Friday, February 26, 2010

Chicken buddy and dog buttons...

Ok, it's official. I'm naming one hen, but hopefully, naming and bonding with one won't make me bond with the others.

Her name? Greta. I put a blue piece of painters tape loosely on her leg last night, as I wanted to make sure it was the same hen being a sweetheart. It looked like her, but, then again, they all look very similar.
This morning? Yup, same hen. She saw me sitting by the edge of the pen, and she trotted on over and hopped up on the pen's edge. Swoon.

On other animal notes....
B put on a dress shirt yesterday, and all of a sudden I hear a yell. I wander over to make sure he's ok, and all I hear is a grumbling of "DARN DOG!" Yes, she had chewed off the buttons on his sleeves.
I'm not sure why or how she does it. The shirt is never ruined. No holes in the shirt. Just a snipping off of buttons. And she doesn't eat the buttons; we'll find them all over the house. Now we have to be especially vigilant, making sure nothing misses the laundry basket. What a nutty dog.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Friendly Hen

So far, the hens were all scared of me. They'd flock together like a giant school of scared guppies to whatever corner of the pen was the furthest away. They'd chortle in hen-speak, what I can only imagine was "eek, the odd huge one has returned, run run!" or something to that effect.

Then last night, one changed its mind. There is now one friendly hen and nine, well, chicken hens.
She separates itself from the others and wait for me to scratch her head.

She likes to sleep on my lap. (LOOK HOW BIG THEY ARE GETTING!!!!) Her little feathers growing in on top her head must hurt and itch.
Now, instead of ten scaredy chickens, she is the lone girl, waiting head scratches. This was last night... this morning, she was still doing this! Hopefully, the other girls will realize the benefits of head scratches (and oooh, under-the-wing scratches) soon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hen Coop Progress!

I was going to wait until it was all finished, but then the photos started piling, and I became impatient. So, here is the progress thus far on the chicken coop.

It all began with a really ugly shed/pit thing....
After analyzing our yard, it became clear that the best spot for the hen house was where the ugly pit/shed thing was. Oh, all those concrete block chunks, rotting wood, and THREE compost piles to be moved...Gross, smelly, unpredictable, and, oh, gross. But, this was the best location that could make the coop 1) abide by city rules regarding spacing away from neighbors and property lines, 2) give the girls sun and shade but yet not take up prime real estate in the garden, and 3) be close enough (yet far enough away) to the house to run an extension cord out to the girls if the cold weather ever made that necessary.

The shed area, post-demolition.
Ahh, the shed and one compost pile GONE. Note, there are still TWO on the right-hand side to be removed. WHY someone would build a compost pile and then build another one and another one is BEYOND ME. And yes, that's just the beginning of the big ol' pile of junk on the left-hand side there. That hasn't been dealt with yet, and I'm not looking forward to it. Lots of old nasty nails and rotty boards and all...

Area measured and flattened, it was time for the pillars/foundation.
Since we either have to sell this or take this with us when we move, a concrete foundation was not possible. Plus, I didn't want to mess with concrete, and I wanted to give the girls a raised house so it would stay dryer in the wintertime. So, I used these concrete foundation blocks. They worked REALLY well and they are butt-heavy, so I suspect no moving around.

After the four initial beams were all level and squared off, more went on!
I am using 2x3s instead of 2x4s because for some reason, this week saw a jump in lumber prices. I really didn't need 2x4s (it's a chicken coop, not a human dwelling), and the 2x3s were actually a LOT easier to work with.

Once all the beams were on, then the floor went on.
This posed a problem because most sheeting is 4'x8'... the hen house is 5x5'. Crud! So I bought 2 4'x8' sheets and had them cut to each produce a 2.5'x5' portion. So, the floor only has one seam. I can live with that. I am using the rest of the leftover sheeting (I bought another sheet just for good measure) for siding.

With the floor on, it was time to put in the linoleum squares.
Yes, you read that right. Flooring in a hen house. Color me looney, but it's actually part of a thought-out plan: EASE OF CLEANING. You can't train chickens where to relieve themselves. They may have favorite spots, but they WILL "go" in their coop. I wanted some material that would make poop removal easier and would not be as porous as wood. We have a FABULOUS recycling place here, and from them, for less than $10, I got linoleum squares. They worked like a dream. I only used about half the box, meaning I'll have leftovers for any shelves and whatnot that I construct IN the house. Really though, in the future, I would have gladly paid $10 to not have to scrub scrub scrub chicken poo. THIS IS WORTH IT. And, clean chickens= happy chicken and healthy chickens.

One wall up!
Ok, confession. That leaning board right there helping keep the wall up? I've ALWAYS wanted to do that. Ha! Note that the wall is cut out to a certain extend to support a window in that wall. The next wall is already leaning.

Four walls up!
I sort of cheated on the fourth wall because I did not want a baseboard beam running across the front door. I wanted to be able to sweep out the coop if I needed to, and I didn't need a board in the way on the floor. SO, the fourth wall went in last, and it was sort of just screwed in, rather than pre-constructed and then lifted into place.The top horizontal beam is also lower, that way there is ample room for a cute vent that will go in the apex of the roof.

Sheeting going on...
The sheeting has actually been my least favorite part of the process. SO annoying to have to cut and make pieces that will work. Plus, I'm really not wanting to buy more lumber, so I'm having to get creative. Note that the screen is in for the window on the side. Those two white things are the two doors. I got both for a total of $2 at the recycling place. Gotta love it.

Yesterday, it rained, so when I got home I dragged in, dried, and then painted the roof vent and the shutters. Here's the vent. Yes, it's not a perfect paint job. But, it's the first layer. I'll do touch ups.

And the shutters... these too need another layer. And the shutters are upside-down in this photo...

The half-finished roof....
I did not want to buy more sheeting, and I needed something long enough to make eves. So, I ended up using the super cheap cedar fencing. I didn't use cedar on any other part of the coop because cedar is bad for chickens, but really, it is cedar SHAVINGS that are bad, so I could have constructed the whole thing. But, I didn't want to take any chances, so, I limited myself to the roof, and the roof already has plastic sheeting underneath, so there's a pretty good chicken/cedar barrier. On top of this cedar planking, I'm going to put cedar shingles. I'm going to cut up a number of planks into various pieces in order to make the shingles (since they are butt expensive in the store). I'll put them on in a way to make sure that the roof is pretty darn watertight. But again, it's a hen house, so I'm being less careful here than I would on a human house. It will still end up being pretty darn weather-tight though.

The coop as it stands right now:
It rained yesterday, and the coop stayed relatively dry. The roof worked, but the sides aren't all the way built, so that causes issues on dryness! I am pretty darn happy with how it worked out. Yes, I'm using furring strips on the front of the coop... it will look like horizontal siding, and it will be cute. I had some extra strips, so I went with it. The doors will go in front, and then the vent above the doors. I have strops that I'm going to attach to the corners/edges for a finished look, but that's a ways off too.

Oh, and then, once the coop is built, then I get to build the pen for them. I really can't wait till this is all done and I can go back to gardening. It's a really fun project, but between work and the rain, it's not getting done nearly as fast as I want.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I found out this weekend that on March 6, I get to learn how to beekeep.
Yes, you read that right. BEEKEEP!!! Suffice it to say that I am extremely excited.

The local Beekeepers Association (yes, there is a local beekeepers association) has a day-long class once a year. It has a waiting list, and I got off of it!

No, I'm not thinking that I will beekeep this year. But it's definitely something I want to learn about, for honey and pollination reasons, to do once we have our own property. Plus, there's the added benefit of adding to a slowly declining bee population.

I'm not sure how cool it is to take a bunch of photos, but you can guarantee that I will if I can.

Bzzzzz, honey honey...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Coat drama

This is my black coat. It's a J-Crew circa 2002. I got it on ebay slightly used. And then I used it some more. A LOT more.
The original lining was torn out and replaced by me, and then that lining was torn out and replaced by my mom. Now, mom's lining has bit the dust.

I decided to take it to a tailor. I got a recommendation from coworkers and quotes for what their (more complicated and longer) coats cost ($65). I could redo the lining myself, but for $65, I could have it done, I decided. And, at that cost, I could justify having the lining replaced instead of buying a new coat.

I took the coat in. Tailor seemed ok. I told her a) it was an old J Crew coat, not a vintage family heirloom. I didn't want to spend much. b) I wanted an estimate of how much it would cost.

The tailor said she'd give me an estimate. She also said it would take about a week. She did not indicate that anything drastic was wrong/different with the coat.

One week went by. I called after 8 days, but she hastily got off the phone. Ohoh. I began to get nervous.

Two weeks went by. I had B call her, but the phone connection was terrible.

At day 18, I was about ready to stomp over there when I got a call: Coat is ready. Total? $145. Note: I never got an estimate, even though I tried. Obviously she had been put on notice that I was attempting to get an estimate (as promised), which is why she dodged our phone calls.

She has nothing of mine to tie me to the coat besides my phone number. I did not pay in advance or provide a deposit or address. I'm a tad furious.

So, I've written her a letter asking her to contact me. I laid out all my grievances and offered a significantly lower settling price. If she doesn't come down to my level, well, she gets a coat. And me? I'll find a new black coat.

I don't think I'm being unreasonable. I did my due diligence in finding price estimates. I even told her that I had price estimates from coworkers. I feel like she's taking advantage of the situation, especially since it was NOT that complicated of a lining re-do. No fancy waistbands or anything.

I know tailors employ themselves, and I feel pretty bad, but I TRIED. And, we had an agreement. I think I'm being reasonable.... Maybe she'll be able to sell the coat.

Friday, February 19, 2010


A friend and I are talking about having a music-themed party. How awesome would that be? I'd totally go as Gaga right now. I'd have all the fabulous dance moves down, and my hair? It'd be over-the-top.
I may injure myself in those shoes though...

No more shed thing!

This was the shed thing. A dilapidated, nasty, gosh-knows-what structure where I think everyone who ever lived in the house before us used to throw junk. Behind that big piece of wood? A pit. I think it was about 3'-4' deep, but, quite frankly, after unearthing and unearthing, I finally decided not to unearth any more concrete and wood bits. I filled the sucker in.

Now you see it (above), now you don't! Yes, it's GONE. GONE GONE GONE. I mean, this sucker was about 15-20' from our back deck. A total eyesore and just gross. And now? It's gone gone gone gone. I think the chicken coop will go there. It isn't a good place to plant (a little too shady), and I want them somewhat near the house for ease and for running an extension cord out there if it gets too cold one night next winter.

Here's the PILE (it's bigger than this picture makes it look) of garbage from demolition. Gosh, it is so good to have that sucker stupid shed GONE.

Speaking of winter.... guess what we got for the first time in weeks? Frost. 31 degrees this morning, but a high today expected of 60. Geez.

I'm not complaining.... I shouldn't lose any plants over this frost. I kept telling myself not to plant anything non-cold-hardy because you never know... and really, it's true. It's February in Oregon... the time to put plants outside is late April to early May. And this reminded me. So, in mid-March, I'll put my little seedings in my little seed house, where hopefully, they'll do well. Then, 6 weeks later, they'll get to be planted outside.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


This afternoon, I got off work around 3. So what to do? Um, I tore out a shed. A dilapidated shed, but still a disgusting structure nonetheless.

I think I've pulled something in my arm. Nothing bad and I'm sure I'll be fine come tomorrow, but still, I'm feeling a wee bit stupid.


Clearly, I need some mental help here.


On Monday, B went to a local nursery. I had said I wanted some strawberries. The nursery had a big sale on strawberries, so B came home with 4 big bundles of 25+ (each!) strawberries. He got 2 everbearing bundles and 2 June-bearing bundles.

That's a lot of strawberries. I'm not complaining, but that's a lot of strawberries. Especially considering that I already had 50 in various buckets on the back deck.

Now, the idea is for the back deck to house 3 dwarf fruit trees (1.5' diameter of space each; they don't take up much room) and then a mixture of flowers in pots and strawberries in pots.

But with 150+ strawberries, I have to find a new plan, otherwise I will only have strawberries!

I filled up 13 pots last night, and I only used up 1.5 bundles. So I still have 65+ strawberries to plant.

I have 1 more planter and three small planter boxes. I will fill those up, and then probably move the rest of the plants to the front yard. I think. Or maybe fix up an area alongside the garlic bed? Or use the area next to the garlic for strawberries instead? I would put them in the front beds, but I'm worried that they won't get a ton of sun there and won't flourish. I could hang buckets from the balcony, but I'd have to rig something up fast.

The main problem is that I have about 3 days (maximum) to plant these strawberries before they start showing wear from not being planted. Hmm hmm.

Neighbor update

Well, I talked with the landlord, and good news! He pretty much affirmed everything I thought, as well as assured me that her anticipated behavior wasn't acceptable.

I know I sound like a brat, but really, I have no problem with parties. I have no problem with a few camping outings either. But EVERY night? Or even a few times every week? That'd get old. And the problem is: They don't clean up. The girls don't have much respect at all for others when it comes to the shared area, as evidenced by them leaving such a mess in the trees that it looks like squatterville. Oh, and they didn't tell us about the two parties in a row either. You'd think, being that B's and my deck is about 20 feet away (and no fence in between) that they would have said SOMETHING. But nope. Two parties in a row, both until 3+am, and the mess from both remained for over a month.

Simmer simmer simmmmmmering down.

Luckily, I have the bungalowers on the other side of me, whom are both awesome. And, the landlord is supportive too. Oh, and the landlord also told me that their house? Is FIVE BEDROOMS. FIVE! Yes, that is why she pays more rent. She has 5 more bedrooms than we do (we have one loft), and a basement, and a dining room, and a bigger kitchen... and and and.

Ok, but really, I have to let this go. It's in the landlord's hands now, and that's for the best. I really can't complain. He wants craftsman gal to be more like the bungalowers and us, so I have to believe in that. Besides, I'd much rather the landlord be the bad guy than me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Neighbors. Grumble.

This one's a ranty post, so brace yourselves.

Yesterday, I was in my front area. I got frustrated with our dilapidated planters and I had a few hundred bulbs to somehow quickly plant, so.... I was in the process of ripping things out, getting rid of dead undergrowth, trimming back ferns and roses, etc etc. You get the idea. A pretty massive undertaking for 1.5 hours of sun left in the day.

The way our houses are set up... the landlord owns three houses in a row. A huge, 3+ bedroom, 100+ year old GORGEOUS craftsman, a bungalow, and a cottage. The craftsman? Probably 1500 sq feet, at least, with a basement. The bungalow and cottage are both under 500 sq feet each.

Here's a map:
Both the bungalow and cottage pay a little extra than the typical "SMALL UNIT" rent because there's a big yard. The craftsman rent, I'd imagine, is much higher because it's 1500+ SQUARE FEET. Plus, I'd imagine there's the same little extra (same as the bungalow and cottage) for the yard.

The deal on the "shared yard" is that you have to be respectful. It's meant for the tenants to enjoy, not the tenants and their million friends.

Anyway, Craftsman gal comes up to me yesterday. Not only did she say she doesn't want the fire pit moved (it's in the trees right now, which is STUPID and right next to our deck), but she also informs me that her (often unpleasant) teenage daughters plan on camping out in the trees "every night this summer with their friends."

Um, excuse me?

First off, there's a NO CAMPING CLAUSE in our rental contracts.

Secondly, they have made the trees look like squatter-ville. We're not talking about a nice set-up. We're talking about a mix-mash of plastic broken-down furniture and collapsible chairs, all of which don't get cleaned up after they use the area. Their last party was over a month ago, and they cleaned up their mess YESTERDAY (and then only kinda sorta) only because I finally said something.

And then....oooo, and then: the woman had the gall to say "hey, I have to borrow every month to rent this place, and the reason I do is for that yard." In other words: I pay more, so I'm bigger and better than you, so no one had better stand in my way.

Ok now, let's see. Bungalowers and us cottagers pay less than you, oh, wait. letmme think.... maybe because OUR PLACES ARE 1000+ square feet LESS THAN YOURS.

It's just SOO rude. If the girls actually treated anything with respect or the mother actually made sure the girls cleaned up after themselves, that'd be one thing. But based upon precedent set so far? They don't. B and I really don't want to be kept up late every night because twittering, partying teenagers are camping 20 feet from our deck. SERIOUSLY.

I was so mad. SOOO mad. I kept my cool and quietly contacted the landlord. Not to cause problems, but moreso just to MAKE SURE problems don't happen later on.

The craftsmaners moved in last summer, so this will be their first real summer in the house. Bungalowers have been here for 3ish years, and they like us, but not really the craftsmaners.

Really, the craftsmaners have seemed ok, excepting the yard deal. I just don't want them thinking "shared" really means that they can do whatever they damn well please. Um, no, it doesn't. It means you have to respect the two houses you share it with and remove your crap.

Here's hoping this all resolves fast. I'm trying to not cause problems, but I really don't want partyville in our backyards.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Garden and chick photos and updates

Lots of updates, as some projects have reached good points to take photos. First off....

The Garden!
Those are my raspberries on the right, and then (front to back), three rows of blueberries, two rows of black currants, and then my fruit tree planters.

My raspberry trellises are in place, but I haven't finished painting them. There just hasn't been a long enough spell of no drizzle. No, the trellises aren't perfectly proportioned, but I really didn't spend the time to do so. I just cut approximately the same size pieces, eyeballed where to put them, and voila. A trellis. Additional pieces and/or wire can easily be installed.

There are three plants per bed, but each plant is sending out multiple shoots, so hopefully, they are well-spaced out. I think the sites I read said 2 feet, and they're right at 1 foot 10" or so, so hopefully that will be fine. Tough luck if it isn't!

Close up shot of the raspberry plants. Don't they look happy?

My cornelian cherries are still blooming, which is good for me. I'm glad all the blooms didn't fall off after transplanting them. Hopefully, that's a good sign that this year will not be a skipped year for produce as the plant recuperates from being moved.

This made my day yesterday. As you may recall, I planted my garlic in mid-December, just before winter started. We weren't even unpacked, but I had to get it in. I was worried though. a) I put my garlic in after all my friends did. Despite researching it and knowing I could put my garlic in the ground in mid-December, seeing their October-planted garlic beds made me antsy (but, we didn't live here in October, so no way that could happen). b) the garlic suppliers said to plant the garlic 6" deep. I did. I later found out my friends planted their garlic 4" deep. Again, antsy-ness.

I guess I shouldn't have worried! I did my actions based upon what the experts say is ok. I was fretting because everyone else's garlic is about 1' tall, but then again, they were planted in OCTOBER. Duh, Jessika. Last week, after not seeing one sprout (besides the occasional weed), I dug down to one bulb and found it with about a 3/4" long sprout. Ok, they're still alive, I thought. I covered it back up... then yesterday, I was out poking around in the backyard and.... GARLIC SPROUTS!!!! There are 4 total right now, but hopefully many more to come. I think there are 40+ bulbs in that bed.

See? Oh how lovely. I wanted to cry, I was so relieved and happy.


Ok, seriously, here is a good rule of thumb to follow: You know you may need to hop to it and build a coop when... You come home to this:
See the little chick SITTING ON THE EDGE OF THE BIN??? Oh, and that red wire? Well, it's fuzzy in that photo because ONE CHICK WAS USING IT TO ROOST ON! We're talking a bin edge that is 1' tall and a wire that is 2' high. The chicks have since been blocked in by bins and tall things. If they hop over that, they are in the laundry room, so I'm not too worried about them escaping. But yikes! My girls are growing REALLLY fast.

Here they are again. I left them a sneaky small place to still roost.

But look at these girls. SERIOUSLY. This was them a mere 12 days ago. And now they're feathered, larger, chicken-looking creatures. No more fuzzy chicks. I'm astounded. They PREEN themselves. They flap their little wings. They squawk. Craziness.

See, they even stand like chickens now. No more hunched over chicks.

The flocking instinct is still ever-present though. :) They do love each other.

But look! Does this look like a 2.5 week old chick to you? Yikes girls. I must have put some growth steroids in your feed.... This photo was taken 2 days ago, and I swear they have even more feathers now. They even have 1" long tails!

On to other projects....

This is partially where the coop is going to go:
Yes, it's gross. Disgusting. I don't know what used to be here, but now it's a dilapidated rubbish pile of junk. It's an eyesore, especially since it's about 15' from our deck. So, it's coming out and then that's partially where the chicken coop is going to go. Their run will run along the back fence.

Another picture of the disgustingness. Bleh. So cleaning that up: is one of my projects this week. Fun never ends, huh?


B bought me some strawberries. Ok, he bought me a LOT of strawberries. I think something like 100 of them. Um... now I have to QUICKLY figure out where they're going to go!! I have some cedar planks, so I might fashion some boxes really fast. We'll see. I am so happy he took advantage of a big sale on strawberries, but now I just have to hop to it.


I was up to no good last night:
Or, at least it may seem that way when you look in my dining room. We can't justify buying dozens of nice porcelain or adobe pots. It's just not practical on the budget. So, I had B get some old nursery plastic pots from the recycling store. I bought heavy gloss enamel gray paint, and I painted them. The gloss enamel sticks really well and only needs one coat. It's a little sticky (not tacky, sticky) for a few days, but then it's perfect. Not only do all our pots match, but they do look nice. They do give the appearance of nicer pots.

Close up. The reflection shows the gloss. I'm not worried about a scratch here and there; there are so many of them and they'll be at foot level, so people will see the color and gloss but not the small scratch here and there. Besides, who keeps all their outdoor pots looking spotless? Um, no one. Because the pots are filled with DIRT, which gets on the pots.

Overhead shot of the pots. There are more on the other side of the chair. No, I didn't paint the bottom of the pot or the inside. The inside will be filled with dirt and a plant, and the bottom no one will see. Only needed to paint the sides.

Rose planter to trim:

Here's a photo of the darn rose bush that has been pleading for a trim since we moved into the house in December. It's been sadly neglected, as has it's planter.

I need to trim this rose. This is where all the plants were being stored, so I couldn't trim this overgrown rose and bush because I didn't want to risk hurting any blueberries, currants, or raspberries. Now though, I can have at it. I want to fix up the planter underneath and plant love lies bleeding underneath. PRETTY. I also got some vanilla heliotrope seeds which I may put nearby. I haven't decided. I think some coleus would look better with the love lies bleeding. Up here, LLB is an annual, so I want some color (even if it's green only) there if the LLB doesn't make it very long. Hmmm.... I think the heliotrope and the LLB would be too much color, but the LLB with greenish (and maybe some reddish) coleus would be nice and not too overwhelming.

A rose!

Speaking of plants, look what B got me for Valentine's day!
He knew I wanted a rose plant, and he found a nice pot for it also (we need to add some more dirt to it). I want a few rose plants, particularly a Just Joey rose. I have loved this rose for a long time and have hunted in every rose garden I've ever been to for it, just to smell it's sweet fragrance. There is a place online that sells them, but I'm hunting locally first to hopefully have the plant avoid USPS trauma. I haven't decided where to put the roses yet... I'm thinking maybe at the end of the blackberry patch in large containers.... that would be pretty. Traditionally, roses are put at the end of grape rows because the roses will show illness first, giving the growers time to help the grapes. So, if we grow grapes, maybe, for tradition's sake, we should put them by there? Hmm... It has to be somewhere that won't snag on my clothes though!

Front Planter:

Just thought I'd show you a photo of my front planter:
It's right in front of the laundry room. I put bulbs in there, but I wanted SOMETHING in there for now, so I put in some random bulbish plants I found in the yard. I have my suspicions as to what type of plants these are, but I don't know and I don't care. I put different dahlia bulbs in there, and two different calla bulbs. Funnily, the first sprout I saw? Happened to be a seed from my hanging baskets-- it's a vining flower. FUNNY. The sprout is 6" long. Oh well, that will be a pretty addition.

That's it for now! I actually have work to get to. More photos later as projects continue....