Last weekend we drove up to The Urban Chicken for their Annual CHICK DAYS Celebration and FLOCK SWAP. I had never heard of this before, but just happened to check their Facebook page an hour before the event was supposed to start. Initially we thought we might wait until the kids were on Spring Break as the coop and run weren't complete, but word slipped out we might get chickens that day, and the kids were so ecstatic, there was no turning back. Under drizzling rain, we loaded up in the car with a cardboard box and drove to The Urban Chicken with the goal to learn exactly what supplies we needed and to talk to a few folks that knew chickens.
|The whole brood assembled|
We browsed the several tents with cages of chicks, but the first man from Mebane had the ladies that won our hearts. He told us that Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds were great layers and docile. We selected our four, but I felt strongly that I needed a Silkie as well. I'd never seen such fluffy chickens, and I just knew that she'd be a favorite.
|I was right. Luna is loved and gets carried everywhere.|
My personal favorite is Ruby, the RIR. She is loud and weird and loves to sit on my lap and be petted.
Ruby, a Rhode Island Red, in front of Luna, a Silkie
Ms. Bellatrix is ornery and broody and wants to be loved and then doesn't want to be touched. She's the biggest of our flock. She also hates the cat harness. I think she's still holding a grudge days after I put her in it.
|Bellatrix, a Black Orpington, absolutely hated the harness|
Luna likes the Ruby and Bella and is always trying to squeeze up in between or under them. She cries loudly when the others go into the coop without her. She also has five feathered toes and is really easy to catch and pick up.
|Luna and Bella|
The Tweedles are hilarious. I propped up a large pile of bolted greens on the ladder in their run, and they pecked at it all day, hopping up and down to pluck the flowers.
|The Tweedles, cross of Buff Orpington and RIR, love garden treats.|
The Tweedles go everywhere together and cry when they are split up. They stay with the flock but always stay closer to each other.
They liked the garden and stayed close together.
While they didn't initially like to be picked up and held, they will now rest in the palm of my hand and happily chirp.
|Sometimes they like a little love|
They love being in their coop and for the first few days didn't want to come outside. Now that the weather has warmed up, they spend most of the day scratching around in the run and taking dust baths.
Their reply to the being forced out the second day: "Let us in!"
Today's project is making a worm bin or worm farm from the old city recycling bin. First I want to point out how lucky we are that our city collects recycling at the curb and provides bins. Raleigh upgraded to larger recycling carts a few years ago, and we hung on to the smaller bin. I've use it around the garden to toss in weeds, and the drain holes ensure that it doesn't get stinky after a rainfall. This morning when I moved it, I gathered a fistful of earthworms that were in the gravel under the bin. I put them in an old plastic planter with some soil and got to work on converting the bin to a worm farm. It is prominent location that makes it easy to toss in food scraps, coffee grounds and eggshells from the deck. It sure isn't the prettiest feature of the garden, but it will be a reminder of all the good that healthy soil can do.
|1. I selected a location that was convenient and noticeable so that I would actually use the bin.|
|2. I dug a hole the size the bin so that I could recess the bin in the ground to keep it cool in the summer heat.|
|3. I pulled damp cardboard scraps from my compost pile and shredded it to line the bottom of the bin.|
|4. I covered the cardboard with a layer of dirt from what I'd excavated for the bin location.|
|5. I added fresh greens that had already bolted for food for the worms.|
|6. I emptied the planter of dirt and worms into the pile.|
Now that the bin is in place, I will make sure to add in food for the worms weekly and monitor it for moisture. There are only about 10 worms in there now, so I'll keep adding the family. It will eventually fill up with composted soil to supplement the plants in the garden.
For the past several mornings, I've woken up with what I refer to as "fire fingers". My fingers tingle, and the numbness goes up to my shoulder. I'm covered in scrapes, and my hands feel like sandpaper. My husband now has the neighbors thinking he's a professional carpenter. We haven't been to the gym in months -- we haven't done anything social. We haven't signed up for spring soccer. We skipped THE BIG chess tournament. We have worked our patooties off so that just in time for the first day of spring, we were ready for outdoor living. The treehouse chicken coop is complete with a hammock to boot. Thank you thank you thank you, Joe, my hero, my partner in labor and love, the guy who makes my dreams come true.
I lost track of how many days we worked on this project, but it's been a steady effort that only paused for one really cold, rainy spell. We started tearing down the old treehouse during the middle of the shed project and picked up with this mid-February. About halfway through the treehouse build, I started on the coop build. This past weekend we added the chickens. So this was constructed over the span of six weeks and was dreamed about for much longer. We didn't use a plan or kit, but we did refer to deck span and spacing tables for the treehouse to make sure we were structurally sound.
The treehouse sits on 6"x6"x8' posts and is 10' by 10' and surrounds a beautiful magnolia tree. The rails are 4' tall with space for the kids to slide under and shimmy down the sides to the ground. There is a small dropped down platform for the slide. The coop is 5'x4' with the back wall height at about 3' and the front wall at about 5'. The coop is set up on cinder blocks and sturdy enough for the kids to climb on. The run, or the caged part of the treehouse, is approximately 7'x10' with the height at approximately 7.5'. We used 1/2" hardware cloth for the fencing. The windows of the coop and the screen door on the run were both found at Habit Restore locations. The chicken roost ladder in the run and the ladder for the slide are salvaged from previous decking railing that we replaced a few years ago. The slide was from the previous treehouse and acquired from one of Joe's coworkers.
Local friends, come by to play, but be sure to sign a waiver.... I kid. Maybe.
For now, I am just posting a quick update. In the middle of the week, I decided to start building the coop on my own. I spent a couple hours doing sketches (trying to be responsible), but the plans kept changing as I was trying to work with materials already on hand. I ended up having to buy a new sheet of plywood and several 2x4s. The walls are now mostly framed out. Joe and I rotated the coop and may move it yet again. The current idea is to have it halfway slid under the treehouse where the coop chute will open into the run but the house itself won't be in the fenced area. More updates will come!
First, my boys were in so much pain this morning. Not fun. Definitely amusing. Last night we went to the PTA skate night for their school, and after battling and beating down the flu for several days, we were happy to get out. They had an such an incredible time -- especially Wookie, who was tearing up the track with a wheely cart -- that they wore themselves ragged and were nearly unable to bend their legs today. Scooby's knobby knees were red and purple, so I guess he needs to learn to fall on his bum instead. As they were moaning about not being able to get off the couch to get dressed for school, I said, "And now you know what it is like to wake up as an adult every single day." I helped them stretch out on the floor. I teased them that their PE coaches skated as hard as they did and probably weren't sore at all this morning. Still the boys asked when they could go skating again.
Another amusing conversation came from watching "Peg + Cat". Peg exclaimed, "Here come the teenagers!" as if teenagers were amazing, magical creatures bearing excitement and joy. I turned to the boys.
You know what happens when sweet kids turn into teenagers?
They get bad attitudes and think they are too cool for their parents.
That won't happen to you will it?
Wookie was more convinced that this would never happen to him, but Scooby, who is already dodging my arm on his shoulder when I visit his class, was not as convinced. I sent my two bedraggled boys off to school and drove home smiling. I love those guys. I love being their mom. I'm genuinely happy. I couldn't stop smiling watching them skate last night. They are getting so tall and gangling but still have such a young sweetness. Wookie even stopped at the wall on one of his laps around to stick out his snotty, chapped lips for a kiss. How much longer do you think that will last? Probably not much longer, so I embrace them while they let me,
With them at school, I took a rake to a weedy garden bed to prepare it for lettuce seeds. Something caught the corner of my eye across the street, and I saw a hawk land in a tall tree. I fetched the binoculars and found the large bird up on a branch. It had huge, feathered legs and enormous claws and hopped around more like a beast than a backyard bird as it was devouring something in its clutches before it took flight screeching. I never stop being amazed at seeing wild animals in our downtown neighborhood -- foxes, deer, snakes, hawks -- and I'm so thankful for the time to be able to slow down and notice them.
With the time racing by, it feels more important than ever to be still enough to see. For a couple years I was in a constant state of anxiety about where I was headed... was I going places? Was I making the most of what God has given me? I've finally relented and started accepting that this is where I am. This is who I am. Last night, Scooby stood slightly drooped in the doorway of the bathroom too tired to brush his teeth, but unwilling to let them rot while he slept. Yes, I tell them their teeth will rot while they sleep if they don't brush them. He couldn't put one foot forward to head in either direction, a feeling I'm quite familiar with. I prodded, "Well you won't get anywhere unless you walk" and started to shuffle him towards his bedroom, but he changed directions to clean his teeth. He's a still a child that wants to do the right thing even if it's hard. And I reflected, "But sometimes when you stand still, you'll find you are exactly where you are supposed to be."
|Glass Gem Corn, original photo from nativeseeds.org|
Yesterday, a pack of seed arrived in the mail, and my oldest son's reaction was "Oh, they definitely painted that corn." That isn't the case, and I'll prove it to him this summer! Here is the description from the Amazon listing:
"This Glass Gem Corn, a beautiful Indian corn, is being offered in limited quantities. The photo is of the exact ears your seeds will come from. It is undoctored; that's just how beautiful they really are. This corn has very diverse looks, sometimes the entire ear is blue, sometimes it's dark, sometimes it's pink. You just don't know until you open your wrapped corn present! Each year we grow a giant garden of our favorite vegetables. Most of my favorite vegetables have been old time varieties that people currently call "Heirloom". It is with great pleasure that I offer up my favorites for you. This corn was grown far from any other corn so there should be zero cross contaminated genetics. 20 seeds per pack. Corn should be grown fully in 10x10 areas unless you plan to hand pollinate them! I guarantee germination for this current year or your money back. Seeds must be stored in a cool dry area."
If any of my local friends are interested in growing this corn next summer (2018), let me know so I can save you some seed from this summers crop.
This post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through my affiliate links give me a small commission to help run this blog, but don't cost you any extra.