Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Backyard Chickens Phase I

I must say that there is not much else that is more adorable than a baby chicken. I bought two Leghorn chicks over spring break at the local feed store. They cost me two dollars each. I was told that these will be good egg layers, which is all we want since the kids have protested the raising of chickens for consumption. Leghorns will lay white eggs--I wanted brown eggs so I held off on buying all four at once because I was told the Bantam chicks (they lay brown eggs) would be in the following week.

Having tile has been a bonus concerning the handling of these chicks--they poop a lot, and the tile is easy to clean. I let the kids exercise them every night so that the chicks will get used to being handled.

I've heard that some dogs and chickens get along, but I think my dogs want to eat them. I try to keep them separated. 

Setting up a brooder wasn't difficult. I used a plastic storage bin, lined with newspaper, and inside I placed food, water, and a heat lamp over the top. The wire screening keeps the chickens from flying out, and deters the dogs from being able to eat them. 

Having the chicks inside has created more dust around the house, but overall, it's been a simple process.

Except for the time when the power went out late one night and they lost their heat lamp and cheeped loudly into the dark. 

We almost had chicken nuggets that evening.

The coop has posed a bit more of a challenge. I would love to be able to share cost of materials and supplies, but I used mostly scraps. I followed the coop plans fairly close. I made the cuts using a miter saw, circular saw, and table saw (I had to rip a few 2x6s in half because I ran out of 2X4s). I used a framing nailer to attach the joints. 

The roosts were not mentioned in the plans, but I added them because apparently chickens like to sleep up off the ground.

There is a side door for cleaning, and a door in the front for the chickens to access the run.

After much time spent cursing at the heat, the weight of the power tools (why do they have to be so heavy?), and the project in general (remind me why I decided to get chickens again?), I decided to employ the help of my free manual laborers. Don't they look happy?

 *Yes, that's my fiancĂ©e in the background, under the shade tree, with a cold drink in hand.

I was pleased with the end results.

All that I have left to do is to attach the chicken wire.

And wait for our chicks to grow up and start laying eggs. We will gather them here.

I have started placing the chicks outside in this dog crate so they can practice scratching in the grass and getting accustomed to the outdoors. They will be ready for their coop when they are 60 days old.

Warning: In some odd cases, having chickens has made people want to act and dress up like them. (I think his sister was behind this.) I'm not sure what those things are on the top of his head--horns? Devil chicken? Definitely his sister's doing.

And remember--keep your dogs and chickens separated. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I'm not an expert, but I'll be happy to help.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Frijoles Ranch

About forty five minutes south of Carlsbad lies the Guadalupe National Park. It is home to numerous trails, wildlife, and some of the most contrasting landscapes within a close proximity that I have ever seen. We began our hike at the Frijoles Ranch, at the base of the Guadalupe Peak foothills.

The trail head winds through desert brush, cacti, and shrubs. It is rocky in places, but the slope is gradual and good for hikers of all levels. 

You will want to bring adequate water, sunscreen, and a hat.

Manzanitas are among my favorite trees. They have red smooth bark and their twisty shapes mimic drift wood.

They are also fun to swing on.

Still swinging.

Halfway up the trail, we entered this old forest. The trees are just beginning to bud, even so, the density of the forest created welcoming shade from the midday sun. 

Water from a spring trickled along the forest floor, aiding to the contrast of the harsh desert that we had just crossed.

The kids were begging to dip into this pool, and felt sorry for themselves when I wouldn't allow it. The sign clearly says not to leave the path.

Somehow, this one's feet ended up getting wet anyway.

This is where desert and forest converge.

We did break away from the trail to sniff the bark of a ponderosa pine; it smells like vanilla.

This is Manzanita Spring. It was used by the settlers of Frijoles Ranch for crops and cattle.

The old ranch house has been converted into a museum. Not only is it surrounded by breath taking views, it also has a small irrigation ditch that flows from another spring around the property. The kids had a hard time staying out of this one too.

The spring on the property is housed in this small building were the water flows freely down its course. 

My favorite building on the ranch is this small school house. One side of this building was the classroom, the other side was the teacher's living quarters. She had eight pupils and in payment for her services, she received a horse, room and board, and thirty dollars a month.

How eight students and one teacher were able to fit in this space is beyond me. People must have been smaller back then.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

An Eggseptional Tree

The complaint, "There is nothing to do in this town," is a common one. I always find something to do. In fact, my list of projects is never ending and it doesn't help that I am one of those people who start something, and then half way through, start something else. I have project ADD. I am still working on building that chicken coop, however, all the thought of chickens and eggs brought to mind Easter decorating. A visit to a scrap-booking store provided all the inspiration I needed to create this project:

My crafting method is not a pretty sight. Someday, I will have a craft-room complete with all those neat little cubbies with everything labeled and organized. For now, I have a kitchen table.

Supplies are simple. You'll need some plastic eggs, glue, old sheet music, and vintage sewing trims, i.e. lace, buttons, etc.  Decoupage plastic eggs with torn pieces of sheet music.

Once the egg has dried, you should end up with this.

As an avid garage saler and hoarder of vintage things, I have a collection of old sewing odds and ends. I used scraps of lace, buttons, and scrap-booking paper that has been cut using one of those cricket cutting machines.

Add trim or lace.

Next, add your paper pieces.

Embellish with vintage buttons. Oooh la la!

I finished the tops by gluing a loop of rick rack and covering the ends with a button so that the eggs can be hung from a tree.

This is the base of the branch I will use to hang the eggs. I used quickcrete and cemented the branch into the pot for stability.

I may have to trim this branch a bit--looks like I may have gotten carried away.

Design options are limitless.

I know, I really should be outside cutting wood for that coop, but this is so much fun!

And let's not forget what this holiday is really about.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Build a Chicken Coop - Complete DIY chicken coop Tutorial

I have always wanted to try my hand at raising chickens. I have read numerous books, magazine articles, online articles, and I have come to the conclusion that the best way to truly learn something is to do it.

With limited carpentry skills and some scrap lumber, I have finally settled on this design for my coop. I plan to make several modifications; for one, I'm concerned that this design does not have adequate ventilation. Two: this design does not feature a place to roost, but I'm sure I can easily fix that. I hope to post pictures of the completed project within the next couple of days.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Unwrapping Gifts

What is it about opening gifts that we love so much? Is it the suspense of discovering what hides within the box? Is it the hope of getting that which we have waited so long to receive? Or is it simply that we like getting new things? Well, some of us like new things.

I love old things, especially when they have been passed down from my family. That's why it was of special importance to me when my mother, who got the OK from her mother, informed me that I could unwrap my great-grandmother's china and crystal.

This is what I dug out of the shed.

Two dirty boxes, encased in time and dust, and waiting to be opened... Are you feeling the anticipation?

Go ahead, take a moment.

By the way, the box that says HOMO--it means homogenized milk--we're not that kind of family.

The china has been put away for so long, I can't even remember what it looks like.

Ok, ok, I'm opening the box--sheesh, talk about impatient.

This is the pile of rags, that wrapped the contents of the box, that I already opened and saw, that you are still waiting to see. Hah!

That's just wrong isn't it?

Ok, I'll stop being mean now.

There are four different sizes of crystal glasses, each etched with a delicate filigree of roses. I have never dined at a table set with four glasses, but I know that there was a time when this was standard.

The china set includes serving pieces, and I begin to imagine how they might all be used.

At the end of my unwrapping, I am posed with this thought: If we still took the time to set a table with ornament like this, would we then be inclined to prepare a good meal to go with it? And if we had taken the time to set a lovely table and cook a meal worth using our best china, would we spend more time selecting the company to share this special meal with? And in combination with our good food and good friends, would some of our tension and daily stresses of a hurried life begin to fade over laughter and a flowing glass of wine?

I stand back and admire the china and crystal that has finally found its way out of the box and into the hutch that my father made. It reminds me of a time when the world moved at a slower pace, when people   sat down and shared meals together, even if it meant washing four glasses for each guest.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Shotguns and Shenanigans

I had but one request from my man on New Year's Day: to go shooting with him and his buddies. Who am I to argue with the old adage, "The family that shoots together stays together?"

So we loaded up a small arsenal, headed out into the middle of the desert, and proceeded to shoot stuff. Namely, clay pigeons, coke cans, boxes, and a Christmas bag adorned with two cuddly penguins wearing Santa hats. I had a hard time with the last target; it was strangely morbid.

This is part of the small arsenal.

Ladies, this is the equivalent of your best friend showing you her new Coach hand bag and you tell her, "How nice! You are so fortunate," while in your mind you're thinking "B*tch."

I know everythin thay is to know about shootin guns. Thay's big guns, little guns, shot guns, hand guns, guns in potatoes, pineapple guns...

We decided to take a break from shooting, and threw rocks in the river instead.

I learned a thing or two about bird dogs--when they hear a shot, they run after whatever it is they think you shot, even if it is only a clay pigeon that has been blasted into fragments. It soon became a matter of calling all the dogs back in after each shot, so we could shoot some more without shooting the dogs. 

Men do not like to wait for dogs to get out of the way so they can shoot.

This is where dogs go when they don't get out of the way so men can shoot.

Dogs do not like to be stuck in the back of a pickup while men are shooting. 

As the sun began to set, we packed up our things because the men could no longer see what to shoot anymore. Actually, I think they would have stayed late into the night shooting into the darkness, or aiming for the stars, or maybe even the moon. It would have gone something like this, "You dang star! You done twinkled your last!" BOOM!

But the women were cold and hungry.