Thursday, April 30, 2009

Coop Update, Silly Ducklings, and Bonus Chicken Jokes!

Ok, it was much easier than I thought it would be. Yes, we've finally added the egg door to the coop. I think it came out nicely.

The fun part was driving out to the feed store to get a nesting box. We had originally planned to either use an old, old fruit box we have sitting around, or possibly just build our own nest box. But the fruit box got left outside in the rain, forgotten about during some recent home renovation, and it got all moldy. Eventually, we figured it would just make more sense to buy a nice new one. So we did. The trip to the store was great.

My younger daughter and I hopped in the car and drove to the Feed N' Fuel store to get the box and what not. The store had a bunch of new ducklings in, and we spent at least 10 minutes watching their crazy antics. One in particular spent the entire time standing right between the food and the water. It would plunge its head into the water and drink like it had gone three weeks without a drop, then spin around 180 degrees and do the same thing with the food. Then repeat. Over and over for the entire time we watched. It was making such a mess and acting so silly that my daughter and I laughed the whole time. Brilliant!

On the way home, my daughter was looking over some quarters she had saved up. She was looking at the states on the back of the quarters and reading all of the dates and whatever else was on there. She started laughing and said:

"Daddy, what do you call a chicken who is always prepared?"

"I don't know..."

"A Rhode Island Ready!"

And that opened the flood gates. We made up jokes all the way home and she even planned out the illustrations for the eventual "100 Chicken Jokes" book we'd write.

Here's a list of our first set of chicken jokes (some of them are based on chicken breed names, so non-chicken folks won't get most of these):

Q: What do you call a chicken who is always prepared?
A: A Rhode Island Ready

Q: What is the heaviest kind of chicken?
A: A Buff OrpingTON

Q: What is a musician's favorite breed of chicken?
A: A Leghorn

Q: What kind of chicken always knows what time it is?
A: A Barred Clock

Q: What did the mother hen say to her chick when its wing got stuck in the coop door?
A: Pullet!

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's Monday

It's Monday and I watch my coworkers arrive. It's Monday and I listen to the sales folks recount tales of debauchery. Unable to focus, I turn to the window, the teasing view to the real world outside. I watch as a thin man in a grey jacket pushes a tired cart up toward the door -- a heavy, precarious delivery of miscellaneous paper and office supplies. It's Monday, and I sigh. I listen to the phones ringing, fingers typing.

Somewhere out there in the grey sea of cubicle walls someone laughs, a hollow cough its vague dry shadow.

It's Monday and I turn back to the window. The man in grey is returning to his truck, his empty cart tags along at his side, his sole companion. He reaches the plain white truck, slowly loads the cart. He looks around, looks up at the windows, at my window, he sighs.

It's Monday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Backyard Project: Day One

We asked around, neighbors and friends, for recommendations for a landscaper to come in and do the back yard. The first guy we spoke with came so highly recommended that after our brief chat in the middle our back yard, we knew he was the guy. I think the clincher was that he seemed to know about chickens, and swore, unprompted, that he'd be extra careful around the coop.

Also, I'm so glad we decided to hire someone to do this. Right away he made some smart suggestions regarding irrigation that we hadn't thought of, and that really would make things run much more smoothly. Also, he started naming things we could consider doing in later phases and they were all things that meshed with what we had been thinking. Good times.

He brought two guys with him yesterday at 12:30 (right when he said he'd be there) and they got right to work in the blazing sun. Soon it was over 90F out there and they kept toiling. By 4:30 they had the lawn out, the ground dug and then tilled into a fine, almost "dirt-like" consistency (which is quite a feat, considering what they were working with) and even managed some of the very preliminary work for the sprinklers.

So that's day one.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Minor Backyard Update

Ok, we have leads on two landscapers that our various neighbors have recommended. We'll have them by the house soon to get some estimates. This, of course, is starting to make me feel a bit guilty about our not just digging in and doing it all ourselves. But that's a lot of time we could be spending with our kids and it will take a LOT longer working on that in the evenings and weekends with just us. A crew could come in and do it all in two days. Plus, I'm probably not the right guy to try to hook up sprinklers... I'm just saying.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Over 500 Sqft of Lawn

Just so we know how much lawn we're dealing with, I've added some measurements to the photo below:

My first reaction was "Wow! That's over 500sqft of lawn!" Cutting that in half as per our first idea for a plan means about 270sqft of lawn. Here's an "artist's rendering" ;)

On the right would be the "chicken friendly" area (of course, in a perfect world, the coop would be in the chicken area, but we built the coop where it was in order to take advantage of the shade there. Oops. So, we'd have to shepherd the chickens from the run into the fenced area, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Backyard Project Notes

To help me plan for Operation Lawn Vs. Garden, I climbed up onto the roof yesterday and snapped a few photos. Here's one I've annotated.

A - Dirt Pile
B - Chicken Coop
C - Lemon Tree
D - Artichoke
E - Compost Area
F - Pomegranate Tree
G - Garden (boxes surrounded by chicken wire)
H - Patio

Our current thinking is to find a way to have a lawn AND more gardening space, while not totally squeezing out the chickens. I'd love to hear your thoughts!


The Dirt Pile (A) is gone! Yes, 30 wheelbarrow loads of dirt is gone. And we finished before the rain. Woohoo!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Lawn Dilemma

We're facing a lawn dilemma at our house. Our back lawn never really had a chance. It was put down on top of terrible "soil" and even with liberal application of water, the stuff never really fulfilled its lawn destiny. Mostly, it served as a brownish-green carpet, useful for keeping mud off of our shoes. But it was never a fun place for the kids to play or for to camp out at night in the tent.

No, our patch of prickly, mostly dead grass was a sorry sight indeed.

And so when we removed a large planting bed in order to put in the chicken coop, we just shoveled the dirt onto the lawn. Heck, we stopped watering it over a year ago.

Now, we've got a giant patch of brown, dead, lifeless grass, and a huge pile of dirt on top of it.

The dirt has to go, it's spent too much time in contact with pressure treated wood and things had a hard time growing in it anyway. Since we're getting rid of the dirt, we may as well get rid of the lawn and finally decide to do something in the back yard.

And that's the dilemma.

Should we replace the entire lawn? That's a lot of water to use up, and it's hardly considered an environmentally friendly decision. There are lots of "food not lawn" movements and voices everywhere you look these days.

But we would like a place to be comfortable in our own back yard, and we already do have some garden space set aside.

Will we replace only part of the lawn? A compromise where we still have some room for "picnics and tent sleep outs" but also an increase in garden space?

Perhaps we should tear it all out?

The chickens love the lawn just the way it is, giant dirt pile and all. Of course, having a giant lawn would mean that we'd have to look out for chicken poo every time we wanted to use the lawn. The chickens "free range" during the day, sometimes as much as 8 - 10 hours. That's a lot of poop.

We could make a smaller lawn and somehow fence it off from the birds...

So many options. I'm having a hard time giving up the entire lawn, and the kids are torn too.

What do you think? Have any interesting stories about the compromise between green lawn and just plain green?

One thing is for certain, though. I'll be shoveling that pile of dirt today and tomorrow.