Who wants to meet the girls?!?!

That’s right.  Girls.  Hens.  Five of them.  No roosters.  No dudes.  That makes me their dominant male influence.  Hence the totally appropriate – single entendre – title of this post.

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If you’ve been following along in our fledgling livestock adventure, this is the moment for which you’ve been waiting.  You’ve had a few days to settle down after the euphoric grand tour of the coop I built.

Time to introduce the ladies.

Please meet:

Curly

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Curly is a Blue Copper Maran and is about 18 weeks old.  She’s still a pullet (meaning a female less than one year old), but will hopefully start laying soon.  Pullets can begin dropping the good stuff generally anywhere from 18-26 weeks on average, so let’s hope she’s advanced for her age.

When Curly does start laying, her breed is supposed to lay very dark, almost chocolate colored eggs.

By the way, I’m sparing you a lot of history, breeding, genetic disposition, and other information I’ve devoured about various poultry breeds.  I do so because The Wife promptly gets that eye-glazed 1000 yard stare whenever I share it with her.  So I figure you also don’t care.

For instance, when I finished giving Joanna a twenty minute dissertation about this copper necked lovely, she shook the haze out of her head and said, “Wait, what is it called?  A Maran? I shall call him [sic] Curly.  Curly Moran [sic].  From Veronica Mars.”

So there you go.  Curly.

Next, meet Curly’s best friend:

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I know everyone has been waiting with bated breath to see chicken coop updates since you devoured my first Build report.  Well, prepare your gullets.  Here you go.

I like to spend as much non-office time wrestling with the world’s strongest Toddler… so this project has taken way too long since it was mostly relegated to snippets of nap-time-construction-time and after-night-night-total-darkness-build-hours.  However, I finally declare this beeyotch 99% done and ready for occupants!

Who wants the grand tour?  Just ignore the ugly tall unfinished fence post that’s part of my ugly tall garden deer fence.  I wanted the coop in here so they could free range every now and then helping to clear the garden of weeds and bad bugs, while being protected from our friendly free range canine neighbors.

Feast your eyes on the prettiest little coop Joanna has ever co-owned.  Such is the life of a lucky Gentleman Farmer’s wife.

 

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Ahhh… Booze.

Sweet, sweet wonderful Booze.

Homemade Booze to boot.

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My wife’s Twitter feed tells me ’tis the season for every single food blog in the ‘sphere to be pushing spiced pumpkin things down my throat.  Allow me to slightly buck that autumn trend and tell the tale how Garden Patrick and I recently turned a metric ton of these picked from my small apple orchard:

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into almost fifteen gallons of Homemade Hard Apple Cider.

 

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I’m building a chicken coop.

Granted, Joanna is less than thrilled with my latest project, but I have a feeling she’ll come around.  Her icy demeanor seems to be melting a little bit already, thanks to new neighbors that moved in down the lane.  You see, in a very short time, they’ve amassed a wonderful little mini farm complete with over a dozen chickens, several turkeys, and their very own miniature donkey named Ruth.

The boy loves to visit.  So do I.  So does Joanna.  How could she object to just a few of her own hens in comparison?

I’m sure we’ll have lots to share with you as we embark on our livestock adventure.  Especially since like most things we have no idea what we’re doing.  For now I thought I’d show you the coop build thus far.

Just don’t look too closely.  I know as much about carpentry as I do animal husbandry.  (read: zilch).

Here’s the result from one of our many lumber trips.  The foreman approves.

As you can see, that dude is a stickler for safety gear.

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The very first of many frame sections cut and ready to assemble.  All necessary tools and supplies accounted for.

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Fear my multitude of Evil Minions!

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If you’re one of the millions (And MILLIONS!) of loyal fans who can’t wait for me to take the reins… err keyboard… away from Joanna here at Midwestern Bite, you’ll recall a previous post where I admit I *might* be a Compost-aholic.

I’m saddened to say things have gotten worse and those large pallet bins were apparently just a gateway.  Unfortunately for my skeeved out wife, I’ve progressed.  That means working smarter, not harder.  You see, I’ve outsourced additional composting to a few thousand slimy, spineless garbage eaters.

Hi, my name is Mike and I’m a Vermicomposter.

Yep.  We’re the proud parents of composting worms.  Indoor composting worms.

Joanna was thrilled.

Before I show you their de-luxe rubbermaid apartment and how to best care for your subterranean underlings, here are a few fun facts I learned about worms along this journey.

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“Healing the World One Bite at a Time.”

That is the tagline for Polyface Farms – a family owned, multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm owned and operated by my personal foodie hero, Joel Salatin.

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Photo Credit to www.polyfacefarms.com

This is the Husband.  Thanks for letting me step in on one of Joanna’s off days to quickly introduce you to Joel, and more importantly his philosophy and practices.  This will not be an exhaustive review.  Merely a little something to hopefully whet your appetite so you’ll follow up with a few links below.

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Since Joanna started Midwestern Bite, I’ve regularly been following along with her new world.  I’ve seen some of her “internet friends” grow into real friends.  I’ve found a few blogs in this stereotypically girlie niche I enjoy reading every day.  I’ve also found plenty I like to make fun of around the dinner table.

If you were like me and stepped into this strange universe of Foodie-Healthy-Living-Move-Everyday-Look-At-My-Latest-Juice-Cleanse-Miracle-Cure-While-I-Instagram-My-Feet… or for that matter visited your local urban Hipster Market or smalltown suburbia Farmer’s Market… you’d see that eating Organic and/or Local is all the rage these days.

Mr. Salatin’s practices are a little different, and a lot revolutionary only because he’s a throwback to how things used to be done for hundreds of years, yet implementing those core agricultural truths with modern technology like lightweight portable electric fencing.  Farming was done very differently before cheap oil.  Before a chemical conglomerate could manufacture the perfect 10-10-10 “organic” fertilizer mixture that ultimately runs off polluting our drinking water.  Back when farmers understood nature and worked with it to be successful.  Perhaps only by coincidence… maybe not… back before widespread outbreaks of salmonella and mad cow disease. When organic truly meant organic.  Not like today where “Organic(TM)” is a government regulated label that is given away to the newest mad scientist finding a loophole in harmful chemical balancing.  When free range meant free range, not stuffing 5,000 “Free Range(TM)” chickens into a massive noxious barn with one 12″ x 6″ door in a corner they’re unable to find since they don’t have enough muscle or bone density to stand up.

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I was going to go with a Milli Vanilli inspired title, but I guess the wife’s “Toddler Radio” Pandora station won out.  It’s been wearing me down… wearing me down in a glittery, high pitched, Sillies-Shaking-Out, psychological torture type of way.  Who knew psychological torture usually involved ukelele accompaniment?

But back on topic.  Yes, I’m here again to wow you with yet another of my Homestead Adventures.

I assembled a Rain Barrel.

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This project was completed start to finish during nap time, while the Wife was out shopping for yoga pants.  Not just any yoga pants.  A fancier type of yoga pants she wouldn’t feel weird wearing out of the house.  It is the official SAHM uniform and it’s time she dressed appropriately.  At least that’s how everything was explained to me.

Such is our exciting lives.

Wait… what was I talking about?  Oh yeah, back on topic…

I assembled a Rain Barrel.

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A buddy of mine had “a guy” that got him food grade 55-gallon drums dirt cheap last year.  I bought quite a few, moved them with us, and am finally getting around to installing them at the new house.

This particular barrel is assembled from a kit I received taking part in a workshop hosted by our local Parks Department.

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Anyone take a look at their grocery budget lately?  Have you compared it to last year or the year before?

Skyrocketing food prices due to inflation and other (usually political) factors are one of the many reasons I enjoy obsessively reading everything I can about growing and foraging for our own edibles.  In addition to learning more about traditional (and not so traditional) gardening, I’m having fun researching all the stuff growing wild in and around our woods.

About a year ago, the Wife thought it was pretty funny when I was giddy as a schoolgirl to find a weed growing off the back deck of our previous claustrophobic suburban house. I THOUGHT it was safe to eat.  Guess I was right.

It turned out to be Lamb’s Quarters and is one of the most delicious and nutritious “weeds” around. If you have it, stop mowing it and count yourself lucky. I brought seeds to our new house.

Yep. I moved Weed Seeds. That’s normal… right?

Today I’m here to talk about a different, but still tasty, animal.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

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Unless you’re in a desert wasteland, chances are you have Garlic Mustard nearby.  It’s an invasive plant that is aggressively destructive and steadily marching across North America.  When you see it… Pull it!  Root and all. Garlic Mustard can take over a forested area in a very short time due to the massive amount of seeds it produces, a vast majority of animals (including deer) don’t eat it, and it’s allelopathic in nature.

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Hi.

My name is Mike.

And I’m a Compost-aholic.

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I never thought I had a problem.  Honestly.  It all started with a banana peel every now and then.  No big deal.

Then I tossed in a few egg shells on the weekend.  I eat cold cereal every weekday morning, then go off and work hard… so I deserve to live it up with scrambled eggs on the weekend…… right?  It wasn’t every day, so I was fine.

Then it progressed to coffee grounds.  And kitchen scraps.  And cardboard.

It didn’t seem weird to move the compost with us to our new house last November.  No, I’m not talking about the small plastic compost bin.  I mean, I moved *The Compost*.  Inside our SUV. Over twenty miles.

That felt normal……..

Before I knew it, I was yelling at the Wife if she didn’t peel the stickers off her empty avocado shells in our kitchen compost bowl… and I was asking new neighbors for their horses’ poo.

And building this monstrosity.

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Read on for details if you want to fall off the wagon yourself.

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Uterii?

Polyuterus?

Uteruseses?

Hmmm… Oh well, let’s get this thing started.

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Last time I hijacked Joanna’s blog we talked about building the Seed Starter Rack that is happily chugging along in one of our guest bedrooms.

Today, let’s take a look at the soil cubes living on that rack, nurturing our future little buddies.

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There are a lot of benefits to using these for seed germination instead of more traditional containers.

  1. There is considerably less shock to the seedlings when it’s time to transplant them into the outdoor bed.  Instead of digging and yanking them out of a plastic tub disrupting the root structure, you just plop these cubes into their new home.  I’m sure veggie puberty is hard enough without adding additional trauma.
  2. It’s very easy to water the soil cubes from the bottom once the seeds germinate.  Just make sure to gently water from the top until something sprouts.
  3. Money and storage space are saved by eliminating the ugly, messy containers.

 

Here’s how to make some little seed wombs of your own.

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