Category Archives: sustainable

Chicken Coop Progress

This post has been a looong time coming. I have really let you down, blog readers. I apologize for the lack of posting lately. Every year as the holidays approach I think about all the great holiday-related posts I could write. And every year, I fail. Maybe I should write my holiday-related posts in the summer in preparation, huh? ūüôā
Anyway, hopefully I’ll get back into the swing of things soon. In the meantime, here’s a post I’ve owed you for a long time. Rockstar husband¬†started building the coop back in October right after we got our chicks. He spent 3 or 4 weekends working all day on it. I helped with some small parts, but really this was his¬†project. He designed the coop after spending many hours researching coops on¬†www.backyardchickens.com. He’s almost done with it now. There are a few last things to finish that haven’t happened because it was rained almost every single weekend since he last worked seriously on it. We plan on painting it and sealing the wood once it dries out completely in the spring. Ideally, that would have been finished BEFORE the rain started, but oh well.
Now for pictures!
Work station
Rocks that little man¬†and I collected in the yard to backfill the trench. These are the make the run more “predator proof” because an animal trying to get in wont be able to dig through the rocks.
The footprint of the coop and run. Our goal was to make the run completely predator proof. That way, if we are away overnight, we can leave the coop door open and the chickens can let themselves out into the run in the morning. Without a predator-proof run, we’d have to make sure to be home everyday at nightfall to lock the chickens up.¬†
We borrowed a friend’s jackhammer to dig through some of the tougher parts of the dirt. Thank you friend! If you’re wondering why there’s a stump in the middle of what will be the run, it’s because we just cut down a tree that was there. We left the stump so that the chickens can perch on it.¬†
Framing out the run.
Rockstar husband demonstrating his jackhammering skills.
Lots of progress done at this point! It’s still missing a door for the coop, door for the run, nesting boxes, perching rack, welded wire on top of the run, and probably lots more.¬†
See that irrigation tube? We dug it up while digging the trench. Eventually we’d like to add a hose right by the coop to make filling water and cleaning easier. It’s not top priority but it’s on our list.
Here’s where the chickens will go in and out of the coop. And see how the coop is raised up, allowing extra run space under it? It’s perfect for rainy days and hot summer days so that the hens can get out of the elements but still be outside ¬† if they want to be.
Adding paneling over the welded wire so that¬†varmints¬†can’t rip it off and get in. You can’t see it here, but we also ran the welded wire down into the trench before backfilling. This adds to the predator protection.¬†
Nesting boxes done. A feature that most nesting boxes don’t have that I LOVE is that it is¬†designed to open UP instead of DOWN. Know why? So that little man¬†can eventually open it up himself to collect the eggs. If it opened down, it would be hard for him¬†to reach the eggs inside. I love that rockstar husband¬†thought of a little detail like that. What a good papa!¬†
Almost done! The run has a door now, there’s a ramp in place for the chickens to get up and down from the coop, the chicken door for the coop is in place. You can’t really tell because the ladder is blocking it, but the coop door is on a pulley system so that we can just run out and open or close the coop door from the outside of the run without having to unlock the run on a cold winter morning.
Chickens exploring their new home. I think they like it!
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Baby chicks!

Well, my dreams of chicken ownership have finally come to fruition. I posted about our plans to take a chicken raising class months ago, and that day has finally come (and gone). In fact, we’ve had the chicks for 2 weeks now and I’m just now getting a chance to post about it. They’ve already moved out of their cute phase and into their “awkward teenage phase.” So sad, they grow up so fast. *sniff sniff*

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves blog-wise. Let’s pretend this is two weeks ago when they were 3 day old tiny fluff balls. We got 5 of them and they all fit into this little box. They kept each other warm for the drive home.

Here is our Buff Orpington. She will lay light brown eggs.

Here’s our Silver Cochlin. She’ll also lay light brown eggs.

We also got two Ameracauna’s (they lay light blue eggs) and a Wellsummer, who will lay chocolate brown eggs. Now we just have to wait 6 months for them to start laying! (We’re crossing our fingers that they’re all hens, since we have to get rid of roosters. The hatchery guarantees a 90% female rate, so there could be a rooster in there).

Work on their coop starts this weekend. I’m excited!

Growing Garlic

It’s about that time of the year to get ready to plant garlic. If you’ve never considered growing your own garlic, you should. The first time I tasted home grown garlic I was totally blown away. It’s much more fresh than anything you can buy in the store and you can taste it. Plus, it’s fun to choose heirloom varieties of garlic, and never run out!¬†
People are usually surprised when I tell them I’m planting garlic in September or October (in CA you can plant it up until November). Apparently, you can plant it in the spring too, but you will end up much smaller bulbs. Planting in the fall is like giving the garlic a head start. It has to have enough time to grow some greens and establish itself before the first fall frost so that the bulbs can grow in the spring and early summer.¬†
Another question I often get asked about planting garlic is, “What do you plant? Garlic seeds?” The easiest way to grow garlic is to break apart a bulb of garlic and plant the individual cloves. Make sure you plant them with the root end down (pointy tip of clove is up), and plant them 2 inches deep, about 6 inches apart with 1-2 feet between rows. Then make sure to water evenly. This year, I will probably mulch the garlic to help the soil retain water. I’ll also amend the soil with compost and some worm casting before planting my garlic.¬†
If you’re wondering where to buy seed garlic, I get it from the Seed Savers Exchange¬†(pretty much where I buy all my seeds). They’re almost out of garlic for the season so order now if you’re planning on growing garlic this year. (A quick Google search for “buying seed garlic” will give you some other sources that are still selling garlic if you missed SSE).¬†
Here is last year’s garlic in the spring. ¬†The greens are looking good!

Getting bigger:

Garlic is ready to harvest in July. You’ll see the greens start to turn yellow. Two weeks before harvesting your garlic, stop watering it. It needs time for the skins to dry up. You don’t want to leave the garlic in the ground past when it’s ready to be harvested, though. That will just result in moldy garlic skins that wont keep.

Here is half of our garlic after I pulled it up:

Once you’ve pulled up your garlic, let it dry in the sun (or a dry, well ventilated area) for 2 weeks before storing. You can store soft neck garlic by braiding it together, or just break off the bulbs and keep them in a dark, dry place.

Summer tomatoes

Every time we head out to the backyard now, little man¬†goes straight for the tomato plants. We had a slow start to our tomatoes this year since we were in France from mid-May to early June. Even though we weren’t able to plant them until we got home, I knew we’d eventually have some tomatoes to enjoy thanks to our long warm season.
Well, they’re not as impressive as last year, but we have definitely been enjoying lots of cherry tomatoes. Most of them have been eaten right off the plant. This is little man’s¬†preferred method of tomato-consumption. In fact, there have been times when he’s eaten tomatoes voraciously while outside, only to flat out refuse the very same tomatoes in his high chair. I guess I officially have a toddler.
As long as the warm weather persists, I’ll at least be able to get him eating veggies on our trips out to the backyard. Next summer, he might even be know how to choose between green and red ripe tomatoes. What a wonderful way to learn your colors.
For now, we’re taking full advantage of our warm days while they last.
Get in my mouth!

Chicken dreams

I’ve been dreaming about raising chickens for years now and my dreams are finally about to become a reality! Just 2 months from today, my handsome (and accommodating) hubby¬†and I are taking a backyard chicken raising class at Love Apple Farm in Scotts Valley and will come home with 3 chicks each (actually, we might not take all 6, we’ll see what we decide we can handle).

I’m so excited I could squeal! Or cluck? Bad joke, I apologize. Anyway, we’ve both been combing the internet for coop plans and starting to look for sources of reclaimed wood. We already have some that we received from a freecycler, but we’ll need more as I’d like to use as much reclaimed wood for this project as we can.

I’m sure I’ll update more about this as it gets closer! For now, I will continue to dream of fluffy chicks and fresh eggs. But not for TOO much longer.

We think this coop is particularly awesome (from here). But we’ll see what we end up tackling.

 

High Ground Organics CSA- Week 1

Today was our first CSA pick-up of the season. It included potatoes, baby kale braising mix, carrots, beets, butternut squash, leeks and green cabbage. I won the jackpot though…someone put leeks in the trade box. So I got an extra bunch of leeks in exchange for my cabbage! (Not that there is anything wrong with cabbage, but as long as I’m nursing Quentin, I will avoid it. I was traumatized by an ultra gassy night early on).

I’ve already made baby food with the butternut squash, and Quentin had some cubed steamed carrots tonight for the first time. He loved them and did so well picking them up and chewing them up.

I will probably make him some leek puree with one of the bunches, and a soup for Trevor and I with the other bunch. You might think leeks for a baby is kind of weird, but I made him some last week and he absolutely loved them. In fact, he pitched a fit when they were gone.

I haven’t decided how I’ll use the other veggies yet, but I’m definitely excited about having our CSA back! We’ve had very busy weekends for the last month or so, and because of that have been slacking on going to the farmer’s market. The CSA greatly simplifies this problem for us. If you’re local to the SF Bay Area and are looking for a great CSA, High Ground Organics has always provided us with a nice variety of very fresh and beautiful organic produce. We have really loved them. Check them out!

Thompson River Ranch Wagyu Beef

Just before the holidays, my parents treated us to a few pounds of wagyu beef from Thompson River Ranch. I was not familiar with wagyu beef prior to this surprise special delivery, but boy was I in for a treat.

Apparently, wagyu (a.k.a. Kobe) cows make a highly marbled beef. According to the Thompson River Ranch website, their cows are either completely grass-fed or grass-fed/grain-finished. This has both ecological and health benefits. If I remember correctly from Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 is higher in grass-fed beef than in grain-fed beef. My lay person’s understanding of this is that Omega-6 isn’t necessarily bad for you, but having a balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 is important and we Americans tend to eat much more Omega-6. The higher Omega-3 in grass-fed beef means that it is not actually bad for you since it is balancing out your ratio. This was enlightening to learn given the bad rap that red meat usually gets.

Aside from health reasons, there are environmental benefits to going for grass-fed. I’m not going to go into them because, frankly, that’s not my area of expertise. Perhaps the best reason to go for grass-fed is the quality of the meat. It is expensive, and so Trevor and I don’t eat meat very often. But we’ve made the choice to sacrifice quantity for quality and we’re okay with that.

Back to the wagyu! To thank my parents for their generous gift, we wanted to share a meal with them, showcasing the beef. So we invited them over for a hamburger dinner on Saturday. Ironically, my dad does not eat beef. Prior to this meal, I had not seen him eat beef…ever, I think. I offered to get him some ground lamb like usual. But this time, he said, he would try the beef. I was nervous. I hate the thought of serving something that someone might not like. What if they go home hungry? The horrors!! But, my dad took the plunge, and I dare say he enjoyed it!

Because we were serving a high quality beef, I wanted to make sure the buns were up to par. So I make some dough with my bread maker and separated it into 4 balls. They could have been a little smaller. Oh well.


I served the hamburgers with sweet potato fries, which Quentin thoroughly enjoyed along with us.
Of course, the hamburgers could not be served with tomato because, well, it’s February. Instead we had them with avocado. Not really in season here either, but I would rather have an out of season avocado than an out of season tomato any day. Quentin also enjoyed some avocado with us. Lucky boy!
The burgers turned out delicious, the company was great, and the baby was in good spirits! All in all, a very enjoyable Saturday night. I hope to purchase beef from Thompson River Ranch again!

(Disclaimer: I did not receive compensation of any form to write this review)