Temporary Chicken Yard

We finally got a chicken yard up so the chicks can run free. We’ll eventually build a more permanent structure, but this one will have to do for now. Here’s a picture.

chicken yard

We started by pounding in 6 foot T posts every six feet and then fenced in the yard with poultry wire. The end adjoining the garage in the picture is attached to the siding. On the other side of the yard, the end up against the garage is a gate that attaches to the chain link fence with gate clips. Bird netting has been stretched over the whole yard and affixed to the poultry wire with zip ties.

I’ll be honest -I took a short cut with the end near the garage. I didn’t have any tensile wire left and I was running out of time since we’re leaving on vacation tomorrow, so I duck taped the poultry netting to the garage. I hope it holds. Our pet/livestock/homestead sitter will fix it if not.

The chickens are quite happy. They think it is the greatest thing in the world.

There won’t be any more posts this week. We’re leaving for the beach in 12 hours. Have a great rest of the week!

Homestead Update

Summer is in full swing at Laughing Bird Farm. It’s hot as blazes and the garden is growing like hotcakes. We finally have tomatoes coming on. Yay! Unfortunately (or fortunately, if it keeps up into July), while the rain has slowed down, it’s still been raining enough to delay all the hot weather crops such as tomatoes. It’s the end of June and the greens haven’t even bolted yet.

We’ve finally been making a little bit of progress on the homestead. We started cleaning out from behind the garage so we could put up the chicken run. I’ll have pictures of that in a few days, but here’s a pic of some of the junk our predecessor left back there:

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This isn’t quite half of it and doesn’t include the rusty steel I-beams (who keeps I-beams behind a garage?). Kelly managed to move those on her own yesterday while I was away, with the help of our trusty old Radio Flyer wagon.

The chicks are growing fast. They’ve lost the last of their baby fluff and look like small chickens now. I started taking them outside the week before last in a dog crate to protect them. Here’s what it looked like then.

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I’m sorry to say it didn’t work, and earlier this week a hawk attacked them through the bars. I saw it out the kitchen window and ran out there, but not in time to prevent one hen from being killed outright and another from being injured so bad we didn’t think she was going to make. She’s made a full recovery, however.

Our roosters did their job, too! By the time I got to the crate, they had herded all the remaining hens to the opposite side and had put themselves between the flock and the hawk. You should have seen them -all puffed up, wings flapping, ready to die to defend their hens. The hawk flew off as I got to the crate, of course.

The chicks came in for the rest of the day while I figured out what to do. Here’s the solution I came up with.

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The table goes over the crate, the bird netting is stretched out around the whole setup, and the fence post pounder holds the bird netting in place. It works so well it’s almost people proof as well as hawk proof.

More to come in the next posts.

(Lack of) Progress on the House

The rain has finally stopped and the sun has been out all day today. I can’t explain the relief I feel at finally getting some sunshine! So much rain did some good, at least; our house is much cleaner and I have finally gotten some reading in. Pre-children I read at least three good-size books and half a dozen magazines a month. Some of the books would be pretty weighty fiction or non-fiction. Since baby T came into the world, I have read three books (count them -three -in a year!) and maybe one or two magazines a month, none of it heavier stuff than Better Homes and Gardens. Not that theirs anything wrong with BHG (I’m pretty much a lifetime subscriber at this point), but I do like reading multiple things.

On the flip side, all this rain shredded my plans for the house and garden for early summer. Alabama has more than the usual 4 seasons: Winter, Spring, Early Summer, Really Fucking Hot, Late Summer, Autumn, and the Rainy Season (which apparently made two appearances this year). It usually doesn’t rain much between the middle of May and the first of September unless a hurricane comes through. Not this year.

My plan was to get the garden in and do a lot of work on the exterior of the house, such as all the painting, between about May 15 and the beginning of Really Fucking Hot, which normally sets in around the 4th of July. That hasn’t happened so far.

I’ve been working on the inside a bit, but nothing spectacular so far. Our young visitor finally went home, so now I have more time. I thought that today I would show you some before pictures of the interior of the house. I’ve already shown you the living room, but here’s the dining room, kitchen, laundry room, and bathroom.

The dining room doesn’t need a whole lot of work. The windows need to be replaced and we need to paint the trim. I would like to replace the bookcases below with some built-ins at some point in the future.

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The balloon is from baby T’s first birthday party. Here’s the dead door into T’s room. There are three doors total into her room; we’ll be walling this one off at some point.

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The kitchen needs a lot of work.

IMG_0292See that? That’s a bad attempt at a DIY faux texture paint job. Notice the seam down the middle. Yes, someone painted over the wallpaper. Here’s what the wallpaper looked like before they painted:

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Yes, they only painted half the kitchen. Why? Did they get bored? You’re guess is as good as mine.

We’ll paint these cabinets and replace the hardware one day, but we’re keeping the cabinets themselves. They’re solid wood, after all.

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The laundry room…well, see for yourself.

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We need to fix that ceiling, rip out the wallpaper, and add some decent storage. The bathroom is the worst room I’m going to show you. I won’t show you the third bedroom right now. It’s pretty horrid. But the bathroom needs a complete overhaul.

IMG_0301That toilet is about 50 years old and doesn’t always flush properly. The $79 on special high efficiency toilet at Costco would be about a 1,000 better. (We’re considering that.) The bathtub and the surround are only about 10 years old, but they were the cheapest model available at the time and improperly installed. The shower rod is rusty and, believe it or not, the previous owner had wrapped it in PVC for showing to make it look better. The vanity is chipboard and is already falling apart. The one saving grace is the open shelves on the left in the above photo. I can’t wait to repaint them and make them into something awesome.

You can see the worst part of the bathroom in this picture.

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That flooring was installed just prior to the sale, which means it’s not even a year old, and it is chipping, peeling, coming up, and just being disgusting. Cleaning it is awful. I only take consolation (small though it is) in knowing that whatever is underneath is probably worse.

There you have it. That’s the house as it currently stands.

In other news, we had baby T’s first birthday party last weekend. I’m going to have to stop calling her “baby” T. Here’s a picture of her before the party.

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Have a great weekend!

Rain, rain, and…

wait for it….more rain.

It has rained here everyday for more than two weeks. I am not joking or exaggerating. Some days we’ve had barely misting rain in the evening and other days we’ve had driving rain all day long. We had one storm with such awful straight line winds it shredded our neighbor’s fence, took out part of our side fence, and dismantled our mailbox. We spent ours picking up downed limbs after it.

Luckily, our fruit trees and garden have come through mostly unscathed, though we did lose some smaller seeds and have had a hard time working out there. I’ve been working whenever the rain let up, and one day this past week I put in fence posts while it misted.

The chickens are growing so fast. Oddball started strutting Tuesday morning. He is such a male. We know we have at least one other rooster left in the flock (possibly as many as three), but they aren’t yt acting like roosters. I really think I may have a pet chicken in Oddball; he’s started occasionally perching on my shoulder and he likes to tuck his head under my chin.

As for the hens, they are almost indistinguishable at this point, save for one hen who has a panic attack whenever anyone comes near them. She’ll be joining the boys we decide not to keep in the freezer this fall.

Today is supposed to be our second market day, and it looks like the rain will hold off long enough for it to go on today. Right now the sun is shining, so I’m going outside.

Have a great day!

Chicks!

I know it’s been a while since I posted, but I’m remedying that now. Our chicks came in! Here’s a pic of all of them in their brooder on the day of arrival.

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They were so incredibly tiny! We chose Silver Grey Dorkings because they are a good dual-purpose heritage breed. These chickens have actually been raised since Roman times. We got our chicks from Murray McMurray. I highly recommend them if you’re looking for chickens. We were even able to have them vaccinated. Also, we lost a few to transport shock (it happens) and McMurray credited our account for those.

Here’s a close-up of one of the chicks.

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Did you see the chick with white spot on his head in the lower right hand corner of the first shot? That’s our Oddball. McMurray offers a free check with some orders, and we took them up on the offer. We don’t know what kind he is, but we suspect he’s a Dominker, the oldest American breed. We knew all along the extra chick would be a male, and we’ve been jokingly referring to him as our “free chicken dinner.”

Be careful what you decide about your livestock before you get them. Guess which one of the chicks is the only one I’ve gotten attached to? I’ve been telling the others to grow big and strong so they can give us lots of eggs and chicken tenders, but Oddball (yes, he has a name) has quickly become “my” chicken. He purrs when I hold him and wraps his head around my fingers.

We may end up raising mutt chickens.

The Big, Bad House Projects List Part Two

Here’s the exterior list. It’s not quite as long, but many of these are much bigger (not to mention more expensive) projects than those on the interior list.

We’ll get it all done someday. The kids may be in college first, but hey, better late than never, right?

Pressure wash siding

Repair holes in siding

Repair fascia

Paint front door

Paint front porch

Paint shutters

Paint porch railings

Paint foundation(?)

Install proper doors on crawlspaces

Extend downspout in the back

Add gutters and downspouts all around

Finish back porch

Paint back porch

Paint wooden fence

Cap chimney

Fix fence

Plant trees
Landscaping

What’s Growing on the Homestead: Amish Paste Tomatoes

I started this series with a nightshade, so I’m going to continue with them for a while.

One of the tomatoes we’re growing this year is known as Amish Paste. It’s an heirloom paste tomato that gets to be about 8-12 oz and is known for having very few seeds. It’s also registered in the Slow Food Ark of Taste. The plants are indeterminate.

I’m not normally a fan of red tomatoes straight, but I’m hoping I like this one. We use a lot of canned tomatoes around here in the winter, mostly in soups, so I’m hoping to get a good crop. I’ve never grown this variety before. Thus far, the plants are doing fairly well. They’ve been slightly effected by early blight, but are merrily growing anyway, so they have at least some resistance. I’ll update on them later this year.

Here’s a picture, copied from the seed company’s website. I got these seeds from Sow True Seeds in Asheville, North Carolina.

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The Big, Bad House Project List Part One

Here it is, the list of projects we need to complete to have our fixer-upper farmhouse up to date.  Some of these have to be done, while others are just things I want to do. It will take us a while, and it will be a long time before we get to some of the things that are optional, such as replacing the kitchen counters. The list is so long I’ve broken it up into two pieces. Here is the interior list; the exterior list will follow later.

Living Room

Paint walls

Paint trim

Replace side-wall window

Paint door

Change the ceiling

Extend the hearth

Install and paint floor trim

Replace the heater

Replace the storm door

Build built-ins

Dining Room

Paint trim

Install and paint floor trim

Change the ceiling

Install a new light fixture

Remove door to Teagan’s Room

Kitchen

Remove wallpaper

Paint walls

Install backsplash

Replace kitchen counter

Replace stove

Replace floors

Replace windows

Laundry Room

Repair ceiling

Repair hot water heater (eventually replace hot water heater)

Replace flooring

Build storage

Repair porch light

Fix the dryer vent

Bathroom

Replace window

Replace toilet

Replace tub

Tile tub surround

Replace floor

Paint walls

Paint cabinet

Install and paint trim

Install bead board

Replace shower head

Patch tub

Hallway

Replace heater

Refinish or replace floors

Install and paint floor trim

Paint walls

Master Bedroom

Install and paint floor trim

Replace ceiling

Replace windows

Tear out and replace closet

Teagan’s Room

Install and paint floor trim

Replace window

Finish shelves

Install door

Third Bedroom

Possibly replace windows (or get them to open)

Paint walls

Replace flooring

Install and paint floor and ceiling trim

Install drywall in closet

Add ceiling fan

Attic

Replace window

Install radiant barrier

Install insulation

Overall

Insulate the whole downstairs

Upgrade the electrical wiring (add switches and light plates to all rooms)

Upgrade the plumbing

What’s Growing on the Homestead: Red Pontiac Potatoes

I thought I would take advantage of a cold and rainy day to start a new series. Each of these posts will feature a plant we currently have growing here at LBF. I’m going to kick it off with one of the plants I’m most excited about: Irish potatoes.

Potatoes are incredibly easy to grow in most climates and give you a lot of food bang for your effort and expense. One pound of seed potatoes can produce up to 10 pounds of eating potatoes. That’s a lot of return for your investment. They are a good source of nutrients and are very calorie dense. These are the two primary reasons potatoes have long been grown as a subsistence crop in much of the world. Plus, they are dang good eating. I come from a Irish family, so I’ve eaten potatoes in every manner possible.

Unfortunately, potatoes don’t grow well in the Deep South. They don’t handle the combination of high heat and higher humidity very well and are prone to any number of fungal diseases and insect attacks. Sweet potatoes are traditionally substituted for them in the summer garden. It is possible to get a spring crop in if you plant early and get good weather. I’ve never tried it, but we decided to take the plunge this year and we must be having beginner’s luck, because the plants are growing great.

You can choose from dozens, if not hundreds, of different varieties. We chose Red Pontiac potatoes. This is a pretty red potato with white flesh. It’s great for mashing and is a good storage variety. Here’s a picture of the spuds, snagged from the seed company we ordered the seed potatoes from.

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Hmm. I can’t wait to eat them.

We’re growing them using the hilling method. We cut the seed potatoes up, buried them under a few inches of soil, and then hilled dirt around them when they were about 18 inches tall, then hilled then again with straw when they’d grown another foot. We’ve only watered them once since planting; Mother Nature has done the rest. They started flowering yesterday, so it won’t be long before the tubers size up, the vines die back, and it’s time to harvest.

I can’t wait!

Summer Comes to Laughing Bird Farm

Summer has finally arrived. This will be our first summer on the homestead, and I am really looking forward to it.

I know, I know, the calendar says it is still spring for another month and a half, but let’s face it, spring lasts about two weeks here in the south. Okay, this year it lasted about six weeks, but you get the point. I don’t measure the arrival of summer by the calendar anyway, or by the thermometer (which reached 87 here today), but by something much more mundane: the return of the mosquitoes.

The first of the little bloodsuckers showed up again last night, which means it really is summer. It also means it’s time to break out the long sleeves in the evening, the repellents, and the Bt dunks. Ah, the joys of being outdoors in the summer.

Something new is always happening here our homestead. Today our potatoes started blooming. I managed to get one decent picture.

Potato Flower

Pretty, isn’t it?

Speaking of pretty things, I was knocking down weeds on the side of the house when I discovered the vine pictured below has taken over the chain link fence that separates our neighbor’s property from ours up in the front. This vine is vetch, and it is quite pretty in bloom, but it is also very invasive. The good news is that it also fixed nitrogen. I prefer to look on the bright side.

Vetch

The entire fence is covered in it. I’m going to have to rip it out and replace it with something more appropriate. I’m thinking morning gloried and moonflowers for quick screening this year, and possibly clematis in the long run.

I got our corn in today. This was the flour corn; I’ll plant the popcorn in a couple more weeks. I also planted sunflowers, collard, and a heat tolerant lettuce, and transplanted the two butternut squash plants we were given. I’m going to let them run through the corn and make a three sisters style planting.

Life is good!

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