[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
With the help of much research, I have settled on this year's straight run of "refill the flock and fill the freezer" birds as Black Australorps. Dual purpse, hardy, don't mind being penned up during the predator times, and sweet. Of course, this means that the Wyndottes will likely beat them up. So the Wyndotte Gang is going to either stay in the smaller pen, or get moved into the yard.

Also on our list, picked by the kids with veto power from me, a smaller straight run (because that is how they come) of Partridge (a coloration) Cochin (breed of chicken) Bantam (meaning mini-version).

I wanted Buckeye's, cuz awesome, but they seem happier in cold than heat. and heat is the bigger issue around here.

This will be my first time picking up chickens at the post office and teaching them to eat, so I'm nervous, but I've done my research on reputable hatcheries, and while I'd prefer to go with a smaller, family run one, I think this time will go with big (experienced) business. McMurray is getting our business this time, since they have both breeds we want available in the time frame I was hoping for.

Since most of the companies I can order Turkeys from are doing seperate orders, I think I'm going to wait on those a bit. I can add them later in the season, or next year. Part of my issue is that I haven't fully decided whether I want to just get fast growing turkeys to butcher, or get a heritage breed pair and let them make us some meat. Pets or produce? That is the question. ;P I figure I have no business bringing an animal, even an edible one, into the picture until I am sure of that decision.

Now I just need to get the weather to cooperate (and my bank to deal with its issues) long enough to get set up, and then we'll get on with this.

Oh, and further research has me deciding against ducks. Yard small, creek near, and they need a different feed than turkeys/geese/chickens (who can share, as long as it isn't medicated). So...yeah. No ducks. This makes me sad...sad enough I may change my mind later, but for now...I don't need that added complexity.

This year's further goals in the fowl department: find a source of reasonably priced, reliably available, organic feed. Get their hutch set up for better winter protection before next winter. Continue the seemingly never-ending process of trying to outsmart the raccoons.
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Having finally done a bit of rearranging that has been waiting for a second set of arms (yay, barter!) I am ready to take the next step in my resource management.

I have set up the recycling center again: brown glass, clear glass, aluminum, tin/steel, and plastic #1 and #2, all of which the recycling center takes. I already shred all paper for use with the chickens, and I've set aside a space to keep the green and blue glass, which isn't accepted at our recycling center, but I've found several people who use it for crafting, so when it fills up, I call them. The hazardous waste container is also there, although I fill it so slowly, usually just batteries and fluorescent bulbs, that it is fairly small.

I previously had a recycling bin in the kitchen, along with a trash can and the chicken bowl. Now, however, I have three bins, plus of course the chicken bowl. The previous trash bin, which I bought specifically because it had a solid liner and a step lid (with this future step in mind), is now the "compost". All biodegradable things that I can't feed to the chickens (or that, as in the case of coffee grounds, they reject...along with anything said grounds touch). Those will be going in the midden  (to be done next week with more barter help in the space where the chicken pen USED to be). The recycling bin is still there, with an added sign to remind folks to rinse them first (I'm grateful those who visit my house are so cheerful about my waste management practices, but sticky cans are ew). Added to the kitchen is now a *small* (a bit less than half the size of the first two containers) wicker laundry hamper, sans liner or lid, for all "other" garbage.

Couple of thoughts behind this: first, if all of us handled the biodegradable waste we produce on site, we wouldn't be dealing with so much waste inherent in the disposal system of huge trucks, and we'd get to keep the compost that results, in this case good for ornamentals (I use what the chickens process on edibles- the midden, being open, will probably have cats pooping in it, and not just my cats), but still making happy soil. Second, there is an awareness that seeing my garbage brings. At this point, the only things leaving my property are the items that cannot biodegrade and cannot be recycled or reused. Which means those items are true waste: they came once into the system through chemistry, and they will NEVER go away. I don't want to drop that in a bin, close the lid, and ignore it until I close up a (non-biodegradable) bag and drop it in my trash can so it can be magically taken away on Tuesday morning. I want to be AWARE of exactly how much true waste I'm generating. I want to know what I need to eliminate to close the loop. I want it staring me in the face, and making me deal with it twice as often as before.

That has to have an effect on a person and her habits.
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
When your mom is a tree hugger, grocery shopping is a series of lessons that may or may not be same as those taught by other moms.

You will sometimes learn about price per unit etc...but mostly decisions are made based on packaging and origin of the food.

Mom, can we get this piece of produce?

Where is it from?

Commence a lesson on reading stickers for organic and location labels, and how organic takes secondary place to location, since you pretty well undo global benefit to organic if you ship it in from Ecuador.

Mom, can I get these pudding cups?

Does that look like the sort of packaging I'm ok with?

Commence a lesson (or review it) on the evils of plastic, the wastefulness of convenience packaging, and the fact pudding also comes in these little boxes right over here.

Which one should we get, Mama?

Help me find the ones that come in glass and we'll go from there.

Commence feeling the various containers in search of the olive oil/honey/etc options that are packaged in glass. Look inside the box of confectioners sugar to see if it is also wrapped in plastic, determine which package has the least waste etc.

The good news is that even those people who think you are a crazy hippie idiot will usually still respect the fact you are engaging with your well behaved children; resulting in smiles, patience, and free warm tortillas.

Or at least, that is how yesterday went. :)


Dec. 22nd, 2010 11:13 am
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
We are now down to 5 chickens. Buffy passed last night.

I'm sorry to say I think this one was my fault. I can't find any marks on her, and they were out of water. Bottom chicken will always be the first to show caretaking stress.

I'm sorry, Buffy. I became lax, letting them care for you without checking myself, and water was my domain. That's an awful way to die and I'm very sorry. I'll do better, I promise.

The tears of my children warm and nourish you.

My poor babies.
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Chickens are laying an average 2 eggs a day....which is ok in my opinion, considering it is the cold season.

Due to that same cold, I've made no progress on the chicken pen. May have to barter for some help, as I want it done by spring so we can raise a run of meat chicks and some turkeys for the freezer.

Am making arrangements to get a goat for the freezer from family of choice in the area, whose dam is about to drop at least her usual twins, if not some extras. They will raise it and butcher, keep some of the meat, and then the rest will go in my freezer. Goat is delicious, btw, had it at Thanksgiving at their house and YUM.

Between the two that should mean I don't have to buy any sad meat from the store all year, and can still keep my little carnivores happy.

I've stopped buying deodorant. I use baking soda, dusted on with a makeup brush I had around. Works great, and no more plastic containers. I've also started mixing a tiny bit of my remaining toothpaste with baking soda, to adjust to the flavor/texture difference: so when this tube is gone, I'll be switching over to baking soda as my toothpaste: eliminating another source of disposable plastic. :)

Am doing ok without nail polish. I vaguely miss it, but find that I don't mind keeping my nails short when they have no polish, which is actually much easier to maintain...so that's a plus. Cuticles get more regular olive oil attention now that I'm baking my own bread.

Oh, which reminds me: I'm baking my own bread now. The kids love it, it turns out it is fairly simple, and the bread bags were one of my regular plastic purchases in the realm of grocery shopping. Also a great way to heat the house: which means if I'm smart, I'll bake a bunch of loaves for in the freezer, so I don't have to heat up the house during the summer.

I've cleaned out the area of the utility room that has the desk: and as soon as I can give away or sell that, I'll be able to put the freezer in a more convenient location and plug it in...which will be one more step toward happy meat.

Happy holiday-of-choice to you all!

Am I nuts?

Dec. 6th, 2010 11:54 am
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
I think I've said before that I traded out my top loading washer and my dryer for a front loading washer and teh clothesline.

That has worked really well and I've been very happy with that choice.

I gave up the dishwasher for a while, but with continued entertaining and no housemate, putting a newer more efficient one in for use when things get backed up or I have a bunch of folks using plates in one night has turned out to be a good thing.

So now what I'm wondering is....what do I do with the fridge?

I have a chest freezer I plan to hook up before spring, so we can raise and butcher a run of chickens to be our happy meat during the year.

i don't use my freezer much now, and I really barely use my fridge. With the exception of parties, my fridge is typically only 1/4 to 1/3 full. I just don't use that much that needs refrigerated.

The question then becomes, given that fridges are most efficient when they are full (like washers, dryers, freezers and dishwashers), how much more efficient is my big fridge than say, this would be? Technically it only uses about 100 kwhrs less than my Amana, but that is presuming they are both full, which my Amana never is anymore...

Am I nuts to be thinking of trading down to the small fridge and the chest freezer from the big fridge and chest freezer, so that I can get some more counter space, have room for my recycling center in the kitchen, AND possibly cut down on my carbon footprint/energy use?

I'd like to make a decision by the time I'm ready to hook up the chest freezer, so feedback and thoughts would be appreciated, if anyone has any for me.


Nov. 27th, 2010 09:29 am
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
It got down below freezing last night. Other than adding extra bedding to the chickens nest box, and dripping the faucets, I didn't do anything to prep.

This includes turning on the heat.

Given that central heat and a/c are the biggest users of electricity/gas, ie contributors to carbon footprint, I've been trying to make it a month longer than I did last year without turning on the heat. Last year I made it to November, so this year I've been trying to make it to December.

I'm so close, just a few days to go.

Thanksgiving day the front came through, and the temp dropped like a stone in an hour. "If it gets below 60 in the house, I'll cave" I said.

Last night I didn't look at the thermostat, knowing I had a heated mattress pad, so the temp wouldn't matter until I was out of bed.

This morning it is 58 in the house. The though that went through my head when I saw that "that isn't MUCH below 60". :P Guess I'm more stubborn than I thought.

Honestly? I'm fine except for my fingers, which are COLD and achy.

Maybe I can find someone to knit me fingerless gloves so I can still type but have warmer hands...even better if they were just fingertipless. I bet I could manage for longer without heat if I had those so I could still type.

Now it's time to put on my rubber boots and check the girls to see how they made it through the night. I expect egg production will drop a bit now that we've had a real cold snap, but up until this I'm still averaging 4 eggs a day out of 6 hens...not bad, ladies! :D
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Sunchips has this "greening the world" thing going on. They are very proud of their extra crinkly bag, because it's "100% compostable".

I'm not sure what sort of composting they used to make this claim, but I use chickens.

more on chicken compost ability )
That's right, six weeks it has been in there, and the pieces are big enough I can pick them all up....and is that, a plastic lining under the foil type surface layer? The bag is almost all there, front and back. There is one corner I can't find, but I didn't look hard.

This is garbage, pure and simple. I'm going to keep letting them try, unless the plastic bits start breaking off and threatening my chickens, but you can bet I won't be buying the chips again, and Sunchips will be getting an email from me...with pictorial evidence.

I am not impressed with their lies....or, at best, their misleading advertising. Click pic to see larger:

Sunchips, at six weeks of chicken composting. Yup, still all there.

and no, that isn't a missing corner down at the bottom, that's chicken poop.

I am not impressed, Sunchips.

ETA: and despite the new info I'm getting, which is totally fascinating, thanks, ya'll!...further research into it online is not making me think it's any better for the environment (or us) than any other plastic.
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
No losses last night.

This may be because I locked the dog into the chicken yard and then just ignored any barking at all and figured my neighbors could suck it. (Like all the neighbors with all-night-barking-dogs already do).

This, of course, is not a long term solution. Fortunately the foster kittens get fixed on Wednesday, and get their shots, and after that I can open the pet door again to give the dog access, at least during the week when she is here, and hope she pays enough attention to deal with 'coons.

(It has been established, through pattern and footprint, that we are dealing with one or more raccoons).

I should set up an outside warm kennel, because from now on when the dog won't stop barking in the house I'm not locking her up *inside*....

Looks like I'll be getting a trap to set on the weekends....and I'm going to look into whether geese are allowed in city...and altering the pen to help further prevent against predator entry...keeping tiny thumbs in mind.

Any other ideas?


Oct. 4th, 2010 09:33 am
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
This is so frustrating! Two more dead chickens. One of the older ladies taken (just feathers left), the other killed and the corpse left in the pen, just ripped open the neck, ate that, and left everything else.

What a fucking waste! We can't even eat it, because it was dead long enough to be stiff.

Dammit dammit dammit.

never build your own pen if you are an amateur, it's just not as secure. I can see where a...something...with small paws dug near the gate of the little girls pen, but failed to get in...and then it (or something else) broke in the roof of the homemade pen.

Fuck it. I'm investing in a bigger store bought version, and taking apart the homemade pen. I'm tired of losing my ladies.

~helpless growling sob~
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
This morning Monkey Boy and I found the first egg laid by the Wyndottes! It was in the exact middle of their pen. :P So he helped me move the nest box the big girls haven't been using over to the little girls pen.

[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
I've tried to teach my children environmental awareness...ya know, without being insane about it (so the other caregivers won't feel they have to ACTIVELY counteract my teachings).

This morning, at the playground, I realized that the kids can teach me too, if only by taking my teachings and feeding them back to me.

I was tired. I was sore. I'm worried because this was the second day in a row that it was cool in the morning. Winter is breathing on me and I'm distracted with panic about it.

So when Monkey noted a crumpled (large) piece of aluminum foil under his favorite piece of playground equipment  ("Mom! Someone littered! I'll get it") my answer was a tired and distracted "I don't have a bag with me, sweetie, leave it and we'll bring what we need next time to pick up some of the trash".

He smiled at me, all innocent, "but I can put it in the trash can".

The trash can. The trash can that is a good 500 feet away or so. Up the hill.

"um...ok...if you want to".

So I watch, as he picks it up, running to the trash can, stopping along the way to pick up as much plastic as his arms can carry, and delivers it the trash can.

We went back to playing. He hadn't even noticed, it's just what you do when someone litters. You pick it up, right?

Right, Mom.

Because "next time" isn't soon enough.

It's so easy to make excuses. To get worn out and figure you do so much, this one thing can wait. My four year old knows you do it now, because now is when it matters most. I saw a "project", but he saw an opportunity. I need to remember that.
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Environmental consideration is a learning curve...even after all these years of practice. :I

I just asked Monkey to help me move the futon pad to the curb for bulk trash. He said why...I answered that it was ruined by the cat pee I've been unable to remove, and it needed to go to the dump because it stinks to much to keep using. What happens there, he asks...Well, in theory it should rot, but really they just bury it....uh...wait a minute, mommy needs to think.

Wonder what the stuffing is made of? Oh, look...cotton.

Well, heck. I'm slow. Let's just go empty it into the chicken pen...to...ya know...rot. ~facepalm~

Habits, they will sucker punch you.

ETA: Turns out there were two layers of foam, three of cotton stuffing, plus some cotton string. We saved the cover to wash (should work as a cover if we get another futon pad), dragged the pee pee stink foam to the curb, and threw all the cotton padding into the chicken pen. They say this is NOT good bedding thank you, where are their leaves, dammit.

But the boy child thinks the fact that the chickens will turn all of it (eventually) into garden dirt is WAY cool.
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
I haven't updated in a while as my non-gardening life is crazy right now. The garden, on the other hand, is dead, having fallen victim to my housemate's equally busy life. No water equals dessicated plants. We got ONE tomato off of it there at the end...this strange two lobed thing. Neither of us have eaten it. I think perhaps out of guilt.

I remind myself that there is always next year.

The good news is that not watering is something I also subject my lawn to. Cuz really, why water something I can't eat? It's dormant for the most part now, so we only have to mow when it rains. The back yard hasn't been mowed all year...when it got too long I just let the chickens over for a few days, what they didn't nibble down, they flattened in their wanderings.

Speaking of chickens...we've had some casualties. I'm sad to report that a predator, probably a raccoon, took Tarfeather during the night last time I was out of town. Giblet was a victim during the day recently and judging from the poof of feathers and NOTHING else, I'd guess a hawk. Either way, we are down to 8 hens, and have lost our most reliable layer. :( I have a sadness. The ladies are penned now, in two separate pens because I don't consider either of them big enough for all 8 when they are used to having a whole backyard, and I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that what I need is one big pen with two sides. This would allow me to raise new ones in the spring (when things are usually plentiful enough that yard wandering is safe) and still pen them all during lean times of freeze or drought when the predators are hungrier and bold enough to risk entering my yard and the possibility of encountering me or my dog. I could also do what Oma does (a friend's mom who has chickens) and toss down birdseed or pasture seed on one side, water it until it sprouts, then let the chickens into that side...I hear they LOVE that.

If all goes as planned we will soon have our rainwater catchment system not just back up and running but much improved. Also should be getting the sinkhole/patio fixed and the weepholes repaired on the house. We've hired a green contractor out of Austin to do the work. I'll give you a review when he's done. :)

Gryphynshadow will be moving out next month. Her path has shifted, and it's time for her to move on to a venue that better supports her current focus. The plan is for us to still see her a lot, and I hope to have her help with gardening and such, but for now the focus around here will need to shift too. I'll probably be pondering and planning a lot this winter with that in mind. My abilities are different from a "fully functional" person, and I'm only one adult, so things will need to be set up accordingly if I'm going to maintain things.

That's what is going on here....and now you know why I haven't been updating the blog much. :P


Jul. 8th, 2010 10:45 am
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Rain barrel downspout diverters arrived. yay!! I've now poked around with the pieces, instructions in hand, long enough to understand how it works....oooh....cool.

I'm tempted to go install them right now...but...but...I have to find my safety goggles first. Somehow cheating on the safety part while the kids can see seems...not good.

But when I do install them, I'll probably go ahead and install all of them, and then add rain barrels later, unless the niggling something in the back of my brain tells me why it thinks that is a bad idea.

In other news, I let the wyndottes out with the big girls yesterday, and Top Chicken promptly chased them back into their pen and intimidated them into staying there...even after she left that section of the yard. :P I let them back out this morning, and Buffy was flipping out, so I warned her that was a bad idea, but if it meant that much to her she could come out for a while now that she had eaten her breakfast. She came running out...

...the Wyndotte horde proceeded to chase her.

Until Top Chicken noticed that someone was getting harassed in HER yard and she wasn't leading it.....

...so she chased the Wyndottes for a while until they settled down.

Ah, pecking order.

Since all that was going on, I went ahead and caught Spot and put her in a cage with some water and food. She'll either get picked up today by the woman who wanted her as a pet, or picked up tomorrow by LT to feed to her family. Either way, within 48 hours she won't be my problem, and right now removing her means all the pecking order rearranging can happen in one go.

Lots of chicken talk in my yard today. I think I'm glad we don't speak chicken, I bet those girls swear like sailors in a foreign port. ;)

ETA: and Spot has now been picked up. Apparently saying "no really, I have backup stewpot plans now" finally got Murphy to help the woman who was going to take her find time in her schedule. Bye, Spot! Have a good life as a pet. :)
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
I just made a sign for our kitchen. We've been having a lot of people over and things have been ending up in the wrong containers.

I gotta tell you: seeing all the "where does this bit of detritus go" in one place was an eye opener.

No wonder we don't make much trash. 0.o

Then I got to joyfully send the kids home with a carton of yard eggs.

I kinda like where we are headed with this. I really do.

Hopefully in another six weeks or so, I'll need to make a sign to further explain our soon-to-be-environmentally-even-friendlier-bathroom.

Go, us!
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Ceaser, nee Cleopatra, has gone to live on 15 acres with a much bigger flock. In his place, we have a chick half his age. ;) A lovely little girl named Buffy the Grasshopper Slayer.

She is currently caged in the sunroom, pending her understanding that the dogs are no threat. She will then be allowed yard-pen privileges once her quarantine period has ended, and should be ready to move to the transition pen right about the time the Wyndotte girls are ready to be integrated. In order to make sure she isn't alone once she is further from near-constant human interaction, we will probably move Giblet in to keep her company until she can join everyone else.

She should be ready to join the rest of the flock in about a month after the other girls do, ie the beginning of September.

And now I'm headed out to pull the feed from the rain barrels, because with Hurricane Alex coming through, I don't feel like having all that spray up in my eaves.
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
All has not been as quiet here as it has been on the blog. This year's chickens grow apace, the rooster will be exchanged for a younger pullet (hopefully) hen on Tuesday, and Spot goes to her new home, stewpot or pet, by the end of the month.

The fabulous tree people came and climbed much higher than I'm willing to, power tools in hand, to remove the three dead trees. They will be back to fix the wire fencing that got damaged, and to remove the last of the stump from within the chicken pen, then I'll be gratefully handing over large wads of cash. I may ask them to take down that small tree in the front yard instead of fixing the fence, we'll see if they go for that.

It's been hot enough that a friend of ours lost 5 of her older 6 chicks this year to the heat. I've been hosing down the roof of the girls pen every afternoon (well, not this afternoon, it's cloudy, drizzly, and relatively cool) and adding ice cubes to the water containers to cool down the water enough they can drink. Hot hot hot. I expect that will get worse before it gets better (because duh) and I'm looking into the possibility of a misting cooling system for a more permanent solution to the too-hot-for-hens. Their egg production has dropped and I suspect that is why.

The sink hole is, indeed, our problem, though the city is grateful that we called them to investigate, since they found two breaks in the sewer line near (but not near enough) to it. I think I have an idea on how to fix it, thanks to my time in the country, and if it works, I'll let you know. :P (and own waders by the time it's fixed).

Our water barrels (2) have been backing up when it storms, and I've spent some time researching a way to fix it that doesn't involve me going out every time it rains to decide if the water should go in the barrel or in the drain today. Think I found one, and though it isn't cheap, it is probably cheaper than roof repair in the long run. 0.o

While doodling around the internet, dreaming and plotting between research, I've come across the idea of toilet tank basins, as well as found conversion kits to install dual flush systems on our perfectly good, if older, toilets. I think I found some that will allow us, for about $330, to install both basins AND dual flush systems on both our households toilets. That would be AWESOME. I'm starting a savings ledger for just that, and will keep you updated (with pics) if I can make that happen.

That's about it around here...I dream of drainage ditches and awnings of grape vine...and then I go hose down my hens. ;P



Jun. 15th, 2010 05:38 pm
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Well, got a reasonable estimate for the tree removal, so hopefully that will happen soon. Even better, they think they have the equipment needed to remove the trees without having to dismantle the chicken pens!

The city supervisor came out today regarding the continued existence of my sinkhole. He didn't make any commitments, but when dealing with government, baby steps still count as progress.

If you don't count them, you will lose your mind.

I posted an ad on Craigslist today, offering to trade my Wyndotte rooster for a hen pullet, preferably a Buff Orphington. May have a trade lined up, if we can make it happen.

That's about it on the garden front, but I was so pleased about the possible unexpected-rooster solution I wanted to post it somewhere. :D


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