Monday, August 31, 2009

Feeding time at the zoo

The chickens are really cracking us up these days. The seem to enjoy it when we're working outside. They really are very social creatures.

I sometimes feel like I'm in Australia or the tropics somewhere with the wacky noises they make. There's the eagle-like sound, the screaming Welsummer, and the one that I think sounds like a kookaburra. I haven't gotten any of this on tape yet, but I hope to soon.

We've got them "trained" just enough that every time we come out of the house or approach the coop, they think we're going to feed them. You'd think they were starving or something (but they're not!). Sometimes Jeremy teases them by walking up to the coop and then walking all the way around the coop. They follow along in a clump all along the inside of the coop.

There are a lot of things they really like to eat. While I've been doing digging for the garden, I've been digging up these nasty grub things which turned out to be stag beetle larvae. They eat rotten wood so they're a relatively harmless, even beneficial bug. But the chickens go crazy when I throw some in and swallow them down whole.

Once or twice we've had some milk that we didn't want to drink any more (just slightly off) so we poured it in a dish for the chickens. They love it. Drink it down and they usually have milk dribbling down their fronts.

The other day we had some pasta that was getting a bit old and we didn't want to eat it anymore. So into the coop for the girls!

I'm hoping some day to get a good video of what we like to call "chicken football." This is when one chicken gets a tasty morsel and runs with it - with all the other chickens after her. For some reason she won't just swallow the thing down, she wants to pick and peck at it. So she usually ends up losing it to another chicken who is then chased. This can go on for some time. They really are hysterical!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Not waiting for the other shoe... fall apart. Though I guess by this point they both really had fallen apart. Once half of Jeremy's sole came off, he really did need to get a new pair of shoes. We ended up finding a great pair, almost new, for less than $10, at the local thrift store. I'm sure he'll run them ragged soon enough.

I had to laugh the other day at my own shoes. I looked down to discover this:

What can I say? Weeds will grow anywhere around here!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

One face (almost) done

A couple weeks ago I posted about our progress with the back of the house. We've had a lot of rain since then, but Jeremy finally got the rest of the siding up and I got the painting done. There is a little bit more to do, but it looks done, doesn't it? And that's the important part. =) We had the cable company come out and remove the cable box and cable coming to the house - one less wire, one less box, one less hole in the house. That was very satisfying.

Back in the mudroom, here is the new door/hatch into the attic crawl space. (And yes, that red-painted wood is left over from the chicken coop.)

Jeremy also got trim up around the door and a ledger up. This is for the little back deck we intend to build - in like 100 years when we get around to it. Hopefully it will be sooner than that because we're both excited about it and it will be a really sweet deck.

Friday, August 28, 2009


We did not can nearly enough peaches last year. The peaches turned out to be so tasty and we went through our 7 or 8 jars very quickly.

So this year we decided to do more. Seward Co-op had their peach sidewalk sale last weekend so we picked up a 25 pound box. By Monday most of the peaches were ripe enough so we set to work.

First you throw them in boiling water for about 60 seconds, then you put them in cold water. If things go according to plan, you should be able to peel the skin right off.

And where do all those skins go? To the chickens of course!

Then we sliced ours in quarters and put them in water again to heat up.

Right when they came to a boil we ladeled them into hot jars, screwed on the lids, and them put them in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. We did three batches, back to back, for two dozen canned peaches! Yum. And we still have frozen peaches from last year. =)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

She's got freckles...

Recently our darker brown eggs have been getting even darker: with freckles. I'm curious if they'll eventually become a solid dark brown. I think we like the freckles better.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I've been meaning to post about our raingarden for some time, but haven't for some reason. One of the first things we did here was put a rain garden in the front yard. The French drain along the north side of the house is supposed to take water and channel it down into the garden.

For those who don't know what a raingarden is, here is a little blurb from my Blue Thumb Guide to Raingardens:

Have you ever wandered what to plant in that low spot in your backyard where the grass won't grow because water puddles there after it rains? Or how to fix the erosion gully where rainwater drains away from one of your downspouts?

Well, there may be an easy, attractive solution! Try planting a raingarden!

A raingarden is simply a garden with a depression that is designed to catch rainwater runoff in your yard, growing plants that don't mind getting partially flooded on occasion. Raingardens provide wildlife habitat and an opportunity to create beautiful landscaping. And, by soaking up rain where it falls, raingardens slow stormwater runoff, help prevent erosion, and remove pollutants in the process.

The point is to catch as much rainwater as you can and give it a place to soak in. We've had some spectacular downpours in the last couple weeks and I've never yet seen standing water in our raingarden. We have great drainage! We just wanted to encourage it to drain into the earth - instead of into our basement.

Here is the beginning of our raingarden, before and after we dug out the Gingko tree:

Here you can see things have begun to leaf out a bit and our rose dropping petals all over. I transplanted quite a few things into the garden - at first mostly creeping charlie!

That last picture was from June; this is from July:

It has filled out even more since then. This is one of my favorite parts of the garden. Just under the rose and little cherry tree there is a mass of violets, wood sorrel, wild geranium, and some other unknown ground cover. Spraying out from the midst of that and draping over into the garden is a patch of this decorative grass. It hangs into more wood sorrel and creeping charlie, and whatever else is hiding in there.

Many months ago I started noticing a type of grass growing. It was so thick it made me think of corn - so I didn't pull it up. It eventually grew to be about 4 feet high and have these great huge fluffy ends. There are several of them and they are matched by lots of little native grasses growing in the yard.

We hope to put a raingarden in the backyard someday, but recently I was noticing how much water pools in the sidewalk when it rains. I'm going to try to put in a bit of a raingarden in the boulevard strip. I've read this isn't always a good idea, so we'll see how it goes. Hopefully it will at least keep our sidewalk from turning into a lake every time it rains!

Before and during (not after) - I'm afraid I haven't gotten very far yet!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Graffiti thwarting

There's nothing like a freshly painted expanse of garage to invite a few taggers along. We heard (and hopefully it's not a myth!) that graffiti artists paint/tag buildings or your garage because it's a fresh, wide open space. They won't often tag a mural or something with other images on it because then their tag won't stand out. (So I've heard anyway.)

So Jeremy went and found some images he liked and freehand drew a rooster and a sun! I am really impressed. He cut these out of some big pieces of cardboard and we spray painted the images onto the side of the garage.

So far, so good...

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Amazingly, we finished priming the garage last night. We worked on the south side last. It's an alley about two and a half feet across at the most. It's very interesting putting a ladder in there and trying to climb up it! The sun went down and it got really dark in there so we hooked up a shop light to help us finish. I think we finished up at about 10pm.

This morning we went to breakfast with a friend and then came home to start painting again - the top coat this time. Jeremy was too wiped out to paint, but I love painting so I went for it. I got the whole west side done and then our friend came over to help.

Between the two of us, we painted the whole garage!! Isn't it adorable??

This miraculous feat was accomplished with the help of a spectacular modern invention: a big roller with a 3-inch nap. Slap the paint up and smooth it down with a brush. What takes the longest is trim and edging - but there wasn't too much of that on the garage. And the rain even held off till we were done painting.

Now we can get back to our regularly scheduled siding and trim and other work on the house!

Oh, and here's a shot of the garage back in March, for comparison's sake:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Scraping, Scraping, Scraping

We're doing so much scraping these days, when I close my eyes at night all I can see is tons of siding that needs to be scraped. But, I realized my pictures of late haven't quite given you all an adequate image of just what the garage is like. So, this might help a bit:

This is what most of the garage is like; and lots of the house too! We certainly have our work cut out for us...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pickles, Zucchini, and the garage

Jeremy spent the last few days making his favorite pickles: Honey & Curry Bread-and-Butter Pickles. He made some last year and loved them so he made even more this year. About 26 quarts I think.

The recipe is from Carla Emery: Slice about 30 small cucumbers. Soak 4 to 8 hours in a brine (1/2 cup uniodized salt and water to cover). Make a syrup of 1 cup honey, 4 cups sugar, 1 tablespoon curry powder, 1/4 cup mustard seed, 1 quart vinegar and bring to boil. Drain the brine off your cucumber slices and dump them into the boiling syrup. Boil 5 minutes, then pour into your jars and seal (i.e. hot water bath!)

I think Jeremy adusts the amount of sugar when he makes these. I'll take his word for it on these - I don't like anything pickled at all!

A friend of ours was out of town for two weeks and asked us to look after her plot in the community garden. After lots of rain and some good sun, her patch produced some of the biggest zucchini I've ever seen! (Well - I guess our friend J down the block has grown some pretty big ones too!) Luckily, E came back into town so we could hand off some of these monsters to her, as well as some beautiful cucumbers. We checked out our own small garden patch and saw one ripe tomato! Which was mostly rotten - blossom end rot. It's no surprise since the watering has definitely been sporadic at best. No more tomatoes in the community garden!

And... work continues on the pesky garage!

We got the west side primed(have to work on that door some more...)

We've been scraping and sanding a lot on the east side:

The north side is half covered by a pile of wood I need to move:

And the south side will be difficult to do. It is in this tiny alley that you really have to squeeze into:

We might only get the priming done by Saturday, but it looks so much better than the original peeling paint, I'm sure the city won't mind...hopefully!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Carven Images

When we took the siding off the back of the house, we uncovered some carvings.

Two lovers confessing their undying love?

Or a bunch of hoodlums confessing their undying love of...hoodlumism??

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Details, Details

Things have been busy around here! The gutters finally went on last week, just in time for some torrential rain (3.5 inches I think!). We had two of the rain barrels hooked up and of course they overflowed within the first few minutes. We have to work on a solution for that.

We don't have the back water barrels hooked up yet because we wanted to replace the trim before the gutters were attached. So water just poured out of the holes in the gutters at the back of the house. Jeremy went down to the basement around 1am to discover water leaking in through one of the windows. All the water was filling up in the back and looking for a place to drain! So, middle of the night, Jeremy went out in his bathrobe and dug a trench - in the pouring rain, and thunder and lightning - to divert the water away from the house. Needless to say, he was very tired the next morning!

He had had a long day doing some projects I've been bugging him to do for months.

First, a laundry line!! Jeremy had to made wooden supports to hold the lines because we couldn't find any ready-to-go laundry line setup that would fit in the existing pipes.

Unfortunately, it turns out our next door neighbor doesn't like seeing our socks and underwear and whatnot - so we have to work out a compromise with him. We might have to dig out the posts (with huge concrete footings!), but we'll see how that goes.

Jeremy also made a shower rod!! I can tell you, trying to wash long hair in a bathtub is not easy. As you can see, we had to be creative about the curtain rod because of the shape of the bathroom. I know we could have just bought some plastic or metal thing...but we had all this stuff on hand and it looks way nicer.

Jeremy has been working on the upstairs framing, but too many other projects have been pulling him away, so this is where we've been at for about a week:

The big project of late has been this back wall. There was an old access door up top (an old window frame, complete with 4 yellow jacket nests!) and we decided it would be much nicer to access the tiny attic crawl space through the inside of the house, not the outside.

So Jeremy cut a hole through the ceiling into the mudroom...

Then up went tar paper and siding!

Over around the corner Jeremy decided to replace the sill. It was mostly rotted out and there was all this foam stuff under the sill. We moved the back steps aside and Jeremy dug out the foam - only to discover that the piece of wood under all that was rotted out too. So he had to replace that too. Ah the slippery slope of house projects!

Jeremy did a great job with the new sill!

As if that isn't enough, we have till Saturday to paint the garage!

The city sent us a letter a month or two ago asking us to paint the garage and fix the trim on the house, something like that. I suppose we could get the date deferred or something, but as you can see - it needs it! Of course this is after scraping, but really it doesn't look much worse that it did before scraping. The siding is in pretty awful shape. It's a pain to have to do all this work now because we have plans for the garage. But those won't be happening for some time, and it does need to be painted. But can we get it done before Saturday??

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cherry Pie

Way back in June we decided to pick our cherries. We couldn't find an answer as to when sour cherries are ready to pick and it's not like they taste sweet when they're ripe! We figured when the birds started going for them, that was good enough for us.

We picked only the darkest, reddest, squishiest ones each day and after a couple weeks we'd picked over 10 pounds of cherries! (I don't have the exact number because the sheet I wrote it on has gone missing...somewhere in the mess around here.)

We froze most of the cherries and dried some too. All the cherries got pitted first. It was a messy job, with cherry juice spattered all over the kitchen. This is a very organic tree of course, so some of the cherries were bad and several had little buggies inside. All the bad ones, and the bugs, were set aside for the chickens.

After one huge processing day (probably 4 or 5 pounds of cherries) we had a sizeable bowl to feed to the chickens. They love anything squishy and soft like this to eat. We put the bowl in the coop and they went bonkers, gulping down as many cherries and buggies as they could. It looked like someone had been killed later on, with red cherry juice spattered all over the place! They are not very clean eaters.

Jeremy has been bugging me since then to make a cherry pie. It's his favorite, and I'll confess I've had very few pieces of cherry pie in my life. I just prefer other kinds of pie. But yesterday we were invited to dinner at J & B's house (fellow chicken-lovers just a few houses away) so I decided it was a perfect opportunity to make pie.

I usually get very upset when I make crust, but even so I decided to try a lattice-top because a cherry pie just has to have a lattice top! Amazingly, everything worked out beautifully.

Before the oven...

And the final results!

The pie, served with vanilla ice cream of course, was quite a success.