Monthly Archives: July 2015

Miscellany {vegetables, blueberries, orchard, etc.}

Standard

So, after this marathon of posting, you all are just about caught up.  One last post to wrap up some odds and ends, and you’ll have a pretty solid picture of what’s been happening around here for the last couple of months.

001

Little baby peaches back in May!!

Back in April, I mentioned that we started to plant some fruit trees.  What with so much rain lately, they have really been flourishing, although I apparently haven’t taken a picture of the orchard as a whole.  We ended up with two pear trees, three peach trees, two plum trees, and five apple trees.  We have some peaches and a couple of plums growing, as well as just a couple of apples.

001

It’s a Wolf Creek apple tree… anyone else ever heard of it??

The orchard does back up against the woods, so some deer damage was not unexpected.  Still, it was sad that they came out and nommed off all the little apples!  That was several weeks ago.  Maybe it’s a good thing that only one apple is left, because it does seem to be weighing down the tree!

After that little incident, we tried to take precautions to protect the trees in the future.  We can’t really afford to fence in the entire orchard right now (although that’s the long-term plan – not only will it protect the trees, it will also give Waylon a place to play), so we strung fishing line around the perimeter of the orchard, 5-7 strands ranging from about a foot off the ground to about 7′.  Supposedly, because the deer can’t see it, running into it really spooks them.  I don’t know how true that is, but I do know that they haven’t molested our trees since.

001One must-have of every good homestead, as anyone knows, is a compost bin.  Using some of those handy pallets my brother got at work, Tom built me a very sturdy and happy little compost bin.  The divider in the middle is so you can add to one side, then the next year add to the second side while using the first side for dirt.  What with all the digging out of random stuff and weeding and mowing and pruning going on, there is plenty of stuff to add to the bin!

Both Tom and I have a strong desire to plant plenty of fruit, maybe because fruits are generally perennials, so planting them feels like you are planning not just for this summer, but for years to come.  We got a good start with the orchard, and this year we also made progress with planting a blueberry patch.  Next year, we’re hoping to plant raspberries and blackberries as well.

009

Here he is, busily tilling away.

Back in the day, before our time, where our flagpole is now used to be a swimming pool, so there is a round, flat area.  Inspired by that space, plus random pavers and other things lying about, Tom decided to make a compass blueberry garden, with the paths running N/S and E/W.  I already had two blueberry bushes, both of the Top Hat (a dwarf) variety (back before I knew about cross-pollination).  We’ve picked up a few bushes on clearance at Tractor Supply, and the rest at a local greenhouse.

I love blueberries, and we tried to get a variety of heights, types, and harvest times.  We still have one empty spot, and one bush that doesn’t look like it’s going to make it, so we’ll still have a few slots to fill in next year.

002

I’ve left the tags on until I have time to record which varieties are planted where.

Still, we plant nine or ten bushes this year, so that’s a pretty good start!

001

The Top Hat berries are on the small side and tend to be a bit more sour than some of the larger varieties. However, the flavor is still delicious – I rather like the tang!

My two Top Hats both produced plenty of berries this spring, and several of the other bushes have done so as well.  While we don’t really have enough to do much more than snack on them, it’s still always fun to actually get produce back!

When Tom started digging out the water garden, he realized that we had a lot of dirt that needed to go somewhere, and it was actually pretty decent dirt, so we didn’t just want to dump it down over the hill.

003

We started with dirt and then added the frame.

Originally, we were going to wait until next year to plant some vegetables, and Tom wanted to plant them the traditional style – directly into the ground.  However, it appears that the entire pad in front of the barn, with the exception of where the ground was leveled for the pool (now the blueberry garden) was once gravel, so if you dig any deeper than the sod, you’re suddenly contending with about 6″ of gravel.  It’s rather dreadful, and has made planting trees (like the aspen in the background of the blueberry garden picture) a real hassle.

So, all that to say, we decided that we were going to have to go with raised beds.  The fact that they are a bit more expensive out of the gate was an added incentive to wait until next year for veggies.

Except…  all that dirt we dug up for the water garden…!!!  So then it seemed like it only made sense to go ahead and box in a raised bed…  except then there wasn’t quite enough dirt so we had to get some…  and then we got a flat of vegetables on a great sale for $10 except that was a LOT of vegetables and they didn’t all fit in that one bed…  so we had to build a couple more… and…  well, we’re raising vegetables this year!

007

At this point, I realized I had way more vegetables than I had garden…

In the larger bed we have tomatoes and peppers.  I’m quite bad at vegetables and not super awesome at spacing them, plus our bed ended up being just a *bit* too wide (we’re going with about 18″ narrower when we build a couple more next year.

005

As of 27 June 2015 – about a month after planting!!

We’ve been living in a rainforest the last couple of weeks – seriously, almost 10″ of rain in two weeks – so everything is growing like madness.  

We have lots of baby tomatoes and peppers, so hopefully we actually get some veggies!!

009

This one has cucumbers and the other has green beans.

Tom’s brother gave us a couple of boxes with a bench between them that he had built but didn’t need any more.  We ended up taking the boxes and setting them up between where we park the cars and the blueberry garden.  You can see an empty box in the picture with the brand-new raised bed, and here it is with some stuff in it.

Like we did with the deeper containers in the side garden, we filled the bottom half or better with straw, and then dirt on top of that.  Even if we grow the tallest cucumbers in the world, their roots probably aren’t going to be 3′ deep.

Tom built a teepee on top of each one and then ran some heavy wire around the outside so the plants can grow up.

006

Pepper bed in the background behind the blueberries, then L to R – cucumbers, bush veggies, and tomatoes/peppers.

We also have some bush beans and bush cucumbers in a smaller raised bed, and another small bed of peppers (and yes, ALL OF THOSE VEGGIES were in ONE $10 flat!).  They are also flourishing, thanks to so much rain.

One other random project we’ve been working on is getting the upstairs of the barn back into usable space.  I don’t know if any of you have this tendency, but we seem to get an area cleaned and organized, then move onto another project, and then the original area becomes messy and confused, and then we go back and add more shelves or improvements to reclean and reorganize, and it just keeps cycling around.  For instance, the lower room, which looked beautiful this winter, is an absolute disaster right now – and Tom is in the process of building more shelves, so it will be the next big thing organized (again).

008

The wooden frame has small-gauge chicken wire stretched over it. The frame swings open so we can open the windows, or closed so it is protecting the windows from flying basketballs!

Anyway, the upstairs of the barn was pretty messy with various projects going on.  Tom worked hard cleaning it up over the weekend, and also building some protective cages around our brand-new windows!

I didn’t get a picture of the upstairs as a hole, but the space is back to being usable for playing basketball, pool, or darts again, which is pretty exciting.  The windows help a lot with ventilation.  While it will still be too hot to play up there on really hot days, it should  be perfect up there on more mild days.  In the future, we’re still hoping to install a couple of windows on the other side of the barn, as well as an exhaust fan.

007

Three coneflowers, two daisies, and one blanket flower… and I only actually bought one plant!!

One thing I’ve really been trying to do this spring is plant a lot of perennials.  I’m sincerely hoping that next spring will involve a lot less expense and labor.  I especially love coneflowers and daisies of all types.  They’re low maintenance, have long bloom seasons, and look lovely as cut flowers as well.

The fun thing about lots of different perennials is that you can get them for free from people who need to divide theirs.  Mom gave me a bunch of coneflowers and daisies (as well as some bee balm, lemon balm, and chives), and our neighbor gave me some coneflowers as well.  Everything that I’ve transplanted is taking off, and I am super happy that coneflowers are starting to bloom (the daisies are budding up now, too!).

So that about brings you up to date on all the craziness around the McCafferty homestead!  As you can see, it has been a seriously busy spring.  This morning (June 29) is a perfect day to be alive – cool, no humidity, moderately overcast, and the dirt is just right for pulling weeds, which is what I’ve been doing in between writing this post.

Life, my friends, is good.  Stay in touch.

Advertisements

Painting the Floor {now our house looks like a boat}

Standard

Cast your  minds back – way, way back.  Back into the mists of time – back to last summer when we had…  I hardly dare whisper the word for fear of bring the curse back upon us – fleas.  Before we moved into this house, if you will recall, we ended up tearing up all the carpets and painting our subfloor.

Isn't that so bright and cheery??

Ugh back before we took down that terrible wallpaper, too. 

 

At the time, we just used the same flat, white primer we had  been using to paint everything – and I do mean EVERYTHING – all the ceilings and walls were painted with this same stuff.  It really helped make the house cleaner and fresher and was totally the right move.

Okay, fast forward about eleven months and that paint – especially since it was flat paint – has definitely been through the mill.

004

At this point, I had already moved some furniture in preparation for painting the floor… the gate is to keep a very nosy Waylon OUT!

Not only was it super grungy, I may have, at various points in time, kind of sort of used it as a test pallet for some other painting experiments.

One day, I just got tired of the floor being so dirty and uncleanable.  After we got Waylon, it was even worse.  He frolics out in the side garden and gets super muddy, and then comes in and runs all over the place.  Thanks to our lack of nice flooring, it really isn’t a big deal (it’s also relieved a lot of housebreaking stress), but still…  who wants to have gross floors??  You can see in the picture how not-white the floor was starting to look.

I trekked off to Menard’s to see what my options were.  Tom was all for the cheap choice of just recoating it with the same white Kilz primer we had used for everything else before, but I was really over having flat paint on the floor.  It looks like it’s still going to be a while before we can afford to install the laminate flooring we have in mind for the main section of the house, so the subfloor is going to be with us for quite some time.  What with Waylon and general muddiness around here, I wanted something I could mop.  

Porch-&-Floor-Int-Ext-Semi-Gloss-1-gal

I was able to find it in full gloss.

Dutch Boy sells a porch floor paint that you can have tinted in any color, or it comes in a few premixed colors, including a light grey.  Because I was in a hurry, I decided to just go with that premixed grey in a full gloss.  White and grey are our neutrals throughout the house, and the laminate we have (tentatively) picked out is a grey-brown, so I figured maybe the grey would give us an idea of how the future flooring would look.  (Yeah, no, it didn’t really do that.  Ah well.)

Because this isn’t our final flooring solution, I did this the quick and easy way – I didn’t move super heavy furniture.  Things like bookshelves stayed right where they were.  They got taped off and painted around.  Not like we’re going to rearrange furniture any time soon.  (When you have to move books every time you move furniture, you pretty quickly become content with the way your furniture already is.)

014

Ta-da! I love painting – such an immediate improvement!

The paint went down great, and I was super pleased with the way it turned out.  It definitely needed two coats, and probably could use a third if I ever get bored enough to do that.  However, I was impressed with how well it covered not only the white (” “) sections, but also all my crazy doodling in the middle of the floor.

I painted half the house on a Friday with the help of a visiting friend (yeah, don’t visit me on my days off or you, too, will be swept up into a project), and then Tom and I painted the rest a few days later.

006

So clean and happy!

The weirdest thing happened, though.  For some reason – and I can’t figure out why – painting the floors grey made me feel like I was on a boat!  I don’t know if it’s the high gloss, the color, or what, but I definitely feel like I am “swabbing” more than “mopping.”

However, when I am mopping, it’s super exciting because it actually works!  The floor cleans up really well, and since it’s been raining for about two weeks, that has really made a big difference.  I love it!

Also, I’ve been scavenging some rugs and that does help break up the shiny floor and make it a little less boat-like.  😀

Now we have carpeting in the lower room and the bedroom, and freshly painted floors in the laundry room and living room areas.  That leaves us with the weird fake-brick linoleum in the kitchen/dining/entry area – that’s what was under the carpeting when we pulled it up last summer.  Tom seems to think that we can scuff up that linoleum with the sander and then paint over that, too.  We have enough paint leftover that I  may give that a try soon.  I’ll keep you posted.

Side Garden {water garden adventure}

Standard

So for some reason, as soon as bought this place, I immediately began yearning for a small water garden in the side garden area.  There is an overhang that runs the full length of the house on the north (side garden) side, creating a sort of  very long, skinny patio.  It just felt like it would be perfect to have a bench tucked under the overhang where you could sit and look out at a little fountain with maybe some flowers and fish.  I really, really love running water, so that probably has something to do with it.

Conveniently, I married someone who is always trying to make my dreams a reality (and, also conveniently, has a lot of the same dreams :-D).  Like most of the projects we’ve been working on around here, this was another “oh we should do this next year” project that somehow is done already…???

It looks like someone lives here now!

This picture is from last year after our first major tearing-up of the side garden.  You can see the overhang I’m talking about on the right side, along the house.  In the background, you can see a small brown pump – that’s where that cistern is that I was talking about yesterday.  We’ve kept the tall hibiscus bushes along the left, but dug up some of the smaller shrubs, including that huge hosta in the foreground.  The little pond is now in the ground in front of the cistern.

Like most of our projects, we had two  major limiting factors: space and price.  We actually had a decently large area we could work within, and then we spent some time research various ways to line the pond.  In the end, even though we were tempted to try lining our own custom-shaped pond with plastic liner, we decided to go the pre-formed route for the sake of simplicity.  This also helped limit the options of size and shape.  The pond we chose is about 6’x4′.  It’s a little smaller than we wanted, but the next step up was HUGE and the shape seemed really weird, so decided to go smaller.  Maybe someday, if we get crazy, we’ll build an upper level pond that pours into the lower…??

006

The fact that Tom did most of the digging made it a pretty easy job for me.

Once we’d chosen and purchased our pond, it was time to dig the hole.  Luckily, the whole side garden area is actually pretty soft dirt because we’ve been digging shrubbery out of there for a year.  So while it was definitely a lot of work, it could have been a lot worse.

As you can see, the pond has a shallower shelf and then then a deeper main pond.  In our zone, water needs to be at least 3′ for fish to survive overwinter.  We don’t have that depth with this pond, so if we decide to get fish, we’ll have to bring them in for the winter.

007

Tom is always trying to jump out of my pictures.

As the hole got deeper, Tom began setting the pond in to see if it was close yet.  He dug the whole slightly deeper than it needed to be, as the easiest way to level a preformed pond is by putting sand/small gravel in the bottom of the hole.

002

Still experimenting with pavers at this point.

After leveling the pond, which also involved slowly filling it to give it the appropriate weight, Tom backfilled dirt and gravel along the sides of the pond.

We had some extra pavers because the old owners of this house randomly used them everywhere, so Tom decided to use those around the edges of the pond.  He wasn’t sure exactly how to best stack them, so we tried a couple different methods.  We also weren’t sure, at this point, what kind of fountain/waterfall we wanted, or how to make it work.

We also knew that we wanted to tie-in the little brick walkways from the other side of the garden to make it all flow together.  So many decisions!!

001

Continuing paver experimentation…

In the end, Tom decided to go with a single layer of the pavers with the short ends against the edge of  the pond.  He used some of the fine gravel as a base under the pavers to help level them.

We also found an old pump from Tom’s mom that we decided to utilize.  While perhaps not my first style choice, it was free so…

Originally, the pump was in it’s own little barrel water garden, but Tom was confident that he could make it work for our pond instead.

007

At this point, nothing is mortared yet. Still making decisions!!

He built a little pumphouse box for the pump, and, after I painted it, mortared it into the paver wall along with the bricks.

Even after we decided how we wanted the bricks along the edge of the pond, we still had to figure out how to make the path flow, too.

002

Tom is, of course, displeased with his mortaring job, but I think it is quite excellent. Also pictured: Waylon, assisting with the digging.

Tom mortared in the bricks and the pump, and then worked on digging out the path.

003

At this point, we were working on draining the pond so we could clean it.

While we still have to do some work on the path, as it doesn’t drain quite right, I really like the way it follows the curve of the pond.  I’m hoping to plant something soft and floppy between the path and the pond.

001

So happy!

At this point, we drained the pond, wiped the inside down completely, and then refilled it.  The whole area was starting to look pretty good, as Tom had also rebuilt the cistern deck.

We really wanted to put something in the bottom of the pond instead of just the plain black, and thought that gravel would look really nice.  River rock was about $3.50/bag and we only needed around 4 bags, so it wasn’t too expensive.  However, the gravel was too dirty to dump directly into the pond.  So I got the lovely job of, yes, washing rocks.

007

The river rock was pretty shades of browns and greys, but somewhat dulled by dirt.

We had a couple of plastic baskets that were ideal for this project.  First, we would fill the baskets with rocks.  Then I would use the hose to spray the rocks until the water running out of the basket was moderately clear.

011

Washing rocks meant our pond didn’t end up this color.

Next, I would pour the rocks into a bucket, cover the rocks with water, and swoosh them around.  As you can see, the rocks were still pretty dirty at this point in the process.

010

Although not super obvious in this picture, the washing really brightened the colors.

Then I would pour about half the rocks back into the basket and rinse, add the rest of the rocks and rinse, and then return them to the bucket for another slooshing session.  Finally, in the basket for a last rinse, and then in the pond!

Although it took a lot of water and a lot of steps, the end result was worth it, especially since the rocks barely clouded our pond at all.

013

Beautifully rocky pond bottom!!

We really like having some color and texture at the bottom of the pond, especially at a low price-point!

001

Of course, Waylon thinks this whole project was just to make him an awesome water dish.

Now we were ready to start thinking about some plants!!

005

Plants!

There were a lot of options at the greenhouse where we purchased the plants, but in the end we went with five:

The tall, red plant is a Cardinal Flower.  It may be able to overwinter here, but we are on the edge of its survival zone.

In the front left, the plants with the pink flowers is a Pink Bells.  It’s only hardy to zone 8, so it won’t overwinter here.  However, it blooms basically every day (the blossoms all fall off in the evening??) and is super pretty and happy.

The Pink Bells are sharing a pot with Bear Root.  This plant will stay a little shorter and should have white flowers.  It’s also hardy to zone 3, so it may actually make it overwinter.

In the back is some water mint, which will have purple flowers and is already putting out some runners – like ground mint, it will spread if given a chance!!  It’s zone 6, so is another iffy plant for winter survival – we’re technically zone 6 here, but right on the line of 5 – about every 4-5 winters we have a zone 5 winter, basically.

Finally, on the right is our one indulgence – a water lily.  While somewhat expensive, it should overwinter, and it’s been blooming – so pretty!!  Our neighbors have a small pond like ours and say that their lily has survived about ten years, so I’m cautiously optimistic that it will make it over!

002

Blooming plants make me feel like I’m not a total failure at gardening!

For some reason, having the water lily bloom just makes my day.  I’m not very good at taking pictures of flowers, so you’ll just have to trust me that yellow-white-pink is just beautiful.

Overall, the water garden was a pretty big project, but we are super pleased with the results.  However, since planting the plants, we have noticed our water getting dingier/greener, so we are going to go ahead an invest in an algae filter.  But that’s another project for another day – I’ll let you know how it goes!!

 

Side Garden {herbs & more}

Standard

So what with all the chicken/barn madness, you wouldn’t think we would have time for any other projects, right?  Well WRONG.  In between working on that stuff, we have also been busy with a lot of gardening.

Originally, my plan was just to focus on the side garden right outside the kitchen door.  I really wanted to make this a happy little herb garden, and maybe, at some point, put in a little water garden as well.  Back in April, I posted some pictures of my initial clean-up work in that area.  Tom was also installing some of the cutest little brick paths you could ever hope to see in your life.

006

I have always wanted a little garden with brick paths!!!

At first, things were going as scheduled.  I got a bunch of herbs and planted them…  and then we started to get a little out of control…  again.  😀

Honestly, I don’t even know exactly where to start, so I’ll just start posting pictures and telling you what we did, and you can decide for yourselves when/if we crossed the line from “normal amount of things to accomplish in one year” to “what?!”

002

Five of my favorite basil varieties.

So the reason that I wanted to plant herbs is because I love them.  I love that they are useful for different things, and I love that they smell wonderful.  A lot of herbs are perennials, and that was my main focus this year.  However, my favorite herb is an annual – basil.

One of the things I love about basil is that it comes in lots of different types.  I prefer some of the milder flavors (not a huge fan of thai basil, for example).  This year, I got variegated, purple, lemon, sweet, and African blue.  They each have their own distinctive flavor, and are pretty much my favorite thing for cooking everything.  Also, I learned this summer that rubbing a fresh basil leaf (well, the oil from the a fresh basil leaf) on a mosquito bite will stop the itching entirely almost immediately.  Brilliant.

The washtub is one I have had for years, and I wish that I had about a dozen more.  It’s sturdy, and the handles make it fairly easy to move about, even when it is full of dirt and heavy.

Because I was planting a fairly shallow-rooted plant in the tub, I filled about half of it with straw, and then put dirt on top of that.  You can also use old leaves or lawn clippings.  Basil roots aren’t going to grow much past the halfway point of the pot depth anyway, so there is no sense using all that extra soil when a different filler will work just as well.  Plus, you’re already composting for next year!

003

Why does this alligator consistently make me smile??

I bought Tom this awesome alligator at a local greenhouse.  It’s moved around the garden quite a bit (in true alligator fashion) and for some reason just makes me happy every time I see it.

Because the side garden is fenced in and right outside our kitchen door, it turns out that that is where it’s easiest to take Waylon out.  We have a small area at the bottom of the garden where he goes to relieve  himself, but he frolics throughout the whole area, artlessly smashing all sorts of plants, and attempting to eat whatever he hasn’t smashed.  (He actually loves basil – he doesn’t just chew on it, he actually eats it – by the mouthful!)

005

That thing is HEAVY.

007

Where the hosta used to be… it was actually interfering with the Japanese maple!

The point is, hostas are pretty toxic, and Waylon found the big, floppy leaves of this one completely irresistible.  Plus, if I’m honest, it was just a bit in the way.  It was an inherited plant, and while a beautiful one, didn’t really fit with everything else that was going on in the garden.  So, we dug it up and moved it down under the mulberry tree where it has reestablished itself and is doing quite well.

001

Hours of pulling up plants were involved in the making of this picture.

We had some really, really nice weekends throughout May and early June, so we were able to get tons of stuff done.  Here, we moved the picnic table from its winter shelter on the front porch to the flat area in the side garden.  The kitchen door is to my left as I am taking the picture.  Beyond the table is Waylon’s little private area behind the hibiscus bushes.

001

This is like one of those “I Spy” pictures.

Underneath the front of the garden is an old cistern.  It’s actually pretty big, and our eventual hope is to have a pump in it so we can use the water for plants and whatnot around the house.  Our roof runoff drains into it.  This is the before picture – Tom tore off the old decking you can see here and replaced it with treated lumber in preparation for eventually building an upper platform with a pump.  The old wood was getting quite rotten and was a little scary, especially since the cistern is rather deep.

Also pictured: the water garden, which will be the subject of its own post; Waylon, thinking about digging again; my basil garden; our bright blue rock that we can’t get the paint off of (although we have diminished its brilliance with diligent sanding); and the alligator, looking as though its head has been severed by my trowel.

006

Although the decking was getting rotten, the actual underneath support is still in good shape.

While replacing the decking on the cistern, we made sure Waylon was locked securely in the house.  That dog would have fallen in for sure.

The cistern itself appears to be in good shape and is completely full of water, probably because it hasn’t been used in years.  Our roof catches quite a lot of water – one whole side of the roof drains into this cistern.

008

“After” pictures are so satisfying.

001

Here is the view from the front of the garden looking back. The decking is much sturdier now.

Here is the same area after a weekend of very hard work – new decking, new path, and freshly weeded!

004

No, of course that isn’t a crazy gazing ball in the background. Why would I have a crazy gazing ball?? ::shifty eyes::

When hiking in areas where blazes aren’t used, rock cairns are common trail markers.  Tom and I built our own home cairn, since all our trails lead here.  🙂

Incidentally, we need to practice, as our cairn has fallen over several times.  😀

007

We planted these before I got around to painting the container. Oh well, there’s always next year!

We have tried planting watermelons several times, but they are a favorite of marauding groundhogs and rabbits.  This year, we decided to put them in a large tub and keep them in our fenced-in garden.  Of course, now we have to worry about crazy Waylon nomming them instead.

008

Here is my basil garden … again

Oh wait, did I already mention that basil is my favorite?  As you can see, it’s growing quite well.

Believe it or not, I actually did plant a lot of other herbs…  I just don’t seem to photograph them as regularly!  I have several varieties of sage and thyme, plus oregano, winter savory, rue, parsley, lavender, bee balm, and rosemary.  There are also coneflowers, daisies, nasturtiums, violets, baby’s breath, and lamb’s ear, plus other odds and ends that I have picked up off the clearance rack at Lowe’s!

Overall, everything is doing pretty well.  As of today (6/27/15), we have gotten about 6-10″ of rain in the last two weeks.  Honestly, the garden is a bit out of control – everything is growing like crazy, and it’s hard to find time to weed between the rain showers!

009

The new water garden is to the right of where I’m standing for this picture.

Here is the garden in pretty decent shape before the monsoon started.  I love everything about this garden.  You have no idea.

While it has been a lot of work to get stuff in the ground, and it definitely is going to need some maintenance as well, I am overall just super pleased with what is happening in this side yard, especially compared to what it looked like when we moved in – full of ugly shrubs and cat poop.

Almost everything I have planted this year is a perennial, so hopefully at least some of it will get well enough established to overwinter and reappear next year.  We’ll see what happens!!!

 

 

Chickens! {part III}

Standard

So, we were FINALLY getting to the point where we could start putting things back together!  SO EXCITING!

001

The siding goes up as Tom continues to faithfully dig postholes… they never end…

004

The barn now has two upstairs windows, and looks pretty darn adorable as you’re driving up the back alley.  Also, note how closely the fence post green matches the barn!  Win!

We were able to borrow an aluminum break from a neighbor so Tom and Pop could bend all the trim around the new windows and the door.  We were pretty glad to find one handy by, as they are rather expensive to rent.

002

The leaning shelf got sturdified and moved into the barn – it was another piece removed from the chicken side.

In the front of the barn, we got the new half wall and the door both painted and installed, although the wire was still unaccomplished.  Isn’t it adorable??

005

The door is not standard height. Instead, it’s just low enough to smack people on the forehead as they walk in.

Inside, the new front wall of the coop was fully functional and ready to keep chickens in and critters out.

008

Just when you thought our barn couldn’t get any cuter, it did!

With the siding on, the windows and doorway framed out with white aluminum, and the corner posts set for the fence, things were starting to really take shape…  plus, it felt like this project might someday actually end!!!

003

At 3 weeks, chicks are pretty ugly and look more like dinosaur birds than chickens.

Mom and I ordered our chickens together from Mt. Healthy.  They arrived towards the end of May.  Young chicks have be kept at very warm temperatures – around 90-95* their first week of age, and then about 5* less each week after that.  By the time they are around 6-7 weeks old, they are feathered out enough that they are ready for normal summer temperatures; lows around 60* are fine.

We didn’t have a super good place to keep the chicks, so, when they first arrived, Mom kept them at her house, where it was easier to keep them confined and super warm.  By the time they were around three weeks old, they had outgrown their pen at Mom’s house and were ready to move out to our place.  They still needed to be around 80*, so we put in a heat lamp and, instead of letting them have the run of the entire chicken area, kept them confined in a smaller wire pen.

Some of the nights were still pretty chilly, but I was able to put a folded cardboard box on the end with the heat lamp, and then drape old towels over the other end of the run to help keep the heat in.  Chicks do a pretty good job of letting you know if they are too hot or too cold by whether they are spread out and panting or huddled together as close to the heat source as they can get.  Ours seemed comfortable all the time, hanging out near and under the heat lamp, but still going to the other end to eat, drink, and be merry.

005

Chicks are super curious and if you sit still, they will come up and see what you are doing.

At this point, my pictures are almost all Waylon.  😀 The chicken project was mostly wrapped up, except the fence, and the chicks weren’t super photogenic yet.  This picture is about ten days later than the last one, so just under five weeks.  They still look like dinosaur birds.  😀

We got a variety of breeds so that they would all be different colors.  While Mt. Healthy produces decent layers, they aren’t going to be show quality at any point.  In this picture, the gold one is a New Hampshire, the black-and-white is an Aracauna, the black is a Cuckoo Moran, and the white-spotted one in the back is a speckled Sussex.  Because we got all different breeds, not only will the chickens be all different colors, their eggs will be, too.  New Hampshires lay a medium brown, Aracauans lay either green or blue in various shades, Cuckoo Morans lay very dark brown, and the Sussex will be light brown.

Mom’s chickens are still at our house, as she didn’t have a very good place to keep them for the medium stage of life!  Her seven will probably be going back to her house this weekend, while our eight will remain.

003

Isabelle, a Columbian Rock, is insatiably nosy and always led the let’s-fly-out-of-our-pen brigade.

By six weeks of age, the chickens had outgrown their smaller pen and were ready to venture into the world of the entire coop area.  They were also starting to look a lot more like small chickens, as they now had most of their adult plumage.

004

Chickens love eating grass and other plants, plus bugs and whatever else they find that looks interesting.

Here, the chicks have their first experience with grass and direct sunlight!  We put them outside while we finished putting bedding down inside the coop and getting things ready for them.  This is from the first week of June.

016

Waylon likes to frolic in the chicken yard, too.

With the chicks now living in the entire inside coop area, we decided we should probably get to work on finishing the fence.  Yet another door was repurposed into a gate.  Following his “super sturdy” theme, Tom built the fence with treated 2×4’s at the top and bottom of each section, and then heavy wire as the actual fencing.

020

Chickens usually like to stick together while exploring new things.

Their first time outside, the chicks were pretty nervous, so they all stuck together as they explored their new territory.  Soon, they were all scratching and eating busily, completely enthralled with being outside.

For the first few days, I only let them out when I was home to keep an eye on them, but it was soon obvious that they were totally comfortable getting in and out of the building.  Like all chickens, once they establish a certain location as “home,” they will return there to roost as soon as it gets dark.

027

Supposedly, the red light is supposed to help them sleep better than a brighter white light. I think the chicks liked it because it felt more like a rave.

At night, the evenings were still chilly, so I would turn on the heat lamp.  The chicks seemed to view this as “party time,” as they would spend the evening dust bathing and hanging out.

022

They also kept flying up onto their old pen. Nostalgia for the good old days??

Tom built the chicks a study little ramp to help them in and out of the building.  Of course, they seem to prefer hanging out underneath it rather than using it.

002

Sometimes they like to hang out on the roost during the day, too.

While chickens can’t really fly long distances, they can use their wings to hop up to a roost or someplace they would like to explore.  At some point, we will probably have to clip their wings.  Done correctly, this is completely harmless and painless for the chicken – rather like clipping toenails.  When one wing is clipped (by cutting off the ends of their long, primary flight feathers), the chicken no longer has balance.  This usually doesn’t prevent them from the short hops up to something as low as the roost, but does keep them from higher flights, like to the top of the fence.

003

Waylon hasn’t tried to catch a chicken. He just wants them to all be in the barn where they belong!

Waylon gets along pretty well with the chickens, but he does have a tendency to want to herd them already.  He’s realized that we make sure they are all inside at night (the time I usually take Waylon down to the barn with me), so now he is super distressed if we leave and he hasn’t gotten the chance to put them all in the barn.  His herding skills aren’t really even needed at this point – when the chickens see him coming, they all run into the barn!

However, when he approaches them slowly, they don’t mind trying to make friends.  Chickens are usually pretty friendly by nature, and, let’s be honest, they aren’t super clever.  So if you don’t look dangerous, they don’t usually view you as such.

001

In the foreground, Penelope (cuckoo moran), a silver-laced Wyandotte (my sister’s chicken, so not sure what her name is), and a speckled Sussex (who doesn’t have a name yet. Possibly Jemima).

Chickens love table scraps, especially stuff like corn cobs and watermelon rinds.  At first, the girls weren’t too sure what to make of these watermelons, but once one of them started pecking at it, they all realized that it was delicious!

004

Why, chickens, why? Note the perfectly empty roost in the foreground.

001

Here they are from the outside looking in. We have to keep the window closed for now because they were flying from the windowsill to the top of the fence!

At first, the chickens were perfectly content on their little roost, but lately they’ve decided that that just isn’t high enough.  They’ve been flying onto the roost, and then over onto the windowsill, or even above the window.  Now the whole crew sleeps around the window!

002

Hanging the feeder and waterer has really helped a lot with keeping them clean, since the chickens love to scratch shavings into them.

Overall, the chicken coop project is now pretty much wrapped up.  Tom keeps coming up with little ways to improve, like hanging the feeder and waterer, but the chickens are more or less all set up.  Now we just have to wait 4-5 more months for eggs!

004

The chickens are super happy with their new home, and so am I!