Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Chicken Coop- The Finished Product

The chicken coop was our big thing to do this year.  Using recycled materials for the most part, we built a fairly decent, sturdy coop that has served us well so far this winter; only during a very bad cold snap in the beginning of December did we move the chickens back into the garage coop in order to keep a heater on so they could stay warm enough.  Other people told of of chicken losses during that cold spell; we did not want that.

Even then, keeping them warm was a serious challenge that one very very cold evening when the power went out for most of the night. Upstairs, the wood stove was kept running full blast, in the basement and garage a camping heater was lit, and when that was not enough, the camping cook stove was used on and off for heat! An exhausting night, but everything and everyone was kept warm, no chickens harmed, no pipes frozen, An overall win.

I know I have posted some of these pictures to the blog before, but we really need a start to finish retrospective. So here it is - the chicken coop. The coop itself was completely finished in late August, early September.

Preliminary layout of the floor, thinking it all out. The actual floor was totally different!

The foundation -built and level.  The blocks are cemented together, the boards cemented to the blocks.

Started, but the rain stopped us.

Finished floor!

One of the first things we did was paint the wall boards, This may seem backwards, but because the coop was put in the corner of an already existing fence enclosure, the boards would need to be put on the frame first before the wall was put in place.  I got two cans of paint from the "mistake" bin - this lovely purple, and a nice dark grey. Why pay $60 for paint when you can pay $14?

Painting assistants.

Since painting was happening, why not the door as well? Funny story about the door - I'd picked it up several years back from a house where I used to babysit the summer after my first year of college - this had been the front door of their house! Now, it was to be our coop door.

It rained while I was painting the door, causing the paint to peel off!  The finished door looks much nicer.

First wall frame!

Backing that frame.

First wall up - with the proud builder.

Checking the framing out for all the other walls - better to get it right the first time.

Second wall up, and it's getting dark! Tomorrow is a new day. You can already see the slope we put in place for snow and to accommodate the skylight.

Day two, wall three and the roof joists.

And now, the front wall and the skylight frame.  Rain was our nemesis; it kept us from this for days! And this was NOT the easiest wall to do.

But now, all four walls are up!

the skylight is so large, the actual roof space was rather small.


Roof tar papered, wooden frame tarred, ready to slide the skylight into place and screw it down.

Roof all tarred and sanded.

Now the rest of the work on this project fell to my husband, with a bit of help from daughter. I was working, and wen I came home, I was surprised with finished nesting boxes, roosts, poop board and chicken door hole.  Together, we got the doors up and ready.

Doors on!

And finally, after all our hard work, the girls get to move in and check out their fancy new digs.

First night in the new coop - yes, we did sneak out and wake them up by taking pictures!

Since then, they have figured out suitable arrangements for themselves - the younger set all sleep on the top roost unless its a warm night, then they spread out on the roosts.  Poppy, our poor omega chicken, sleeps in the middle left hand box, and all the older girls sleep on top on the nesting boxes, as pictured here.

Even the gates got up! Also thanks to my husband - another thing he did while I was at work.

We still want to do some work on the fence, and we want to use the remaining heavy floorboards to make a flat space under the gate and on both sides of it in order to make snow removal easier, but for the winter, this works well and keeps the chickens safe during the day when they are out and about.

We are very proud of it - we planned it and built it all by ourselves (with the wonderful help of scavenged supplies and a skylight from my dad. Thanks dad!)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lemon Cookies

This recipe comes from the Tangen House cookbook at Living History Farms, a very popular cookie with the staff! The recipe is from the 1860s, unchanged through to today. The dough is suitable for rolling and cutting out. or for making into small balls and baking that way.  My personal preference is  making small balls and slightly flattening them on a cookie sheet. After baking, they seem to remain softer, especially if placed in a zippie bag while still warm.

Lemon Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Cream together the butter, sugar, eggs, milk and extract.  When thoroughly mixed, add the dry ingredients and mix fully.  Either roll out or make balls, bake at 350 degrees for 5- 10 minutes; take from oven when top of cookie feels firm but before it gets browned.


I melt the butter. I find it mixes up better and makes a better cookie, but also mind that I am baking at high altitude.  I have used both regular flour and high altitude flour - it comes out the same to me.

In the past we have substituted other extracts for the lemon - we've used peppermint and almond.  Since we tend to make these for the holidays, we put a bit of red food coloring in with the peppermint to make the cookies pinkish and distinguish them from the lemon.  Imagine taking a cookie thinking you're getting peppermint and biting into lemon!

They are a bit addictive.  Enjoy!

Opinionated Me on "Stupid Habits of" Articles

Social politics at work here today.  I'm going to be my opinionated self here today, because these articles do nothing to help simplify and make our lives happier, They do just the opposite.

These articles that are all about what is WRONG with everyone.  You've seen them - "5 stupid habits" "10 stupid habits" "562 stupid habits" ( OK, I made up the last.) that people develop coming from being in a broken home, or parents who were together forever. or poor, or rich, or getting married, or getting divorced, or staying single,or having kids, or not having kids, or owning a dog, cat, flesh eating bacteria in a jar, or basically, just through being born and growing up.

First off, they start with telling you that you are stupid - if at any point, any of these habits fit you in the least bit, you're stupid.  Reason number one to not read these articles  Most people have doubts and self esteem issues about themselves, they do not need some author writing an article to meet a deadline and get paid, telling them what a bad person they are. Enough people think they're bad people.

Second reason - I've read many of these articles, because I'm curious like that. Well, tell you what - all kinds of people could have those habits without ever having that background.  One of my favorites from the broken home article - "trouble finishing projects". Not all projects, just some.  Well, my parents were married until my mom passed away, and guess what?  I damn near always have at least three different projects laying about unfinished.  I can point to three in this room right now, and that's not counting the unfinished projects bin in the basement. It has nothing to do with my parent's marital status, or my upbringing, it has to do with me sometimes getting easily bored, or my elbow injury - I can only do one thing for so long before it starts to hurt, so time for something else.

The bad habits of the poor? I've seen rather rich people do those things too. People I know who were raised rich and who have never been poor. Generalizations fail, folks.

Third reason? Whatever, whomever you are, those generalized "habits you develop" often do not apply to you.  But the article makes it seem if you are a green and purple transsexual alien who loves golf, you MUST have these habits, all because the author knows someone just like you has those habits. Wrong.

All of us are fallible, all of us have doubts about ourselves, our lives. All of us have played the "What If" game.  It doesn't make us a stereotype.

Realize that you are you - a good person, a decent person. Don't let a lame article tell you that you should hate yourself, that you should have habits that you do not.

And if you do have habits you don't like, ask for help in changing them. Trying to go it alone sometimes doesn't work, and a simple reminder from someone else close to you may help a great deal.

Consider this you reminder if your habit is to take those articles to heart.  We like you as you are, you are good person. Stop reading those articles.