Friday, October 15, 2010

We have a rare bird

While we were moving our chicken coop from our house out to Sharon's farm, the chicken's had a good time in their temporary home; under the trampoline. It took us two evenings and since it wasn't all that secure under the trampoline, we made a little area in the back of the garage and carried them in there to sleep at night. It was quite an ordeal transporting all five chickens back and forth that night and morning, but all was well. We spread straw all over the floor and provided cardboard boxes and pet carriers in case anyone wanted to get cozy, and they just slept until I got them out in the morning. Gratefully Snowball was in one of the pet carriers, so I was able to just pick up the whole thing and move her to the trampoline area. She is the most flighty and easily startled bird, while the rest are quite mellow and tame. Interesting, because she was hand-fed and raised with lots of holding and petting. Well, come to find out, there's a biological reason she's so wild acting; turns out that she is a "Silver Lakenvelder", a chicken breed that hails originally from Germany and they are known to be less sociable with humans. She gets along great with the other birds though, lays beautiful tinted white eggs, and is a handsome bird that loves to be outdoors with the other chickens. Her breed is rare, but not critically endangered. She has inspired me to check into other rare breeds and potentially raise mostly endangered chicken breeds. Peck is a "Light Brahma" and is a sweet and friendly bird who has kind of taken over as the leader of the flock. She lets everyone know when it's bedtime; when the Black Stars were smaller, she would gather them up and literally sing them to sleep. I had no idea that chickens did that, but Peck sits in there cooing in the sweetest little voice that sounds just like a type of singing until everyone settles down.

Here is Snowball:


Their temporary under the trampoline digs:

Snowball and Peck with two of the Black Stars getting their daily outdoor time. The Black Stars are named Matilda, Venus, and Athena:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First Eggs!

How did we end up with chickens? I have been wanting chickens for several years, but hadn't found or had the opportunity. Last April, there was a chicken show at the fairgrounds over the weekend, and when we came into work Monday morning, found that a chick had been left behind. She was running around the barn frantically and one of the ladies caught her and put her in a box. She called OHSU and they asked her to find someone willing to take it home, as they weren't driving all the way back out from Portland for one little chick. Nobody could or would take her and I figured, why not? Yes, I can think of a few reasons now why not, but it seemed like a fine idea at the time and even though it has been an ordeal, I don't regret the decision.
We brought her home, made a little pen out of a rubbermaid tote, drove to the farm store in Carson for some food, bedding, dishes, and a heat light, and set "Snowball" up in the garage. Sharon took pity and offered her a buddy, as chickens are flock animals and really do need other chickens to be with, and she had 15 chicks. We gratefully took in "Peck" to keep Snowball company. Peck was just a few days old and Snowball was about 3-4 weeks, the 3rd week of April. They got along immediately and hunkered down together at night from day one. I started reading about chickens and learned that while 2 chickens do okay, 3-5 is really the best minimum for a decent flock. On May 5th, Dickey Farms had another round of chicks come in, so we went out and picked up 3 Black Stars, or Black Sex Links, 2 days old. I don't know why I didn't take more pictures, they were just little balls of black fluff, so cute.
We set up a 2nd brooder and raised them separate from the 2 bigger chicks, since they needed a little more heat and I wasn't sure how they would all get along.
By the middle of May, we were taking the big chicks outside everyday for some fresh air and exercise, they had a bigger pen in the garage, and it was time to build a coop. We scavenged materials around here and bought a few things like chicken wire, screws, poultry tacks, and plywood.
To make a long story short, everything went great for a couple of months, the chickens all got along after we introduced them, and we were all enjoying the new additions, when we got a visit from a city planner who told us we couldn't have the chickens and they would have to be removed. It is the most ridiculous thing, but quite common to have ordinances against chickens, many people in towns and cities are working to change the laws, but not here yet. We were given until August 20th to move the chickens, so we moved the entire coop out to Sharon's place. I am hoping to get the law changed here, but the city told me that it will take at least 6 months and by then we will be moved out to the property where chickens are allowed. I will still help folks here, but in the meantime, the chickens live in Carson, and we have to drive daily to care for them and collect eggs. We let them out into the barn yard while we are there and they have a great time running around, scratching, pecking, and eating bugs and weeds.
The first eggs were a real thrill for everyone, they came the 2nd week of September and we have been getting eggs daily since then. We have gotten five eggs in one day twice, and a double yolker 3 times.

Here is the coop:

And here are the boys with the first eggs:

I will make another post later with better pictures of the chickens and describe their types and temperaments.

Ealom's Art

Ealom had a fantastic opportunity last month to attend a class on creating characters for comics taught by a professional comic book artist. The kids got to submit their comic book covers to The Maryhill Museum of Art for display in their "Comics at the Crossroads" exhibit. We went to the opening event of the exhibit, where the kids got to present and talk about their art pieces, and attend the social event afterwards. Here he is, his cover is on the lower right:

As an added bonus, which was probably even more fun than the event itself, was the attendance of COUSINS! Maryhill is in between Yakima and Stevenson, and we were thrilled that Katy was able to come and bring 3 of the kids. Here are the boys under a sculpture entitled, "The Taco Bell":

I had gotten out of the habit of blogging last summer, so I am going to share a couple of photos from another class Ealom took a year ago. This class was "Claymation" and was held at OMSI, all day long for a week. The class was incredibly inspiring and Ealom learned a lot, still using skills he learned at that class in his current projects. I am disappointed that he couldn't go again this year, but we plan on sending him next year.
Here he is outside the studio holding the DVD he made, entitled "Gump":

And inside:

I will try to upload the claymation he made at that class to Youtube and link it here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Property History

My job does have some perks, such as asking around about local history, and someone is sure to know something. I asked Jeananne Wiseman, who was born and raised in Stevenson, about our property. She actually remembered the folks who owned the house on our property, but couldn't remember when it was torn down. Her aunt used to live just around the corner and Jeananne remembered walking around the area. I'm going to be asking more questions and talking to more people, but I want to write down what she told me so far.
The house was built by Miles and Mildred Stevenson, relatives of the founders of our town. According to Jeananne, Miles was an enormous man with an equally matched appetite for alcohol and fighting with his wife. Rumor has it they were both fighters when they drank and had some rip-roaring times. Miles was a logger and lived to a ripe old age, but not sure when he died. Mildred died about 4 years ago at age 98. Jeananne recommended visiting the local museum and asking them about the place. She also said she'd bring in some photos of Stevenson from the 1940s when the road through town (now Highway 14) was gravel and the sidewalks were wooden. She has pictures of the house she was born in, which is now the Marylin Bolles Art Studio downtown.

Wildcrafting at the Property

So, the previous property owners were telling the truth; there are indeed apple trees down by the creek, and while I had thought there wasn't any fruit, we found some. It was nearly three weeks ago when we found the apples, gleaned about 2 gallons from the ground and picked a few from the trees. The trees are old and neglected, but we got enough apples to make a crisp combined with blackberries. Yum!
Here is our harvest, along with gift veggies from our next door neighbors garden:

Here is the crisp:

Black bears love apples also. This picture was taken yesterday. Yep, that's black bear scat chock full of apples. The fellow wildcrafter was spotted on the neighbor's property the night before. Wishing we had a really big dog.

Excavator and surprise

The excavator came out and removed an entire area of brambles in less time than we spent making a little path through it. This is the same area where you can see our little path in the post below:

A shot of the enlarged meadow (building site):

And surprise...there used to be a house here, which was apparently torn down and the spot used as a dump. Of course, they left the foundation, and I have no idea if it was broken up before or if our kindly (ha) excavator tore it up and moved monstrous chunks of concrete around. Luckily it's not at our building site, but out at the front of the property next to the road. It would be cool if there were actual treasures in there, but I'm pretty sure it's mostly junk. Aidan and I did find 2 forks and 2 butter knives, which he promptly put to use digging at some copper wire and tubing that was stuck in the ground. As soon as I told him you could trade that stuff in for cash, he was all over it. :) He'll have to come back with a shovel of course, but Gil and I had a good chuckle watching him squatting in the dirt trying to dig with a knife and fork. I am guessing the dump to be 1920s-1970s, perhaps the house existed 1920s-1950s? It's interesting, I am going to try and find out more about the history here. Gil is looking at parts of an old wringer washer here along with a chunk of the foundation: