Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chicken Treats

Typically hens left in a coop will denude every piece of vegetation in sight.  If you are like most urban farmers and unable to allow those happy hens to roam your yard I suggest you supply them with a daily helping of chicken treats.  Now I'm not talking about something you need to go to a high priced pet store for....I'm talking about the greens in your yard!  Every day when we go out to check on our lovely ladies we pull an armful of weeds on our way!  The ladies are always delighted to see us when we bring them these tasty treats.  Greens help increase the vitamin content of the eggs and this is good for you!  You can also supply them with grass clippings if you have not recently treated your lawn.  A good rule of thumb is to complete three mowing cycles and then on the fourth you can go back to giving them to your hens.  They do like a variety and who doesn't have some weeds to catch on the way back to the coop?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Best Way to Cook Bacon

Did you know that you can cook bacon perfectly in the oven?  I love doing it this way.  Use your broiler pan and lay out the bacon.  Its o.k. if they overlap a bit.  Then  throw it in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes give or take dependent on your desired bacon crispness and viola!  The best part....not bacon splatter all over the stove and in the twenty minutes it takes the bacon to cook your pancakes will be ready.  I love it.  MMMM Bacon!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pullet Eggs

One of the coolest things about raising new chickens is finding the very first egg they lay as they transition into an adult laying hen.  Typically called a pullet egg, they are often diminutive in size and special to find.  This one was so tiny and long it just fit in the very bottom of the egg carton!  Each egg your new hen lays will continue to be bigger and bigger until reaching its full size.  Typically I would say it takes about 3-4 eggs to get there.  We are now getting at least 3 eggs a day typically from different hens.  When you have a mixed flock you can definately tell the difference.  I have two older hens that I am very familiar with the size, shape and color of their eggs.  Even in the picture above you can see the variation in the browns and whites.  To me, egg gathering is like getting a special suprise everyday!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Nesting Boxes

When it comes to providing a happy place for your lovely ladies to lay those beautiful eggs it doesn't take a big investment.  These are large nursery pots turned on their sides and stabilized in wooden crates.  I'm sure you can find a refashioned vintage suitcase on Pinterest but these do the trick nicely. I softened them with wood shavings.  You might choose straw or shredded paper.  None of it matters as long as your ladies feel like they have a quiet place to concentrate on their very important work of providing you and your family organic eggs.  Our spring chicks have just started laying their first eggs.  The first half dozen or so are typically smaller than the full sized egg.  They are still just as tasty!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Corn on the Cob

Back on the farm one of my favorite things about summer was the arrival of the sweet corn.  My father always planted several rows of the sweet tasty stuff in with the field corn for the sole purpose of providing the freshest and tastiest corn for our family.  Night after night when the crop was in season we would eat corn on the cob slathered in butter and salt and dripping down our chins.  It was not a chore to put away half a dozen ears.  When I had braces and couldn't eat if off the cob I sat down at the  table with the electric knife and sheered off the sweetness onto my plate. I was not going to miss out due to a technicality.  About mid harvest when my father felt the corn had reached the peak of its sugar he would pick gunny sacks full and bring them to the house. Sometimes my aunts would come to help and we would all sit down and shuck corn for hours on end.  The preferred method for preserving was to freeze.  We would place the cobs on end on a cookie sheet and cut the kernels off with an electric knife.  The juicy goodness was then scooped into freezer bags, labeled and stacked into the freezer for future meals.  This is probably the simplest vegetable freeze you will ever come across.     If you don't have a field of your own, you can often contact one of the sellers at your local farmers market and see if you can purchase it by the bag. could grow your own!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Janey Jumper

Pattern - Janey Jumper by Cottage Mama-sewing pattern janey jumper dress cottage mama
I have been giving this Janey Jumper pattern by Cottage Mama a try.  It is a pretty simple vintage inspired design.  In fact I have a vintage pattern that is very similar.  The variations that I tried did not involve the scallop edges that you see above.  I am not sure how enamored I am with that look so I gave the other renditions a try.  I would bet that after you have the hang of it an experienced sewer could crank one out from pattern cut to finish in an hour and a half.  I have had this pattern in the stash for a month or two but it was this sale ad that spurred me to action:
Super cute!  I think I know what summer is going to look like!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Irrigation Installation: Phase II Main Line

The next step in the installation of your irrigation system is to have the mainline installed.  This is the largest line in your irrigation system and carries water to all of the laterals.  For this installation a pipe puller was called in to do the work.  This is the yellow machine you see below.
Installing the main and laterals in this fashion has many advantages.  The number one being that you do not have to spend hours breaking your back digging trenches.  This machine essentially pulls the pipe through the ground with a combination of force and vibration.  A wire mesh that looks much like one of those Chinese finger traps grabs the end of the line and pulls it trough the earth at precisely the right depth.  The second major advantage is that the surface disturbance is minimal so there is no reseeding of trenches in areas of established vegetation.

While the machine is pulling the pipe  through, someone holds the coil on the other end feeding it as needed.  Its important to note that this machine will pull through just about anything.  Including a shallow electric line.
This is the main electric that feeds my house!  Typically they are much deeper than the depth that the mainline would be pulled in at.  This one was marked and accurate, just not very deep.  My house was built in 1919. While I am sure the electrical has been updated since then, who knows what kind of surface grading has occurred making the line shallower than expected.  You can see below where the electricity arched through this quarter inch steel bar on the pipe puller.  It blew the breaker on the pole in the street and no one got hurt.

So even if you have your lines marked, things can still happen.  The procedure here is to call the electrical company out to do the repair.  While on site doing the repair, they will file a report to decide who is as fault. If the contractor is found to be negligent, they will fine the contractor.  I have no idea if the contractor was fined.  I can definitely confirm he was none to happy about the incident.  I'm sure any fines will cancel the profit he made in my yard.  If you did not get your utilities marked and subsequently caused damage to any of the electrical services you will definitely be fined so remember: Call Before You Dig!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Garden Safely: Utility Locates

Before you do any digging in your yard, you should call for you utility locates.  In Colorado, the quick number is 811.  Its a simple, FREE and important process.  Typically you want to call about 7-10 days before you dig.  An operator will ask you for your address and some questions about the type of work you intend to do.  If you are contracting the work, your contractor should be responsible for this process.  It still does not hurt to make sure he intends to do so. This one phone call will mobilize the major utilities to your residence to mark the utilities with paint and flags. Locates are important for two reasons: 1) to keep you safe! 2) address liability.  If you do not call in locates and you damage a line,  the cost and responsibility is on you!  My house is old.  I have encountered major utilities within 8" of the surface.  These are not typical depths, but grading over the years has changed the lay of the land.  So even if you think you won't be at depths that you would encounter utilities, it does not cost you a thing to make sure this will not be an issue even if you are just planting a shrub!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Irrigation Installation: Phase I Backflow Preventer

After ten years of hose dragging I am ready to join the followers of automated irrigation.  The realization that this half acre property is not going to make the next step to curb side oasis without it is a reality and a battle I am ready to give up.  I am tired of spending every evening pulling hoses and setting the oven timer trying to stay on top the needs of my yard.  I want to play with my 5 year old and go camping without the worry that the yard will be crispy when I get back.  The first step in that process is the installation of a backflow preventer.
In an effort to spread out the costs of the system installation I had mine installed in the fall of last year.  This part of the project must be installed by a licensed plumber.  Its purpose is primarily to prevent the backflow of stagnant or potentially contaminated water from your irrigation system into your household.  The cost was roughly $350.00.

I have a basement so this shut off valve and drain is installed inside in the basement allowing it to gravity drain.  In the fall the valve is turned to the off position as shown and the spigot is opened to allow water to drain out of the outside portion.  This prevents freezing and damage to the back flow in winter.  

The next step in this process will be the installation of the system in the yard.  I am just about giddy with excitement!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Free Motion Fun

I am still experimenting with some of the designs from Free Motion Quilting with Angela Walters.  This baby quilt is pieced of my own design.  Instead of one consistent stitch across the whole quilt I broke it up with some different techniques.
I am still in love with the organic nature of free motion quilting.  I am not  a stay with in the lines kind of gal and don't feel like my stitching needs to be.  I don't mind that the spacing is inconsistent. I am still new at this but have to say I much prefer the inconsistency to rigid spacing.

The best part is that it is fun and fast!  Baby blankets are a great place to experiment and try new things.  They are a short term commitments and you give it away so if you hate it, you don't have to look at it for long!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Get It Done

Lately I have been in a get it done mood.  I feel a feverish need to finish some of those projects that have been sitting around for well, a long time.  I have one that is three years old.   The very sad part is that it was a gift that is now three years late!  Yikes!  I did however have to slip in a baby shower gift.  I found some fun fabric on a recent visit to California that seemed just perfect.  I did not piece this quilt as I wanted to focus on some actual quilting techniques.  The pattern I used comes from Free Motion Quilting with Angela Walters.  This is a great book. I highly recommend it if you are giving free motion quilting a try.  She does a great job of walking you through how to make the patterns.  I recommend sketching the patterns as suggested its worth the time!

My patterns always turn out a bit more organic than those presented in the book.  Bu,t I like them.  They are all mine!  Don't you just love those vintage looking princesses riding a dragon?  This is the stuff of my fairy tale!