I made about two gallons of pickled carrots with jalapeños and onions this afternoon, mostly using this recipe. I doubled all the ingredients but the carrots, because I wasn’t sure how many carrots the recipe called for. I used about 4.75 pounds total (after slicing). I’m not entirely sure how many jalapeños I used, either. Slightly less by volume than there were carrots, I know. Let’s say around 30.
The brine and onions are pink because some of the carrots I used were purple carrots, and the color leached out of them during cooking. The batch filled our white stockpot, which I guess is two gallons. I gave half to my folks and kept half for us. It’s sitting in the fridge now, getting tastier. It should be ready to eat tomorrow, but it’ll probably develop the best flavor over the course of the next few weeks. If it lasts that long. I do like hot pickled carrots.
I spent a fair amount of time today fixing the chickens’ roost—it was in the wrong location, encouraging them to sleep in the draftiest area of their coop, and I think it contributed to them catching colds during the colder/wetter weather. It was also directly outside their nest box area, which meant that the area of the coop with the most droppings was what they were walking through to on their way to lay. Ick. So I crawled in and remodeled this afternoon, moving the high roost to the interior corner, away from drafts and the nest box. I also completed a second nest box on top of the first, with a way for them to get from the low roost into the high box via a little ramp. (There have been … issues with multiple chickens trying to use the same nest box at the same time.)
I just went out there to see how they like the new arrangement. Apparently, they don’t. Trouble and Miss Thing are crammed in between the roof and the top of the upper nest box, pressed against the chicken wire window. Durf is sleeping on the ramp into the upper box. They’re in exactly the same place, only now they don’t have a roost there. What the heck, chickens? Am I going to have to put bricks or something up there to encourage them to try the new roost?
This would make more sense if I had photos, but I didn’t think to take any earlier. Although, hmm… maybe I’ll go back out and take a photo of how they’re sleeping right now.
And now that I see the photos, I think they’re going to be crapping in their water all night. That won’t do. New plan: find a longer piece of 2×2 and make them a perpendicular roost that runs all the way across the interior side of the coop. And then put something on top of the nest boxes so they don’t roost there.
The chickens have laid their first dozen eggs over the course of about a week, maybe 9 days:
I believe that the lightest in color come from Durf, the medium from Trouble, and the dark from Miss Thing. A few of them are cracked at the tip; I suspect this is because they keep scratching all the material out of the nesting boxes before laying, exposing the bare wood. If I can find a plain coir doormat, I may cut liners for the nest boxes out of that and see if it helps.
Apparently the fuss the chickens were making this morning was due to one of them laying her first egg:
I’m very surprised to see that it’s almost exactly the same size and weight (55g) as a large egg from the store. The last time I had chickens, I remember them starting off with undersized and less sturdy eggs–the shells were softer, and the eggs were about half size. Could we have just missed that phase with these chickens? I don’t remember seeing any evidence of eggs, broken or otherwise, in the coop before today. Maybe we just have these chickens on a better diet than the ones we had when I was a kid.
In any case, hooray! They’re finally starting to earn their keep.
Further evidence that if Durf, our Buff Orpington were any dumber, we’d have to water her twice a week: she isn’t bright enough to come in out of the rain. I just went out to make sure the chickens were all locked up in their coop for the night, and found Durf on the perch in the uncovered run area, dripping wet, muttering unhappily. I tried poking her off the perch, and she just sidled away from me. So I lowered the perch to the ground, hoping she’d get the clue and go inside. Nope, she just stood there on the lowered perch, getting rained on. So I had to climb inside the run, pick her up, and put her in the enclosed coop. Where she proceeded to just stand there, occasionally pecking at the ground. I tried lighting a path for her from where she was to the area of the coop with the night-time perches, and she just blinked at me. So I had to get back into the coop and shepherd her into the fully-enclosed area. Eventually, she got the idea, and I heard her hop up onto one of the perches.
But, come on. Sitting in the rain and cold, when there’s a warm perch with the two other chickens not 10 feet away. I worry about Durf. On the one hand, she’s a bully to the other chickens. On the other hand, she’s about as smart as a cabbage. Maybe being a bully is all she has.
The temporary chicken run didn’t work out so well–the wire sides folded over and the top netting sagged enough that Miss Thing managed to get herself tangled up in it and nearly strangled herself. So a more permanent solution was called for. Our more permanent (but still constructed in such a way as to allow for easy reconfiguration) solution involved a whole bunch of 4’x4′ frames made of 2×2 treated lumber and 1×2 welded wire fence, held in place with sturdy stakes and covered with chicken wire stapled to the top.
We haven’t had a car (working or otherwise) in over two years, and we have no plans to get another. We do have plans for a lot more vegetable gardening, though, and the driveway was just taking up space we could be using for more raised beds. So last weekend we took out most of our driveway.
Using only a 6-foot pry bar, a 4-lb hand sledge and chisel, and some 4x4s (plus, later, a borrowed 10-lb sledge to break up the larger chunks once they’d already been lifted out), we got about 3/4 through before deciding to call it a day. We thought we might have to borrow a jackhammer, but it turned out that once we got the first chunk out, it was all possible with proper leverage and hand-chipping.
I think we’re looking at putting in another couple of large beds there, and maybe a wood-fired pizza/bread oven. We’ll see. For now, I still have to find the carbide blade for the sawzall to see if it will work on the last section, which isn’t already cracked at the point where we want to stop pulling it up.
I taught a quick class on basic bicycle maintenance at the Sustainable Ballard festival today, and gave a couple people the houseofcranks.com URL as a place to get notes from the class. Unfortunately, I forgot to add a link to the class notes. And I’m not quite sure how to do that in the site menu, so until I get that working, here’s a link: Bicycle Maintenance 101 class notes
Yesterday was the second anniversary of our somewhat unscheduled switch to a car-free lifestyle. Which is to say, we haven’t owned a working car in two years.
All things considered, I think we’ve done pretty well. We haven’t really used a car much at all since ZipCar and FlexCar merged. We’ve occasionally borrowed my folks’ car for some hardware store errands, but we’ve mostly stuck with the bike and bus of late. And I don’t think it’s been much of a hardship. We do have to plan things more carefully, in general, and it’s a pain when there’s a show out in West Seattle I’d like to go to, but not really enough to want to spring for a cab back. But overall, I’m not regretting not having a car at all.
We’ve chosen where we live well, which helps a lot. There are grocery stores and farmers’ markets within easy bike/bus distance, as well as shopping malls and restaurants and libraries and most other places we’d want to go. With any luck, I’ll get another job within a few miles, otherwise that might be hard. When we bought this house, I expected that I’d be working at the UW more or less forever. And I’m still hoping that’s the case; it’s just less certain.
So, go us! As gas prices rise, that decision is looking better and better.
I haven’t seen a raccoon in our back yard in at least a year, probably more. After we cut some branches out of the tree on the back property line, they seemed to be less interested in hanging out back there. I guess they were just waiting for a reason to come back.
We took the chickens out to the coop in the back yard today with the intent of leaving them overnight. Tonight’s the Great American Backyard Campout, so we figured we could set up a cot or something back there and spend the night by the coop in case anything happened. So we headed out back just now, with the light fading, to see how the chickens were doing. They were freaking out, but they’ve freaked out the last few days when the light starts to fade. They haven’t gotten used to not having an overhead heat lamp on 24/7 yet, I guess.
They were in the fenced run area of the coop, so Cam got in to herd them into the enclosed chicken house area. They flew up onto her head. It’s not as easy to get a small chicken off your head as you might imagine, at least if you don’t want to injure the chicken. They’re pointy, and I think one drew blood on its way up, so I got in to help her out. And that’s when Cam noticed a raccoon at least the size of a five gallon water bottle staring at us from the break in the corner of the fence, about four feet away. The chickens continued to freak out, and some ended up on my head. Taking one for the team, I wrangled the chickens off Cam’s head and onto my own, so she could get out of the coop and retrieve the pet carrier. The raccoon climbed the fence and disappeared, but I’m sure it didn’t go far. Not with those tasty chickens protected only by a layer of chicken wire.
We got the chickens back into the house and put them in their box. Tomorrow, I think we’ll reinforce the coop with a layer of half-inch hardware cloth, dug down a ways to prevent tunneling. We don’t want the chickens’ first night in their real coop to be their last. Stupid raccoons.