Chickens

Spring Comes to The Manor

Despite a couple of freezing nights this week, I think it's safe to announce that Spring Is Here. We had the lawn mowed for the first time this year and it's amazing how much consistent grass height does for the overall appearance of the backyard.

Don't get me wrong, if you look closely there is still a bunch of winter crap we need to address. The picnic table and chairs have accelerated their rusting, and the umbrella has gotten the goats' attention and not in a good way. They've thoroughly enjoyed hopping over it, kicking it, chewing on it, and head-butting each other on it. Good times.

Bill took advantage of one of my business trips in February to have the giant tree cut down without my input. Why the stump is sticking 6 feet off the ground is a mystery to me, but I'm not in a mental place to have a rational discussion of how to deal with the remaining eyesore. 

The animals are SO HAPPY that we're getting more sunshine and longer days. They bask in the sun and follow us around making contented noises (and sometimes sneezing).

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Our chicken production is also back up, after a few weeks of getting just a couple of eggs a day. The ladies have stopped molting (it was a little gross) and we're now collecting 7-9 eggs each night.

If I had to prioritize future improvements, here is what I wish the backyard fairy would do:

  1. Install a lattice fence/guard around the guest room A/C unit, since the goats have now chewed through the sensor TWICE. 
  2. Fix the chicken coop (the metal guard on the nesting boxes has come partially undone and is hanging by a thread) and finish painting it.
  3. Install gutters on the barn to direct runoff away and prevent "swampland" problems around the building perimeter.
  4. Paint the barn to match the chicken coop, and install flower boxes.
  5. Get rid of the tree stump. (I tried lighting it on fire. It didn't work.)
  6. Spray paint the picnic table and chairs (color TBD), and find a place to set them up so that we're not sitting directly in the grass.
  7. Hire a designer to create a master plan (gazebo? pathway from backyard to stable yard?)
  8. Fix the back porch, which is now a mix of levels, wood color, and functionality.

Sadly, I don't have a backyard fairy, so we'll just have to see what Bill tackles over the next few months.

In Which I Realize The Manor Will Be the Death of Me

The house is killing me. At least twice a day I am convinced we made a huge mistake in taking on this behemoth that seems to be falling apart faster than we can (afford to) fix it. I'm counting on the fact that back in 1907 houses were "made to last" and thus should hold up for another couple of years at least.

I've narrowed my despair down to four main culprits:

  • I've been really busy at work lately. More work = more stress = more grumpiness. Plus, I've had less time at home to tackle small projects or do the daily organizing that keeps my family's disheveled habits in check. It's a bit of a vicious cycle -- clutter makes me anxious (which reads as "bitchy" to my family) so when I'm busy at work, the house gets messy, which makes me more stressed, which makes me more tense at work. Yada yada yada. 
 Except for the randomly placed and disproportionately small picture frame on the wall, this is what happiness looks like for me. Tidy and spare, with lots of white.

Except for the randomly placed and disproportionately small picture frame on the wall, this is what happiness looks like for me. Tidy and spare, with lots of white.


  • I was sick over the holidays. I caught the flu the day after returning from a trip to Bangkok in mid-December and that flu virus turned into a cold, which lingered until it became bronchitis. In all, it was a full five weeks of misery before I turned the corner. I felt off my game for Christmas and New Years, and it drove me crazy that the time I took off (almost 4 weeks out of the office) was devoted to laying on the couch and coughing rather than tackling any of the dozens of house projects on my list.
  • Bill and I are not on the same page. We've had a string of disagreements lately about project choice, scope, design, and budget. The Manor is a hard enough project to tackle, without being on the outs with your partner in crime.
  • Several of our projects have gone wrong, or haven't been finished. The expensive paint job we did on the front porch last year has bubbled and peeled, making it an eyesore every time I have to go through the front door. The plaster ceiling repair we did on several parts of the house looks fantastic, but there are still multiple areas in other areas where the ceiling is peeling away. The chicken coop paint job isn't done, nor is the new ramp to the back door. Living "in between" is hard.

I'm hopeful that the impending spring weather (although it snowed again last night) will create a renewed sense of optimism about The Manor. Otherwise, I've noticed some very attractive downtown lofts available for a steal.

That said, there have been some nice points over the last six months. Here are a few of the highlights

Sewing Projects

 Warm pajamas for the rooms where the heat is still a little iffy.

Warm pajamas for the rooms where the heat is still a little iffy.

 An animal-print wrap-dress for #JungleJanuary.

An animal-print wrap-dress for #JungleJanuary.

 Matching dresses for me and the spunky one.

Matching dresses for me and the spunky one.

Small Home Improvement Projects

 We got rid of this hideous light (and gave it to my sister, who thinks it is awesome)...

We got rid of this hideous light (and gave it to my sister, who thinks it is awesome)...

 ... and replaced it with a ceiling fan. So much better!

... and replaced it with a ceiling fan. So much better!

 We got a new storage unit for our bathroom, which gives us more room for everyday necessities, and about 15 extra rolls of toilet paper. #beprepared

We got a new storage unit for our bathroom, which gives us more room for everyday necessities, and about 15 extra rolls of toilet paper. #beprepared

 We upgraded the dining table to a proper one with pull-out leaves that will comfortable seat twelve. Finally had our first dinner party, which was a rousing success.

We upgraded the dining table to a proper one with pull-out leaves that will comfortable seat twelve. Finally had our first dinner party, which was a rousing success.

 Ultimately, I'd like to have the table repainted (professionally) but once we set it up for that night's dinner party, I came to grips with the fact that it will probably stay like this for the next decade.

Ultimately, I'd like to have the table repainted (professionally) but once we set it up for that night's dinner party, I came to grips with the fact that it will probably stay like this for the next decade.

Happy animals

 My sewing room is the warmest place in the house (since I crank up the baseboard heaters) and I find a lot of animals napping there.

My sewing room is the warmest place in the house (since I crank up the baseboard heaters) and I find a lot of animals napping there.

 This fall, all was bliss...

This fall, all was bliss...

 And the sassy creatures paraded around with glee.

And the sassy creatures paraded around with glee.

 And we ate delicious fresh eggs almost every morning.

And we ate delicious fresh eggs almost every morning.

 Then one of the chickens got a hernia. There's nothing to be done, and some chickens can live for years. Sadly, about a month after it happened, her skin split and she died. Thank goodness BIll took care of the remains -- I was told it was pretty gruesome. 

Then one of the chickens got a hernia. There's nothing to be done, and some chickens can live for years. Sadly, about a month after it happened, her skin split and she died. Thank goodness BIll took care of the remains -- I was told it was pretty gruesome. 

 Still, the eggs from our remaining hens are delicious, and a nap can fix almost anything.

Still, the eggs from our remaining hens are delicious, and a nap can fix almost anything.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

 I would be remiss not to mention a life-changing discovery. Putting a sheet of tinfoil on your baking sheet makes chocolate chip cookies bake perfectly -- soft and chewy with no burned bottoms. Please implement this trick immediately.

I would be remiss not to mention a life-changing discovery. Putting a sheet of tinfoil on your baking sheet makes chocolate chip cookies bake perfectly -- soft and chewy with no burned bottoms. Please implement this trick immediately.

That's all for now!

Fall 2015 at The Manor

 Maude, one of our remaining chickens who *mostly* has the good sense to stay away from the dogs.

Maude, one of our remaining chickens who *mostly* has the good sense to stay away from the dogs.

When I last left you, dear reader, the basement was flooded, Bill was out of town, and I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I'm happy to report that Bill is back and the basement is dry. The nervous breakdown seems to have stepped back a pace, but is ready to launch at the slightest provocation.

What's going on with the basement?

I'm so glad you asked. After pumping 800 gallons of water outside, the basement continued to flood for the rest of the weekend. A specialist came out to examine the problem and told us that because our house has a double-brick foundation, we can't do exterior waterproofing and instead need to consider digging up the concrete to put in gutters and pipes along the interior walls of the basement, which will then divert water into a (new) sump pump. Cha-ching.

Oh, and our insurance doesn't cover water damage from flooding, so we had to pay for the emergency help out of pocket. We don't have flood insurance. Remind me again how my husband's job is convincing communities to require flood insurance for just such occasions...

What's going on with the chickens?

Well, we're now down to 10 chickens. You'll recall that Doris (our firstborn!) turned out to be a rooster and was re-homed over the summer. A couple of weeks ago, the chickens started venturing over the fence from their safe and secure stable area into our backyard. Where our dogs roam. With a taste for chicken.

Sadly, one of them wasn't quick enough to make it back over the fence, and was killed by the dogs. In a matter of second, the air was full of feathers (seriously, it was like a feather pillow exploded) and the chicken was dead on the ground with a broken neck. No spurting blood (thank goodness) but it was pretty disturbing to have to pick it up off the ground and get it disposed of in the three minutes before the kids arrived home from school. 

At least the chickens have mostly decided to stay on their side of the fence. We're planning to clip their flight feathers this weekend so help minimize their explorations. Stay tuned for that horror story soon.

 There doesn't seem to be much mourning for dead "Brown Chicken #6". It's business as usual in The Manor stables.

There doesn't seem to be much mourning for dead "Brown Chicken #6". It's business as usual in The Manor stables.

Fighting "The Man"

The new grass seed is coming in nicely, and the stable is looking less desperate. This comes at a good time, since it turns out that our city is doing a comprehensive review of the zoning ordinances and is proposing that a property lot under 5 acres be limited to four chickens and no animals over 50 lbs. That means that our very spacious "almost 2 acre" property would be over the limit on chickens and would not be allowed to have goats.

Heresy! Here is a photo of approximately 1/8 of our property. Does this photo look overcrowded with livestock? I think not.

 This is a tiny portion of our backyard -- does it look like we have too many chickens? Absolutely not.

This is a tiny portion of our backyard -- does it look like we have too many chickens? Absolutely not.

And here is a photo of another angle of our backyard -- this is separate from the stable area where the chickens roam, and there is another 2/3 of the backyard not pictured. Does it look like the goats are being mistreated with lack of space? Or that our neighbors mind living next to these pets?

 I think you can probably tell from their little pot bellies that these goats have plenty of land upon which to gorge themselves.  

I think you can probably tell from their little pot bellies that these goats have plenty of land upon which to gorge themselves.  

All of this is to say that Bill and I are moving into high gear. We're in the process of figuring out the best way to advocate for more reasonable zoning rules regarding chickens and livestock. Bill's in communication with the local extension agent and I'm going to be reaching out to members of the City Council and the planning department. Wish us luck!

Recent Happenings at The Manor

I'm writing to you from Thailand, where the weather is hot and muggy, but who cares when you have a gorgeous private pool at your villa to relax in?

Remind me to tell you about that time I decided to go skinny dipping, but locked myself out of the hotel room and had to wander around the resort wearing only my sunglasses and a smile, looking for a staff person to help me get back inside. Actually, please don't remind me.

But I digress. I realize that I haven't updated the blog in a while, and since I have a spare afternoon before my final meeting tomorrow, here is a quick update on late-summer happenings at The Manor.

The goats are getting too big for their britches.

While they will follow Bill sedately into the barn at night, I end up wrestling them towards the barn door and then re-enacting what I can only imagine is a scene straight out of the Three Stooges as one escapes while I shove the other inside, repeat ad nauseum. It is slapstick comedy at its finest. I loathe slapstick comedy.

The chickens are happy (except when the goats are playing in their coop).

We're now reliably getting about 5 eggs a day (or about 3 dozen eggs a week). You might think that's a lot, but when I tell you that the kids can easily gobble down 5 eggs at sitting EACH, you understand why I am hoping the flock increases their production even more. (And I've learned a valuable lesson about choosing chicken breeds -- while I love our Asian Blue chickens, their layer/meat combo status means that they are big (and therefore eat more feed) but don't lay as frequently. When they do, however, they are GIGANTIC.

We removed the sacred flagpole.

I don't even want to mention this one, lest we incur the wrath of the local garden club (which put up the flagpole in honor of one of their members). But from the moment we moved in, I wanted it gone. First of all, it lacked the proper lighting due the American flag when flown at night, and there was no way I was going to take that baby down each sunset and raise it back up each dawn. I love America, but I got no time for that.

I also didn't want to install extra lighting -- it's hard enough for me to sleep at night with the streetlights, let alone with an upward-directed spotlight right outside my bedroom door. (Somehow I can easily sleep in the middle of the day with the sun directly on my face, but at night I like total darkness...)

TL;DR: we relocated the flagpole to a fellow citizen, with only a minor incident when he joked that he was going to fly the Confederate flag and I almost had to run him over with my car.

We have a new addition to the family.

After test driving eleven foster kittens in July (including a round of fleas!) we kept the best one. Daisy 2 (named after my childhood cat Daisy) has quickly become a favorite with everyone. At just over two pounds, she rules the roost.

Before I go, a few additional photos of the resort at Koh Samui... I'm already nostalgic...

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Coop Color

We need to make a decision immediately on the color of the chicken coop (which will also become the color of the stable and shed), as the number of unfinished Manor projects has reached a staggering all time high. So without further ado, here are the finalists:

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  1. Royal blue
  2. Granny blue
  3. Ice blue
  4. Tiffany blue

Leave your vote in the comments. Note: there is an obvious winner here, followed by a strong second option. And one that should never grace a wall. Ever. So choose wisely.