Thursday, April 30, 2009


It's been a busy week at the Chicken Ranch! The construction project is moving right along -- in fact we heard a rumor today that the garage project just might be completed by May 31st. Hey, that's still time to get the tomatoes and peas planted in a raised bed!

This past week they've demo'ed the old shed, dug out the foundation (and we found some very cool old bottles - one from the Coeur d'Alene Bottling Company), poured a foundation; and today, packed gravel in prep for pouring the garage floor. With all this activity, I am happy to say that the tulips have survived! The few that I missed in my mad cutting spree last week are just beginning to bloom; and I still have a couple bunches left in the bucket for fresh flowers this weekend.

Moving to the porch project -- it has been totally removed; as has the front walk and most of the sidewalk around the house (due to the City's requirement to replace the cracked sidewalks on the property -- this was more than we bargained for, since we are required to pay for this; but it's worth it in the long run). The new footings have been poured for the porch and the new walkway and side walks might be in tomorrow.

On to the gardening side of things...I have been waiting for thie "eternal winter" to end. Geez-louise, it has been a cold week! Our family room is looking more and more like a greenhouse with the basil starts, the hydrangeas, two flats of impatients, a couple of coral bells and coleus! I'm looking forward to this weekend's warmer temps so I can get the hydrangeas and coral bells in the ground!

And, I'm on yet another count down...this one is for our Coeur d'Alene Farmer's Market which opens on Saturday, May 9th. We always go on opening day - it's a rite of spring - and it's always cold and rainy. No matter, we'll pick up our favorite tomato plants from our favorite grower (something else to add to the indoor greenhouse for a few weeks), a loaf of wonderful bread for dinner and enjoy a fresh baked cinnamon roll....hmmm, I can hardly wait!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Mighty Claw

The giant claw suddenly appeared over the roof and one mighty bite left a huge, gaping hole in the roof. Wahoo - we're on our way to a new garage!

I did get the chives and the clematis moved and I agonized over what to do with the tulips and the alliums, but then, I came to my senses with the help of a glass of wine. "Look," I said to myself, "you bought these bulbs at Costco in a giant bag -- so just go to Costco this fall and buy more!" Problem solved. So early Wednesday morning, with scissors in hand and a 5 gallon bucket, I proceeded to cut 75, on-the-verge-of-blooming, tulips. I currently have 20 beautiful pink tulips in bloom in the house. The rest are waiting to be given as friendship bouquets. "Nature" will take its course with the bulbs during construction and afterwards I will dig any survivors and relocate.

The Girls have been pretty freaked out by the giant claw just a few feet away, but not enough to stop laying -- we've been getting five eggs a day. Thankfully, the claw has finished its job in the back yard and has moved on the the front yard to tear up the sidewalk and rip the front porch off! Things should be a little calmer, until the framing starts.

It's a mess, but it is temporary and the outcome will be a new garage with an indoor potting area (yippee!) and raised beds that will hopefully out-produce the former plot. In the meantime, I'm going to concentrate on sprucing up the flower gardens and I just bought three hydrangeas from Albertsons (of all places -- $6.99 each -- they are beautiful) to put on the north side yard.

Even with all this disarray, I find tranquilty in seeing my hostas peeking out of the earth, the bleeding hearts leaping out of the ground and mowing the lawn for the first time in 2009 (even if it is to "make-tidy" a place for building supplies).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's Starting!

The project is about to begin -- about two weeks earlier than expected, but hopefully that means it will be done two weeks sooner.

Of course, this has led to a frenzy around the Chicken Ranch. The first order of business was to get the girls (our six beautiful hens) moved to a new, but temporary, location in the yard. As you may recall, the "ranch" is a whopping .16 acres - so our options are limited! With this accomplished last night, I am about to take on the task of up-rooting about 75 tulip and daffodils which are on the verge of blooming. I'm not sure what my success rate will be at this state of growth, but I'm going to give it a try. I guess another option is to leave them, let them be trampled and dig them out in the fall. One issue in doing that is that most are exactly planted where the new, double "garden door" to the garage will be located. Ugh!

I also will be moving my chives (no big deal here - these plants have been in just about every local in the yard and most came from our previous home!); and I have to decide if I want to save the lavender or just put some new plants in later. Oh, and this all has to be done by Thursday (which is tomorrow!).

I have plants in the front yard that also need to be healed in somewhere -- Alliums -- which, like the tulips, are about to bloom and really look great this year! If anyone has suggestions/tips or has ever replanted bulbs as they are blooming -- please let me know!

I'm sure I'll have some dramatic images to share tomorrow as the shed comes down (and we're totally exposed to the alley); the hot tub takes a hike and the garden becomes a giant tractor pit!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Project

The Midtown Chicken Ranch is undertaking two major construction projects this summer! After nearly 5 years of no remodeling/construction we are once again tearing things up - in the back yard, front yard and in the house. The fun starts May 1st.

After several years of hard-selling from Hal, I finally agreed to a proper 2-car garage to replace the 1930's shop/shed in the backyard. The only reason I held out so long is that my veggie garden is located right next to the garage. The upside (besides a real garage), is that instead of a veggie "patch," I will be converting the entire end of the yard into raised beds. I think I will end up with three or four 4x8 beds - which is much more growing space than I currently have. The downside is they may not get planted this year. Naturally that isn't stopping me from gardening; I'm planning to give container gardening a go -- I have to do something with the 75 basil starts I have in the family room!

Here's a picture of the garden last spring with the shop/shed on the left side.

This garage project also will require an up-roosting of The Girls (our 6 beautiful hens). We're giving up the hot tub and moving the coop/pen to the concrete pad in which the tub sat on. At this point we are undecided about leaving the concrete and putting down a rubber stall mat and shavings; or tearing out the concrete and putting the girls back on dirt. Either way their pen will be expanded to give them a little more room run (and will be another project!).

But, that's just half of the project -- we're also tearing off our small front porch and rebuilding a new porch to run the length of the house with a deck above. A small bedroom upstairs will end up with a French door that opens to the new deck. This has been my "pet" project; and I've been holding off on doing any real gardening in our front yard until now. I'm in the planning stages for flower and veggies in front. The house faces west and we have lots of great sun in the afternoon! I'll have my hands full this summer, that is for certain.

Finally, if we're not completely broke, we are adding hardwood floors in the kitchen and a tile floor in the downstairs bath; plus a new bath vanity. I know we'll at least get the bathroom done since we already have the new vanity sitting in storage!

And then we're going to tackle the side yard patio....

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Blogging Basics for Everyone

I have a day job and it has nothing to do with gardening or raising chickens -- darn it! I am the director of marketing for CENTURY 21 Beutler & Associates in Coeur d'Alene. I spend most of my day working on the company's websites, assisting agents with their real estate marketing challenges (many these days!) and keeping up with technology. I've been reading marketing and real estate blogs for about a year now; and while I created my own personal blog last fall, I just started blogging about my favorite past-times a few weeks ago.

One marketing blog that I follow is Web Ink Now, written by David Meerman Scott. David is an author of several books on marketing strategies using blogs and online media. His blog is packed with great information that anyone can benefit from. Scott's post this week titled Me 2.0 and blogging your brand highlighted the new book by David Schwabel and included a link to Schwebel's free e-book called Blogging Your Brand.

I highly recommend you download Schwebel's e-book. It has great tips for blogging beginners through experts; and you are certain to pick up helpful tips to get your blog noticed and out there - not to mention get it spiffed up. I've completed all the "beginner" steps and am now moving to the intermediate catagory. You should also check out Scott's blog for great information and other free e-books -- definitely worth the read. I hope you find this a helpful as I did!

Okay, not much blogging on chickens and gardening today, but that was too good not to share! Let me know what you think and let the David's know too!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Iron Chef of Chicken Kitchen

The Iron Chef of Chicken Kitchen in Action. Whoa girl -- don't fall in!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bucolic Bliss?

I've got a secret to share -- chickens and gardening aren't simpatico. Oh sure, everyone loves the dream of a perfect bucolic setting...a well kept veggie patch with happy hens pecking about, eating all those nasty cabbage worms and mosquitoes. How tranquil. Well, maybe.

Last summer I happily watched my young flock "free-range" about the yard chomping on the lawn and dashing in and out between the lettuces and peas. They seemed so happy and it made me feel so good to see them in the yard. Ahh, this is what it's all about - gardens, chickens, sunshine!

One day I noticed that my rainbow chard was under attack by some type of bug which happened to be taking pretty big bites from the leafy stems -- what could it be? Hmm, you guessed it (especially if you already have chickens). It was not an infestation of beetles, but the flock of voracious Velociraptor's that I was raising in my backyard. I finally caught them - all six, lined up along the row -- feasting. Hello! They are chickens - they love greens - and reds and yellows! They quickly determined what they did and didn't like; most things ended up in the "liked" column.

Thankfully this all came about at the end of the gardening season and things were winding down (as were all my hostas -- an especially tasty treat). During the winter, they came out on occasion and flapped about, but of course there was no plant life uncovered by snow. All was safe until just last week when spring finally arrived in northern Idaho.

Which brings me to my current dilemma: chicken in/garden in; chicken out/garden out. My options are simple -- fence off the garden, go chicken tractor, or leave them in the coop. All three are valid options. The fourth - forget the garden - is not.

The girls so love to "fly the coop" and march about the yard. When they see me coming they press against the wire like convicts waiting to be released from prison -- "oh freedom, an egg for sweet freedom!" I'm a cruel warden these days.

I know there is a happy middle here - I just need to decide which option works best. Until then, I'm keeping my tender hosta sprouts safe from the likes of my domestic Jurassic Park felons!

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