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Unintentional Easter Chickies

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So we got some chickens. It’s about damn time, right?

Here are the deets, not that people still say “deets”:

  • Gertrude is a Delaware who hatched on 3/13 (Delaware was not on my suggested list of breeds, but I figured what the hell. She’s a fluffy yellow chick who’s bigger and louder than the others.)
  • Josephine is a Red Star who hatched on 3/13 (She’s the most mellow of the chickens and likes to sleep. At first this worried us but she seems to be fine.)
  • Margarita is a Barred Rock who hatched on 3/20 (She’s the baby and very inquisitive. She’s named after my favorite book, The Master and Margarita.)

Sorry I only have bad iPhone photos so far. It’s hard to get good pictures of animals who are kind of afraid of you and live in a box with a giant red light over it.

They’re totally awesome. It’s easier than I thought to have baby chickens in a house with a 3-year-old, 3 dogs, and 4 cats. Everybody has been pretty cool so far. The chickens seem to enjoy listening to Lil Wayne, which is good. We’re hard at work on designing our coop, which we’ll have to get ready within the next 5 weeks or so.

chickiesGertrude, Josephine, and MargaritaOMGUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitled

Written by Tracy

March 31st, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Chickens and Letters to Neighbors

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Chickie book, chickie cup

I went to chicken class last night. Chicken class involved three hours of solid information acquisition. I was totally going to live tweet that shit, but chicken class took place in a basement at our local botanic gardens and there was no coverage so I couldn’t. I’ve always wanted to live tweet something (just kidding). So much information was conveyed during chicken class (We even got to see some actual chickens!) that I now feel comfortable actually getting chickens.

I’ve had a bee in my bonnet (If I’m going to become a farmer, I might as well go all the way and start saying things like “bee in my bonnet,” although I say shit like that anyway) about getting chickens for a long time now, but it always seemed kind of overwhelming. There’s so much information out there! I mean, there are several options for even getting chickens in the first place. You can get eggs (bad idea unless you’re cool with roosters). You can get what are typically referred to as “pullets,” which are adult or adult-esque female chickens. This is what I thought I wanted to do, but after attending chicken class, I figured another option was better: itty baby chickies. Itty baby chickies are ridiculously cute, but the important thing is that if you raise chickens from the baby stage, they’re more likely to bond with you and your relationship will be closer. If that sounds totally ridiculous, that’s cool. I’m a weird animal person. I want to have a good relationship with our chickens. The hard part is going to be finding a place for the girls to live in our house for 8 weeks, which is when they can move to their coop, which we’ll be building soon.

Why do I want to get chickens? Because I’m an asshole hipster who wants to be a trendy urban farmer like everyone else. Well, that and honestly, if we’re going to eat eggs, which we probably are, I think having our own chickens is the kindest and most ethical way to go about obtaining them. I’ve heard too many horror stories about how eggs are produced — even the “free range” eggs we always buy. We’re going to treat chickens better than anyone involved in a commercial egg operation will. So that’s good. Plus it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch from stuff we do anyway, like gardening, making as much stuff as we can instead of buying, and being general hippies to the extent we can in our full-time-employment-having/urban-dweller lives.

One of my biggest questions going into chicken class was how to work it out when you have old chickens who don’t lay eggs any more. Obviously, as vegetarians and people who become ridiculously attached to animals, we’re never going to eat our chickens or give them away. The good news is that it’s possible to introduce new chickens to old chickens. In Denver, you can have as many as 8 chickens. So our plan is roughly this: Start with 3 chickens, but build a coop and enclosure that can house 8 chickens. In two years or so (hopefully a little longer), when our original chickens aren’t laying as many eggs, we’ll get two new chickens. In two years or so (again, hopefully a little longer), we’ll get two new chickens. In two years, we’ll see what happens. Chickens have an average lifespan of 8 years.

I won’t go on and on about chickens right now, as much as I’d like to. I’m seriously obsessed. I tell you, the ability of a person with ADHD to hyperfocus is a blessing and a curse.

If you’re interested in backyard chicken keeping, I highly recommend taking a class from someone who knows what’s up (the one I took was called “Backyard Chicken Keeping” and was offered through the Denver Botanic Gardens — you can see upcoming dates here). It’s so much easier (at least it was for me) than trying to assimilate the gobs of information out there on the internet and in books. Before the class, I was totally overwhelmed, and now I’m more like, hey, we can do this. Also, this site is amazing.

I hope to be providing some awesome chicken updates soon!
_______
Today we received a letter from some random dude who lives in our neighborhood. It went something like this:

Hey guys, I saw your property at [address] and I wanted to see if you are interested in selling.

I am willing to offer you [price approximately $100,000 less than our house is worth], and I would be willing to pay all of the commissions and closing costs. I am buying with cash, so we wouldn’t have to deal with appraisals or lender issues.

Please consider my offer and let me know if you are interested in discussing further.

Thanks!

Random Dude

What? My first thought was that our house must have an appearance such that someone looking at it assumes it’s inhabited by crazy people who don’t know anything about anything. Crazy old people who’ve paid off the house and would consider an unsolicited low-ball offer out of nowhere? I have no idea. Ben thinks we should write back and offer him an insulting price for his house. That might be fun.

I’m kind of intrigued by the idea of writing letters to random people in our neighborhood, asking for whatever we want, just to see if anyone takes us up on it. Hey random guy, I’d like to buy your sweet El Camino for $100. Hi Ms. Neighbor Person, this summer, I would like to sit on your porch swing, drinking beer and eating peaches from your tree. If you could provide some Ranger IPA that would be great! Hi Hippies, I won’t complain about your chickens and your ridiculous barking dogs if you give me a dozen fresh eggs every week. Let me know if that works for you!

Written by Tracy

March 28th, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Our Garden: March 2012

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Remember last month when I was all excited about making toilet-paper-roll seed pots? Well, I did this. And I am no longer excited about it, not even a little bit. In fact, I recommend that you never make toilet-paper-roll seed pots.

gardeninggardeninggardeninggardening

Toilet-paper-roll seed pots are a great idea in theory — they’re free and environmentally friendly! However, they’re also a pain and don’t actually work very well.

Here’s why:

  • Even after you cut and fold one edge of each roll, they’re still too tall to be practical — they’d be too tall for our covered tray, too wobbly, and would require too much seed starting mix. We had to trim all of them to make them a better height. You probably could cut the rolls in half before assembling, but then they might be too short.
  • They’re wobbly as hell even after filled and wet.
  • Let’s talk about them being wet. They have all the drawbacks of being wet but none of the benefits. Normally when starting seeds, it’s nice to have some type of contraption such that you can put water in a tray and whatever you put your seeds in can suck up the water. These don’t suck up any water. Or, well, they do, but only the cardboard part soaks up water. Absolutely none of the water makes it to the seed starting mix. Then, when you water the mix after you put it in the pots, most of the water just drains out and sits there uselessly in the tray, where it makes the cardboard wet but leave the seed starting mix untouched. The cardboard, now that it soaked up a ton of water, gets super-duper soggy and floppy. I knew this would happen, but I figured it would at least share some of the water with the seeds. Nope.

I persevered and planted our “early” seeds (Does it even count as early any more? I’m such a gardening procrastinator.) (lettuce, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, rhubarb, onion) in these things even though I hate them. I’ll try to forgive these pots for annoying me if they at least function well enough for us to end up with nice little plants.

For our next round of seeds, I plan to reuse old plant containers we have in the garage — this is also a free and environmentally friendly option, and probably won’t annoy me (although you never know!).

I hope your early (ish) gardening is going better than mine is!

P.S. The composting is going very well! We’ve filled up our first bin and are giving it a good roll around the yard every weekend while we wait for it to do its thing and fill up bin #2.

Written by Tracy

March 30th, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Replacement Parts

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living room improvements

Quick! What’s the ugliest thing in this living room?

It’s the hiddy blanket-covered ottoman monstrosity, right?

Under that blanket lurks an ottoman that used to be awesome but now is completely covered with catGhetto Decorating Tips scratches (see the old picture at right; it looks even worse now). It also, as of this week, has a giant hole on top where somebody apparently tried to peel it apart. Even so, we’ve been trying to get by with this ugly thing because, well, aside from the spending fast, my problems with replacing our trashed ottoman are twofold. First, I didn’t want to replace a soft ottoman with a hard coffee table while we had a baby who was just learning to walk because I didn’t want him to hurt himself on the table. Second, I didn’t want to replace the soft ottoman with another soft ottoman because, if I’ve learned anything during my years on this planet, I’ve learned that cats will scratch the ever-lovin’ hell out of soft furniture such as an ottoman, which, deliciously, is generally available for scratching from every angle.

We’ve been scraping by with this thing by keeping a blanket over it to hide the destruction. This approach has many problems including but not limited to the following: you can’t tell from the above photo because the blanket is totally off center for purposes of taking that photo, but the blanket doesn’t actually cover all the damage; Soren, who can walk without falling into furniture now, pulls the blanket off pretty much every day, so if he’s awake, we usually throw the blanket in our room so he can’t drag it around the house and get fur all over it, which means we have to look at this thing all the time; the blanket is always covered with cat fur, which never comes off completely even after being washed; and honestly, that shit is just janky as hell. If I recall correctly, I included a disclaimer in my spending fast that allows for replacement of necessary items. Arguably, a coffee table is a necessary item in our house.

So tonight I’m drinking beer and looking at coffee tables on the internet. (It doesn’t get more exciting than this, folks.) I would prefer to not spend a ton of $$ on this, but I’d like to get something that will last for a long time, because we tend to keep stuff forever, or at least until it gets to the point of our current ottoman, which pretty much makes me embarrassed to have people over to our house (not kidding).

The room looks the same as the top picture, minus the floor lamp (it was wobbly but we hope to fix it up one day because I love it). So it’s pretty much beige, sage green, and brown. It’s a long, narrow room so a square table wouldn’t work. I want something modern (if I had a style, it would be 70s Miami socialite grandma) and reasonably durable. We won’t have the current sectional forever, but I’d replace it with something similar. I don’t mind mismatched wood. I don’t like tables that are predominantly metal or glass.

After scouring thousands of websites (I exaggerate), I’ve found three options I like:

coffee table options

Option 1

coffee table options

Option 2

coffee table options

Option 3

(Option 3 would be two of those, connected to form a coffee table.)

So far, I have a favorite and Ben has a favorite. Prices are, in no particular order, cheap as hell, reasonable, and expensive.

I’ll keep you posted, hopefully soon!

Written by Tracy

September 3rd, 2011 at 10:53 pm

How many square feet do you need?

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This is pretty hard core but also kind of inspiring! I don’t think we’ll ever live in such a small place, but seeing this makes me realize that 950 square feet (plus a yard and basement/attic/garage storage space) is plenty of room for three people and some animals.

 

Written by Tracy

June 29th, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Posted in and life,Home

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Former Homes

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Here are the places Ben and I have lived. Pretty exciting, huh?

Oak Park

Oak Park, Illinois. We were in the front of the building, on your left (behind the tree), on the top floor. This building was designed by E.E. Roberts. You’ve probably never heard of him; he designed some stuff. I loved this place because it was awesome and it had a window that was the perfect size and shape to be referred to as the kitty window seat. (There are a few more pictures here. I made an awesome (for 2003 and considering my skill level) virtual home tour on my first ever website when we were trying to sell by owner (this didn’t work but a bad-ass 900-year-old realtor who climbed those stairs like an elderly mountain goat sold the place in about 5 minutes), but I can’t find the pictures from that. I’m much more organized now.)

Nederland house

Nederland, Colorado. Moving from Oak Park (which is right outside Chicago on the west side) to Nederland was kind of a trip. Nederland has a population of approximately 1,300 and is in the mountains 17 miles from and 3,000 feet higher than Boulder. The weirdest things in the early days of living in Ned were adjusting to the altitude (oh man working out at the one gym in town was really hard for a while) and how freaking dark it gets up there. And quiet! Our street wasn’t paved and we had to go to the post office to get our mail. We had to get some obscure satellite internet and take our garbage to the dump and pay them to take it (they took recycling for free). It was cold as shit up there in the winter but the summer was glorious. You don’t need air conditioning in Ned. They have the best 4th of July fireworks I’ve ever seen (although, to be fair, I’m biased against the ones in Chicago not because they’re on the 3rd but due to an unfortunate incident involving Gino’s East Pizza, Dove bars, unbearable heat, projectile vomiting in two modes of transportation, and my mom’s misguided attempt to cover up the smell by spraying Georgio cologne in the car so it smelled like vomit and Georgio for the next 100 years) and there’s a good chance the guys doing the fireworks are high as shit and after the grand finale, when everybody is leaving, they’ll just randomly start lighting more fireworks and that’s kind of how Nederland rolls. The people who worked at the beer store were usually Cubs fans. It seems like most people don’t live in town for long. Although Ben and I are really city people, if I didn’t have to have a job, I wouldn’t mind living there again. I wouldn’t mind, someday when we’re rich (haha), having a tiny little cabin in an unassuming town like Ned where we can hang out with Soren and the dogs on weekends.

Baker

We lived in the upstairs apartment of this place in the Baker neighborhood of Denver. We never used the front door; we parked in back and climbed the somewhat scary (especially when it was snowy) stairway that led from the back yard to the living room. The living room was small and the kitchen was like a closet and the bedrooms were gigantic — it was kind of like the opposite of every other place I’ve lived. We liked this place (very cute!) but the downstairs neighbors complained about how much noise we made all the time. They called the landlord to complain about us. One day, they complained about the noise when Ben was playing a keyboard while wearing headphones. At that point, we figured it was time to buy a house. So that’s what we did and it’s a-whole-nother adventure.

Written by Tracy

May 13th, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Posted in and life,Denver,Home

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Hood Gardening Tips for your Front Yard

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Now that Mother’s Day has passed, it’s finally safe to plant stuff in your yard. Yay! Here are a few tips on establishing and maintaining your front yard in a hood-appropriate manner.

1. This requires some unrealistic luck and planning, but if possible, buy a house from hippies. I don’t mean to stereotype, but hippies are often excellent gardeners. We were lucky enough to do this and our front yard is xeriscaped through no effort of our own.

If you don’t manage to buy a house from hippies, I recommend planting some perennials in your front yard. Perennials that do well in the Denver area (by “do well” I mean stuff the former homeowners planted that we haven’t killed) include: irises, false indigo, lavender, crocuses, and drought-friendly ornamental grasses. There are a few perennials in our front yard I haven’t identified (I will update here if/when I someday figure out what they are). Our front yard has passively acquired a lush crop of Virginia creeper from our back yard and the neighbors’ yard. Virginia creeper is all over Denver. I’d be happy to give you some for free. It’s great for dressing up a chain-link fence, but be careful, because it’s very aggressive.

2. Take advantage of free shit. If you can be quick (Free stuff goes fast!) and are able to stomach the farm and garden classifieds on Craigslist (I have a hard time because there are horrible animal things, like bunnies for pets or food.), there’s often free stuff to be had there. Also, when you live in the hood, there’s a good chance someone somewhere wants to encourage and assist you in improving your yard. Look for programs like Denver Digs Trees (free trees for certain neighborhoods) or the neighborhood garden festival (free seeds and nice plants). If you benefit from any of these programs, consider giving back by volunteering. (Trust me, you’ll get a warm fuzzy feeling when you take a walk in your hood and see new trees you helped get planted.)

3. Find a cheap place to buy shit. You can buy dirt, plants, and planters from Home Depot or Lowe’s. If you’re a rich person who likes to support local business, you can buy your stuff from Paulino Gardens, which is very, very nice and has an amazing selection. Chances are, though, you’re not living in the hood because you’re rolling in cash. In that case, you don’t want to spend a lot on plants. This means you want to go to Al’s Pine Garden and Nursery. Like Paulino, it’s a local business. Unlike Paulino, it’s tiny and cheap as hell. Spikes and vinca vines for your planters are $.99. (They also have a nice selection of hot pepper seedlings you can’t find anywhere else.) Buying stuff here means you’re in for a little extra work. When you get petunias, for example, you get a bunch of petunia plants growing in one container (instead of one petunia plant per individual cell like you get at the more expensive stores). You’ll just have to dig out each plant with a little garden shovel, and the really tiny ones might not make it. It’s okay, though, because if you follow my next tip, you should have a few backup petunias, just in case you need them.

4. Don’t overfill your planters. In fact, you should underfill them. You want them to look sad and desolate at first. This is for two reasons. First, the fewer plants you have to buy the less money you’ll spend. Second, watching the slow, gradual progress your tiny plants make is a pretty exciting thing to do when you live in the hood and don’t have much money to do anything else.

5. Use only what you need. Okay, this tip is stolen directly from Denver Water. Look. It’s dry here and the people in charge of providing our water want us to use as little as possible. That’s why they’ve set it up so the more water you use, the more expensive it gets. Don’t be one of those people who calls up Denver Water when your bill is so high you can’t believe it and has a guy come out to check your meter for leaks and while checking your meter he has to squish squish squish through your waterlogged lawn, which, by the way, is the greenest lawn on the entire block and no you don’t have a leak. (Don’t worry. This isn’t us. We don’t even have a lawn.)

6. Be prepared for some annoying maintenance. In addition to the usual garden work like weeding and watering, you’ll be picking up your share of empty Flaming Hot Cheetos bags and the occasional chicken bone that your dog tries to eat so you have to pry it out of her mouth with your fingers even though you’re a vegetarian and that totally grosses you out. At one time or another, you’ll have a plastic bag stuck in your tree or a pair of shoes over your power lines. This is annoying but hey, it’s better than people judging you for the condition of your lawn.

7. Speaking of lawns, don’t bother having one in front of your house. If you live in the hood, chances are your front yard is pretty small. Fill it with drought-tolerant perennials and be done with it. If you want a little patch of lawn for your dogs or your kid, put it in the back yard where it won’t get pooped on by random dogs, covered in litter, or dug up by some bored kid while his mom watches and doesn’t say anything.

This is an improvement.

In the hood, this is acceptable.

8. Don’t get too fancy. This is the most important tip. If you live in the hood, there ain’t nothing wrong with a little bump and grind and a chain-link fence. Using old, partially broken, mismatched, and otherwise imperfect pots and accessories is encouraged — it’s cheap, environmentally friendly, and avoids filling your yard with shit that pretty much screams, “Hey, fancy, rich people live here! Rob us!” (Of course, anybody can be burglarized, even us.) If you fill your yard with nice planters, people will just steal them anyway, even if they’re empty. One year, our plain terracotta pots were stolen. They didn’t even have plants in them at the time. Terracotta pots aren’t exactly fancy or expensive, but somebody thought they were worth stealing. We replaced them with even cheaper plastic pots. Don’t get too aggressive with pink plastic yard flamingos or other artificial fauna. Although they’re likely to establish the sense of ironic kitsch you’d like to convey, they’re just going to be jacked unless you manage to snag one kind of sorry-looking flamingo from a thrift store for like $2. That guy will probably stick around.

In terms of how nice you want your house to look from the street, count the number of houses on your block and divide by two. For example, if there are 10 houses on your block, 10 divided by 2 is 5, so you want to be approximately the 5th nicest house on the block. This means you’re not the nicest house on the block, which is going to be broken into soon, and you’re not the worst house on the block, which has at least one boarded-up window, gang symbols on the garage, and sad Christmas decorations displayed year round.

Basically, you want your yard to look nice, but not too nice. Everything in moderation, especially in the hood.

Happy gardening!

flowerssome sort of tulipsAn exceptionally modestI need to startTeeny plants!Iris
Braaaaaaaaahhhhhh!This is whatFlowers have arrived!our treeirisesearly summer

Written by Tracy

May 10th, 2011 at 4:09 pm