Sunday, May 29, 2011

Home Appraisal

One of the challenges of urban farming is the delicate balance of strangers you sometimes have to let in your home with the clandestine animals we keep in said home.  A few weeks ago, we decided to get our home appraised to possibly refinance to a better interest rate. This is all fine and good until you get to the part where we have to let the appraiser in our house! Hmm.... we chatted about it and decided to just rock the fact that we have chickens living in our basement. He came on a Monday morning and since this whole refinance thing was my idea, Jeff was conveniently away at work and I had to come home to let the appraiser in. I was praying that we could go around the outside of the house first so I could get a gauge on what kind of guy he was. He showed up, hopped out of his truck introduced himself and first thing he said was to ask to go in the basement to see the HVAC set up. My blood pressure shot through the roof! Having no choice, I walked him through the kitchen and as I open the basement door, I said, "You are going to have the best story at your office today." He looked at me confused, and I followed up with "We are the ultimate DIYers combined with self sufficient paranoia." By that point he seemed more nervous than I felt, but I just kept walking down the basement stairs. He came down and suddenly saw the chicken pen. He was silent. It felt like forever before he said something and I thought I might pass out. "Wow, that is really interesting" he muttered. I began explaining the value of home chickens and how it all works. He asked a few questions and by end seemed really impressed and interested in the girls and it all worked out just fine. (He also said that he wasn't going to put a value on the chicken coop because that would move with the house! ha!) What a relief! Now I just hope my house is worth what I think it is! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spring Chickens

Spring seems to have raised the chickens' spirits as much as our own. As the last few weeks of winter dwindled away, the girls seemed more subdued and lethargic than their usual noisy, clucking, scratching, and strutting selves. And on top of this, egg production slowed down substantially, even stopping completely for about 2 weeks. We thought a nice improvised dust bath in their pen would cheer them up since one of their favorite activities is to dig up big dirt holes in the yard in the warmer months, when we can bring them outside, and bask in a fresh coat of nice refreshing dirt... So we filled a cardboard box with some sand and put it in their pen, expecting an outpouring of joy and gratitude as the girls enjoyed their very own dust bath. Surely this would raise their spirits? No dice. Other than pecking a hole in the cardboard file box, they couldnt have cared less. One of them even pooped in the "dust bath". We like to think it wasnt intentional to show us what they think of their dust bath... Well, just as we were beginning to contemplate whether the chickens might be ill and require a trip to the vet, the days began to get longer and temperatures began rising out of the arctic lows of this past winter. Eggs began appearing in the nesting box again, and the daily morning racket of clucking and screeching and scratching and flapping around has returned. Now we are getting just as many, if not perhaps more eggs as we were before, and the girls seem like their old selves again. It appears that they've even seen fit to use their dust bath for its intended purpose rather than for a toilet. Best of all, the arrival of spring means the return of their favorite  treats in the world --grass and weeds from out in the yard. They seem to love this more than anything, even the ridiculously expensive dried meal worms we bought them at the pet store. Cant wait to let them run around outside in the yard again. It seems they were just as demoralized by the long winter and as rejuvenated by the arrival of spring as were are. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Duck's New Home

Jeff describes our home as an ongoing experiment and sometimes our adventures work out well and other times we don't realize what we are getting ourselves into. Unfortunately, the ducks turned out to be in the later category. Over the last few weeks, we have been having more and more problems with them. Their bedding needed to be cleaned weekly as opposed to the chickens which only need to be changed every two to three weeks. Even when I did clean them every week, which was expensive and time consuming, they still smelled. They were also beginning to out grow their pen. As much as I loved Quack and Louie, my responsibility as an urban farmer is to always maintain the health and well being of all my animals and sadly, I could no longer provide that for the ducks. We made the tough decision to find a new home for the ducks. Through craigslist, we found a local hobby farmer who took them. This isn't like when our parents tell us the family dog is going to the farm to live! Quack and Louie are going to  a small country farm that has three ponds, a heated shed in the winter, two other Peking ducks friends and countless other chickens. The gentleman who took the ducks doesn't want them for food- they are just pets for his kids! While I miss the ducks tremendously, I am glad they are now living the ultimate duck life! (The chickens also seemed pleased to have the basement back to themselves!)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lasagna Garden

It is that time of year- getting prepared to put in our garden! There is nothing more exciting than the hopefulness of gardening. This year, we decided to expand our garden. However, I didn't want to dig anymore than I was already going to have to for our patio. I began seeking an easier answer online and discovered lasagna gardening! The most common method is to put down a layer of cardboard or newspaper (wet it) and cover with alternative layers of browns (leaves, paper, etc) and greens (vegetable/fruit waste, egg shells, etc) and then let is compost over the winter. Well since winter was already past and I didn't want to wait until next year, I put down six inches of finished soil over the cardboard. While my method is more expensive and required me hauling a lot of bags of topsoil, peat moss, perlite, etc it did give me an "insta-garden" without digging! Getting all that cardboard was another story..... First I raided our office cardboard recycling bin but that barely made a dent in what I needed. Then I got the idea to go to a local wholesale club to the free box bin. I spent over an hour there breaking down boxes and got stopped twice by employees wondering what in the world I was doing but when I was done I had an entire grocery cart filled with flat sheets of cardboard. I laid it all out and had to laugh since all the boxes were for food products, I had what looked like a big billboard of grocery store ads! We had everything from Spam to Snickers boxes! I wish I had remembered to take a picture but in my exhaustion I totally forgot. Our final garden is now 30 ft by 20 ft and last year it was 10 ft by 12ft! 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Farmer in the Office?

"Oh sweet, I found the grow bag I have been looking for!" - me
"What!!! You can grow bags???"- Sweet but confused co-worker
"No, they are bags you grow things in!!" - me

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Impulse Purchase

Today's activities can best be summarized by Jeff's responses-

"Hun, I have to disagree. Apple trees are really not an impulse purchase even if they were on sale."

Upon looking out the window, "And contrary to what you seem to think, your Civic is not a truck."