Posted by: juliegirl | May 14, 2012

Done list


Here’s the current done list on my pinterest board these days.

Origami in the living room.

Origami Mobile

Chalkboard paint

Kitchen magnets

Paint chip notebooks

Mason jar soap dispenser

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Posted by: juliegirl | May 14, 2012

Hello, Goodbye.

Well, it’s been ages.

And since my hiatus I’ve been busy with a few things. Starting a school, selling my beloved house, and having just enough time to get obsessed with Pinterest. I needed a site to post my pinterest pictures so I hit upon posting them here. Perhaps I’ll even start posting again about backyard-related items.

As I’m starting the process of increasing my curb appeal and putting my house on the market, re-reading these old posts has been sentimental. I miss my sweet house already, even though I haven’t left yet.

Posted by: juliegirl | April 25, 2010

time for a trim

It’s time to finally win the battle over free-flying chickens. Time to clip their wings…literally.

When just a few wing feathers are clipped, chickens don’t have the power to fly high enough. I thought putting the fence up would keep them corralled, but almost every other day I open the back door to a chicken greeting me from the herb bed…pecking and scratching out my cilantro. (They really love that cilantro.) I  have three flyers now–Calcasieu, Lafourche, and Evangeline. (Ascension and Assumption are both big birds–not sure if they could achieve lift off even with their feathers intact.) All three are getting a haircut–TODAY!

First, you turn the chicken upside down. Surprise–this is not completely traumatic. They don’t really mind, and if you cover them with a towel they mind even less. Here’s Evangeline, upside down and ready to go.

You clip the outer 5 wings in half, basically. Some folks say you should clip one wing and not the other so they are off balance. Dr. Pence says clip ’em both, so that’s the deal.

Close up of Evangeline’s feathers

In the picture below, you can see several sets of feathers. The outer feathers (to the left) have a short set and a long set. (On Lafourche you can see the shadow under the short feathers.) You basically cut the first five long feathers (counting from the outside left) down to match the short set of feathers.

Here’s Lafourche’s gorgeous wing. What a beauty!

Lafourche, ready to get clipped.

Clipping the outside feathers.

Posted by: juliegirl | April 13, 2010

gumbo cook-off

Last October, the 2nd Bi-Annual Gumbo Cook-Off was held with much fanfare, and I’m just now getting to post about it. (Kate keeps pictures on her camera a loooong time.)  We called it the 2nd Bi-Annual Gumbo Cook-Off not only because we held our 1st Gumbo Cook off in the spring, just six months earlier, but also because it was such a hit that we can’t wait another year to have our 3rd one. At the first event, Tim and I just cooked up some gumbo and tried it out on a few friends. This time, we made it official and even invited a new cook to join us.

The competitors: Tim with a duck, oyster, and andouille gumbo, Steve and his chicken, andouille, and wild mushroom variety, and me–seafood gumbo. (I tried to include on the judging scorecard the fact that all my gumbo ingredients were local, but Tim was opposed on ethical grounds. He thought the trendiness of being “green” would sway the judges. This is what happens when you host a cook-off with a lawyer. This, and having your ingredient list fact-checked and evidence of your messiness documented.)

So the day began around 1:00pm when Steve and I arrived to start cooking. I hadn’t pre-chopped the night before (good thinking, Steve) so I started chopping while the guys got their roux going.


This is me trying to get a spot on the stove. Stove hogs!


Three rouxs. Mine (top right) is made with bacon grease and butter.


Exhibit A: Tim’s photo proving how messy a cook I am.

We invited a ton of folks to judge the gumbos, but it was an incredibly rainy night and not everyone made it. (More gumbo for the rest of us.) One soggy gumbo-lover arrived and took three servings of each to go so his whole family could taste at home and call their votes in later. In the end, it got down to decimal points. Thankfully, Kate was our in-house accountant and fairly calculated the winner.

Despite his newcomer status, Steve’s chicken, andouille, and wild mushroom gumbo won the top spot! (Lafourche Parish, represent.) Coming in second, Tim’s duck gumbo. Mine was third. I got lots of kind sympathy for third place, but I really liked my gumbo and all the fun was had in the event itself. Tim is already trash talking for next time, and there are several open questions. Did Steve’s Cajun heritage give him the advantage? Will Joe join us next year and, in that case, will someone have to cook their roux on the barbeque grill? Will we go with Tim’s idea and all cook the same gumbo next year so we can really judge the best cook? Whatever happens,  I’d rather have variety and mystery. Gumbo wins every time!

Stay tuned for updates on this spring’s 3rd annual cook off!

Posted by: juliegirl | April 10, 2010

the flock’s okay

Well, Evangeline got her first road trip today. Somehow, I got her in the cat carrier and took the trip out to Metairie and the Exotic Animal Vet. She complained the whole time.


Dr. Pence was glad to meet her, and took some blood from under her wing (and agreed to this lovely picture).


She also showed me how to clip their wings, which will keep them from flying out of their fenced in area. Thank god–I’d been avoiding clipping for a while now, battling the flight issue by setting up barriers, netting in the whole coop, and endlessly complaining when I walk out in the morning and discover a stray chicken roaming the yard and chomping my tomato plants. Now that it’s FINALLY spring, I want to re-plant the backyard and can’t risk Calcasieu, Lafourche, and Evangeline escaping daily.

The blood test came back great. Evangeline is fine, and so are the rest of the girls. A little good news along with the bad.

Posted by: juliegirl | March 31, 2010

“dead chicken”

That’s what I googled.

I got home at 5:45pm and, with 15 minutes of daylight left, I discovered Vermillion dead in the back corner of the coop. I knew about diseases killing a whole flock, and I also knew I couldn’t leave her there all night, but I wasn’t sure what to do.


Googling got me nowhere. There was nothing informative about how to handle a dead chicken, so I frantically called around and got an open vet. And luckilly they gave me the name of another vet that deals with chickens. Thankfully, they were open.

They told me to wrap Vermillion in newspaper, put her in a plastic bag, and drop her off at the vet in the morning. They needed to do a necropsy (the fancy word for a chicken autopsy) to find out what was wrong with her.

I had a hard time picking her up–I had to keep telling myself that there was nothing particularly scary about a dead chicken. But truth be told, I was slightly creeped out. I got her in the newspaper and in the fridge (double-bagged) and dropped her at the vet in the morning.


The necropsy came back the same day, and she died of kidney failure. Sometimes, that has to do with the food the flock eats, but my chickens eat such a variety of food (plus their chicken feed) that this couldn’t be true. Dr. Pence has asked me to bring in another chicken to do some more testing just to make sure the rest of the flock is healthy. Stay tuned for the results.

Posted by: juliegirl | March 6, 2010

rest in peace, Vermillion

Posted by: juliegirl | February 27, 2010

farm fresh eggs

I am now officially a farmer. True, I am a small scale farmer, but if your definition of farmer includes selling stuff you grow on your farm, I make the cut.

For the last month or so, I’ve been selling 2 dozen eggs each Saturday to the Hollygrove Market. (Click here to see their market and farm.) You can get ’em there for $5 a dozen, and they’re super fresh, entirely local, and laid by very happy hens.

Posted by: juliegirl | February 16, 2010

luffa madness

I planted two little luffa plants way back in August, thinking “I like luffa scrubs. We’ll see what happens.” They were sweet little vines that grew slowly at first.


Then, in October, the vines exploded.

I expected a small-ish vine beca use of how little dirt they had to work with, but in October, the plants exploded and took over my neighbor’s unsightly fence. (More rant on the fence later–GRRR). I was thankful for a few months of respite from looking at the broken down thing, and the vines provided some privacy screen too, which is nice.

But most of all, there were TONS of luffa! They look like zucchini, and I guess they taste like zukes too if you eat them early enough.


After maturing, they aren’t good to eat anymore. After three or four months on the vine, the “pods” are ready for harvest.

Some folks let the pods sit and dry out for several weeks before processing. I didn’t hear about that method until after I went through the more time consuming and messy process below. But I also think you save more of the plants from mold this way.

First you soak the pods in the bathtub for several hours. This separates the skin from the meat inside.

Then, peel the skin off the luffa, tossing the luffas back in the water to soak. The more soaking time, the easier the peel comes off the meat.

SQUEEZE! The seeds inside are squeezed out by wringing out the luffas. This takes a loooong time, and your hands get quite raw.

Save the seeds for planting next year.

Remove any moldy patches. Soak in vinegar (and bleach if you want–I didn’t) and let dry. It was raining like crazy when I was processing these, so they took forever to dry, and more mold appeared. I soaked in vinegar again and dried next to the heater–that worked well.

And viola! you have your luffas.

I gave luffas to a few folks for Xmas–tie a hemp string or crocheted flax cord so you can hang them in the shower. I also cut smaller pieces to use for scrubbing dishes and countertops.

I enjoyed getting a sense of the work that goes into producing luffa, and it was surprising to see how little you have to do besides peel and dry to get the same luffa you’d buy in the store for $10. (It’s got to be one of the last surviving natural objects used in mainstream grooming.) All-in-all, a great project, especially if you like to learn first-hand where things come from.

Posted by: juliegirl | December 28, 2009

meet chewie

Chewbacca is the newest household member, and he is adorable. Here he is, making himself at home in the chicken coop. Calcasieu is thinking: “What the hell?”

Posted by: juliegirl | December 22, 2009

from poop to peppers

I’m trying to use everything in the yard to some kind of purpose, and, inspired by permaculture principles, I’ve developed my own system of tying together the backyard waste and food production. The table scraps and kitchen waste is “recycled” by feeding it directly to the chickens. The majority of the chicken poop is composted and then used to fertilize the garden and make up the majority of the garden soil each year. Connecting the waste from my table to the final production of eggs and vegetables is pretty awesome.

Here’s the before picture. Two eggs, very good. Loads of poop in the corners and flattened fluff, not so nice. I have to admit that it took three days of poop and dirt encrusted eggs for me to finally get a chance to change the coop. Six days of rain had made things very soggy and unlivable up there. Sorry, girls.

So here’s the way I keep the girls happy and dry, make sure I’m not letting bugs settle in, and recycle all the waste I can to make my garden and my eggs even more tasty!

First, I scoop out all the fluff (cedar shavings) from upstairs in the chicken coop. This is where they roost at night and where most of their poop is.

Second, I dump the whole mess, poop and shavings all, in the barrel composter and give it a whirl around.

I used to put all my non-meat food scraps in there, but harvesting the compost is tricky in a tumbler: there’s always your last few trips from the kitchen that haven’t composted fully and you end up with lemons, whole stalks of celery, and paper scraps in your dirt. This way, the only thing that’s going in the composter is poop, cedar shavings, garlic and onion scraps, and coffee grounds. (The chickens’ eggs start to taste funny if they eat the onion and garlic.)

Then, I let the coop air out in the sun and wind. It’s important to make sure that the soggy places get a chance to air before you replace the fluff.

Finally, I cut box tops and create a shelf inside the egg boxes, then I put the cedar shavings in. This helps when scooping out the fluff since the egg boxes tend to be the most traficked (and the most pooped). It’s easier to pull out a cardboard section than scraping all the poop off of the wood. And it keeps it cleaner.

I always sprinkle some diatomaceous earth in the coop before replacing the fluff. Essentially earthworm casings, this powder disrupts the work of tiny bugs called mites that can infest the coop. (Last year, every time I picked up a chicken I’d find the tiniest little mites all over my arms. Diatomaceous earth did the trick.)

From this

to this

and then we get these

and these.

Posted by: juliegirl | November 27, 2009

backyard thanksgivings

What an incredible day in the backyard. Over the last three months, I’ve had a growing list of backyard to-dos that included everything from ‘keep the chickens from killing every living thing’ to ‘scoop the poop’ to ‘eliminate the rat colony’ to ‘move the raised beds.’ Significant projects, all. (Well, except for the poop.) Here’s where we began…the before shot from last year.

Lush and green. (Haven for rats)

A month ago, I enlisted my friend Fred to build the chickens their very own fenced in area, and I took down all but one banana tree that same day. (Had to keep a banana source, after all.) The rats were relentless, and the chickens *still* haven’t recovered. The banana trees were not only edging out the sunlight, but sustaining a very bold rat population. Since the banana trees have come down and we put down poison, the rats have disappeared. Only Evangeline has resumed laying, but I have high hopes that the increased sunlight will not only grow the vegetables but result in more eggs.The girls love their new fenced-in home. They’re still retiring to the coop each night, but from sun up to sun down they can delight in any number of chickeny activities. Pecking through the compost heap, taking a dirt bath, mining for worms, hopping up on top of the coop, chasing after a sister chicken, bawk bawk bawking. You know how it is.

To the left is the chaos of putting in a fence, taking down the bananas, and reorganizing the whole backyard. The great guys that helped me clear everything out got to take home the enormous smoker that has been sitting idle for a year. They thought they were getting a deal, but thank god it’s gone.

I got my boyfriend to help me move a raised bed a few weeks ago, and I haphazardly planted some desperate seeds and herbs. Really, the winter garden is pretty pathetic. I’ll be lucky if I get a salad out of it. But, I have a fresh new canvas to work from come January.

Today, I am thankful for five hours of uninterrupted backyard time. All of the following projects got finished:

• woman shed expanded and organized.

• solution to chickens escaping the coop completed. We’ll see tomorrow if I’ve screened them in successfully.

• coop cleaned.

• new food delivery system in place.

• hammock moved to new locale; tables moved to better spots.

• raking, sweeping, hosing down of concrete and “lawn.”

Here are the new and improved pictures of the backyard. Yay Thanksgiving break!

Expanded Woman Shed.

New fence and cleaned up yard.

Side view…hammock moved.

.

Posted by: juliegirl | November 11, 2009

the joy of an egg

Hooray for Evangeline!


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Our first egg in SIX WEEKS has arrived!

Very uncharacteristically, Evangeline greeted me at the fence by squatting down to be pet. It hasn’t happened in a long time that a chicken has been interested in any contact, and though I’ve been mourning the loss of sweetness among the flock, I just thought it was some “teenage phase” of chickenhood. But my earlier instincts were right all along–I’ve always thought that the ones who lay eggs were the snuggliest.

I haven’t checked the coop for eggs in over a week. But when Evangeline hunched down for a pat, I went straight to the egg door and VIOLA! A beautiful blue egg.

Evangeline, you go girl!

Posted by: juliegirl | November 10, 2009

soy problems

Watching Food, Inc. and its field after field of genetically altered soybeans, I said to myself, “My organic soy milk can’t be made from genetically modified soybeans, can it?”  I googled “Monsanto soy beans silk soy milk” and I found out that not only is Silk Soy Milk using genetically modified soybeans, it’s not even organic anymore.

Apparently, Dean Foods just acquired Silk SoyMilk and, even though it’s no longer organic and now uses genetically modified soybeans, the packaging is the same. I didn’t even notice that they changed their product, and I’m guessing they planned it that way.

And when we talk about “genetically modified soybeans,” we mean that Silk soybeans are among the 90% of soy beans grown in this country from seeds made by the company Monsanto. They have developed a soybean that resists their pesticide, so you can grow Monsanto soybeans, spray the shit out of them with Monsanto pesticide and the soybean sprout is the only thing that emerges from the agent-orange-like mist.

Monsanto is the company that created Agent Orange, and it’s also the company that has patented its seeds so that you can’t save your seeds and grow year to year. You have to keep buying new seeds from Monsanto to keep growing your crop. And even if a seed blows into your yard from a neighboring farm, you can be sued for growing it since it’s patented and you didn’t pay for it. Monsanto is even suing people that clean seeds…even though they clean non-Monsanto seeds. Because they *might* encourage people to clean Monsanto seeds. What they’re doing goes against nature–to disrupt the biological process and inhibit the natural function of a seed is just, well, evil.

The Cornucopia Institute is a non profit research organization whose goal is to “empower farmer-partnered with consumers-in support of ecologically produced local, organic, and authentic food.”

cornucopia

They’ve done research on all the soy products out there and rate each one based on what percent of organic soy beans is in the product, manufacturing practices, and the source of their soybeans (among other things).

You can find this report at http://www.cornucopia.org/soysurvey/

The problem is, there aren’t that many soymilk products made without genetically modified soybeans that have been exposed to pesticides. There were only a few that were even familiar to me, and I’m a soymilk drinker. I’m printing the list and taking it to Whole Foods and telling them they should only be stocking those brands. And I’m writing Silk right away to complain. You can too, here.

Posted by: juliegirl | October 30, 2009

injured chicken

Yesterday, I woke up to barking in the backyard at 6:00am. Turns out, Vermillion has learned how to bark like a dog. She was standing on top o100_1828f the coop, barking at a stray cat running through the backyard.

Our neighbor Butch across the street is a unique individual in many ways. Maybe it’s the blue-tarp covered refrigerator on the front porch, or perhaps the old van loaded up to the ceiling with boxes. He’s a hoarder, and, by one neighbor’s count, has collected thirteen cats. They run to his van when he pulls up, roam freely into backyards and on top of cars, and they sit on my porch and torment Oso.  And now they’ve found the coop.

Today at 5:30, I woke up to squawking and screeching. It was clearly a chicken vs. stray cat situation, but all I could see was a pile of feathers. It was dark out and rainy, and the other girls were still in the coop sleeping. And there was no sign of a chicken anywhere. I was convinced I had a dead chicken on my hands.

When I got home from work, there was Calcasieu limping around the backyard, feathers rumpled and dropping off of her. She seems okay, a little worse for the wear but safe and sound.

I called the SPCA about the stray cat situation across the street. Apparently, they can sell me some traps and I can bring in all of Butch’s cats. That sounds like a great weekend activity.Grr.

Poor Calcasieu

Posted by: juliegirl | October 18, 2009

scared chickens, sad julie

It’s been three weeks since the chickens have laid any eggs. I had to BUY eggs last week, something which seemed so awful to have to do. I thought they were too hot. I thought they were dehydrated, not eating enough, feeling fussy about the poopiness in their coop. But no.


It’s the rats.


A month ago, a rat got caught in their mesh fence, and then another one appeared in plain sight, sending them scattering across the yard. Once, a rat actually pried open their food container, which was a pretty amazing feat. This all prompted me to call the Orkin guy. And thought it’s difficult to kill just ONE animal species in the backyard without murdering the other two, his glue traps have done nothing to curb the population.  I’ve still seen rats running back and forth from the back shed to their food area.

100_1766

Barricaded shed and (L-R) Calcasieu, Evangeline, and Lafourche

My wonderful boyfriend braved the back shed, put down poison, and then barricaded off the shed so no chickens could get in. And I’ve re-chicken-wired their home and cooped them up in it for a while just to try to create some safety. It means I’m replacing the water every day again, and having to feed twice a day. But if it lets them know that they are safe in their coop, I’m all for it.

Posted by: juliegirl | October 17, 2009

oso and the chickens

Oso is enjoying a newfound ease with the chickens. The mesh fence has allowed much more nose to beak interaction, and things are going fine. Good: no growling and no chomping.  Annoying: barking obsessively when I’m handling chickens (and not him.)

See improved chicken-dog relations below.

Posted by: juliegirl | October 9, 2009

eggs

Every chicken has her own style egg. Calcasieu and Evangeline lay the blue eggs (which are pretty indistinguishable) but there are three other distinct brown shades for the four other birds.

100_1749

I know that it’s either Assumption or Ascension (I still can’t tell them apart) who lay the brown eggs with dark brown spots. I know because I heard a triumphant cackle and then one of them walked down the ramp in pride. The egg I retreived was still warm…and speckled.

Another chicken lays pink eggs, and two more lay regular-old brown eggs.

What a pleasure to open my fridge to this.

Posted by: juliegirl | September 20, 2009

snuggle up

Okay…

adorable.

100_1714

Posted by: juliegirl | August 23, 2009

fence me in

Benefits of free-ranging:
• good eggs
• happy chickens

Drawbacks of free-ranging:
• destroyed vegetables
• the possibility of escape
• predators–the girls get too far from their coop and safe shelter
• poop on the barbeque grill
• poop on the concrete
• poop on pretty much everything

I was either going to have to keep them cooped up or find a fencing solution. I don’t like the idea of fencing in a permanent chicken run because of space, so I was looking for an easy way to put up and take down the fence. And I didn’t really want a fence in my yard, so it had to look invisible.

100_1717

After trolling the aisles of Harry’s Ace Hardware looking for some kind of fencing, I hit upon Garden Netting! Yay! It comes in several different lengths and widths (also called Tree Netting and Trellis Netting) but I picked the 45 by 14 foot sack of net. It’s made of light plastic and works perfectly for creating an invisible screen in the yard to keep the girls contained.

100_1720

I wove a long piece of green rope through the long edge and made a very long curtain, basically. I hooked it to the trees with a carabiner so it can be taken down easily and stored. And I staked the bottom so Evangeline wouldn’t sneak out AGAIN.

100_1723

She got herself out on the other side of the curtain today and kept throwing herself into the netting to get over to the other side. When I came to help her, she (of course) squawked at me and ran away. I couldn’t get her to the other side, no matter what I tried (lifting up the curtain, coaxing her with chicken scratch, a.k.a chicken crack). Finally I just let her figure out a Roosting Plan B. I found her on top of the smoker at 10:30 pm. Roosting chickens are sort of catatonic, so I was able to move her while she was asleep. Grr. That girl is so willful!

100_1724Can’t even see it, huh?

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