Tag Archives: world’s biggest nerd

Ba-Gock: Introducing Chickens to Our Backyard

Aren’t we just full of big projects? Many people already know Krista & I have been “planning” to add a backyard flock to our house since forever. I mean, that was part of the reason that we bought a house at all, and part of the reason we bought the house that we bought. Our house is magically in a one square block pocket of the city that is not incorporated (NO anti-urban farm regulations here!) so we can build an egg empire if we so choose. But as with all things, life gets in the way. With all the raised garden bed building and bee keeping frenzy of last year, our chicken coop never materialized. This week, our dear friends forced our hand to throw in on a chick order & build some coops together. Frankly, with all the eggs on our table these days, we’d be fools to put this off another year. So please, let me introduce you to the breeds we’re ordering this year.

CLOCKWISE FROM UPPER LEFT: buff orpington, barred plymouth rock, easter egger, white leghorn, that’s not a real chicken, and welsummer

We picked each breed for a different reason, but they are all pretty, hardy and productive. They will lay a variety of egg colors to keep things interesting. Levi read a library book about chickens and specifically requested the buff orphington when we first hatched this scheme years ago. So we had to get one for him.

Now, we only need to train the attack dogs to leave them alone.

When I was a teenager, I had a very failed flock of guinea hens who were picked off quickly by predators thanks to my completely inadequate coop. I do want to publicly thank my dad for telling me that they “escaped” and ran away. I appreciate the kindness of that little lie. My bestie Rayshell had a family flock of chickens for years, but they were not beloved family pets. They were not friendly and really stupid!! I grew up in a rural area, so almost all of my neighbors had chickens and I remember feeding & collecting eggs when our neighbors went on vacation. I have read many, many books from the library about chickens, because I’m that kind of nerd. And that, my friends, is the extent of my chicken-rearing knowledge!

questions i know you will ask:

why are you getting chickens?
This is like asking me why I’m a vegetarian. All of the Reasons! Every reason to get chickens (except eating them) is why we are doing it. Eggs! Localizing our protein supply, food security, economic reasons, entertainment value, a very steady compost supply, food safety issues (no one will recall our eggs), organic food and higher nutrition, we don’t have enough hobbies to fill our time, bug and weed control, etc. Homegrown eggs are rumored to be lower in cholesterol and higher in various nutrients. I’m no food scientist, but it just makes sense. It’s really not a new idea. People have had backyard chickens forever.

how many chickens are you getting?
We’re starting with five and plan to add a couple every year like diversifying a stock portfolio.

i thought you were vegan?
yes, we have a lot of years of veganism under our collective belts and we can bake some mean vegan cupcakes, but having a supremely local, cheap, unprocessed, organic protein source is more important to us at this point. Not every vegan needs to run out and get chickens as mandated by me (obviously I don’t make decisions for other people), but it’s the right choice for our family right now. I still consider veganism to be a superior dietary choice to mindless, unconscious, over-processed food choices. Just sayin, this isn’t a mindless, “trendy” decision for us.

where are you ordering from?
My Pet Chicken. Many hatcheries require orders of 25 birds, but they ship as few as 3.

can i come visit your chickens?
yes, please do! we can watch Chicken TV together!

if i visit, may i draw/photograph your chickens?
What a ridiculous question. I love art, especially art made by you, especially art of my pets. I will make you dinner if you make chicken art for me. Also, can I hire you to do portraits of my cats and dogs, too?

are you going to post 100 photos, stories and videos about your chickens?
Of course. We love over-sharing.

what are you going to do when they get old and stop laying? will you eat them?
Our vegetarianism doesn’t stop at our backdoor, so we will not eat them. They will age as gracefully or ungracefully as they like in our backyard flock. We already have plenty of worthless pets around, so what’s one (or five) more? The way I figure it, at least they will earn their retirement, unlike dogs and cats, who need to get jobs & pay rent.

what is your chickens’ theme song?
I am so lucky to have such good friends who would ask me such an important question. Our girls will cluck, lay eggs and forage to their theme song:

(I’m going to tell the girls that the parts about slaughter and roasting are fiction. These chickens will live a life never knowing the fate of their brethren.)

Stay tuned. We will document our coop-building experience before the chicks arrive, and then all the precious moments after they arrive. The delivery date is the week of May 16th. We won’t see eggs for weeks/months, but the cuddling and entertainment should make up for it.


Filed under chickens, food, garden, goals, spring

if life is a game, i win

I know everyone probably (hopefully) loves their spouse, but it’s hard to believe that I’m not the most spoiled, pampered, indulged person. First, when we were discussing the garden, Krista said to me, “Just buy whatever seeds you want. We can grow whatever you want. It’s better to have too many seeds.” Do you know what that sounds like to a person who reads seed catalogs for fun? All I could say was, I totally agree and I totally love you.

Then, Krista took it upon herself to learn how to use power tools – table saws, circular saws, drills and other tools I probably don’t even know about – to make a raised bed for our garden. I came home from work and found it in the driveway. And she still had 10 fingers! Then, she built some more.

Isn’t it beautiful?? And you should see how cute she looks in her safety goggles. The beds are all 8′ long, and today Krista measured out all of my seed packets on top of one bed. Seed packages, asparagus crowns, rhubarb roots, and seed potatoes. It’s a little ridiculous that there are more than 8 feet of seed packets in my house, but I’m so thrilled by the seeds we chose.

So, these are the first photos of our 2010 garden. Baby photos, or, like, embryo photos of the garden. I really hope I’m done buying seeds and stuff now. Well, mostly done. You know how it goes.

While Krista may have been a little surprised at the volume of seeds we own now, she didn’t miss a beat. Her reaction was to build a muppet face out of the rhubarb root, an asparagus crown, and a few seed potatoes. This is the sort of thing that affirms your belief in the awesomeness of your marriage. It’s like always being on the winningest team.


Filed under home, marriage, spring, urban farming

Raintree Nursery

In the long last gasping gray days of winter, there is nothing better for your spirits than a visit to a plant nursery. This is the time between the excitement of seed catalogs and putting out your seedlings. So, Sunday afternoon I set out to the Raintree Nursery in southwest Washington, near(ish) Mt St Helens & the Snoqualmie National Forest. I made my shopping list, checked it twice and packed the car with all the provisions it takes for me to travel an hour and a half (mostly, I require coffee and the car requires gasoline).

The entry to the nursery has a lovely stand of bamboo that I was jealous of. Krista & I have discussed adding bamboo to our backyard to muffle traffic noise, but I think will get around to it, oh, around 2033.

This is the retail greenhouse that is open to customers – there are many other greenhouses for staff only. It’s so warm in here. There are thankfully benches so you can rest for a second.

I really loved this container of sepervivum but I don’t think it was for sale. I looked for a price tag. Don’t you want to pet the carpet of moss growing on the pot? It’s so soft.

There is a tropical room inside the greenhouse. It’s even warmer than the main room. It’s full of banana trees (below), stevia plants, and all kinds of other delightful tropical things that are Indoor Pets in the PNW.

There were no citrus plants, even though Raintree sells them. They drop ship their citrus from other growers. It’s understandable – I doubt it’s easy to maintain healthy citrus in the PNW – but it also makes me think I shouldn’t get a lemon tree. If professional nursery people can’t easily grow them in a warm greenhouse, what chance do I have in my frigid house?

I also geeked out on a Belgian fence made from a variety of fruit trees, 15-year old apple trees made into horizontal espaliers, and trellises of kiwis and grapes. The best part was smelling all the blossoms on the fruit trees. The apricots & plums were going full-force, and it was delicious.

I brought home 10 raspberries, 2 blueberries, and 50 strawberry plants. Most of them are dormant, bare root, straight out of cold storage, so they are living in the fridge until I have time to get them in the ground…. hopefully soon! I didn’t take any photos of my loot because it looks like a pile of sticks packed in sawdust, and no one thinks that is interesting, not even me.


Filed under garden, urban farming, winter

I have great faith in a seed.

The sure sign that spring is getting nearer comes in the form of seed catalogs. They start arriving in late winter, right in the middle of your 95th continuous day of gloomy, gray, half sunlight. Some catalogs have beautiful, well-lit photographs that glow with natural, golden, summery light. Some catalogs only have endless columns of descriptions of plants – blight-resistant, beautiful, compact, productive, delicious, luscious foliage, tender, long storage — all things you want in your garden. All of the catalogs are beckoning to you from a time when the days are longer and the sun is stronger. Krista calls them my seed porn. It’s a little bit of a misnomer – they are more like a child’s security blanket.

I drag them along with me when I take a long bath, and I carry them around in my bag. Stuck in line somewhere? Read seed catalogs. Bedtime stories? Seed catalogs. Dinner party conversation? Seed catalogs. Waiting rooms? Seed catalogs. Every moment of free time? Seed catalogs. Did you know you can safely grow pumpkins and butternut squash and they won’t cross-pollinate because they are different species? Seed catalogs.

My priorities this year, like most every year, are heirloom (whatever that means), open-pollinated varieties. My preference leans toward organic seed and non-genetically modified seeds. The most important thing is finding varieties that will grow well in the finicky, short Olympia season. I also try to pick out veggies that will do well in our limited space, and food we actually buy from the grocery store so we will save real money. I’m not growing zucchini this year because we only buy it like once a year. It’s not worth it. And I am sure I can trade for it come late summer if I really need some local zucchini bread. I only buy from “Safe Seed” pledgers.

Then I pick a handful of plants “just because.” Just because they are pretty, sound curious, or seem too interesting to skip. We started with a spreadsheet, checking off the things we must plant (basil! artichokes! brussels sprouts! kale! tomatoes!), and the things we’d like to plant (green tea and lemon grass, for example). Honestly, we probably won’t get to much of the “wish” list this year – the “need” list is just so long.

I’ve already brought home a pile of packets, which you can see on the table up there. From the garden last year, I saved bok choy seeds, and ground cherry seeds. I traded some seeds for black-eyed pea seeds from my longest friend, Andrea. The list of things I still have to buy is quite long, and there are so many questions: Do we need two or three or four kinds of kale? How many kinds of potatoes can fit in my yard??

I spent many hours of Valentine’s day with my bed head, and my charts and graphs and seed catalogs. Thank goodness Krista slept most of the day. When she woke up, I pressed her for answers – This Kind of Pea or That Kind of Pea?? (pointing at a page in the Territorial Catalog) and Please Pick One More Kind of Kale! (stabbing my finger at a different page, covered in inky scribbles and notes). Very Romantic, yes? I think I’m closing in on my final 1 or 2 seed orders. After that, I have to prioritize getting berry bushes in the ground, and then it should be time for the indoor seed starting to commence.

I spent most of Monday in the yard, raking up material into a new compost pile (we have two now!), digging up the rose bushes that didn’t survive the winter, turning the compost, and digging up some broken concrete I found in the backyard. The trendy word for broken concrete is “Urbanite,” like it’s some kind of new mineral. Whatever you call it, though, it’s good enough to make a pathway out of. Krista warned me against digging up the whole yard, implying that I was going to start digging up a pet cemetery. We have no idea what’s buried back there!! So I stopped digging in random places looking for broken concrete, but I’ll probably go back and risk a kitty skeleton or two for the sake of some locally mined urbanite.


Filed under food, urban farming, winter