Wednesday, December 31, 2008

a golden setting sun

wrapping up a year. a few shots at sunset.
i thought the last days light appropriate.

hey look who finally ventured out of doors!
welcome meaties to the big wide universe.

we are in some tricky times - it's true
what new will you do?
what new do you have planned?

plant a garden
raise a few chickens
learn how to put up food
and enjoy how good it feels to sustain yourself.

don't know how?
just ask, there are many of us out here who once new little too.
drop a line
ask and then try

cheers to all - be safe folks

vigil

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

got a thing for the pan cake

put a tiny bit of nip and chill in the air and i'm a thinking about the almighty pan cake. better yet, a pan cake with maple syrup - the real stuff. none of this sugar, water, caramel color number 45 garbage, the real slightly smokey, slightly burnt tasting maple goodness.

we are not lucky enough to have a pack of maple trees down here so i will often turn to honey for a drizzle of sweet happiness on the cakes. that i can get local pretty soon local as the back yard - talk to me in a year about that.

i like to play around with the mix. whole wheat cakes, buck wheat cakes (my favorite), corn meal cakes, spelt cakes, rye cakes (not my favorite). i have not yet made sour dough cakes. i bet sour dough cakes might be nice.

then there are the mix ins. blueberries being at the top of the list for me with raspberries and strawberries running a close tie for second with bananas running a fast and easy third. cranberries are good too and peaches and pears - oh boy you've got me started. try what you've got. don't have fresh fruit - how about some jam?

nuts prove nice if you chop them up a bit. i'm living in pecan country so for me it's usually this years pecans from the home trees. i do love walnuts. i love the buttery texture walnuts leave on the tongue. don't have chopped nuts around? try some granola or trail mix. or maybe even try a dollop of peanut butter with some marshmallows - that could be cool.

i do like applesauce and chopped apple cakes. aha! how about cutting the syrup and using applesauce as the sweet topping. ohhhhh, that's brilliant. i'll be doing that real soon. and then there are the chocolate chip desert on a plate cakes. chocolate chip cakes always make me feel like a kid again

there are pan cake combos i am not interested in. i am not interested in some coconut fru fru cake. no orange and coconut cake for me or pineapple something something cakes.

then there are what i call grown up cakes. this is where i add in pre-roasted and/or pre-cooked veggies and bits of roasted meats. sometimes i'll add in pre-cooked bits of sweet potatoe or just used mashed sweet potato as part of the batter. i'll add in things like leek and onion and bacon or some savory mix of goods. parsnips are great with brie cheese and bits of ham and i love spinach, chard and feta. get the idea. i usually make these smaller in size and use them as a side dish. they are easy, can be eaten with hands and or topped with a special something - creme cheese or sour creme or goat cheese like topping if you really want to get fancy pants-ish.

well i guess it's time to let you get to it. enough of my 505 ways to enjoy cakes.

we have not even discussed the beauty of the potato pan cake yet. ahhhhhh the potato pan cake - the soul reason sour creme exists in this universe. well for tater cakes, blintzes and stroganoff that is. ohhhh stroganoff - dreamy.

here is a pancake recipe from alton brown from good eats - cool fellow -

keep in few bits in mind
  • you can substitute regular milk or goats milk or soy milk for buttermilk
  • big note - only add as much liquid as achieves the thickness of batter that you want. a bit thicker batter holds better in the pan while a soupy batter runs all over the place. try it and you'll see. so add your milky liquid last!
  • you do not have to use nearly as much butter as listed if you wish not to
  • in fact i do not use butter at all. i use virgin olive oil and the replacement works just fine. my pancakes are as fluffy as ever
  • i substitute various types of flour for the all purpose flour
  • i substitute the mix ins for my own daily crave
  • i cook my cakes in a cast iron skillet, you do not need a fancy pants pancake only griddle to make good cakes.
  • i heat my skillet on high for a minute, then i turn it down to medium and cook away then once i flip the cakes, i turn the heat off and allow the residual heat to finish up the cake. if your skillet is too hot, you'll burn the outside before the inside cooks - not fun.
  • the very last tip - i do not add the mix ins to the batter. i sprinkle my mix ins on the cake once i pour it in the pan. this way i can assure each cakes gets equal happy goodness. i can also decorate and make smiley faces or spell a word or make a fruit flower or amuse myself in some other harmless manner.
  • very very last thought - on the other hand, if you wish to have blue cakes or red cakes or funny colored cakes, go ahead and add in your fruits just be aware they will be funny colored. sometimes funny is good right! ah heck, experiment and have fun.
ok with that - one variation of a pancake mix

Ingredients

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (check expiration date first)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in a lidded container. Shake to mix.

Use the mix within 3 months.

"INSTANT" PANCAKES:

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 cups "Instant" Pancake Mix, recipe above
  • 1 stick butter, for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups fresh fruit such as blueberries, if desired

Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to 350 degrees F. Heat oven to 200 degrees F.

Whisk together the egg whites and the buttermilk in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the melted butter.

Combine the buttermilk mixture with the egg yolk mixture in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the pancake mix. Using a whisk, mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don't try to work all the lumps out.

Check to see that the griddle is hot by placing a few drops of water onto to the griddle. The griddle is ready if the water dances across the surface.

Lightly butter the griddle. Wipe off thoroughly with a paper towel. (No butter should be visible.)

Gently ladle the pancake batter onto the griddle and sprinkle on fruit if desired. When bubbles begin to set around the edges of the pancake and the griddle-side of the cake is golden, gently flip the pancakes. Continue to cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the pancake is set.

Serve immediately or remove to a towel-lined baking sheet and cover with a towel. Hold in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes.

Yield: 12 pancakes

Monday, December 29, 2008

r. ede you ok?

i read about the tragedy in fernie. you ok? family ok? dogs ok?
please be ok.

canadian avalanche center

Canadian avalanche warning scale

Danger level Colour Probability and trigger Recommended action

Low Green Natural avalanches very unlikely. Human triggered avalanches very unlikely.


Travel is generally safe. Normal caution advised.
Moderate Yellow Natural avalanches unlikely. Human triggered avalanches possible.

Use caution in steeper terrain on certain aspects.
Considerable Amber Natural avalanches possible. Human triggered avalanches probable.


Be increasingly cautious in steeper terrain.
High Red Natural and human triggered avalanches likely.


Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended
Extreme Deep red Widespread natural or human triggered avalanches certain.


Travel in avalanche terrain should be avoided and confined to low angle terrain, well away from avalanche path runouts.

poo on yooo - nah nah - poo on meee

did you guess?
did you?
here's a hint...
notice the dark matter
pile it on, hope for hot insides, watch it steam, then spread it out



yup yup
it is turn the compost day
i've got a good three piles going. i ripped each and every one of them apart organizing the composty bits by size. not kidding i truly did, just me and my trusty garden fork. that was job enough for a day but i kept going. after everything was distributed about by size and type of material (leaf, hay, branches, dirty stuff, almost ready bits, etc) i layered new piles that should be smoking hot by morning. there were already bits sending off steam when i tore them apart so all should go real well. the chicken poo packs a killer composting punch. they look great and like they might all be ready in a month or so. we'll see.

i've got to find a spot for the next pile though, the meatie chicken clean up bits keep coming and i don't want to pile the current piles so high that they begin to compact. right now they are light and airy - composting perfection.

there's a new outer space hatch for the meaties. the hatch leads to their run of which only a few are still venturing forth. i need more chicken astronauts - where are the bloody brave ones? i guess i should be ok with the fact that they do love their interior living space - that is good. it seems the perfect size even with their current rapid growth.

maybe they are playing with me. they come out when i go in and they go in when i come out. don't know.

wee lame chick is doing very well! i had her out of her special home today and she was standing on both feet. not moving forward or back too much but definitely stood on her legs without wobbling or setting down for a good five minutes. i have witness her limping about in her private home, she's a bit unsteady and tires quickly. i think a few three or four more days and she'll be ready to take up life with the greater group again. if not, we'll just keep watching until she is ready. she is definitely improving and that's great news.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

- chicken astronauts - double duty alfredia sunshine

well, here it is, the meatie run. not yet 100% finished; the various boards at the based will be better secured and i plan on placing a few good size branches inside for the kiddos to play on. just the same, it works and it feels good to know that they have a new place to roam if they so choose.

the fun part, they are directly across from the chickenchicas! they have neighbors of their own kind. coooooooool.

only a few chicken astronauts ventured forth to places unknown today. on the other hand, there was much curiosity exhibited by most and i expect a few more brave souls to venture to the new planet tomorrow.

thank you neighbors! there is no way i could have done this job solo. never underestimate the power of teamwork and the greatness of pooling resources.

in other news, alfie has now for the third time laid two eggs in one day. the two egg action has occured over two weeks time. i know it's she because ms. alfie is my only white egg laying baby. i take this as a sign that she is definitely off her moult.

how can this be? well i don't know. what i do know is that i am out to the coop every morning first thing to check in on the chicas and to collect eggs.

i noticed alfie on nest again this afternoon while i and my two fantastic meatie chicken raising team neighbors were out working on the meatie run. i had an inkling that she might be up to it again. sure enough, she jumped down and i stepped in to find another beautiful white egg. wow! alfie - good for you but don't out do yourself. chill baby chill - this is the off season.

my neighbors are convinced it's all the greens and the special porridge i make for the girls. i don't know what it is. i imagine she'll balance herself out to laying just the one egg daily in a week or so. at least i hope she will, that's too much working spitting them out two a day.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

careful what you wish for

no rain yet... beautiful mild temperatures hangs in the air and the soft air tempts a gardener like myself to start throwing down seeds that should stay in packages for at least another month or so. temptation temptation, all gardeners understand the wanting to plant early.

this weather of late is great for gardening and yard work tasks that usually wait a month or so and it's not only tempting me but friends in the neighborhood too. have we got trouble on our hands or could we plant - oh the trouble it could be. all of this mild weather leads me to one question.

what the heck in our weather universe is going on?

have i forgotten that this it is often this warm central texas each winter? i do remember mowing the lawn one christmas day but also hold vague memories of that being a fluke. i remember fires in the fireplace and hot drinks in warm clothes on the front porch. not this year? not so far anyway.

yeah we've had a few cold days but not too many and frankly we need a bit of cold at least the fruit trees do and the nut trees do and probably a whole number of other vegetative creatures do. in order for a good fruit/nut set, we need some chilling hours so bring it on weather universe, bring it on. i may be asking for trouble here but what the heck? could be that i just don't get or refuse to get this central texas weather?

it's december, it should be colder or at least my body clock says so. i miss the colder weather. yes i do. we get so darn little of it down here that you've got to enjoy the short season while it lasts. we get plenty of hot here, too much hot as far as i'm concerned. please weather gods please bring on the chill, a cooler breeze. help us set for the fruiting trees.

careful what you wish for...

Friday, December 26, 2008

unusually warm breezy beautiful day

we are looking at 7o˚f today and then some. it feels nice but it feels odd - should it not be colder here these days? yes, indeed it should be. the day is bringing people out. already i've seen neighborhood folk out running, walking dogs, working in the yard, wrapping up packaging from holiday gifting. i myself was out watering the gardens figuring i'll take the opportunity while it's nice.

kind of amazing this weather though. heads up, how the climate shifts. i have wondered of late if this climate shift would have started to occur with or without us? probably later but would it have come just the same? i would imagine we are the next dinosaurs. anyway, it's nice out today with a beautiful breeze to boot.
many of the perennials are shooting up, setting root and getting ready for big growth. i hope they hang on through the colder january and february (generally our coldest months) to come. once can hope. they seem to be doing quite well through the colder days that we have had so far so why not hold on? i guess i have not really figured out this whole central texas garden calender yet. bit by bit i'll come to understand more.

here is the crimson clover sprouting through the soil. i threw it down around the gardens running the perimeter of the fence. it's looking good and growing speedily. this group of wee sprouts here shares the friendly company of some flat leaf parsley. yummy!

chard peas and lettuce pretty colors each their own
a tight community of greens


the borage returns now year after year on it's own. i never quite know where it's going to come up or when exactly it's going to come up but it always does.


borage is great on so many levels. the leaves are great in salads, the flowers attract bees like no other and also taste great in summertime drinks.

the beets next door are slowly growing. a lesson in patience this time of season. i'm happy just the same, it gets too hot here in spring and summer to grow a proper beet.

our morning gift received each and every day. the girls each laying an egg specific in her own color.
  • white egg - alfie sunshine
  • dark brown egg - freckles flirtasia
  • light brown egg - saffron sunflower
there is a whole lot more i could be getting to out of doors today and i may just take advantage of the day to do so. why the heck not, right?

i've already been out cleaning up the meatie chicken coop and the laying chickenchica's coop. somewhat messy (especially the meatie coop - popping machines that they are) but necessary to keep everyone happy and most importantly healthy. and it's great for the compost pile and that's never bad! i refreshed lame chickie's bedding this morning too and upgraded her to a larger living space. just keeping everyone as happy as i am able.

it looks like it could rain but i'm not so sure that the skies will actually let loose. that would be nice. well i'm stalling. time to get back out there and move some river stone. time to prep the 'plan b' meatie run area. it's going to take a lot of heavy lifting on my part but then again, every bit of hard work pays off and if i don't do it, who's going to? you got it, no one!

it would be nice to have a helper - i will say that

have a great day folks!

7:3opm update

i ended up performing gutter duty this afternoon. dirty job after dirty job after dirty job today. because i have several live oaks in the yard, the emptying of gutters is an ongoing job. it's amazing how quickly the gutters fill up. i clean out the gutters a good two to three times a year, probably more.

i have installed gutter guards on several lengths of my gutters but i have to say that i'm pretty unhappy with the system. it might be the type i installed but it seems often crusty and clogged. even though i do not have to empty those gutters with the guards i do have to get back up there and brush the gutter guards with a still bristle brush to open them up fully. otherwise the water from the rain does not even enter the guarded gutter and flies over the top of the gutter which is not very helpful. and guess what? i have to brush the guarded gutters as frequently as i have to empty the gutters. hmmm, don't know which is better? my gut says emptying. i look pretty darn funny up there scrubbing gutters.

anyway the debris from the gutters goes right into the compost or in today's case, gets distributed around a piece of the yard that has a tendency to go muddy. i'm hoping the breakdown of the leaf debris along with wormy worm action will work some of the materials into the soil which might promote better water absorption. also, the soft fluffy layer of partially broken down leaves keeps my constant walking in the area from packing the soil down which without a fluffy leaf layer would bind all the soil bits together making it more like rock rather than soil.

this process has worked very well for me in several other areas around the yard. every once in a while, i'll give the leaves a rake and a flip to keep things from matting together. in a few months they pretty much break down. if it were a bit dryer here i would have pulled out the mower and chopped them up which helps the process even more but we are a bit mucky in this area now so the rake and flip process will have to do.

forecast calls for rain...
fingers crossed


Thursday, December 25, 2008

holiday mornin' round the hippychick universe

a few more faces around the place on this holiday morn

bunny staying cozy this christmas morn. has not yet seen what hippychick santa has gifted him with; chard and carrots and greens - oh boy!

the chickenchicas enjoying their holiday greens, swiss chard, sweet peppers and grass cuttings

the toasty fire hippychick will enjoy a sit by later today

the two boy kitties - mr. t and opera are napping
we'll get photos of the beauty sleepers later - for now, i want not want to disturb

we are keeping it simple round here

happy holidays folks
from the hippychick universe

hey check out hippychickenfarmer @ youtube later today for an up to date look at the creatures in our hippychick universe. i am uploading videos now so it may be a while before they all appear. check in anytime.

not so wee five weekers


are you talkin' to me?

actin' natural

movin' in for the close up

candid beauties

- an update of the wee lame chic -
she seems to be doing great. she actually put a bit of weight on the lame leg this morning. i put here back in with the group which quickly tired her out so i decided to keep her solo and cozy for a few more days (more if necessary). it seems that she has a strained leg which is about the best diagnosis i could have hoped for. i think the rest alone, her own private heat lamp, private food dish and the extra vitamins that i'm popping in her water will do her good. i expect she'll be back full tilt very soon.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

one wee lame chick

reason number 505 to spend a little time with your chickens each day
- you'll notice when things that should be right are not just so -

a case in point is my discovery of a wee chick with a lame leg. i was inside roughing up the bedding before throwing down new bedding which usually excites as the wee chicks to run about and such. all were doing just that except for one. so i checked in with the wee chick to see what was what?

i'm going to call her a she - even though i don't know if she is a he or he a she. she seemed perky and bright, her eyes were clear but she would not get up so i lifted her a bit. she wagged her wings with great energy and let out some healthy peeps but when i set her back down i realized that she had a lame right leg. so i pulled her out from the group, set up a nice comfy bed for her in a large plastic bin, set her up with feed and water of which she went after right away and kept drinking before settling for a nap - good sign!

time passes as chickenmama researches lame chickeny possibilities at the following excellent sites both of which gave me much to think about and detailed bits to look for:

she seemed very comfortable with my little inspections - no peeping - almost as if she knew i was trying to help out. i decided that i needed to do more chickeny research myself before prodding further. i put a few drops of vet rx and vitamin drops into her water for good measure. i don't know how long she's been without water or feed so best to give her the vitamin boost. she seems to be eating and drinking healthy amounts which eases my worry. she seems in good spirits and she's comfortable and warm where she is at.

my gut tells me she has a bruised leg. i've got some more looking to do before i know for sure. i'll ask my chicken smart neighbor for his point of view later today as well. at the moment, he is hosting a holiday brunch. i'll know more later today.

now it's real, hippychickenfarmer working a not so perfect everyone 100% healthy chicken farm. i knew there would be the day when the chickeny nurse would have to take part - today is the day. hey i'm happy to help the wee ones, whatever it takes, we'll get this she chick back to her running around bobbing self. we'll do what we can anyway.

take care of your babies, no matter how old, no matter from which creature sort.
cheers!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

happy birthday to me!

born on the day of prophets

don't know if they got that one right in my case
- just the same -
here i am, here i be, i hope there are many more days for me

so what to do on a day like this? misty and cool and perfect for mooshy ground?
plant strawberry plants - plant onion starts - move about some of my growing cabbage babies, lettuce babies, put in some raddichio, mustard greens, kale, kohl rabi, asparagus and maybe even some taters.

Monday, December 22, 2008

sharing and having a great time doin' so

it's been a good day. i spent some of it cleaning up farmy creature universe, some it cleaning up human, kitty universe and some of out of doors just wandering about.

as i wandered i thought of my neighbors. i thought of them as a group and then thought of each as individuals. what makes them who they are, how they are as family, how they are as friends, as neighbors, as parents, a community members and as they are when they don't know i'm looking.

i'm lucky to be surrounded by a great number of exceptional human beings, a fantastic number of doggy buddhas, a wide array of sage like felines, chattering cheerful avian flirts and curious squirrels, skunks and raccoons. the worms in the garden are miraculous and the buggy bugs, the bees, the lizard lizards, the froggy toads and the artistic web weavers are pleasant companions.

we are blessed to be here, just where we are, around those we are around i thought.

after the wander, i poured a beer, popped on some of my favorite austin musician - matt the electrician (check him out!) and started baking. i started baking different bits for different folks depending on who they were and what i pondered they might enjoy. i collected eggs for gifting, coffee for those busy folk friends, movie passes for the kiddos and not so kiddo kiddos and wrote up cards for each. the act feels good, the sharing is a joy. the music and beer kept me humming and my booty shakin'.

now all the baking is done and cooling on the counter. i'm on the super softy sofa. matt the electrician has my foot tapping. check out matt - check him out. he's one of my favorite human singers. he's right up there with birds and rushing water and that's pretty high praise from me.

maybe another wander or maybe another beer...

got a lot to do slow cooking chicken stew

- slow cooking now at the hippychick ho, ho, homestead -
the got a lot to do
red rice red quinoa
you can make it your own chickeny stew stew

this is what you'll need -
  • 8 chickeny drumsticks or thighs or whatever cut you like - i like dark meat
  • 2 quart jars of canned tomatoes or 2 large cans of stewed tomatoes
  • 1 large onion cut up a bit chunky
  • two good handfuls of your favorite mushrooms - i keep mine whole
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped up
  • 1 cup of good chicken broth or hearty red wine if you like or even beer!
  • a hearty dash of sea salt
  • 15 good turns from the pepper grinder or more if you are me
  • a handful of your favorite spices - provence for me
  • 1 cup red himalayan rice*
  • 1 cup red quinoa*
*note - you can replace the red rice for brown, black, white, purple, barley whatever you have.

here is what you do. this one is easy!
  • place everything except for the rice and half of your herb mix into the slow cooker
  • put the slow cooker on low and leave it to be for 6 hours, more is ok if you are going to bed
after the 6 hours -
  • check to see if the chicken is falling off the bone - if so, pull all of your chickeny pieces out of the mix and cool before removing the bones. really now, let the chicken cool a bit first otherwise you might experience some ohh! ohh! ahh! ah! hotty hot hot burning action - we don't want that.
  • add your rice into the slow cooker*
  • *you may add additional stock or water here for the rice in case things are looking dry but i've not ever had too. the tomato juice, chicken juice and broth have always proved enough but you judge for yourself and do what needs doing.
  • refresh your herbs by placing the other half in the slow cooker with the rice
  • return the chicken meat to the slow cooker - no bones
  • if you like you can throw in more pepper and garlic here too
  • cover the cooker, keeping it on the low setting
  • cook until the rice is done
  • that's it, serve it up with a good crusty bread and enjoy!
there is plenty here to easily feed a family of four or to share with friends or bring as part of a pot luck and if you are blessed enough to have any left overs, this one only gets better as the flavors continue to mingle.

- the options are yours -

you do not have to use cut up chicken parts. throw in the whole bird if you like or use only white meat parts if that's your thing.

feel free to substitute hearty root veggies for rice. rutebega, carrots and/or taters would be great - add them in at the same stage as you would add the rice - after the chicken is cooked otherwise you'll have some pretty soggy worn out veggies.

you may prefer artichoke hearts rather than the fungii if you are not a mushroom lover. in that case throw in some capers, wine and fresh shelled beans. be creative! it's your stew.

if you are adding dried beans you'll need to soak the dried beans in water for at least 4-6 hours prior to the start of the stew. rinse them first and then add them in at the top of the cooking cycle making sure you always have enough liquid for the beans to cook in. and and and, if using dried beans, do not add the salt until the beans are fully cooked.

if you would rather avoid meat, you can cut the chicken all together and use veggies and veggie broth. fyi - quinoa is a gluten free, full protein grain, if you have never tried it do. you'll be hooked.

if you are really crafty, pull some of the juice make a batch of polenta and mmmmm enjoy.

or

you can serve the whole thing without rice or veggies a top of thickly thickly cut crusty hearty bread - throw some grated cheese over the top - aha! and you are done. oh that sounds good too.


remember it is the make it your own chickeny stew stew
do what you do to make it right for you



Saturday, December 20, 2008

back to plan b - the meaties home is done!

you here me say quite frequently - "well you don't know until you try" - and oh how true it is.
we traveled back or rather forward to meatie housing plan b today. the subtle but superior meatie chicken universe.

sometimes you just have to admit to yourself that plan a is a bust and move on no matter how much work plan a took.

plan b gives us
  • larger housing - the meaties are growing fast fast fast
  • out of the way of the neighbors - giving everyone their own space
  • access to a run also of a larger size with more privacy
  • easy access for feeding, watering and cleaning
  • easy to keep warm being inside the garage
  • built in a way to not draw too much attention to itself - stealth coop
walla! here it is!
the new six foot by twelve foot floorplan
can you see the little buggers through the door?
they are there- click on the photo to enlarge.
also seen here is my wicked red white wall tire bicycle

ahhh, a sigh and easier breathing. now they just grow.
the hippychickenfarmer universe is in balance.

note to self - keep the next round of meaties to a count of twenty
for us around here, twenty is plenty

this coop would not have been possible without the invaluable help from my neighbor. it was wonderful to have his talent and skills on project. thank you cool neighbor, thank you.

on again off again alfredia sunshine

miss alfredia sunshine
blanco chickenchica of my universe
what is it that makes your eggy bone tickle?

is it warmth
is it light
is it comfort in the night
is it greens
is it pleasure
is chattering and clatter
is it fun
is it sun
is it clear and cool water
is it scratch
is it feed
is it hanging out with me?

oh little miss alfie sunshine
thank you for your white and shiny eggs
on again off again alfie sunshine
it's always worth the wait

Friday, December 19, 2008

social dork take two

i am cleaned up
i am dressed
i smell pretty
and i'm ready to go

i did check the invitation one last time to make sure - real sure - that the friendly celebration was indeed to occur this present evening. i have my gifts for friend gathered. i have all creatures tucked in except for opera kitty who i imagine will not wish to come in until my return later this evening.

it's good hunting weather, he's a good hunter - he'll be out a while.

my feet are pulsing - long day of work today, chicken work day. we are coming down to the wire. the chicken big chicken work days should begin to peter off as the big projects move towards completion.

the chicken run is 98% complete. two bits remain undone - one - the human door to the run - two - the secure locking chicken door to the run. the human door for now is a piece of plywood leaning up against another piece of plywood. it is in no way smartypants predator proof tonight but it will be tomorrow because tomorrow we finish the run. the chicken opening into the run is there but the latching predator proof door is not yet there. tonight the predator proof cover is a blockade made from several heavy duty floor tiles wedged in place. again, tomorrow the super duper locking door will be in and predators be damned - ya won't get in.

i did manage to get all of the wee meaties out to the run today for most of the day while i cleaned the heck out of the shed. wooof it was beginning to smell ripe. the bedding was alive, hot and cooking, composting the heck out of itself and this after only three weeks in the shed. i pulled it all out and scraped the floor with the edge of a square headed shovel. oh boy that was fun! but this dirty work does provide a pay off - excellent goods for the compost pile. i layered the pile - chickeny bedding, then leaves and back again and again until everything was distributed. bet ya ten bucks that compost pile will be 'on fire' by tomorrow. well not really on fire but a cooking compost machine, i bet i bet.

the chicks did just fine out in the yard. it was a bit of freak show getting them out for the first time. several were curious enough to venture to the edge of the chicken run door but not curious enough to step over the edge and out of the safety of what they have known as home for the past few weeks. then all of a sudden, no choice but to check things out. there were several others interested in taking a look and they pushed the others right out of their way and into the run.

oooh?? oh boy? what is this? where are we? where is everybody else? oh? hey kind of cool. oh great there's the food and water. cool i'm cool - you cool? yeah hey coooooooool.

so that's how it went for about 15 minutes. three chicks out being cool perfectly happy in the run while the rest stayed in the shed. you can guess what happened. yup the human went in and began mushing the buggers out the door. a wee bit of encouragement we'll call it. once they were all out, all was well. they were fine, comfortable for hours.

then it came time to head back in but they would not venture back up the ramp to the shed. not the ramp - we don't know what the ramp is, not doing it! so the human had to heard chickens again. this time was much funnier to watch. the space in the run being much larger than the shed allows the chicks much more running away space. ever chase a chicken? yeah not so easy. the human running around, pretty funny.

i got each and every one in and i got my exercise. i sealed the place up and started the cleaning up routine which brings me right back around to the social dorkness. pretty much time to go but i'm going to mention one more thing that i've been doing as of late.

UN SUBSCRIBING!
i have been removing my email from many many mailing lists. some i joined a while back, others that i am sure i was sold to and others that i could not trace if i tried. there is a lot of junk out there that i'm not interested in. there are also goods that i am interested in but do not have the funds to support the interest so better not to be tempted and unsubscribe. it feels good to unsubscribe. it's like cleaning house - lighten the load - cutting down the noise - get the idea.

ok enough blah blahing time to go. let's see what happens tonight.

a social dork and a pizza pie

i planned for it. i made sure that my daily tasks were wrapped up in time for clean up, spiff up and the drive into austintown for a friendly celebration. i did well. i hit all time marks. i found the location of the party not arriving too early ( i thought) nor arriving too late. one thing seemed odd - all of the lights were off. a surprise party maybe? no, the celebrated individual was a huge part of inviting the guests - not a surprise party. ah something else is odd - there are no other cars near the property. hmmm something must be wrong.

i looked at the address again. correct
i looked at the numbers on the side of the house. correct
i looked at the street sign. correct
i looked at my watch for time. correct
i looked at my watch for date - Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

brilliant brilliant brilliant
- dork of the universe arrives to the party and entire day EARLY -
uhggg!

i wish i could say this is the first time my social dorkness has kicked my butt but it's not. ah well, i sucked it up. funny though, the first thought i had was about gas - my conscious kicked in but i knew i would be back again to celebrate the party as scheduled because i truly value this friend and rarely, rarely do i go out socially. just ask my brother, he has his own private mission to get me out and about more often - bless him.

so what's a socially awkward dork to do? well i texted my buddie to see if she was available - nope out with others, cool.

i landed at my favorite pizza joint - home slice pizza - on south congress. i ordered a beer (guinness) and a pizza pie (cheese only - i like my pie simple) to go. i then sat outside and enjoyed a bit of live music while waiting for the pie. i figured i'd give my brother a call to let him know that i tried. bless the brother again, he congratulated me and made sure i would give the real party a second shot. i could only laugh and laugh and laugh but i promised that i would give the real party a second shot.

the pizza took about 45 minutes because the place was packed but it was a beautiful night and i was thankful for the beer, the music and the pretty holiday lighting displays in site. the pizza people called out my name, i traded in my pint glass for the pie and headed out to the car. i then did what i usually do. i enjoyed two slices on the way home. it's that good and the drive is nearly 45 minutes so why not? got to get it while it's hot right?

once home, i packed up the goods for later enjoyment. i think pizza pie and beer for my birthday sounds just perfect. it's only a few days away and will be worth the wait.

moral of the story - when life gives you social dorkness go ahead and enjoy a beer and a pizza pie!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

at last rain rain rain

mist hanging in the air
raining only for a minute
fog hanging low

7:oo pm update

actually it ended up raining a lot today. around 5pm the sky opened up and down dropped gallons upon gallons of aqua fresca. it was truly wonderful. i opened up the garage door, pulled the car out to the drive - free car wash you know - and then went back inside the garage and had a sit with opera kitty to watch the rain come down. this is the first bit of rain that we've had in months. bless the rain gods of the universe.

the timing was perfect. today's rain settled in all of the plantings put in today.
  • 2 asian pear trees - my birthday present to self
  • 3 blackberry sticks - split off from mama blackberry
  • 3 artichoke roots - babes from my current chokes
  • 2 camellia bushes - pink and salmon orange beauties
  • swiss chards that i moved from an overcrowded area
  • crimson clover seed just thrown down today - cover crop & good for bees
  • winter field pea seed - cover crop & good for bees
the rain should also help to settle the aluminum poles i planted for the not so wee meatie chicken run fence support. pictures of the run in progress are to come. this run is not intended to be a permanent structure. not yet anyway. this run is the oh my how they've grown - ALREADY - we need to allow these babes some fresh ground for scratching run, run. i think the construction of this run will teach me what i need for the permanent structure. i do like it's size and shape and it fits real nice where it is right next to the wee chick shed.

hmmm? next to the shed? no plan b - move them to the garage? nope - don't have to move on plan b after all though i do in the long run think that plan b could be an excellent plan. plan a works now in the short term. plan a keeps present things simple and gives me time to really plan out plan b - the inner garage coop with access to the never going to use space space behind the garage for a new bigger better chicken run. no rushing, no panic attacks and no slapping something together. it's better this way and i'm thankful for the planning time.

anyway - back to the run

i hope to get the remainder of the vertical run (the walls and digging deterrent) finished tomorrow. i don't know if i'll get a roof something in tomorrow, could be a push considering i don't quite know how i'm going to fashion the roof yet - maybe bird netting but the run is right next to a tree and i don't think bird netting will stop a leaping raccoon. it's going to have to be stronger. every step a learning process.

finishing the run requires
  • the attaching of the poles to the plywood - i will need to pick up a metal drill bit and a 3/8 hex screw head before that will happen.
  • the attaching of the chicken wire to the poles
  • the building of some sort of chicken run door for humans
  • the masterminding of the chicken run roof - got some ideas - though not set yet
  • the cutting of the chicken door in the shed
  • the making of a masterful open and close the chicken door contraption
  • the building of the chicken ramp - door to run - actually this is done!
  • the setting of a digging deterrent around the perimeter of the run for creatures other than the chickeny sort.
and then there is the idea of the dry run on the opposite side of the shed - i call it the dry run because the floor surface would be concrete. why two runs? well why not? double the space for the wee buggers and if the dirt run is too soggy and icky, i can still allow them to run in the dry run which i will bed with hay. fresh air for the babes either way.

the dry run will be easier for me to build. i've done that type of thing before so i know a bit more of what not to do. ah and now the ideas are raging. here we go - a look inside the brain - just a moment.
ah and if i build the dry run with a sloping roof, i'll be able to attach the gutters from the shed and the garage to the large water tank saving water from two structures rather than just one. then i can use the water in the large water tank to irrigate the back garden, the fruit trees and maybe the perimeter gardens on the fence line. ugh that will require a lot of digging - but it would be worth it. and/or i could create a sloping roof on the dirt run which would send water directly into the back garden or i could set up a feed to rain barrels and use that water for a gravity fed chicken waterer - oh oh oh get the picture?
yup that's how the brain goes sometimes. goes until i finally drop off to sleep or have to go to work or to venture out to celebrate a friend for just being herself which is what i plan on doing right now. celebrating a cool chica. too da loo!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

morning porridge - for da' chookies & a plan b

we are having our coldest dampest windy day so far this year.

at this very moment, the thermometer reads 28˚f and it looks like snow and sleet are going to be falling on an off throughout the day. big hippychickenfarmer universe day. the cold won't stop us but before we start, we all need a bit of breakfast.

for the meaties - starter feed and plenty of it

for me - eggs over easy w/goat cheese and a few slices of texas avocado aside a cup of tea w/milk

for the chookie ladies - a warming bit of healthy porridge which is a boiled then simmered mix of
  • flax seed
  • oat meal
  • rye flakes
  • buckwheat
  • red lentils
  • a palm full of tapioca (yucca)
  • garlic
  • molasses
  • olive oil
  • water
i made up a big batch to last through the week or more. it's simple. i just warm up a bit each morning before taking it out. all cooked up, it looks a little something like this. you could eat if if you like. it is as good for humans as it is for the chookie folk.

the seeds, grains and legumes are yummy good parcels of nourishment, the garlic keeps them healthy and the molasses piles in the vitamins and minerals.

it has always proved a huge hit for the girls. freckles darling loves to search out the bits of chopped garlic. alfie is fan of anything in the porridge family and saffron ain't no different, she knows a good meal when she sees it.

they are a funny group. usually it's saffron that gives the goods a taste before the others join in but today was different. today they all jumped at the porridge as soon as it hit the ground. that's a good sign if i ever did see one and it will warm up the ladies which will help them better survive and better acclimate to the cold.

there are new plans afoot for the meatie run. in talking to my neighbor lady just next door, i got the feeling that the current plans for the run are a bit too close to her home for her comfort and to me my neighbor's concerns are 100% valid and should be respected so i took a little walk around the place this morning to come up with plan b and i did.

plan b involves using a bit of space behind the garage and around a beautiful live oak tree for the run. it's plenty big, in fact, it's probably bigger than the area for the plan a run. funny how things like this often work out for the better.

there is a catch. i cannot fit the chicken shed back there as it is too wide to make it around the already existing structures. what i can do is portion off a 4'x8' bit of the garage opposite the new run area for an indoor coop and cut a small chicken door in the wall to allow passage from inside to out. this allows the growing meaties a great bit of privacy, a warm and/or cool inside home depending on the time of year and a protected run area - all good things. it's an area of the yard too shady to grow anything but perfectly shady for growing chooks.

the good news, i get to work inside the shelter of the garage in the prepping of it all which is good. the construction goods the neighbor provided along with the lumber i have in the garage should do the trick for the inner housing and the pipe fence supports will work outside just fine for the run. so i think we are set for the required materials.

i'll get started today. i will have to clean out that corner of the garage, move things around and rearrange to accommodate the plan. that will prove a nice get the blood flowing task to enjoy. i'll keep the tea hot and flowing. it should turn out to be a pretty darn good day. relief...

and what with the shed once this is all set? well, the shed becomes the brooder for the next round of meaties. that way i can keep one group yarded and housed separately as the next group grows into their feathers. i will raise the meaties in small batches, time things out so that the older meaties are processed just before the new meaties are feathered and ready to travel out of doors and repeat. this then answers a question i've been pondering - where will the next batch of meaties live? pondering over - they will live in the brooder shed of course.

- farming 101 -
plan b might in truth prove to be the better plan
- - - - - - -
and then again
you never know until you try

Monday, December 15, 2008

morning coffee hot

uncover the garden, cover the garden, uncover the garden, cover the garden
we are in a warm-cool quick-cycle of weather here in central texas. yesterday blessed us with a beautiful day in the mid seventies and today the temperatures are dropping. dropping for central texas that is. we don't experience (fingers crossed) the plummeting sub-zero depths that folks do up north. good thing too because our houses down here are not insulated for such weather. that would be tough. yes, oh there it is, i can hear all the boohoos. i know, i know.

anyway, i was up in the early brisk covering the garden once again after having just lifted the rowcovers several days earlier. the cool air felt wonderful. school buses were traveling by. folks were on their way to work. a local fellow was out for his walk and the wind was blowing hard as i placed veil upon the growing greens. it's good to see the smalltown living in the early hours of the day.

living here is a gift. more hellos, more smiles, more eye contact, more birds, trees, creatures of the universe and a bit of happy smalltown quiet.

i stopped in to check on the wee chicks. ohhh they were chilly, all huddled close to one another. none in danger of perish, not that cold, but cool enough to turn the heat lamps back on. the new bedding of raked up leaves is soft and fluffy and looks to be a good choice. they sink a bit in it, keeping their bodies that tiny bit more warmer. the chickenchica ladies were nesting for the morning eggs. alfie who has dropped off in production was out enjoying the brisk air in the run, scratching and chatting to herself or maybe giving the nesting girls the morning updates. wabbit wabbit was enjoying a morning nibble. he has really warmed up to us folk. he enjoys a scratch and sticks his nose out at you if you offer a bit of conversation. he's a happy clam in his burrow of sorts. the boy kitties once again have opted to stick inside for the morning. they somehow know when the weather turns. on cooler mornings, they curl up, nap and i don't hear a peep from either of them until close to noon. they know a good thing when they've got it.

i''ll keep the holiday lights on today to enjoy while we work inside. a bit of cheer is always sweet.
i think hot coffee this morning
don't you?


3:30pm - woo!

i just got in from ramping up the insulation for the chickenchica's. the wind is screaming out there and the weather folk are reporting a wind chill factor in the teens. i thought best to get on out there and do what i could for the ladies. the target, the chicken wire ceiling above their roosting spot. the goal, keep the heat from rising up and out and chilling the girls at night with the secondary benefit of keeping the coop generally warmer on days such as these.

the easy answer - plastic sheeting and i had plenty of that, but i've read recently that any heavy fabric will hold in heat better than plastic sheeting. all the tarps and drop cloths were already in use. i did not think that my remaining stock of gardener's burlap would do the trick being too porous so i decided to head inside and search around the house for a solution.

i checked out the linen closet. i was thinking that must have some old sheet or blanket that might do the job. what i found was even better. heavy lined shower curtains. the kind that you place in front of the liner to look pretty. these were simple but made of very heavy cloth - perfect!

i got myself dressed up in my "i miss chicago" cold weather gear, grabbed the staple gun, climbed up to the top of the coop, stapled away and within 45 minutes, walla! - chickenchica happiness. and ohhhh, it looked kind of cool - a little coop atmosphere - darling, where are the martinis? i checked inside to make sure that the heat lamp i had set up for the ladies was at a safe distance from the new - roost-o-matic-warmer-upper-cover - "oh plenty of space, rock on!" i did tack up some plastic sheeting in areas that were feeling a little too breezy for comfort. other spots i let be so as to allow good ventilation and healthy air flow. i can now rest easy. it's warm enough, cozy enough and the deep layer of hay on the floor keeps their feets warm too.

and the wee chicks in the shed? doing just fine.
love the chickenchicas - good chickenmama

i'm learning.




the meaties take three

well we have stepped up the meatie digs yet again. they have now graduated to full size feeder, a full size galvanized waterer and a full size three tiered roost.

what of the wee feeder on the left? gone baby gone gone gone. awaiting the next round of meaties.

the graduating up has proved positive. the shifting around of goods has actually created more floor space for the fast growing wee buggers.

gone are the two smaller waterers, the starter roost and the cinder blocks they once rested on. the big chicky waterer and feeder both hang above the floor and the new tiered roost takes up very little floor space. it's actually quite nice in there. i'm not nearly as worried for space as i was earlier this morning.

i've decided to shift from the use of wood chip bedding to raked dried up leaves. it's time to use more of what is on hand to save a few bucks and to get them ready for the big transition to the universe outside of the shed. plus, leaves smell great, they are nature, great for compost and we have plenty of them. the creatures took to them right off, scratching and cooing. yes indeed, i said cooing. baby's first coos, must be feeling pretty good in the place, cutiepies.

i know i know don't fall for them. i can still think they are cute. i have not named a one. not even the layers; though i have seeded the thought of their naming. that to come later.

neighborman was a kind and generous delivery man today. he's contributing pipes, the kind used for a chain link fence, and plywood. he brought the goods over in his pickup and now they sit in waiting of my labor contribution. also in the truck, a hole digger - fun fun fun we are getting closer to a meatie chicken run.

now to work. gotta make some bucks.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

wooo! most amazing weather today

ahhhhhhhh

we are having an incredible day today and the next few look as beautiful. we have sunshine, dappled skies and a perfect soft summer-like breeze. i've opened all the windows and doors to allow a fresh air washing of the home. i've got laundry washing and more out on the line.

i've turned off the wee chicks heat lamps and propped open the big door so as to give them a fresh air washing as well. boy if I had their run ready, I'd have let them out of doors. Incentive, incentive to get that going. I think by next week they'll be ready for a bit of outdoor time. they still have some feathering to grow on the top of their backs but the wings and the butts are looking pretty good.

the ladies and wabbit wabbit are enjoying special special treats this morning. I brought them big bunches of greens including cardoon, pea vines, chick weed, and other yummy weedy/grassy bits that i pulled up around the yard. the greens will keep them busy for a good while.

i've got a good bit of gardening done already this morning as well. i've pulled the plastic off of the hoop houses to give the gardens full access to the sun's healthful rays. i sprayed the each and every bed with seaweed. recent wild winds gave me insight to the weak spots on the hoop houses so i spent some time building up their support systems so they would not sag and endure heavy wind and sleet better. opera helped me fold the big plastic sheets. aha aha.

mr. t supercat is enjoying the day on the back porch. he did take a time out to help me change the sheets and make up the beds. funny guy. he's now out and about making his rounds. look out this window, travel to the porch, jump up on the back of the chair. it seems we are all quite grateful for the beautiful day.

and a bit of fun.
hippychick's holiday lights made it into the local paper. a neighbor came over this morning to show me. "hey! you're famous! you're in the paper!". i never knew it took so little for fame. well today is the historical home tour. I am going to get this last bit of laundry up on the line before heading out myself. this little town of ours is home to a great number of spectacular victorians. rarely do you get a peak inside. i'm not going to miss this.

cheers folks!
check out hippychickenfarmer wee chick week three
and other fun views of the homestead @ hippychickenfarmer's youtube