A Peaceable Kingdom?

I have a new term for the weather we’ve been experiencing the last several days: chicken weather. It has been fantastic weather to be a chicken – a few gigantic, air-snapping, earth-shaking storms have blown through, leaving in their wake new green grasses poking through the brown, cool temperatures, and breezy blue skies that make me think of fall.

It’s good human weather, too. I feel a certain weight lifted off my shoulders – today, at least, I don’t have to worry about our sick chickens also being incredibly heat stressed. I don’t need to make them ice water baths all day or set up the fans or try to get them to eat frozen blueberries. Today, they can peck happily about the backyard, and I can take it a little easier than I have since the beginning of July.

Today also marks me and Chris’ two-year anniversary of our first date. What was our first date, you ask? Lying in a portable hammock on the edge of a farmer’s field in Martinsville, IN, watching the Perseid meteor showers and drinking wine. Pretty epic, right? Two years later, we have a house, two cats, five chickens, and so SO many plans. Life – it is good!

In honor of keeping things simple and low stress, let’s go on a pictorial tour of what chicken weather means at the Space-Farm, shall we?

20120804. Cicada shell and... cicada.

Cicada (not an alien, I promise) and cicada shell on a basil plant.

20120804. Beaker in ecstasy.

Before we could move the coop to its permanent location, the chickens took the chance to have a good bath. Here’s Beaker in ecstasy dust bathing in the dirt.

The chickens were VERY helpful in messing up my beautifully flattened, perfect foundation for the new permanent coop location. We refuse to move that dang coop ever again! They were in such heaven I probably couldn’t have stopped them even if I had had the heart to do so.

And now on to a few of the happy chickens:

20120808. Little Red.

Little Red is growing, although it’s hard to tell.

20120808. Oh, HI THERE.

Oh, HI. I didn’t see you there… You creep.

20120808. Mauled by Easter Eggers.

Near-nightly mauling by the Easter Eggers.

20120812. Honey bees on fennel flowers.

Honey bees and fennel.

20120812. Two-year anniversary of our first date! This was right as Chris was saying, "Do I really have to hold the cake?"

He didn’t like it, but he humored me and let me take this picture. Happy anniversary, boyfriend!

20120812. Honeyed hot peppers and Thomas Jefferson.

The prettiest honeyed hot peppers I have ever made… and Thomas Jefferson.

20120811. Mutant turnips!

It might be time to harvest some of the turnips. GIANTS!

20120811. Sunflower dreams.Happy chicken weather to all, and to all a good night!

RAIN FOR YOU AND ME

Bless you, clouds, for the rain. Keep it coming!

20120727. RAIN CLOUDS.

The chickens are very happy (minus Beaker – you know that last entry where I said I was afraid I’d jinx the girls by posting about them? THE VERY NEXT MORNING, Beaker finally caught what has been going around. She is sequestered in the office with me and still not looking too hot, although she did spend a great portion of today walking in her blueberries and scratching at the pine shavings in her cage. I tried to teach her how to file, but she just pooped on my papers instead).

20120727. Little Red and Boo creepin' yet again.

20120727. Little Red likes being underfoot.

Little Red prefers to be underfoot.

20120727. Dino Puppy and Boo creepin'.

20120727. Boo.

Eyes on the Skies

Lately, we have been a little preoccupied with the weather. First, we got excited about any old cloud that would cross our paths. No rain.

20120715. Nothing falling...

Then, we started obsessively watching the radar and checking the weather reports several times a day. Still no rain.

20120715. Studies in cloud formations...

We even unplugged the extension cords to the chicken fans a few times, to no avail. Still. No. Rain.

20120715. Waiting for rain...

THEN! FINALLY! Last Thursday, not only did it rain, but it poured. The streets were flooded four lanes across, lightning and thunder sizzled and boomed until we were sure our hair should be standing on end, and our rain barrel runneth over.

We and the creatures are happy.

20120715. Tiny praying mantis.

Armed with our renewed sense of hope, we decided to finish planning out our backyard. Mind you, we still have a watering and new landscaping ban in place, but where there was once dead grass and dust on our shoes, there is now greened up weeds and dew in the morning. Surely, our spell of bad luck is over.

Chris’ drawing is quite lovely:

20120720. Backyard planning.

Mine is a little more… free-form. But look! Purple, pink, orange, and yellow plantings circling the bench/picnic table. I love the idea of painting in flowers/plants.

20120720. Backyard planning.

Rain Barrel Installed

Update 2012.02.29: First test of the rain barrel.

Rain barrels are a no-brainer. Why pay for water when it falls from the sky for free? Not only that, rainwater is likely better for your plants than tap water.

We settled on the Algreen Agua 50-gallon rain barrel via Amazon. It looks a bit nicer than a standard food-grade barrel and includes almost everything you need to install it. I say almost because you’ll likely have to buy a gutter elbow or two and some tubing to direct overflow water.

Recommendation:
I strongly recommend elevating the barrel at least a foot and a half off the ground. This will allow the water to drain faster and you’ll be able to put a bucket right under the drain if need be. I used some landscaping pavers that were sitting in a corner of our yard. If those pavers weren’t there already, I probably would have used cinder blocks.

Algreen Agua Rain Barrel

Projects beget projects...like painting the new gutter elbows.

Algreen Agua Rain Barrel

I used two gutter elbows to direct water into the barrel. Also note the hook for the drain hose, which is a nice touch.

The two projections you see in the back of the barrel are for draining overflow water or linking another barrel. I’ll get to those soon.