Saturday, May 04, 2013


Our Shebot gave me the impression she was going broody. I kept finding her in one nest, or another. But, no. She left the nesting business and went on to scratching, pecking, and cruising. Maybe she was trying to stake her claim, seeing that everything was getting picked up and moved around.

In anticipation of the completion of the Compound (?) Sorority Row (?) Camp Bird House (?)... the Chicken Run, I was moving everything (better name coming soon!) Anyways, I wanted to start sorting out the detritus and debris around the current coop and old bunny hutch, so the chickens were witnessing a lot of upheaval and hauling around. Can you tell I crush on galvanized steel? Oh, yes, I do.

We had the pleasure, again, of extra hands, when Paul and Janece came by. And thank goodness, because managing 85' of hardware cloth takes many hands when it comes to measuring, cutting, moving and placing. In the midst of work, we enjoyed goat antics, metal detecting, and funny weather.

About that weather... it was warm, almost hot, and what a wind we had blowing... not from the east, like the Santa Ana's hampering the California wild fires. For heaven's sake, this is an awfully early start to our most awful season... wild fire season. I doubt I will ever feel at ease during this 'season.' Apart from thoughts about our neighbors to the north, our own weather was warm, then windy and chilling... funny and mixed up, and fun.

I am saying cool, damp, prayers for our fellow Californios.

Friday, May 03, 2013

How Far We've Come

I cannot believe I am posting this graphic image. Again! But if you don't know how far we've come, you can scarcely imagine the gratitude and joy I am feeling as I see our chicken run and coop come to life.

It was three years ago when my makeshift farm was at its height of pathetic. We were new to our Bird House, unpacking, making fixes, settling in. Geoff was in crunch mode, robotics was in full swing, life! The daily stuff takes time. The big projects take time, and the big dreams? The big dreams take time, too. And sometimes dreams really do come true, but maybe it happens gradually...

My picnic table converted to a coop, and under a sun tattered shelter had to go! The wind took most of it, and about a year later we put up what we affectionately call the shark cage. Sturdy. Practical. Ugly. Sturdy, but not safe. We've had some hard hits from the wild kingdom.

Now, there are goats in the shark cage, and the chickens are living in a raised vegetable bed capped with our old picnic table-turned-chicken-coop... I tell ya, I take the prize for make-do ingenuity!

The set up we have now works. It's not ideal, because the chicas have little space, except when we let them free-range. But we lost Puff to a hawk, and thee ladies make a poop deck of our porch... so, yeah, it's not great. I'll tell you what's great... a secure enclosure, with room for goats, chickens and rabbits, with water on hand, and walk-in accessibility. An interior fence to keep goats out of chicken land... gradually, before my very eyes, my dream is coming true!

Actually, things don't seem so gradual any more. We're really picking up steam! The one inch by half inch hardware cloth is going on. Geoff + Compressor + Pneumatic Stapler = IronMan Awesome!

I white washed the inside of what will be le coop. Our cedar playhouse mania (one for chickens, one for goats, and finally, one for our children) has been like a mad Monopoly shopping spree, but trust me: economically, these are a, mild climate, farmer's blessing. They are affordable, sturdy, ample, and loaded with charm. Look again at the first photo and agree, we are long over due for something loaded with charm!

I'll be thankful for the glossy paint when it comes time to scrub and hose the chicken blogs off everything. Next come roosts, and some curtains, CAT 5 wiring, and maybe a mini-fridge? Too much?

This is where fancy photo software would come in handy... so I could write in things like "fence here," "roof here," "satellite dish there." It will be goats on the left, and chickens on the right, with a picket fence between. Chickens can pass through goat land, but goats have to show a passport at the border. The two PVC pipes in the foreground are waiting for the automatic refilling waterers. This means I get to sweat copper! Very exciting. (Does that sound facetious? I really am excited.) Geoff is buying metal so he can make custom roof ties... this guy. (Excuse me while I close my eyes and smile blissfully, in love.)

Hmmmm... this one is harder to explain. At a local nursery, I saw an awesome aviary, with this massive tree inside. The tree had died, but they secured it, and use the dried tree for the birds... it's basically just really cool, and I wanted to give our run something of that aesthetic. So. I stalked the tree trimmers, until I found a tree that was being removed, and I asked the trimmers could I please have a ginourmous limb for my goats and chickens? And I even drew a stick figure me standing with a tree limb, a chicken, and a goat. Guess what? It worked, and the next day they dropped off four hunks of a pine tree in our driveway! Now two of those "trees" are planted in concrete and giving the chicken run a little visual interest. (Not going to show you what inspired me, because the comparison might be embarrassing. Not for the nursery, for me... but hey! I like our piney forest.)

Is this post too long? I'm rambling, maybe. I might have taken two ibuprofen to ease my inexplicable pain, and it might be that it relaxes my muscles, and my brains. Hence the rambling.

This view! The dream coming true! I am very excited, and thankful, and excited. And thankful.

Soon the chicas and the goats, the bunnies, too, will be living in harmony, in safety, and out of our house. And we'll have some sweet conveniences, and peace of mind. And then... then we can get back to other serious matters, like finishing the Sugar-crab, our giant, walking, robotic crustacean!

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Here is a Goat

I looked up innocuous to be sure it means what I think it means, because I have reached a milestone in my life: Old Enough. I am old enough to do something seemingly innocuous and suddenly have my lower back seize up (mothers think: back labor). It is excruciating, and confounding.

Not harmful or offensive.
innoxious - harmless - inoffensive - innocent

I am in the phase where I could bleat incessantly, and pitifully, like a goat, and I am indignant, because I have too-much-to-do to be sidelined by random, inexplicable pain. It radiates!

In other news, I am really happy The Fez chose Warren for the book giveaway. I was a teeny bit concerned about pulling out the name of a person less inclined to consider making a home for chickens. But Warren and Emily, and their two children, are DIY inspiration extraordinaire! Surprisingly, they don't have chickens, yet. They do keep bees, use a cider press, grow mushrooms, and are building a small cabin! Chickens would be happy living in the hills with this family! Looked up "extraordinaire," too. It's the right word.

Outstanding or remarkable in a particular capacity: "memories of a gardener extraordinaire".

Now, I am going to shuffle around and try to make myself useful. I'll try not to do anything seemingly innocuous.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Something to Cluck About!

Your names went into the Fez of Random Name Selection, to decide who will receive Murray McMurray Hatchery's new book, Chickens in Five Minutes A Day! I want to thank everyone who dropped by Chickenblog and played along.

Warren! How 'bout a few fat hens running around your hills and bringing you fresh eggs to go with your honey, garden harvests, and violet blossom jelly? Warren, you and your family are the winners of Chickens in Five Minutes A Day, and honestly, in your capable hands I think this could be the start of something pretty awesome!

May is Here!

I cannot decide if my post title is a hearty exaltation for the month of May, or simply a public service announcement for friends in parts of the world where the snow is obscuring all hints of mid-spring.

I feel rather giddy about this new month. This is the month of Mother's Day, and Lady Betty Oprpington's fifth birthday! May is the anniversary month of Chickenblog :: Eleven years of deep thoughts and other musings! May is our Maker Month, when we prepare for and make our annual trek to the Bay Area Maker Faire! This month holds so much in store for us!

Does anyone else remember May Day Baskets? Heather Bullard's recent post, with basket ideas, brought up a fond memory. When I was in first grade, living in Ramona, our teacher had us make little May Day Baskets... probably out of paper, probably with flowers. I guess I don't have a perfect memory of the object, but the feeling of anticipation and delight for the concept remains to this day. She told us the baskets were meant to be gifts that we would leave at the door of a neighbor, a friend. And I recall depictions of dancing around May poles... the flowers, the skirts twirling, the bright ribbons. I would swoon with a wishful longing for the pastoral romance and ceremony. And for all these years, many, I have held May Day Baskets dear to my heart.

Dear to my heart... but nothing I have ever acted on. Is there a lesson here, for me? Heavens! This amounts to forty years of being heart-touched and swoony for a tradition and loveliness that I have held in high regard, and have felt inclined to honor, every year, but then have regretfully postponed every year! I will pardon this trespass, this procrastination, and honor the pleasure I have enjoyed of imagining May Day, baskets, and ribbons and gaiety. The visions have been happy companions all these years. And thank you, Heather Bullard, for refreshing my memories with your lovely post.

Maybe my stacks of happy scraps are my May Day nod to pastoral romance! I picked up two shades of jute, and some white cotton twine, so I could make some mini-bunting. The garden green jute compelled me to start with the cheery yellows and spring green scraps from my stash, and I whipped up my first Mini May Day Bunting.

I cut about a yard and a half of the jute twine... enough for a small strand and extra for tying. My scraps were already pressed, and cut, in varying sizes. Each strip was then folded in half... to give it some weight, and so it would be pretty from either side.

Then I slipped the scrap over the jute, fitting the twine snuggly in the fold, and made a tiny zig-zag stitch, tightly against the twine, to secure the fabric strip in place. In little time, my merry bunting was done and hanging in the Chicken run. And in less time... Ada Goat spied it and started nibbling at it! Goats!

Enjoy a Merry May, friends!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Model Homes

Not quite move-in ready, but certainly a great deal of charm and curb appeal, don't you agree?

The foundation is set, the house is constructed... do note the bay window, the flower boxes. This is Chez Chèvre, a cedar cottage for Tasha Tudor Goat and Ada Lovelace Goat. The lucky darlings will have shade, and shelter, and chicken neighbors. As for the gentle ribbing about "plumbing..." I should have elaborated. We buried some PVC, so we can have basic water hook ups. A spigot, and two water bowls that refill. No water closets, or hot water heaters, no bidet for the chicas, not even an energy efficient dishwasher! Yeah, yeah... I know, they're really roughin' it!

Just a quick update, because I need to get back to painting the chica's cottage... just a little white wash for easier maintenance. Carpeting comes later... hahahaha.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Colors :: Prints :: Stacks :: Happy

It's Monday morning. Geoff and I are sharing a little toast and jam, before he leaves for his office. In front of me is my basket of sorted, pressed, cut, folded, and stacked fabrics from my stash. I gaze at them. I drink them in like a mellowing cup of tea, and they calm me. Soothing colors, and prints, comforting little stacks of success and potential. Geoff sees my content and peaceful state, and knows I am in a happy place...

Last week I got a wild~rebellious notion to play... to skip laundry, to forgo sweeping, to swim away from the riptide of Internet surfing. I grabbed a box (just one of my scrap stashes), and pinking shears, and made my way to the barn. The chickens were about, the goats were curious, the bunnies were lounging, and I had some time all to myself to do nothing or anything... to play.

I thought about making a really simple, minimal effort rag-tie bunting. Just strips of color tied on twine to festively hang in the chicken run, or around the barn. Then I started pulling out the colors and prints that were most appealing, and when I realized that I have more, much, much more, than I will ever need, or want, I began a new sorting theme: Mine and Their's. I filled two bags with prints and scraps that I can let go of, that I would like to share. My thoughts were accompanied by the chickens making their curious clucking and cooing sounds. I imagined having a Make gathering, inviting friends to come by with their own pinking shears, and an extra sewing machine, or two, and we could plow through the colors and prints and make all sorts of little things with fabric!

So, I've been daydreaming about all the sorts of little sewing things that would be fun to share, like yo-yos, and bunting. Bunting are those festive fabric decorations, like the ones I made for Halloween or have hanging around the house. We could sew fabric trees, blocks, and scarves. I like having fabric snack bags around, and those are small and easy to make. Anyway, you know how daydreaming can go... one flitting thought leading to another. Lovely.

And while Geoff and William continued the Chicken Run work they started Saturday, Maria had an al fresco ironing lesson.

"Do you like ironing, mommy?" she asked. I remember when I loved it. When I was young, like her, and pressing little somethings. I thought it was a marvel to see the fabric relax, to be doing something grown-up. Of course it's lost some luster over the years. I do still enjoy ironing when there is no deadline, when the point is preparing for some pleasant sewing. "I like it," I replied, "when I don't have to iron, and there's no hurry." She understood.

She was excited to learn, to be big enough to manage the hot tool, the buttons, and steam. I was happy to share time this way. We talked about the colors, the long pieces and scraps, the pieces she recognized from her dresses, skirts. We marveled at the power of the iron to smooth everything out, as it let out a steamy sigh.

When we had a great number of contenders all sorted and pressed, I invited her to plow through the stash of fabric scraps and choose her own favorites. This was another hour of happy engagement. She was dividing and sorting, debating and delighting, while I began cutting the pieces I chose.

Lovely choices. Some leftover from sewing projects. Many from the big bathtub at Starry Night Hollow, where Maria had often been invited to fill a bag for herself.

Like a mellowing cup of tea.

Geoff and William added to the framing of the Chicken Run, the chicas milled around me and Maria. Alex and Bambi were enjoying their time together. Max read The Odyssey. Maria sorted and played with the scraps in the box, and I began cutting random lengths of strips, then folding them in halves.

Cutting, and folding, and arranging them by colors, and prints, and daydreaming.

I can see another long and festive length of bunting, mini-sized. Bright and cheery, like summer. Like beach days, and slow dinners on the porch... content and peaceful.

And just gazing at them brings me to a happy place.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bird House & Barn

... a Farm Report
Can you see the progress? Two weeks ago all the posts were set, then the base was framed, all thanks to help from family and friends. That was also the time when the second cottage was finished. Yup, things are definitely progressing nicely.

Since our last Chicken Run update, the floor of the run got lined with 1/2" square hardware cloth, the dirt got replaced over the wire, the cottage pads were graded, Geoff and I brought home fifty pavers, the pavers were set, we moved the cottages onto their new foundations, and the plumbing got dropped in! Whoa, I'm breathless!

Paul and family came by yesterday. He jumped right in with William and Geoff, attaching the 2x4's for the framing. Amira and Maria ran through the sprinklers, then wound up in the pool! Whoa, now I am shivering! It's not exactly pool weather, in my opinion. Janece and I acted as upper management, overseeing all, and solving all the problems of the world. Our world. Okay... we agreed there are problems and we have good ideas. It was gratifying.

A low pitched, wire roof will be added, but there will be no walls. All will be sealed and wrapped with 1"x 1/2" hardware cloth... a ginormous aviary, basically. And inside there will be a dividing picket fence, filtering out goats from chickens. The first cottage will have roosts and nest boxes, and some additional details particular to happy hens. The second cottage, Chez Chèvre, if you will, is roomy enough for two or three lady goats.

Enter Now!
McMurray Hatchery Book Giveaway! Drawing May 1st!
Backyard hens are easy and fun!

Have you thought about jumping into the urban farm scene? It can be quite simple, and with care and planning, it can be easy to maintain, too. A small flock of backyard hens is fun, and if you would like more proof then please comment for a chance to win a copy of Murray McMurray Hatchery's new book, Chickens in Five Minutes a Day! Please, for yourself, or for a school's library, comment at Chickenblog for a chance to learn about how to enjoy "Raising, tending, and getting eggs from a small backyard flock."