One our neighbors used to have a lot of chickens. I think they had well over 50, which is a huge number on a quarter acre suburban lot. Sometime around the beginning of December, they seem to have gotten rid of the chickens. Three of the chickens somehow ended up running loose. They lived in another neighbors yard, but came into ours to eat. Unfortunately, that means they ate some small plants I had in my garden.
Off and on my boys and I would try to catch the chickens. However, they were usually just a little bit to fast for us. Eventually, the three chickens became one, I don’t know what happened to the other two. She was friendly, but would jump our fence if she thought we were going to try and catch her. Finally, last week we were able to trap her in a spot between our shed and fence with a lemon tree over the top. I used a laundry basket to catch her.
Several months ago, a friend gave us a small chicken coop that they didn’t want. I had slowly been preparing the coop for chickens to live in. Mostly I had to level a spot in our yard for the coop while trying to keep decent drainage. Thankfully, I had the coop ready when we caught the chicken.
Our children have decided that we name our animals after foods. Since the chicken is dark, they named her Truffle.
From her markings I believe she is an Australorp. The hens are mostly black, but have purple and green iridescence when seen in the sun.
She has been a good egg layer in the week and a half we have had her. So far she has laid 7 eggs. At one point she laid 6 days in a row. Her eggs are a light brown color, they can almost seem pink at times.
She is a social bird. When we come near the coop she come to the edge, and will sometimes talk to us. I think our next step is to buy a couple more chickens to give her friends. Of course, more eggs wouldn’t be bad either.
Over the last three weeks I have been working on my dining table as I get time. The steel beams that I got were pretty rusty so I had do a lot of work to get those cleaned up.
I bought many things to try to use on the rust, but the simplest thing ended up working the best. I have a cheap angle grinder that I bought from Harbor Freight, I got some some abrasive wheels for the grinder that quickly removed the bulk of the rust. I actually ended up removing too much of the rust on parts of the large I Beams and the metal started to look shiny rather then aged.
Once I had cleared all the rust off that I wanted the beams still didn’t look like I wanted. I wanted them to look darker and more aged. I had some mineral spirits on hand and knew from past experience that it could darken wood. I rubbed the mineral spirits onto the beams and found that it darkens the metal also and made the rust less orange.
Lastly, I sprayed Rust-Oleum clear enamel paint onto the beams to seal them and prevent future rust. Cleaning the rust was time consuming but ended up being the easy part.
Last Saturday I worked on drilling holes in the beams so I could attach the cross beams to the leg beams. I want the table to be strong so I am going to use 1/2 inch galvanized bolts. To use those bolts I have to drill 1/2 inch holes, thinking this would be easy I bought a 1/2 inch drill bit for steel and set out to drill holes. I ended getting my first hole about half way through and then all of a sudden nothing was happening. I had made my bit dull in that short amount of time. I was able to use a 1/4th inch drill bit to make some starter holes in the beams, but was unable to get even a single 1/2 inch hole drilled.
A bit late I decided to do some research into how to drill holes in steel. I found out that putting oil in the hole or on the bit helps with over heating. Today, my dad came over to help me drill my holes. We put oil into a container to dip the drill bit into but still didn’t have a lot of luck in drilling those 1/2 inch holes. Luckily, my dad had my great grandfather’s table grinder with a drill bit sharpener that we were able to use to sharpen my drill bit. After that the hole drilling went pretty quickly. We put a new point on the bit a few times and got a large number of my holes drilled.
I found it easier to drill the holes if I made a starter dimple in the metal. I took a piece of cardboard and put holes in the pattern I wanted to drill my holes. I put a nail in the holes and hammered a small dimple into the metal. This keeps the drill bit from wandering around the metal when starting to drill.
Often when drilling the holes the oil would start to smoke and bits of smoking metal would be thrown around.
Don’t forget when working with tools, “Safety First”
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my neighbor’s chickens destroying my yard. After that I started to aggressively chase them out of my yard. Even with scaring them as much as I could they kept coming back. I enlisted the help of my brother-in-law to try and capture the birds in my yard. We caught one of the birds and chased the other 4 back into their yard. I took the captured chicken, and put it in a box with a note that said, “Your chickens are destroying my yard, please clip their wings or keep them caged.” I drove around the block and put the boxed chicken by their front gate. The next day I did see chickens in my yard and had to chase them out. Since then, I haven’t had one stray chicken in my yard! I guess my neighbors finally got the hint and did something about their rampaging animals. Sadly, I also had to remove 3 dead chickens from the space between our two fences, that wasn’t a fun task.
Two months ago we made hot sauce, and last week it was ready to eat. In texture it is a lot like the hot sauces at the Mexican restaurants we have around us. The spicy level is good for eating with chips, there is some heat but not so much that it burns your mouth over much. The only problem I have is that it tastes more like apple cider vinegar then I would like. I want to make the recipe again but use different vinegars for a different taste.
We also made sweet spicy pickled peppers which are also ready to eat. We opened one of the jars that didn’t contain habanaro peppers. The peppers taste a lot like sweet pickles which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Since the peppers are mostly Serrano they do have a good amount of heat which is nicely counteracted by the sweetness.
We don’t really have fall in San Diego County, and this year is even worse than normal. Generally, the weather will be a bit cooler in September and October with some hot days. We also get Santa Ana winds (strong, hot, and dry winds from the desert) that help to cause the horrific wildfires we have every few years. This year the weather people are saying we are going to have El Nino. That is really messing up our usual weather. It has been much hotter and more humid then normal. That is really messing up my plans to plant cooler weather plants.
I bought my seeds a couple of weeks ago, but was holding back on planting while waiting for the weather to cool a bit. The weather still hasn’t cooled but I decided to plant anyway.
Everything I am planting is from Seeds of Change. They have only organic seeds and so far I have had good luck with all the seeds I bought from them.
A week ago, I attempted to start some of my celery and broccoli seeds. I had just had the broccoli start to sprout, and my neighbor’s chickens tore up my garden bed. My neighbor’s have around 15-20 chickens and a duck they allow to free range in a tiny area. The chickens love to escape and get into my yard. My neighbors have built a 12 foot tall fence, but are uphill of my yard. Some of the chickens can sort of fly over the fence into my yard; it is much harder for them to get back home though. Typically, they are hens and I don’t mind too much. However, there have been 5 or 6 juvenile chickens that have been tearing my yard to shreds.
I enlisted the aid of my brother in law to chase down chickens. We caught one which we put in a box with a note asking my neighbors to do something with their birds, and we left the box in front of their house. We were able to chase 4 other birds over the fence. I also found and removed three dead chickens that were between my fence and the neighbor’s.
Yesterday, I attempted to plant more seeds in hope the chickens will not tear them up. I replanted the broccoli and celery in one of my raised beds. My other raised bed has carrots, beets, and onions. I have another small area by the house where I planted the spinach and lettuces.
During the day, I have my wife and kids going outside to chase chickens out of our yard. Once I get home I go outside every hour or so to look for chickens. I have two pieces of wood that I bang together and that seems to scare the birds enough to get them over the fence. I really hope they stay out of my garden beds this time as I am hoping to get two crops of broccoli in this year. If I lose this one and have to replant again then I doubt I will get two crops planted and harvested before spring.