Posts Tagged With: Sustainability

Independence Day Independence Update

It’s been a while since I did an update on our Independence Days project.  Over the last few weeks we’ve done a lot.  But mainly I made up for a bit of garden neglect this weekend.  We pulled lots of weeds.  Lots and lots of weeds.

Rick has been working hard over the last few weeks at digging out the tree stump.  It’s such a big project, but this weekend he got through the last of the big roots and even the tap roots underneath.  He moved it a bit with our 4Runner, but we still need to get the trunk hauled before we can really move the stump anywhere.

I’ve been consumed with baby things lately as I realized last week while finishing up the nursery that we had NO baby clothes.  I mean none.  We thought we were done after Emmett, and since the house is small, we didn’t keep anything around.  Whatever I didn’t sell I donated.  So I did a lot of shopping this weekend.  But it was fun.  Rick and I went together, and I realized that it was the first time that we actually bought baby clothes together.  :) And now, the baby will have something to wear when he or she gets here.

Here’s the update…

Plant something – okra, two varieties of sunflowers, and sad to admit, but beans and squash just went into the ground.  I hope we get something?

Harvest something –  eggs, lettuce, garlic scapes, peas, thinned carrots and onions, got a few (a handful) of raspberries!

Preserve something – quiches and some grilled chicken in the freezer… mainly things for after the baby comes.

Waste Not – compost, scraps to chickens, recycling.  Planned meals for 24 weeks straight, but then I missed last week, and our budget showed this.  But I have a plan going for this week, so I’m back on the wagon.  25 weeks planned this year so far.  I used some scrap wood from the garage to make a trellis for the grape vine, and I sold the gas-powered mower and set the money aside for a new push-reel mower.  It’s been raining a lot so we’ve just been watering the gardens and the lawn by hand as needed.  Also consolidated the freezers and unplugged the upright for the summer.

Want Not – Got new shoes for both boys (again!) – this time from the resale shop.  Got lots of neutral baby items this weekend second hand, and re-purposed a sturdy shelf to be the new changing table in the nursery.  Thrifted some pictures frames for the baby’s room too.

Build Community Food Systems – While my cousins were in town, our CSA started distribution.  This led to a few conversations about food – local, organic, non-GMO, etc.  I was super excited that when she got home, she went shopping and sent me an email detailing out her changes – she went for all local and/or organic produce, natural meats, organic dairy, etc….  !!  I know it’s not building MY community on this one, as they live in Tennessee, but it was really encouraging!

I hope everyone had a great Independence Day!  We celebrated by working outside and of course watching fireworks.  ;)

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Categories: Food, Garden, Independence Days | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Unplugging the Fridge: Cost vs. Inconvenience and Project Review

Nice Jugs!

A few weeks ago, I posted on what we had saved for the first two weeks of our fridge-less project. I got some interesting responses!  Some of which made me realize that not everyone who is a current browser on my blog fully understood what we were doing.  I had a hair-brained idea to see if we could live without a refrigerator for a month.  No reason.  Not really to save money (though I knew we probably would).  More like, I just wonder if we can?

I got a lot of “I’d love to do that, but I can’t live without my [insert favorite cold food or drink item here]” comments.  That was never the point of our experiment.  More like the opposite.  How could we unplug the fridge and still eat and drink all the things we like to have?

So if you’re a newer reader and have not followed since the beginning of this project, which we started in May, or if you just can’t remember that far back (I know I can’t!), please read my first post about it.  It summarized the old and inefficient fridge we were using, and some of what we thought we were getting into.  This post explains how we are keeping food cool.  Yes we still have milk and yogurt and cheese and meat.  And we use the chest freezer in the garage.  I have two boys, a preschooler and a toddler.  And they love them some yogurt.  ;)

One of the more interesting comments I got after that post a couple weeks ago came from a reader on Facebook.  She said:

I watched “No Impact Man” with my yoga class and we had a discussion afterwards about the movie and in particular the getting rid of the fridge part. Even though they were “saving electricity” in their apartment, they were using someone else’s electricity to procure the ice they were using, not to mention that spoilage was possible by not keeping cold foods at a safe temperature, especially considering they had a baby in the house. Most of us in the yoga class came to the conclusion that we *could* go for a time without a fridge – I’ve done it myself after several hurricanes for up to 3 weeks – but the energy that shutting off most new energy efficient refrigerators actually saves is often negligible.Your family saved approximately $4. You didn’t say in your blog post, so I have to ask: was $4.00 worth the extra trouble and inconvenience?

So first, I want to talk about the inconvenience.  Here’s what is currently in the “icebox” (the freezer compartment of our unplugged refrigerator):  A gallon of milk, a quart of half and half, a half gallon of yogurt, four kinds of cheese, a tub of cottage cheese, lemon juice concentrate, fish sauce, homemade jam that’s a little too runny at room temperature, peanut butter (so I don’t have to stir it every time), green onions, grapes, a pound of butter, hoisin sauce, ginger, my bacon grease container, half a bottle of bleu cheese dressing, and mustard.  Oh, and two one-gallon jugs of ice.  Normally there would also be mayonnaise, possibly some orange juice, and usually some carrots and celery, but I need to go to the store.  Meat for tonight’s dinner is defrosting on the counter.

To keep all of this cold, I walk out to the chest freezer in the garage each morning (usually while I’m on my way to get chicken food) and swap the half-melted ice jugs for two completely frozen ones.  I also grab meat for that night’s dinner and a pack of peaches or frozen veggies or whatever I’m going to use later in the day.  Pretty simple, and we didn’t change our diet or menu at all.  The only thing is that I now buy only one gallon of milk instead of two each week, or it will go bad too soon.  I don’t go to the store more often, we just are drinking less milk (but this hasn’t been an effort, not sure how it’s working actually?).

We did leave for the weekend at the end of May, and that entailed a bit of planning for the condiments we left behind, but it really wasn’t a big deal.

Next, cost.  From May 1 to May 18, we saved $0.31/day or $5.58 for the month compared to the previous year.  That was 15.5%.  Unlike No Impact Man, we were still running our chest freezer in the garage, regardless of the experiment, so this was a true and actual savings, since we run our own freezer year round, and we ran it last year as well.

Now it’s been a full billing cycle.  From 5/18/11 to 6/17/11:

This Year Last Year
Average Daily Temperature
62°
64°
Gas/Therms per Day
0.57
0.38
Gas/Cost per Day
$0.71
$0.59
Electric/kWh per Day
12.67
18.52
Electric/Cost per Day
$1.53
$2.29

Translation:  We saved $0.76 per DAY over what we spent last year!  For a month, that’s $22.80 in electricity.  Um – math people, correct me, but is that really 33.2% !?!??!?!  REALLY!??!?!  Whoa.

Is it worth it?  Um, yes, 33.2% savings over a year in electricity is worth a daily trip to the garage freezer to swap out ice jugs to us!  That amount of money would put a decent dent into buying a newer, more efficient freezer (which would really save us a lot more, since ours is from the 1980’s).

Will we keep it unplugged?  As it stands, Y.E.S.!!  Now, admittedly, this is the first week of distribution from the CSA, so we’re not sure how all of that will be handled once the major produce really starts rolling in.  I am 35 weeks pregnant, which means I can expect to be less available to handle food preservation duties for a few weeks.  But Rick and I make a pretty good tag team.  There’s no law that says if the going gets tough (or we’re just plain going crazy), we can’t plug back in to catch up.  But I really don’t think that will happen.  I will, of course, tell you if it does.  Full disclosure here. The plan for now is to keep going without it.  Feels kind of liberating, actually!

So what do you think?  Would you be willing to try it?  Any ideas of how we could improve?  Do you think it’s worth it?

Also, I think I linked to nearly all of them, but just in case, here is the entire series of posts covering our Unplugging the Fridge experiment.  Happy reading! 

Categories: Simple Living, Sustainability, Unplugging the Fridge | Tags: , , , , , | 19 Comments

When the Power Goes Out

All across the country this spring, there have been storms taking out power (and, of course far worse).  My cousin in Alabama was affected earlier this year.  Thankfully she is ok, and was able to drive to Nashville to stay with family for a few days until the power came back on.  This makes me think a lot about disaster preparedness, and I know I’m not the only one.  Sharon Astyk and Greenpa both commented on the CDC’s article about the impending zombie apocalypse last week.  Northwest Edible Life asked about balancing energy consumption and preparedness (which gave rise to this post for me).

We aren’t really in a great place yet as far as being prepared for a natural disaster.  We’re pretty good about preserving food in the summer, enough to get us through the winter, but really nothing long term.  While we’ve been living without a fridge now for the last four weeks, I know we couldn’t hack it without our freezer.  The ice to keep everything from spoiling is pretty crucial.  We keep the majority of our preserved food in there as well.  Without power, we’d be coming up short pretty quickly, especially in the summer time with regards to our meat.

Happily, here in Colorado, the most likely time for a prolonged power outage would be the winter, and that in it of itself mitigates some of the potential damage to the freezer-stored food.  In the case of a power outage that was not during the cold or not soon to be resolved, I really think this is a place where community can help.  Our neighbor, for example, has a couple of generators. But he is a bachelor and has no food stock piled what-so-ever (I’m pretty sure he buys food everyday for each meal). So we could really come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, wherein, his generators help keep our food from spoiling, and we feed him. Of course, generators are only temporary as well, and in the event of something extending past that, we’re pretty much screwed.

We could definitely dehydrate, but only if we do it ahead of time, as both our food dehydrator and oven are electric and power company dependent.  While we could prepare a lot of herbs and some veggies this way ahead of time, I’m not a huge fan of jerky.  So that still leaves most of our meat vulnerable.  We don’t have a pressure-canner either, and a boiling water bath is not enough to safely preserve meats.

One meat preservation option we’ve considered is the possibility of smoking meats. We’ve been on the hunt for an oak barrel that we can use to make a smoker in our yard, as I saw done at the local living history museum last summer. We watched them smoke two chickens in a barrel over bricks dug in the ground. It was super cool and we’ve been wanting to do it ever since. This could even be done in the winter, in an emergent situation, provided you already had the hole for the bricks dug.

This reminds me a lot of Little House in the Big Woods.  I love how detailed the descriptions Laura gives for how the Ingalls family preserves meats for the winter.  Smoking venison and hams, freezing sausages, and putting up salted pork in the attic.  This always makes me wonder what exactly salted pork is and how it tastes, and what the process is.

So I’d like to know what systems others have in place?  Are you prepared for a disaster, whether a short term one, like a weather related power outage, or a long term one, like peak oil or zombie apocalypse?  How are you preserving meat for long term storage?  Are you building community food systems, so that in the event of a disaster you have resources other than your own to draw from?  Is it practical to store meat in the summer time?  (The Ingalls family did not, all their meat storage was just for the winter.)  How else, besides freezing, are you storing food – canning, root cellars, dehydrating, salting, smoking????  Do you have recipes to share?

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Community, Food, Preparedness, Sustainability | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

The Hugelkultur Project

A while back, when we  decided to take on the project of cutting down our 70-foot tall (plus or minus) honey locust tree in the back yard, I began doing research on what in the world we’d do with all the wood.  As you may know, a lot of the smaller branches have become mulch for the garden.  But someone from the Take Back Urban-Homesteading(s) community on Facebook suggested to me to build a ‘hugelkultur.’  A hoogle-whater?  So, of course I Googled it.

I’ll try to save you some time.  A hugelkultur (pronounced “hoogle-culture” – I think), is basically a raised bed in which wood or other carbon-rich materials is buried.  Some people lay logs directly on the ground, use a tractor to dump a pile of dirt on it and then start planting on their new, hill-shaped bed.  (I like the info in this link).

The advantages of this method of gardening is that the wood, as it rots, acts as a sponge, making it so you don’t have to water much.  Additionally, it releases nutrients over time into the soil, making it so you don’t need to fertilize.  And, as it rots, it leaves plenty of air space in the soil, so you don’t need to till.  Basically, it is a no-maintenance, self-composting bed.  The first year or two, especially with green wood like ours, it will actually draw nitrogen from the soil in order to start decomposition.  But thereafter, it will supposedly do nothing but give back.

Sounds like a good plan to us!  So we decided to give it a try in the boys’ backyard garden bed.  We don’t have lots of spare topsoil just lying around everywhere, nor the desire to buy any, so we thought it would be a better use of what we do have to dig down into the ground and bury the wood with our own topsoil and subsoil.

We dug down a good 12-14 inches.  Then we laid in some of the branches that were too thick to go through the wood chipper.  Then we buried them.  This left us with basically an instant raised bed, as promised.  We used some of the bigger, straighter limbs from the tree to make an edging (not yet complete).  Otherwise the boys would truck that dirt all over the back yard before anything could be planted there.

After an afternoon of being (unnecessarily) compacted by a 22 month old in a Tonka truck pushed by a 4 year old.

Fortunately for us, we have plenty of nitrogen-rich compost, thanks to the chickens.  We mixed a bit of that in to compensate for the initial anticipated nitrogen loss/Tonka truck compaction.  Henry wants carrots, tomatoes and watermelon in his bed this year.  We’ll keep track and let you know how it goes!

Does anyone out there have experience with a hugelkultur?  What about deterrents for little boys and their ride-on toys?  ;)

Categories: Garden, Hugelkultur, Simple Living, Sustainability, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Getting Ready to Unplug

I’m not crazy.  Really.  I’m not.  I just read a lot of green-type articles and blogs, and I think .  I think a lot.  When I mentioned my latest idea to Rick, he became very quiet.  You know, the kind of quiet where someone clearly thinks you’re off your rocker, but is trying to figure out how to say so and if it’s really true?

Perhaps it’s because he’s experienced with my “thinking episodes.”  He calls it a ‘wild hair,’ or my ‘latest project.’  But I know he hasn’t forgotten how those nagging little thoughts of mine plague me until I drag him and the rest of my family into some project or other that the rest of society at large would consider crazy.

Consider for example when I started thinking about chickens.  In our back yard.  In the city.  Or when I started thinking about bees.  BEES!  Now we have a coop, eight hens, and an empty bee hive waiting for a second try with a new swarm.

Then there was the time I started thinking about the microwave.  I’m pretty sure this is what Rick’s mind flashed to when I mentioned to him this latest “wild hair.”  You see, lately I’ve been thinking about our fridge.  I’ve I’ve thought about it a lot actually over the last few years.  Our fridge was here in our house when we moved in.  So we knew it was at least 8 years old… and recently, I can’t seem to stop thinking about how much energy it’s using.  As the appliance that consumes the most energy in American homes, the refrigerator, running 24/7, I have been concerned about all the kilowatts leaching out of our meter.

I called the manufacturer of our refrigerator, model and serial numbers in hand.  I was surprised to learn that our fridge was not as old as I thought.  Made in June of 2001.  But I was dismayed at the big 863 kWh that it was consuming.  New refrigerators of the same size and style are consuming less than half than that.  Ours is consuming more than the old 15 cubic foot chest freezer from 1984 in the garage – that consumes a whopping 601 kWh, nearly fifty-percent more than what a similar modern freezer consumes.  This seems like a big problem to me.

Initially I thought the solution to this problem would be for us to get a new fridge and a new freezer.  See that was my first thought (i.e. not crazy!!).  But we don’t really have the $600 to shell out for a new freezer, let alone $800-1400 for a new fridge.  Then I started paying attention to what our fridge was actually doing.  The freezer on top usually stores the frozen CSA veggies and random meats brought in from the chest freezer for the current week’s dinners.  The refrigerator only really contains our eggs, dairy, condiments, and an excess of greens and celery.  Sometimes there are left-overs in there for a day or two (max, we’re good left-over-eaters around here).  I defrost foods on the counter the day I need them.

In other words, we’re not really using much space in the fridge, and some of the things we have in there don’t really even need refrigeration.  Eggs are shelf stable for quite a long time, and in Europe, they are even sold on the grocery shelves unrefrigerated.  Many condiments are shelf stable as well, despite warnings to “refrigerate after opening.”   And, around our home, lots of them get used up way before they’d ever spoil in the cabinet (peanut butter and jelly, soy sauce or sesame oil, for example).  So my second thought was to look for a smaller fridge.  An apartment-sized or even a dorm-sized fridge.  But I found out that they consume a lot of energy as well.  Nearly what a large fridge consumes.  And they have a pretty hefty price tag, even on craigslist.

Now I was questioning what we really needed.  For basically just storing our milk, yogurt, half and half, and the occasional bowl of left-over noodles or extra head of kale, what did we need?  Do you see where I’m going here?

I’m thinking about going without a fridge.  Let me say it again, so you know it’s not a typo… I’m thinking about going without a fridge.

So you can see why I was surprised that Rick didn’t immediately pass out when I mentioned to him a few weeks ago that I’ve been thinking about the fridge.  I have to give him a lot of credit.  He silently listened to my idea.  I explained my idea, talking fast because I could hear the doubt oozing through his silence.  We have coolers and I had an idea about using the top freezer portion of the fridge as sort of an ice box.  His next question, an incredulous statement really, was “you really expect me to run out to the freezer during the freezing-cold winter to swap-out ice packs because you don’t want to use the fridge?”  but he had answered his own question.  In the winter it would be cold.  We could keep things outside the back door on the patio.

As what I was suggesting started to sink it, I think I heard a muttering or two of “my wife really is crazy” and a sort of stifled laugh.  But there was some weird resignation coming through the phone.  I broke the news to him while he was at work, you see.  Safer that way, I figured, and it would give the idea a little time to stew in his head before he got home and could really talk about it. I was afraid he’d dismiss the idea out of hand.

When he got home I had my argument all ready.  It would be an experiment.  For just a month.  One month.  And we’d keep the freezers.  And it wasn’t as if we couldn’t use refrigeration… the ice box idea was just a old-fashioned, lower energy form of that.  I promised that we’d only unplug the frige for now, and if it wasn’t working we could just plug it back in and bag the whole thing.  Rick asked surprisingly few questions.  He sort of shrugged.  I asked if he told his co-worker of my idea, and when he admitted that he had, he told me his coworker’s response was, “Do you encourage her?”  I think he must have confessed that he does, so he really didn’t have a lot of argument against it.

After a few minutes, he asked about the summer, when the CSA is in full force and we have more veggies than we know what to do with.  Won’t they all just wilt and go to waste without a fridge to keep them in?  I had thought about this and confessed I didn’t have a total solution… yet.  But my tentative plan was that since I wasn’t going to be working on the farm this year or driving an hour each way every week, I’d have six extra hours and a lot more energy on farm day to get veggies washed and put up properly before anything wilted.  We’d put the things we were going to save for the winter in the freezer the day they came into the house instead of waiting a day or two, and we could use coolers for the melons.  Rick eyed me suspiciously.  But he said I could try it in May if I wanted.  We’d tackle the summer if we decided to continue the experiment.

I have read a bit about going without a fridge in the past, and since deciding to embark on this project.  Proponents like Sharon Astyk and Greenpa give me a lot of hope.  I’ve read the arguments that Deanna at the Crunchy Chicken makes against unplugging the fridge too.  But I think that this really can work for us.  Sharon Astyk has a fairly simple system going that I plan to emulate.  No, we won’t be drinking gallons of milk in a single day.  We’re not the first to try something like this.  And if things work, we’ll probably unplug the fridge for good.  We’ll turn that space into a pantry area to store our canned goods, and we’ll save money for a new, energy-efficient freezer.

Crunchy asks if it’s cheating to use a freezer in your effort to not use a fridge, but the truth of it, at least in my eyes, is that it’s not.  I see them as two different tools.  (You really should read  all the comments on that thread, by the way – you might just get converted by Sharon & Greenpa).  Rick hunts and that is the greenest, healthiest, most organic and humane way to get meat.  Not to mention most economical.  But it would be a waste if we couldn’t freeze it.  The CSA share provides more local, organic veggies than we can eat in a summer.  But local fresh veggies are a rarity here during Colorado winters, and what ever you can find is usually very expensive.  So canning, drying and freezing summer’s excess is another economical, practical, and efficient way to eat well all winter.   And, sadly, even our very out-of-date freezer is running more efficiently than our less out-of-date fridge.

So, let the experiment begin.  I hope you follow along with me in May as we try unplugging the fridge.  If anyone out there has done something like this in the past I’d love to hear your experiences.

Categories: Food, Independence Days, Simple Living, Sustainability, Unplugging the Fridge, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

End of April Inventory

I’ve been meaning to do this for a few weeks now, but last week I officially came down with a case of S1F1.  It turns out that I’ve had the disease before, but this weekend it hit hard.  S1F1, or Spring Fever, symptoms include among other things: restlessness; incessant wandering from the back yard to the front yard, and then back again; lots of projects started but none completed; regular spurts of cleaning followed by periods of listlessness; planning without follow through; mood swings.  If you have any of these symptoms, make sure to get checked out for Spring Fever right away.

Here’s what’s going on at the ol’ homestead:

In the vegetable department we have:
-spinach for the taking
-lettuces (two kinds) up
-peas growing
-radishes thinned
-kale, chard and potatoes planted
-garlic about 10 inches tall
-leeks started inside

Fruit wise:
-raspberries are leafing out
-strawberries are looking promising (which would be a surprise, since they never seem to produce fruit).
-one grape vine that might be dead  :(
-no sign of the rhubarb I planted last year  :(

Herbs – unfortunately, not everything made it to the spring this year:
-four little basil plants are inside waiting for the danger of frost to pass
-mint is out and up and tasty
-the stray raspberry canes to be turned into raspberry leaf tea
-a bay leaf plant is on my counter and has been alive since Christmas – this is an accomplishment for me!

Animals:
-the three pullets are growing and living in a bumper box in the garage.  They are pretty funny and good at chasing bugs so far.
-the five hens are ever-so-reluctantly using the new nest boxes.  Not sure why they are so unhappy with the change, but it’s made for lower egg numbers than usual.
-still have yet to identify the egg-eater.  I think I’ve narrowed it down to two possible suspects.  We may be offing them both if I can’t figure it out.
-the beehive is ready and waiting for a swarm so we can try again this spring

Free materials collected:
-pallets for compost bins
-stone for patio
-bricks for bed edging
-chipper
-80 pounds +/- of compost
-we’ve also been promised a free yard of manure, but it hasn’t come yet

Completed spring projects:
-the nest boxes
-two compost bins built, one filled
-early spring planting
-garden layout done
-neighbor’s beds made and ready

Started but incomplete projects:
-painting the hen house
-cutting down the tree
-mulching tree branches with the wood chipper
-building permanent beds in the main garden (they are laid out with stakes and string and some have plants in them already though)
-more tomato cages
-edging the front beds with brick
-building the patio
-Henry & Emmett’s backyard veggie bed

There are some big things on the future to-do list as well, but a lot of them depend on other projects getting completed first.  The biggies for me this year will be getting the new fence up on the north side of our property so we can make an asparagus bed there and replacing the clothes line I lost when we started cutting down the tree.  We eventually want a pergola with grapes over the future patio, but I think the tree cutting, patio building and baby having will take up most of our attention this summer, meaning we will probably not see that until next summer.

This of course is just what’s going on outside.  I still have my crazy inside to-do list running.  Oy.  What is wrong with us??  ;)

What is going on in your garden so far?

Categories: Garden | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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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