Welcome to One-Quarter Acres

Here's a chronicle of life on a plot of land right smack in the suburbs in Minnesota, whose owners would much prefer to be in the middle of nowhere.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chicken ladies in the hen hizz-ouse

Staying up really, really late one night paid off when I was able to jump on an offer through the Twin Cities Chickens on a cheap-or-for-trade coop. I ended up trading handmade soap and a bunch of canned goods for this nice coop to the right. It's not winterized (yet) and there's not a good way to enclose them for the night beyond making sure they're in the coop/run, but it's great for two hens (which is what I can have in my city without a permit) and a great start, too.

The ladies themselves came from Craigslist. A woman was picking out what birds she wanted to take to the fair and which would stay, and had some year-old Buff Orpingtons that she wanted to find homes for so that she could keep some of the younger birds. While Partridge Cochins were tempting, ultimately, I went with the Buff Orpingtons because they were already laying and are better layers in general. When you only have two hens and you want some eggs, you gotta get a breed serious about their egg-laying.

The ladies aren't too thrilled with our dog, kids, or me, and didn't want me going all paparazzi on them, but I managed to snap this picture of Beatrice (on the left) and Mabel (on the right). I think that's who is who. My husband decided that the fatter one is Mabel and, thus, the skinnier one is Beatrice. Beatrice had a bit of an adventure today when my dad let the dog out of the house when the back gate happened to be open. It took three adults and a pint-sized neighbor boy to corral her, which the neighbor boy eventually did. I told him he'd have to come visit our chickens sometime, and he seemed eager to do so. This, however, emphasizes the need to put a wee bit of fencing between our garage and the neighbor's fence, as that is prime small-creature escape-route area.

The ladies had a nice dinner of our leftover dinner. I hope they sleep well, and that someone leaves me an egg tomorrow (preferably in a spot I can access easily).

The "farm," she grows!

My brilliant idea this year was to move the tomatoes and green beans out of my three (little) raised beds and into containers. They've been growing like crazy on the driveway, which I have renamed the "toma-patio." The green beans are very happy in their big storage bin, and they are also not climbing all over my other plants. A big win all around!

There's an amazing number of blossoms on my cucumbers, melon, and winters squash plants. I have high hopes.

This year is the first I've grown garlic, and that has been fun, since it's so enthusiastic and the first thing out of the ground when it gets a little warmer. I'm also growing malabar spinach, which is neither a malabar nor a spinach, and I am mildly frightened of it, as it found its trellis all by itself, even being several inches away. My daughter (four years old today; how time flies!) likes pulling leaves off and making a "leaf sandwich" and chomping it down while meandering through the yard.

Potatoes are new for me, as well. I built a couple of potato towers. Unfortunately, I ran out of compost and straw before I ran out of room in the cylinders of fencing, but I have high hopes that I will at least get a few potatoes out of them.

My grape vines are growing wildly, and I need to prune them. I need to read up on how the heck to prune them, first. I don't think I'll get grapes from the red table grape, as that died all the way down to the ground this winter, but maybe more than one tiny bunch of concord grapes will develop.

I wish I could say I've been eating all sorts of greens from my garden for awhile, but I think greens hate me. I had ONE spinach plant, total. There's some bolt-resistant Romaine growing well, but I think that the heat we're having now might lower its resistance and bolting is imminent. I had horrible germination with beets (two are growing), carrots (five), and chard (two). The happiest plants, as always, seem to be beans and anything I have nothing to do with starting the seeds of.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chicks love me

Me and Pippi, Frances, and Katy
have a special bond. (Photo
courtesy their mama.)
My friend Karen (of mamalooma) is living the chicken dream. Whereas I promised myself last year that 2010 would be the year of the chickens, I did not achieve that goal, and I still haven't worked up the guts to apply for a chicken permit. Part of it is because I resent having to jump through hoops and appear in front of a city council to justify using my own land for my own purposes. But it's mostly that I have a terrible fear of authority figures, even if they're just councilpeople in a rather small city, and do not wish to be publicly humiliated. I am afraid there's some neighbor out there within the 300 feet of the corners of my property who has a life-long phobia of chickens and will protest vehemently, and I will be able to do nothing but cry.

But Karen has jumped right in. Granted, she lives in a different, chicken-friendly city, but it's still quite the plunge. Today I had the privilege of meeting her little ladies: Pippi, a Barred Rock; Frances, a Silver-Laced Wyandotte; and Katy, a Rhode Island Red. Katy's the assertive, adventurous one of the bunch and Pippi's the runt. Frances likes to peck me. But they all seem to love me. Just call me the chicken whisperer. Pippi quickly hopped into my lap, and when I told Frances that she could come up, too, she did so, with Katy not far behind. Instead of pecking the ground, they snuggled me.

Attempts at getting a neighborhood robin to join us was not met with success.

And I saw a giant earthworm and freaked out.

However, I remain very impressed with Karen's cute little urban garden and her even cuter soon-to-be-finished chicken coop. I hope I will get to visit her ladies often, and think I'll bring them some (much less frightening) tiny worms next time I visit.

Friday, May 13, 2011

"Dandylion" cordial using child labor

You see weeds; I see liquor.
My daughter is entranced by "dandylions." She's been providing me with a steady stream of bouquets, which are being plunked into mason jars and placed on the dinner table. It's a good thing, because our beautiful suburban lawn is inhabited by as many plants in the weed category as those in the grass category (though, between you and me and everyone else, my heart is with the LessLawn folks so it doesn't bother me one bit). Dandelions keep this little girl occupied for a very long time.

My helper's always
near-at-hand bucket.
Today I decided to take advantage of the combination of her love of dandelions and her love of helping after seeing a recipe for dandelion cordial. I had a whole (two) lawn(s) full of blooms and half of an enormous bottle of the very same Prairie vodka; it must be fate. My helper grabbed her bucket and tore heads off of dandelions like she'd been doing it all her life. I helped in between taking pictures and calling to the dog to get her to stay in the yard, and the bucket quickly filled with the smell of spring.
Free-range booze.

The blogger who posted the recipe suggests drinking dandelion cordial with tonic water and lemon. I'll let you know in six weeks if this is a good idea, or if I am very upset at sacrificing my lovely vodka for this little adventure.

In other news...

The garden was partly planted with lettuce, spinach, rainbow chard, beets, carrots, and snap peas several weeks ago, and the seedlings are finally, gradually emerging from the ground. I am very eager to get everything else in, and also for Minnesota to decide it would like to get warm and stay warm (and sunny, too, please). I already have a farmer tan going on, at least.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A taste

We are alive and kicking. We made it through the long winter (I cannot resist a Laura Ingalls Wilder reference, inappropriately used or not) intact, and we didn't even have to grind our own flour using a coffee mill or braid strands of straw for "firewood." Comparatively, it was pretty darn comfortable, despite the enormous amounts of snow.

I was overjoyed when the temperatures began to shift and we got above freezing during the day, because this year I was determined to tap our two maple trees. One of my favorite places ever, Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply (could there possibly be a store more suited to me?), had sugaring equipment. I bought a package of four spiles (those things you tap into a tree to help in collecting sap), waited anxiously for the weather to warm, and tapped those suckers as soon as I could. One-gallon jugs were used to collect the sap, and this worked well, despite some mishaps. It took a few days to work out the kinks in the system.

I will share more soon, once I have photos of the finished product. For now, let it be known that it is very possible indeed to make the maples in your front yard work for their room and board.


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