Posts Tagged With: Chickens

Fall at the Homestead

The first day of fall was last week, and we are entering one of the busiest times of the year around here.  Of course it’s harvest time – which means much of our work moves from the garden to the kitchen.  You’ve seen all my posts on jam lately, but I’ve been canning too.  A little over ten quarts of tomatoes so far, and we’re going Sunday to our CSA farm to help pick more toms and to pick and roast green chiles as well.  The tomatoes will also be canned and the chiles peeled and frozen.

I’m glad we had the CSA to fall back on this year as my tomatoes were so sad.  I was actually a bit worried.  It sure is nice to see the pantry shaping up after all.

Lots of Christmas gifts here too.

This coming weekend is the second annual chicken coop tour.  Locals can purchase tickets here or here.  We participated last year as well, and we are excited to show off again this year.  The coop had a couple of improvements this spring and summer and I really wanted everything in place for the tour. Rick bought me two galvanized garbage cans – one for the chicken food and one for finished compost, but when I started harvesting the compost, I had enough to fill both, plus half a wheel-barrow-full that I pawned off on the neighbor (it was a hard sell, trust me).  The chicken food is still in the garage for now, and there are almost two bales of straw under a tarp out there.

The hens seem excited to have straw in the coop for the first time.  We’ve always used dead leaves or pine shavings in their coop, but the “fall” part of the season has yet to happen here and we wanted to coop cleaned up for the tour.  We were hoping for some wood chips to spread over the ground before the tour too, but it looks like we’ll have to go with out.  Despite that, the chicken area looks nice.

The extra straw, not for the coop, will be used to mulch the garlic that we ordered and saved for seed.  I ordered two varieties this year and saved ten bulbs from a third.  We hope to plant around 125 cloves after the first frost hits.  That should yield us enough garlic for the year next year, including some to save for seed in 2012.

A couple of weekends ago, Rick and H put up my clothesline for me.  I was so excited to get the line that Rick’s mom had promised me.  But once we got it home, we actually couldn’t manage to get it into working order.  After fighting with it for a couple of weeks, we ended up buying a new one, and I love it!  I’ve used it everyday, but I’ve realized I need more clothes pins.  The line holds a lot, and C’s diapers (and inserts and wipes) take up all the pins I have.

  

We harvested our concord grapes – one whole bunch!  There would have been two bunches, but I accidentally knocked off the second bunch early on in the summer  when I was trying to get the vine on the trellis.  Not too bad for it being the vine’s first real season – we just planted the cutting last spring.  We hope to use this vine to make a few more cuttings when the pergola is done.

Speaking of the pergola, Rick’s uncle brought us down our first pieces from the mountains.  The posts are here!  We will be setting them on poured concrete footers this fall and we’ll begin laying the patio in the spring.  This was the goal of the tree removal project.  I had hoped to have it done all in one summer, but it really was a huge undertaking to manage on our own.  Not to mention having a baby this summer too.  (There’s that old excuse again!).  ;)

There is a huge amount of beetle-kill pine in our forests here right now (a heart-breaking 4 million acres in Colorado and Wyoming), so we plan to build the whole pergola out of salvaged logs.  Once it’s constructed, we will plant and train grape vines over it.  I am very excited about it, but it’s been slow going.

Fall is also the time when we start filling the freezer back up with meat.  We actually got a good look at the forests this year as we did some prep work for hunting season.  Rick sighted in his rifles at the range up on Highway 40, and we did a little grouse hunting and some fishing.  We were skunked on the grouse, but Henry did catch his first fish!  He let it go so it could grow up a bit.  Nothing was added to the freezer yet, but the trip was great fun anyway, and we’ve ready for big game in a couple of weeks.

So that’s what we’ve been up to lately – I’m hoping the tour participants will give us grace on the yard still being half done.  Oh well, they’re coming to see the coop, right?  ;)

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Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Chickens, DIY, Garden | Tags: , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Late Summer Snapshot

It’s been almost three weeks since I’ve made it onto the computer.  I’m sure you were wondering if I had some sort of mysterious injury related to a grub hoe and a compost bin.  But I assure you, everything is fine.  The sun has been out, and things have been growing like mad, including both boys and C.  So the blog has been collecting dust!  In the mean time, I’ve been able to get a few things done around here.

We picked cucumbers up at our CSA and put up 48 quarts of pickles.

We got the tree trunk and stump hauled away to a mill.

And we put some 7 pounds of elk meat into the dehydrator to become jerky.

We harvested corn and our first potatoes with the neighbor.

I have to say that harvesting potatoes is one of the funnest things ever – it’s like a treasure hunt!

We ended up with 40 pounds of fingerlings and 50 pounds of Desirre red potatoes!  We will have plenty for seed next year and hopefully enough to store through the winter.

We also have a neighborhood BBQ in the works and have been spreading the hens’ good will via eggs and some extra garden onions.

We are getting ready for some berry picking and peach picking in the next week or two.  I am excited to get some preserves into the pantry as well.  We are going to take a walk tomorrow to the house with the concord grape vine and see if the new family there will share some grapes with us this year like the last tenants there did.  We are bringing some 2010 jam with us to give them as an incentive!

The late summer/early fall is one of the busiest times around our homestead.  Harvests are coming in, the dehydrator is running, and we are trying to see if we can manage to get the yard back in shape in time to participate in the second annual Denver Botanic Gardens chicken coop tour.  If you remember, I made some improvements on the coop this spring with the tour in mind, and last year was a lot of fun, so it’d be really great if we can pull it together in time.   More updated posts in the coming days – I am finally getting back on the ball around here, I think.  ;)

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Chickens, Community, DIY, Garden, Independence Days, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Virtual Homestead Tour

Welcome to the Schell Urban Homestead’s end of July virtual garden tour!  I was really excited when Erica at Northwest Edible Life invited me to participate in letting all you Nosy Neighbors peek over our garden fence!

Here’s how the Lazy Homesteader does the Nosy Neighbor Virtual Homestead & Garden Tour:

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The first part of this tour that makes me really excited is that I’m actually documenting what the whole garden is doing at a given point in the summer.  I never remember when we get the first tomato (this week!  A Silver Fir Tree Russian heirloom).  The kohlrabi is a giant variety that Rick’s grandpa brought us from Slovakia.  It will get to be over 8 pounds and will not be woody.  It also keeps great all winter, and it’s starting to bulb up to about baseball size in the last few days of July.  Rick’s parents shared cucumbers with us last week and the week before, but ours have only just begun to flower.

The unexpected thing that I am loving about this tour is the truth of it.  In the pictures of the onions and watermelons, you can see both the weeds I’ve neglected to pull, and the light-colored, hard clay that we grow in here in Colorado.  Normally, I’d make an effort to hide both the weeds and the soil, because the shiny-happy blogger in me wants you to think that my garden is perfectly groomed and full of rich, dark, beautiful loamy soil.  In fact, some people do think that.  Rick’s grandparents even commented this week on how they couldn’t grow something that we could because their soil (about 25 miles from us) is hard clay.  Rick and I burst out laughing.  So here’s the proof.  We don’t have perfect soil.  This is how it looks after eight years of work amending it.  And I’m glad I let it show.

Some of my other favorite highlights from the slideshow (the shiny-happy stuff):

Corn from our neighbor’s garden, actually.  His corn is peeking over our front yard fence.  Well, not peeking, so much as towering.  We are actually sharing our harvests this year, so that is how I’m justifying including crops that belong to someone else in my garden tour.  ;)

The hundreds of tiny cherry tomatoes on H’s plants make me giddy.  And I can’t believe how big those two plants are.  Over six feet high!

The garlic I harvested in the week before C was born is drying in the garage, and the beets I pulled a few days ago are beautiful, although we might have pulled them about a week earlier if we weren’t in new baby mode.

We’re still waiting on the first eggs from the pullets, but we are getting two or three a day still from the older hens.

I was really hoping to include a picture of our raspberries this year, but they suddenly quit producing just last week.  Luckily I found something in the strawberry bed to show you instead!

Be sure to check out the other homesteads and gardens in Erica’s Nosy Neighbor Tour.  Thanks for stopping by!

Categories: Beekeeping, Chickens, Community, Food, Garden, Hugelkultur, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Colorful Coop

Ah – such a heavy post yesterday.  But I am so grateful for all the encouragement I got from everyone, and not one of you called me a horrible louse for putting my dog to sleep (this was my biggest fear in publishing that post yesterday).  Nor did anyone suggest that I was crazy for wanting to home school.  I can take being called crazy for other things, like unplugging the fridge, because, you know, some things just are a bit out there.  ;)

Lightening (and brightening) things back up today is my newly colorful chicken coop!  — YES!  We finally repainted the chicken coop.  It’s been on the to-do list for a long while now, but the weather has been uncooperative.  The forecast this past weekend was all sunshine, so I went for it.  Of course, the day I painted it, it rained anyway, but thankfully exterior paint dries fast and I think it held up no problem.

Here is the “before”

Coop waiting for a repaint

And here is the “after”

Coop sporting a new paint job and "window."

I don’t think the chickens care, but I like the new look.  I thought with the new nest boxes and the pullets getting ready to join the main flock, an update was in order.  Plus now I can feel all fancy-schmancy if we get to participate in Denver’s chicken coop tour again this year.

I ended up with plenty of left over paint in both colors, so now I’m thinking of what else needs a fresh coat.  Could get crazy around here!

Categories: Chickens | Tags: | 3 Comments

End of May Homestead Photo Tour

I thought I’d share what’s going on at the homestead right now.  I was going to do a video tour, but being nearly 32 weeks pregnant with a baby pushing on my lungs, every video take was nothing but me breathing heavy as I walked through the yard.  So it’s a photo tour instead.

Starting just outside our back door with the boys’ hugelkultur.  I didn’t do a close up, but the watermelon sprouts are up.  Next is the chicken yard, then the side yard along our driveway where the volunteer spinach lives, as well as the grapes, garlic and strawberries.  Next come my flower gardens that are slowly getting edibles mixed in.  And the neighbor’s garden that we’ve been helping with.  Then is our main garden and the beehive, which is to receive a new roof this weekend.  Not shown are the tiny leek and kohlrabi sprouts.  :)  Eggplant and carrots are planted too, but not up yet.  Enjoy!

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Categories: Garden, Hugelkultur, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

-Chipping Away at the To Do List

As you might have noticed, by my lack of blog posts last week, I have been busy around this place.  We’ve been working diligently at getting the tree in the back yard cut down, the branches chipped, and the gardens set up.  So much so that we’ve actually neglected a few other things around here.  Things like ordering a car seat for baby number three as well as our birth kit.  I’m in my third trimester now, and we have pretty much nothing set up for the baby yet.

Here’s what we have been doing though.  Rick and the neighbor, Doug, got the wood chipper working and made short work of nine of the eleven piles of branches in the yard.  The other two piles were too big to put through the chipper, so they’ll have to wait.

There’s still more of the tree to cut down, but the weather has been uncooperative (too windy) to take down the tallest parts.  Hopefully this week, before the tree leafs out!

After expressing how chicken wire works just fine to protect your flock from predators, we lost two hens to a fox.  Now to our… erm… credit?  shame?  it wasn’t a failure of the chicken wire, so much as a failure to close up the coop at night.  I confess to being a lazy chicken owner, and leaving the coop open much of the time.  The hens put themselves to bed, and Josie, our big mutt, used to really help in keeping predators away.  But this is the first spring we are without her, and I really wasn’t thinking much about it until I found a hen dead one morning last week.  She was headless and we’re pretty sure Rick scared the fox away when he was leaving for work.  Somehow, neither of us heard a commotion in the coop, but it was windy and Rick thought he had heard the kids’ tent blowing around.  Turns out it was probably a chicken scuffle.

We of course cleaned up the mess, and that evening, just around sunset, when Rick went out to close the coop, he found dead hen number two.  It had JUST happened.  The neighbor had scared the fox as they walked by.  We think that the fox might have been coming back for the first hen that it left, and since it was gone, it killed another.  Since we found this one fresh – very very fresh, Rick butchered her up (discarding the part where the fox bit her – just her back) and we made chicken and dumplings.  She was actually our oldest hen, and I don’t think any amount of stewing would have made her legs edible – think really tough chicken jerky.  But we tried at least, and her breast meat was ok, and she made tasty broth.

The good news on the chicken front is we’re pretty sure those were the two hens that were eating eggs, and the older hen really wasn’t laying much at all anymore, so the fox saved us some trouble of getting up the nerve to off them ourselves.  We’ve not had anymore broken or eaten eggs, and our egg numbers are still about what they were, since now we’re getting them all instead of racing to beat the hens.  AND the chicken wire is still doing it’s job, as long as we keep doing ours.

This weekend we spread the wood chips to mulch the garden paths.  Our neighbor watched over the fence.  I know he thinks we’re crazy for going to the effort to mulch the tree instead of just hauling it to the dump, but I’m happy it’s going to good use, and hopefully it’ll work at keeping weeds down between the beds.

Otherwise, we made a trip to the garden center to get our tomato and pepper plants.  I’m excited to try a couple varieties that we’ve not done before.  I spent some time spreading compost in my tomato bed and the plants are hardening off this week to get ready to go to the ground this weekend.  I’m chomping at t he bit to get the summer things in the ground.  Just waiting for the weather to get on board too.

So this week I plan to get a few more things outside organized, but I also am going to try to focus on a few inside projects as well.  Like laundry and getting the baby’s room emptied.  There needs to be a balance, I know. The to-do list seems never ending this spring.  But little by little we seem to be getting items crossed off.

What have you been up to?

Categories: Chickens, Food, Garden | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Catching Up to Life!

I’ve been a bit behind this week, so here’s my attempt at catching the blog up to our lives!  The hens were not laying in the new nest box, so on Friday I reused some pieces of the old nest box and some left over plywood to modify the new box and make it bigger.  It’s now 11×17 and the hens are much happier.  We’ve been collecting eggs left and right again, which makes us all glad.  We do still suspect an egg eater – I’m pretty sure it’s one of the red heads, so we’re working out a way to figure out who is the culprit.  You may see a post about our first-ever adventure into home chicken processing soon.

Saturday  we finally planted the spuds that we ordered in the neighbor’s garden.

We’re all excited about this gardening thing this year – you know the thing where our neighbor is working together with us to grow this (in his newly made bed) and where we plan to share our crops.  He’s been getting as excited as me, and every time someone comes to our house, Rick jokes about me showing off my new vegetable bed as he motions over the fence.  ;)

This is our first time with potatoes and we planted two varieties – La Ratte fingerlings and Dessire red potatoes.  There were some extras that didn’t fit into his bed, so I might try another potato growing system in our back yard as well.

We’ve been enjoying our spinach and I’m so happy about those volunteers that came up early, since we’ve been able to eat from the garden so much earlier this year.  I need to make sure to let the spinach go to seed from now on before we pull it for later crops!  Woohoo!

Sunday’s forecast last weekend was for snow, but there wasn’t any.  In fact it was pretty nice out.  Rick’s been chipping away at the tree project, hacking a limb off here, cutting a branch there.  We’re about to the point where we can no longer go at it alone and we’re going to have to bring in extra help to finish.

Our neighbor did get a chipper for us.  It wasn’t in working order, but he and Rick think they can fix it with just an inexpensive part.  It won’t do the bigger stuff, but most of the smaller branches can go through and it’ll be nice to have around to put the yard waste through before sending it to the compost bins.  And bonus, it was free!

We also visited two garden centers on Sunday.  We picked up seeds for the things we plan on direct seeding (the ones we didn’t order), got some onion sets, and I was a sucker for some savory and basil plants (three varieties!) that I plan on sneaking into our flower beds this year.

I was really tempted to pick up some tomato seedlings, but Rick convinced me to hold off a few weeks more.  I think he knows how good I am not at keeping plants alive indoors.  It’s so close to “when the danger of frost is past” planting, I can almost taste it.  We’re on our last bag of frozen tomatoes from last summer’s garden.  It can’t get here quick enough!

What have you been up to in these last few rainy April days?

On a side note, this here blog was just entered into the Circle of Moms Top 25 Eco-Friendly Mommy Blog contest.  There are only three days left to vote but you can vote everyday.  I’d love a vote from you!  CLICK HERE to vote!
Categories: Chickens, Garden, Independence Days | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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!

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

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