The Zucchini is in!!

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First zucchini of the year was harvested!  Starting off in my greenhouse this spring, I’ve got a lovely light green fruit for tonight’s dinner.  Recommended by a colleague, I bought the seeds from Seeds of Italy, choosing an organic variety from the Genoa section of Italy.  It sliced so easily, with very little seeds (even though I let it get a little too big).

Compliments of  a recent Facebook posting, I thought I’d try out the Zucchini Parmesan Crisps:

  • Zuchini, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt (a pinch or so)
  • Pepper (sprinkled for flavor)

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Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

Dip the slices of zucchini into the olive oil (or paint on with a brush) and then dip each slice into the crumb mixture.

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Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees, until crispy.

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I paired them with a Panko-coated cod, seasoned with organic garlic salt and baked with a touch of organic butter.

Absolutely delicious!

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Summer Vacation

Did a bit of work in the yard today and gotta say I was totally in my zen.  Breaking a sweat, covered in dirt, bugs crawling on me….good stuff.  Except for the chipmunk incident (see previous post) there really is nothing like working in my tiny little yard and enjoying the view.

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Amazing how cucumbers know to grow up on the fence left for them…

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Finally, tiny beans growing on my tiny green bean plants…

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Zucchini is massive…and we’ve got fruits!

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Black-eyed Susans ready to bloom…

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Broccoli…better late than never!

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The first blossom on the morning glory vine…

(did have a chat with one of the chickens about NOT pecking at the bloom!)

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My girls….

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and my vines.

I need this summer vacation.  Aside from getting my master’s project complete, I might finally learn how to relax.

Happy Summer!!

An Open Letter to the Chipmunk

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Dear Chipmunk,

You may have won the battle for the last two nights, but the war is by no means over.  The digging in the strawberry planter…well the holes were small and you haven’t done any more since.  And I get that the new experimental mosquito trap was just an open invitation for you to knock it over….my bad for not hanging it up.  But the tiki torches?!  Seriously, what makes you want to dig at them and knock them over?  I’ve been more than accommodating when you took residence in the drywell…and inside the garage siding….and probably under the deck.  I’m sure you realize by now that the dog is more than adept at catching things…lord knows she has enough practice when she visits her grandparents.  But have I sent her out after you?? No.  And did I let her chase you when you were CLEARLY in her path of destruction and could have been just a memory??  No.

Here’s what I propose….

You leave ALONE my plantings, veggies, tiki torches, and whatever else I spend a LOT of time caring for.  In return, I leave you alone.  Rumor has it you aren’t fond of garlic…and hot peppers.  You may find a scent around the tiki torches when they are once again erected where I want them.  I’m sure it won’t take much to sprinkle some solution into your favorite hiding places.

I’m all for co-existence with nature, but I have my boundaries…

Regards,

The Home Owner

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Chickens and Water

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It’s almost two months since I’ve become an official “chicken momma” and I’ve learned the following when it comes to water:

  • As babies, they are so cute to watch when they learn to drink from a dish
  • The dish quickly turns into an official waterer when we discover that one can swim in the dish
  • When chicks finally learn to fly up to something, inevitably it is to the top of their waterer…and cleaning OUT the waterer three times per day is just the beginning!
  • If you leave water in a shallow open container, yes someone WILL tip it over
  • When you are trying to teach them to get water from the “nipples” in the new watering system, your legs WILL fall asleep in that crouched position before someone walks over to figure out why you are making a stream of water
  • If you stay in the above position long enough, you will be pecked at…repeatedly

With that said, I finally installed the watering “system” for my chickens.  Summer is just around the corner and I want them to have access to lots of fresh water.  I browsed lots of sites and eventually went with the watering system components bought from Amazon.  To make my waterer, you will need the following:

  • Oasis Fountainhead, On-demand Poultry Waterer (bought from Amazon, it basically is a section of PVC pipe with “nipples” drilled into it
  • Poultry Waterer Bulhead Fitting Assemby (again, from Amazon, this is a spigot assembly to be attached to a bucket
  • a sturdy bucket (cheap “plasticy” ones only crack when you drill into them, something I QUICKLY learned) I got mine from Home Depot
  • a small section of hose (I bought 10 feet in case I needed to change the placement of the waterer
  • Something to suspend the bucket so that gravity can do its thing

The first two items were sold by Coop Queen  and they included diagrams and steps easy enough for my semi-skillful self to follow.

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The bulkhead fitting had to be fitted into a drilled hole in the bucket.  Determined to do it myself, I started looking for the necessary tools, but had to concede to defeat when I couldn’t locate the correct drill bit size.  Calling in the professional (a.k.a “honey”) he skillfully drilled the hole in bucket #1 and handed it to me to thread in the bulkhead.  I quickly learned that all buckets are not created equal as it cracked across the bottom.  Calling it a night early, I dragged my tired self inside and half wondered why “honey” did not immediately follow.  Twenty minutes and a new Home Depot bucket later (bucket #2), I had a water tight container for my chickens.

It took me a couple of weeks (and a Personal Day) to finally finish installing the waterer.  I wasn’t sure what to do about attaching the bucket to the coop until I browsed some sites and came up with this….

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I rummaged the basement and dug out a couple of shelf brackets (there is something to be said for not throwing away stuff!).  With a couple of small pieces of wood vertically attached to the run, I attached the brackets with screws and placed an old piece of wood  on top.  To keep the bucket from tipping off, I “bungied” (yet, it is a word…at least in my world) it to the wire and filled it up.  The hose runs down through the chicken wire and to the waterer with nipples.

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Starting off with removing the water container from the run, I hoped that eventually they would notice the new device and inspect it.  After the second trip outside to visit and see the progress, it quickly became clear that I did not have dumb chickens.  One of the Reds strolled herself into the coop, drank from the coop waterer, and strolled herself back out.  Goodbye, coop waterer.  Hello, achy legs.  After 5 full minutes (that is a long time in one position at my not-so-young-anymore age) I finally had one taker.  First trying to dig the water out of the grass clipping below, she realized that she needed to concentrate ABOVE.  Pecking at a nipple, she got what she was looking for.  But then…she walked away.  I can only hope that (a) she remembers what she just did and (b) she spreads the word.

Anyway, the waterer is in place, I can feel my legs again, and if all else fails they can open their beaks and catch rain water.

Happy Wednesday!

The Guest House

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Our coop and run took about a month to finish for our new additions.  We used the plans from Purina Mills and created our cute little 4 x 4 coop and added an 8 x 4 attached run.

A good part of what we needed came from reclaimed lumber and leftover supplies from various projects.  Before building, I estimated that the coop, run, and finishing touches would cost about $600.  After scrounging through what we had left over from other projects, acquiring some used materials from relatives and the local used lumber store (Urban Miners), and several trips to Home Depot and Lowe’s, our final tally was about $380.

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The floor was built first mostly with reclaimed lumber.

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This was attached to pressure treated 2 x 4’s (nailed in an “L” shape).

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After moving the coop to its permanent home in the backyard, the roof was added, again with some of the reclaimed lumber.

We used only 3/8 inch plywood (should have been ½ inch or more) on the roof and found that it warped after a night’s rain.  To help secure it to the frame, we added “hurricane nails” on each of the corners.

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Before continuing on, we placed the coop onto four leftover patio bricks set into the ground.

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For the front, back, and sides we used T-111 siding panels.  We added a plexiglass window to the east side for the chicks to get the morning light.  Not added yet but soon will be interior shades for privacy at night.  My parents replaced their window treatments and have lots of wooden shades headed to the curb.  I’m sure I can cut them down.  Exterior shutters are also a future thought.

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The original plans called for a “drop-down” door in the back for cleaning.  I preferred to have the door swing open to the side.  Changes I would consider for the future would be making the door a little smaller and using some kind of brace on the inside.  The T-111 is starting to warp and does not close perfectly flat.  We also added a second lock on the bottom for extra security.

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Roofing paper inherited from my parents was stapled to the plywood and leftover shingles nailed on top of that.

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I did not like the original design of the external nest box since it did not seem to have a lot of support.  We decided to add some support by nailing in a few braces before adding the front panel on.  Plywood was used on the sides of the nest box and leftover planks for the rest of the box.

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Instead of the top opening, I made the front drop down for gathering eggs.

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Inside, I added a piece of wood to give the box more privacy for the hens.  I also patched up any potential drafts with leftover wood pieces.

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For easy clean-up, we found the least expensive stick tiles and covered the bottom of the coop and nest box with these.  Gotta look pretty for my girls!!

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For the run, we started with six landscaping posts, instead of 4×4 lumber (they are half the price).  The top and middle rails consisted of more reclaimed lumber to which we nailed hardware cloth on the bottom half (most of my building wounds came from this!).   After reading other opinions on what to do with the wire, we decided to have it bury about a foot of wire on the outside of the run to prevent any “extra company”!  With the price of the hardware cloth (ouch!) and how much it hurts to work with (double ouch!) we decided to put regular chicken on the top half and across the top.

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Once buried, we placed 4×4’s across the bottom and screwed them in.

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My dad being ever-so-handy and full of ideas installed the gate for us.

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We gave the chicks a door and ramp for access to the run.

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The final product is an adorable Ruby Red painted (by my wonderful daughter!) coop with lots of outdoor space next to as well as underneath the coop for our 4 Rhode Island Reds and 2 new additional Silkies.

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Raspberries

100_1548The raspberry canes are starting to bloom.  They’re tucked in the corner of the yard, under a Maple tree, getting lots of sun through the day, but shaded in late afternoon before catching a last glimpse of the evening sun as it sets.  Planted two years ago from my brothers cuttings and spreading in their small area, they’ve provided more berries it seems to the birds than to us.  In an attempt to let them do their natural thing, I haven’t given them the care they deserve and essentially their yield speaks volumes.

Browsing Barnes and Noble, I spied upon Grow Fruit by Alan Buckingham.  I have a lot of planting ambitions this year and the colorful pages and mounds of knowledge will serve useful in the months ahead.  Today’s pursuit was to ready the raspberries for the season.  What I didn’t know was that there are different forms of raspberries:  summer-bearing and fall-bearing.  Both have different needs when it comes to caring for them.

In deciding that my crop proved to be the fall-bearing variety, I set out to see what I needed in regards to pruning.  According to Buckingham, fall-bearing bushes bear their fruit on the current years canes, thus needing to be pruned in the fall, after harvest.  I, of course, did not do this last fall.  I did “clean” them up a bit in October, unknowing that I could have cut them down almost to the ground.  I was going to cheat and cut them now, but seeing the new shoots on them changed my mind.  So I “cleaned” them up of any dead wood and let them be, hoping for the best.  This fall I’ll mow them down.  Interesting, summer-bearing bushes fruit on last year’s canes, so care must be taken when pruning them.  Only the canes that fruited this year must go.

Like everything else, food is important.  I personally like to use anything organic and my fish emulsion fertilizer works well for me.  Mixed in a watering can with water, I lugged the can down to the bushes several times to fertilize my crop.  The aged compost from last year was put to go use and spread around all my plants, with tonight’s prediction of rain a needed additive.

Being a smaller bush, they don’t necessarily need supports as do their summer relatives.

Other than possibly more fertilizer in late spring and more frequent watering when the summer heat dries out their soil, I think I’ll let them be and hope that Mother Nature is good to them.  At least I know they have a better start this year.

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Chicks!

Babies!

Babies!

Inevitably I knew I would get them.  I had every intention of doing it the right way…planning what types, designing and building the coop, getting what I needed first….

Then Chick Days at Agway happened.  Four Rhode Island Reds later, I’m finally a chick owner.

I needed a brooder quick so I ended up evicting Leo the guinea pig from his cage.  No worries since his new home (the dog’s old crate) is a lot bigger.  Wrapped plastic on the bottom part, a heat lamp from reptiles of the past, and it’s “home, sweet home” …at least for the next month.  The heat lamp is hot, so careful not to have the plastic near it.  According to backyardchicken.com (Thank you Mr. Agway for this resource!)  they need their brooder at 90 degrees to start, which a thermometer placed on the bottom confirmed.  The chicks are happy….not huddling together or trying to escape the heat.

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Homemade brooder

So in deciding whether to get chickens or not, there were the inevitable pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Fresh eggs (obviously)
  • Bug control when they are older
  • Fertilizer, au naturale (or at the least, another compost ingredient)
  • Entertainment (albeit, temporary) for the cats
  • Scratching in the garden
  • They’re cute and cuddly!

Cons:

  • Another chore
  • Another project (coop building) to fit time in for
  • Attracting of predators
  • My neighbors (see one above)

I think my final con really held me off for a while.  In trying to be the good neighbor, I didn’t want to upset the locals.  Then it occurred to me….after having an outdoor rabbit hutch, a compost pile and tumbler, and (most important) living near water company I’m sure whatever critters living in the area are not there for me.  Ironic, my garden has been fairly free of critter vandalism yet my neighbor (with his garden fence) had several “break-ins” last year!  So the pros win.

Welcome to the neighbor, chicks!