Saturday, June 26, 2010

Home, Sweet Coop

The Feathery Ladies Audrey, Lily, Melanie, Attila ("Allie"), Daisy and Jack would like to announce that they moved into a spacious new home alongside the shed in our backyard yesterday.
Their lovely new home is painted a bright and cheery red, and decorated with pine shavings, last Sunday's comics and sports section, and a thermometer so Sydney can keep an eye on and periodically worry about the temperature in the coop area. Landscaping consists of wonderful sandy soil with some mulchy bits, perfect for dust baths, and populated by many delicious daddy-long-legs and ants.
They are still getting used to having so much space, and have trouble really believing that they don't have to be put to bed in a box in the stuffy garage at night. Last night they cried under the coop until they were finally round up and placed in the coop against their will. They quickly settled down in one big pile in Nesting box #2, for a sleepover.

They are pleased to note that their new home is consistently in the shade of the New Jersey jungle. They are still figuring out who gets to sit where on the perches.
Housewarming gifts are welcome. The Ladies particularly enjoy hotdogs that were allowed to cook too long (unlike children, they are not finicky about exploded hotdog ends). They are not very fond of strawberries, unless you let them sit in the dirt and they attract bugs. Yummm.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One Man's Garbage another chicken's home. Mathboy and I bonded over garbage-picking this weekend. You know, not every parent is lucky enough to expose her child to such a time-honored tradition. ;o)

It all started when I saw three wooden framed crates out by the curb on a nearby street. It took me a couple drive-bys before it finally occurred to me that they would be perfect for making some chicken things from. It got to the point where I would say somehting to the kids about how perfectly useful they would be, every time we drove by. Finally, I said to them, "If those things are still there tomorrow, I'm grabbing them."

They were there.

I zipped home to get all the baseball and softball junk out of the back of the car to make room and went back to get them. In the end, I needed two trips because they were bigger and heavier than I expected. Mathboy came to help with the bigger one.

With some plastic poultry netting and some more boards added for reinforcement, look what we made: A bigger, better brooder box! (Try saying that 10 times fast)
And the best is this, our chicken "tractor."
This will give the chicks a play-pen so they can go outside and be safe from predators. We can put it in different areas, so they can dig for bug and eat stuff and not ruin one particular place in the yard. Mathboy has come up with a plan to put wheels on it so that we can move it around more easily. I have told him that I am completely leaving this part of the project to him. I am not sure he really believes me yet, however.

The chickie-doos seem to like their new play-pen.
And I like that they are not in the garden anymore, for several reasons. For one thing, they were starting to eat the lettuce, which I just could not tolerate. Plus a couple of the chicks are now able to fly over the fence. Instead of making a break for it, they cry and cheep to get back in with their friends, but it was still a sub-ideal situation. And the final reaons I wanted them out of the garden? One word: poo.

Enough said.

In sports news, Catgirl's softball team stunned the league and the parents by winning two playoff games this weekend. They lost last night, though, so their season is over. They should be proud of themselves, because 4th out of 7 teams is quite a respectable finish for a team that went 2 and 12 for the regular season. Catgirl finished by successfully bunting for her last at-bat. Rich had been begging her to bunt all season, and she finally did it!

Mathboy's school finished on June 10, and so far his summer vacation has started off slow. At the school closing ceremonies last Thursday, we saw him get several awards of which he should be very proud, including the math and science award and an award for having the highest GPA in the grade. Go Mathboy!

I finished the Brandywine Shawl. It is gorgeous.
Great pattern! The yarn, though.... It took 14 rinses with woolwash to get this thing to stop bleeding dye. My hands were blotchy pink from the dye for a day or so. The needles are permanently stained pink. I was annoyed.

I have one skein left of this soft and lovely handpainted alpaca and silk yarn, but am not sure that I want to keep it. I've had this yarn since 2007. Every attempt to use it before now was aborted because the dye bleeding was so annoying. I pushed through this time, because I really thought it was the best yarn in my stash for this project. But now, with only one skein of 220 yards left.... Beautiful as it is, I don't know if I want to deal with the drawbacks of this yarn for another project. Ever.

OK, off to start party prep!

Monday, June 07, 2010

May: Blink and You Miss It!

I don't think this is the first time that I have forgotten to blog in May. May is such a strange month here. Softball and baseball season seem to take up so much time, and it feels as if we spend the whole month in a frenzy of running to ballgames and practices. My car looks like we have lived in it for the past several weeks. We do our homework in the car, we eat in the car. I can't even count the number of meals we have gotten over the past month or so from our favorite "restaurant" (Wawa, since the kids have been thoroughly convinced that McDonald's is evil).

Then June comes, and we can take a breath and we realize that school is almost over. That's about where we are right now.

Mathboy was on a very good baseball team this year. They made it to the semi-finals of the playoffs, but sadly they lost in the last inning of this past Saturday morning. Mathboy ended the season on a high note personally, however, getting some really nice hits in the last two games. So he leaves the season without any real regrets.

Catgirl, however, is having a painful season. Their team has 2 wins and 13 losses. Enough said.

In other news, Catgirl and I picked up these little girls this past Friday afternoon:
Four bantam cochin chicks. The partridge (reddish color) is Audrey. The black one is Lily. The silver blue one is Melanie. The mottled one with the star on her head is a Barred Rock, and her name is Attila the Hen. They are also known as the Chickie-doos. They were from different families when we got them--you can tell, for example that Attila the Hen is a little bit older than the others--but they are clinging together like sister now. We hope (fingers crossed!) that they are all chicks and not roosters-to-be. We'll find out eventually.

Rich and Mathboy have been building an enclosure behind the shed to surround the coop we bought off craigslist. For the time being, however, the chicks are sleeping in a tub in the garage and they get to play in my fenced in garden areas during the day.
Chicks in the garden

It took Rudolph the Cat a day to notice that our family now contains another bunch of animals that he would consider to be prey. You have to wonder what is going through his head. First we bring a rodent, Hairy Potter the Guinea Pig, into the house and taunt Rudolph by keeping the pig behind bars where a cat can't get to him. Now we are adding birds to the household? He must think we are crazy. When the chicks were in the garden on Saturday, he kept running back and forth between the kitchen and dining room windows, whichever gave a better view.

Oh boy. It won't be fun teaching Rudolph that the chicks are "friends not food." You would think a cat who lost his vision in one eye after being pecked by a wild turkey would have the sense to stay away from anything with a beak.

In knitting news, I have discovered the joy of patterned sock yarn. Look at this sock:
Isn't it charming? It's so funny--there is so much beautiful handpainted sock yarn out there, and right now I am enchanted with this basic Regia Jacquard. I got this yarn as a giveaway from a company several years ago. I had no idea how addictive and fun it would be watching the pattern develop as you knit.

The other thing I am working on is my Brandywine Shawl:
It looks like a mess now, but I know it will be gorgeous. It's the perfect pattern for this beautiful hand-dyed alpaca silk that I bought several years ago. Unfortunately, the yarn leeches dye terribly, so the needles are pink, and my hands and fingers turn pink every time I knit it. This is the reason why I hadn't used this yarn yet, even though I've had it for so long: the color bleeding is just so annoying. But I think this shawl is going to be spectacular, and I can't wait to see it finished. I wonder how many times I will have to rinse it when I am blocking it, until it stops bleeding color?

The gardens and veggie planters are doing well in this warm spring weather.
Potted plants 2010
New Garden
The second pic is the new garden I dug this spring. I have lettuce, green beans, potatoes and zucchini growing there. The old garden, which I apparently forgot to photograph, is only tomatoes, peppers, carrots and herbs this year. Zucchini had been doing worse there every year, so I decided to do zucchini elsewhere this year. I also added new garden soil to both garden areas this year, because I was concerned that the soil was tired. We need to start composting--it will give us something to do with the chicken waste we are going to have and will be good for the gardens.

I have already harvested enough Swiss Chard for one meal, I had enough green beans for another, and there's plenty of lettuce. I have 9 tomato plants, which may be overkill if they all produce well! But I also have a good supply of jars and I want to can tomato sauce for the winter.

Anyone want to see what has been taking up my dining room for the past 2 months?
War & Peace 1
War and Peace. A game that averages 40 hours of game play. Rich and Mathboy started before Easter, and they still are only about 2/3 done. Somehow they have kept the cat from jumping on the table this whole time. It's a miracle.