Thursday, August 26, 2010

Warm Love

It has been suggested that using the saddest song in the world as a title is depressing (previous post). There is nothing depressing about this post.

First our chickadees were in a box, then a laundry basket, then a special crate made to keep our cat away.

We kept our crate in the closet in the guest room. Our out of town guests this weekend will be happy (or disappointed?) to know we moved them outside already. But for the few days they were living in the closet, DKIW would gather her snacks and water and sit in the closet watching them for hours. HOURS. Who needs TV? She spent the entire time asking, "What are they telling me now?" To which we started making up more and more outlandish things their constant peeping meant.

Now they are outside in their new chicken coop. It is huge. Large enough for us to walk inside. The experts state that its good to handle them (gently) when they are small to help them grow comfortable with humans. You don't have to tell me twice. There is something incredibly calming and warm about being in a small house filled with fresh straw and baby chicks. They are already hopping up the little ladder and making little pecking orders with their chicken friends. It's lovely to keep chicks.
Light Glow of Chicken Coop at Night

It's just warm love. And its everpresent everywhere. -Van Morrison

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Empire Of Dirt

We ordered a few yards of compost and a few more yards of mulch from Fertile Gardens. Ideally, we would have gathered up enough leaves to compost all our beds for free last fall, but there just wasn't enough (leaves, time). We will have to think further ahead this year.

Dirtiest Husband in the World was camped out by the window waiting for the dump truck like a kid waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve. I swear you would have thought gold was dumping out of the back of that truck for how excited he was.

We are off digging duty and on to spreading the compost and mulch around. Things are moving.

"You could have it all. My empire of dirt." -The Man in Black via N.I.N

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The 12 Eggpostles


Presenting :

Scrambles, Easy, Benny, Hardy, McMuffin, Sunny, Migas, Ranchero, Lorraine, Omelet and Noodles.

Mathematicians might notice this is only 11 chickens. We already have 1 chicken. Ok cough two cough. But that would be illegal. One might need to turn into Tinga de Pollo.

The law in San Antonio now says you can have three hens, no roosters in the city limits. But if you can put a coop 50 feet away from your neighbors homes, you can get a permit for 12. Get yer permit here: chicken permit.

For babies, they need to be kept in a small box (or laundry basket) with a heat lamp. If they are all clustered around the heat lamp- its still too cold. If they are all in the far corner away from the light- they are too hot. After they start getting feathers, they can go outside in the heat but they are very vulnerable to predators; hawks, cats, dogs, raccoons and skunks. They will have to stay in their coop until they are larger and more able to fend off some attackers. A full grown chicken is still pretty easy pickings, but they can at least scare off a stray cat.

After all the hullabaloo about large egg productions being filled with Salmonella- might be time to rethink your own backyard flock.

Feed Stores

We dun it! We got us some more chickens. Before I go on- let me take a minute to discuss feed stores.

We have been to three feed stores here in town. Hot tip: they sell brand name dog and cat food much cheaper than say a Petsmart for those who have never otherwise had a reason to step inside a feed store. Feed stores are notorious for their bad service. I am going to make a sweeping generalization that they are run by good ole boys who size you up instantly upon meeting you and usually decide they don't like you. Working in my favor is the fact that I am female and that I put on my strongest country accent as I walk in the door. Dirtiest Husband, who is a very nice fellow, usually sends me in because no one will help him. Here's my quick review from best to worst service here in town.

Moore's Feed and Seed Store- This is the store we purchased our chicks at today. They were super helpful and showed me the chicks, as well as a book they had hanging by the cages discussing each breed. They tried to jokingly sell me one of the peacock chicks- which Dirtiest Kid in the World would have LOVED. They also sold guinea hen chicks and unmedicated feed.

Word to the wise: Not all feed stores carry live chicks and not all feed stores have them in stock all the time. Call ahead.

Hot tip for Austinites: Callaghan's has a great selection of chicks most of the year.

Alamo Feed- This is the most central store and has average service for a feed store. The people there are not going out of their way to be friendly but they will carry heavy feed bags out to the car for you. It helps to bring a small child.

Lockhill Pet Feed and Lawn- WOO BOY! This place wins the award for worst service I have received. We read online that they carried organic feed. So we drove way out of our way to try it. I asked an employee if they carried the organic brand and he stated he did not know and walked away. I stood there waiting until realized he was not checking the back or asking someone else- he was just done discussing it with me. We asked a cashier and she just stated NO and glared at us. I mentioned we had seen that they did carry it online and she just stared at me with no response. Ok then. We left. Do they really carry organic feed? That mystery has never been solved.

I have been having a bit of a bad week but it is impossible to feel sad after holding a bunch of peeping chicks. If anyone else is having a rough week- you are welcome to come hold one. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face. More updates of the new chicks coming soon.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Post Wherein We Learn Swahili: Okra

Did you know Gumbo is the Swahili word for Okra? Impress your friends.

Okra is best picked young at only about 2-3 inches. You can see in our photo that most of our Okra is larger than this recommendation. We haven't been keeping up with the harvest. It is still best to pick off the the ones too large to eat to help the plant produce more. Okra loves the heat and we have found it to be incredibly easy to grow. We have found it slightly less enjoyable to eat.

We throw some Okra into soups or other veggie dishes but it just not my favorite. There is one way I love Okra though. Pickled! It makes for great pickling because its crisp and yum. We just pickle it as we do cucumbers. Read: Joy of Cooking recipe.

I would be willing to barter some excess Okra for a fresh bowl of Gumbo. Any takers? I can safely say we are at the level of what is too much for one.

“There are three things which if one does not know, one cannot live long in the world: what is too much for one, what is too little for one, and what is just right for one.”- Swahili Proverb

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dig Changes

We turning our backyard into an urban farm. In related news: we are not moving out of town after all. Before we can start this urban oasis, we need to dig. A lot. A lot of grass digging. Above you can see a photo of exactly how much grass I have dug. I would like extra credit for the fact it was 100 degrees when I dug this portion. Dirtiest Husband In the World dug about an equal share. All the rest.

Here's our method. Hoe, dig, pitch axe out your grass. I prefer hoeing. Obviously. Pick up your grass pieces and put down unmarked cardboard. (Most restaurants will have lots of suitable cardboard boxes they won't mind you taking off their hands.) Load up the top with your compost, grass clippings, leaves, what have you. This whole area is currently our compost pile. We are going to keep adding to it and then throw down some mulch, more compost, throw in a few composting worms for good luck and have ourselves a good soil party. No one likes to dig... in August... in San Antonio. But if we want to have all our beds ready by fall, its now or never.

There are big changes coming around here. Stay tuned for the next chapter: How we persuaded our neighbors to allow us to keep 12 chickens. It hasn't happened yet- but I have a good feeling about how it will all wrap up.