Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Nose Knows

You may not know it, but I used to be the Seattle Tilth Chicken Lady. Meaning I was the Coordinator for that program. I actually got into it because I wanted to keep chickens in my backyard. Now I just like showing people that even a nerd like me can do it and that it is easy. You can still take classes about City Chickens, as well as, goat herding and beekeeping at Seattle Tilth!

Today, we will be talking about cleaning out the coop.

When you keep animals, you must keep their enclosures clean. Chickens are pretty stinky critters. So when their coop begins to start smelling... Well, like a coop I have a couple of choices on what I will do.

Some people clean their chicken coops obsessively. I knew of a woman that went out into her coop and cleaned it daily. Meaning she swept every stray bit of poop up and replaced the litter daily. Some people clean once a week or once a month. I am a lazy person. I clean the coop when my nose tells me I need to clean the coop.

Don't get me wrong, I will throw down a bucket or two of fresh bedding on top of the soiled bedding once a week to cut down on flies and smells, but if the smell doesn't get to me at 20 feet, I ain't gonna clean the coop. Truthfully, chickens don't care. They are not fastidious creatures. They poop in their own water. Trust me. They don't care.

Once it gets to the point that the coop needs a cleaning, you can tell. It makes you want to clean the coop. You can hardly wait to clean the coop. You daydream at work about cleaning the coop! If the bedding stays dry generally smell is pretty nil. But once it gets wet, that poop and bedding begin to, let's say, ripen.

I let the girls wander around the yard and get the mucking out tools. Usually a shovel, a rake, a broom and a garbage can or big tub.

I put on the Wellingtons, put my hair up and go to town, figuratively speaking. I actually go into the coop and start from the corners and move my way to the center then out the door.

As you can see by some of my photos, my coop was put together with bits and pieces of things I found in free piles and from some of the houses being built in the neighborhood. All together I think it cost me about twenty bucks for a few 2 by 4s and the hinges and locks.

 Anyways, cleaning out the coop and re-bedding it with cheap pine shavings takes me about an hour, depending on how thorough I want to be, Most of the time, not that thorough. I take the time to knock cobwebs out of the corners because the chickens love chasing after the spider and moths. Once they start laying I will take time to clean out their nest boxes.

After I get all the bedding and poop out of the coop, I throw it into my Seattle composter and compost it. Chicken poop makes AWESOME compost! I am a bona-fide Master Composter (I used to even be the volunteer coordinator for that program). I even gots me a certificate proving it around here somewhere! If you want to be a Master Composter yourself you can find info on the program through Seattle Tilth here.

It is up to each individual person how clean they want their coops to be. I say be a good neighbor. If you can smell it, there is a good chance your neighbor can too. Chickens are pretty happy as long as they are warm and dry and get to scratch in the yard a little everyday. The cleaning of the coop is mainly for us humans. I clean the coop to be a good neighbor and to use their waste as compost for my vegetable garden.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pictures From The Garden


Potatoes are a tuber. Hell, everyone knows what a potato is. When we are children we make alarm clocks out of them in science class: 

We made potato stamps and decorated Christmas wrapping. And if we were lucky we made a potato gun!

I do not condone potato violence.

They don't grow on a root system like peanuts or as a root like a beet. They grow on the actual stalk of the potato plant that is covered with soil I believe I explained it all in a previous post...(Yup, I did right here. So I wont bother going over it again).  It's kinda cool!
1. Plant the potatoes.

I like potatoes mainly because they are easy to grow and fun to dig up and store well. I like just about anything that I can store for any period of time just by placing them someplace cool and dark. They also tend to taste sweeter when they are first dug up.
2. Let the potatoes grow.

Kids love potatoes because they can stick there hands in the soil and come up with dinner. It satisfies the hunter/gatherer in all of us and gives even the oldest of us a little thrill when we pull them out of the ground!

3. Plant the potatoes.

The chickens are getting quite big and are pretty much ready to allow out in the yard. I am still leery about letting them roam about when I am not around and of course they never want to go back into their pen so I have to chase them in every night.

Have you ever chased a chicken?
They are surprisingly fast little



Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Farm Dreams

I have always liked the idea of self-sufficiency.

I admire people who work smaller family farms, not as a hobby, but as a living. I don't romanticize it in any way. I know that it is hard, back breaking, tiring work. It is something that I dream of doing and hope to be able to do in the future.

I am not some idealistic boho chick who would like to own a gentleman hobby farm. I want to work land and feed myself and others off of it. I want to have some livestock for eggs, milk and meat. I want to grow vegetables.  I want to learn how to feed myself and, in the process, others.

I am always impressed by those who have the opportunity to do it and then do. So I am sharing the video below! This is a short documentary by Andrew Plotsky’s on Farmstead Meatsmith based in Vashon Island, WA. 

According to their website

"Farmstead Meatsmith is a personal abattoir, butchery and charcuterie service for small farms and homesteads in the Puget Sound region.  We specialize in educating farmers in the preparation of their animals for full culinary use, from grass to butcher block to table.
We practice traditional methods of slaughter, butchery and charcuterie.  Therefore, our focus is to ensure that nothing is wasted.  Each step of the process reflects this goal, resulting in what is simultaneously the most delicious and thrifty option for filling your larder."
Please note before you watch the video, it IS graphic. This does show the slaughtering and butchering of a hog. DO NOT WATCH IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE TO SUCH THINGS. If you do watch and are disturbed, do not come bitching to me.

I had hoped to take their Hog Slaughter class on May 8th, but I may not make it partially due to my back and partially due to that lack of interest in the class at this point. I emailed back and forth with Lauren Sheard, one of the owner/operator of Farmstead Meatsmith, and was told that their other classes tend to fill up. But there did not seem to be as big of an interest in this particular class. 

Their next class is the following weekend in Maple Valley, WA. This is their Harvesting Two Pigs class and you have the option of taking one class over the weekend or two. You can find more information on their website.