Archive | April 2013

Introducing the Yellow Barn Poultry Co.

The Ladies of the Yellow Barn Poultry Co.

The Ladies of the Yellow Barn Poultry Co.  They take their names from four of my favorite female authors:  Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath and Gertrude Chandler Warner.

Today, we got chickens.  Four lovely ladies.  Mary-Hall says that they have “won the chicken-life lottery.”  I think she’s right.  But I didn’t decide to become mother-hen to these feathered friends overnight.  It’s been a process.

I have wanted chickens for a while now…like since highschool.  While my parents put up with an endless parade of pets over the years including snakes, gerbils, newts, fish, turtles, a baby possum, dogs, cats, hermit crabs, rats, mice, and who knows what else, they drew the line at raising chickens and suggested that I judge poultry instead…which I did through my local 4H club.  Yeah.  You read that right. (If you’re wondering what in the world that entails, you can check out the judging handbook for Mississippi here.)  We did have 4 guinea hens for a while…my mother’s last-ditch effort at controlling the resilient tick population that ruled our Texas property…but their loud squawking quickly earned them a one-way ticket to a friends farm where they could squawk to their hearts content without annoying the entire neighborhood.

Since becoming an adult and a homeowner, I’ve been trying to jump on the Urban Homesteading bandwagon and have conducted a few, mostly unsuccessful, ventures into backyard farming over the past 3 years.  We’ve had two gardens be destroyed by squash-eating bugs and o’possums with a fondness for tomatoes, and a brief dalliance with composting-that-never-turned-into-compost.  But this hasn’t stopped me from dreaming of a day when I would somehow grow/raise my own food and be all kinds of eco-friendly.  Keith was on-board with the eco-friendly part of it all, but wasn’t so sure about the chickens.  At least not for a while.  But this past Valentine’s day I came home from an event to find the following gift waiting for me on the kitchen counter.

Valentine's gift from Keith that started it all.  That man knows how to love me for sure!

Valentine’s gift from Keith that started it all. That man knows how to love me for sure!

Yes.  He’d come around and bought me the coop in the photo as a gift.  The ready-to-assemble kit came in  the mail about 2 weeks later and we set it up in the backyard and admired it.  And then decided a few days afterward that it was small.  Like really small.  Like really too small for what we had in mind. If we were going to do this…we were going to do it big.  {Side Note: the first coop we bought can be purchased here. We were really pleased with it and would highly recommend it if you’re looking for something to house 1 to 3 chickens or if you didn’t want to have to build anything yourself as the assembly was super easy and only took about 20 minutes.  We also love the entire MyPetChicken.com website…it’s a fantastic source for all things chicken!]  So we posted the awesome-but-small coop on Craigslist and found a home for it which was great…but now we were back to square one…coop-less.

The research began.  We looked at larger ready-to-assemble-coop kits.  We looked on Craigslist at used coops.  We browsed websites of several local folks who make and sell coops.  We brainstormed about how to create our own coop.  And then Keith found The Garden Coop online and we knew we’d found our coop.  We purchased the downloadable PDF construction plans from the website and took on our first major construction project ever.  And when I say “we” I mostly mean Keith who admittedly did all the hard stuff.  My claim to fame in the process was pulling apart old shipping pallets to create the siding for the henhouse portion of the coop.  And a few other things.  But mostly, Keith was the construction guy.

Keith inspects the doorway of the coop during construction.

Keith inspects the doorway of the coop during construction.

{Side Note: If you are interested in any construction tips on The Garden Coop, feel free to ask in the comment section and I’ll be happy to elaborate on our experience.  We worked on our coop off and on for about a month including all the finishing touches and landscaping, and found the plans to be excellent and the tips/experiences on their website helpful as well.  We are thrilled with our coop choice!  I can also answer questions about keeping chickens in Nashville if you have any!}

After much work…..we are super proud of our end product.  We wanted something that was critter-proof, chicken-friendly and yes, nice looking and I think our coop fills the bill.  I even embellished with some hanging flower baskets, an awesome hen-house sign from the Smith & Hawken collection at Target, and a small garden of lavender and Kentucky Pole Beans.

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Our version of The Garden Coop. I’m hanging out inside with the girls helping them get acclimated. We used new construction materials, but “up-cycled” old shipping pallets for hen house siding and bricks from our home renovation to build a path.

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My “Garden Coop Garden.” The plants are lavender and each wooden stake marks where I have planted pole beans….as the beans grow, they climb up the wire mesh walls of the coop.

Today we made the trip out to Poultry Hollow farm to pick out our chickens!  They are an awesome farm only about an hour from Nashville.  I’d done some homework on what breeds to get (we wanted nice chickens that lay lots of eggs) and in the end we settled on a Golden Comet (Louisa), New Hampshire Red (Jane), Black Australorpe (Sylvia) and “Production Red” (New Hampshire Red/Rhode Island Red cross-breed) (Gertrude).  We brought our new friends home and they spent the afternoon getting settled in to their new surroundings.  They seem to like the place, but little Louisa hasn’t quite figured out the whole going-up-the-ramp bit yet.  She’s about 3 weeks younger than the other girls so I’m sure as she gets bigger, she’ll get the hang of it.

Louisa and Me.  She's the baby of the flock and such a sweetie.

Louisa and Me. She’s the baby of the flock and such a sweetie.

She's got Keith wrapped around her little finger already too.

She’s got Keith wrapped around her little finger already too.

Maybe you’ve noticed already that I’ve added a “Chickens” category to the blog, which of course means that yes, you’ll be hearing lots more about our little ladies as they grow up.  And who knows.  Maybe Mary-Hall will even end up with a flock of her own to occupy all that land that comes with that new house she’s buying.  That would be egg-cellent.

Update!!!

Thanks so much to UCAN (The Urban Chicken Advocates of Nashville) for featuring this blog on their Facebook Page!   Also….we’ve done some landscaping since these photos were taken!  See the updated photos below!!!

an updated shot of the coop with it's completed landscaping and rainbarrel in the background.  You can also see the gutter that Keith hung!

an updated shot of the coop with it’s completed landscaping and rain barrel in the background. You can also see the gutter that Keith hung!

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beans are sprouting!!!

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New landscaping!

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Homemade Paint-By-Number

Sometimes you just need a project.  You know, to keep yourself from trolling Craigslist for furniture that could potentially work for a house that you could potentially buy in a couple of months.. if you know what I mean.  And/or stressing over said house and all the little roller coaster rides that accompany the process.  Let’s just say – rural house buying with just a little acreage ain’t the faint of heart.  So many emails.  So many phone calls. “I have no idea what fire protection zone its in, should I?” Ugh.

This project started with an impromptu trip to the thrift store and ended up as a custom paint-by-number-ish bluebird painting.

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I took some inspiration from this paint-by-number mural. (Super cool for a kids room right?)  I love that vintage look and thought it would be easy to duplicate with a little help from photoshop.  And, its a pretty simple process that can be easily duplicated by anyone with some time on their hands.  To make it even more awesome, you could use a photo that you actually took, or one of a meaningful place, etc.  Pet portrait?

Ok, I’m putting a break in so I don’t consume the entire front page of the blog. Click through to see what I did, step by step with tons of pictures. Yay!

Read More…

Spring has Sprung!

I was truly starting to think that spring would NEVER come after the endless months of grey cold that Nashville gets in the winters.  However….the weather has recently turned warm and lovely and garden center coupons have begun to appear in my inbox…sure signs that at long last the season of flowers and flip-flops has arrived.

While the Johnson family has been house-hunting, the Bordeauxs have been working on a major yard project.  I can’t reveal just yet what it is, but I’ll give you a few teaser pictures of the little signs of Spring that have been popping up in our yard.  Happy little flowers everywhere!

Keith and I have made the annual trip to Home Depot to buy flowers for his (and then OUR) front porch planters since we were just first dating, so it’s become a fun tradition…picking out plants…potting them….me trying to remember to water them….

I have high hopes of keeping all our plants alive this year.

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This planter on the front porch usually gets something happy and bright red, and this year is no exception.

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This year we added hanging baskets (picked up for $12 each at Southeastern Salvage…one of my favorite stores) to the porch for an extra pop of color. And look how great our maple tree is doing!

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Gerber daisies have always been a favorite of mine so we picked out these bright pink ones for the pot on the front steps.

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My new planter-box-herb-garden. Excited to actually use these herbs in my cooking this year….now that I know how to cook!

So that’s the yard tour for now…..but there’s a doozy of a post in store for you soon!

Question: What are you guys planting in your yards this year?  Flowers? Veggies?  Would love to hear all about it!

New House – The Ugly

Wowzers, what a week huh.  As I sit here in a quiet house I am hopeful and prayerful that this coming week will be a little less eventful than the last one.

On the home front, we are still progressing with the sale, a little bit slowly but that’s okay.  Slow and steady wins the race?  So here’s the last installment of my new house tour.  I’ve covered the good and the bad which just leaves – the ugly.  Gotta love the ugly stuff – these are the parts that are most rewarding to fix.

At the top of my ‘ugly’ list are the light fixtures rather prominently hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen/laundry/dining/living room.  Yeah not so much love for them.  They will likely be changed out if we do take possession of the place.

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With what?  I have no idea.  Something cool, maybe a bit industrial, big glass globes.  I read somewhere that when you live with little kids, you should have fun with the light fixtures because its the one thing they can’t easily destroy.  I totally get that.

What about this old beast? There’s nothing pretty about a woodburning stove. However, it might be useful. I’ve never lived with one so I will at least give her one winter to prove her value before yanking her out.

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And finally, considering the overall aesthetic everywhere else, the ceiling fan situation out on the otherwise lovely screen porch is quite… unexpected.

Meet Crazy-Multi-Colored-Fan-#1 and its hard-partyin’ cousin Crazy-Pastel-Multi-Colored-Fan-#2.

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These two are currently hanging out right next to each other. If I have my say, they will accompany each other right out the back door together, never to return again. And until they go, I will keep them on at full speed so the rainbow of colors is blurred beyond recognition.

Wishing you all a peaceful week! I promise to blog about something besides moving next.

New House – The Bad

So, continuing with the new home tour… I covered some of the good parts earlier. But the bad stuff is so much more fun to talk about, right?  Herein lies where we’ll focus our initial projects and finally get to flex our DIY muscles that hopefully haven’t atrophied beyond the point of usefulness.  I can’t wait!

First, semi-minor. I believe this practice is somewhat typical in other countries, but its totally unusual in Mississippi. The washer/dryer are right in the kitchen.  Furthermore, the kitchen/dining room/living room are all open to each other, so basically the laundry room is in the living room.

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Moving into the master bedroom, we realize that this must have been a custom designed home. (Or, possibly, they modified an existing state park nature center plan.) One way or another, a few of the dimensions got a smidge off, somewhere in the process.  Example #1: The master bathroom is wide-open to the master bedroom, and to be specific, the big bathtub actually extrudes into the bedroom area about 6 inches.  Perfect if you ever wanted to bathe in your bedroom.

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To remedy that, I believe we’d eventually pull out that tub and reorganize that whole side of the bathroom, likely adding a wall and a door in the process.  Not a huge deal, but still kinda odd.

Example #2:  The little hallway formed between that big bathtub and the rest of the bathroom area is way too little. We measured it at 1’11” at the narrowest point. Good thing both August and I are slim, because this one will be the hardest to fix.

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And finally, probably the primary reason that this house sat on the market for so long…. The bedroom walls don’t go all the way to the ceiling.

GASP!

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How weird is that?  Weird enough to send most potential buyers running for the hills.  Dealing with this is first on our list. Although we could just play it like the Waltons (“Goodnight John-boy”), we will most likely finish them on up to the ceiling before we even move it.  The above picture is in the master, but its the same situation in the other two bedrooms.

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Filling that space in will lessen the lovely feeling of openness, the daylighting splashed across the ceiling, and so forth.  And it probably won’t be a simple fix at all because there are several different angles, ceiling heights, and moldings to deal will.  But, I am struggling to figure out how we could possibly convince Ransom that its bed time if he can still see light on his own ceiling.

New House – The Good

Today was our home inspection.  (Thankfully, there were no huge surprises.)  The inspector was very thorough, so we got a little extra time to wander around the place and take it all in.  We are getting more and more excited about our {potential} upcoming move.

This house has been for sale for over six months, and we saw this listing when it first hit the MLS.  Our reaction at the time was basically “wow, that is ALMOST perfect.”  Then we spent six months looking at stuff that was FAR from perfect to get over the “almost” part.  Turns out, the *almost perfect* place for us is very rare indeed.  Nothing else even came close.

What we want is apparently not what most other people want.  August has an aversion to subdivisions.  I have an aversion to most recent architectural styles.  August wants big huge trees.  I want a decent school district.  Couple all that together and you’ve just ruled out 99% of the metro area.  I’m not kidding!

So in the end, we decided to look more closely at this place.  After a little more worrying, we realized that problems were mostly cosmetic.  So we made an offer and the rest is history.

I’m going to break this post into three parts, spaghetti-western-syle, so today let’s only talk about the “Good”.  I’ll cover the “bad” and the “ugly” later.

The style of the house is not easily classifiable.  Probably “modern” I guess.  A more descriptive genre would be “nature center” or “state park welcome center” or “girl scout regional headquarters”.  Here’s our nature center:

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So yeah, its a little bit outside of your typical residential box.  But you know what, I think it suits us.

Inside, the ceilings are vaulted throughout the house. We will have room to hang EVERYTHING.

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There are random walls of exposed brick in several areas, and I really like them.  The kitchen is large and open.  The cabinets are already painted which saves me from having to convince August to let me do it.  Lots and lots of storage space.

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Just off the dining area is an awesome screened porch.  Ransom will love this so much.  The floor is green and the ceiling is light blue and I like them both.

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Moving outside, there’s already a huge fenced garden area. I think the fence is to keep deer out.

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To manage that huge garden, we’re going to need a tractor. Voila!

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If nothing else, Ransom will spend time every day sitting on the old thing.

A babbling brook? Check. Two brooks, actually. The woods really are lovely, not too grown up and plenty of huge old trees.

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I am fantasizing about learning how to can my own fig preserves and putting up pecans and so on. Maybe get those cute goats. Some chickens? Bethany is in the middle of become an urban chicken farmer, so this blog may tick a little more over to the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ track. Not that we were ever too far from there anyway.

Leaving the Doldrums

A few days ago I read a blog post by Jen Hatmaker (I reviewed her book Seven a few weeks back) called “Stuck in the Doldrums” that really resonated with me.  She describes being stuck in a state of stagnation, listlessness, low spirits.  I definitely know what she’s talking about.  There are aspects of our extra-long-relocation-adjustment phase that have been good, a time for reflection and reassessment, as I’ve said before.  But as the months have dragged on, that feeling of stagnation has built up more and more.

Random Aside: Am I the only one who loves 'The Phantom Tollbooth'?  Probably.  Here's the main character literally in the doldrums.

Random Aside: Am I the only one who loves ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’? Probably. Here’s the main character literally in the doldrums.

Finally, I think I can report that I’ve crossed the peak and that yucky stagnant feeling is OFFICIALLY subsiding.  Slowly but surely.  Here’s what I’ve been doing to break out of it:

First, I’ve been trying to focus on the GOOD, to highlight at least one great moment about every day.  This was Jen’s idea.  Instead of a brag board, I’m snapping instagram pics.  You can see them on the little “Insta Pics” feed on the right side of the blog.  Its too easy to dwell on the bad, so this is one step in the right direction for me.

Second, well of course the weather is helping.  Nothing says doldrums like the short dreary rainy days of winter in Mississippi.  The longer hours of sunlight, blooming flowers, green leaves, bright spring mornings, etc etc..  all these things are the opposite of stagnation, are they not?

Third, I started a new project.  It involves an old school projector screen, plywood, and paint.  That’s chicken soup for this soul, my friends.

And fourth, as of a few days ago, drum roll please… a very long and loud one…. We are UNDER CONTRACT for a HOUSE.  Amen.  Cue the hallelujah chorus.  It only took us 10 months to figure out what we really wanted.  {Mental note to self: let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  We have at least 3 hurdles to jump before we can really close the deal.  So, this figurative bridge is truly far from being crossed.}

Here are a few teasers about the new place:

  • We negotiated for the tractor.
  • There’s already a compost pile.
  • Bat houses
  • A wood burning stove

Wondering what mental picture you guys have now.  Something like this?

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This?

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Neither one.  Sadly.  But I promise, I will be back next week with a plethora of real pictures!!

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