Monthly Archives: April 2012

Good times, sad times

We really enjoyed hanging out with Sam and Dave's guitar teacher, Randy, and his wife Krissy on Sat night. We had dinner in the garden and then jammed. Sam decided his favorite song was "City of New Orleans" by Willie Nelson and Arlo Guthrie. In fact, Randy played it so well our neighbor commented the next day that he was driving by and heard the singing and figured it was a CD! It was such a nice evening. On Sunday the neighbor friends were running back and forth between homes checking out the activities all around - water fights and candy at one home, bike jumping and egg washing at ours 🙂


Now for the sadder news...HollyRamona, our most favored hen, is not doing so well. My research and amateur vet instincts tell me she is egg bound. We are doing palliative care (increased calcium intake for muscle contraction, protein for shell formation, warm bath, massaging the vent with petroleum jelly, etc.) because the only other option is surgery and they are not necessarily successful. Ben is helping me give her a warm bath and feeding her some scratch from his hand. She is walking around ok, but slowly and often hunching and puffing her feathers out while pushing. Imagine labor completely stalled for a month. Not fun. We said prayers for her, too. She is a dear, sweet hen. On a happier note we are gathering eggs to incubate so the new peeps pip out on Ben's 4th birthday! He has a whole gang of friends in mind to come over, young and young at heart 🙂 Mom - see the tulips in place of the bushes!? Those tulips are from Randy's wife, Krissy. Isn't that sweet? We planted them right away.

getting the garden ready – composting is complicated

Dave getting some compost for the garden beds, and the chickens very happy to help out!

You’d think it would be very easy – dump manure and bedding into a pile, turn over, wait, and ba-da-bing, you’ve got black gold – high-nitrogen fertilizer for your garden.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than it sounds, especially when you’re trying to compost fresh chicken manure which is reportedly among the highest N-containing manures. I apparently didn’t turn the compost enough, so it didn’t all turn into black gold. You have to really get three piles together in three stages – new stuff, medium stuff, old stuff. It takes 4-5 months for the compost to turn into soil. If you harvest it too early, the N will be off the charts, you’ll burn your plants, and potentially contaminate them with E. coli or salmonella.

Today I bought a compost thermometer to make sure the inside core gets to 160+ to kill weed seeds and pathogens. And I’ve got multiple piles going. And I’m studying the nitrogen cycle along with Sam. Did you know that plants can’t use atmospheric nitrogen (N2)? Some plants (legumes) have a friendly bacteria (Rhizobium) which can convert N2 into NH3 which the plants can use. This is why cover crops planted over the winter are so helpful. Chicken manure and coffee grounds are also very effective in replenishing N. Our beds were pretty good with respect to P and K, according to my soil testing last week. Cross your fingers this amateur gardener can get her act together and grow something which doesn’t sicken the family. I plan to grow stuff with goes UP in the contaminated bed – tomatoes, peas? Any other ideas?

The most perfect egg color!

Our little peeps are laying green eggs!!! So we think at least one of them is NOT a rooster - yay! Don't you love that egg color? The dark one is from Jersey, the rest are from the Rhode Island Reds and another Ameraucana (Allison Audrey) who lays pink eggs. We moved a garden bed yesterday (picture lots of shoveling dirt and worm party for the chickens!) to make room for a little picnic table in the garden. Now we have room for spreading out pizza boxes for Friday dinners and fires with our neighbors and friends. We are really blessed!

It’s growing season

The kids and I are testing the soil and figuring out if it needs amendment before planting. We are new to all this so it's a great science project. On the left is the pH test - which is about right for planting. My best guess is it reads about 6.8. On the right is Nitrogen level in the compost pile (the chicken manure). As I anticipated, the N level is off the charts. Thankfully it looks like our beds need N amendment, so we'll mulch in some manure and hope to get the level right so we don't burn our plants. Next year we'll do a cover crop in the winter to restore the N and see how that does. It's all so interesting! Now I want a goat...

Spring break pictures posted!

A relaxing spring break in southern California with Mom and Richard. Pictures are up!

Spring Break!

After a 4.6 mile bike/run down to the beach on a bike path, we all relaxed under Richard's corkscrew will tree, like the chickens taking a dust bath! Dave napped on that lounge chair, so now Ben is checking it out with Eagle. 🙂

We are on Spring Break, visiting mom and Richard in southern California! It is SUNNY! Our legs are WHITE! We haven’t seen them in 9 months. None of us can see in the sun, so we grasp frantically for our sunglasses 🙂 Our neighbors are taking care of our chickens and we have gotten nearly daily reports on their doings – so sweet to hear from them as they learn chicken-tending first-hand! We are on day 3 here and Ben just woke up from a 13 hour rest, catching up after several days of fun! Now we’re off to figure out what to do with the day. The original plan was San Diego for the zoo! Sam just finished building a huge Lego Technic flatbed truck with over 1,000 pieces – he spent a total of about 6 hours on it yesterday, never taking a break for food or water! I had to bring it to him and literally put food and water to his lips – such a dedicated worker! He is tireless and focused. And we still managed to get our bike/run adventure in with all that building 🙂 We have had so many laughs – one of them made me nearly choke to death on a melon. That inspired me to actually look up whether one can literally “die laughing” and it is true – apparently someone in Britain died laughing watching a goofy TV show “The Goodies”. Who knows if true or not, but it made me laugh again! My friend Ang asked how my experience with security at the airport went…so reprinted here for your enjoyment is my recounting of a fruitless attempt to get through security without causing a scene:

three violations:

1. left sam’s bag unattended at security and had to go back through and get it

2. forgot to take my own shoes off, was standing there dumbly all smiles thinkin’ I’d just licked this one and gotten everything right only to be told by the lady “ah, ma’am, your shoes?”

3. my purse  had to be scanned and rescanned then inspected – finally figured out it was the bones I had stashed in there – seal jaw bone and crab claw (huge).