Thursday, September 6, 2007


It turns out that keeping up with this blogging thing is more work than I expected. In addition, we've added ourselves to the HouseBlog network, which has forced me to evaluate everything I plan to write. Is it housebloggy enough? Or will I just annoy everyone forced to see our page for the few seconds it appears on the network's main site? There's been a lot to talk about, but I guess it wasn't home-centric enough. So in summary:

The garden. This year we weren't supposed to have a garden. Our house is lovely, yes, but is in disrepair. It's been ignored in small ways for years, and has deep problems around plumbing, electrical and HVAC. Because of this, our emphasis this year was going to be on the house itself. Fat chance. We planted a garden with what you would expect in the Midwest: tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkins, corn, beans, hot peppers, habenero, beets... the list goes on. We used a permaculture technique - sheet mulching - and modified it for our abbreviated schedule. It was a great way to get rid of many of our moving boxes, most of which had been bent, soaked and crushed beyond repair. So this summer they became an excellent weed barrier, killing the lawn underneath while preserving moisture.

The tree, our beautiful tree. A tall, magnificent elm that had seen better days was cut down several weeks ago. It was in a state of decay, much like our house, but probably would have lasted a decade or two before succumbing to the elements. It was clear that it had suffered some irreparable harm some time ago, but what ended up defeating it wasn't the weather, but the city. Minneapolis has had a high number of Dutch Elm victims this year, and our tree was one of them.

The day the tree was felled it shook the ground like an earthquake. 80 years old (from our unscientific ring counting later) and over 3 feet in diameter, it must have weighed many tons.

Since the loss of the tree, we've noticed that on very hot days the air conditioning runs for several hours longer.

Chickens. I ended my last post on a down note, but the chickens are doing very well. The handsome lad you see on the right is Stripes. Stripes is the surviving rooster from the many, many roosters we managed to hatch this summer. In fact, of the four eggs that we hatched, four were roosters. Somewhat worse than the 50/50 odds we were expecting. Of the additional five chicks we were given a few weeks later, only three were hens. So, we ended up with five roosters and three hens. Not an ideal situation - you only want one rooster in a flock as small as ours. We came up with an ingenious method for determining which roosters would go: if they crowed, they left. Pearl, the massive white something-or-other (we're not really sure on breeds) was the first and loudest, followed by two anonymous black roosters and Spongebob. Spongebob was unanimously the worst rooster we had ever seen, constantly fighting with the hens, stealing food, and crowing at inopportune times. And so it came to pass that Stripes, probably the least effective rooster of the crew, stayed with us.

The coop. I spent two weekends working on this thing, probably about 40 hours in all. It's made mostly from cheap pine 2x4s, reclaimed cedar from our basement tear-out, and a salvaged window from the ReUse store. The roof is a water membrane donated by my father-in-law with cedar shingles.

The design I stole from a picture I saw online, and made some assumptions and modifications for how I thought things should be. So far it's done very well, holding up better than our house did in several extreme thunderstorms this summer.

The only thing left is to create a nest box, as the hens should start laying in a week or two. Otherwise we'll have to hunt for them in the yard.

That's all for now. Some actual home improvement projects are coming up, so I guess I'll have something housebloggy to write about after all. Stay tuned.