Hen hijinks

This past weekend there was quite a bit of excitement around the chickens.

First, Selma literally "flew the coop" on Sunday morning. I'm not sure how long she was outside the yard since I let them out of their coop and run at around 7 AM and then went back to bed for a couple hours. As I was standing at the kitchen sink filling the tea kettle, I happened to look out the window and see Selma busily standing on the alley side of the fence scratching and pecking. It was a bit of a dance trying to catch her, but I did it then promptly reported to Mark that I would need his help clipping wings before he headed out for a bike ride.

We had ourselves nearly together and ready to trim wings about 30 minutes later when we nearly lost Selma for the second time that morning. I was standing in the driveway with my back to the yard where the chickens are wandering when I heard a strange thunk from their general area. I turned to see what made such an odd noise only to see little Selma crouching low to the ground near the intersection of the fencing and frozen in place. Maisy and Betty were several feet away also being very still. There was some other movement that drew my eye upwards and that's when I saw the hawk. It was winging its way upwards, around the branches of the maple that overhangs the driveway, over the upper porch and onwards to wherever it was bound.

Now, I know there are raptors in Chicago. And I've heard there are Cooper's Hawks active in Chicago, too. But this is the first time I've seen any sort of raptor in my neighborhood. This has made me pretty nervous, I must say. I think that the way the yard is laid out, with all of the raised beds and hoop covers, and tall fence on 3 sides, etc. makes it quite challenging for a hawk to swoop in and grab a chicken, but I'm not sure. I can't put bird netting over the entire yard, nor can I keep the chickens confined to their Eglu run all day every day. They've really been enjoying having the run of the yard every day, and I've noticed that I don't get so many soft eggs when they can roam. I think it's best for their "mental health," let's just hope it isn't bad for their physical health now that the hawks know there are tasty chickens roaming my yard.

We did get down to business after the excitement and clipped the primary flight feathers on one of Selma's wings and one of Betty's wings. As if they were trying to prove that the exercise was pointless, later that day both Selma and Betty managed to flap their way up to the top of the fence running along the driveway (which is just under 4 feet tall) and sit up there mocking me. I had to pull out all of the various trellises I've collected over the years and line them up along the inside of the fence. That adds at least a foot of height and hopefully will keep the naughty chooks in their yard.

It was a relatively warm and sunny day on Sunday so I gave their Eglu a thorough cleaning, as well as watering all the planting beds. I couldn't resist taking a short video of the Maisy and Selma taking a dust bath in one of the unused beds.


Dust Bathing

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My winter garden experiment

I'd really like to continue eating fresh, locally grown greens over the winter. So, I'm trying to grow them myself.

Actually, this isn't a totally personal effort. Rachael came by to help me plant these beds a week ago, and Mark helped me put the beds together a few weeks ago and cut the PVC for the hoops. Planted in the far back is a bed of garlic. This should overwinter just fine with no protection, but I added the hoops and bird netting to keep the chickens off of the bed. They like to dig in the beds, and I don't want them digging up the garlic.

In the next closest bed, Rachael and I planted mache, arugula, chard, and a row of claytonia and radish. Again we added hoops and bird netting to keep the chickens off.

The next closest bed we seeded with a winter lettuce mix, italian dandelion, a mixed row of mizuna and radish. More hoops and bird netting, too. Finally, the bed with the cold frame has spinach in it. I added bird netting over that, too. I have some poly row cover for frost protection that I've been putting on during the really cold nights. I plan to keep it on permanently if I have something really growing that needs the protection.

All of these greens are supposed to be hardy and should sprout in cool soil. Although we've had unseasonably warm temps, wouldn't you know the temps dropped off right after we planted the beds. I'm pleased to see that we have some sprouting action, though.

That's mache sprouting up there. Yay! It appears that the winter lettuce mix is also sprouting, so if I can at least keep these going we'll get a few salads.

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Upstream finished!

Hey, look! I finished something this month!

It was looking like I wasn't making much knitting progress this month, but then I finally cast these off over the weekend. This is the second pair of socks I've made from that new Cat Bordhi book, New Pathways for Sock Knitters Book One. I'm trying to get used to her techniques for doing measurements and heels, and also ingraining Judy's Magic Cast On for toe up socks in my muscle memory. So far, I still have to consult the directions when doing the cast on, but I think I'm getting better at it.

The rest of the techniques are getting easier to figure out with each new pattern I try. I must say that these socks fit me extremely well. Is possible to say that a sock "fits like a glove?" Well, these do.

I used Austermann Step yarn and I do feel the aloe in them when I slip them on my feet. I've had this yarn marinating in the sock yarn bin for a while, and it finally called to me. I'd certainly use it again, although it would be nice if it was available in a solid.

I've started my third pattern from this book: I'm now working on the Riverbed socks for Mark in a very masculine shade of green Regia Stretch. Mark's feet are larger than mine, so it will take longer to finish these. But, I do have some travel coming up for work…socks are always awesome for travel knitting.

I'm also still working on the Neckdown Wrap Cardigan. If I hadn't had to rip back major portions of it TWICE now, then I would be nearly finished. But, I do want a sweater that fits well, so it's worth the effort I guess. *sigh*

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Where in the world…

has Linda been? Well, a lot has been going on the past few weeks! I've been working a lot, have had one cold and one upset tummy, and also done some fun stuff.

Mark and I went to the National Solar Tour in Stelle, IL on October 7. It was a great day for a drive into the country, but really hot. We saw lots of interesting homes using solar and wind power.

We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary on October 12. We took the day off work and went cycling along the Fox River Valley trail. We stopped out at Fermi Lab in Batavia so we could view the bison.

Then we went cycling along for the Fox River trail for a few miles. Nice. That was Day One of the my head cold, though, so I wasn't really bursting with energy. By the time we got home, I had to lay down for a nap, and still ended up going to bed at about 9:30. Happy anniversary, honey, have a good night.

The next day was Yarn Con. If it wasn't for DayQuil I wouldn't have made it there. As it was, I didn't stay long. Just enough time to do a bit a shopping, meet up with Adrienne, and chat with Katy.

My knitting is coming along slowly. I'm still working on the wrap sweater and the same pair of socks. Even being sick hasn't helped me gain knitting time since I bravely soldiered on and worked a full day every day. I just made sure to do it from the safe distance of home. Thank goodness for telecommuting.

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The sound of chickens purring

Did you know chickens purred? Well, I had heard they make quite a few noises, but I really didn't believe it until I heard it myself. After I close up the Eglu door at night, I usually pop open the egg hatch door to do a "head count" and make sure all 3 chooks are accounted for. Tonight when I did this I saw Maisy and Betty nestled up next to each other near the hatch door, and Betty was purring. Yes, that's right, she was making the cutest little purring noises!

I was also disturbed to see that Selma appeard to be roosting in the nesting box. This is the first time I've noticed this behavior, and it is not usually encouraged. I'll keep an eye on her and make sure she doen't make a habit of it.

I must say, the ladies are full of surprises these days. I've been letting them roam the yard even when I'm not home and all seemed to be going well…until today. I started doing this about a week ago because it seems to be keeping them happy, and there don't seem to be any dangers during the day. A couple weeks ago when I had to go to the office every day, I found that hens were getting very disturbed from so many days confined to their run. One day I came home late to find that there were 2 soft eggs laid in the run. Then the next day I got home about 30 minutes before dark, so I let them out to roam for a short while. Maisy stopped at a certain point during her perambulations, squatted down, and laid a soft egg right there in the yard!

Usually the girls are very good about laying in the nest box. I figured if they were engaging in such odd behavior it was because they were stressed from being confined to the run for so many days. The days are getting so short now that it is nearly dark by 6:30 PM. If I'm lucky, I can be home by 6, but that is not much time for the chooks to roam. So last week I decided to open the run door in the AM even on the days I went to the office, and then shut them up after dark. 

As I said, this seemed to be working OK until today. In the early afternoon, I took a break from work to run to the grocery store. When I returned, I unloaded the bags from the car and carried them to the back porch. (Here in Chicago, it is typical for the garage and the house to be unattached, hence all this juggling of stuff from one point to another to another.) Then I closed up the garage and was preparing to open the back door and carry the bags into the house. Then I heard my name being called.

I turned towards the sound, and as I did I saw something funny out of the corner of my eye. It was my neighbor 2 doors over pointing out that my chickens were…perched on the fence next to the driveway. Yep, I had seen that as I turned, but wasn't quite sure if I was seeing it right. There were Betty AND Selma perched on top of the fence looking at me expectantly. My neighbor asked if I thought they would try to get away. I said no, it looked more like they expected me to give them a treat. Then I marched over and shooed them off the fence. Only to have them fly right back up!  I shooed them off again. Selma flew up one more time. After a third wave off the fence, she seemed to get the idea. I kept peeking out the window at them this afternoon, but didn't see any more chickens perching in dangerous places.

This does worry me, though. I have to either keep the chickens in their run this week, or have faith that they won't fly up onto the fence while I'm not here. I have a very demanding week at work (seems like I keep saying that lately!) and need to be in the office every day. The girls have been laying very well since I've been allowing them to roam every day, and I'd prefer not to mess with that. Would clipping their wings help in this situation?

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Still with me?

Just hold on a bit longer. I've been VERY busy at work the past 2 weeks and I've been dealing with a head cold. You know, the cold that everybody knows someone has had it? "Oh, yeah, that's been going around." Yes, I've had THAT cold.

I'm nearly better now, although I do find it hard to settle down to sleep at night right away since I'm sort of choking on the…stuff…draining from my sinuses. Well, I'm sure that's enough imagery for you.

I have lots of photos I've taken in the past few weeks, exciting tales of living with chickens, and not so exciting tales of slowly progressing knitting. But those will have to wait because it is definitely time for me to be off to bed.

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Chicken evangelist

That seems to be my role these days! Since the girls have been laying regularly (and Betty finally worked out the kinks and has been laying only fully shelled eggs for a week now), I've got lots of eggs to spare. Despite the fact that I did some baking Sunday morning, ate 3 eggs for lunch on Monday (scrambled with fresh dill and some cream cheese for extra creaminess….yum), and used a couple eggs Monday night while making salmon patties, I still can't keep up with them.

Yesterday I shared 4 eggs with my friend Rachael and dropped off another 4 with Jamie at Stitch n' Bitch. Jamie doesn't eat eggs (is she crazy???!!) but she loves to bake, so hopefully she can make something nice with them. Of course there was some discussion of chickens and chicken tending at SnB then.

Today has been a busy day at our house, and I've been presented with plenty of opportunities to spread the chicken/poultry bug on to others, too. The soil for my raised beds was delivered this AM, and we're also having some minor patching and weather-proofing done to the house. I spent some time conversing with the landscaper (who had been looking forward to seeing the chickens) and her helpers about the joys of keeping chickens and the ins and outs of doing so in Chicago. I also gave the landscaper all three of the eggs layed today, right out of the nest box. She seems to be really considering getting some chickens or maybe a couple ducks now. The handyman and his helper asked me about the chickens, too, and seem intrigued by them.

Yep, just call me the chicken evangelist of Chicago!

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