Urban Homesteading on a Small City Lot: March 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chicken Update: Two weeks old

Okay, remember last week I posted pictures of each chick showing the progress of their feather growth and the color patterns on their feet? I thought I would do that again today to give you an update.  The best laid plans of mice and men (or should I say chicks and women)..... Well, anyways, I did get this cute video:

This is Lilith.  Her tail is getting huge and she is getting very forward and friendly.  She sees my arm and thinks, "there is my favorite perch again." 

We have named them all now.  Lilith and Fluffy you know. The one formerly known as poopy butt is called Brie, and the light colored reddish brown one is named Ginger.  Ginger is acting a little under the weather this week.  I have tried not to bother her too much and let her rest.  She seems better today, I hope she pulls through.  I haven't noticed any specific symptoms besides that she seems a little bit sluggish and tired compared to the others.  I have also caught her holding her wings weirdly, letting them hang a bit.  She isn't getting worse, so I will hope for the best.  I know chicks can come from the hatchery with all kinds of awful diseases.  Now that she has a name we are kind of attached to her.

Brie is almost as friendly as Lilith and will also come when called:

This is not the first video I made of Brie, I have to admit.  In the first on she ran right over and jumped in my hand.  Then I bumped the side wall of the photo set and the whole thing came crashing down.  No chicks were harmed in the making of that film, but she was pretty scared.  It took me a few minutes to get her to do it again. Poor Brie.  She really is a sweetie.

Fluffy is not as tame, but she will also sit on my hand and balance.  She still has no tail.  She also has developed a little balding spot on the back of her neck.  Don't worry no one pecks her.  She is just making a very awkward transition to her, hopefully, beautiful feathers.

They are really starting to poop and eat more these last two days.  I will need to buy them a new larger bag of food pretty soon. I have cleaned out the brooder once and it is time to do it again. I had to put a hardware cloth lid on the brooder because they were starting to look up and judge the distance to jump /fly over it.  Lilith tried to jump to me once.  They can't jump or fly that far yet, but I figured that I shouldn't wait until I find chicken poop all over my attic craft room before I make the lid.

If I can get them to stand still for even a second I will try to post some good pictures of them soon.

Here's Lilith.  I had just hopped out of the shower, so my hair is wet and there is no makeup, sorry.  Heehee

I did get this one picture that isn't too bad.  This is Brie.  She is just starting to get a tail.  She is still the heaviest and the one with the thickest legs.

I hope you enjoyed the chicken videos.  I know I enjoyed making them.  Have a nice evening.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Planted Leafy Greens Today In Perfect Spring Weather

It is 63 degrees outside right now.  I can't believe I am inside typing this blog instead of sitting outside.  I think I got enough sun on my face earlier, though, while I planted the leafy greens and fava beans.

I have never grown fava beans before, so I tried a little experiment.  Last week I planted four of them in toilet paper roll seed starters.  Today I noticed that they were all growing.  They are so huge when they sprout that I was instantly scared that they would be harmed by being in those small tubes.  I planted them outside in a pot. You can see three of them in this picture if you look very close.

Here is an up close look at one of them.  This sprout is as big as a nickle.  They each had a huge thick root sticking out the bottom. as well.  The seed packet says you can plant them the same time as peas outside so I went ahead and planted the rest of the seeds directly outside.  They should be done in time to pull them out to make room for the warm weather crops.

This bed received a bunch of new seeds today.  On the right, I planted three types of kale.  Since kale grows very huge I planted three to four seeds in three different spots for each variety.  I will thin them to just one plant each. I hope they do well.  I love kale.  The far right corner was planted with two small squares of greens. One square is arugula and the other a mix of romaines.  The far left corner is a mesclun mix that looks really tasty on the package.  I also added a very small rectangle of sparkle radishes right behind the cherry belle radishes that have started sprouting.

Here are those radishes. I planted them a week and a half ago.  You can see the rows now.  They each have their seed leaves out now

This is a close up of one of them.

When they first push their little leaves through they look like this.

The spinach is just starting to poke out.  This is a close up of one of them. You can only see three or four so far.

The garlic is growing very tall and green.  I think it is the prettiest thing in the garden so far.

The peas are getting loads of leaves, but up until today they had kept them folded up pretty tight.  This warm sun must be coaxing them out because they are starting to open up.

Close up.  I love peas.

The onions I planted from bulbs are looking really strong.  After this year I might decide that this is the way to go.  Only the harvest will tell.

I planted my potatoes outside today.  I didn't have room for them all in this one bed, so I didn't plant all of the russets.  You may recall that I wasn't that excited about them to start with, so it isn't that sad.  The potatoes are in the ground in the trench. As they sprout, I will keep taking dirt from the hills and piling it around them so they have to grow higher and higher.  This encourages them to make more tuber producing stems.  I learned this from my good friend, the potato guy.  He had to figure out how to grow potatoes in every season and condition for his master's degree in entomology.  He did his research on a potato pest, the potato psillid.

Here is a look at my rhubarb plant.  I planted it from a sickly looking start I bought at Bimart a few weeks ago.  At first I wasn't even sure it was alive, but then it started growing inside so I planted it outdoors.  It is actually looking pretty good.  I bought a package that said it had two rhubarb starts in it, and it had only one very sickly one.  If this guy makes it through the winter this year to next year I think I will be happy enough, though. I really only wanted one plant.

Here is a look at one of the leafy green patches.  This is the spicy mesclun salad mix.  I put seeding potting soil on top of the seeds to keep it from crusting over them.

I used the pots from the pansies and violas to start some more eggplants and some bell peppers.  I keep saying I won't waste any more space on growing bell peppers, because I never get enough peppers to make it worth it, but I can never resist planting them in the spring.  Here goes.  Hopefully, I will discover the secret to making them productive this year.

Yay! Surprise! The grass we panted in the front yard is finally coming up.  From far off you can't really see it very well yet, but especially in the warmer, sunnier spots it is coming up pretty strong.  Suddenly, all the time we have spent watering it feels a little less wasted.  I am still a bit disappointed that I gave in and agreed to plant any lawn at all, but it is always exciting to see things sprouting and growing when you plant them.  The yard that we planted is very small and won't take too much water, because it is a drought tolerant fescue.

Things are getting exciting out in the garden.  I can't wait to see what is sprouting next week.  I am scheduled to plant another biweekly row of peas on Thursday.  I have also been transplanting some of the seedling I planted indoors, tomatoes, peppers, collards and celery.  They have been a bit disappointing so far.  It seams like I have one strong sprout for each variety.  I planted between six and 18 of each so that is not good odds.  I dug up one of the peat pellets to see what was going on inside there and I found seeds with roots, but no shoots so they will probably come up eventually as long as they don't get sick.  The seedling trays have not been keeping as warm as they should.  I added my reptile heat mat to the bottom of one of the trays.  I will see if that helps.  I think I will build a heated seed starting table for next year.

Happy planting to you all.  Hope you get out and enjoy this weather.

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.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cooking With Winter Stored Produce

It is the first day of spring and I still have some squash and things from last year saved that I need to use.
My mother actually purchased this "pumpkin" last fall at the farmer's market and realized that she had too much so she offered it to me.  I decided I needed to make some pumpkin pies and other stuff so I decided to cook it up.  I actually did this a month or two ago, but I never posted it.

I was surprised to see the deep orange color inside this squash. It smelled wonderful, too, very sweet and earthy.

I peeled and chopped it and baked it in my favorite baking dish until it was very soft.  Then I used a potato masher to mash it up.

You can see that it is still a little rough in texture.  If you want to make it absolutely smooth, you can pulse it in the blender or food processor, but I prefer it this way.  After this I used it as is in my pumpkin pie recipe.  It was delicious.  You can ask the neighbors.

I also used the last of my canned tomatoes to make a great pizza sauce.  This pizza was very delicious, peppers, onions, pineapple, pepperoni, mozzarella, parmesan, and secret recipe pizza sauce on french bread crust.

Here you can see the purple onions. Yummy.

Also, my brother called me a couple weeks ago.  He and his lovely wife were house sitting for my parents.  They found boxes of apples around the house that were going to go bad very soon if they weren't all used, so they decided to make a batch of spicy apple butter.  The reason they called me was they didn't know how to can it.  I had time so I went over and showed them the reference book that my mom has to tell how long to water bath process things and showed them how to do it.  We made two water bath batches of half pint jars. It was fun to hang out with them.  They handed out apple butter for presents the next week. It turned out very delicious.

I am looking forward to having a surplus of produce this year and pickling, canning, drying and freezing loads of stuff. I also want to grow stuff that will keep well in the basement, like pumpkins, dried beans, dried corn and root veggies. I got a pressure canner for Christmas last year and have not gotten to use it yet. I can even can veggies now.

The Chicks are Now Eight Days Old

Here they are after I threw in some sunflower sprouts from the yard.  They didn't know what to think about them.  They half heartedly pecked at them, but didn't seem to eat any.

I put them in my light box that I use for photographing my crafts and took pictures of each one.  I can tell them apart most of the time now.  Two of them have tentative names.

This little girl's is quickly becoming my favorite.  I know I shouldn't have a favorite, but I can't help it.  She is very friendly and outgoing.  I call her Lilith.
She kept walking right up to the camera and checking it out.  It made it hard to get a good picture of her.

Here you can clearly see the white next to her eye that easily sets her apart from her sisters.

 I also use the feet coloring to tell them apart sometimes. 

 Lilith has the most developed tail and wing feathers, as well.

This little girl is much more redish/brown than her sisters.  Her feet are also lighter colored. I haven't named her yet.

You can barely see the yellow middle toes.  One looks like it doesn't have any yellow.

She has the second most developed tail of the four.  Look how much red/brown she has compared to Lilith.

The next one I have been calling poopy butt, but I don't want that to end up being her name.  I hope the poopy buttness is just a phase.  I read on Backyard Chickens that the poop sometimes sticks to their feathers back there and you can just pull of the poop on their butts and take the feathers out with it without causing them too much harm, so I did it.  She is not very happy with me right now.
She is darker black on the head than the other three and has no tail feathers showing yet.

Her body type is different.  Her legs are stalkier and her butt is fatter.  I think she is the heaviest of the four.

These are her feet.  She has very striking yellow middle toes, even more so than Lilith.

And last but not least, Fluffy.  I started calling her fluffy because while the other girls were getting their feathers, she was staying fat and fluffy like the day I got her.  She does have some wing feathers now, but she is a late bloomer.
She also squeaks the most when I pick her up.

She has quite a bit of brown fluff and her butt fluff is whiter than the rest.

You can see that her feet are quite light, and she has one middle toe where the yellow extends much farther than the other.

It is hard to get a good picture of them in the brooder because of the red light, but here they all are after I had taken each of their pictures and put them back. Lilith has her eye on me.  She usually does.