Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chickens....oh yes!

A new journey has begun at Elm Tree, that of chicken farming.  Our first step in the chicken direction was purchasing this adorable little chicken coop!

Here is the empty spot in the backyard where we have determined chickens might be able to make their home:

It will involve giving them some of our backyard playground space and a little corner of our herb bed as well, but then we think of the eggs and the entertainment and the education about where our food comes from and about caring for animals and we think it's a small price to pay!

Here are some supplies we need to finish the project:
  1. Chicken wire (have some, but need more!)
  2. Chain link fencing
  3. 2x4 boards
  4. 4x4 posts
  5. Straw
  6. Organic Chicken Food
  7. Something to store the chicken food in (rodent/moisture proof barrel?)
  8. Chickens!  This one seems obvious, but we will need to obtain some friendly, mellow, high egg-producing hens, hardy and long-living would be great too!
Also we would love input from anyone with know-how about the kind of chickens to get, the kind of food to feed them, other care tips like what to watch out for in the local area and how to keep predators from getting in, what tricks work best?

We'll keep this post updated as we complete the project!

Update:  For our family work day, we got the coop brought into place in the backyard!  Go parents go!

Center of Mixology

Ok, as nerdy as that sounds, this is going to be a really cool feature in our playscape!  And best of all, so far all the pieces have been free!  So I first thought of this over spring break, here is the space I hope to turn into the feature:

Then this nice man gave me an old bottom part of a fire pit.
At first, I wasn't sure what to do with it, then I thought, Aha!
center of mixology!!!
So now I had this cool dish for mixing in, but I really wanted a stand to set it up on and make it about kid-table height.  
I even imagined, and drew pictures of the exact item I would need, a table, preferably metal, and it needed to have a circle inset in the middle to allow the fire pit piece to fit snugly in.

One day I was walking from Elm Tree towards the market area and saw someone leaving furniture by the curb directly across the street from Elm Tree, and I was sure amazed to see the fellow carry this item out from his apartment: 

The very thing I wanted, free, and sitting across the street!

Sometimes the universe says "yes, that is a great idea and here, I'll even help you out with that..."
Now I think if we could get our hands on about 100 sq ft of pavers or bricks we can put this in!
Cool!  Can't wait to install!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Permaculture in the front yard!

Wow!  What a change!
The lone sidewalk
Fence nearly completed!

Our front yard looks quite different now, as anyone who drives or walks by can see.  And in the process I've learned that working on your front yard is a great way to get to know the neighbors all up and down the block!
Before any work, with old sign and old bushes!

New bushes and new sign, Spring of 2011
This idea of having a yard filled with sod, and one lone sidewalk to allow people to traipse through the lawn without ever even touching it, has always confused me a bit.  Especially as I've thrown myself into caring for the lawn for the past 3 years and see how much work, how much water and money have to go into it to make it look attractive and nice.  As this season of lawn care began I began to think about all the hours and work it was going to take, and I contemplated the final bill for maintaining it over the next several years, it seemed there was a better way to go about this.  All this open, sunny space with great soil and we are growing and mowing a fairly "useless" product, we aren't even enjoying it by running through it or rolling about in it, as the children do in the back yard.

Another thing that has always been a little stressful is that the front yard was not fully enclosed, it was easy for children to run ahead so teachers and parents were always running after their children to make sure they didn't get to the busy street first.
Taking out the tree

The solution seemed to be to change the position of the fence so that at least one portion of it could be escape-proof and stress-free, and simultaneously we were thrilled at the idea of replacing a large portion of our lawn with a permaculture garden forest full of low-water needs and  edible plants.
We are so excited to plot and plan the design for this fun project!  Anyone with skills in or an interest in permaculture please give us your ideas!

Toddler Logs

We took out the Catalpa tree in the front and have found lots of ways to incorporate the tree itself into our playscape!  The main part of the trunk was saved as a log so we can use it in the new front bed that moving the fence is giving us.  The limbs were cut into child-sized logs and stacked in a "wood pile" near the dirt digging area.  I am curious to see the many ways the children will find to put the logs to use!  Another portion of the trunk was planted in the front as a stump, just a good sittin' spot for viewing our lovely flowers.  
Moving the fence line created a lovely new perennial bed in the front!

Front porch - not fully enclosed yet

The final pieces will be adding bike parking (patio will need to be installed and bike rack assembled) and fully enclosing the front porch so we can "hang-out" more out there with the children, especially during the mornings when it would be so nice to be out splashing in the water table or tending to the gardens.

Fortunately I have an acquaintance who is not only a metalsmith with his own custom fabrication business but an artist as well, I'm excited to hear his ideas on securing the porch and bringing beauty and art into its design too.