Life is Good, Inc

As I type this, I’m sitting on the grass in the chicken yard, watching the girls hunting and scratching and pecking. There’s a pretty good wind up that’s ruffling and blowing their pants feathers around, and which occasionally freaks them out just a bit when it gusts up strongly.

They’re testing out their wings, leaping into the air and flying all of about 5 feet, usually landing squarely on top of one of their sisters, sometimes looking like little airborne hockey players doing fancy stops as they come in for a bit of a sideways landing.

Birds are singing, grass is growing, flowers are blooming, bees are buzzing. It’s pretty idyllic, apart from the passing cars. Life is good. The dogs have elk antlers to chew on. They’re happy and lying around in the grass, too.

The chicken yard is 3/4 fenced, with the final side presenting a small problem of being behind a raised flower bed. No burying of the hardware cloth there, but I’ll still string it up. I’d intended to bury the cloth a foot deep on the three other sides, but as I spent a couple of days digging the trench, found I only had enough energy for about six inches of trenching. There were rocks and tree roots and cement fence pole posts and although I cursed myself for giving up, it’s what I’ve got in me. Dear predators – please don’t be too tenacious.

Mike’s helping me put the deer netting up for the aerial protection, and is hauling dirt to help fill in the remaining low spots in the trench and in the yard. I’m contemplating running an electrical wire around the outside of the fencing as further critter deterrent.

The first day I started hanging the 1/4″ hardware cloth, I was having a heck of a time with it. Wire and wire fencing is a bitch. It is sharp, stubborn, stiff and other words that begin with “s.”  It’s unpleasant to work with and will take out an eye if one fails to respect it for too long. It was cold and windy and beginning to rain, and there I was, trying to hang the stupid fencing and get it reasonably attached to the existing chainlink.

We have very nice neighbors on each side. Dave and Judy to the East, Cort and Sally to the West. As I was digging the trench, Dave and Judy came over to see what I was up to and to meet the chickens. They inquired, as they usually do, about when we’re going to mow the yard next. Dave and Judy are very concerned about lawns and their length.

They’ve helped us out a couple of times with yard-and-home-related things, since we’re new at this, and I hop we can help them with things as time passes, too. They’re very much dog people, too, which is nice, but Bell likes to bark extremely loudly at their dogs, and occasionally crosses the invisible fenceline to engage them. This is the strongest contender for Neighborly Issues, I think, even over the lawn.

Later on, as I was struggling with the fencing itself, Cort came out to mow his yard. We waved, and after a time he stopped the tractor and came over to chat.

“Do you have all the tools you need to work on this?” he asked.

“Man, I don’t even know what tools I need to work on this.” We laughed. I know how to deal with chain-link fence, not this tiny, brittle crap. He had absolutely no advice to offer, either, and asked if I had something to cut it with (I did.) He assessed the sharpness of the edges with an “ouch,” reiterated his offer of tools and went back to mowing his yard. Cort and Sally do not care about the state of our yard, happily; they’re more in tune with our way of thinking – mow it when you have to. I like each of our neighbors, but, not being an immensely social person, I don’t really make an effort to do… whatever it is neighbors do together. I hope they think well of us, though.

I hope they do not mind chickens, and that they enjoy eating eggs.

I sometimes curse being an only child, because I am not very good at day-to-day human relations with people who are around a lot. I am largely reclusive.

So, I think about animals, and plants, and writing, and movies and photography.

If we can find a reasonable way to convert some of this grass into Not Grass, I think we probably will. Native wildflower seeds are really pricey in bulk, as it turns out, and I think Dave and Judy would have a complete fit were we to just let it go wild on its own. In the interest of good relations, I’m bearing them in mind.

Over the weekend, I am going to finish getting the netting up, securing the gate and running at least temporary power for the heat lamp into the dog house so I can move the ladies out here full-time. They’ve sooo outgrown the half-shell dog crate. While they don’t have to duck to move around, it won’t be long before they do. They must be incredibly bored, sitting confined in the same space for the vast majority of their days and nights.

We have fun out in the yard, though, even though they completely forget to drink any water the whole time. Several of them will come and seek me out, perching on my leg or head for pets for awhile (or maybe just to warm up their chilly little feet) and then go back about their business. Just as the crate seemed vast and huge when they were a day old, the chicken yard seems enormous at their current size.

They’re about the size of crows now, remarkably. They’re much less skittish about being handled, but most need to be in the right mood to enjoy it. Gia, however, remains my little cuddle chicken. I was astonished when, two days ago, Henry climbed up into my lap while we were in the yard and settled in for a long petting.

Every day I don’t work on their enclosure is a day they’re bored in the basement, so I’m motivated to get this done. I think things are sufficient to ward off casual interest from the fox… maybe… but the lack of full overhead protection leaves too much at risk to have them outside unattended for long. I’ve seen plenty of hawks around, and know how opportunistic they can be. I just hope the deer netting is strong enough a deterrent.

Also in the works for the weekend, getting the pallet compost bin thrown together so I can get the smelly bucket of kitchen scraps off the deck. I don’t predict great compost success this first year, but meh – it’s better than going into the landfill.

Also on the “not success” list – a bunch of the seedlings. I placed the grow lights too high, resulting in very leggy and unstable plants. I planted the cucumbers and squash too early, and now they’re probably unhappy in their little peat pots, but it’s still a wee bit too cold at night to put them outside. As a result, they are yellowing and droopy. The tomatoes have no idea how to stand up straight. The lettuce is a train wreck. The celery, nearly a complete failure.

I’ve learned a lot.

Some of these (like the lettuces and celery) I can replant, some (like the ungerminated peppers) are a complete write-off. Others, like the broccoli and the onions, are an unknown. Maybe they’ll bounce back when they get into the Real Ground. I’ve been fertilizing lightly once per week with an organic fish and seaweed mixture that smells like death and hell.

For right now, the sun is setting and it’s getting chilly. I’m going to spend 10 minutes herding the girls into the cat carrier and put them into gorge on their feed for 20 minutes straight., Inc

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Chickens, Composting, First Weeks, Gardening, Housing , , ,

3 responses to Life is Good

  1. Sarah

    The first sentence makes it sound like your chickens are out there typing with you, only they’re not as good at it as you are. 😀

    Isn’t it amazing how quickly they grow?

  2. That is coming along amazingly well. A tad jealous of your ambition to get these things done.

    I was looking into raising ducks, however I fear regardless of what the circa 1970’s books say, they would truly be unhappy without a decent sized pond.

    • Erin D.

      I’m kind of amazed that I’ve found the energy, too – I think a lot of it is getting the gluten out of my system. And I agree about the ducks – I think they’re happiest when they have some kind of water, and kiddie pools just don’t cut it, imho.

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