Urban Homesteading on a Small City Lot: Cold Nights, but Warm Sunny Days Led to Progress on Small Projects

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cold Nights, but Warm Sunny Days Led to Progress on Small Projects

For the last week or so the low temperatures overnight have been down in the twenties, leaving a good frost on the ground and cars.  The days have been mostly sunny and warm, though, with two days even getting up to sixty.  That means that working outside has to start a bit late to give the ground time to thaw, but the middle of the day is just perfect for working outside. We have been trying to finish all of our smaller projects up before I go back to work April 1st.  These include the chicken coup, the compost pile, the basement window wells, and the shady side of the house needs to be cleaned up and planted.

When we bought our house there was a flaking and shallow terra cotta pot on the porch.  I always thought that I would like to have a huge wide pot there full of cascading million belles and petunias.  I have been shopping for the pot I want, a few different times.  I still have not seen a pot that is anything like what I have in mind, so I decided to just pick one of the pots I had around and plant some flowers in it.  It is too early for million belles and petunias, so I planted some pansies and violas for now.

These are the ones Heath and I picked out.  I really love bright colors, and I have been forbidden from planting pink flowers.  Yellow, orange and purple it is.

I know, it isn't exactly cascading, yet. I like it anyway.  It adds colors to the front yard until the tulips and dutch irises bloom.

We put some of our rocks in the bottom of the pot, so that it doesn't blow away. They also help it drain.  This pot only has a small hole in the bottom.

I couldn't resist snapping this picture.  Violas are so cute with their faces.  It makes me think of Alice in Wonderland.

We also finished the chicken coup.  Yay! I forgot to take pictures during the process.  It went up so quick and easy after we finished the foundation.  I posted a picture of the foundation we were working on in an earlier post.  After we got the first coarse of cinder blocks level in the ground we laid down 1/2 inch hardware cloth covering the whole thing.  Then the flat capstones were laid over the hardware clot to hold it in place and give the coup a flat place to lay. We filled the inside of the blocks with sand, like a sand box for kids and then assembled the coup over that.  That will give the chickens something to scratch and make it easy to sift out the poops in the yard.  It should also let it drain well, so it will stay nice and dry.

Here is a picture looking at the raised coup door and ramp.  The area under the raised coup is pretty small, but the chickens will probably like having the larger space to run around.

In this picture I am holding up the lid to the nest box.  All it needs is some bedding.

Here you can see the space under the raised coup better.

The raised coup or chicken house has a pull out drawer to allow the changing of the bedding when the chickens are out.  There isn't much space here so I will be limited to pine pellets or pine shavings, probably.  I might be able to use the straw that is all chopped up into short pieces.

This is the view through the front door of the chicken house. The nest boxes are on the left and there are two bars across  the floor for them to perch on.

Another project we are working on is the shady side of the house.  You may remember from earlier pictures that it is a rocky, weedy, dirty mess.  At some point someone had landscaped it with thick black plastic with river rock over it, but years of overgrowth by trees and bushes has left enough organic matter on top for plenty of weeds to take hold.  I have found loads of violets, which I love.  I have tried to save as many of them as I can.  We decided the best way to go forward is to dig up the whole thing, sift out the rocks and take out the weeds and plastic.  We made this sifter out of a two by four frame with two layers of chicken wire over it.  My hubby just happened to be working on the frame for the compost bin and I asked him if we could use some of the pieces temporarily for this purpose.  The down side is that the compost bin won't be done till we finish this, but that shouldn't be longer than a week.  We stood the frame up on these plastic sawhorses. Sifting out the rocks  is slow going, but the sifter is working well.  We have spent one and a half days on it so far.

I have the bucket handy for violets and worms I find. I plan on starting a work compost as well as a classic compost pile.  I am saving money to buy a compost tumbler to keep animals out of the compost and keep it neat.

We have been shoveling the rock/dirt/weed mix onto the sifter table and working it through with our hands.

The sifter leaves behind neat piles of dirt.  We will level it all out after we put in some shallow window wells around the windows.  At first we were planning on putting some weed block fabric and putting the rocks back in, but now we are kind of against that after seeing how much work it is to take them back out.  We are leaning more towards bark mulch now because it will just break down and make more soil instead.

That is all the pictures for today.  I will have a chicken update tomorrow. Look for that.  They are getting lots of feathers and trying to fly a bit.  The weather is supposed to be warm for the next 10 days.  It won't get down below freezing for that long so there are lots of things I'd like to get out and plant in the garden today. I will post an update about that later.

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