Friday, April 13, 2012


Yep, we finally did it.  We got CHICKENS!!  We have been wanting them for at least a year, but haven't been able to find a coop we could afford.  Building a coop was always an option, but we didn't want to drop a lot of money on materials when we aren't sure how well our carpentry skills would work.  Well I got a bunch of supplies from my wonderful uncle over Easter this past weekend, so I'm ready to tackle the project!

Sometimes we need a kick in the rear end to get things done, so I thought that if there were baby chicks in our home, just waiting for a coop, that I would have to build one.  LOGICAL, right?!?  So yesterday I picked up these beauties.
New chicks!

We got 2 Gold Star and one Rhode Island Red from the wonderful Egg|Plant in St. Paul.  They spent their first few hours with their new mama at work :)

They took a bus ride to their new home (yep, I had taken my bike to work, that's how unplanned this day was!) where I promptly went to creating them a new home.

Being the offspring of frugality itself, I went with a medium sized rubbermaid as their lodging for the next few weeks.  I made a waterer from a juice bottle and a plastic dish... just poke holes in the bottle as far up as you want the water to go, have an airtight lid and then the water will stop flowing once it gets to the hole level.

First home setup
This is what their setup looked like initially.  I quickly became a nervous mother and changed things around.  I went and got a heat bulb for the lamp since I didn't think they were warm enough (still dont, more changes to make), I put the food in a small ceramic seedling pot, suitably shaped like an egg!  I put a window screen on top and then covered most of the screen with a towel to keep the heat in.

With it now being the next morning, I have some concerns for my little chickies.  I dont think they're chirping enough or moving around enough.  They're sort of huddled away from the light, which would indicate they're overheated, but my thermometer in the bin says just 80 degrees, which is 10 degrees too low.  I had put one of those hand warmers under the paper before bed last night, about where they're huddled.  But more than 12 hours later, I can't imagine its still putting off heat.  I think I'll have to bring my mini heater home from work and aim it at them to make sure they're warm enough.  

Heidi told me that when she started singing to them, they started to chirp back at her!  I hope we get all of the kinks worked out in this brooding process so that we have three happy, healthy hens in a few months!

Oh yeah, I'm planning on starting the chicken coop this weekend.  I have a blueprint mostly worked out thanks to a Google Sketch program, and finishing touches stored in my head.  I hope it goes well!

I'm taking names for our little girls, so let me know if you have any great ideas!  Oh also, Gus met his new sisters yesterday.  It was confirmed that, although he's almost 12, he definitely IS a dog, and these are little chicks!  He managed to nab one, to my horror!  No damage done, however, but a lesson learned.


Well if you know me, you know that I get amped up about projects and then get too busy to follow through with them.  Like doing a blog.  Or owning chickens :)  Well now that we have several new additions to the family, I thought it would be good to start this up again as a means to track their growth and our experiment.

Before that, however, lets go with an update:
Last year's garden turned out ok.  The tomatoes perished in their late seedling stage, I believe it was a result of their re-used (and not properly cleaned) transition pots.  So that was a lesson learned.  Use new or really clean, bleached pots.  Got it.  So we had to buy tomatoes.  We successfully started a garden at our friends Rana and Hillary's house.  They live just a few blocks from us and have a huge lot with lots of sun time.  It stinks breaking new ground every year though! 

The disappointments
- our corn was ravaged by squirrels (it didn't taste good anyway)
- the tomatoes were only so-so
- Peppers weren't very productive
- Melons didn't turn out very well

The great successes
- Lots of wonderful and colorful beans, 2 varieties.  I still have bags full in the freezer!
- Good early peas
- Tons of soybeans
- Zuchini was amazing
- got a few good Butternut squashes

We were too busy to plant seeds this year, unfortunately, so we'll have to go with store-bought plants this year.  Major bummer.  We'll get back to seeds next year.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Growing station made from PVC pipe.
Simple fluorescent lamp hangs on top rod.
The growing has officially begun!  Kept warm and cozy under our homemade growing station, the seeds that we started just two weeks ago have already begun to come up and show us some green.  The primary sprouters are flower seeds,  but tomato plants have also shown their heads, even more since these pictures were taken!  With another round of fresh snow dumped on us overnight and continuing to come down today, it sure is nice to come home to a reminder that winter WILL end!

As you can see, we started just a few trays of seeds for now with the intent of starting many more in the coming weeks.  Another round of tomatoes and peppers, as well as all of the other plants that require less start-up time.

Star of the Veld flowers coming up quickly...

The first tomato sprout of the year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Planting the seeds!

Seed packets from Seed Savers
Let the planting begin!!  That time of year has finally arrived and we can get our hands dirty for the first time this season, WOO!  We decided that March 13 was going to be the day that we would put our first seeds in the dirt, since we're 7-8 weeks away from the last frost. 

The seeds you see here are the majority of what we're going to be growing this year.  We ordered the seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit company based in Iowa that specializes in heirloom varieties of seeds.  We are excited to be growing some non-traditional (well, I guess since they're heirloom, they're technically 'traditional') plants this year, some colorful beans, corn and tomatoes that I've never seen before!   Here's the list of what we got:
- Beans (Empress, Dragon's                -  Carrot (Scarlet Nantes)
   Tongue, Provider)                                - Corn (Golden Bantam)
- Soybean (Fiskeby)                                 -  Melon (Minnesota Midget)                   
- Broccoli (Calabrese)                              - Cucumber (Japanese Climbing, True Lemon)
- Lettuce (Bunte Forellenschluss,            - Pea (Amish Snap, Golden Sweet)  
  Winter Density)                                       - Sweet Pepper (Napoleon Sweet, Tequila Sunrise)
- Hot Pepper (Hot Portugal,                 - Spinach (Bloomsdale)   
  Habanero-Mustard)                             - Flowers (Star of the Veld, Bee's Friend)
- Squash (Waltham Butternut,                    - Herbs (Cilantro, Chives, Basil)
  Black Beauty Zucchini)                     
- Tomato (Velvet Red [cherry], John Baer, Tasty Evergreen)

Seed Trays ready for some light!
We decided to plant our tomatoes, peppers and some flowers at this point, but not to start them all at the same time this year.  We planted 2 seeds per pod and will separate them out later when we transplant to larger pots.  We planted about 2/3 of what we'll end up with and will do the rest in about 2 weeks.  The trays will spend their days sunbathing under fluorescent lights (we made some growing stations, more photos to come) and hopefully will take off and be healthy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The 2011 Garden

Tilling up the yard at my friend Rob's house in
2010.  Hopefully this year will be easier!

After moving into a new home in August, we were delighted to get the OK from our friends Rana and Hilary to start our garden on their land just 3 blocks away.  Ideally, we would want it on our property, but we don't have the size or sun exposure to grow anything meaningful.  The site where we'll be planting, however, is an empty double lot with full sun and permission to tear up as much space as we want!  I think our friends have merely failed to think this through completely, but we're taking it and running!

We have been spending the long, cold Minnesota winter planning out what we are going to grow, how much space we will need, options of a small CSA with our friends and a whole bunch more.  It seems like we get newfangled crazy ideas on a daily basis.  You'll notice that we are very much "idea" people, but sometimes fail miserably with follow-through!

The main focus for this year is going to be a vegetable garden, but we also intend to raise 3 egg-laying chickens (as allowed by our city code).  My family thinks I'm absolutely crazy, but they'll change their minds when they start getting delicious, organic eggs.

Anyway, back to the garden... since we have free reign to grow as much as we want, we're going to try to make this year's garden as bountiful as possible without going overboard and getting ourselves in too deep.  We have roughly a quarter acre of space to work with, which will be plenty to supply ourselves and some of our friends with fresh food this year and hopefully to fill a small freezer with goodies to last until next year.  We will be starting the seeds inside and will transfer them to the garden when the time is right.  We'll be growing it all organically and have several ideas for natural fertilizer (compost, manure). We'll also be making and using a rain barrel to save on water.

Look for a listing of our 2011 crops to come soon!