Cowgirl’s Livestock

Previously on Herban Cowgirl Adventures

(The title of this post should be read in the clipped British accent of Giles from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”)

SO much happening here at the Green Goddess Gardens lately.  I just haven’t felt like actually writing about it.  So I’ll do a quick list.

1.  Our family bought a car.  After being without one for over 2 years.  And there was much rejoicing.

Tinted windows so we can pick our noses at red lights.

Tinted windows so we can pick our noses at red lights.

2.  I started running.  Barefoot.

So. Much. Fun.

So. Much. Fun.

3.  My Uncle Billy died.

Little Boy kept our spirits up in the hospital as family sat with Uncle Billy in his last days.  We will miss him.

Little Boy kept our spirits up in the hospital as family sat with Uncle Billy in his last days. We will miss him.

4.  We had the flu for 2 weeks.

We took lots of naps.

We took lots of naps.

5.  The Herban Cowboy built a fence for the chicken yard out of old pallets.

Ooo so fancy!

Ooo so fancy!

6.  One of our new chickens got sick and died.

The new girls.  Lucy is the redhead.  Ethel is the recently deceased.  RIP sweet girl.

The new girls. Lucy is the redhead. Ethel is the recently deceased. RIP sweet girl.

7.  We cut down and chopped up 4 trees in our backyard.

"He's a lumberjack and he's okay..."

“He’s a lumberjack and he’s okay…”

8.  I read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” and can’t stop thinking about fresh, local food.

Wild onions found while foraging.  Dirty and stinky and yummy!

Wild onions found while foraging. Dirty and stinky and yummy!

9.  I knit the Herban Cowboy a Doctor Who scarf for his birthday.

Replica of the 4th Doctor's scarf from the episode "The Ark in Space."  Because that's how we nerd.

Replica of the 4th Doctor’s scarf from the episode “The Ark in Space.” Because that’s how we nerd.

10. We got a new (to us) computer, compliments of one of my beautiful aunts.

So big and shiny.

So big and shiny.

11.  I got back on a horse for the first time in 6 years.

You will never be as happy as I am in this picture.

You will never be as happy as I am in this picture.

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Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Fabulous Foraging, Green Goddess Garden, Just For Fun, Kitchen Witchery, Possum Living, Stitchin' Bitchin', Telling Stories, The Homestead, To DIY For | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Lost My Mojo

My summer has been full of beach, birthday parties, family visits, new chickens, road trips, plays, puppets, writing, knitting, and watching the X-Files.  That last one was necessary.  I discovered that my husband had only ever seen 3 or 4 episodes of the X-Files and I nearly divorced him immediately in surprise and rage.  “What is the matter with you?”  I screamed.  “What college nerd in the 90s DIDN’T watch the X-Files?  What the hell were you DOING on Sunday nights?”  To which he sheepishly replied, “Sunday night was D&D with my friends.”  I almost blew a blood vessel laughing at how he out-nerded me.  Well played, sir.

As amazing as our summer has been, a dark cloud hangs over our family.  We lost our Mojo.

Mojo

My cat Mojo, who has been my companion for 14 years, disappeared at the beginning of June without a trace.  We made posters, handed out flyers, talked to neighbors, walked the neighborhood.  For weeks we gathered information, called his name, and waited for the phone to ring.  I cried and cried.

Always the life of the party, that Mojo.

All summer long, the emptiness that used to be Mojo has been curled up in the corners of the house.

I still have my girl cat Tozi.  She’s feisty and funny, but she’s not a lap cat.  She’s Little Boy’s cat.  She follows him around and plays with him and bothers him.  He pets her and loves on her and plays with her, but she’s not interested in being my Sweet Cuddly Love Baby.

Nobody puts Baby in the corner.

Not like my Mojo was.

He could still come home.

Seriously. Mojo.

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Telling Stories, The Homestead | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

New YouTube Channel

Learning new skills.  It’s a big day.

I finally figured out how to make myself a YouTube channel.  I’ve been wanting to do videos for the blog, cooking, DIY, gardening, chickens, etc, etc.  But I’m a middle aged woman who didn’t even know how to turn on a computer until college.  Gen Y I am not.

And because I am technologically impaired, I still don’t know how to upload playable videos from my camera.  My computer can’t read them for some reason, and I can’t figure out what software to download to make it happen.  I have a computer geek friend visiting next weekend, perhaps if I ply her with homemade bread and garden vegetables she’ll drop the tech on me.  In the meantime, I used Little Boy’s camera.  That’s right.  Don’t look at me like that, it was easier okay?

The video and audio are fuzzier than a broody chicken’s butt, but I consider these videos successes.  In that I was actually able to figure out how this shit worked.

Here’s the chicken video….

 

 

And here are the garden videos.  Part 1……

 

 

And Part 2…..

 

 

Now all I can think about are what videos I want to make.

 

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Green Goddess Garden, Just For Fun, Possum Living, The Homestead | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breakfast Math

I always estimate the cost of meals in my head.  This morning I’m actually doing the math.

Zucchini in a raised bed made from an old tire.

The Herban Cowboy made a vegetable and cheese omelet with strawberry slices on the side.  I had mine with hot sauce and plain yogurt on top.

Ingredients:

The food for this meal came from our backyard garden and chickens, as well as the local organic grocery store the Herban Cowboy works for.  He gets a discount on food, and often brings home free items such as outdated dairy and slightly blemished produce (what we don’t want, we feed to the chickens).

Olive Oil (from Brighter Day, $7.50 for 24 oz — 15 cents per tablespoon)

Eggs (from our backyard flock, factoring in cost of chicken feed — 15 cents per egg)

Red Bell Pepper (free because of black spot, which we cut off)

Zucchini (from garden seed — 2 cents per squash)

Cheddar Cheese (on sale at Piggly Wiggly — $2.99 per lb — 18 cents per oz)

Milk (from Brighter Day $3.00 per half gallon — 2 cents per tablespoon)

Parsley, Basil, Thyme (from garden seed — Cost is negligible)

Salt and pepper (from Brighter Day, cost negligible)

 

At least 20 eggs per week! Go girls!

Coat the iron skillet with 3 tablespoons of olive oil ($0.45).  Saute diced bell pepper ($0.00) and zucchini ($0.02) until soft.  Whisk together 5 eggs ($0.75), 3 tablespoons of milk ($0.06), 2 oz shredded cheddar cheese ($0.30), salt, pepper, and herbs ($0.02).  Pour into pan with sauteed veggies and cook it up!

What does that come to?  $1.60 cents.  Add in a few cents worth of hot sauce, plain yogurt, and sliced strawberries, you’ve got a meal that fed 3 hungry people for about 2 dollars.  And it was SOOOOOOO good.

Of course, I haven’t factored in labor costs involved in preparing the food and washing the dishes.  Fortunately, when we’re all helping gather ingredients and cooking and cleaning up, it’s all fun anyway, so who cares?

 

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Fabulous Foraging, Green Goddess Garden, Possum Living, The Homestead, To DIY For | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Picking Up Chicks

I love chickens.  Love, love, love, LOVE them.

I had never considered having chickens as pets until I did some gardening and landscaping work for a friend (who is a Master Organic Gardener).  She had this mobile, A-frame chicken tractor that she moved around the yard.  The chickens clucked and scratched quietly.  They were adorable and their sweet little noises made me feel so peaceful.

I wasn’t in love yet, but I knew I wanted chickens. So, when my Herban Cowboy and I bought this house almost 3 years ago, we started planning for chickens.  Here’s the Green Goddess Gardens Guide to Getting Chickens.

Otherwise known as "Yard Birds".

Step One (THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP!):  Neighbors.
Talk to them.  I told mine I planned on having a few chickens in the backyard and asked how they felt about it.  No roosters, and the girls would be confined to the yard.  I reassured my neighbors that if they had ANY problems (noise, bugs, smell) that they could contact me and I would take care of it immediately.  Even now, two years later, whenever I’m chit-chatting with folks I make sure I ask if my girls cause them any trouble.  Neighbors can make or break an urban homesteader.  If you don’t think you need to keep civil relationships with your neighbors because you’re within your legal rights to own chickens, I urge you to open another tab right now and google “Roswell Chicken Man.”

Seriously. "Roswell Chicken Man". We'll wait.

Step Two:  Research!
I checked out stacks of library books, watched endless YouTube videos, and browsed several websites and forums.  I researched coop designs and prices, comparing the costs and approaches (pre-fab coop?  DIY?).  I gathered information about where and when to buy chicks (local breeder?  feed & seed store? online hatchery?).  I also had to find out if it was legal for me to keep chickens in my backyard in the city limits (it is).

You can also keep them in your bathtub. But I wouldn't recommend it for long.

Step Three:  Spend money (but not too much!).
We found a pre-fab coop on sale online for a fraction of what it would cost us to gather materials and build it ourselves.  This was awesome, because I LOOOOOVE putting together furniture.  I sat under the carport for two hours, happily sorting hardware and deciphering instructions and sweating.  We found some week old chicks at the local feed & seed store, so we grabbed a handful of baby chickens, an automatic waterer, and a big bag of feed.  We also bought a roll of chicken wire to make a pen to keep them in during the day.  The entire initial set up cost about $250, and most of that was the coop.

Our simple setup.

Step Four:  Protection.
It turns out that almost everything eats chickens.  Feral cats, stray dogs, hawks, possums, raccoons and snakes — and that’s just here in town!  If we lived out in the country, there would also be foxes, bobcats, and scores of other hungry critters.  During the day, chickens need protection from hawks while they’re in their yard.  At night, the coop needs to be a fortress, keeping out persistent varmints, some of whom have hands to open door latches and others that love to dig under fences.  No matter how vigilant you are, you will lose some.  The very first day we had our chicks, a feral cat figured out a way into the pen and stole one of the new chicks.  We didn’t even get a chance to name her.  And just recently, a red tailed hawk found an opening to dive into the chicken yard, killing Little Boy’s favorite hen Betty.  We have since taken greater precautions to protect the other girls, but nature eventually finds a way.  It’s only a matter of time before some other varmint finds a way to get at them that we haven’t thought of.  This is a downside of owning delicious pets, but it is, after all, just the way life is.  Nature is an ever-escalating arms race between predator and prey.

Betty was so sweet.

Step Five:  Flock maintenance.
Chickens are easier and cheaper to keep than cats.  In the morning, I let them out, throw down some feed, and make sure they have water.  In the evening, I close up the coop after they’ve gone in for the night, and I collect the day’s eggs.  That’s it.  Done.  Of course, that’s the bare minimum.  We end up hanging out with “the girls” WAY more than that.  I keep a bowl on the kitchen counter that I toss chicken snacks into.  Leftover scraps from a meal, wilted produce, vegetable/fruit peelings and cuttings, stale bread, stuff that dropped on the floor– we collect it all and then go throw it to the girls, who turn it into fertilizer within 24 hours.  When we’re working in the garden, we let them out of their yard and they go NUTS eating bugs and weeds and scratching around in the compost pile.  Sometimes I sit on the glider bench and knit while the girls give themselves dust baths in the dirt behind me (they’ve dug up huge chicken wallows back there, but they’re so adorable kicking dirt up on themselves that I don’t care).

Gathering for treats.

A Few Words of Caution.
Chickens themselves are irritating varmints.  As much as I love my girls, I have cried and cursed them more than once.  They will escape their enclosure, tear up your garden and landscaping, eat all the grass in your yard, and poop everywhere you walk barefoot.  They can fly higher and run faster than you think (even with their wings clipped).  They have sharp eyesight and hearing and, contrary to popular belief, they are clever and have amazing memories.  They are also annoyingly persistent.  We are always plugging fence holes, repairing netting and fishing line barriers, and trying to figure out how Daphne and Mavis managed to get out into the back lane AGAIN.

Pictured: Little destroyers, scratching up the mulch around the dogwood.

Chicken Zen.
I’ve had chickens for two years now, and I now cannot imagine living without them.  I can’t imagine having a garden without them, either.  Food gardens, composting, and backyard chickens are such a fabulous mini-eco-system.  Our waste, the compost, makes nourishing soil in which we grow our food.  The chickens give us 2-4 eggs a day, aerate the soil, turn the compost pile, and eat the insects that attack the crops.  The garden provides food for us, the chickens, birds, squirrels, butterflies, and bees.  I love being out in my backyard with all the buzzing of insects and clucking of chickens.  It’s peaceful to sit in my little patch of green and unkempt nature, tucked away in this shabby Savannah neighborhood.  Add my knitting bag and a glass of wine and I am one happy Cowgirl.

Sharing the bounty of the garden.

Picking Up Chicks.
Since I’m clearly addicted to having chickens, AND we’re down to 4 chickens from our original 6, AND it’s springtime — we totally got new chickens yesterday.  Two white Ameraucana pullets, bred and raised locally.  They are plain white girls, but their eggs will be bluish green.  They’ve got their grown up feathers, but they’re still making the baby chick peeping and cheeping noises.  It’s disgustingly cute.  We’re keeping them separate from the big girls for a week or so, until everybody gets used to being around each other.  Then we’ll integrate the flock, and in another two months or so, we should start seeing blue eggs show up in the nest boxes.  I’ve been so excited about the new chickens that I keep squealing like a little girl out of nowhere.  It’s REALLY embarrassing, but I can’t seem to stop it.  I blame Minerva Louise and Pearl for being so adorable.

Pearl and Minerva Louise, stinking up the quarantine pen with their cuteness.

 

 

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Green Goddess Garden, Possum Living | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back to “Normal”

Puppets:

Finally finished the Juliette Gordon Low show for the Puppet People.  It’s fabulous.  There will be performances, and a video production to orchestrate, but the serious crunch is over.  Little Boy is adjusting to NOT going to the puppet studio every afternoon.  He’s a little let down about it, but he’s decompressing nicely.

Little Boy and his best friend O, wearing puppet monster feet. Good times, good times.

Unschooling:

Now that our big puppet project is over, we have more hours in the week available to do school type stuff.  We’ve got another solar energy experiment to try, writing to practice, and lots of books to catch up on.

Our favorite part of homeschooling is the dress code.

Gardening:

We’ve got seeds to plant (corn, cantaloupe, pickling cucumbers), and a few seedlings to transplant.  Water the garden, weed the strawberry patch, re-mulch the beds that the chickens got into (grrr!).

Seeds started in saved containers. Red bell pepper, cilantro, parsley, chives, basil, holy basil, cucumber.

Homestead:

We’ve got fleas.  Uch.  The Herban Cowboy and I spent Sunday shaking rugs and blankets, sweeping, spraying, vacuuming and moving furniture.  I’m so annoyed with the fleas, but FINE.  Whatever.  I should thank the fleas for lighting a fire under my butt and forcing me to clean my house.  As much puppet stuff as we’ve been doing, housecleaning has definitely fallen by the wayside.  All that’s really left to tackle is the bathroom….

Clean kitchen with flowers from the azalea bushes out front (picked especially for Mommy).

Animals:

The flea problem is unfortunately going to require toxic chemicals.  Frontline or some crap like that.  As for the chickens, they need their coop cleaned, but it’s a little thing, so it only takes about 15 minutes to scoop it clean and throw fresh wood shavings in there.

SO glad we went with the small coop.

*******

The To Do List is long today.  But the good news is, the Herban Cowboy will be home by lunchtime.  Which means there will be twice as many hands working the To Do List, and twice as much playing when we’re done with the chores.

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Green Goddess Garden, Puppets and Plays, The Homestead, Unschooling | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can you still say “Gypsy”?

I want to live in a gypsy caravan.  Little sleeping nook, some comfortable seating, a tiny kitchen and a dirty-hippie composting toilet.  Weather permitting I’d cook outside, poop outside, and even shower outside.  I’d keep some chickens, a little garden, and an apiary for honey.  I’d forage and fish.  In crappy weather we’d hunker down inside, playing games, reading, knitting, writing, making art, etc.

I would need some modern conveniences.  Internet and running water access are mandatory.  A small amount of electricity would be required.  Gotta update my Facebook status.

I’d need some groceries.  Salt, whole wheat flour, milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and olive oil.

This is what I’m practicing for.

http://tinyhouseblog.com/tiny-house-concept/wandering-book-artists-gypsy-wagon/

I suck at blogging.  That should have been a link.

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Fabulous Foraging, Green Goddess Garden, Just For Fun, Possum Living, Telling Stories, The Homestead, Unschooling | Leave a comment

Solar Power

Mavis and Hazel roll around and kick up the dirt. My dirty little yard birds.

I’m out in the garden, sitting on the glider bench, sweating and typing on the Herban Cowboy’s notebook.  It’s 85 degrees and sunny.  There are shiny red strawberries fattening in the strawberry patch.  The chickens just took an ecstatic dust bath in the dirt behind me.  And we’re finally finishing the solar energy experiment we started last week.

In this experiment, Little Boy thinks light colors will absorb more solar energy.  We painted one bottle white and one bottle black, put a corresponding color balloon on top of each, and have set them in the sun.  The idea is, the color bottle whose balloon expands first is the one that absorbs the most solar energy (the heated air having expanded into the balloon).

Mavis, Hazel, Daphne and Gloria, pictured here weeding the garden, removing insect pests, and fertilizing all at the same time.

So now, while we’re waiting for the sun’s sciency goodness to manifest itself, Little Boy is learning how to herd chickens out of the garden beds, and the Herban Cowboy is moving a bit of chicken wire fencing, expanding the yard our girls have to scratch around in.

As for the rest of the Green Goddess Gardens, the kitchen garden has been mulched, the nasty garden fence taken down, peas growing, sprouts (green beans, radishes, broccoli, lettuce).  There’s a lemon cucumber plant and some kind of tomato that the Husband brought home from work, seeds are planted (yellow squash, zucchini, cucumber, basil, parsley).

Wood sorrel. The Irish shamrock. Little Boy eats them right out of the ground. I prefer them in egg salad.

Spring is so busy.  It’s too much work for me.  I prefer the forced laziness that the heat of summer brings.  But at least the work is fun.  And it goes with beer or wine.

And gardening is not all hard work.  We forage for wild food and encourage it in our yard.  We’ve got yellow dock for soups, chickweed and wood sorrel for salads, and Little Boy and I are both watching the wild blackberry flowers with mouth watering impatience.  This year I am resolved to make wild fruit jam.  Either blackberry or mulberry.  I vow this every spring.  I hope this is the year I really do it.

UPDATE:  Our solar energy experiment was a dud.  Neither balloon expanded.  Not sure if bottles were not painted enough, or if we’re just crappy scientists.  Either way, I think we’ll just move on to the next one in the book.

Wild blackberry. We're gonna eat it.

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Fabulous Foraging, Green Goddess Garden, Possum Living, The Homestead, Unschooling | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Lazy (Crazy) Sunday Morning

Savannah is quiet on Sunday mornings.  I don’t sleep in, because The Boy gets up at the crack of dawn.  Every.  Single.  Morning.  And he must come snuggle with me, which means singing little songs and pretending to be various animals and superheroes and aliens while somehow managing to kick me in the stomach and smash my boobs.  Every.  Single.  Morning.

I’m pretty fucking cranky this morning.  It rained all night long (I mean ALL NIGHT LONG) and now it’s cold.  The kitchen was left a mess, which seemed okay last night, but now is incredibly wrong.  Everything The Husband says this morning is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.  Every noise my child makes gives me the urge to scream.  I just want to be left alone.  And there are tiny red pimples on my forehead like I’m 13.  According to my internal calendar, I should start some time tomorrow.

Fortunately, my Herban Cowboy is not an actual idiot, no matter what my hormones are telling me today.  He leapt into action quickly, cleaning the kitchen, taking out the trash and recycling, and making a giant pot of coffee.  THEN he made scrambled eggs and toast.

He has now escaped back to the Boy’s room, where they are watching something with Wolverine and drawing pictures of robots.

I feel like some sort of volcano goddess, who has spent the morning with the natives tossing virgins at me to appease my angry fire.  But now I’m left alone with a full belly and a fresh cup of coffee.  I am so, so spoiled.

Now that I have my brain for a minute I’m working out a plan for the day.  The yard is wet from last night’s rains, and it will be chilly today, but the clouds are already clearing up and it should be beautiful by afternoon.  There are some chores to catch up on:  laundry & dishes, sweep & vacuum.  Other than that it’s all fun stuff.  Plant seeds.  Pull weeds to feed to the chickens.  Rake pine straw for mulch and the chicken yard.  Pick chickweed to add to salad for lunch.

The thunderstorms started yesterday after we’d finished mulching all the veggie beds.  I took a few pics…

Pine straw raked from the roof of our house. We use it to mulch our veggie beds. Old mulch gets thrown into the chicken yard for them to scratch around in and compost for us.

Sprouting pea plant. The "container" is a square cinder block I found at the dump. The stake is an old curtain rod. Plant marker is a craft stick from the dollar store.

Freshly mulched veggie beds. Little Boy is making mud pie soup in a bucket. Such a helper.

It's too cool to plant tomatoes yet, but when we do, they'll go in these tire beds. Tomato cages were second hand from my mom.

Where we have our picnic lunches.

The first early bearing strawberries. We better put netting over that bed before the birds beat us to them.

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Green Goddess Garden, Possum Living, Telling Stories, The Homestead, Wise Woman Way | Leave a comment

A Big To-Do

Every day there are lists.  Today’s lists include such tasks as:

1.  Make French Toast

2.  Clean syrup and egg off of entire kitchen

3.  Wash dishes

4.  Lure escaped chickens back into pen with table scraps

5.  Find where the chickens got out and plug the hole in the fence.  Again.

6.  Rake pine straw off roof of house.  Free mulch!

7.  Start blog

8.  Mulch veggie beds.

9.  Plant seeds that should have been planted 3 weeks ago.

10. Discover camera battery has 7 minutes left.

11. Charge camera.

12. Keep Facebook open in another tab like an obsessive freak.  Tell yourself everyone does it.

13.  Heat leftover veggie pies for lunch.

14.  Glad you made extra salad yesterday, aren’t you?

15.  Take out kitchen compost.  The tiny fruit flies should not have had time to breed.

16.  Miss picture of husband on roof because camera is charging.

17.  Shower.  Put on a bra and makeup and try to look pretty.

18.  Go do a puppet show.  The 3 Pigs.  For some kid’s birthday party.

19.  Wash more dishes.

20.  Dinner?  I don’t even know.  This will eventually have to be dealt with.

21.  Isn’t it time to start on the wine?

22.  Bathtime, storytime, kid into bed.

23.  How is it only 7:30?  I feel like it’s midnight.

 

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Green Goddess Garden, Kitchen Witchery, Telling Stories, The Homestead, Unschooling | Leave a comment

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