While you were out

This last week has been very eventful for our little family. Namely, we got ourselves a puppy. No, not a dog that I am calling a puppy, but an actual 12 week old puppy. He is full of energy, loud and not at all housebroken. We’ve now had said puppy for 3 days. That’s three long sleepless nights and three very busy days. My son named him Lasko. No, I have no idea where the name came from and as far as I know, the name holds no special meaning for my son. He literally just made it up. But I kinda like it.

Having such a young puppy is like starting all over again with a two year old. Potty training, chasing chickens and putting everything in his mouth. If you were standing at my front door, you’d hear a lot of “NO! DOWN! LEAVE IT! DROP IT!” and of course “LASKO!” For the moment, he is spending the night in his crate. Why? Well, because he pees on everything, he chews on everything and I haven’t quite got him trained not to get on the furniture.

But it isn’t all bad. My son has spent hours outside having adventures with his new pup. He is being trained to fight zombies. My son is learning the value of hard work and responsibility. It’s good for him. That doesn’t mean that I like getting up at 5am to let the dog out.

German Shepard Border Collie Mix

German Shepard Border Collie Mix

Advertisements

On going Green-ish

Let me start off by saying that my voter registration card has a big “R” on it. I am by no means someone who should be considered as the poster girl for being green. I own a Ford Explorer and I really hate those stupid little smart cars that I’m pretty sure looks like an afternoon snack to my truck.

When I started getting “greener” it wasn’t some mission to save the world or the trees or the ozone layer. It was a simple mission to make my wallet a little greener. While I knew the first steps would help, no one told me just how much money I would save by making little changes.

No, I didn’t discard every paper plate or paper towel in my home. I’m sorry, but I have a 4 year old and the idea of eternal laundry and dishes just doesn’t sit well. I did start a garden. I have a pretty large garden space in my back yard which I have used to grow a variety of fruits and veggies. Mostly, I thought it would be something to make me feel good and spend some time outside. And it did. It was a great space that my son I spent time. He learned how to make things grow and we ate from our bounty together.

This was the start of a whole new use for the backyard. Three years later, we have four chickens, a bigger garden and we do things a little greener. I use Tupperware instead of plastic bags on my lunch. And I am careful about my spending. We keep the thermostat at a constant temperature. We are careful about our fuel use. We don’t eat out as much, and cook more at home. We are also building a greenhouse over our garden so we can get even more from it.

Being greenish isn’t just about hugging trees. As a matter of fact, for me, being greener was just as much about being more money-wise as it was being traditionally greener. And who can say no to that?

20130128-103926.jpg

Gearing up the garden

One of the perks of owning your own home with a bit of land is being able to make your backyard give back. Many people’s backyard serve as the “kids domain” filled with swing sets, sandbox and whatever else they’ve managed to accumulate over the years. While we have the requisite swing set, a geometric climbing apparatus and a chicken house, I’ve also managed to claim a twenty by twenty-foot area for myself. It isn’t huge, but since my preschooler and I are the only veggie eaters in the house, its adequate.

Over the summer, I put up a small fence in a rather futile attempt to keep the chickens out. Weather conditions combined with bird activity (chickens included), and squirrels plagued my garden this year. Despite those challenges, I was able to harvest quite a lot from her. This spring, I have bigger plans. A greenhouse! Better temperature, water, wind and pest (read chicken) regulation will mean not only will I get much more from my garden, but it also means the growing season will be expanded substantially.

Potatoes and carrots have presented a particular problem for us due to heavy, clay soils and poor drainage. So, the solution to this problem has been to build a root vegetable box out of old pallets. Hopefully, this will mean some sweet carrots and good potatoes this year!

So, I’ve been In the process of pulling the old stakes, prepping the soil, pulling weeds and general garden winter maintenance. I’ve also acquired a few cold weather boxes to start my growing season early while the building is in process. I have some nice romaine lettuce already coming up and a few more plants germinating indoors. I can’t wait to get the greenhouse built!

20130109-113520.jpg

Potato garden from Pallets

20130109-113542.jpg

Chickens check out the cold weather boxes

20130109-113552.jpg

Justice says good morning.

Backyard living

20130108-084538.jpg

The sun hasn’t even broken through the frost on the backyard. The grass, the trees and everything outside has a shiny, frosted look. The bright light is peeping through my bedroom curtains, so I relent and stumble out of bed. Despite the fact that it is 33 degrees outside, I work my flip-flops on, go outside and greet my girls. They have been up for hours and hard at work. Their names (kindly named by my four-year old) are Justice (yellow, front), King (black, left), Goldie (yellow, back) and Ducky (black right). My four little hens give us four eggs a day in the summer and two or three in the winter.

I don’t live out in a rural area. I live in a suburban neighborhood but my street is much more rural than many. As such, I have the opportunity to gain much more from my backyard than most people I know. When we bought the house, I knew immediately that I wanted a garden. I’ve been lucky with my garden and she has given me a decent amount of strawberries, blueberries, lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, okra, green bell peppers, yellow squash, asparagus, a few ears of corn, a couple of pumpkins and cherries. It is my hope is that this year, I’ll be able to build a greenhouse over my 20×20 garden and get even more out of it.

Last spring, while out at the farmers market, my four-year old was enchanted by a booth which sold puppies, ducks, hens, roosters and baby chickens. After a bit of research and a lot of discussion with my roommate and partner in crime, M. and I decided to purchase 4 of the baby chickens for our backyard. We put together a henhouse, kept them inside until they were fully feathered and the temps warmed up. All four survived our early parenting and went to the backyard shortly after.

I have to admit that I never thought of chickens as pets. But the girls are very sweet, they come when called like dogs, and are generally less annoying than my neighbors dog which has been barking nonstop since I started writing. They can fly for very short distances, mostly horizontally. However, they make no real effort to leave the backyard. They spend most of their day free ranging around the yard picking for bugs and taking dust baths. They are great girls, and my reward isn’t half bad either!

20130108-084555.jpg