Friday, June 10, 2011

Weekend Off

So this is the first weekend off that I've had in what feels like forever and I can't wait to get some things done around the place. As usual I have a long list and because things always take me about twice as long as I expect I'll be happy if I get halfway through. Here's my list and I'll update through the weekend as I get things done:

1. Fix things in the chicken coop
-Raise the nesting boxes
-Make doors for the storage area
-Install additional roost
-Lower stairs (never gonna happen [at least this weekend])

2. Move bee hive
-I know I'm crazy but I'm not crazy about where the hive is now. It was difficult to work around when we did the cut out, it faces away from the yard which piques my curiosity and forces me to sneak into the danger zone to see whats going on, and it's in a part of the yard that I could conceivably use this Summer if I get motivated enough. I'd like to move it to the top of my yard above the chicken coop.

3. Plant more potatoes

4. Plant some trees that are currently in pots

5. Plant that grapevine

6. Sweep the steps and front sidewalk. this is something I should do every week because of the perpetual rain from the trumpet of gold vine but I haven't done it in a month. The front sidewalk is also littered with stuff from the palm tree from the last big wind. I'm embarrassed by the state of things.

7. More pruning. My front hedge is filling out nicely and since I can't leave well enough alone I want to nip off the tips to encourage more branching. It's looking pretty good already though so maybe I can skip this one.

8. Process some chickens. I have too many right now, or I should say that I have one to many roosters. He's the one that hides in the nest boxes with the hens and he makes a mess of the eggs and sometimes breaks them with his scrambling around. I think we'll all be relieved when he's gone.

9. Clean out crawl space under house

10. Finish some office work. Yeah, even though I say I have the weekend off I actually have some work to do for the office. I should probably do this first since my client is waiting for it. Sigh.

Wow, so that's a pretty long list and I haven't even written any of the things that I need to do inside the house. I guess laundry can wait until next weekend. I'm a little reluctant to publish this list right now because I'll be embarrassed if I don't get anything done, but embarrassment can be a great motivator, so here goes....

Update 3:00pm:
Well so much for my day off. I spent the last four hours dealing with calls from work. At least I had plenty of time to charge my batteries.

I still think I can cross #1 off my list today.

Update 4:30:
Well, if I hadn't already decided to move the hive up the hill the bees would have convinced me that it was the right thing to do. I got stung on the ear as I was hauling stuff up to the coop. This is the first time I've been home during the day since we did the cutout. There were definitely more bees flying around but they didn't seem to bothered by me moving up and down. Even the bee that stung me seemed to have done it accidentally. It seemed like a gust of wind blew it in to me and it panicked. I swore like a sailor but it wasn't really that bad. I think I was more surprised and offended than hurt. Nevertheless it made me nervous every time I had to pass the hive again. Azalea told me that the bees can smell the sting toxin and it makes them want to sting you again. Lovely. I kept waiting for a string of bees to bombard my head.

I scouted out a new place for the hive and there's space for it up there but it will take some work. In my head the hill is flatter and bigger than it actually is. I'll probably have to do some digging to level a spot for it.

Update 6:oopm:
I finished modifying the chickens' nest box. It just about wiped me out. I shouldn't have skipped lunch.

The nest box was designed to be attached to the outside of the coop and the top opened so I could reach in to get the eggs. This worked for a few months but once winter hit I couldn't keep the rain out. It ran down the corrugation of the shed walls and into the litter in the nest boxes. It was a mess. I ended up dragging it inside and cutting a couple of holes in the what used to be the outside wall to let the hens in. I still reach in the top but as you can see it's covered in chicken crap. Every night 10 or so chickens sleep on the top of the nest box. I have limited roost space so the low status chickens have to sleep here. That's why my list of things to do includes install an additional roost. I really need to reduce the number of chickens I have, but until I can make that happen I would prefer for all of the chickens to sleep up on the roost and not here.

Here is the rooster that insists on sleeping inside the box. He was even inside it when I started working. I had to shoo him out. He's scared of the other roosters so he hides in the box. I don't know how to break him of this.

As usual I had plenty of scrap wood lying around to build a new base. I think these used to be part of the kitchen wall. There's still some joint compound on the.

The base is basically the same thing that was there already but taller so the nest boxes are tucked up right under the storage shelf. It looks a little like the bee base.

Raising the box up also increases the floor space which is a little precious right now. All of the other chickens left once I started work except for this one. She's one of the broodies that's been sitting on eggs. She was pissed. She kept looking around for where her nest went. I felt a little guilty.

But as soon as I got the box up on the base she jumped right in to check it out. I flipped it around so that the open end is facing out. This should make it easier to get the eggs than holding open the lid and snatching the eggs as broody hens try to peck me. I used another 2x4 as a lip to hold in the fresh pine shavings.

The other chickens all came streaming in and started to eat the pine shavings. Stupid chickens.

The higher base actually makes it easier for the chickens to exit the ramp. It's like a little gateway at the end. As they all came filing down it reminded me of debutantes descending a grand stairway at cotillion. It still amuses me when they use the ramp. I don't know why. I guess I expect them to fly down and walk up. They're more likely to do the opposite.

Suddenly it seemed less like a cotillion and more like a disco party. Everyone was on the dance floor.

Except the broody. She was hunkered down on her precious wooden eggs.

Update 6:15:
The last thing I did in the chicken coop before I came down was fill up a couple of feed bags with litter. I wanted to use it to start a new potato tower.

I found an old bag of little golden potatoes in the back of a cabinet. I can't actually remember when I bought these. Thanksgiving maybe? They actually had new potatoes growing on them.

Not just sprouting, but new little potatoes. I didn't know this could happen. There must be a lot of energy pack in those potatoes.

I also had this mad russet that I'd been saving for a while and a sweet potato that was just starting to sprout.

I threw them all in the tire that used to be the chicken spa. The chickens are all up the hill and I haven't been letting the turkeys out long enough to make use of the tire. So it goes back to growing potatoes.

I thought it would take a couple of bags to fill it up but one did the job.

Update Saturday Morning:
Alex is finishing riding his bike 545 miles from San Fransisco down to LA today so I'm going to go meet him and cheer him on. Unfortunately he's super fast and will be arriving early in the day rather than most people who will get in between 2:00 and 3:00pm.

That doesn't leave me much time to attend to my list today so I'm just did a quicky this morning.

The steps and the sidewalk have been a mess. I don't know what happened in the photo below. It looks like someone or something was trying to scramble up the cliff and tore down a bunch of ice plant and jade. Luckily there's plenty of both.

I feel so much better when things are tidied up. Although I see the vinca is creeping back. I'll have to get in there and rip it out again.

Now that the sidewalk is cleaner you can see the nice tagging on it. The city was supposed to come clean that up a while back. I'll have to call again. There's been a lot more graffiti lately than there was a couple years ago. It makes me think people are unhappy.

Update Saturday Evening:

It was fun cheering on the riders finishing the Aids Life Cycle ride. When Alex came by I almost didn't recognize him. He's so tan from being out in the sun for a week.

Update Sunday afternoon:

I'm rapidly running out of weekend so I'm going to skip down the list to some things I can get done quickly. I pruned a little.

The branches I pruned a few weeks ago are coming in thicker.

So I nipped of the tops of the rest. I might let it go for the rest of the Summer and then start again in the Fall when it's done blooming. It's nice and bushy now but still a little high. I'd like to take it lower.

I picked a new spot for the bee hive. I won't move it until it's dark and they are all inside. If I moved it during the day I think they would go bonkers and the workers that were our foraging wouldn't be able to find their way to the new spot.

Hopefully they'll like it here. There are already some huge cardoon blossoms for them. There were already bees all over them. I wonder if they were my little trouble makers.

I had to do a little digging to level a spot but not as much as last time.

I tucked it between some of the cardoons and some lupine so the neighbors wont' see and get worried.

I decided not to plant the Roger's Red grapevine on the chicken run. I think it's too pretty to go up there. There is a bunch of wild grapevine growing up at the top of the hill. Whoever owns that land up there just bulldozed everything rather than cutting it for fire season. These little grapevines sprang up almost immediately. At least they were little the last time I saw them.

The smaller clumps were already 4 feet across

When I took a closer look I saw why. They are actually just the shoots on big branches in the dirt.

I took a couple smaller pieces that had new roots developing on the bottom.

My plan is for them to cover the chicken run in the Summer and then in the Winter when they loose their leaves it will let the sun in the keep the chickens warm.

There is still hardware cloth running around the coop. I just laid the branches on top and covered them with dirt.

There are already grapes growing one this one. I'm not sure what kind of grapes these are. I hear that natives tend to be a little tart but I don't think the chickens will mind.

They were starting to wilt a little but hopefully they'll bounce back.

Now I need to find another place for the Roger's Red.

Update Tuesday Night:
I moved the hive last night. For a moment I considered not putting my gear on thinking that the bees would be cold and sleepy since it was the dark of night. It turns out they are just as willing to surge out of the hive at night as they are during the day. I finally taped a piece of wood over the hive opening and moved everything up the hill.

There are still bees flying around down at the old location. They seem pretty confused. I don't know if these were bees that came out when I moved the hive or if they were out all night and came back in the morning and couldn't find the hive box. I'm going to put a cardboard box up there and see if they go in, then after a couple more days I can move that up to the hive to try to reintegrate them.

The bees in the hive box seem pretty happy. There was a nice stream of foragers returning as the sun set.

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