La Bramasole

Human Interaction Specialty


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Urban Homesteading: The Chicken Journey Weekend

coop

Dear Hubby and I have become interested(fascinated) by the growing trend of “Urban Homesteading”. He works on a wheat farm (even though he is retired, he stays busy for “fun” because he hates being lonely while I work, gotta love him) and I grew up with various critters as I read Little House on the Prairie several times over. I think this trend has resonated with us because we think it is a fun an engaging way for youth in all types of living situations to learn and know where their food comes from, learn to respect the earth and develop healthy stewardship of their surroundings.

To that end, we are tackling “do-able” projects that will make our lives better in one way or another. When we start a project, it must meet one or more of our personal following criteria (the more the better) to get the “green light”

1. The project should pay for itself, usually by saving us money within 2 years, by investing sweat equity at the front end

2. The project should encourage some therapeutic or social benefit (we don’t like isolationism); so it could be educational in some way, to ourselves or to others; it could make the environment better in some way; it could be a mental health break for ourselves by getting away from the “rat race” and getting an emotional and energy “recharge” and refuel (hint: the Human Interaction snuck through!) 

3. The project should provide a way to express ourselves in a cheerful way and even become a creative outlet rather than become an oppressive chore

Our first project, then, was to raise a small flock of chickens and build a coop. Chickens provide eggs, keep down bugs, would utilize some ground that was a money-pit to landscape, and are a kick to watch just “doing their thing.

My husband, who I am sure was born under the same constellation as Martha Stewart, cheerfully built what started as a standard coop and run for the chicks, but ended up as a motel for them. We have raised them successfully from 2 day old chicks, and they went outside for the first time yesterday. They are yet to reach pullet stage (that is where they lay their first teeny eggs, which will be another couple months) but they are gorgeous, have lost all their baby fluff, and are well on their way to being sturdy awesome little hens. 

chicks

 

Aren’t they cute? They loved the grass!!

To address the criteria, this is what we figured:

The coop and hen-house (which we still need to paint) was built mainly from found materials, bits and bobs of old housing and remodeling projects and a minimum of new wood (mainly pressure-treated lumber which would touch the ground), so that is a cost savings and got rid of old stuff just laying around.

We listed the eco-friendly cost-savings of a) zero waste from the kitchen as the hens now eat everything but meat-scraps b) bugs being eaten without pesticides and c) we have a corner of the yard put to use that wouldn’t grow grass and was a money pit for landscaping (grass/water/fertilizer). When they start to lay, we also figured the eggs (which we will not sell as we do not have that particular licence) will also save us money and the coop should have paid for itself (plus the savings from the landscaping) in 18 months, whereupon the hens will be more than earning their own keep from then on. 

The chicks are so cute and awesome conversation starters with the elderly ladies in the town who drive by and love looking at them, remembering their own childhoods. And my hubby got to build something really fun, expressing himself how he liked.

In the end, all three criteria were more than met.

When the heat dies down a bit, we will get the coop painted and I’ll post some new pics. We are really happy for our chicks; it is so fulfilling to grow cute little critters that are healthy, economically recycle all the veg/starch scraps in the kitchen (I LOVE not wasting anything!!!), and they are amazing conversation starters. All in all, this was a really great little project for us and we are thrilled.

If you are interested in thinking about chicks of your own, although I am not endorsing them in any way, I used Murry McMurry hatchery (they mail the chicks to you) and we had no complaints using this company. We chose to get the chicks in the summer on purpose because this was our first time with baby chicks. I wasn’t ready to tackle this in the winter or early spring with freezing nights to monitor!

We picked breeds which were 1) cold hardy 2) excellent layers and then we chose to have the hatchery give them shots before they were shipped. We believe in vaccinations and worming critters to keep them in the best of health. We also put something called “Rooster Booster” in their water, this is basically a lot of vitamins and minerals which helps them grow in a very healthy and proper way. I know that when they lost their baby fluff and grew feathers, their “ugly” stage was very short, so I think this was quite helpful for them. Because I like a nice visual, we have equal parts of “Black Star” and “New Hampshire Reds” and “White Rocks”. There are so many to choose from, and the shipping schedule plays a big part in your choices, but it is a fun shopping adventure!

We have a hanging feeder for them so they can’t fling their feed every which way and waste it. Hanging their feed just so they can eat comfortably also helps keep the mice out; they have a standard waterer in the coop and in the run.  On hot summer days, they can’t get enough water! I also have a tiny little bird bath for them; they are big enough not to worry about drowning in it. They key is to keep them as low-stress as possible.

We also have two lawn chairs and Dear Hubby and I usually sit and relax with a glass of iced tea and just watch them do their thing. They really are the cutest things you have seen, pecking away at a bug or pulling up a strand of grass for the first time, running away with it, and the rest of them running after the first one, the chicken version of “Follow the Leader” or “Come and Get Me!”. It is so very relaxing and natural for the mind and body, and hubby and I can sit and visit after a full day.

Note:  before you engage in such a project, you really must check your town and community (and in some cases house association) codes. For example, in our town, we were allowed to have so many hens per lot, but no roosters. So it is always better to understand the laws before engaging in a project.

 

Cheerfully!

Erina

Images: Copyright Erina Hammer 2014


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Eating While Traveling

Happy Wednesday :)

 

This was a great link by one of my fav fitness guru’s Autmum Calabrese (of 21 Day Fit).

Why it improves your Human Interaction: 1) decreases the amount of “worry” by 2) teaching you to eyeball your nutrition with ease while 3) supporting your weight loss goals leaving you to be around other humans with increased confidence and head space…gotta love that! 

 

 

 


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I graduated!

Hello All! I cannot believe it has been so long since I have posted. But I have a very good reason…..I have been working on defending my dissertation (which was successful) and passing the requirements necessary for full fledged doctoral status (Read: a lot of paperwork and details). But it is over and I’m back to normal(ish). Huzzah!

Now, we have 4 pillars this year we are speaking of (confidence, prowess, stewardship, principle) but this picture just spoke to me. There is also time to stop and smell the roses….or in this case, stop and enjoy innocence and play.

Enjoy and can’t wait to be with you all soon (and can’t wait to watch Hercules!)  xoxoxo


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Princess Files: Gardening!

I read last year that Princess Kate likes to garden ….I bet she has a gardener or two to help out, but I also bet, know how hands-on she is, that does a lot of it herself.

I started thinking about gardening myself, and tried my hand last year. It was a learning experience.

We have clay-soil although it is very rich and a lot of the worst weed in the world: Morning Glory, which, unfortunately, may only be killed with Round Up (then covered in mulch over a year and the heat from decomp used to burn the blasted 30-foot roots). Did you know that Morning Glory is like Medussa’s head? Pull it, and it grow back stronger; rototill it, and it propagates itself; and it takes 3 cycles of Round Up to the leaves to truly get the weed. It is the Satan of all Weeds.

preying mantis

Other than that one chemical, last year I also learned about pest control. I used detergent and vinegar for the little caterpillars which went after my berries.  I planted Preying Mantis babies in little cocoons to eat bugs; I got ladybugs to do the same; and I nailed up 2 cedar bat boxes to get even more bugs. We had 2 mosquitoes all summer. That was a win.

I planted potatoes; we didn’t eat a lot, but this spring I had a lot of seed potatoes and I figured out in real time which ones actually kept (for the record: German Butterball rock). Then I let the spuds sprout from the little holes (“eyes”) to see which were duds and which were good, then planted them about 1 1/2 apart, and put short-season corn (Gurney’s) and heritage beans between the potatoes. I want to see how that is going to work. I want to maximize space, and the theory is the potatoes go down, the corn goes up and the beans wrap ’round the corn. It’ll either be an amazing success or a colossal disaster.

Because I killed everything I attempted to sprout in the greenhouse (I have to take lessons on the power of the Green House) I bought nice tomatoes, pepper, and lemon cuke plants. Then I blasted everything with fish fertilizer. I planted carrots with the tomatoes (companion planting), basil with the peppers (because there was room) and threw spinach where I could. Why not.

The goal: To preserve what I can, grow potatoes to save through the winter, and to try not to use chemicals except for round up for the stubborn morning glory.

Do you have gardening adventures? What are your most successful crops?

 

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