Saturday, July 25, 2009

Another Chicken Farmer

Dave -

Do you remember our friend Joe? Flip back several "blog days" to when we initially got involved in honeybees. It turns out that Joe is quite a character. In late May he picked up four day-old chicks and was looking forward to raising them for eggs and maybe chicken soup.

Shirley and I find it so refreshing to see our octogenarian friend taking on such a long-term project as chickens typically produce eggs for six years and can live several years after that. Joe is more involved in life than many people half his age - what fun!

Shirley and I dropped by to visit with Joe and his wife, Alice, to hear his chicken stories and to check out his chicken coop. Joe and Alice live in your typical residential neighborhood and they have accumulated the usual stuff that staying in one place for decades brings with it. It was interesting to see how Joe made use of this junk to build his chicken coop. He fashioned a couple of bolts and door fasteners from scraps of wood. (Shirley and I, lacking this talent, opted to pick up a couple of metal fasteners at the hardware store.) The pictures tell more of the story.

Here is his feeding box. Joe has it stabilized so the birds cannot tip it over.

Here are his home made latches.

Joe set up his chicken coop at the end of his shed. He replaced the roof with a skylight so his "ladies" would not have to spend their time in the dark.

Joe's chickens are thriving in their new home. We all agreed that two of Joe's four chickens are roosters. The birds are still a couple of months from crowing - the sure sign that the "ladies" are really not ladies at all - but the narrow feathers and long tail make it pretty obvious that the two are not ladies.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dumpster Diving Treats

I went to the produce store this morning and after buying some veggies for our meals this week, I went around back to the dumpster to see if there was anything good in there for my birds. About a month or so ago, I had asked one of the store people if I could take some of their leftover produce to feed to my chickens. He said sure but the dumpster would be open to the public only on Saturday when the local enforcement code people were not likely to be snooping around. To my dismay, there was nothing in the dumpster and a guy was moving crates of fresh produce with a forklift so I could barely reach the dumpster even if there had been anything in it.

As I pedaled home, I figured my dear chickens would have to make do with scraps that I could scrounge up from my own veggie patch.

Later in the day, I decided to give the dumpster another try. It was 103 degrees outside, but my chickens were worth the sacrifice. So I loaded my panniers down with plastic bags and returned to the produce store. The photo says it all.

As you can see, my fridge is pretty full now. Those bags are stuffed with romaine lettuce leaves, cherries, two whole heads of iceberg lettuce, 2 whole heads of cauliflower, several stalks of celery, tomatoes, spinach, beets, eggplant . . . If you come to my house, be careful what you grab from my fridge. If it looks like a tossed salad, you may want to pass on this as it is likely chicken food!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Update on Our Chickens

Back to the subject of chickens.

Since my last entry, we had to find a home for another
chicken; the Rhode Island Red was also a rooster. We gave him to an acquaintance who lives on four acres in Martinez. Needless to say I cried over losing him too, although I hear that he is adjusting to his new yard and family.

Our ten remaining chickens are definitely females. We are collecting three eggs a day - one from a Maran (a small, dark chocolate egg), one from a Production Red (a little larger, tan colored egg), and just yesterday our White Leghorn popped out her first white egg! In another month we should be collecting six to seven eggs a day. Since these first eggs are so small, Dave needs three of them for a decent scrambled egg.

Without Elvis in charge, the chickens no longer move about as a cohesive group. I guess it takes a rooster to keep them in line. I often wonder if they think I am the rooster. They do not seem to head to the hen house in the evening until I go outside to remind them that it is time to go to bed. Bedtime is now 8:30 PM. Without Elvis, the birds find their spot in the chicken coop and quietly go to sleep. Several birds crowd into the three nesting boxes.

Dave took several photos the other evening. As you can see, our
birds are getting bigger and look like chickens. This is a Maran.

This is an Ameraucana. She will lay a greenish blue egg.

Here is Polly enjoying corn on the cob before calling it a day. Every Saturday morning I pedal to the produce store and fill several bags with 'old' produce to feed my birds. They really like pecking at the fresh kernels of corn.

And here is me securing the coop for the night.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bike Restoration - The Final Chapter


Dave -

Finished! After assessing what we had on our hands (other than grease), the project morphed from a "restoration" project to a "paint, clean, and lube" project. Old parts are difficult to find and current design is certainly superior to the components found on bicycles 45 years ago. Overall, the project has been enjoyable. My next project will probably be another bike from the past, but probably from the '80s, not the '60s. I would like to find a chromoly steel frame (as opposed to aluminum or carbon fiber) and build the ultimate touring bike. Ah...something to dream about.

For a couple of other pictures of the finished project check out:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bike Restoration - Part II

Dave -
The bike restoration project sped along full speed until it abruptly hit a wall. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the wheels did not match. I'm not talking about some subtle differences, I'm talking about blatant differences - one has an alloy or satin finish and the other wheel has a heavy chrome finish. Of course no self-respecting bike mechanic would allow this, so I have been scouring the Internet for inexpensive used bike wheels. I think that I may have found someone that has what I am looking for. Of course I thought this to be the case last week and upon inspection the wheels were no better than what I have.

I had the rear derailleur to clean and lubricate so I took on this job last week. As the picture shows, my work bench is the top of the trash container. While some would feel that this is no way to tackle a project, I have to say that it works well for a procrastinator like myself. The trash container goes to the curb on Thursday night so this forces me to finish what I am working on before then. It is my motivator since I would be at a lost if I had to disturb the reassembly order.

Speaking of reassembly, I have fooled around with bike parts over the years but I have never encountered the complexity that seems to define British engineering. Those of you that own British cars can certainly attest to the nightmare-infused package of parts that the British refer to as 'engineering'. Case in point, most derailleurs have about 15 parts; this derailleur has 27 parts - not counting the 15 ball bearings in each of the pulleys. I reassembled the derailleur and ended up with two extra parts. I re-reassembled it two more times until I finally ran out of parts - I figured that at this point I was done.

To date the bike has been stripped, primed and painted. No, it isn't perfect. I justify the $87 spent on sandpaper, cleaning fluid, primer, paint, and buffer pads as an "investment" in a project that Mike and I are enjoying. The alternative would have been to take it to a paint shop and just write a check for $155; what fun is that? (Of course, I am told that the professionally painted frame would have been really, really nice.)

Once I have some wheels, it should be just another four or five hours and the bike will be ready to be enjoyed on streets, bike paths, bike lanes, and an occasional sidewalk.

Egg-citing News!

My chickens are 19 1/2 weeks old. On July 4th, I noticed one of the Marans sitting in the nesting box, tossing strands of straw at her back. I thought for sure she was going to lay an egg but she didn't. None of our girls had laid any eggs but I figured this would change shortly as most chickens start laying around 20 weeks.

When I checked on the chickens yesterday afternoon, this is what I found in the middle nesting box:

Our very first egg! Based on its color, this belongs to one of the Production Reds as Marans produce very dark chocolate brown colored eggs.

Dave fried the first egg for his dinner and to our surprise, this one had a double yolk! What a fortuitous sign. FYI, the cholesterol in free range eggs is good for you so having a double yolk does not mean you are increasing your cholesterol intake.

Check out our new rooster plate!

Below is a photo Dave took of Amelia, Bedelia, and Fredericka sitting on the gate. We often find them here in the evening. So far they have shown no desire to jump to 'freedom.'

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Chickens in the Family

My father-in-law attended a family reunion this past weekend and when he saw this photo he decided to share it with me. Apparently Dave's great aunt and uncle (the Lloyd Kuckers) were also in the 'chicken business'. Picture circa 1940.