Rain, Rain Go Away


(Neighbor Nancy splats her soggy self into her chair for a sound pout.)

In the last month we have received 4,867,947 inches of rain. And not a nice, steady rain. Oh no! Cloud bursts full of lightning and hail and winds that blow the chickens across the yard.

Okay, so the chicken part is a little bit funny.

But I have had it! I am sick of being damp or sliding precariously in the mud down the slope of the garden or huddling just inside the door with my oscillating hoe, waiting for the lightning to stop.

While the oats have been pushed over by huge volumes of water, the weeds stand straight and tall, mocking me from their inappropriate homes. I saw a flattened row of corn next a happy, sturdy Japanese knot weed. Bastard.

Sorry, that just slipped out.

My strawberries aren’t a harvest they are puffy, sloppy, tasteless mush as are those of the good local U-pick.

A lovely sap producing maple was blown over — on top of — the back nursery of baby fruit trees. The popcorn rotted in the ground.

Somewhere there has to be a light — a positive side.

Well, the broccoli is thriving as are all the woody berry plants like blueberries, raspberries and currants.

I haven’t turned on the hose in over a month.

With all the accompanying fog, it is as lovely as living in Brigadoon. I can only see my parents’ barn every now and then.

With the sun at my back and a cloud burst coming in, the rainbows are fantasticly intense.

Thanks to a diversity of plantings, something will always live, thrive, grow.

And while I build my ark, in case we float away, I know that some crop or another will produce enough to help us through the harsh winter that waits at the end of this wet, hot, rather moldy summer.

How is the weather in your neck of the woods?

Oo! Break in the rain — I gotta spread some fertilizer and hoe more weeds. See you later.

(Neighbor Nancy flies out the door, letting the screen slam shut behind her. Immediately we see her slide on her bottom in a big puddle. Let’s turn our attention elsewhere as she curses and fumbles to get up. Not very dainty and ladylike, is she?!)

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“Neighborly Advice” Chat Room Opening Saturday at 8pm EST


The next edition of “Neighborly Advice” weekend “how-to” magazine for beginner’s will be published in just a few more hours, but first I wanted to tell you about the new Saturday night live chat room.  Right here

Grab a cup of coffee and a warm blueberry muffin.  Join the fun tomorrow night.

I will be opening the “Neighborly Advice” chat room any everyone is invited.  I’ll be there with other folks from around the neighborhood.  You can ask questions, offer advice, chat about your garden or critters, share recipes, whatever.

Double check that I’m “available” in the Meebo box to the right.  Just start typing and hit enter so I pull you into the chat room.  Sign into your regular IM account or try the Meebo website, if you want a screen name.

Drop by, join the fun and feel free to bring friends.  There will be plenty of virtual coffee and Philadelphia Sticky Buns to go around.

Don’t forget to come back tonight for this week’s edition of “Neighborly Advice” weekend “how-to” magazine for beginners.

I do hope to see you there.

The Backyard Flock: You Can Build a Brooder


Look what I made.  You can, too!

Look what I made. You can, too!

Now, don’t panic! This was my first building project. Ever. I bent nails. Shot them around the basement, but in the end I had a very nice brooder for 8 fuzzy fluff ball chicks.

Let’s take a closer look. The why of it all is at the bottom.

Let’s begin the adventure:

I started with two pieces of 1″x 10″x 8′ pine boards. Use 1″x 12″ x 8′ — I wished that I had.

1. I hacked…and I mean hacked them into three foot sections. My son claimed the leftovers for his own construction project.

Why? Because I wanted 9 sq ft. for 8 birds to grow in.

If you cut the boards in half (4′ sections) you will make a brooder to fit a 16 chicks. Assume 1 sq ft. per bird.

2. I hammered my now 1″x 10″sections into a box shape.

Note that those 2 pieces of strapping are what the enitr thing sits on like little feet.

Note that those 2 pieces of strapping are what the entire thing sits on like little feet.

3. Using 4 gazillion staples, I stapled hardware cloth (AKA 1/2″x 1/2″ wire grid) to the brooder box. This will eventually be the bottom. For now. you are working on it up-side-down.

4. Using two pieces of strapping (AKA 1″x 3″ board,) I hammered them over the hardware cloth, essentially pinching it in place.

5. Flip the whole thing over so that it is sitting on the strapping and the hardware cloth is now the bottom.

Making the lid:

Oh, yes, you want a lid. As they grow, they really want to visit the rest of your house.

A. Again using 1″x 3″ strapping, make a flat square, that fits the brooder box. If you can make nice corner cuts… what’s the word? Mitre (sp?) cuts then hurray for you. That was beyond my skill. So I just made the shape and hammered it together using metal cleats. Take a close look at the corners of the lid in the top photo.

B. Staple 1/2″ by 1″ welded wire grid to the “outside” of the lid.

C. Using relatively sturdy hinges, attach the lid to the brooder.

TaDa! You did it.

Why this design?

1. The dropping fall through to the newspaper below, for cleaner healthier birds.

2. You can easily change the paper without disturbing them much.

3. It rest on the strapping so little toes can grip and grow stronger, healthier legs.

4. No dust. Raise them in litter and after they play in it. You’ll have some mighty dangerous dust in you air, your lungs, your kids lungs. Gross!

5. Because they grip the wire, they are not very likely to suffer hip displacement.

6. This is the absolute cleanest way I could dream up. Cleaner for them, means the grow into darn sturdy birds. Cleaner is easier and healthier for you and your family.

7. I used strapping on the bottom so they would be as close to the floor as possible, without touching their feces. This way less heat from the lamp escapes. Hot chicks. Sexy!

I think that’s everything. If any of this was unclear feel free to e-mail me, write a comment or check the IM at the right to see if I’m “available.”

Here are some other articles from the Backyard Flock series:

Chicks Checklist

The Beginner’s Flock

Coop Considerations

The Egg Challenge: Store Bought Vs. The Backyard Flock

Contemplating a Backyard Flock

Choosing a breed

The White Egg Layers

So, how many chicks are you going to get? Are they for eggs? Meat? Both?

The Backyard Flock–Chicks Checklist


Well, hi there! I’m so glad you could join me today.

So, your thinking about bringing home some day old chicks?

Learning responsibility--Don't forget to was your hands, Peanut.

Learning responsibility--Don't forget to was your hands, Peanut.

Not a problem. We’ll take it a little at a time.

Grab a piece of scrap paper and pen from over there by the muffin basket.

Oh yes, by all means take a muffin or two, while you’re there.

Ready?

You have a little muffin crumb just…there.

That’s better.

Chicks Checklist:

Specific to chickens, not all poultry.

Brooder:

This can be as simple as a cardboard box filled with shredded newspaper, something you build (recommended, more on this next post ) or purchased from a catalog. Assume one square foot per bird. Some places say 1/2 sq ft, but I was very glad I went with the bigger number.

Litter:

Shredded newspaper, rice hulls, wood shavings. Just not something smooth. Little toes like to grip and risk hip displacement on smoother surfaces, like whole newspaper sheets.

Food:

Chick Starter or Chick Crumble. Never feed the little ones adult poultry food.

Water:

Clean and clear, changed at least once a day.

Electrolite and Vitamins:

Give fuzzy babies a strong start by adding this Vitamin B rich formula to their water. The packet sold at the seed and feed is deceptively small and is for a 50 gallon tank. Using just the tiniest bit on the edge of a teaspoon, mix it to the color of lemonade. In the water for 3 days, then give them just straight water for 4 days.

Chick Feeder:

I like the red plastic one. Why red? Chicks are attracted to it. Weird, but true. Plastic because I find it the easiest to clean. Assume one opening per little fuzz ball. Assume one whole per bird.

Chick Waterer:

I like the little red plastic one that screws onto a mason jar. Again attraction, easy to clean, easy to see water level, easy to see vitamin coloration. Assume one inch of drinking rim per bird.

Light for heat:

I really like a red heat lamp. The red color helps them to not get overstimulated and do naughty things like peck at one another. Also, if they do in the red light, blood appears black so they are less attracted to that spot. We used the red heat lamp and had no pecking problems at all.

Optional:

Thermometer: Standard room thermometer is fine. It isn’t necessary because you can see they are cold because they clump up. Or that they are warm because they head as far from it as possible. Ideally, they will be nicely scattered.

What the thermometer does do is help you reduce the heat 5 degrees (from the initial 95 degrees) each week until they head out to the coop. Acclimation, you know. Otherwise you’re wingin’ it.

Well, I hope that little checklist helped to get you started.

Click below for other Backyard Flock articles.

See you later

See you later

The Beginner’s Flock

You Can Build A Brooder

Coop Considerations

The Egg Challenge: Store Bought Vs. The Backyard Flock

Contemplating a Backyard Flock

Choosing a breed

The White Egg Layers

Have fun on your new adventure and don’t forget to get an egg cookbook at the next library sale.

Don’t Let This Happen in Your Town – or – Neighbor Nancy’s No Good Very Bad Week


A very big, dark, political cloud closed in around me, while I was busy “getting by.” The daily chores of financial survival kept me too busy to notice the following.

I was talking to my pop this morning and he said,” did you see today’s headline in the little local paper.”

I had not so he summarized the story that followed this local head line:

Dalton Council: No chickens

Go ahead and click that I dare ya.

While I understand their concerns, I am still reeling from their decision. So, please forgive my lack of words. I’m stunned.

This decision has nothing to do with our “girls”. It is, however, just a hop skip and jump away. What thoughtless things are going on in my township? Very scary.

Obviously, the councilmen that voted against have had the luxury of full, comfortable employment.

That’s right I say luxury. A job is a privilege and not a right. Obviously, they have not gone to bed hungry so their child did not. Obviously, my brain is going to explode.

It is apparent that their eyes are wide shut to the world events around them. I am deeply saddened and shamed by them.

I want to shake them and yell,” engage your brain!”

Why not offer town courses in chicken keeping. You county extension agricultural agent was extensively trained, by your own tax dollars for just this sort of teaching. A clean, well maintained chicken coop has very little odor. Education, folks, not ignorance will get us through tough times.

Aw, they don’t like how the chicken coop looks? Then teach people, help them create a structure you can tolerate. Hold a covered dish chicken coop building party, where everyone helps according to their skill.

I would rather see a neighbor’s truly hideous coop built from scrap than try to fall asleep at night knowing they might be going to bed hungry.

Shame on you, councilmen. I was always proud of my little town. Now, I am truly ashamed.

Again, forgive the poor writing. I’m just too angry to even be able to collect my thoughts in a clear, concise manner.

I’m sorry that tonight waiting-for-payday recipe may be a little late. I need to settle down first. Check for others in the category at the right.

Has this happened in your town?

Please take a moment to leave a comment.

(Neighbor Nancy hides her tears of outrage, fear and frustration behind her apron and goes to sit with her hens for a little company)

Freebie Days — Free Sunflower Seeds


Okay, grab the kids and ship ’em outside to count pollinators, A.K.A. bees.

No interested kids? Do it yourself.

You can help the count bees and receive free sunflower seeds. If you garden, you know just how important the bees are. This great educational project is super simple and reward you with free sunflower seeds for your garden. Hey, and you are helping an important cause. Very cool!

If your an educator, you could nicely tie this in to a biology or math unit. Don’t forget that spiral pattern that the sunflower seeds make in the flower head are Fibonacci numbers.

What’s a Fibonacci number? One of the beautiful ways to find pure math in nature. Look it up.

Click below to learn how to:

Join the Bee Hunt and get your free sunflower seeds.

Who is gonna eat what you grow at your house?

Here it will be a battle of chickens, rabbits and the “peanut.”

Freebie Days –Living the Country Life


Good afternoon! What a lovely day. The bees are buzzing around the maple buds and the sap is flowing.

Join me for a cup of coffee and a muffin. I want to show you what came in the mail today.

It’s a magazine called “Living the Country Life: Ideas and Inspirations for Your Place in the Country.” The best part… it’s free.

Now I don’t mean free … like they send you one and then charge you for a year.

I mean free. Sign up. No credit card. I signed up last Spring and the thing still keeps coming free.

Here are April’s cover articles:

Cooking with herbs (the Mustard- Rosemary Grilled Lamb looks delicious! )

Get greener grass

Cool Mules

Your prettiest perennials

Similar in content to Grit or Hobby Farm Home just thinner.

It is published by the RFD TV channel, which may or may not be available through your satellite provider.

I love to thumb my way through a magazine now and then, especially when it arrives in my mailbox for free.

Click here to get your subscription to: Living the Country Life

Check out the other goodies available in the freebie category over there on the right.

Come back tonight and we’ll chat about the envelope trick or tomorrow for another freebie and a tutorial on making your own soup stock.

( Neighbor Nancy reties her apron and heads into the kitchen to catch up on her baking )

Waiting-for-Payday Recipes: Eggs Goldenrod


As the economy gets worse, we look to the recipes of our grandmothers. Another Great Depression classic, I offer you Eggs Goldenrod.

Back when everybody and their neighbor kept chickens, eggs might have been one of the few protein sources a family might have.

Since my backyard flock is laying like fiends again, it is time for an egg recipe.

While we will not be winning any food competitions, we will fill 4 hungry tummies with a delicious comfort food.

Here we go:

Eggs Goldenrod

1. Make a roux

How?

6 Tablespoons of butter or margarine

6 Tablespoons of flour

Melt the butter, whisk in the flour. Bubble together over a low flame until the starchy smell goes away. It should smell like buttered popcorn, when it’s ready.

2. Turn it into a cream sauce by slowly adding:

Low budget version:

A 12oz. can of evaporated milk

1-1/2 cup of water

OR

High budget version:

3 cups of milk

3. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add 9 to 12 sliced hard boiled eggs.

5. Serve over a piece of toast.

Garnish: Reserve the yolk from two of the eggs and put through a garlic press or rub through a sieve. Sprinkle over each plate.

Others in th Waiting-For-Payday Comfort Food series:

Egg Drop Soup for the Hungry

S.O.S.–Creamed Dried Beef on Toast

Marinated Chickensuper beginner recipe with just 2 ingredients

Bread Puddinga stale bread comfort food

Hoover Cakes — an empty cupboard snack

Roux Tutorial – for the beginner

Here’s a link for Creamed Peas on Toast from Well Preserved

This week, at my house, we are having home grown edamame …creamed on toast.

So what protein can you serve creamed on toast?

The Fresh Chef: Corn–Even Better Than You Knew


Oh, I’m sure you have had decent corn from the supermarket or really good corn from the farmers’ market, but the flavor that comes from a parking space sized plot of home grown corn? Unbeatable!

The people to whom you serve it will become your slaves. Well, not slaves (politically incorrect,) but you can surely get more favors from them.

Here’s why:

There is an old saying. Something along the lines of “walk to pick it, run to cook it.” As soon as corn is picked, the sweetness starts to turn starchy. Run to that pot!

If you want to serve the best there is, you have to grow it yourself.

A $3 bag of seed will provide so much corn that that just 4 stalks pay for the whole adventure. Not enough room? Oh, really? See link below.

Last summer I couldn’t find my 6 yr old. After a bit country hollering, I found him sitting in the corn patch happily nibbling an ear of corn.

“Uncooked corn? Gross!” you say.

Ah, then you have never had it that fresh.

You can have:

Sweet corn

Super sweet corn

Popcorn– a Ridiculously HUGE savings over buying the microwave kind and tastes so much better

Field or dent — if you want to make your own fantastic cornmeal or feed your backyard animals. This is also the category under which most ornamental kinds fall.

The biggest problem: Once you grow it, you will hate the taste of store bought.

Later, I will have more info on the kinds and how to choose.

Now,I have to bake our bread. Shall I make a loaf for you?

How are you gonna grow your corn in a garden the size of a parking spot?

Click here for: A Ton of Garden, A Tiny Space: Three Sisters– Corn, Beans and Squash

Living Off the Fat of the Land — Learning to Live Through Hard Times


As the Great Depression survivors disappear, taking their valuable knowledge with them, we are left to rediscover getting by. We, each in our own way, will find our way.

My way, the way which allows me to sleep at night, is to grow or raise as much food as I can. Live off the fat of the land, so to speak.

No matter if you live in the city or the country there are ways to get by.

My favorite book on the subject?

The New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency: The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers by John Seymour. Published by Dorling Kindersley Limited. Text copyright 1976. Edition copyright 2003.

With beautiful illustrations, Seymour covers everything from urban gardening to wine making, from raising livestock to weaving.

His book covers everything you could want to know about doing it all yourself, whether you are growing your own grain or baking your first loaf of bread.

He insists that integration is the key. For example, if you are an apartment dweller with a rooftop garden, why not add a hive of honeybees? You get bees wax for candle and soap making, honey, and more pollination resulting in much more food from your garden.

He discusses this approach with varying sized situations: the urban garden, the allotment, the one and the five acre holdings.

His experiences read like an adventure book and from these he draws his authority.

I have never seen someone flip through this book that didn’t find something that fascinated them. From cook to carpenter, there is something for everyone.

I could live in the pages of this book. I highly recommend it.

Warning: Don’t leave it on your coffee table or you will loose any guest that touches this book to its pages.