Sunday, May 22, 2011

What I learned at Ecofest

1.  Anything with the suffix "-fest" is awesome.

2.  Solar powered I-Pod chargers are super cool.  (Now I can play Plants vs. Zombies almost guilt-free.)

3.  I want a shipping container house.

4.  Anyone can grow oyster mushrooms in a box in their house. ----->

5.  I am a sucker for all products eco...

6.  ...but I'm not fooled by green-washing.

7.  Free swag is great.  (Well, I knew that from before...)

And here are a few pictures of the babies from a few days ago.  I brought them outside because I thought they might enjoy the warm sun.  Well, it turns out they hate the sun.  I think it was too bright and it made them feel vulnerable.  I took a few pictures and put them back into the safety of their box (which we upgraded a few days ago because they outgrew their first one.)  I took some more pictures today, they don't really look like this anymore.

Elsa pants when she's nervous.

Hard to get close ups while their moving.

Elsa's beautiful wing feathers.  I think they look like the markings on a moth.
 And a video.  It's a little long.  Sorry.  You can skip the last 30 seconds or so.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Greenhouse Visitor, Bandit Chickens, etc.

Lots to write about today.  I've been sitting in front of this computer way too much that I'd like recently, working on wrapping up all my reports and papers and projects and stuff so cool things that have happened just didn't make it to the blog.

Story #1:  We had a greenhouse visitor.  A couple days ago, I checked inside our little greenhouse to see how my plants were doing.  Out of the corner of my eye, I say something brown and fuzzy.  I thought it was a mouse, but turns out it was a little dark-eyed junco.

She was just sitting there.  I was worried she was trapped in there for a long time so I got her some water and bird seed.

Instead she went to sleep.  So I took out the tray she was sitting on and put it in the sun hoping that it would perk her up.

She was really cute and fluffy just like our chickie babies.  I think I got a little too close at one point because she tried to fly and landed on me.  I tried to pick her up off of me and that made her fly over to our fence, where her man was apparently waiting for her because he came out of nowhere.  She eventually flew off with her husband in hot pursuit.  I hope she's ok.  We filled the bird feeder to make sure there was food to eat nearby.  There were several poops in the greehouse, but not so many to make me think she was in there for too long.  Now I just have to check the darn thing everyday to make sure no one else gets trapped inside.

Story #2:  The older chickens are not my friends right now.  My awesome chicken proof fence around my garden is still awesome, but totally not chicken proof anymore.  They figured out how to fly over it and have done some serious damage to my stuff.

*  Onions - 1/2 of them gone, the other half, trampled
*  Peas - half totally trampled and buried
*  Green beans - seeds ripped out of the ground
*  Kale - one row trampled/eaten

What the hell.  I'm so mad.  Now I can never let them free roam again unless under someone's direct supervision, or get (meaning buy, most likely,) a taller fence.  The part that we made out of sticks is working well, it's the other real fence that they're able to jump over.  I just don't think we have enough sticks to replace it.  I guess to Home Depot we must go.

Story #3:  Did you know the sun has been coming out lately?  I guess you'd have to live in cave to not notice that.  To me, sun means happiness, warmth, flowers blossoming, and being able to dry my clothes outside!  YES.  I love knowing that I'm using a completely renewable and free source of energy to dry my clothes. 
Being able to do this makes me very happy.
The key is to plan ahead though, to make sure you have enough sunlight left in the day to dry your clothes.  This batch didn't get quite dry enough so they got a small treatment of the dryer.   Here are a few more tips for drying your clothes in your backyard:

*  Turn your darker clothes inside out.  I'm always a little afraid that the sun will bleach them, so turning them inside out helps prevent that a little.
*  Make sure your underwear is hidden in between large things like towels and t-shirts.  (We have a grumpy neighbor who might complain if she had to see our unmentionables.)
*  If you don't want your towels to be super stiff, take them down just before they get completely dry and give them 5 minutes in the dryer.

Lastly, a picture of a magnolia flower.  It blossomed so late this year I forgot I even had a magnolia tree in my backyard.

Look at all those stamens!
P.S.  The babies are getting bigger and are super active.  They're one week old yesterday and I think they're twice the size they were when we got them.  And they've got some serious feathers coming in.  Pictures and another short video to come.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The 411.

I should do picture only posts more often, yesterday's was so easy...  But alas, even though a picture can say a thousand words, I can say ten thousand!!!  Whatever.  Here's the deal:

They're babies.  I mean, really babies.  Today they're 3 days old.  That means a little over 36 hours ago, they were still in their eggs.  This also means that they are about the size of eggs too... tiny.  So tiny that they both fit snugly into your hand and weigh absolutely nothing. 
However, they grow fast.  We've had them almost 24 hours now, and already, their little wing feathers are starting to open up and they're flapping them around.  They were only eating wood chips yesterday, but have finally realized that they also have food as an option.

They're pretty adorable.  I can't stop playing with them.  When we went to get them yesterday, they were in different cages so didn't know each other at first.  Even though they're super babies, you could tell they were trying to size each other up on the ride home and decide who was going to be the boss.  I can't tell who won, but they're buddies now.

So this is Pearl.  She's a Delaware.  When she's grown up, she'll look like this.  Pretty, huh?  She was the only one in her cage that had this black spot on her head, so obviously, I had to pick her.  She's definitely the loud one.  Her chirps are ear-piercing and it doesn't take much to get her going.

And this, once again, is Elsa.  She's a partridge rock.  She gets to look like this.  She's the same breed as Abby, but a different color.  We decided to go with her because Abby is awesome, and we wouldn't mind having another one of her around.  I think she's just the prettiest.  Her chirp is definitely quieter, and she doesn't scream her little head off over every little thing.

They've taken over our bathroom, but luckily we have two in this house.  Shawn and I are still planning on doing lots of showering at the gym for the next 8 weeks or so.  The only problem with getting them this tiny is that they need to stay inside the house for about 12 weeks, and at least 3 weeks of that under a heat lamp.  We got our first babies when they were 4 weeks old so we were able to avoid that part.  Oh well.  The reputable place we got them from would have sold out of them had we not gotten them yesterday and we would've had to go back to the other place which we didn't want to do.

And here's a video of what they do in their free time:  Which is all the time.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Baby Chickens!

This is Pearl.

This is Elsa.

My living fence is blossoming.

Baby broccoli

Baby carrot.

Baby onion.

Baby tomato.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pop! Goes the jam jar!

Today was a day off for me.  Though I have mountains of school work I need to do, I still need to maintain my sanity.  Today, that sanity came by way of jam-making.  I was going to wait a couple weeks before doing that, but a pint of terrible strawberries sped up the date.

So that pint plus a small bag in the freezer wound up to be about 3 cups of strawberries.  The recipe on the Pectin box called for six and a half cups of rhubarb for plain rhubarb jam, so I added what I guessed to be another three and a half cups of chopped rhubarb... plus maybe another cup or two.  I'm really bad at measuring things, which is pretty important when making jam, so don't follow my lead on that. 

That's what you call a rollin' boil
Here's what else I put into the pot:

2 cups of water
1/4 cup lemon juice
8 cups sugar
one packet of Pectin

I got the fruit to a rolling boil first, then added the Pectin.  Once it was boiling again, I added the sugar.

Meanwhile, you gotta wash those jars, and wash 'em good.  And then boil 'em.  (This includes the double lids too.)  Like this:

Once the fruit has boiled for at least 4 minutes (that's what the directions say), turn off the heat and start ladling them into the jars one at a time.  Leave the jars in the boiling water until just before you need them.  This does get a little hot, but doing it all on a towel and using that to screw on the lids prevents sad fingers.

I put the filled jars back into the pot of boiling water and boiled them for 10 minutes.  I usually don't do that and it's fine, but the pot was just sitting there so I did it just to be sure they were good and sterile.  They all gave the much sought-after "pop" as the lids sealed, a sure sign of a future of a long shelf life.  Success.

And there you have it.  I put in more fruit than the recipe called for, and it looks like the jam is going to end up being a little runny.  I don't really care because it tastes awesome.  And now I have nine jars of delicious strawberry rhubarb jam.  Anyone want some?  There's plenty more where it came from!

Ruby red
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