Thursday, September 29, 2011

baby bunnies

So when I said we gave the rooster away, I should say we actually kind of "exchanged" him for a pair of grey rabbits.  They were from a friend of the friend who took the rooster off out hands, and were about 4 months old when we got them.  About that same time, a completely different friend of a friend offered to give us his two rabbits (both California giants, one white, and one black and white spotted) and two rabbit hutches as well.  So all of the sudden we had four rabbits and two hutches...for free!  I summoned up all my past 4-H knowledge and attempted to decipher the sex of all of them, and as far as I could tell, we had one buck and three does.  We left the two grey ones in together (one of which was the buck). Sure enough I came outside to feed them one day and they were doing their thing...except the buck had the poor doe's front confused with her back...I got a good chuckle out of that, let me tell you.

Apparently they got everything figured out, because about 2 1/2 weeks ago she had a bunch of baby bunnies.

This doe has proved to be a much better mama then our first, and the 6 babies are looking plump and healthy and stinkin' adorable.  One of them is a little crippled, we're not really sure what happened to him, but we think that he somehow got out of the nesting box and the chickens pecked at his legs from under the hutch...just one more reason to put them in their coop.

My husband has already bred another doe (a really big white one who already looks pregnant) and is going ahead with the rabbit raising/eating plan.  I'm still not sold on the idea, especially because these baby  bunnies are so dang cute, but fortunately it's his enterprise and I just get to hold baby bunnies.

I'm enjoying the cuteness while it lasts, anyway.

jen g.

i love you...shicken

This is Eli.  He's our chicken wrangler.  The hens have been confined to the coop for a week or so (after making several daring forays into the neighbor's yard).  But when they were free-ranging in our yard it was not uncommon to see him running around with a chicken or two under his arm.  He took them with him in the trampoline enclosure, put them in the grill (which was thankfully off), and even brought them inside to freak unsuspecting house-guests out. We also frequently heard him tell them, very sincerely, "I love you shicken"

It's become a household term of endearment.

jen g.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

chicken update.

Well, we are down to two hens. I'm calling them Nellie and Faye (shout out to Ingrid Michaelson). A few weeks after the first rooster was evicted, the other two started making an awful racket and went the way of their predecessor.  It is a lot quieter around here, and I noticed a sharp decline in food consumption and toe pecking (mine) after they left.

Up until the last week, the hens had free range in the backyard.  (We did find a new home for our chicken-eating golden retriever, in case you were wondering).  But then they started flying up to roost on our fence at night and ended up in our neighbor's yard two days in a row. After the second retrieval, they both had a come-to-Jesus in my kitchen with me, a pair of Cutco kitchen shears, and a youtube video on the art of chicken wing clipping.  That was an experience.

They are now mostly confined to their coop.  I let them out sometimes during the day, but I really don't want to take the risk of having disgruntled neighbors, so it's only for a few supervised hours.  They have also started laying an egg every now and then *happy squeal* and they do it at the most random times, so I don't like letting them out of their coop until they have produced their egg for the day.  I only get one egg a day, and I don't want to miss it...cause boy are they good!

jen g.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

At last. . . an egg!

She arrived today. . . the long awaited treasure came. A latte colored egg was discovered just before breakfast today. . . it made me smile! (Not sure it has been worth $50+ in feed, mountains of "compost" and early morning wakings to hear hens hollerin' in the roost.) Nevertheless-- she is here and we greeted her with smiles and plan to consume her before dinner- weird!
jen t.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Savage Morning

Heard a crow, then another. Daniel went savage. Killed and Skinned 4 roosters in the flock before 8 am. . . then was off to work. . . business as usual here- HA!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

there's a rooster in the hen house...

So I was hanging my sheets out on the fence the other day (yes, I have a redneck/ghetto clothesline...but a real one is on the honey-do list) and from the chicken coop I heard this awful din that sounded something like a cross between a wound up jack-in-the-box, a dying animal and....a rooster's crow.

I had suspected for a while that there may be some dastardly roosters among the lady fowl *insert horrified gasp here*

Three of the five chickens have much more prominent combs and wattles than the other two, but I had chalked these features up to either age or breeding differences.  My suspicions were confirmed by the particularly noisy one in question when he started acting like he had a lot more testosterone than the others, charging at me and trying to peck my toes when I would go out to feed.

(I need to mention here that I have a bit of a phobia of chickens pecking me to death...which did not bode well for said rooster.)

Now we had to figure out what to do with the offender. My husband suggested dropping him off in the desert to fend for himself, but I vetoed.  We thought about eating him, but he wasn't big enough, and we couldn't keep him around to fatten him up because of all the racket he was making.  I made several calls to friends who either had chickens or lived out in the country, and finally found a kind soul who said that her family would take him off our hands.

So off he went to his new we're just watching the other two to see if they cross over to the dark side.

jen g.

Monday, June 6, 2011

think outside the box

These little chicks were a week old when we received them for our Easter gifts from Grandma Bobbi~ 

It is certainly time for them to move from my kitchen to their new home. The pictures tell the story of the great release. :) 

the chick palace

Architect, engineer, builder, friend, lover, farmer. . . that is my Mr. T. He has unleashed his skills and talent on this little farm. We are all so happy he has. . . especially our chickens here on the East Side. . . all these chicks need are a few rhinestones and a chandelier for their new chick palace! 

It is worth noting that all the materials used for this little coop were re-purposed from trash! Crates from behind Gerties Brick Oven Pizzeria, doors from the Salvation Army, salvaged wood from our old fence, hinges and wire from my father-in-law's garage. . .
jen t.

love affair with hoop houses

Living across the street from one another has its advantages and is very fun for two families who have similar interests. It also fosters the obsession with Mr. T and Mr.G's new love affair with low-tech, inexpensive, backyard homestead videos on YouTube. That is how we learned the skill of building a hoop house ~

This great accomplishment was really the first project started and completed for our 5th Avenue Farm. Currently it houses the chicken food and our dumpster diving score of about 500 pots for planting. It will hopefully house growing seedlings soon. Nice work Mr. T. 
jen t. 

dirt, grandma's beets and new skill sets

My mom recently told me about her "back to the land" experience in the 1970's when hippies were homesteading and gas and energy prices were sky high and people were beginning to learn to "live off the land" (again.) She said that she had enough of the hardship and dirt after several years in the mountains of New Mexico.
My kids are teenagers now and as a young mom, I never really had time to learn the domestic arts of gardening or canning or cooking or really housecleaning!! :) DIRT was for losing teaspoons while digging in the backyard and rinsing out of the tub after a long play-day at the park. But, last year I helped my 84 year old grandmother harvest and pickle beets for her husband's birthday. She planted seeds in her well-groomed dirt and viola! Beets!  I was so proud of our accomplishments that I decided that backyard farming was for for us!

This 5th Avenue Farming adventure is our own sustainable living journey that, for me, finds its purpose in a melting pot of reasons. . . the season of life that allows me to do more by myself, learning a new skill-set, being more independent, connecting to where my food comes from, understanding the processes of growth and life and death, teaching my children, and loving to play in the DIRT!!

 I come by the LOVE OF DIRT naturally. . . my grandma was a farm girl in Michigan and my mom was a farm girl in California. . . I, however, am no farm girl, so this should be quite a journey.
~jen t. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

ghetto aqua globes

Backstory for this post:
Last year I had an herb garden with a tomato plant in a raised bed in our backyard.  My eldest son, Josiah despises tomatoes and so, as soon as he saw the little green tomatoes, he promptly picked them all and threw them over the fence.  I think I ended up with 3 tomatoes off that plant.

Fast forward to this year.  Most of the garden is over at the Thornquests (and is looking very good, I might add) but I still wanted some tomato plants and herbs in my yard. Given the miserable tomato harvest of 2010, I thought I'd try planting tomatoes in hanging baskets on the back porch.  There were several benefits to this plan in my mind:
1. They would get enough sun
2. They would be out of reach of my boys
3. I would pay attention to them because they're right out my back door and I have to look at them every morning.

One and two are working smashingly.  Three, not so much.  I'm a notorious underwaterer (is that a word?), and this is compounded by the soil in the planters that is more like a sieve than anything.

So, a few days ago I was over at Jen T.'s and saw these ingenious devices:

Hmm...maybe that would help my tomatoes.

The next morning, I walked outside to feed the chickens and noticed that the tomatoes were on the verge of dying from thirst (isn't it ironic that my last name is Gardner?). I remembered the aqua globes but, as I was trapped at home alone with my three small boys and a shopping trip was out of the question, I realized desperate times call for desperate measures and went and grabbed some empty beer bottles out of the trash.

They don't look quite as nice, but they do the trick.

I'm thinking about patenting this...

jen g.

and then there were five

So, right on the heels of the infamous rabbit incident, one of our chickens somehow got out of the coop and was eaten by our golden retriever while Kevin and I were out of town.

Yes, I cried.  Like a baby.

The chicken we lost was one of the two I could identify...the one with the white feathers.

Rest in peace little chicken.

I'm seriously considering eating the dog.

jen g.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

the chickens

We (the Gardners) got our six little chickies the day after Easter when they were just a few days old.  They were just teeny-tiny and oh-so-fluffy. We got them through our friends who gave us the rabbit (he is an Ag teacher in a local high school and the students were selling them). I believe they are Rhode Island Reds (a breed that is primarily used for laying), crossed with another breed to make them more cold-hardy.

These photos were taken 3 days after we got them and was their first venture out into the great big backyard.

This is three days later...when they were about a week and a half old.  It's rather scary how fast they grow.  And yes, that is a beer cap in the first picture.  Only the best for our chicks.

Time lapse. Chicks at just over 2 weeks old.

 Scary big and kind of that a word?

As far as we know, they are all females.  I hope so, for their sakes.  No roosters allowed around here, you know...corrupting the sisterhood and all.

I'm contemplating names for them.  So far I am only able to identify two of them.  One because she has more white feathers than the others, and the other because she's so dang fast I can barely catch her!  The latter has been christened Nellie (as in Nervous Nellie).  I'm thinking about prefacing all their names with "Sister" as we are kind of running a chicken nunnery.  

My husband says I'm turning into a weird chicken lady.  I think I am too.

jen g.

Friday, May 20, 2011

rabbit fail {or} what to do when your food has a face

I couldn't decide on a title for this post because it's very I gave it two.

It is also NOT for the faint of heart.

We have some friends who raise rabbits to sell and eat and, about a month ago, they were kind enough to gift us a pregnant doe. Our intent is to practice sustainability by raising rabbits as a food source. This was primarily Kevin's idea, and really a good one, at that. But, I must admit I have mixed feelings about this, as I have never raised anything for the sole purpose of eating it. This is very strange, because I have eaten meat my whole life.  It is a curious thing that, in a society where meat is literally at the center of every meal, there is such a disconnect between meat and the animals it comes from.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Last Saturday, the doe began "nesting". She pulled a ridiculous amount of her fur out and lined the nesting box Dan made for her a few weeks ago.  I recognized this behavior from some articles I had read online about rabbits giving birth (which is called kindling...betcha didn't know that).

Sure enough, Sunday morning before church I went out to check on her and she had given birth to 9 babies (kits).

Now,  I must tell you that this particular doe is quite young (5 months) and had already given birth to one litter that did not survive, so I was quite concerned about these little ones.

Because someday I'll eat them.

Do you see how weird this is?

Anyway, as the day went on, I discovered, to my dismay, that the doe did not seem to be spending any time in the box with her kits, and was concerned that she may not be feeding them. So I called our friends up and asked them if this was normal, and they said yes, it is very normal.  Rabbits, it turns out, are not very nurturing mothers.  They feed their kits and then they get as far away from them as possible... I guess I can empathize. Nevertheless, I told that mama doe she'd better take care of her babies, or I would eat her.

It seemed that we had an understanding.

Alas, Tuesday night I came home from work, to find 9 dead kits strewn about the rabbit hutch.  The doe had dumped over the nesting box and killed them all. I will not attempt to tell you how horrified I was.  Every maternal instinct in me revolted at the thought that a mother would do this to her offspring, even if she was just an animal.

Apparently this is a very common thing for rabbits to do, and no one knows exactly why they do it.  There are many theories, and the conclusion is that the doe does it to somehow protect her young, either from predators, or from starvation if she feels there is not enough food to sustain them.

It doesn't make it any easier.

The next morning, having deemed the doe unfit for breeding, Kevin and our friend Joe, butchered her and fried her up for lunch.  As disgusted as I was with her postpartum massacre (and despite my promise to eat her if her kits died), I was still very reticent to partake in the meal.  But I tried a few the hope that I'll get used to it.

She tasted just like chicken.

jen g.