a farmer’s work is never done…

Sorry for the dead air lately… dog training, spring planting, rain barrel wrangling, working on the house, and just trying to keep up with life, there hasn’t been a lot of free time around here!

Bella is keeping us busy, but I feel much safer now with her around! She’s a good guard dog and mostly a big sweetie… we’re working on leash manners (that, or we’re getting her a harness and a stoneboat and putting her to work if she keeps pulling- even a prong collar won’t slow her down if she sees a rabbit cross her path- I suppose I understand and appreciate the drive, but it’s not safe or fun) and not jumping up on people to greet them (which is bad enough for any dog, but when she’s huge and scary-looking, really bad… she knocked someone down already. Bad dog!). She’s very protective, but good-natured, if stubborn. Alefellow calls her Knucklebeak, as she can be a knucklehead but is mostly a good girl! She eats like a queen, and her already shiny coat is getting a mirror-like gleam…

Doggie Dinner: chicken leg quarter, roasted sweet potato, kelp powder, and grain-free kibble made with bison and venison. Alefellow is a little jealous, though her fare is not always quite so fancy...

I have a hefty cast-iron lamb cake mold from the Fellow’s grandmother that needs to get used this week… but even more excitingly, we might get some Easter chicks to celebrate Zombie Jesus day … depends on what our feed store has in stock when I go in to pay for our bees- our hive made it through the winter but not the early spring cold snaps (for what they were)… we’d been seeing less and less of them, and finally opened up the hive- it’s a sad scene in there! Lots of dead bee butts sticking out of the otherwise empty comb… They never were a strong hive- they got a late start and missed the good early nectar flows and didn’t seem interested in the feed I tried to give them… looks like they clustered too far from the little honey they had left during the last cold snap and couldn’t find it, and had mites too… poor girls! We did get to taste our first honey though- we hadn’t taken any before now since they needed it all). Do-over, but this time we’re ready with all our equipment early in the season- it was mid-summer last year… not a lot of time for even a strong nuc to build up numbers, draw comb, and lay in provisions on new foundation…

In the chicken department, it’s time to start raising replacement layers for our original three girls who are tapering off in their egg production- it will be almost a year before new chicks will be laying steadily so it’s time to plan ahead! I want a couple Araucanas/Easter Eggers, a Golden-laced Wyandotte (which they should have), a Welsummer and a Black Copper Maran (which I know they don’t have)… but will probably have to settle for a Rhode Island Red and/or another Barred Rock… we’ve got a blonde and brunettes in our coop, could use a redhead I guess. Cackle cackle! We’ve done some reinforcing and rearranging in the coop area, as Bella is VERY interested in chicken activity. Nom. Nom. Nom. I dreamed she ate Goldie during the first week we had her… and decided to be proactive about it… it’s now a medium to high security slapdash contraption of wooden fence and wire… she’d get in unsupervised, but we never leave her in the yard without one of us keeping an eye on her, so hopefully it will do for now. She’s getting better about listening to us, and “OUT!”-ing as long as we catch her before she’s too engaged in “OMGOMGOMG those things look sooo fun and tasty!” mode… really she just wants to follow us around wherever we go, which is quite flattering. Ah, puppy wuv…

The only thing the coop and run need now are a sign: “Chicken Guantanamo: Escapees will be Eaten”. It’s on my to-do list, somewhere behind “hook up giant rainwater collection tanks”, “innoculate mushroom logs”, “finish enclosing the back porch with windows and corrugated polycarbonate and fiberglass panels to make a south-facing sunroom/heat collector/greenhouse”, “make batches of Lavender Love and Treehugger (a new one!) soaps”, and “start a million bazillian seedlings to grow, plant, sell, and give away”, “strip 80 years of lead paint and 30 years of regular paint from the trim around our front door (the Silent Paint Remover, gloves, and a respirator makes this relatively safe to do) and scrape 20-30 years of peeling thank-the-lord-non-lead red paint from our red brick facade” (why do people paint brick, especially the same color it is underneath? It’s bad for the brick and guaranteed to peel and look shabby later…), “clean and sweep 10+ years of dust from the attic; tack screen to eaves before cottonwood blooms and fills it up again” (a good respirator again, is the re-modeler’s best friend)…

Ole blue, temporarily equipped to hold 1375 gallons of rainwater. Actually, at 8#/gal, that would be five and a half tons in a 3/4 ton truck, not counting the weight of the totes or the dog, and would probably have broken the truck... luckily these were empty food-grade totes. One for us, the other four for our friends' housing co-op... we were going to get two of them, but then lucked into an amazing deal on a 500 gal. plastic conical tank. We're going to have sooo much rainwater for the garden!

She LOVES car rides. Hopefully she takes to the trailer as well... 'cause Ole Blue has smelly exhaust and is only used when really needed... and we're selling the small truck, since most stuff we'd use it for we can also do with the 8 ft. bike trailer (it moved a small kegerator across town last weekend), or the 40+ mpg hybrid wagon that I think the fellow is buying from a friend?

Went to a training last weekend at the Center for Green Technology, and we plan to host a Sustainable Backyards workshop at some point before early summer… we’ll be handing out vouchers and information for the city’s rebate program for purchases of rainbarrels, compost bins, trees, and native plants from local businesses, and giving informal tours of our rainwater harvesting systems and all the rest of our sustainable backyard adventures. Stay tuned for more details, and till then, visit here to find out more!

www.cityofchicago.org/rainbarrel

www.chicagoconservationcorps.org/rainbarrel

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