Thursday, March 22, 2012

So long Slowpoke

Slowpoke was a chicken, a very slow chicken. If you haven't learned yet, named chickens in our flocks often aren't long for this world. They're only named because they stand out with some problem or another.

Last fall when we received our chicks, we noticed one that was really slow. It slept more than the others, was hard to rouse, didn't seem to eat or drink much. This rooster only made it a few days and then died. Just after he died, I noticed another chicken that was behaving the same way: very slow and lethargic. But this one... lingered, so we christened her Slowpoke. We thought of better names later, but the original name stuck, so we were stuck with it.

Once the chicks went outside, Slowpoke spent most of her time at the feed eating and eating.  She never grew to be more than half the size of her flock-mates. And she never seemed to do the regular chicken-y things - like scratching around in the dirt, looking for things to nibble on. She never at anything other than the grain we keep out for the chickens - no lettuce, no greens, no bugs, nothing else. I guess she just didn't recognize those things as food.

At the end of December we happened to notice she had a damaged toe. She must have stepped on something sharp and cut her toe. We bathed it, put on some antibiotic stuff, wrapped it up, and put her out in the coop. Hours later, I'm sure, we found her perched on a stump with the other chickens pecking at her foot! Those darn cannabalistic chickens! So we cleaned her up again, wrapped up her foot, then wrapped it up in duct tape (hah! try pecking through that!), then smeared on some pine tar (which chickens don't like). Our poor little club-foot chicken! We had her in the coop on and off, but we had to help her up to the roost because she couldn't jump up with the club foot.

Finally we just kept her in the house, in a big dog kennel in the living room. I can't remember how long she stayed inside, but it was awhile.

At one point we thought her foot was clearing up and Jeremy wanted to make sure there was no infection so we got some antibiotics for her. You mix these up in water and down the hatch with an eye dropper. With the first dosage, we nearly asphyxiated her. She was gasping, gurgling, sneezing, dripping, hacking. Oh, it was awful. I thought for sure we had killed her. The only question was if we should put her out of her misery, or see if she survived.

But Slowpoke was a surviver, and she pulled through. We read up more on delivering medicines via dropper and did the whole thing over again the next night. And the same thing happened! As I was holding her on my lap and comforting her, I realized we had done this sort of thing before with no problems. The problem wasn't our technique, but our chicken! Nothing goes right with her.

In any case, she survived again and her foot was looking good, so back out to the coop she went. Some time later it seemed that another toe wasn't looking so good. We put some pine tar on it and put her back in the coop. Then a week or two ago I got a close look at her and almost ALL her toes were in bad shape. Geez! In fact, the mean old Rhode Island Reds were pecking at her toes so much they were bleeding. =(

So back inside she came to be cleaned up and convalesce some more. After a few days she seemed okay, at least no raw wounds, so I put her outside again. A short time later, her poor toes had been picked bloody again. So back inside she came.

By now I could tell her toes were in bad shape. She didn't seem to like walking on them. So we had a choice to make. Do we have an inside chicken from now on, stinking up the house or do we put her out of her misery? She couldn't live with the other chickens anymore because she became instant bottom chicken and was attacked. I think she would have been happy being an only chicken, but I wouldn't have felt right giving her to someone else with her foot problems.

So... yesterday afternoon we finally did the deed. It was very sad and we hated to do it, but I have to say we both felt a sense of relief in the end. We knew that any problem that could happen with a chicken, it was going to happen to her. Out in the wild, she would not have made it this far.

She had a relatively good life and got lots of snuggles and pets from us - which she really seemed to love. Not very chicken-y behavior if you ask me!

So long Slowpoke!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


There is a big difference between 8 chickens and 20.

Two years ago when our first batch of chickens first started laying eggs - it was a big event. The first chicken to go made a big ruckus all day long before that first egg came out. And then over days and weeks it went something like 1 egg, 0 eggs, 1 egg, 1 egg, 2 eggs!, 1 egg, 2 eggs, 3 eggs, 2 eggs, and so on.  A couple times we got up to 8 eggs in one day which was pretty amazing.

Our current batch of chickens is now 5 1/2 months old. I'd been waiting for them to start egg laying for months it seems. They'd been making that telltale "I'm going to lay an egg" ruckus for several months I'm sure. It was such a familiar sound I started checking next boxes frequently, just knowing there was going to be an egg in there eventually.

Then finally, about two weeks ago - there were four eggs!

And it has been four to eight eggs ever since. Every couple days I think another chicken gets the hang of it and we get more eggs. First it was only brown eggs but now we're getting the white ones too. No green or blue ones yet, but hopefully soon!

So now we have eggs all over the place, dozens in the fridge, dozens on the table. We have got to get going with some egg dishes. Bring on the deviled egg platters!

Monday, March 19, 2012


No, we don't have sheep. Or goats. Or rabbits. (Not yet. =)

Some of you may recall that I started up a blog just for my sewing sometime last year.  Seems like I've been keeping it up just as much as this one lately. But I have been inspired to do better at that (and I'm still trying to catch up with a back log of posts and pics for this blog!).

I mention this because an Etsy team I'm part of, HandmadeMN, is doing a giveaway right now of one of my sheep tea cozies.

Adorable, I know.

I know, I know: too cute for words!

Anyway, the giveaway lasts for two weeks and we're into the second week now. You can enter the contest at the HandmadeMN blog.  All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog post (NOT this blog post that you are reading right now, but the blog post over on HandmadeMN!).  There are lots of ways to enter - one of which is becoming a follower of my sewing blog, another is becoming a fan of my Facebook page. Check out the HandmadeMN post for all the ways you can enter. Get your entries in by noon this coming Sunday!

Now, I'd better make some sort of promise about blog posts to come which will hopefully compel me to write said blog posts. I'd like to tell you all about our cider-making adventures last fall; and give you some updates on the mushroom season, which is in full swing. Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

mini kitchen remodel

I love the way Jeremy tells this story. "Aimee was trying to put some pans away and she got all upset and angry, throwing pans around. So I thought, I'll be the mature one and get the pans put away. But then I got all upset and angry and started throwing pans around!"

And that was when we finally decided to do something about the kitchen storage issue!
What we had was this:

A tiny little cupboard which had to fit sheet pans, muffin tins, cake tins, spring form, pans, glass pie plates, etc (obviously hard to get to in the first place with brewing equipment and a worm bin blocking the way!) I tried to keep things on the side, but it always ended up like this and it was difficult to get anything in or anything out after awhile.

And while we're at it, we also had this:

I took the tea shelf and microwave out before this shot, but you get the idea. This was another huge part of our storage, pots, bowls, plastic containers, quiche plates, more pie plates, and things hidden in the recesses that we hadn't seen for years.

We have plans for re-doing the whole kitchen someday and we just keep trying to live with what we have in the meantime - though I suspect it will be years and years before anything changes. After that last blow-up, the straw that broke the camel's back, Jeremy admitted that he had thought of buying some sort of cupboard for me for Christmas. (Aw, the sweet things we do for our partners. =)

But he hadn't been able to find anything on Craigslist. So he got me pasta maker instead - which we had to find room for in the kitchen! That very day he jumped back on Craigslist and within a few moments he had found a potential cupboard option. Someone in St. Paul was remodeling and getting rid of a long 7 or 8 foot base cabinet (original to the house!) along with two large upper units. We contacted the guy, we were second on the list, the others backed out, we borrowed a van, and drove straight over to pick up our new cupboards!

Of course the whole thing didn't fit in any perfect way into the kitchen which meant some work. Jeremy had to cut the base cabinet apart because it was too long to fit in any one space.

It's upside down in these pics.

We also had to add a base to raise it more to counter height and add a counter since that had been removed by the previous owner. Our counter top? A piece of plywood painted and sealed. It's more of base piece awaiting real counter top...some day...

Next to the oven we got this:

The extra surface being put to excellent use.

And, glory be, this:

An organized space, with wooden uprights to keep everything on its side and in place. We kept the original cupboard and have just the glass things in there.

In the other corner we got this:

Everything had to be scrubbed down it was all so filthy! You'll notice that half of the heater vent is covered up . This piece was still too long because of that vent that sticks out, so Jeremy just cut out the back corner and slid this piece in over the top of it. So our plastics, pots, souffle dishes, and whatever else lives down there are nice and warm! He cut a vent in the front of the cupboard so the heat can get out.

Here we are all cleaned up and painted (and yes that is the pasta maker there Jane, I set it up and ran some pasta through to clean out the excess grease from packaging - so now it's ready to use!).

Last but not least we had the uprights. They turned out to be way too tall to fit in our kitchen. I think they're about six feet high.

So I decided to use them in the back hall, which had looked like this:

Will we ever be rid of the pile of boxes and random things in the back hall? Probably never.

These upright cupboards were absolutely my favorite. There was a bit too much contact paper of various ages and depths for my taste so I removed most of that. The insides were painted this incredible dark turquoise-like color with sort of a shiny shellac paint. Bead board runs along the back, and then there are these grooved strips of wood running in all corners for adjustable shelving. You stick in these slim 1 inch pieces of wood and put the shelf on top. I think it's so cool.

But also way too dark. So I painted part of it white.

There is actually some beautiful wood underneath, but neither of us wanted to go to all the work to strip the paint off. We told ourselves that these would not be the cupboards we used in our kitchen when we remodel it anyway, so why go to all the work for things that might end up in the basement or garage someday? It's kind of a shame, but really, I'm just happy to have more storage space now!

Looking much better in the back hall now. (The door in the lower right was stripped by the previous owner, trying to see what lay underneath the layers of paint.)

Now I have things organized by shelf: baking things in one area, beans in one area, rice and grains in another, some canned items in another.

It's funny that with our previous shelf it felt like we had no room and everything was about to fall off. Almost everything fit into one of the new uprights so we have room for a lot more out here now.

Some day that space in the hall will be a walk in pantry accessible from the kitchen. I cannot wait for all that glorious storage space! Then we can finally unpack the half-dozen (or dozen?) kitchen boxes still languishing in the basement.

So that was our mini kitchen remodel, which cost less than $100 in the end. I think we more than doubled our drawer space, certainly doubled our counter-top space, and added half again as much cupboard space. And we haven't had any more blow-ups, shouting, cursing, or throwing pans around the kitchen. =)