Friday, December 19, 2014

When chickens molt

Our chickens are too young to molt - a period of time when they lose their feather and grow in a shiny new coat. When they molt, their bodies put all its work into creating new feathers so the bird stop laying eggs. A friend of mine at work recently stopped by my desk to share something. She buys eggs from a neighbor's daughter. Peg recently received the following explanation of why she won't be getting eggs for a while longer.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas and animals

During the third Sunday of Advent, the sermon was about the Christmas story from the animals' point of view. Who knew the donkey, sheep and cow would have had such opinions about smelly, travel-worn humans moving into their stable. And you'll have to ask them what happened right before the baby Jesus was laid in amongst their food. If you'd like to hear what they thought, the sermon archive is online and I think you'll be rather amused by it. Dec. 14, 2014 sermon.

In addition to the sermon, the Sunday bulletin had a nice quote about animals:
"Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to," Alfred A. Montapert.
During the last few months as I've gotten more and more used to and even accustomed to having these four birds, these four lifeforms, in our lives, I've found myself saying "I had no idea how much I'd like them."

When I return home from work, before I step in the house, I go to the coop and visit with them. At this time of year, the day is nearly spent by 4:45 p.m. and the birds are already on their perch getting ready for sleep. I talk with them, pet the bird nearest the window and generally forget about everything else for those moments.

Chickens really are very relaxing to watch and be around.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas with the chickens

As we were building our chicken coop, Matt asked me to add an outlet on the outside of the coop. When asked why, he announced his sincere desire to decorate the coop for Christmas. I immediately added an outlet, and today, we have this. Thanks Matt for decorating!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blue egg, brown egg

So far two of our chickens are laying eggs, even into these late and short winter days.

As previously announced, Betsy is laying the bluish eggs.

Since then, Prissy has started laying brown eggs. We know it's her because we've caught her in the next box. However, she has also laid eggs in the middle of the coop and in the run. Not sure why, when there are golf balls in the nest box to cue here where to lay! The other two birds might wait until next spring.
The golf balls help teach the chickens where to lay their eggs.
One other way we know the brown egg laying chicken is Prissy is thanks to the following text conversation Jay and I had a few weeks ago. I laughed so hard when this was done, however, Jay was not amused - and won't be that I'm sharing with you now ;)

Wisconsin Garden Expo presentation

Several months ago I submitted a proposal to the Wisconsin Garden Expo for a presentation titled,
"Use permaculture principles to create an urban orchard, store lots of water and build community."

I'm pleased to announce the proposal was accepted. I will present twice at this annual gardening extravaganza:
Saturday, Feb. 14, 4:45 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 15, 2:15 p.m.

These times may/may not change, but if you're interested in either seeing the presentation or simply going to the Expo, save the date. Here's a recap of what I thought of the expo when I went for the first time last year.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Our first egg!

One of our girls finally delivered an egg! And due to it's greenish tint, we know exactly who's responsible. Betsy Ross, the American,  (also known as an "Easter Egger") is our only chicken who does not lay brown eggs. So Betsy wins the prize for laying the first egg in the flock.

Poultry word of the day: Nest egg: savings (well, not in our case, at least not for awhile!)

It's greenish, so it must be Betsy's!

Betsy is the colorful bird on the right.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to get free mulch and help your local waterways at the same time

One of the permaculture principles that I continue to work toward more fully integrating into my garden is to reduce importing energy and materials from outside our property. For the last couple of springs, I have purchased hay bales to use as mulch in the garden. It's locally sourced, and I organize my neighbors to have a large truckload delivered to our block, so it's a fairly efficient and cost-effective way of getting mulch for lots of people.

Still, I've been thinking of how I can use what I have or can get my hands on locally that will serve the same purpose. This weekend I found a great source of mulching material that is nearby and easy to gather. You of course know of the "manna from the sky" that happens in the autumn, as the leaves fall to the ground. However, our backyard doesn't have a lot of trees, and our neighbors leaves mostly fall into their yards.

But as I looked around my street, I noticed that some of my neighbors were piling their leaves on the curb to be collected by the city. I also saw a lot of leaves in the gutters, just waiting for a rain to wash them in the storm sewers and out into our lakes. Here in Madison, we have a "Don't leaf our lakes" campaign to encourage people not to put leaves in the gutters because they add significant source of pollution to our lakes.

So this afternoon in about an hour, I accomplished to wonderful things; I easily collected a lot of leaves that had gathered in the gutters, and for my small part, remove these from the potential of washing into the lakes.

I found it very easy to rake leaves into piles right there in the gutters. Way easier than raking the lawn! Some of the leaves were a little wet, and I had to scrape them off the pavement, but it was a relatively easy task. Then I brought out my trusty tarp, and loaded it up from the piles I made.
I then hauled my leaves into the backyard. The tarp had grommet holes and I put a long nylon rope through several of them on one side. I was able to loop the rope around both my shoulders and just haul them like they were a big, heavy cape behind me.
I dumped them in a corner of our back yard, where I will run over them over with our electric lawnmower, put them into compost bins, add coffee grounds, mix and wait for the magic to happen before using this compost next spring for mulch around all my veggie plants.