Monday, November 23, 2009

Winter snuggle down

Winter time is a slow season for us. The garden is pretty low maintenance. Outside activities are less due to the rain and darkness. We pretty much snuggle down and wait until spring.

We still do a little gardening. After trying various types of pvc housing we gave up and set up simple hoop frames. I have some pretty great ideas for greenhouse frames, but like most things, it will have to wait for spring.

We got our last batch of chicks for the year. From now on we will replace the entire flock every two years. This will keep our egg production higher and our freezer full of meat.

While we have a nice brooder pen set up in the coop, we still keep the babies in our shop until they are a week old and no longer need 24 hour light.

And as far as I can tell making adjustments and additions to a chicken coop are just part of the program. We keep adding, tinkering and fixing all the issues that come from poor initial planning. I think we've fairly well got it there now.

Here the roof has been covered by two large tarps. The metal roof underneath kept the brunt of the rain out, but little drips make for wet litter. As we use a deep litter method, keeping everything dry means keeping the ladies warm.

We added metal roofing along the lower edge of the coop to cozy it up more and keep the rain out. I think it also makes it look kind of high tech.

This is the view of the roost area. The tarps obscure the cool windows, but keep the poop pit underneath drier, which keeps the ammonia down.

I always like adding a new bale of straw. It gives the girls something to dig in and makes the whole coop smell nice. With the tarps and metal walls, the straw should stay warm and fresh for most of the winter.

One problem with home made nest boxes, the milk crates on the right, is they generally don't have a perching deterrent. The chickens love to sleep on the top and poop all night in the nesting material. Which is lame. So I used a couple of feed bags stapled to the wall. They are slippery and make noise when walked on. Chickens hate that!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A good start

Today started my favorite way.

I've been eating dinner very early so when night falls I've had no reason to stay up late.

I used to be in the habit of going to bed very early and getting up very early. Some people wake up naturally, regardless of their bedtime. Not me, the day is very much determined by my previous nights activities.

I'm not a night person anyways, so why fight it. Besides, early mornings hold such wonderful things.

This morning I woke up around 6:30, which is not really that early, but the kids were still sleeping so that constitutes as early for me.

I had already been up at least 6 times already. Once when Koz came in to sleep in our room. Two or three times to go pee, sorry for the tmi, and once when Meza came in. Then a few more times when the kids fidgeted to make sure they stayed asleep.

Anyways, by the time the 6 rolled around I wasn't falling back to sleep and for the first time I wasn't too tired to stay in bed.

I got up, did the morning animal things, feed dog, let chickens out ect.. Then had the lovely morning coffee and reading on the computer time, that rarely comes quietly. Usually it's a flurry of kids and cartoons and cooking.

What a great way to start the day.


I have a buff orpington name Louisa. She is big and beige and clucks like a story book chicken. She's kind of the epitome of what you think a mother hen is, sweet and fluffy, a little clumsy, but all around a very nice chicken.

She also lays huge brown eggs. Bigger than any jumbo I've ever seen. Bigger than some of the duck eggs I've had before. But they are pretty thin shelled, so they often break. Also she's older, like 6 or 7, so her eggs just get bigger and thinner.

She can't climb into a nest box that is not on the ground because she's so big. And as it's only a matter of time before she ruptures a large egg and ends up dying from peritonitis we plan on culling her soon.

But this isn't the betrayal.

Having chickens is a love-hate relationship. They are well behaved and fairly innocuous pets, but then they go and do things to betray that basic trust in their simplicity as creatures.

Chickens are terrible fliers. And they are not the smartest, so a wire see-through fence, really just 6 to 12 inches high is supposed to be enough to enclose them.

Oh but not my birds. We have a 5 foot wire fence. But some of them hop it to get to the garden on the other side. So I've raised it to over seven feet. Yeah the smaller birds, that will soon be getting a wing trim, still fly over it. What's up with that?

And we have over 30 birds that are mature enough to lay eggs. I get like 4-6 eggs a day.
Total bull.

Then on top of it all I thought I was past all this egg eating business.
We spent a ridiculous $200 on a roll away egg nest. They won't use it without bedding, which makes it non-egg rolling. They actually wouldn't use it until we replaced the plastic perches, which were far to slippery for my chickens, with wood perches.
Again, total bull.

These chickens fly up onto and over wire fencing which is like a millimeter of slippery metal, but they can't handle three inch wide plastic? But I digress.

So when Louisa is laying, she does a 3 -4 egg run once a week, I always make sure to hang around. Her eggs are thin and one little peck and they break, which then brings us back to egg eating.
Stupid birds.

Two days ago I once again missed my opportunity and the vultures got to it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Time management

I would like to think that being a stay at home mom would give me ample time to get everything done. But somehow the extra time just fills up with more things to do.

I'm not a "go-getter". I don't have 57 classes, workouts, PTA meetings, or anything else that is filling up my time. Just normal everyday life. Which I'm feeling like is enough.

I'm a pretty chill person. I like to spend vacations by just staying home with my husband. Or if we go somewhere I really just want to go for scenic walks and read books.

Anyways so I still am constantly struggling to get the laundry done, clean the bathroom, cleanup the toys from the kids dumping them out as I put them away, cooking meals and then cleaning up again. It seems like I am always behind, and as soon as everything is clean, we start all over again with the next meal.

So I've been trying to work on a few time saving methods. So far the biggest and most useful is meal times.

I cook pretty much 99% of our foods from scratch. Breads, crackers, cereals, soups, ect. I throw down some tasty meals and they take their tole in the kitchen. Lately I've been too tired to cleanup after dinner and having an upset stomach when I lay down in bed.

I hate the way we start the day, when the kitchen is wrecked with dried on food and dishes everywhere. The house is a mess and it feels like I am cleaning only to have a clean space to get messy again.

I used to never eat dinner. But I like the family time together, I like providing a nice meal to my husband and children. David works in the medical field so he works 4 days a week for longer hours. Dinners have been difficult to arrange because he comes home so late and by that time the kids are no longer hungry.

So we started having dinner around 2pm. This has worked wonderfully for so far. Breakfast is usually oatmeal. The kids love it so I make a big pot of it and they eat it all week. Then they have a noon snack of bread or tortilla. Something that I've made that doesn't take much actual cooking.

I usually skip the snack and wait for dinner. I basically start making dinner while the kids are eating breakfast. Once dinner is over it's only 2:30 so I spend the next hour cleaning the dishes, the house and setting a load of laundry through. By the time 3:30 rolls around I've finished my household chores and even brushed and flossed my teeth!

Having completed all the housework early really has made a difference in my energy level. I even have time for afternoon coffee now. If the kids get hungry before bed I make them a quick smoothie, which only dirties the blender and two glasses. Weekends are great because we still eat together, and at night when David gets home I heat him up a plate and can chat with him while he eats.

It's not rocket science, but it's nice to make little changes that help so much.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day at the beach

A day at the beach

Well everyone needs a day off from time to time and we spent ours like most families in the Pacific Northwest. Walking around one of the many coastal beaches.

There we no tide pools, which was lame, but lots of cool drift wood structures some enthusiastic beach goers had made.

This one looked the least likely to crash down on us.

Meza, like most 1 years olds, spent the time trying to get into the water and scooping up sand.

Koz collected shells.