: Doug’s Grilled Duck Breasts from Field and Stream Magazine.  So yum!

Categories: Chickens, Garden, Independence Days, Recipes | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Free the Chickens!

As promised, here is the video that we participated in making to help get Denver’s laws changed to allow chickens.  Sadly the editor misspelled our name, but I think the point is still there.  ;)  Please share with your friends to help raise awareness on this issue.

To learn more about how you can help, go to www.freethechickens.com

Categories: Chickens, Community, Food, Simple Living, Sustainability, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Coop Tour Recap & Fall Planting

Last weekend was the first Denver Chicken Coop Tour, which was fantastic!  The Botanic Gardens sold out all 120 tickets for the tour, and each ticket was good for up to 4 people.  We tried to count how many people came to view our coop and bee hive, but it seemed like they came in gushes and spurts instead of a steady stream, and I lost count at just over 80.  I’m not certain on the exact number, but it we’re sure it was well over 100 people.

Most of the questions were about how the coop was constructed, what we did on vacation, and how difficult the maintenance was for our five hens.  A few predator questions as well.  It was really enjoyable.  We talked to people who lived in the country with chickens and wanted to see other people coops, people who wanted chickens in their own back yards and people who thought it was great fun that someone in an urban area would keep chickens.

I actually had a wonderful time, and am really looking forward to next year’s tour.

Here’s the update for weeks 29 and 30…

Plant something – mums, asters, irises (again), garlic, chard, spinach, kale, rhubarb, snapdragons, cosmos.

Harvest something – eggs, tomatoes, kohlrabi, zucchini, pumpkins.  Rick harvested two ducks this weekend as well.

Preserve something – tomatoes frozen, spicy kale and potato soup made and frozen, chicken and some chiles in the freezer, more jalapenos and a few experimental tomatoes on the dehydrator.

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.  Tried and failed at making cheese – twice.  But the chickens thought both the weird, over-cooked curds and the whey were great – hahaha!  I actually started planning meals again, something I’ve neglected all spring and summer.  Planning saves a lot of time, money and food!

Want Not – Got cast iron skillets, a large food scale, and a giant awesome stockpot from my grandpa!!!!!!

Build Community Food Systems – The Denver Botanic Gardens/Denver Urban Homesteading Chicken Coop Tour!  We actually got a thank you note from a tour participant in the mail this week!!  Asked the waiter at a restaurant if their organic produce came from local farmers.  ;)  It’s a small step, but an important one.  We actually ate at two restaurants lately that get their produce and bread locally.

Eat the Food – lots of good stuff.  Not sure what recipe to post here.  But I can tell you that dehydrating tomatoes is super easy and they end up packed with flavor.  The romas we just cut in half and the sweets we cut into thick slices.  Salted them all, sprinkled on some thyme and stuck them in to dry.  They have turned out great!

Categories: Chickens, Food, Independence Days | 4 Comments

Inaugural Chicken Coop Tour

This weekend is a kick-off for the first annual Denver Botanic Gardens/Denver Urban Homesteading Chicken Coop Tour.  Think Parade of Homes, but for chicken coops.  There are 15 coops throughout Denver and the metro area participating in the tour.  We are coop number seven.

We are so excited to be participating.  By “we” of course I mean me and the chickens, since Rick is not really excited about 100 + people tromping through our yard and garden to see the digs.  ;)  But it’s all in the name of raising awareness about urban agriculture.  And besides that, they wrote some nice stuff about us on the tour map…

“A coop from original design by Anisa, five chickens, bees, and a gorgeous front yard garden that the family has had for the last seven years is what makes this site a perfect example of backyard agriculture and livestock keeping.  Little Henry will show with pride his tomato plants, chickens and eggs.”

Seriously!?!?  How cool is that!  There has been a bit of media promoting the tour in the last few days.  Check out the piece FOX 31 did about the tour.  James Bertini with Denver Urban Homesteading is featured in the story.

ABC 7 News also reported on the tour, as well as making it into the Denver Post’s September 29th Food Calendar.  The WestWord comic section even poked a bit of fun at us.

Tho tour is tomorrow, October 2nd, from 11am to 4pm.  Maps can be purchased in person at the Botanic Gardens for $20 per group of four.  There is still time to purchase a map for the tour.  Contact Denver Botanic Gardens or Denver Urban Homesteading for details!

Categories: Beekeeping, Chickens, Community, Food, Sustainability | 6 Comments

Independence Days: Season of Work!

Yes, the harvest season is here, and it feels like we are working non-stop putting up food!  Last week, we made grape jam, finished putting away the peaches, and worked on the yard for a bit.  Rick dug out an area for a new flower bed for me in the back yard, and after we removed all the grass, we were disappointed to find concrete about six inches under the surface of the dirt.  So that turned into a week long project of digging out the concrete, but while it was in progress, H had a great time playing in the piles of dirt.

Thursday, the boys and I went to Berry Patch Farms with a friend who used to be a member of the CSA.  We picked raspberries and had lunch together and talked farms and home schooling.  They did not have strawberries at Berry Patch when we went, so Rick and I took the boys back to pick strawberries on Saturday.  It was cold and rainy, but we had a great time.  H found a toad while we were there and enjoyed carrying it around for a bit before letting it go.

When we got home it was too wet to make jam, so we froze most of the berries, and started in on freezing the plums.  I really wanted plum jam, but it’s been a pretty overcast week so far, so they will have to sit in the freezer until another hot, dry, jam day.  We finally measured out the plums and ended up freezing nearly 70 pounds.  There were probably another ten pounds we ended up tossing to the chickens or composting.  We are hoping to trade some with friends who are making lots of apple sauce this year.  ;)

Yesterday at the farm, we were allowed to pick an extra bushel each of peppers and tomatoes.  The tomatoes are destined for the freezer.  We were able to roast the Anaheims, and once peeled, we’ll be set for the winter in the green chile department.  Hooray!  Of course, that means I still have lots of work to do this week.  I hope you can understand why the blog’s be so far behind these days!

Here’s the update:

Plant something – quite a few flowers, a pink pampas grass, but no food..

Harvest something – eggs, tomatoes, zucchini, kohlrabi, cukes, raspberries and strawberries, Anaheim peppers.

Preserve something – 15.25 pints grape jam, the rest of the peaches sliced and frozen (except a few I reserved to eat fresh and some set aside for making preserves with strawberries), strawberries and raspberries in the freezer, a few more gallons of tomatoes in the freezer, 67.5 pounds of plums, some corn and some beans to the freezer as well.  Dehydrated jalapenos.

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.

Want Not – nothing that I can think of right now.

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Chickens, Food, Garden, Independence Days | 3 Comments

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