Sunday, May 31, 2009

Three essentials for urban chicken farmers

If any of you guys are here reading up on my backyard chicken flock and trying to decide if you should jump in to the hobby, remember this:

Chickens crap.

A lot.

Therefore, I have figured out a couple of things to make my life with chicks easier. No, I still don't know anything about making life any simpler around those "other" chicks. Someone else will have to write that primer. Anyways, here is what I know.

1. If the chickens have the free run of your yard, have some chicken shoes. Something that can you can hose off before wearing them to the elementary school PTA meeting. Crocs or rubber soled sandals work nicely. Being the guy with chickens in the neighborhood is OK, maybe even sort of cool. But YOU DO NOT WANT to be that guy with chicken crap smelling feet.

2. A power washer is the backyard chicken farmer's best friend. If your hen house and coop gets a good power washing once in a while, the neighborhood may thank you. Plus, if the birds can get within 100 feet of your concrete patio or wooden deck then you will find out that concrete is to chickens as litter box is to house cats. You will be hosing your patio off frequently, might as well have some power assist.

3. And finally, when cleaning the patio and deck it is always good to have the help of more than one friend. If your power washer is your BFF, then be sure and make pals with some goggles. And a face shield. Wet, flying chicken crap evidently has a mind of it's own. Also, it flies around really good.

And it tastes like shit.

Yeah, now we BOTH know.

So now that you know everything there is to know about cleaning chicken poop, please excuse me. I have a date with my toothbrush.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Scenes from our week

This is the first full dozen eggs we have had around here. I keep using the eggs or giving them away almost as fast as the chickens can lay them. Just FYI, we are up to 108 eggs from our backyard flock. And the cost per egg is down to a manageable $2.55 per egg.

Of course, I turned around and gave this entire dozen away to a friend at work, so we are back down to about 3 eggs on hand.

This is what happens to the passenger's floorboard in my car when life gets extra busy. I count at lest 4 cups from the barbecue place up the road, two GOOD Dr Peppers, one Sprite and a Coke. The wife must have driven my car at least once this week.

On the good side, there is a rubber bouncy ball, a few nice notes from parents and a couple of deposit slips from the nearby ATM in that pile, too. Lucky for me, the ATM is almost next door to the barbecue joint.

Friday, May 29, 2009

They look great...

but why do these white chocolate dipped pretzels, sprinkled with milk chocolate chips taste like feet?

And why do I keep eating them?

The end of another era

Today is The Princess' last day in preschool. She has attended the same school for the past two school years, on a part time schedule. Most recently she has been at the preschool four hours a day, for four days a week. Just like me.

We decided that The Princess would have a good time at preschool two years ago, mainly due to the fact that The Talker was going to Kindergarten and we were afraid she would be bored or lonely without a playmate. Or worse, that I would become her playmate everyday from 8 am until 3 pm.

Now don't get me wrong, I do like playing with the kids. But have you ever tried it for an 8 hour stretch? Throughout a 280 day school year? Yeah. It would get old.

So The Talker went to Kindergarten and the girl and I headed across the neighborhood, to the preschool. But dropping her off at 9 and returning to pick her up at 1 o'clock didn't sound like much time to get things done. So I started working at her school. They could pay me to drop The Princess off each day! She does her thing with her class and I help out all around the school. We could peek in on each other often, and the days usually flew by.

So we are now at the end of preschool. Next year The Princess will start Kindergarten, and she and The Talker will be at school together. I still plan to make the drive over to the preschool a few days a week. But for the first time in 7 years, I will be without a herd of my own kids.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Garden update

I hope my fruits and veggies turn out better than the photos.

I noticed tonight that we have cantaloupe and watermelons on the vine. So I decided to make a quick walk through the garden with the camera. Out of 50 or more photos I shot, one turned out decent. And it was not even a picture of the melons.

Peppers and green beans are coming in sporadically. I have only gotten one good serving of green beans this season.

There are tons of tomatoes on the vine right now, too. But tomatoes are nasty. They only grow in my garden because I am a smart enough man to grow really great tomatoes (that my wife dearly loves.)

Hopefully we will be macking down on some July 4th watermelons this year.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Made it

to the kitchen, and stored three eggs safely away in the refrigerator. Unlike yesterday.

For the record, we are up to 87 eggs and only 5 have been dropped on the kitchen floor.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Just call me Farmer Fumble Fingers

The three eggs we gathered this afternoon.

The Princess was excited when she discovered three eggs in the hen house, after we got home from school. It is still pretty rare that all three hens lay at the same time. The Princess wanted me to take a picture of the eggs in the hen house.

After photos, I told the girl to scoot out of the way, so I could gather the eggs and take them into the kitchen. I guess I should have let her carry them.

I managed to trip on my own feet while walking to the 'fridge. I grabbed on tight to the camera, to keep it from hitting the floor. No harm to the camera, but all three eggs bit the dust. Luckily, Kodak the Cleaning Machine was up to the task, and the mess was contained quickly.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekend fun cut short

This Saturday afternoon the AtHomeFam headed north to The Queen Mother's house. Saturday night we were planning to all go to an event at the church where I did MOST of my growing up. I moved away when I was 20 and I did, in fact, learn a few things after that.

Despite my best efforts during my first 20 years, the church had survived to celebrate it's 125th Anniversary.

Anyways, Saturday night's program turned out not to be quiet what my siblings and I had expected. Well, maybe Sis, but she is a professional church-goer. The younger four kids were well behaved for the evening's music program. My sister and I though, would have gotten our heads smacked if we had sat any closer to The Queen Mother. Bro was left out of the fun, since he was corralling kids at the far end of a row of seats. We survived by laughing our way through the night. Several inappropriate jokes and lots of wisecracks peppered the evening. Just as I remember church during my teens. Welcome home!

Sunday we spent a good chunk of time back at the church. But this was the good stuff. I saw loads of friends that I haven't shared time with in almost 20 years. There were several sets friend's parents that I got to visit through out the day. It was nice to catch up with everyone. No one seemed too surprised that we are not living the suburban, two income lifestyle. Or about the chickens. Seems like lots of people knew about the chickens...

It was a great day of reminiscing about all of the damage I caused memories I shared at this great church. We ended up skipping out on the end of the day, thanks to a monster migraine. But the day spent at home sure was nice.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Butterscotch, the over achiever and all the other hens.

Today was only our second day to collect 3 eggs from our three hens. As the old hens at say, they "paid the rent".

I guess Butterscotch is wanting to make up for not helping out with the rent for the last month. She laid two eggs today! It is a feat that is not common, but, sort of like a double yolk egg, happens occasionally. More so with a hen that is just starting to lay eggs.

We locked all of the girls in the outdoor coop at 8:30 this morning, as The Princess and I were headed to preschool. There were no eggs in the hen house. This all new and exciting, so I bet the kids check at least 10 times a day!

Once we got home from school, the chicks free ranged in the backyard we left for dinner and church. At some point this afternoon I saw Butterscotch heading into the hen house again. It is hot out there, so I just assumed she was heading for better shade.

Home from church, I let the birds out for a little more free ranging in the yard. Then I noticed the egg in the hen house. Butterscotch's eggs are bigger and the shell color is lighter than the other hens. So I am sure she pulled double duty today!

An aside: The teachers at the preschool got together and surprised me with an un-birthday party, since my real birthday falls during the summer. I was loaded up with gift cards to Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, Wally's Burger Express (where the french fries call my name...) and The Alamo Draft House (a local first run movie theater and restaurant all in one). They packaged all that, and some good Dr Pepper stuff in an antique chicken carrier. They signed a group card "from all of Mr. Mike's Chicks."

It is allergy season, and I have felt miserable for days on end. But isn't it curious that I felt a ton better after a bunch of women made a huge fuss over me all day?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Three producing hens

Butterscotch's first egg

Butterscotch, The Princess' personal pet hen had not laid an egg. Until today.

This morning I noticed Butterscotch was hanging out in the coop inside my garden shed. I keep one nesting box in there, but it has gone mostly unused. The other two hens prefer laying their eggs in the Hen House, a converted dog house in the outdoor coop.

After a while I noticed Butterscotch was panting and had moved into the nesting box. An hour later she was out in the yard. The Princess went out and found the egg in the nesting box.

As of today we have collected 62 eggs since the 3rd of March.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Don't put all you eggs in the hands of a klutz

What is this?

If you guess that it is the remains of a whole grain, farm-fresh, cage free, hormone free, free range egg, then you would only be half correct. That is in fact the remains of TWO whole grain, farm-fresh, cage free, hormone free, free range eggs. And they were the last eggs in the house. Eggs that were supposed to go onto my breakfast plate after we returned from an early soccer game.

When we got home from the game, Neighbor Grandma, in town from Iowa, came over to check out the hens and to pick up a half a dozen eggs. No worries there, since I had one egg left in the kitchen and Fillet was, at that moment, laying another egg in the hen house. I still had plenty of eats for my delayed breakfast.

The kids like sausage, so I started cooking that up while I was waiting on Fillet to deliver the goods. Once the kids were eating, I started cooking my own sausage and I cracked the first egg into the skillet.

And yet somehow I missed the skillet. Egg all over the stove top. When I turned to reach for a rag, the final piece of my breakfast puzzle slid out of my hand and onto the kitchen floor. The egg that Fillet had just given me 3 minutes earlier. Stained concrete floors are not kind to eggs, even incredibly fresh eggs, so I lost out on two eggs in about 5 seconds.

Leaving me with a skillet of sausage to eat and several egg goo covered rags in the sink. So I am off to eat my sausage and pout. Here is hoping you breakfast was delivered fresh, hot AND on a plate, not on the floor.

For the record, counting the two I dropped, we are now up to 5 dozen eggs. And that brings the total cost down to a nice, reasonable $4.66 per egg. At least I did not waste any $5 eggs...

But the moral of this fiasco? It is a simple life lesson, really. Nothing good ever comes from soccer played too early in the morning.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Single parents rule!

I just gotta say, a day and a half into a three and a half day solo gig and my ass is whipped.

I have no clue how single parents handle it. Especially if they are able to keep any semblance of order and sanity in their lives. I am staring at two more days and then a reprieve. Even so, it may take me a week to recover.

Cannot imagine how sloppy my life would be if reinforcements were not arriving in less than 48 hours. So Kudos! to the single parents out there. You rock!

And if someone can offer advice on how to keep the 5 year old from putting the cat into the bathtub WITH her, I would appreciate the help. Or at least some quality input on bandage technique.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Spring of the monkeys

The Boss Lady leaves town this morning for a three day conference in Boston. So we are on our own for about 100 hours or so.

Beware, the smells and clutter overflowing from our house in the next few days might be enough to set off a new pandemic. Nice case of Dad Flu, anyone?

We are well stocked for the rest of the week. The kids and I hit the grocery store yesterday, so will be dining like Pop Tart kings. And if those get tiring, we have several bags of goldfish crackers. Of course, there is also an emergency case of Dr Pepper in the kitchen. See? We will not starve.

Now will we clean the house while The Boss Lady is MIA? That is highly doubtful. Instead I am counting on a last minute cleaning rush job at 5 o' clock on Saturday afternoon. Just trying to be realistic with our plans for the week, you know.

Monday, May 04, 2009

I dunno.

"What is next for you, now that The Princess is starting elementary school?" is a question I hear a lot these days. Evidently I should have a plan for the future in place already. But I don't. I have some good ideas and a few pipe dreams, but nothing is set in stone (or even in sinking sand).

Almost 7 years ago I became a full time stay at home dad. We just jumped in with both feet, none of us really knew what the heck we were doing. And back then, we never really discussed when the gig would end. Even when kid #2 came along, we still had no exit strategy in place.

Several times over the years, this SAHD thing has kicked me in the butt. And I have wondered lots of times along the way if I was the man for the job. But it never seemed like a good time to pack it in and no job offer ever fell in my lap that would pay the same money that The Boss Lady was bringing home. Only once or twice have I actively gone out looking. But the best option always seemed for me to keep on as a Stay at Homer.

Before The Princess was born, I realized that I was pretty much in this SAHD thing for the long haul. I would be with them full time at least until they were set up in elementary school. Now, that day will be here in 3 and a half months. But the reality is, I am not going anywhere.

The Boss Lady works too far from the house to come back for forgotten lunches and after school club meetings. Besides that, she has 700 kids to worry about each school day. So I think that stuff is going to continue to be mine to cover. Plus, one of us is going to have to be available for last minute sick kids and days off from school. Seems like my calendar is filling up quickly.

So the short answer: I am not going anywhere. The Princess will be off at school with her big brother. And if you need me, you'll be able to get hold of me right here, at home. Where I belong.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A public service announcement

Just want to keep you guys safe, with the latest information on hand.