Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cabin Fever

This past week, Mother Nature decided to be funny. Just yesterday, she brought record high temps of 59 degrees to our Maine January, and our snow has slowly been melting into a memory and exposing highly confused grass in our backyard.

The chicken coop yesterday
The deceptive warmth has made my skin itch to dig in the dirt, to get building my raised beds, to see chickens frolicking. But reality tells me it's still January. It reminded me again this morning by dumping an unexpected snow storm on us. As I slipped on a patch of ice on my way to clean off my snow covered car, ending up on my ass in the snow, I really did not appreciate Mother Nature's sense of humor.

The chicken coop this morning :(
Reality also tells me that I have a full-time job, a family, and other various life issues (like the week long flu) that are just scheming to suck away all of my project time. Motivation escapes me on a regular basis, and bits and pieces of my potential projects stare at me accusingly, like the old windows I collected to make my greenhouse. Or the Mavis approved growing system that has yet to have any seeds started in it.

But, these things WILL get done. My commitment to having a thriving, self-sufficient, urban backyard paradise has not waned. Now, I just need to find some time.....

Monday, January 07, 2013

The Big Chicken Decision

We are finally closing in on getting the fencing in for our chickens. I spent all day Saturday clearing the area needed of copious amounts of snow, and with some serious nagging of GH, I'm hoping to get the frame erected, then the mesh up together. The master plan is to be able to pick up six lovely pullets this weekends.

Now, the real hard part - deciding on what breed(s) to get for our lovely backyard patch. The local farm store where I'll be picking them up has five breeds of pullets currently available:

                                                                      Golden Comets

                                                                   Silver Wyandotts

                                                                  White Leghorn


Since our city only allows a flock of six, this is tough choice. I consider the chickens to be the cornerstone of all of my self/sufficiency projects. In short, this means productivity is high on the list, followed closely by Winter hardiness and general temperament.
My research has me leaning towards the Leghorns - these seem to be the most productive of the available breeds. However, I really like the look of the Silver Wyandotts best out of all them. I'm thinking of possibly doing a mix, but I'd really like to make sure my flock is harmonious.
Here's where I enter a plea for help - Please, experienced chicken owners, what would your advice be for selecting my small backyard flock with these breeds available? Help!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Seed Saga Continued

To my suprise and delight, I received a lovely email from Katie Wagner at Peaceful Valley appologizing again for the issues with the shipping of my seed order. She went on to say they couldn't figure out where the fluke occurred that caused the delay, but to make it up to me, they were returning the shipping and handling I paid on the order.

It's things like this that really make a difference to me. I don't have a lot of money, so when I spend it somewhere I like to know my business is appreciated, as measly as it may be. This has gone a long way in redeeming Peaceful Valley in my eyes. Hopefully I can place another order in the near future to see how it goes the next time around.

In the meantime, I'm still very excited about my chicken forage seed mix - can't wait to grow it and see if it is chicken approved.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Depths of My Garden Mania

If this post doesn't get me committed, nothing will......

So, now that I have seeds in hand, and will begin indoor germination soon, I decided it was time to formulate a battle plan for the garden layout.

I had already decided to do raised beds using the Square Foot Gardening method. Having purchased the book about two years back, this has always been the most practical approach to me, especially doing a backyard, urban garden at a rental property, and desiring high yields for my time and effort.

In my 4' X 4' raised beds, I knew the next step was to determine how much I wanted of my various vegetables, and then how to plant them with "companion" vegetables that would be happy together and help encourage each other to grow to it's maximum potential.

Doing this was an effort in algebra, advanced chess, and Machiavellian strategy. The end result netted me a total of eight raised beds, but I think I've gotten everything mapped out in proper order.


Ignore the missing lines down the right hand sides of the beds - my Paint skills are a bit lacking......

If any more experienced gardeners have any tips of suggestions regarding my layout, please feel free to let me know. Till then, I'm going to go rest my brain......

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


A little catching up from the holiday week:

Update #1: Seed Fever

My seeds finally arrived from Grow Organic (Peaceful Valley), coming in at just under a month from when I ordered. Everything was there except for my onions, which I had already been informed would be another month's. Boo. However, after my last post, a very nice rep from Grow Organic emailed me to let me know she was looking into what had happened to delay my order for so long. Still haven't gotten a follow up on that, but I'll give it a little more time I suppose.

On the plus side, yeah seeds!

So lovely

I'm really hoping the chicken foraging mix is worth it, because at this point, it may be the product that brings me back. We'll see.

In the mean time, I've placed another seed order, this time with Botanical Interests. This is the company my idol Mavis uses, so I'm hoping they come through. I ordered a whole bunch of seeds, including some overlap of what I ordered from Grow Organic. I'm going to do a kind of Pepsi challenge with this year's crops to see what grows best, and what I'll go back to next year. Results, and general frustration to follow as things progress.

Update #2 : Projects

Not a lot of movement on my planned projects. However, I have found a potential local source of 55-gallon food-grade barrels for $30 a piece. Score. Work has said I can scavenge a few of their wooden pallets. My reclaimed windows continue to sit in my garage, waiting for the day they will be transformed into my greenhouse.

Update #3 : Chickens

There is a coop in my backyard. There is fencing in my garage. Still no chickens yet, but we're moving closer.......

Update #4 : Neighbors

I made retaliation cookies just in time for Christmas and delivered them to the neighbors via my own adorable minions. Then, yesterday, I met neighbor mom face to face. She's very cute, very young, and apparently, far better then me. Just as I feared. When I casually mentioned I have a horse (always my cool card) she responded by telling me about her high-school career riding Dressage on Stephen King's horses in Bangor. I nearly choked to death. Sorry neighbor wife, you're apparently far too cool for me - this is now abundantly clear.

Update #5 : The Girl

After several people we knew shared with K that they too had suffered taunts and torments throughout school, I think she felt validated. She also got a mountain of new clothes for Christmas. Hopefully she feels a little better equipped to face her first day back at school today after the holiday break.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Seed Frustration -

In my frenzy to get things going for this year's up coming garden, earlier this month I was taken by seed fever. I needed seed packets in hand to begin plotting my raised beds, to make and remake plans of a fruitful garden while greedily hording my seeds.

Since I had the time, I decided this year I would get some truly spectacular seeds, not just a fistful of Burpee's from the local home improvement store. I wanted heirlooms. I wanted to carefully select my varieties for hardiness and flare. I wanted to shop with careful consideration.

Since I didn't really know of any reputable sites offhand, I decided to go with I liked their website, the prices were reasonable, and they had a vast selection of seeds with fantastic descriptions of each variety, as well as some customer reviews.

Cute huh?

After pouring over the various seeds, I finally placed an order. At checkout I was told a few of the items were on back order - no sweat, after all, it's not like I was planning on planting tomorrow. The bulk of the order, I was told, would ship out in just a few days and I would receive an email confirmation when it shipped. This was on December 6th.

And so I waited. After a few days I checked my account on the site and it assured me my order would be shipping out the 14th. And so I waited some more. No shipping email. Frustrated, I checked back in on the site on the 20th. Nothing had shipped, even the order still stated it would be shipping out the 14th. Irritated, I used the handy-dandy Live Support feature. After giving the nice text box lady my order number, she told me she couldn't understand why my order hadn't gotten shipped out, and she would make sure it went out that day. Satisfied, I waited some more. No shipping email.

Now on the 26th, truly ticked off, I wrote them an email, asking them to let me know what was going on with my order or to refund my money so I could place an order somewhere else. I received a response that my order was indeed shipped out on the 20th (so much for a shipping email), and I was led to believe it contained everything but my onion bulbs, which I was told wouldn't ship out until January 22nd. I guess it's a good thing I placed my order early as I may not receive anything till Spring at this point.

According to the tracking number they provided, my seeds are in CT today, so should hopefully be here soon. I'll double check everything thoroughly when it arrives to ensure everything was included. I'm really disappointed, especially since I ordered from specifically for the chicken forage seed mix they offer. I don't think I'll be placing any more orders with them in the future. If anyone has any other great sources they know of for seeds, I'd love some suggestions.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Hi, my name is Sarcasta-Mom, and I'm a Pin-aholic.

It began innocently enough - a pin here and there, a recipe or two on a heavy day. Really, at first I wasn't even that into, I swear. But all the cool kids were doing it, and before I knew it, I was hooked.

A little Grumpy Cat just to get me going in the morning:

Then maybe a recipe or two - a little bonus if it involves crescent roll dough:

 Perhaps a little fashion for the size 2 me?

Damn Size 2 Me - you'd look great in this!

And then I'd be good. I swear, I could stop anytime.

But now I've gotten into the hard stuff - self-sufficiency projects. Now I'm awash in re-purposed wood pallets and 55-gallon food grade barrels. Now I now what a 55-gallon food grade barrel is. And chickens - beautiful, egg producing, walking garden gold. I must have them all!!!!! Mwa-ha-ha!

Not a day goes by when I'm not pinning about rain barrels, or garden layouts. There is a stash of old old windows in my garage, just awaiting the day when they are transformed into this:

Oh Pinterest, you are a cruel and creative mistress indeed!