Make Way for the Fence: Plowing with a Broadfork

Current project: a massive garden expansion. Our property came with a garden. It was laid out in a very unusable pattern, so last year we dismantled it and put in real rows. This year we are expanding it…from 20×20 to 65×45! Holy smokes are we growing to be growing stuff!!

Deer a a huge pest on Vashon, so the first order of business is a sturdy/attractive/affordable deer fence. Now selecting a fence was a quite a task. We debated materials, wood/metal/plastic/7 foot/8 foot/metal posts/cedar posts…as you can see the list goes on. We ended up with this: 10’ cedar posts (buried 2 feet) with 8’ x 20’ remesh panels (as used in pouring concrete slabs). These were not as fancy as the galvanized stock panels but WAY cheaper and MUCH taller. Perfect! They will rust and I was unsure what I thought about that look but we checked out some fences on the island in person and they actually look great. Across the top of the panels will be a narrower cedar pole to keep tension on the metal.

I cannot wait to have the project done! Of course there were some delays…posts were not in stock last weekend, but we did get the remesh panels. Our first step was measuring out the garden edges and then plowing up grass to make way for the fence and baseboards. We are using rough cedar 4×4 to edge the garden for a clean line through the grass. The chickens loved helping with this project. With each pull of the broadfork (proudly made here on the island!) they were delivered a feast of worms and grubs. Yum! The boys (Matt and Rooster Dude) liked checking out their ladies at work ;)

Timing was excellent to tackle another random yard project this weekend. At the base of our deck there were (we thought) 8 stepping stones grown over with moss and grass. We got to work removing them and found 22! Perfect use for our grass removed for the garden. We just rolled it over the empty space like sod. It is such a satisfying feeling to pull out grass to make room for food producing plants that will also stabilize and diversify our soils. It was a beautiful work weekend with the family…well, most of us worked. The cats are above that layman’s work and decided they were better suited to be supervisors.

Remembering August 10th

It has been nearly 3 years since our wedding but I am just now getting around to putting our photos in album form. I made a beautiful book for each set of parents, but wanted a special copy with just our favorites in one for us.

Fast forward 2+ years and those beautiful images are still just sitting on the computer. I just finished two albums for other people and decided to power through and just finish mine. Two marathon sessions and two very tired eyes later I had the book complete, just in time to still apply a 60% off code.

I am thrilled with the design, and even more excited that our photos will finally be in our hands!

The process of making these books is one of my favorite things to do. I am getting a system down to take other people’s photos and create books for them and it is going smoother each time. I hope to eventually start a side business where I do this for busy people who don’t have time to get their photos into books.

Here is a sneak peek ours:

http://www.adoramapix.com/app/productembed/?bookID=725f9de1-b005-427d-8a17-9dc1dee9e9f6&size=570&background=ffffff&logo=true

All the Pretty Eggs

The official start to Spring is not until tomorrow, but you could have fooled me! It has felt like spring for MONTHS here. It is disconcerting how warm it has been. Snow on the mountains is nonexistent. It hardly even rained. Then last weekend it dumped so much that we broke a record for rainfall by nearly an inch. Crazy.

Flowering trees are already past their peak in some areas. Our daffodils have been blooming for weeks. And the chickens are beyond happy!

Warmer, longer days mean egg production is up! Belle, Helen and Rita have all been laying pretty consistently, but we were waiting on our youngest bird, Mary, to start. We could not wait to see what color her eggs would add to our rainbow cartons.

Yesterday afternoon I got a text from Matt: he found Mary’s first clutch of eggs! Apparently she had laid 3 in a little nest under one of the nesting boxes. Sweet little baby eggs! And guess what? They are a pinky light brown…a beautiful addition to our blue, dark brown and light brown eggs.

In April we plan to add 2-3 more hens to our flock. I would like a Rhode Island Red, Austrolorp and one one other (breed TBD).

And how is our Rooster Dude doing? He is so much fun! He really keeps those girls in line and does a great job looking after them. He is pretty funny too…always wanting treats and standing on the tallest thing he can find. We love having him around!

Travel Essentials

We love to travel, particularly to places with beaches, good food, fun activities and sunshine. Since Matt and I met, we have crammed in a massive amount of travel and gotten good at streamlining our essentials. Yes, I still overpack EVERY time…but am getting better I swear!

This past weekend I finally finished unpacking from our winter trip to Belize. The dirty laundry had been done, so this was truly a good look at the unused (ie: overpacked!) list of items we hauled with us. I have been meaning to do this post for awhile since a few people ask me what my favorite travel items are. We leave for Todos Santos (our favorite secret getaway in Baja!) for surf trip in a few weeks so packing is on my mind! I also just got two new things that I had to share. So here goes:

1. A good swimsuit (or two!) I used to pack 8+ suits for a beach vacation. I loved the fun prints and mixing and matching and all the variety. However, this all changed when we started surfing. Function, or ability to stay on quickly became top priority so I have been on the search for the perfect suit. Goodbye cute VS suits. My favorite surf suit top was this cross back bikini top from Rip Curl but it came in limited colors and I wanted more than just black. Then recently I stumbled upon a women owned (!) made in the USA (!) competition brand (ie: stays put!) swim suit company called Jolyn…and am in LOVE with their cross back tops! Designed for beach volleyball you know these things stay put, and are made very well with high quality materials. Two will be coming to Todos Santos with me, and the rest of my swimsuits are getting donated. There is no going back.

PRINTED TRIANGLE TOPS

2. Sunscreen: We love the mineral sunscreens by Alba Botanical. They stay put, work well and are not overly scented. SPF 45+ please!

Kids  Mineral  Broad Spectrum SPF 30

3. Nalgene bottles are always in tow.

4. Small coin purse. I always end up with a TON of loose coins so this guy is a lifesaver.

5. Camera(s). Right now we are borrowing my parent’s Panasonic Lumix underwater camera. They have the TS4 model and it has been awesome. Great underwater pictures, and the ability to WASH it after a day getting salty/sunscreeny/dirty etc…so valuable. I love my DSLR but at the beach the salt spray is too much. I usually bring it on the trip too, but it is taken out less regularly than the Lumix. Finally, the trusty iPhone5. This little camera is great for quick shots, particularly in low light or those cool panoramic shots.

6. Coconut Oil. Now this may sounds weird but hear me out on this one. Packing/traveling light is all about multipurpose essentials and coconut oil is the ultimate multitasker. We usually pick up a jar at the grocery store when we land and use up the whole thing in a week. (or bring one with us if we are checking a bag…but that is rare these days). What do we use it for? After sun lotion, hair conditioner, shaving cream, cooking (great for fish, plantains, pork, chicken etc!), baking (instead of vegetable oil)…the list goes on. Seriously a great staple.

7. iPad and card reader. As much as I love taking photos when I travel I am always aware of how quickly they could disappear. Theft (of a camera or memory cards), loss, water damage, husband accidentally deleting photos on the camera…not worth the risk. We back up ALL our photos daily by downloading them onto our iPad with a card reader. Then we have duplicates on cards.

8. Bandanna. Another multitasker. Head sun protection (really critical now that I have bangs), washcloth, ice pack, napkin…

9. Rainbow flip flops. 4 years in and still going strong. Matt and I wear them all summer long and LIVE in them on vacation.

Single Layer Premier Leather with Arch Support

10. Smart bags: daypack, beach bag, cooler bag. The beach bag must be easy to pack, fold, wash etc. An insulated cooler bag is great for getting groceries home in hot weather. And good for keeping beers cold at the beach. We use one from Trader Joe’s.

Madison: Mid-Winter

I am sitting in a coffee shop in Madison, WI waiting for an email chain to close up for work. There is a fresh layer of snow and the sun is shining gloriously. Oh, yea, and it is 1 degree out there. Brr! Good thing I found a great latte.

This thin skinned Washington girl got quite the shock with the temperature drop when landing here last night. It was 55 or so when I left Seattle yesterday mid-morning, and things are blooming everywhere in an early Spring. Madison is still in the dead of winter. And it is a treat!

What prompted a mid-winter trip in freezing temps? My best girlfriend Jenny! We were LONG overdue for a reunion and decided to just make it happen. Today we are both working, but tomorrow starts a long weekend of catching up, cooking, eating out, adventuring and more catching up. Jenny and I lived together for two years in college and have already seamlessly fallen back into routine. We have the exact same bath towels, the same basket for our hair dryers, and keep comparing notes on how similar our husband’s quirks are. I sure have missed this girl!

Farm Weekend: Fry Jack and Chicken Surgery

While the rest of the country is getting pounded with cold weather, here in the PNW we are basking in a very early Spring! 55 degrees, sunshine and everything is popping up in the garden. Our hens are laying much faster…today was our second three egg day! One dark brown, one light brown and a very pretty pale blue. We are so curious what color Mary (our youngest, not yet laying) will add to the collection.

This weekend we made another batch of fry jack. Wow, this Belize breakfast is going to be added to our normal weekend rotation of special feasts. The goal for this batch was to taste our honey. We brought back 3 different types of honey from Belize, and added one from a past trip to Grenada to round out the Caribbean taste test. Each one was so unique! Not at all like what you find in a traditional American grocery store. And all really good. The fry jack was beyond amazing.

How could we top that morning! Surgery!

This poor adopted flock of chickens has had it’s share of challenges. I keep trying to tell Matt that raising chickens is not usually this challenging. They were just not well taken care of at their past home and we are dealing with the consequences. This time around it was our head hen, Helen. We noticed a lump on the side of her toe, and did the obvious: Google search. We came to two conclusions: it was bumblefoot (worst case) or just an infection (possibly better). Either way, it needed to be taken out. I will spare you the details, but the rest of our Sunday involved watching YouTube videos of chicken foot surgery, sanitizing a bunch of tools, and team Frugé getting the job done. Matt was the official doctor while I was on patient holding duty. Good thing…I nearly passed out mid-surgery. Lukily I knew it was coming and lay on the floor to recover before it getting bad.

I am happy to report that Helen is back with her flock, looking happy as always, and cleanly re-bandaged with clean dressings as of this afternoon. She has even laid an egg! What a trooper.

It was a long, exhausting day, but we feel really good about how we are caring for our chickens. It has been quite the learning curve, and we have had to really test our comfort zones, but in the end it is all worth it.

Those 3 eggs we collected today were like thank you prizes.

Our New Roo

Coming home from vacation in an ideal world has everything is as you left it, animals happy, bed made, with a little time to unwind before heading back to real life. This was not our reentry scenario from Belize. We arrived back in Seattle late on Saturday night and crashed at an airport hotel. The next morning I headed off to help host a baby shower for a dear friend (even though all I really wanted to do was go home!) and Matt ferried back to Vashon. What greeted him were two happy, buffet fat cats mewing for love, 4 clucking hens…and a rooster on his last breath.

Not a fun situation to find. Poor Matt called me and we both agreed that Cesar needed to be put down since he was clearly not in a state to recover. We suspect that he (like our other gal Holly) was nursing some injury from before we adopted them. His wing was not very functional and towards the end of January was losing his balance. Poor guy.

The ladies looked lost without their leader, and honestly we like having a rooster around to protect the flock when they are ranging. So we set out on a quest to find our new roo. Luckily roosters seem to be in plentiful supply…even nice ones.

There were at least 6 offered up to us on the island and this weekend we picked up our new dude. He was the first one we visited, and were really impressed by his size (he is HUGE!) with a beautiful bright red comb and waddle, and was happily eating snacks out of little kids hands. Niceness is key (although this could change, we do know that) so the interaction with kids was a good sign. We saw a few other roosters but they were all bantams…although cute, they were not well socialized and we like the size of the first guy.

That evening we returned after dusk to pick him up. He spent the night in a cage in the lower part of the coop, and in the morning we were greeted by a very confused guy calling out his new home location to the world. We let him out and the ladies all trooped down the stairs.

We were prepared for a fight, or fear, or pretty much anything…what we saw was Helen (our head hen) immediately run up to the rooster, bow down, and then follow him everywhere! All the ladies are smitten. It is too funny.

We spent all of Sunday out in the yard (heck yea, 55 degree February!) and he loves to follow us around. During lunch (in the yard) he was constantly begging for handouts. He likes Fritos. No name yet, but I think Matt is leaning towards, Goliath.

He is settling in with the hens and we are so happy have him on our homestead. The girls are much more organized, and we feel better about them being safe free ranging during the day. Pre-dawn alarm clock crows are becoming normal, and we just really like our dude.

And eggs…man oh man are the girls happy to have more daylight hours! Yesterday was our first 3 egg day…3/4 are laying now. Rita lays beautiful blue eggs, Helen a dark brown (sometimes spotted) and Belle a light brown. Beautiful and so so yummy!