Saturday, August 24, 2013

Healthy Chickens=Happy Chickens

Ever since late April of this year, I have been reading, learning and living chickens.  They were a hand-me-down from a parent at the school where I work, and have been the most rewarding and stressful of pets I've ever had.  I don't mean stressful in that I feel regret or irritation, it's more of a responsibility, and not like that for a dog or cat.  Maybe stressful isn't even the right word.  I just know that every morning I have to get out of bed and let them out.  Every evening (around 8pm at the moment), I like to be home to lock them up in their coop.  I probably don't have to be there right at that moment, but ever since my dear Mannie got eaten by whatever it was, I'm a little sensitive.

I do admit, that perhaps the chickens fill a need to feel needed.  Perhaps I have a pet-addiction?  Whatever the case, they bring something new and fulfilling to my day-to-day life.  They provide fresh eggs and entertainment, and they make me smile.  And just for the record, I still love my turtles Max and Zdarma, and of course our dog Honza still gets most of our attention.

Rowena.  She likes it when I bring her food.

He's so cute when he sleeps
Now for the healthy chicken part.  I went out this morning to clean the coop.  It rained like crazy all day yesterday and on top of that, the chicks were in the run all week.  Rain + chicken poop/feed = stinky.

Can I just say "EEEEEEWWW".  Not only had some ants decided to lay eggs all in the nesting box, I also saw a tiny roach and some spiders.  The chickens don't seem to be bothered but it brought to mind how important it is to clean the coop out often, especially if it a particularly rainy week, or if the chickens are left in an enclosed space more often.  A clean coop/run keeps the yucky insect population down, the smell down, and keeps the chickens from getting those little crap-ball build-up around their toes.  In the long run, it also keeps the chickens from getting diseases and getting sick.  

I ended up scrubbing the nesting box to make sure those ants were mostly gone and made sure to dust the entire coop with food-grade diatomaceous earth.  I have read that some chicken keepers are nervous that this dust might harm the chicken's respiratory system, but it doesn't seem to have an ill effect on my guys.  It doesn't get rid of every insect, but it surely makes a difference.  I also raked out the run to get that muck unstuck off the ground.  Again, eew.

I opened the run today so they could peck around freely and enjoy some sunshine.  As I write this I am looking out the window and I don't see them...  They're in the coop probably pooping on all that fresh straw!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Summer's End

Tomorrow I go back to work and my summer is officially over.  For me, summertime is not only about hot sunny days, sleeping in if I want to, drinking wine with ice and sipping on lemonade, it's about having time to finish projects that otherwise sit on the back burner.  As I prepare my mind and body for the shock that awaits me tomorrow, I've also time to reflect on all that I have accomplished this summer, and on the things that are still left undone.  Let me just start by saying that there is always an unfinished project.  There are always projects that I want to do and that are therefore in the queue.  Summer allows me the time and energy to get things done!

Shelling Black-Eyed Peas
The ongoing major project this summer was our garden.  We learned a lot this planting season and I've already got a list of what not to do, and what was successful.  Main lesson learned: growing plants from seed is an art and needs more time than I gave it this year.  And... the more time you put into your garden, the more you will get out of it.  I also became paranoid that raccoons were going to come and eat our entire crop of corn, but that didn't happen in the end.  I also learned how to sunbathe and shell peas at the same time.

Garden at the beginning of summer
Garden towards the end of the season
I finally painted our whole downstairs this summer too.  In the bathroom, I used a Lowe's Valspar seasonal color called "Lunar Tide".  In the hallway and main living room I used "Homestead Resort Parlor Taupe".  I also bought simple white cotton curtains for $10/pair at Ikea and hung them on smaller cafe rods that I bought for about $5 each. 
"Lunar Tide" in the bathroom

Homestead....Taupe (and my $100 gift to myself)

The "hill" out back was showing signs of erosion so after planning several scenarios, I ended up buying day lilies for $3 each.  Somehow I ended up planting 45 plants on the hill along with digging a drainage ditch to fill with stone.  With the day lilies I planted Sedum Autumn Joy, Yellow Coreopsis, Dwarf Coreopsis, Blue Delphinium, Pink Coneflower (Echinacea), Blue Fescue, Russian Sage, and one other that I can't remember the name of.   

We also had some fun with little critters this summer.  I found raccoon prints in the backyard and we saw bear prints while picking peaches on the mountain!  I know it may seem ridiculous to be excited about such things, but I started out a CityGirl, remember?

It's back to work to my proper job in the morning.  That doesn't mean the work at home stops, just that it slows down.