Friday, December 30, 2016

Coop moving! Part one

So, we've accepted an offer on our current house, and we're moving to a different one (we were renting it out for about a year, and we decided to move there. It has three bathrooms; we feel very middle class now).

Moving is a pain no matter what. But when you've just spent months finishing a lovely, giant chicken coop, it's an even bigger pain. In case you forgot, here's the coop:

We can't leave that behind; we don't have time or energy to build a new one right now. So instead, we'll find time and energy and friends to help us move it!

Step one: move the house part. It's built to detach from the screened-in run, so all you have to do is find 6 or so people to lift it up and carry it. Super easy. 
 It's times like these that you find out who your true friends are. I owe all of you some serious social capital! There are no pictures of the actual lifting, because there were zero free hands.
 And then we got clever with ratchet straps to move the coop forward on the flatbed. Next time we'll use some kind of rollers. If these people are still our friends and agree to help us next time. Or maybe next time we'll have to hire professionals. Or just build a new coop.....
 And then comes the best part of the whole venture: driving through the streets of North Minneapolis like the Clampetts! Not sure if this was P's favorite part, but I was loving it!
We dropped (rather literally, I was a little ambitious in saying I had it when I definitely didn't have it) the coop in the new back yard. Next step is to move the run, but that will wait for another day. And probably some new friends....

Monday, October 17, 2016

School lunch!

Time for a tiny break from house and chicken posts; this is another topic that is very near to my heart. And to my stomach. I grew up in an era of beige school lunches. Lots of breaded chicken nugget-type things, instant mashed potatoes, and things on buns. Then I got to high school, where we had the option of a shake and fries, or my absolute favorite: the tiny round pizza.

So imagine my surprise and delight when my employer rolled out their new school lunch program and this is what I saw:
Grilled cheese and tomato soup, with a fresh green salad (with edamame and kale!) and fresh mango (!!).
Carnitas bowl with chipotle yogurt sauce and fresh poco de gallo. And a locally made Popsicle!
Wild rice and cranberry meatloaf, salad, and fresh kiwi and orange slices!

Enchiladas with black beans, roasted broccoli, and apple kale salad. Plus a giant bowl of canned pears, because I still need at least one throwback to my old-school lunches.

Seriously people, this is the most delicious $4 lunch in town. I love that kids in high-poverty schools are getting access to whole, nutritious, and super tasty food. And I don't have to pack a lunch anymore, and Perry knows that I'll eat vegetables for at least one meal each day. I'm super pumped for tomorrow; it's carnitas day!

Friday, October 7, 2016

New favorite tool!

A few months ago, we were having dinner with some friends and talking (naturally) about working on houses. One of the party remarked that his favorite tool was his checkbook, and we all laughed. And I decided I should give that one a try some day.

Yep, that was a good tool! After my adventures in floor refinishing at our tiny rehab last year, I decided that I would leave floors to the professionals. I did all the time-consuming, horrible scraping in advance, removing three layers of tile and old school linoleum inch by painful inch....

Then we piled up all the furniture from the kitchen, living room, and dining room like Tetris pieces in the back bedrooms.
And went on vacation!
And then when we came back, magically our floors were done and our house looked like it was meant to look!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Learning curve

We had our first chicken tragedy this month; we lost a girl.
We had an outbreak of coccidiosis, a soil-borne pathogen that's worst in wet, warm conditions (which is the definition of this summer). The girls were all kind of droopy, but poor miss Berry got it first and had it worst. It took me too long to diagnose it to save her; the other girls all responded to the medicine and are back to their perky selves, but we are down to five chickens now.

I love all my chickens, but Berry was special, so it was extra sad to lose her.  I'm frustrated by my lack of knowledge and how that affected my flock. I think it's important to acknowledge that our path to being urban farmers is not completely smooth and easy; we've got some serious learning to do.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Chicken update!

They just keep on getting cuter!

The girls are outside, loving the fresh air and random music coming from car stereos and random passers by who seem to be working on their upcoming albums. Urban chickens appear to be unfazed by sirens and car alarms. Lawn mowers, however are a different story. The girls lose their tiny minds when we have to mow.
And the eggs are glorious! We've been getting 4-5 eggs a day, cute little pullet eggs with lovely orange yolks. The other day, I found an extra special egg in the coop.
Isn't that the cutest thing you ever saw? I think I'll make the tiniest omelet ever.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

What came first?

Holy smokes!!!!

We've got our first egg! (Ignore the messy shelf, please.) Miss Berry was looking for a quiet, safe spot to lay her first egg. She didn't find it in the tool zone.
Too much sawdust, too many sharp objects. Nope. The best spot for a chicken to find a little privacy is apparently the ledge in the back entryway.
It's like a Where's Waldo puzzle; a hen can feel safe going about her business, knowing no predators will disturb her in the midst of all the plastic bags and egg cartons!
Notice the "cage free" egg carton? There's absolutely no doubt that this egg was from a free range chicken. Well, free ranging in the basement at least.

And why are there chickens laying eggs inside my little house on the Northside? The coop is almost done! We're just making it absolutely predator proof.

Don't mind me, just securing the inside of the coop basement so the girls don't get taken by a stray dog or wild raccoon. We're so close!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Too. Much. Cute!!!!

The babies are getting so big! Amazing how time flies when you're hanging out with chickens!
They started out as adorable little fluffballs, but now they're turning into daring escape artists.
Their wings are starting to get bigger, so they've mastered the art of jumping on top of their feeder and peeking out over the top of the brooder, which is super cute. Until you realize that they can get out and run around and leave little presents all over the carpet.

So we've had to modify the brooder a little bit to make sure they aren't running amok while we're off at work!
Sorry, girls. It's for your own good!

The coop is coming along nicely; we're aiming for stylish and aesthetically pleasing (that's P's role), and super cheap (that would be my role).
And every once in a while I get the ambition to scrape off a little more 90-year-old original linoleum--the real kind, with jute backing and really impressive glue.
That's so much prettier than the checkerboard! Why would you do that to such a lovely floor?

Monday, March 7, 2016


The chickies continue to be absolutely adorable; P fell asleep on the sofa the other night with a chick resting on his shoulder. I got one to fall asleep in my hands; the goal is to have the tamest, most people-friendly chickens on the Northside.

We had a couple visitors to the farm too! These sweet girls had a lot of suggestions for names for the chicks. We're naming the Ameraucana Julia, but I already forgot which one was supposed to be Ruby. And Pearl. And Golden Feathers. But these chickens are going to be so well socialized!

And because the chicks aren't enough excitement, I decided to start some floor excavation in the kitchen! During my little kitchen reno three years ago, I discovered this tiny patch of maple flooring under the sink (under several layers of vinyl).
And it gave me hope that the floors might be lovely. 
I already got rid of the horrible falling-down plastic tiles. And that dreadful paint color. Now it's time to take on the floors. I suppose checkerboard peel-and-stick tile has its place. Maybe in a 1950s themed rec room. But this lovely kitchen deserves better!
Seriously, these cabinets need a floor that matches.
And it's my job to make that happen!

Thursday, March 3, 2016


Time to expand the homestead!

The fish are fun enough, I guess, but they're lacking in charisma and charm. So, we've decided to add some new livestock to the tiny farm.

Baby chicks! We decided to stop being those people who always talk about how much they want to keep laying hens, and to start being those people who actually keep them!

We got them from Egg Plant in St. Paul, the only place I could find to buy a half dozen baby chicks. We got one each of 6 different breeds (Ameraucana, Barred Rock, Black Austrolorp, Buff Orpington, California White, and Gold Star, if you pay attention to those things), and I'm crossing my fingers that none of them will turn out to be a rooster because then we'll have some hard choices to make.

Right now, they're living in a bin in the living room (so it's easy to look at them)!


Next step: chicken coop! They'll live inside for a month or so, then they'll need to move outside to a coop. Which we haven't started yet. Except in our minds--we've definitely started thinking and dreaming about how cute it will be!

If anyone has some coop building materials lying around, I wouldn't say no! ;)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tight spaces!

More adventures in landlording; we were in bed at a bed and breakfast when we got a call that one of our furnaces was out. Thank goodness for Home Service Plus; they came out and fixed it. Twice, because the first fix wasn't quite right.

And then we got a text that the water had stopped flowing in a half bath. Fortunately, they have more than one bathroom in that house, so it wasn't a total emergency. Turns out that half bath is over a crawl space, and one that was well insulated to keep heat from leaking into it from the basement. Seriously people; don't put plumbing on uninsulated exterior walls, especially when it passes through an uninsulated crawl space first.

P got to thaw out the pipes, since I had places to be. But I got there just in time to help out with the heat tape.
So I got to army crawl up into this tiny space, which was just big enough for a half-pint sized lady to squeeze in to. It made me grateful I had crossed "spelunker" off my list of potential careers. And after 30 minutes of scraping my knuckles and getting fiberglass insulation in my sleeves, the problem was solved!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Questionable decisions!

In the process of fixing up the Queen house, I may have made some questionable choices. Mostly when Perry wasn't there to rescue me or tell me that perhaps I should reconsider my methods.

So, I had to paint the back entryway, which has a set of stairs to the basement. I had to paint the ceiling, including the part above the bottom of the stairs, which was a pretty serious reach. The extension ladder was too tall, and the a-frame was almost tall enough.

So, I had to improvise a little bit. I stepped back and remembered that I had a step ladder. And I put 2 and 2 together....

Double ladder! Always a good idea to balance a ladder on another ladder. Never the wrong choice. But it worked. And the ceiling got painted, and it looks much better.

I learned some other things too. I already knew that you shouldn't paint yourself into a corner when doing floors, so I didn't make that exact mistake. But I may have glued myself in.... just a little bit.
I did manage to get out of the bathroom, but it involved standing on the tub and bracing myself against the opposite wall, and then jumping the last little bit. But I giggled about it at the time; maybe the glue fumes had something to do with my problem-solving process. And I felt a little like Catherine Zeta-Jones in that laser scene in Entrapment:

With way cooler kneepads.