Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Run is Done!

Well its been an interesting 2 weeks at our house!

We fell into some chickens, scored a decent shed that needed some love
and built an awesome area for them to run around in.

Once the chickens had arrived, we gave them a few days to settle into the coop.
I had read that chickens might start laying eggs anywhere they liked if
they didn't get a sufficient amount of time in the coop.
Kinda like potty training...but better!  We get eggs!

We didn't have to wait long for them to get 
comfy and start laying eggs.
We had a few the very next day!
Just the other day we accumulated our first dozen.
One of the ladies lays some monster eggs!
They almost didn't fit in the extra large sized cartons...
(NOTE:  they are not double yokers...sadly)

After a few days of being cooped up, (no pun intended) the ladies were getting a bit stir crazy.
We hustled the run along...even though the intermittent rain kept us on our toes.
We also had quite a few visitors to the yard...everyone wanted to see our newest 
family members!

The shed/barn itself is 7 feet wide and 8 feet long.
The run extends out from the back of the shed 16 feet long.
That makes the entire run 7 feet wide x 16 feet long x 6 feet tall.

Total cost for the materials for the run $130.00 and that included the galvanized bin for the feed.
Total COOP & RUN cost $440.00

We added a dust bath in a salvaged tire (found by the side of Desert Lake rd).
Soon we'll add an area for the food waste that the chickens will hopefully
turn into a lot of green gold! (aka compost)

What do ya think of the completed chicken coop and run?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Garden Decor

Like some gardeners, I am not just satisfied to
grow food and encourage nature's bounty.
I also like to make my beds look pretty.

Now pretty is a very subjective word!
Some like loud and bold, others prefer dainty and cute.

I adore the odd and the slightly magical...

As I mentioned in my previous post,
I was in the process of raking off the dried brown leaves
that we put on the beds in the fall.
We do this to protect our green investments from the harsh winter cold.  
Not only that, but the leaves break down and add nutrients to the soil.

I reorganized the decorations and thought I would share 
with you the truly odd assortment of things I have collected over the years.

A lovely lady in Verona, ON makes this adorable concrete mushrooms.
This one stands approximately 10 in. 
It looks so magical against the backdrop of our newly unfurled ostrich ferns.

Some animals reside here too...but they don't make a mess or need too much care.
So I let them stick around...
The metal rooster came from our first purchased home.
We found it while tearing out the flower garden.
The turtle we found in our current garden bed!
Its become Owen's turtle now.
(It guards his sticks)

I also love driftwood or old logs with interesting holes.
I place them around the garden and see what peeks through the holes.
In this case, I found a small animal skull...muskrat or cat most likely.
The dichotomy of life and death is something strangely playful.

Some of the decorative stone we made one year.
Some were personalized for each family member.
Some now growing moss in the grooves for each letter.
The one above was just for fun.

Last year we destroyed a garden bed that was sorely neglected.
All it was growing was poison ivy and sumac.
We tore it down and reused the flat stones that surrounded it.

We made an Inukshuk...a very Canadian motif.
It is a stone landmark built by many of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic. 
Wikipedia says:
The Inukshuk may have been used for navigation, as a point of reference, a marker for travel routes, fishing places, camps, hunting grounds, places of veneration, drift fences used in hunting or to mark a food cache.

Our place feels like it falls under a lot of those categories!

Tell me on Facebook what decorates YOUR garden!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Finishing touches to the shed...

We have been under the gun for the last week.
It has been construction central around here!
If it's not the saw going...it's the drill.
Our peaceful spring has been interrupted in the most delightful way!
Soon that noise will be replaced by the trill of chickens.

The completely renovated shed...before...

...and after its handsome paint job!
The front door was originally one large door.
I was concerned about allowing too much wide open door
to tempt the chickens with thoughts of escape.

The right hand side is one long door which has a slide lock on the top and the bottom.
The left hand door is a dutch door.
We can peek in and check on the ladies whenever we like!
The bottom portion locks to the large door and the top door 
is secured when closed from the outside.

Owen seems to think the bottom portion of the dutch door is for Owens only.

The side of the shed....before...

...and after!
The side looks really sharp with the gifted oil based white paint.
Only 2 coats of paint and the outside looks like brand new!

Above shows the back of the shed both before and after paint job.

My handsome husband completing the latch lock for the run door at the beck of the shed.

We had to make an additional trip to the hardware store for more 2 x 4's and screws...
bringing our total dollars spent:  $310

We found some interior oil paint in robin's egg blue in our basement.
I have to admit...it looks great inside!
The oil based paint was allowed to sit with all doors and window open for a few days.
The paint will help keep the moisture out...
and the floors and walls will be easier to clean twice a year.

The ladies seem to love it!
The arrived on Labour Day Monday May 20th.
We had one girl lay a surprise egg...before the hay was laid out in the coop.
The egg smashed and the 3 other hens dove at it like it was gold!

We quickly added some hay and hope that the cannibalistic behavior will slow once they get comfy.

Right now all 4 ladies are getting quite accustomed to their new surroundings.
They have laid 5 eggs so far and its only been 2 days.

Each morning Owen gets up, gets dressed and throws some crackers or something in his mouth, 
heading out the door to check on his hens.
So far its been 5:30 - 6 am once he has accomplished his mission.

I certainly hope this behavior doesn't end.
Its far too cute!
(Just don't wake Mum up with an egg in the face!)

PS.  the ladies look like they're in jail right now...
we've been hard at work building the pen.
I understand that leaving them in the coop trains them to lay 
their eggs inside instead of anywhere around the run.

Stay tuned for the update on the completed chicken run!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Coop Reno 2014

My handsome husband has been feverishly working on our shed...
Making sure its all ready for when our hens are to be delivered.

The black flies have been brutal...so that explains the toque in spring...

Our shed scored a brand new window with screen.
That will help with natural sunlight exposure as well as ventilation.
We screwed in some chicken wire on the inside - to protect the screen from the chickens.
Outside we'll install some sort of grate to protect the screen from varmints.

The interior of the shed was in amazing condition
considering the shed itself was almost 20 yrs old.

We installed a new floor as well...the old one had screws pointing upwards...eeek!

We installed new boards on all sides and caulked in the cracks.
Hopefully that will help keep the moisture OUT.

So far the tally is at $202 for new boards, a few 2 x 4's, wood screws and caulking.

This amazing journey has begun with Ches learning that he can build just about anything.
It has taught me a ton about having animals under your care.
I have been ravaging Pinterest and discovered some unbelievable blogs about raising hens.
I have learned a LOT!
While it is tempting to go overboard...
We have been reminding ourselves to take a breath...

And relax...

(once we did that, we discovered wild violets in our yard!)

Stay tuned for the arrival of the ladies!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Take off yer MULCH!

Spring has definitely arrived here at Desert Lake!

When the rain stops long enough for me to get outside,
I was busily hauling the winter mulch off of the beds.

I was surprised to see some of the plants already growing back!
Some of them, like the mint, 2 kinds of chives and the catnip, come back every year.
Some plants, though, I did not expect to see returning...

2 kinds of parsley
(this sad little lavender didn't fair so well last year, so I thought it was done for
and had no reasonable expectation to see it again.)

from L-R catnip, oregano, green onions, creeping jenny

Its amazing...to see your garden beds transform magically
from dried up to dazzling!

from L-R:  garlic chives and regular chives and one huge honking rock

I took the opportunity to rearrange some of the decorations in the garden.
More on that in a latter post...stay tuned!

from L-R:  italian parsley and curly parsley

hostas make a comeback

I am not normally into flowers.
I have a firmly held belief that I will not waste my energy, time or 
money on something that cannot provide me with nutrition.
In this case, the hostas were a present from a neighbouring family who were leaving the area.
They said if you want em, we could have em!
So for me, the represent the return of some seasonal friends we miss dearly.
Thanks again DJ Bill and Louise!

from L-R:  creeping jenny, garlic chives, mint, Valerian, horseradish
Above you can see the dramatic reveal!
The right hand side shows the beds covered in dried leaf mulch.
The left hand side shows the soil uncovered.
You can also see on the far left side the small cement pathway into the center
of a stand of Manitoba maples.
The pathway leads to Owen's collection of special sticks...
some are for walking, some are for climbing...
and some are swords...for fighting, of course!

All in all, the garden is recovering nicely from 
the epic and seemingly never-ending winter we just endured.
Soon it will be overflowing....and I'll be in heaven...

PS.  for the record...the creeping jenny was purchased and placed
in an area we wanted to stay low to the ground...ground cover plants specifically
designed to be Owen-proof.  We succeeded...perhaps a little too well...
Jenny is taking over!!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Arrival of the Chicken Coop!

We are eagerly awaiting our first chickens ever!

We have a time line of picking up the year old hens before the end of May...
The clock is ticking!

So far, we have ordered a load of gravel.
The gravel is being used all over our property...so I wouldn't have
said we ordered it specifically for the coop.

It just happened to come in handy for creating a nice flat
pad for the coop.  After all of that excess water this year,
we made sure not to put the pad anywhere 
where we noticed water building up.
The gravel will provide nice drainage in case we miscalculated...

A few weekends ago, we rounded up some strong arms to load up the coop.
And by coop I mean a friend's old shed.
The shed walls had seen better days...but I'll discuss that further in phase 2...

Strapped to a borrowed flatbed trailer...it drove north on hwy 38...

This past Mother's day weekend, we borrowed some more strong arms...

With a little determination...it slid off the trailer and we shimmied it into place.
Note the spiffy gravel bed?
We also placed a nifty railway tie on the low side
to prevent gravel from running away...
Also to make a nice straight edge when weed whipping.

The view from our master bedroom deck...
(Close but not too close...we'll be needing to 
access the exterior outlet in the winter for light and possibly heat)

The trees right behind the coop provide excellent shade during the afternoon.
We will be buying boards to replace the rotted walls,
as well as making a second doorway into the run.
(Luckily we also have a door, re-purposed from our basement reno)
We also forgot we had a small window stashed in our mudroom.
That will be installed on the east side of the coop to provide 
necessary light and air circulation.
Another item donated to the cause:
Cream coloured oil based paint!
Another friend of ours gave us a can...score!
That will help us to keep the exterior from deteriorating too quickly.

So far this endeavor has cost us the load of gravel...which we were going to get anyway...
(Keep an eye out for the bold lines...I'm keeping track of how little I can spend!!!)

The roof is in excellent condition (on the inside)
so we'll probably re shingle the roof next year.

In the bare spot, you can also see we decimated our grape vines.
Last year we noticed they were attacked by mold.
Too much vines and too little air circulation was probably the cause.

Hopefully we'll place them somewhere else in the yard.
Dead center of the yard was never my favorite.
There's a cement block on the right hand side of this picture...
the puffy green behind it is our green onions.
I have transplanted some to a new location, but in retrospect, it wasn't sunny enough.
After the onions are done and go to seed...I'll probably try to transplant more to 
another (more sunny) locale.

Have you ever kept chickens or other small livestock?
Let's form a community...
Perhaps I'll need to start another blog!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Year 3!!! Jumping in with both feet

Its been a few years now...
Since we moved into our forever home in the country.

We had lived in our first family home for 4 years and, 
as all of you long term readers know,
we had a pretty well established garden.

We had wild raspberry canes and asparagus flourishing.
We had an ever expanding garden plot.
We had healthy food and fun for the whole family.

Then we moved...
We decided to move into a bigger home and a bigger lot.
As sad as we were to leave, 
it was one of the best decisions we have ever made.
We continue to recover the overgrown lot.
Changing it into something amazing, while maintaining its natural state.
We continue to cultivate our land to maximize our haul, all on less than 2 acres.

The above picture shows the transformation the yard
has taken in the first two years.
This year will produce some of the most drastic changes
since we first took over!

We're adding new beds for berries.
This new addition will provide raspberries,
blueberries, blackberries and gooseberries...
Ches is obsessed with getting a blackberry strain called "Chester".
Not only will these bushes come back and flourish every year
but they will also provide some divide and privacy between our yard 
and the dog run next door.

We are also getting chickens!!!
A family friend is giving us 4 hens approx 1 yr old.
We were able to get our hands on a free shed that
another friend was throwing away!
A few adjustments to the shed will have it ready for the girls
that are arriving in less than a month.

I gotta say...we are pretty frickin excited!!!!
(Another friend of ours says he is going to buy us 4 MORE chickens
so he can get free eggs....)

Stay tuned for the "creating of the coop" post!
(and many subsequent chicken stories)

Our indoor seedlings are getting bigger by the day!
45 Roma tomato plants...
several Broccoli plants...
All growing indoors...because this year we don't have a cat.

What are you most excited about this growing season?