Long Overdue Update

Long Overdue Update

We had a really crazy spring here at the homestead. The weather was very mild as we planted seeds in starter trays, watched the new chicks grow and got a new colony of bees ordered. We had been talking about adding another raised garden bed out back, and were starting to draw up some plans when we got wind of a new community garden space opening just down the street. After visiting and getting some info, we learned that we could get a 10’x20′ tilled plot with water for $35/yr! We decided to give it a shot and get to know our local gardening community.

 

We got everything planted, and off to a great start! And then……

 

…A freak hailstorm rolled in, demolishing all of the sweet seedlings in the garden, breaking windows on the front of the house and causing roof damage. We had to regroup and purchase new plants, meet with the roofing contractor and get the garden back on track. IMG_20170513_120425

About a week after we got everything replanted, we had one last snow storm, but got all of the plants covered just in time!

 

Since we have this huge community space, we decided to plant a couple varieties of potatos in the raised bed and the hay bale bed at the house. We are really looking forward to this harvest 🙂

In May we introduced the young white plymouth rocks into the big coop…and soon discovered we had a roo!

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One of the downsides to living in an urban area is that we are not allowed to keep roosters. We found a lovely retired couple in a rural area that keep a small flock of free range birds, and having just lost their rooster, were very excited to add our sweet boy to their flock.

We added some window boxes on the fence out front, and our various wildflowers are starting to burst with color. The bees have been hard a work, and we seem to be on track for a good honey harvest this year.

 

The roof on the house has been replaced, and the windows are fixed. Everything seems to be growing strong, and we’ve already been enjoying fresh greens and a few peppers from the garden. Now that everything seems to be back on track, we’ll be better about sharing updates!

18815417_10155261284933190_7922172169154941349_oThe littlest member of our rescue pack, “Abbey”, wishes you all a relaxing and safe holiday weekend!

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Spring Is Here, Must Be Time For New Chicks!

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This has been one of the weirdest winters in Colorado that I remember. It snowed twice this winter, well, almost two and a half times including last weeks “storm” that lead to cold rain and no flakes here at the homestead (we were due for 7″ of snow).

As I was tending to the some yard work today after breakfast with the family, K was out running errands that included picking up chicken feed for our three Barred Plymouth Rock hens that have been featured before. As some of you may realize, spring is also baby chick season at feeds stores. I received a phone call from K just as I had wrapped up cleaning out the chicken coop and run. She had stumbled upon some great looking white Plymouth Rock chicks and decided we were getting three of them. Now in all fairness, I am never upset to see more animals living with us, and when I designed and built our new coop last year I had purposely decided to build it big enough that it could comfortably house at least six hens total in the future. We had discussed adding more birds this year, but figured since we have a hard time using the eggs we already get every week that it was not necessary, but come on, who says no to more chickens?

I had saved a bunch of material from the coop build so had lots of scrape wood around and a few tools to build a brooder on the quick. About 15 minutes later, we had our new brooder built and ready just as K was pulling back into the driveway. Perfect timing and zero added cost to replace the brooder. We had used one two years ago on the Barred chicks that I made out of an old plastic tub. At some point over the last two years it had fallen off of a shelf in the garage and was cracked so we needed a new one anyway.

It was a lot of fun to throw this together and prep our spare bedroom to house chicks again. When we set out on this adventure to create our urban tiny homestead we always knew that this would be a part of the process. We already had three healthy, great and frequent layers, but I have little doubt that we won’t have a hard time spreading around the extra eggs to friends, family and neighbors. We are really excited to be able to add to our flock and to get to enjoy the peeps, the smells, and the stress of watching three little girls grow out into feathered pullets as we anxiously await the first eggs from these new girls.

I am going to try and be a bit more active on keeping people up to date on our progress and goings on, stay tuned for a few new projects and other things we have been working on this past winter. As always, any questions, comments or other ramblings are always welcome. Feel free to reach out to us, we love hearing from other people that share our interests.

A&K, AK Urban Homestead

Grapes Galore!

What do you do when a friend texts you and says she has a bunch of Concord grapes she needs to get rid of from her yard, and wants to know if you want them for your chickens? You say YES!

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Last Sunday, I went to my friend’s house to pick up the grapes. When I arrived, I was shocked at how full her vines were. We grabbed bags and started picking. 4 full grocery bags later, I knew I needed to come up with some uses for these juicy beauties in addition to treating the feathered ladies.

Out of curiosity, I weighed my bounty when I got home: 14 lbs!!!!! Time for juice and jelly! After setting aside 4 lbs for the chickens, removing the stems and leaves from the rest of grapes, and giving them a good wash, I set apart the grapes for juice and jelly, and got to work mashing and simmering.

Here are the recipes I used:

Grape Jelly: http://www.pickyourown.org/grapejelly.htm  *Note: I also used the no sugar pectin and the lesser amount of sugar.

Grape Juice: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/making_grape_juice/

I admit that I got a little impatient with the juice straining through the cheese cloth, so I busted out my juicer. This resulted in A walking into the kitchen as I’m trying to hold an unbalanced juicer on the counter as grape seeds were shooting out of the port on the lid. It was a pretty hilarious reminder to be patient and trust in the process!

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Remember, even if you don’t grow something yourself, there are still lots of ways to make your own delicious eats from the gardens of family and friends, or from your local farmers markets.

Cheers!

~K

P.S. The chickens were so thrilled with their grapes!

Building A Better Coop On a Budget

Building A Better Coop On a Budget

Our chickens were in desperate need of a more substantial and safer coop/run combo. When we first started keeping chickens, money was tight, we still had lots to figure out, and we gave it our best. We found a used big box store chicken coop from a local online chicken keeping group for pretty cheap, built a PVC run around it for security and moved on. Then winter in Colorado happened. The poor mass manufactured coop and PVC run did their best to keep the ladies safe and enclosed. We had a tree branch (about 200+ lbs) come down in a storm and land directly on the run and coop. They both survived the beating, and the chickens were just fine. 20160904_113018.jpgThe PVC run used to cover the factory coop is shown. The condition of the the overall enclosure and coop was not great. But it did its job.

We were fairly certain the coop and run combo we currently had would not survive another winter, and may take the birds out with it. I was able to take about a dozen pieces of almost new 2×4 lumber, as well as 11 full sheets of OSB plywood home from work for free, so it was time to get this project started. I did not use any plans, I am not a carpenter, and only have what I would consider hobbyist level tools available. After looking at several examples of the coop and run combo I knew I wanted, it was time to start drawing and mocking up the structure.

Once we had decided on the basic layout, size, and nesting box design we moved forward pretty quickly. We kept the table saw, compound miter, and drill/impact drivers busy for a couple days getting everything cut and assembled. We chose the patio as our assembly location. It became apparent that as we continued, this thing would only become heavy and more awkward to move about 100 or so feet across the yard to where the chickens live, so we decided to keep paint to a minimum and not attach the roof at until it was in it’s final location. We also did not hang the people door until after it was moved to make sure it would open and close properly.

As paint went on, and the structure took shape it was time to figure out how to get this beast across the yard. We have a hard time asking for help, that is part of what attracts us to projects like these that allows us to be that much more self sufficient. We decided that we wouldn’t want to flex the framing too much while lifting it, and dragging it would damage the the bottom framework once we got to the gravel part of the yard.  We ended laying plywood and these plastic slip sheets to build a “runway” of sorts and drag/pull/push the whole unit across the yard. It ended up being much easier than we had thought it would be.

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Sliding/pulling the structure was much easier than we anticipated

To be able make this project fit our mission of sustainability was great. All but a minimal amount of the wood material was reused from a taken apart shipping crate at work. We also used as much scrap and cut pieces as possible wherever they would fit. This helped keep the cost down significantly, but it also limits our impact on the environment as well.

We learned a lot on this project, it was the largest build that either A or K had attempted to date. There are things we would have done differently now, mistakes that could have been avoided, and a couple design changes would be made if it was all to be done over. After all, this project was necessary so it had to be done right, on a (very) limited budget, while we also wanted it to be as user friendly as a finished coop for us as possible. This coop run combo is much more secure, will be easier to clean, gathering eggs every daily is much simpler, and opening and closing the door is a breeze now. We are excited to show off what we accomplished, but we also are here to help anyone thinking of something similar in anyway we can.

Last but not least, here is the finished product. K made us a new sign to welcome the ladies into their new home.

 

Thank you for reading, please reach out with any questions!

#doityourself

Spring has sprung!

As we continue the battle against wet and cold weather, it’s time to start planting. We have some starters that are outgrowing the indoor greenhouse so it’s time to turn the soil. What better way to do so than with free (almost) labor?

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The girls cruised around for about an hour in this raised bed and had a blast. They turned everything over about 5-6 inches deep and fed on lots of weeds and insects. We want to be careful about the amount of waste they leave in the garden on the field trips. Chicken manure is extremely valuable as a fertilizer, but when its fresh it can be harmful. Chicken poop is very high in nitrogen and can burn plants if it has not been cured (aged) before use. We keep two large trash cans near the runs, as soon as one has filled up, we let it age for as long as we can, turning it once a week while filling the other. As soon as it is empty, or the other one is full, we switch.

Dinosaur parade!

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I’m sure we get some weird looks from the neighbors as the ladies follow along behind us in the yard looking for their next meal.

 

Cheers!

AK

A bit of background

Upon returning to Colorado in 2015, we decided to make an effort to provide for ourselves in as many ways as possible. We have always kept a garden when living conditions allowed. We shop local, read labels and make informed decisions about what we purchase. We wanted to see how much we could produce on our own with limited space in an urban setting. We have a 1/4 acre yard that has become our hobby farm.

It all started here…..

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We raised three Barred Rock hens from a local feed store. To our surprise, hand raising chicks was time consuming, earned us some weird looks from friends and family, and was ultimately a lot more fun than we had anticipated. Funny little creatures.

They eventually grew out to be too big for the brooder, but too small to be alright alone outside. After finding a deal on a previously loved coop, it was time to start a coop remodel and move the little dinosaurs outside.

After what seemed like months……

It finally happened! All of our hard work, time, feed costs etc, lead to our first egg. It was tiny, dirty, and made a delicious breakfast.

So here we are. We are now getting over a dozen eggs a week between the three girls.chickens are cheap. Hatchlings can be found for under $4 a bird. It costs us about around $13 a month in feed, the coop is paid for, minimal energy costs for a heated waterer in the winter. We end up giving a lot of eggs away to friends and family. We also compost and age chicken manure which we use as fertilizer and mulch for the gardens. It has ultimately been a rewarding experience and just one step in being able to provide for ourselves and others. Next step, bees!

Thanks for reading,

 

AK