The coop

Category : chickens, coop · No Comments · by December 5, 2011

As promised, I’ve finally taken some photos of the coop.  I would’ve done it much sooner but by the time we get home from work, it’s pitch black outside.  Next up, photos and introductions of the chickens!

chicken coop

StumbleUponShare/Bookmark

Chickens coming home to roost

Category : chickens, coop · No Comments · by October 30, 2011

After losing one of our chicks, it took us some time but we finally got up the nerve to try again.  This time I read everything I could about chick health and decided the key this time around was probiotics.  I love probiotics.  I take them, my kid takes them, husband, the dog…You get the idea.  Naturally, it only seemed right to give them to the chickens.  We bought a jar of Rooster Booster, which has electrolytes and probiotics, at the farm supply store, mixed it in a jug of water and gave it to them every time we refreshed their water supply  (pretty much daily.)  They’ve thrived.  I can’t say for sure it was the Rooster Booster but it’s really the only thing we did differently so it gets my recommendation.

The other surprise, besides the fact that these birds lived, is how fast they’ve grown.  We expected to have a couple of months before they would need a coop to move into.  Nope, these babies are getting big.  The last couple of weekends have been devoted to coop building.

We researched coop plans and bought the book Building Chicken Coops For Dummies.  Bjorn and I were both very intrigued by the this green roof garden coop .  The design is beautiful and I love the idea of adding some extra growing space, perhaps growing treats for the birds on top of their coop.  But we also knew we wanted to add a couple more birds at some point and after reviewing the plans, decided it probably wasn’t big enough for what we want to do.  We settled instead on the Garden Coop .  My husband and father-in-law studied the plans over a jug of wine and decided to make a few modifications.  I was nervous but it’s nearly done and looking great.  The garden coop plans ask you not to post photos of the coop while it’s being built but I promise to post them as soon as it’s done.

 

 

Anthropomorphizing a chicken

Category : Uncategorized · No Comments · by August 10, 2011

It’s been a  little while since our last post, however we’ve been hard at work focusing on the Coops part of our journey. It’s a sad story… a few weeks ago we finally purchased two chickens, they were approximately 4 weeks old and I didn’t expect them to be so cute. We gathered everything our new friends needed; a heat lamp, feeder, water dish, thermometer, pine shavings and fancy temporary shelter until they were old enough to move into their brand new coup (which still needs to be built). The fancy shelter was a large Rubbermaid bin that I replaced the cover of with a chicken wire top that I fashioned out of 2×2′s and staples.

It was a perfect set up for them and it was really enjoyable listening to them chirp and holding them each day. We named them Mango and Bean. We became attached. They were a part of the family.

Two mornings ago I walked into change their water and I found Bean’s lifeless body. She had passed away in the night and I still can’t figure out what happened. We did everything according to the book and we still lost her. It was a very depressing few days and Mango seamed distraught. Maybe I am anthropomorphizing a chicken, but I swear she was crying these last few days.

We spoke with the company that sold us the chickens and they were very understanding about the whole situation and they said they’d have a  new batch of chicks in two weeks. I expressed how I didn’t think Mango would handle being alone for 2 weeks and they agreed. Chickens depend on each other for safety. If they are alone too long they tend to lose it. I read that in our chicken book.  So, today I returned her to the store and we are starting over with 3 new chicks on the 18th. I felt bad saying goodbye, but I think in the long run it’s the best thing to do. Besides there is a small part of me that still has Mango as one of the prime suspects in the unexplained death of Bean. I think I’m going to run a camera on the next batch.

What does it take to run a great yard sale?

Category : Simplifying · No Comments · by July 14, 2011

I’m happy to be back after a brief hiatus.  Unexpectedly, amidst all of our downsizing and simplifying, our computer stopped working.  I can go without a lot of things but I’m kind of attached to the computer. Luckily it turned out to be a minor thing and we are back online.

You may remember that July was meant to be chicken month.  Unfortunately, we were told that there was a ” problem with the hatching” and our chicks won’t be available until the end of this month.  We didn’t ask for details about the hatching problem because it sounds ghastly enough as it is.  So instead this month we will continue our discussion on simplifying and minimalism.

Our first step towards simplifying was whittling down our material possessions.  We gathered everything extraneous into our living room: the old clothes that don’t fit or have never been worn (tags still attached), the six sake sets and three soap dishes per bathroom, craft supplies for projects long abandoned and piles of books already read that someone else could enjoy.  All of it went to the yard sale, which all things considered, was a success. Here are some lessons learned from the yard sale:

  • Stage everything the night before.  We thought we’d do it the morning of the sale.  Nope, people showed up early and kept coming in waves.  We never really got everything organized and labeled.  I think we would’ve sold more if we had.
  • Definitely advertise on craigslist.com.  We skipped the newspaper ad this time and just used craigslist.  We actually got more people than we had when we put the ad in the newspaper.  And craisglist is free.
  • Here’s a tip I read on another site, don’t put anything on the ground. Hang your clothes (Ikea has cheap clothes racks.)  Display things neatly on tables.  Make sure everything is clean, of course.  At our last yard sale, we had things in cardboard boxes and blankets on the ground.  We got a lot of drive-bys – you know, the cars that slowly drive by your sale but don’t stop.  This time, I think we only had one of those.
  • Have something you can advertise that people will be interested in.  For us, this was Fiestaware.  Lots of people came early because we had advertised that we had Fiestaware to sell.  Baby clothes and supplies are another thing people were looking for.  And the books flew off the shelves.
  • Price things right.  We priced things to sell.  $3 for a chair.  25 cents per book.  Tchotkes for 25 or 50 cents.  Things flew off the rack and tables.  People actually tried to pay us more than asking price.
  • If you’re trying to minimize, don’t bring things back in the house.  We donated left over furniture to Habitat for Humanity and brought boxes of items to Goodwill and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.  It felt good to donate and the house felt great with all of the clutter gone.

What tips do you have for yard sale success?

Don’t love what can’t love you back

Category : Simplifying · No Comments · by June 16, 2011

A friend once told me not to love what can’t love me back. This weekend we are having a yard sale. As you know we’ve gone through our home room by room with the intent to reduce the clutter and we now have a living room filled to the brim with items for the sale. When I attempt to review it all from a rational place I find it ridiculous that we own so many things. Things that we never use; items that I’ve assigned a meaning because they remind me of a past moment and a small irrational part of me makes me anxious that if I removed these items from my home the memories would no longer exist and would slip from my mind never to be seen again. Which is bullocks, because in reality they are simply taking up valuable space in my home, cluttering our surroundings and making us anxious.

We aren’t our bank accounts, our jobs, our cars,  our income, our friends or the things that we store in the large wood and mortar boxes we live in. We are all much more than that and we honestly require so much less to be simply happy. Things are not the key to happiness. I’m learning it’s quite the opposite. In our modern day consumer driven economy we are all made to feel that if we don’t have the newest iBrick we’re doomed to inferiority, doomed to be boring and  doomed to be judged by a jury of our peers. It seems some people put their heads together and decided to create a world which is built to make people feel bad about themselves for not having certain things, certain things that can only be purchased from the same group of people who made up this world in the first place. The genius part about it is that it’s a zero sum game because something new and improved is continuously injected into the game and we can never truly have the ultimate  happiness that’s inferred. It’s solely continuous disappointment; or suffering as the Buddhists would call it. The key then to happiness is to not play their game, to not “buy” into it, and to run our own foot race.

We are about to exorcise our possessions and focus.  I can hardly wait.

Why do we accumulate so much stuff?

Category : Review, Simplifying · No Comments · by June 8, 2011

Our living room now looks like a scene from the tv show Hoarders.  Every available surface is piled high with stuff waiting to be solstuffd at the yard sale or donated.  These are things that have been hanging around our house for years. Apparently things we thought we could use or should keep or that had some value or…You know the way it goes, you pick up an old mug, look at it and think how you could repair the handle and probably store pens in it or perhaps sell it on eBay because it is from the 70s and there’s a market for those things.  So the mug goes back up on the shelf.  Yes, our living room is stuffed full of those things.  And we haven’t even sorted out the kitchen, shed or storage unit yet.

Why do we accumulate all of this stuff?  I’ve become pretty good about not hanging onto things for sentimental reasons or things that could be fixed but never will.  But even so, I still have managed to overstuff and overclutter my home.  Why?  We’ve been watching old episodes of Hoarders this week and one thing I’ve noticed is that often the person experiences a deep and painful loss, which sets off a downward spiral of hoarding.  Now, I’m not saying that Bjorn and I are hoarders.  That’s a terrible mental illness that requires treatment to fix.  But the loss idea is still something to consider.  Both Bjorn and I are military kids.  We grew up moving all of the time.  I remember settling into a new home on a base or in a new city, meeting my new best friend for life and decorating my bedroom only to be uprooted and move again in a year.  After doing that for awhile, it became harder to make those friend-for-life bonds.  After all, I was just going to lose that friend and new home and new city soon enough.  I’m sure that experience has impacted my adult life.  I wonder if both Bjorn and I hold onto things because we don’t want to experience more loss.

I’m currently reading The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life by Francine Jay and getting so much out of it.  In particular, she talks about “aspirational” stuff – things you keep because they help give you the image you are looking for.  I’ve been holding onto my expensive set of golf clubs, even though I don’t currently golf, because they fit this image of myself that I like:  sporty, active, the kind of person who owns expensive golf clubs.  I also have tons of books around the house because I want people to know we read.  I’ve kept my beer home brewing supplies even though I hardly ever drink now that I’m a mom and don’t really have the time to bother with home brewing.  But I like the idea of still being the hip, beer snob who brews her own beer.  How silly.  I’ve realized other people can enjoy these things and get some use out of them.  I don’t need to store them anymore.  I can let go and still keep my image of myself intact.  And since it won’t be a loss to let go of these unneeded things, I can feel a sense of freedom when they go, rather than a sense of loss.

It’s June and the living is easy

Category : Simplifying · No Comments · by June 1, 2011

This month is all about simplifying and making life easy.  I’ve always had simple living as a goal in the back of my mind but it came screeching to the forefront as soon as we decided to have a yard sale.  As I posted before, our chickens are reserved at the garden center and we’ll be getting them at the end of June (they’re very cute Buff Orpingtons by the way.) We need to build a coop for them to live in and  decided that a yard sale seemed like a good way to raise some coop building money.

We began by making a pile of yard sell-able stuff in the living room. We used the old ‘keep it if you use it or love it’ rule. Turns out, we have a lot of extra stuff that could go.  Boxes of things got stacked on top of boxes of things.  We then cleaned the baby’s room and more boxes added to the pile.  It quickly became clear after only cleaning out two rooms that we just have too much stuff.  We still have the tv room, the guest room, the shed, the storage unit.  That’s right, a storage unit!  Full of who knows what…

At the same time that we started gathering things to sell, this timely article came out on the zen habits site.  It talks about the Zen of decluttering and how to let go of the material objects that tie us down.  It’s an inspiring article and helped us to find even more things that we could put into the pile.

I also have a couple of books and articles in mind to read this month:

Are there books, articles or blog posts you’ve read that have inspired you or helped you to live more simply?

 

Composting: how did we do?

Category : Compost, Statistics · No Comments · by May 30, 2011

It’s been a month and I can easily say composting (so far) has been a success!  Of course, a couple of months from now when everything has had a chance to turn into compost will be the real test. But as of now, we have certainly reached our goals.  We’ve successfully:

  • Researched, purchased and set up a composter. For us, it turned out a tumbler was our best bet.  The tumbler makes it easy to mix the compost, gets the ingredients to the right, or good enough, temperature and helps to keep visitors out – like our neighborhood raccoons.
  • Got in the habit of composting. This turned out to be easier than I thought it would be.  It’s now practically second nature for Bjorn and me to divert food scraps and lawn clippings to the composter.  Using the gDiaper compostable inserts has been a harder habit to develop but we will keep at it and report back.
  • Lessened the amount of garbage we throw out. You may remember that we fill a 30 gallon garbage container each week.  This week, we forgot to put it out because of the holiday.  Usually, that would be a really bad thing.  But this time, it’s not!  We’ve cut back our garbage production significantly.  When we get in the habit of using the gDiaper inserts, we will have an even bigger impact.  Right now, we throw out a 9 pound bag of used diapers each week.   Lessening the amount of garbage we produce is not only good for the environment but also will help us save money as we move to a smaller garbage bin.

Overall, I’m very pleased with composting.  I wish I started it earlier.  I always felt like it would be more difficult or harder to accomplish than it really is.  If it’s something you want to try, I encourage you to dive in and see what you think.  Even in a small space, composting is possible with a worm bin.  These instructions are complete and easy to follow.

Next month’s topic will be simple living.  Topics we’ll cover are reducing clutter, garage sales, simplifying meal time and other items related to simple living.  We also get our first chickens at the end of June.  So, July will be chicken month.  We hope you’ll join us.

 

A few of my favorite compostable things

Category : Compost · No Comments · by May 25, 2011

I’m amazed at all of the things you can toss into a compost bin.  We put a glass jar on the counter to collect kitchen scraps.  At first, we had to remind each other “oh wait, that egg shell can go in the jar” or “here’s a tea bag, I think this can go in the jar.”  By the end of the week, it’s now like second nature.  And the pile is growing!  Fruit pieces, veggie ends and peels, coffee grounds…all diverted from the trash to the compost bin.

It’s heartening to know that things that we would otherwise have tossed out are now going to be turned into something we can use on our yard and garden.  I mean, we buy compost every spring.  We could’ve been making it all along.

This weekend, there is yard work galore to do so the yard “waste” will be joining the kitchen scraps in the bin.  We’re also starting to use G diaper inserts that are supposedly home compost compatible.  We’ve been using their diaper covers with a cloth insert off and on.  (Daycare insists on disposables.)  But I’m really excited to try out the inserts that can then be composted.  Maybe I can even convince daycare to just humor me and use them too.  I’ll report back on how well they work and whether it looks like they are breaking down in the composter or not.

Building the Composter

Category : Compost, Review · No Comments · by May 19, 2011

I have to admit that I was dreading putting together the composter we purchased. It came in a box with a lot of parts and pieces and I was having flashbacks to prior nightmare experiences with putting together furniture. I was expecting a frustrating time and the invention of new swear words.

I am happy to report that it was actually kind of fun. Lifetime (the brand of the composter) did a very nice job with the directions that were included.  Everything was laid out, labelled and poka-yoked.  I’m not saying I had an easy time with it, but it eventually turned out to be pretty fun. Although everything was mapped out for me in advance, including all the tools I needed, I rushed into the project without taking the time to read what I was about to do. I don’t recommend doing that. Additionally the directions state that it’s a two person job. I put it together alone and it would’ve been a lot easier having assistance.

One funny example of not taking my time at first was putting together the base. There are two Outer Housing Brackets that are supposed to be on the outside. It even points this out in the directions. I put them on the inside and had to take all it apart when I realized it after putting the base together and drilling holes into the metal with the self-tapping screws.

I do recommend this composter. They do a great job with the directions. You simply have to take your time,  have a friend help you and change your perception from thinking that it’s going to be a terrible time to “I get to have fun with power tools and socket wrenches!” An additional awesome feature is that when finally completed it looks really similar to a Borg Spaceship from Star Trek. I plan to tell table scraps that resistance is futile and they will be assimilated.

- Bjorn