Posted by: juliegirl | August 9, 2009


100_1692There’s something terrific about watching a chicken be a chicken. Scratching, foraging, running across the yard after another chicken with a worm–all terrific, natural chicken activities. It makes for great eggs, too. When a chicken gets to eat all the bugs and veggies she wants, the eggs are just more tasty. Since I’ve been allowing the girls to free-range in the backyard, I’ve noticed their eggs have been more rich and flavorful.

At first, I was nervous about letting them roam free. I’ve seen rats in the banana trees and who knows what else is out there just waiting to prey on defenseless birds? At first they roamed with supervision, then I graduated to “just when I’m home for a few hours on a Saturday.” Then, I watched a cat almost get pecked by six chickens on his way through the yard and I figured they could hold their own. That, and the fact that, as it gets dark, they are now properly roosting IN their coop (and not just on top of it…or on top of the barbeque grill) gives me more confidence. If the coop doors are open, nothing’s really preventing a rat or cat or possum from going up the ramp and attacking the sleeping birds at night, so I typically go out and shut the door after 6:00 when they retire.

I’ve got the compost cycle tightened up, too. Coffee grounds, egg shells, onions, garlic, and paper go into the compost tumbler.  When I scrape the chicken poop out of the coop or rake their litter (ceder shavings) off of the floor of the coop, that goes in the tumbler. All other vegetable scraps and leftovers without meat or eggs go to the chickens. This makes the compost creation faster and lets my girls have lots of fruits and veggies. (They shouldn’t eat onions and garlic, though, as it will make their eggs taste funky. And no egg shells unless you want them to get a taste for eggs and start eating their own. Yuck.)

They have taken over, however. Just a few days ago, I caught Evangeline standing in the squash bed just scratching herself silly. Two pumpkins, gone. And they’ve pooped all over the concrete which is kind of gross. I think I’ll try to set up some kind of fencing or maybe a mesh curtain I can put up when they’re free-ranging to keep them in the yard and out of the garden. (I’m thinking zip line, a couple carabiners, and some cloth fencing.) For now, I’ll just delight in opening the back door and seeing THIS.

100_1683Ascension, on tree stump.

100_1693Eating table scraps.

See for yourself what the free-ranging is all about.

Posted by: juliegirl | August 3, 2009

another great box from hollygrove

I’ve been cooking up a storm, and mostly things I’ve never made before. Mushroom ragout, grilled portobellos, peach crisp, eggplant napoleon, eggplant parmesan, stuffed peppers, stewed okra, grilled vegetable salad with ciabatta bread, pea salad, and omelets, omelets, omelets.


one good looking box of veggies

Posted by: juliegirl | August 2, 2009

too many peppers

I planted three cowhorns which are producing tons of beautiful, spicy peppers. These three small plants are producing 10 peppers a week! The pepper is a little hotter than a jalapeño, and I’ve been putting it in everything from omelets to soup to pasta.


Posted by: juliegirl | July 31, 2009

transplant mishaps

The yellow pepper plants have grown so huge that they’re overshadowing the rest of the plants in the pepper bed. I moved the red peppers to a new bed and scootched over the yellow peppers so they’d have more room. Bad idea.

100_1616droopy peppers

So I side dressed them with my first harvest from the compost bin which, as you can see, looks just like poop. I’m watering for a l-o-n-g time each night to encourage the roots to dig deep.


It helped a little, but on most hot days, the peppers are still droopy. What to do?

Posted by: juliegirl | July 19, 2009

hollygrove box

I’m thrilled about the Hollygrove Market. They’re growing lots of veggies and raising chickens out there, but the coolest thing is that they order up local produce each week. Our very own CSA here in uptown New Orleans, and you can opt in for a $25 box of produce each week. Only problem, the first box of produce I bought, I didn’t know how to cook everything in the box and half of it went bad in the fridge. And I wondered if $25 was a reasonable amount for the box, and if it could feed me for a whole week.

Here we are, a few months later. I’m on week two of eating no meat, so I’m needing more vegetables, and I’m newly committed to seeing if this CSA thing can work for me. I picked up my box at Hollygrove last Saturday, and here was what was in it:

-one beautiful eggplant
-three yellow squash
-four anaheim peppers
-five creole tomatoes
-two red bell peppers
-one bag of locally grown rice
-one carton of mushrooms
-one carton of blueberries
-five plums
-three nectarine
-one bag of okra

This time, I went home and surveyed my box. I got online and started collecting recipes and mapped out the whole week’s worth of meals so I could make sure I used everything in the box. I went grocery shopping to supplement the box and now we can tally up the amount for the week and see if this is possible and affordable.

Hollygrove Box: $25
Meat and Watermelon (Hollygrove): $17
Grocery Shopping: $80
Eating Out costs: $50
Total food costs for the week: $172

Not exactly affordable in the long run, but there are some things I can do to bring down the cost this week. (Some of the things I bought at the grocery were staples I will use for a long time.) I liked the process of planning everything out, and by the end of the week the only produce I had left were two cucumbers. Below is the rundown of recipes for the week. Note: most of the dinners served two plus leftovers for lunches.

Saturday Dinner100_1647

Eggplant Napoleon (recipe: Epicurious)
Grilled vegetables, stacked between layers of cheese and skewered with ros
emary sprig.

From the Box: Eggplant, yellow squash, creole tomatoes

From the Garden: Rosemary

From the Grocery: ricotta cheese, mozarella cheese, zucchini, 2 red onions, red potatoes

Grilled Nectarines

From the Box: Nectarines, grilled up so sweet!

Bought/used: Balsamic Vinegar reduction and frozen yogurt

Sunday Breakfast: out

Sunday Dinner

Mushroom Ragout (recipe: Hollygrove Market)


Light mushroom stew, made in a white wine reduction and served over rice.

From the Box: mushrooms, creole tomatoes, rice

From the Garden: mustard greens (substituted for chard), parsley, cowhorn peppers

From the Grocery: two large portobello mushrooms, onion, wine

Anaheim Cheese Peppers (recipe: Jacqui Gibson)
Peppers cut in half and roasted in the oven with mozarella cheese and peppers for flavor.

From the Box: anaheim peppers

From the Garden: cowhorn peppers

Bought: mozarella cheese

Blueberry Dessert (recipe Jaccqui Gibson)

From the Box: Blueberries

From Home: Balsamic vinegar reduction

Monday lunch

leftover Eggplant Napoleon and Anaheim Cheese Peppers

Monday dinner

pita chips and hummus, leftover Eggplant Napoleon

Tuesday lunch

leftover Mushroom Ragout, and Anaheim Cheese Peppers, plum

Tuesday dinner: out

Wednesday lunch

leftover Mushroom Ragout and pita chips/hummus

Wednesday dinner

Steak and Shrimp Kabobs (recipe Epicurious)100_1649
In a shallot-dijon-red wine vinegar marinade, shrimp, steak, and vegetable kabobs on the grill.

From the Box: creole tomatoes, yellow squash, okrah

From the Garden: shallots, red peppers

From the Grocery: grass-fed beef (from Hollygrove) and shrimp, zucchini

From Home: Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar

Dessert: blueberries and balsamic reduction

Thursday Lunch

leftover kabobs, plum

Thursday dinner: out

Friday lunch

leftover kabobs, plum

Friday dinner


Stuffed Peppers (recipe Epicurious)

Red peppers cut lengthwize and stuffed with ground turkey, zucchini, spinach, peppers, and rosemary.

From the Box: red peppers

From the Garden: parsley, egg, rosemary, cowhorn peppers

From the Grocery: ground turkey, zucchini, spinach, breadcrumbs, tomato sauce, mozarella cheese


Saturday Breakfast

Scrambled Eggs (compliments of Calcasieu)

From the Box: anaheim pepper, chopped

From the Garden: eggs, cowhorn peppers

From the Grocery: ricotta cheese

Posted by: juliegirl | July 19, 2009

no more meat

I’m swearing off meat. I’ve been saying it for two weeks, but each time breakfast sausage comes around, I forget my decision.

I’m not becoming a vegetarian, mind you. I don’t actually want to become a vegetarian this time around. (I spent several years in college a very serious vegetarian…then I moved to New Orleans and forgoing jambalaya, fried chicken, and red beans and rice with sausage seemed a ridiculous idea.) Suffice it to say that I like local food too much to give it up entirely.

I’m not doing it because of animal cruelty, though that is a factor. And I’m not doing it to be healthier, though that will hopefully be a great byproduct.

I’m just not interested in participating in the meat industry anymore. I’ve read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and even filthy meat processing didn’t motivate me as powerfully as learning about how far away our own meat industry has moved from anything resembling animal husbandry. I don’t want to eat an egg from a chicken that hasn’t moved an inch since it was born and, out of frustration, has scratched all the flesh off of its chest. I just think that egg probably isn’t very tasty, and eating it means that I’m actively having to ignore that chicken. After taking care of my chickens so well, I can’t imagine it.

And the same goes for corn-fed beef who are miserable because they can’t digest corn, and pigs who chew each other’s tails off because they’re packed in so tight. Antibiotics are only necessary when you ignore what a cow actually is designed to eat. Hormones are only used to grow a chicken unnaturally big. All these “techniques” for raising and processing meat are designed to do it in the most profitable way possible, and I find that distasteful.

Because I was a vegetarian in college, I never quite learned to cook meat, and that means that I eat it in restaurants more than at home. But I buy my own meat at Whole Foods so I can avoid the hormones and try to get grass-fed beef. When I looked closely at that, I thought “How silly. The chinese food place doesn’t care about the hormones in chicken.” I shouldn’t be eating meat outside my home unless I know where it came from, and I should be seeking out more local alternatives to the store-bought meat. I’m inspired by the efforts of all the local farmers in Michael Pollen’s book who take pains to embrace the pigness of the pig. I’m not opposed to animal killing–I just want to know that the animals I’m eating were treated well and that their meat is good for me and in line with good animal care practices.

It’s been two weeks and I’ve had only the smallest bite of meat. It’s going just fine.

Posted by: juliegirl | July 13, 2009

all grown up

Here it is! Our first egg!


Calcasieu has been acting completely weird lately, shrugging up her wings and making funny sounds. So I knew she was due for an egg soon.


Sure enough, it was Calcasieu who was hovering in the nesting box when I went to retrieve the egg. She didn’t seem upset that I was taking her egg, just slightly confused, as in “I guess I lay eggs. Who knew?”

Way to go, girl! You did it!

Posted by: juliegirl | July 5, 2009

gone fishing

I haven’t posted about the garden in a while because I’ve been doing THIS:


Yes, you guessed it. Looking at amazing bodies of west-coast water. Be back soon to report on the status of the post-vacation veggies.

Posted by: juliegirl | June 22, 2009


I’m trying to wrap my mind around the concept of permaculture. Instead of trying to be a better gardener by learning “techniques” and seeing each individual plant as a separate entity, I’m working to connect all the systems in the backyard together.  Each element in the backyard will have multiple elements supporting it and multiple benefits to the whole system.The idea is that all energy flows in a system (sunlight, human work, rain, money) can be arranged to simultaneously benefit each other. That kind of a natural ecosystem becomes self-sustaining.

100_1044In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollen takes an inspirational trip to Joel Salatin’s  Polyface Farm where plants, humans, chickens, cows, and pigs are all interconnected and producing a self-sustaining ecosystem. The cows graze on grass (which, because their tummies can digest grass, eliminates the need for antibiotics that are required by corn-eating cows) and the cows poop on the grass. Four days later the chickens are moved to the area where the cows pooped because that’s exactly when the larvae in their poop are the most delicious to a chicken. The chickens eat the larvae, and by doing so get their necessary protein and sanitize the pasture. Manure in the cow barn is stacked with hay and corn in ever-increasing layers and, finally, in the spring when the cows head out to pasture the pigs come in and aerate the manure pile and turn it into compost. Which then gets spread on the pastures. “There it will feed the grasses, so the grasses might again feed the cows, the cows the chickens, and so on until the snow falls, in one long, beautiful, and utterly convincing proof that in a world where grass can eat sunlight and food animals can eat grass, there is indeed a free lunch.” (219)

Most inspirational is the interconnectedness of these systems and the utilization of all the waste to complete the system’s loop. “Joel Salatin’s farm makes the case for a very different sort of efficiency–the one found in natural systems, with their coevolutionary relationships and reciprocal loops. For example, in nature there is no such thing as a waste problem, since one creature’s waste becomes another creature’s lunch. What could be more efficient than turni ng cow pies into eggs? Or running a half-dozen different production systems…over the same ground every year?” (214)

100_1355I’m starting to think about the backyard as a set of production systems. If I’m gardening organically, my pests should (theoretically) decline. Chickens should eat table scraps from vegetables harvested in the garden. The chicken poop should be able to fertilize my garden by naturally adding needed nitrogen. The chickens should (again, theoretically) reduce the bug population and aerate the soil. Rain water collected should water the plants and animals.

But in my backyard, I’m still struggling to get the interconnections right.I haven’t reduced my pests by using organic soil and compost. I haven’t even figured out how to get good compost out of my revolving composter yet. I’m not yet realizing my dream of being able to get “off the grid” but I can see things connecting better and better all the time.

Permaculture isn’t just about doing things the “old way,” though it makes sense that people would think this since the old ways of doing things often took into account the re-using of waste and recycling of energy flows. By necessity, our ancestors learned how to make their systems work together. It might take me longer than a single growing season to re-learn those methods, but I’m up for it.

Find out more about Michael Pollen here.

Find out more about Polyface Farm here.

Posted by: juliegirl | June 19, 2009

june garden journal

June brings even hotter weather. It’s too late to fertilize, so I missed the boat until later in the season. I’m still working on pest control and making sure everyone’s getting enough water to produce beautiful fruit!

Greens: new growth all the time. I chopped down one plant that had gone to seed, and even though the second plant went to seed, it’s still producing great, leafy greens. If I pick them early when they’re still small, the bugs don’t get them too bad.

Tomatoes: nothing since May



Peppers: really great growth! The yellow peppers and hot peppers are cruising along. I can’t wait to see them turn from green to yellow.


Cucumbers: This bed may be in the wrong place–it might be too hot. But there are several little cucumbers starting to grow, and the vines are trellising nicely.

100_1318 100_1316

Yellow Squash: One day I came outside and all three plants were dead. Either Oso peed on them or they got WAY too hot. The other plant in their bed did fine, so I’m not sure what happened. Very disappointing, though, since I’ve been watching those grow for a few months in anticipation!100_1161

Swiss Chard: still swiss.

Herbs: Another bed that I think it getting too much sun. In the fall I want to move the plants so I can have a whole bed of basil and a whole bed of rosemary. I’ve been using the fresh herbs in the kitchen so much that they’re pretty depleted.

Posted by: juliegirl | June 7, 2009

more pests

The back shed (a.k.a. “the bad place”) was at one time a neatly organized storage site for paint, garden tools, a pushmower, and my power tool collection. Before evacuating for Hurricane Katrina,all from mac 113 I stacked the shed to the rafters with anything loose in the backyard, including furniture and potted plants. It stayed that way for over a year and became a home for spiders, mice, and more junk. Gradually over time, I’ve removed the important tools and started just tossing things inside from a safe space at the door.

I made a handy peg board frame on the bathroom door (in the laundry room on the way out to the backyard) so I can always find the tools I use all the time. And I continued to throw things into the shed that I did100_1363n’t know what to do with, knowing I’d never go in there again if I could help it.

Last week, my wonderful boyfriend asked innocently “want me to clean out the shed?” He didn’t seem quite as scared as I was about the potential deadliness of the spiders (he’s an actual scientist, which makes him slightly more rational than the average person) so off he went to haul everything out. In the process he found a child’s bicycle, the pushmower, three garden hoses (bringing the grand total of unnecessarily purchased hoses up to 6). He also informed me that I had created a comfortable habitat for a community of roaches by throwing a papasan chair cushion in there, and he found this incredible (but dead) spider.


When the roaches scattered the chickens went wild! And now I have a cleaned-out shed to (neatly) stash everything again.

Posted by: juliegirl | May 26, 2009

may garden journal

It’s May, and my handy-dandy guide is giving me important advice. Mostly, it’s all about WATER! It’s getting HOT here, and my plants are feeling it.

100_1164Greens: covered in caterpilars and snails. I’m having success with Diatomaceous Earth, which is earthworm casings that cut up soft-bellied pests. Die, snails, die! I’m harvesting huge amounts of collards still. They’re covered in holes, but I can usually get them before they’re too far gone to eat. Delicious!

Tomatoes: I pulled three tomatoes off the one plant that didn’t get comletely pulverized by a caterpillar. (Have you ever seen those things? In one day, one very fat green caterpillar can eat an entire tomato plant down to the nub.) Most of my tomatoes were infested before I could harvest. Next year: cherry tomatoes.

Peppers: nice growth on the yellow bell peppers. So much so that they are shading the red peppers. I’m going to have to move them but I’m not sure about disturbing them in this heat. I’ll wait for a cool spell (if we get another one).


Cucumbers: nothing. Just leaves. I built this raised bed and I’m not sure after getting the cucumbers settled if it’s big enough for the roots.100_1063

Yellow Squash: Beautiful leaves. I’m the most excited about these guys. (And it’s my favorite vegetable, so even better!)

Swiss Chard: I can’t figure out what’s eating these guys. I’ve pretty much given up.

Herbs: No real growth, and Oso keeps using the Herb Bed as a step ladder, so the oregano is shot. I’m hoping to get some real traction on the rosemary this summer. It’s loving the heat.

Posted by: juliegirl | May 24, 2009

the bible

This is it–everything I’ve ever wanted to know about what exactly I should be doing in the garden at any given moment.


It’s helping me plan what to seed for the fall, telling me what will live and die in my garden because of the heat, and finally confirming my hunch that absolutely everything gets covered with bugs in the summer. (I’m relieved…I thought for a second I was just an organic failure.) This book even has Helpful Hints for Hurricane Season. What a miracle!

Posted by: juliegirl | May 23, 2009

ode to line drying

After one full month of not using the dryer even ONCE, I’ve become surprisingly accustomed to the rhythms of laundry day. Running the wash, remembering to add fabric softener during the rinse cycle, loading the wet clothes into a basket, rigging up the line, hanging the clothes, waiting for several sun-drenched hours, bringing the slightly stiff clothes off the line, and then folding them and putting them away. All just a part of life now.

I haven’t been annoyed not even once at the process, and that’s saying a lot for me.  I’m pretty easily annoyed at things that waste time and/or are kind of a hassle, which this is (compared to plopping the clothes right in the dryer and walking away). I didn’t freak when I found Oso lying  on a towel he’d dragged off the line and into the dirt. I wasn’t miffed when, minutes after hanging a load in the bright spring sun, the sky opened up and rained for an hour. I didn’t even blush when a friend came by and my undies were blowing in the breeze. (At the beginning I had tastefully hidden these underneath a pillow case or a towel, but by month’s end I’d lost all laundry modesty.)

AND, I was even more pleasantly surprised when I got my electric bill for the month.


Yes, I’m totally not kidding. My electric bill went from $120 a month to $60, all because of the DRYER. I conducted a fairly scientific study here, too. If anything, I used more air conditioning than the previous month because it’s been so hot lately. And you might be thinking, “there’s something wrong with your dryer. You should really get that fixed,” and you wouldn’t be the first person to bring this to my attention. But now that I’ve learned to live without the dryer, why get it fixed? I’m happy not using that energy at all.

In celebration of all things laundry-related: a poem.

Ode to Ironing

By Pablo Neruda, translated by Stephen Mitchell

Poetry is white:
it comes from the water covered with drops
it wrinkles and piles up,
the skin of this planet must be stretched,
the sea of its whiteness must be ironed,
and the hands move and move,
the holy surfaces are smoothed out,
and that is how things are made:
hands make the world each day,
fire becomes one with steel,
linen, canvas, and cotton arrive
from the combat of the laundries,
and out of light a dove is born:
chastity returns from the foam.


Posted by: juliegirl | May 10, 2009

new critters…unwanted

Since January, I have been harvesting enough collards from this crop to feed three or four people a week. I have been amazed at how prolific these four plants have been this year, and I have to admit that it’s fun to have spare collard greens to give away. But I think my luck has run out because all at once the caterpillars and snails have arrived. Aggressively arrived.

plant optLook closely at the top leaf. The underside is just covered with caterpillars.

I’ve been spraying with BT every other day but I can’t seem to get ahead of the caterpillars. I’m manually removing the snails but they have started multiplying like crazy. I put out snail bait, and Oso ended up eating enough of it that, even though it’s organic, the vet had me bring him in for observation. (Of course, he was fine.) And the snails kept coming.

The swiss chard has never even been harvested because it is being completely pulverized by some unknown critter. I sat for 20 minutes watching the chard yesterday and I didn’t see anything on it. I’m going to have to do some more research. Maybe it’s the birds?

100_1064 100_1066

Swiss Chard or Swiss Cheese? You decide.

Also unidentified are the bugs on the peppers. Small dots, no bugs in sight. Grrr.


Posted by: juliegirl | May 8, 2009

backyard bonfire


Nothing like a bonfire on one of the last chilly spring nights.

Posted by: juliegirl | April 20, 2009

backyard visitors


Visitors to the backyard are special friends. Here are a few pictures from when Meredith blew into town. It was two days of carrot cake making, arts-and-craft creating, sleepover snoozing, coffee and crossword puzzle doing. (And special guest Colin stopped by to say hello, too.)

100_08201Meredith and Ascension



Colin and Ascension

100_0829Meredith and Evangeline

100_0889Meredith and Evangeline again…same bird, different outfit.

Meredith and Calcasieu…live!

Posted by: juliegirl | April 18, 2009

growing chicks

Here they are…1 week old

These photos are taken a few days after they arrived fresh from the feed store. (Thanks, Martie.) I’m a nervous mom…checking them every few hours and obsessively counting them. Oso’s lost his doggie door privileges, and he is ultra-curious about the chicks. He heads out with me to check on them, and I’m totally failing at training him NOT to want to eat them. Given his history…I think I’m just going to wait until they are absolutely too big to be eaten before he has any unsupervised contact with the coop. If anyone can dig a hole into a chicken coop, it’s Oso. 


The two black chicks are Barred Rocks. The Redish ones are Rhode Island Reds, and the other two (kind of speckled) are Americaunas. (Those two will lay blue eggs.)


And 3 weeks old

The girls are now coming out of the coop to play in the open. I’ve fashioned a sort-of fence so they don’t get lost though when they fly out, but they usually come right back. They are full of fuzzy feathers and starting to take on personalities. There’s no clear pecking order yet, but Ascension is emerging as the most adventurous of the group. (She was the first to check out the feed, the first to venture close enough to me to get picked up, the first to climb up the ramp. Her boldness makes it easy to pick her up and to photograph her, lest you think I’ve claimed a favorite already. 


Inside the coop












Evangeline–at 3 weeks she started turning much more white than her speckled sister Calcasieu


The holy mysteries: Assumption and Ascension.

I can’t quite tell them apart yet since their colors change so rapidly. They are going from little black birds with white spots to bigger birds with tiny black and white stripes. 


5 weeks

The girls still aren’t roosting, and I’m worried. A bird’s natural nighttime behavior is to perch on a bar (conveniently installed upstairs by me) and sleep in a protected area. To do this, they will have to discover the ramp (only Ascension has even ventured on it) and then actually go upstairs and sit on the roosting bar. Right now, they are huddling together in a corner on the cold ground, which isn’t safe or natural. If they never discover the upstairs, they will never understand where they’re supposed to lay their eggs, and more importantly they’re vulnerable to predators downstairs at night. 

I emailed my friend David at Catawba Coops and asked him what to do.  He suggested pulling up the ramp, putting food and water up there, and placing the chicks in the roosting area for two or three days. He said this would drive home the message: “girls, this is where you live.”

On a particularly cold series of nights, I quarantined the flock upstairs. After three days and three nights of wind and rain, I lowered the ramp and put their feeder back downstairs. Every chick flew down the ramp, hurtling herself at the hole in the floor and landing on the ground in a flurry of feathers and sawdust. All except Ascension. She just walked herself down the ramp, cool as a cucumber. Later that night, I watched her walk back up the ramp, sit up in the roosting area, and call to her girls. She cheeped and cheeped, but no one came up to join her. I’m always up for supporting female leadership, so I snatched up Calcasieu and put her up in the roost with Ascension. I thought more chicks would venture up, but Calcasieu just flung herself down the ramp and then Ascension descended too. Maybe this is going to take longer than I thought. 

100_05941Ascension–always the leader. 




7 weeks

Three days after the failed roosting attempt, the temperature dropped to the high 30’s and we were in for another cold night. I went outside for my nightly check on the girls. I panicked when I didn’t see anyone in the coop, but then I heard their unmistakable cooing from upstairs. I opened the egg door and there they were! Roosting all by themselves! Go Girls!



Ascension, Assumption, Calcasieu, Vermillion

Posted by: juliegirl | April 16, 2009

following directions

The website said building this chicken coop was, “so simple, my wife could do it.” I’m capable of holding two opposing ideas in my head, so all at once I thought this statement was     

1. completely sexist, and
2. entirely inspirational.

I know, this reveals that at first I doubted my own ability and Mr. So-and-so’s apparently incompetent wife helped me believe that even an apparently incompetent woman like me could do it…but that’s basically the case. 

But the great thing about trying things is that you try things. I needed a project in October, and after several full days (and then letting it sit for a month) and then several more days, I had an amazing testimony to trying something completely new and getting it mostly right. 

At times I thought “Who is this wife of his? Is she a genius?” Figuring out this guy’s directions was SO HARD, mostly because I didn’t know what a miter saw was, hadn’t ever used an air compressor hooked up to a nail gun (kind of scary at first), and didn’t know the basic vocabulary around woodworking. I took Woodshop in junior high, but it’s one thing to use the electric jig saw in the shop, it’s another to use a handheld jig saw while balancing a twelve foot piece of wood between the patio table and an old door you set up on saw horses. And while trying not to accidentally take off a finger. 

Now that I’ve learned about all kinds of wood, sliced and diced every cut combination possible on a mitre and a circular saw, measured and re-measured, drilled and re-drilled, and improvised when nothing fit correctly, I have a new-found confidence in my ability to 

1. follow directions
2. cut anything 
3. transfer between drill bit and screwdriver bit in seconds
4. create a 3-D structure that works
5. try new, hard stuff (this is my favorite)
I can’t build you a new set of kitchen cabinets, and you shouldn’t enlist me to make anything needing excessive measuring (I’m not as interested in precision as I probably should have been) but I have a new home for six chickens right in my own backyard.

Many, many thanks to David Bissette of Catawba ConvertiCoops ( for the amazing plans. Check out his site to download your own plans or read about chickens and coop building–and you can see a picture of my coop on his site, too. 

Also, thanks to Cameron, who lent me all his tools and helped me get out of tight spots.

The coop in progress–December 2008 • (and a rare view of snow in New Orleans!)

The finished coop February 2009 • Notice the ramp up to the roost above. The side panels can be removed (hence the handles) to clean out the roost and nest area. 

The egg door opens to reveal the upstairs roost and the nesting areas (one on each side of the coop) for when the chicks are 6 months old and ready to lay!

Posted by: juliegirl | April 13, 2009

on the line

There’s nothing like clothes on the line. Nothing like the smell of sun-dried clothes on your body, nothing like seeing the wind do the work of your dryer for FREE. There’s also the satisfaction of knowing that less energy is being used to keep the household running. Well, more of my energy was used, but I guess that’s what I’m all about these days. More of my personal time and energy, fewer non-renewable resources used to make my life good. I am a completely renewable resource each morning, so it works out fine.



I don’t have enough space for a permanent clothes line, so I decided to pick a solution where I can dry clothes a load at a time  and then take down the line. I needed a big enough line to hold roughly what you see above and I also wanted a line that could completely hide but be accessible whenever I needed it. No hitching up something complicated every time. I hit upon a three eye-hook, carabiner solution. 

Laundry Hanging Tips

Tip #1: Don’t hang things from the top of the garment. Drape about 3 inches of the bottom of the t-shirt  or the pants cuffs over the line and pin. This puts the heavier part (usually including the sleeves or waistband) at the bottom, pulling wrinkles out. 

Tip #2: Double up. It dries in about the same time. 

Tip #3: Don’t put wooden pins directly on delicates. They snag. Hang a towel or hankerchief over the *item* and pin that way. (This has the secondary benefit of keeping your underthings private, in case you care about those kinds of things.)

Tip #4: Get acquainted with the neighbor’s barbecue schedule. Nothing is worse than freshly line-dried clothes…smelling of ribs. 



I’m committing to dry every load on the line this month and I’m going to check my energy bill to see if the word on the street is true: apparently you can save 20% in energy costs by drying your clothes on the line. 

The first load, hung at midnight with a flashlight, was a delight. The cold laundry draped across my arm. The rough feel of clothespins held in my mouth. The interesting work of making sure everything fits, layering like colors, and hiding underthings beneath larger, less delicate items. The unmistakable connection to a shared past of women who made these same motions, the same bending and reaching and pinning and heaving through necessity, not choice, over the generations. 

We’ll see how delightful the rest of the loads are when what used to take 30 seconds to load in the dryer takes 15 minutes to hang on the line. 


Modern conveniences mostly are designed to save us time, and what occurs to me is that saving one resource (like money or non-renewable energy) sacrifices another (like time). But what I lost last night in time I made up for today in money–hopefully my energy bill will be lower. I also have the satisfaction of knowing that I didn’t waste resources that can’t be renewed. And, of course, at 5:30 this morning I stumbled outside, remembered the midnight clothesline episode, and plunked down with my coffee to relish the moment. Feeling connected to the air and the sun and how useful and good they are…priceless. 


Experience it for yourself here:



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