Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chicken poop, and other matters

We've been busy in the rain.

We finished cleaning the chook shack. I lost count of the wheelbarrow loads of bedding – maybe 15? I moved the nest box and found this interesting mess behind it, below. Some of those guinea feathers in the lower layers were probably from Mrs. Davis and the three Connies, our first polka-dot birds. I was tempted to lay out a grid of strings, and excavate with trowel and paintbrush. Mind the Law of Superposition!

C. hiked down the hill and found these excellent squackly locust poles to use as roosts. They're nearly 12 feet long. Still to come is a droppings board or a poop hammock, I haven't decided which. Looking at the above photo, and considering that chickens really unload at night, you can imagine the poop under the roost. Since our coop is so small, chickens and chicken keepers often venture under the roosts, where they are apt to get pooped on. Hence the protective hammock or board.

Poop hammock and Lulu photo from

C. is often pooped on as she collects eggs and guinea feathers.

I also moved the feeders out from under the roosts. Duh.

There's a big controversy on poop management in Chicken World. Chicken World Central is, a popular website with information, forums, and everybody's photos of their chickens, coops, DIY chicken inventions and more. Some folks insist that poop should be allowed to run free – if we had a bigger coop, I'd agree. Then there are folks with fancy chicken houses and fancy poop boards and daily scooping routines. If Martha Stewart had chickens, she'd have a 1930s-green droppings board, and someone would be out there twice a day scooping and dusting. That's not how we roll, though. Chicken poop has to manage itself around here.

Speaking of chicken poop, there's a whole web page (with photos) about the subject here. Yes, it's probably too much information. But good chicken keepers keep an eye on the poop, as it's a clue to chicken health. And besides, it might be falling on you. OK – enough of the poop.

We moved the last of the flats of onions out to the greenhouse today, and I set up the rest of the grow lights and heat mats. C. will be starting peppers tomorrow, and tomatoes soon. She puttered around the garden, dug a bucketful of sun chokes (she says there are 10 – or 20 or 30 – more bucket loads that need to be dug before they start growing – bad news), weeded the strawberries and widened a bed or two.

We came in all tired and wet, built a big fire, and sipped hot coffee, cacao, cream and hazelnut amaretto. Mmm.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Post party pooped

The kids have gone home, laden with cake. We're pooped.

Liam, one year old today, was charming. We all enjoyed his present from his folks, a bubble machine. Very cool. He was entranced.

Liam and his handsome Uncle K.C. seem to have a special bond.

We ate, we told stories, we sang the birthday song, and K.C. even got the truck running. A good day. Well, except for the cake catching fire in the oven. And me keeling over backward while wrestling with the hand mixer. But I was fine, and we just cut the charred bit off the lemon cake. The chocolate/amaretto cake was excellent, if I say so myself. All good.

Five eggs today.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Birthday cluster

Em, Richard and Liam are all celebrating their natal days out here tomorrow, so we're working on getting ready. Em wants a lemon cake, and a big pot of hippie mac-and-cheese for dinner. Richard is getting a chocolate cake with amaretto frosting, and I'm making tapioca pudding for Liam.

Earl and I hit Deer Park for supplies (and yes, I remembered the ketchup I forgot last time). For the first time this year I left the big winter boots at home, and wore actual shoes. I felt so light!

We also picked up a few sticks of pipe insulation to stuff in greenhouse cracks. That stuff is great.

Earl was a good boy and got a little bag of Cheetos. He ate every one (except for the four I got) and then slurped every flake of neon orange off the car seat. (Yes, my car is a pit.)

Ordered 160 pounds of barley seed from Half Moon Feeds to sprout for rabbits. They're going out of business, unfortunately. It's depressing to see local businesses go bust.

Got home, unloaded, and then finished cleaning up the greenhouse. Stuffed that tubular insulation in cracks around the glass and frame. I think we're ready to move the onion seedlings out there, and maybe plant some greens in the raised bed inside.

C. is in the kitchen working on her lemon cake. I'm off to tidy the living room.

Five eggs today.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Warm spring day

We worked outside all afternoon. It was lovely.

C. got the saw running and cut up some wood. She cleaned the oiler yesterday, and that might have fixed it. Fingers crossed. She says it needs a good sharpening now.

I loaded up wheelbarrows five and six of heavy, stinky straw litter from the chicken house, and C. dumped them in the garden where they'll have some months to mellow before we plant. She did loads seven and eight and nine. I loaded it one last time before we came in for the day. I think we've got another five or six loads left. They call it deep litter for a reason!

I fixed the big chainlink gate into the garden – it was dragging and making a horrible racket on the cement walk. Just needed to adjust and tighten up the hinges and bolts.

We tightened up the three big slider windows on the greenhouse, and I stuffed some rope insulation between the panels. I sat down for a break in the greenhouse, and got distracted by cleaning up old pots, the dirt that a couple of pack rats had hauled out of the raised bed, and some shattered plastic from old bags and windows. Cut up some metal roofing and screwed it to the west side down low where the wind was coming in. Will finish the rest tomorrow, and maybe the flats of onions can move out there, freeing windowsill space for tomatoes.

C. dug out a stubborn piece of protruding rebar left over from holding straw bales around the greenhouse. I've been sure I was going to fall on the damn thing and skewer an eyeball or brain or something. It took at while – it was really in there.

C. took the loppers to old dead growth in the flower bed. More still to do.

It felt good to get out in the sun and work.

The guineas are in full spring mode, skulking around in groups, dusting when they find dry ground, chasing each other, hollering from perches on the spinny clothesline.

Three eggs today.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Breakfast bars for dogs

I'll work on finding a nifty translation for that. How about Canem Prandium? Hunt Frishtik? Hund Morgenmad?

C. is struggling to find something quick and easy for the dogly breakfast, since Rose is running short of eggs, and I'm not making a big batch of oatmeal every morning. They're used to hard-boiled eggs, or oatmeal with molasses and milk, or homemade bread with peanut butter. Peanut butter is out until one of us stirs the new giant Adams jar, which is a big messy job.

So she got out the giant stainless bowl and assembled the ingredients. I'm doing the baking while she rampages in the yard outside.

I insisted we record the recipe so I can make it sometimes. The ingredients are flexible – we use whatever we have on hand. You just want about the same ratio of wet to dry. It's a lot like making bread, which I can't do without a recipe, either – but C. can.

Canem Prandium

Wet ingredients
8 eggs
½ c. oil
3 c. milk
¼ c. molasses
1 ½ c. prunes soaked in 1 ½ c. hot water, then chopped in the food processor. Add the hot water to the mix, too.
Mix all these together

Dry ingredients
8 c. rolled oats
2 c. whole wheat or other flours (but not unhealthy white bleached stuff)
   we used:
     ⅓ c. rice flour
     ⅓ c. coconut flour
     ⅓ c. tapioca flour
     1 c. gluten-free 1-to-1 flour
3 t. salt
1 T. baking powder
Stir these together

Stir the mixed wet and mixed dry together, and gloop into three greased 9x12 pans. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

These freeze well, and the dogs are very pleased with them.

In other exciting country news, I spent some time doing that horrible job that all dog people deal with in early spring. Yep, scooping the poop that melting snow has revealed in the dog yard. Gah. I did half the job, saving the rest for another day. I have a small dog yard, and seven dogs. Sometimes I think we should feed them less, or not at all. Or toilet-train them. Huh.

One egg.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sick day

I'm feeling puny, so am going to take it easy today.

Earl and I did some shopping in town yesterday. We came home with everything but ketchup, dammit. Prescriptions, beer, sprouting seeds, those little muffin-tin-liners that seem like an indulgence until you have to wash the muffin pan, more potting soil (North 40 has the best deal on Black Gold organic stuff, 2 cubic feet for $11), bar oil for the chain saw, metal wedges to reattach the sledge hammer head.... Oh, and I remembered to return my work keys, finally. They told me to disregard the bill I would be getting for $100 for losing keys. I can do that.

Earl was very good, and got an everything bagel for his trouble.

The roosters continue to grumble and pace in their clubhouse. I scatter grain in there, and they offer it to each other with little "yummy" chirps, since there are no hens around. Such gentlemen, my roosters.

The old duck house, now the rooster lounge

And the poor crushed-by-snow lobster pot, pulled back
into shape and serving as the roo yard.

I was going to put them on Craig's List, but a guy at the feed store told me that cockfighters are always looking for birds on CL. I was worried about people butchering and eating my extra roosters, but a quick death and respectful consumption sounds a whole lot better than the cockfighting ring. WTH is the matter with people? I'll keep them in the clubhouse until I find legit chicken people to take them.

Below, the hairdo sisters, practicing synchronized laying. The one on the left lays pink eggs; the one on the right lays blue.

C. brought Fondu the Magician over last night for brushing and plucking. She spreads out a sheet on her lap and goes to town. He's pretty patient. Kewpie the peke is fascinated, and guest dogs Walter and Hazelnut are, as well. Walter is a great lover of beauty, and thinks Fondu is really pretty. He is also enamored of Jasmine. He moons over them.

I've been cleaning the rabbit room all winter, and doing a lousy job, so Fondu's fuzz is full of hay and his feet are wet. I wish we could figure out a way to keep a long-haired rabbit clean and dry, short of C.'s method of lining the cement floor with cardboard, then newspaper, and changing the paper daily. I can't deal with all that bending over. Straw bedding would be great if it didn't get tangled in their hair. Shredded paper does the same. Some people use wood-stove fuel pellets, but we don't want to put that in the garden, which is where all our rabbit poo and newspapers go. Alfalfa pellets would probably work, but that's expensive bedding. I thought I had the solution when I built a "condo," a 6-by-3-foot three-level cage with a heavy, coated wire floor, but they still end up with hay in their fur, and wet feet. At least I don't have to stoop over to clean the condo. But we'd rather let them have the run of the room. Got any ideas?

Hazelnut and Walter tugging on the old dinosaur toy.
All the dogs love the dino – C. has replaced stuffing
a dozen times over the years.

Walter and Nut are staying with us, waiting patiently for Emma and her four dogs to move into their new house. Then they can be reunited with their people in Em's old house, which is our old house, and will be K. and T.'s new house. Confused yet? Hazelnut really misses the baby. She really likes that baby.

And it's Emma's birthday today! Many happy returns of the day, dear girl.

She was born in a log cabin (and, strangely enough, has never been interested in running for office) with no power or running water. And now she has a baby of her own: Liam, who has her beady blue-grey eyes.

Five eggs yesterday; six today.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Rain, fog, more rain

Beautiful spring sunshine has turned into dreary spring rains, and the clock has jumped an hour ahead, which I find disturbing. I can't seem to keep up with the day.

The roosters were still safely confined in their new house, and mighty pissed about it. They spent the day pacing and grumbling out in the rain in their yard, the former lobster pot.

Em and Richard and baby Liam came up to visit, and the parents went after a load of wood while C. and I watched the little fellow. Well, the saw crapped out on them, but they did get nearly a full load. And we had fun with the little guy. He slept in my arms for a long time. They brought along Arnold, the greyhound-kangaroo mix, to play with Earl, and the boys had a great time.

We talked about their new house, and their plans to pull up carpets and refinish the hardwood floors, remodel the kitchen, and install a wonderland of swings and forts and sandboxes for Liam. The house inspection is scheduled for a week from today.

I sent the last of my giant bag of Nestle's chocolate chips home with them, since I'm trying to cut out sugar, as well as non-organic chocolate. I've since been scouring the web for appealing brownie recipes that use honey as a sweetener. I notice a disturbing trend to incorporate dates and/or applesauce – both incompatible with chocolate, IMHO. Or, perish the thought, beans. In brownies. WTH is that about?

Damn. I really liked that big bag of chips.

Bless their hearts, the kids hauled a bale of hay back from the barn for the rabbits.

Earl and I ventured into the fog to go to Deer Park for potting soil (it's nearly time to start 100 tomato plants!), grain for the animals, and a few groceries. We took the back way, where cloudy sky and treetops hovered above snowy fields and cotton-wool mist. All the houses and fences and tree bottoms were erased. Weird.

I bought Earl some white-cheddar crackers for being such a good boy in the car, and he showed his appreciation by sneaking into the console-compartment-thing between the seats, and scarfing what was left of an old bag of chocolate. He said he was sorry but I know he lies. It wasn't enough to make him sick, the great butthead.

Nine eggs today. Pretty good for eight hens, no?