Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hurricane Irene

To all my friends on the east coast, looks like you got some weather heading your way. Check out my website and get yourself prepared before its too late. Don't rely on the Feds to take care of you after a disaster. Take responsibility for your family's safety. This one looks like it might be a doozy. Y'all stay safe over there!!


I have all the supplies and a few pointers to help you get through this storm and the rest of the hurricane season.  Its not too late.  Most of the items listed are next day shipping.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pickle Report

Well I have finally returned from my business trip.  I was very anxious to see how my pickles turned out after a week of marinating.   The results are in.  They taste good.  A little vinegary...but not too much.  I was hoping the garlic would come through a little more, I could hardly taste it at all.  The dill did come through nicely.  As for texture, a little softer than I would have liked.  I was hoping for a more firm pickle.  I have done some reading since the big test and have found multiple suggestions that I am going to try out on the next few batches.  I will let you know what works out best in a future post.  So stay tuned for that.  I did make one jar with some jalapenos for a little added spice and will be taking those to work with me tomorrow to get an outside opinion.  

We had a very busy day today with the kids returning to school.  All though I did find out later some horror stories out there about some 1st day of school confusion that was down right scary.  Children being told to walk home 10 miles.  Just absolute horror stories.  We had a little of our own confusion but thankfully nothing as bad as that.  I think it will all be sorted out by tomorrow.   Any of my faithful readers out there have any first day of school stories to share?  I would love to hear them, good or bad.  Don't forget to like us on FB and leave a comment.

Y'all keep it straight out there.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I make pickles, and you can too!

Who would have ever thought me and ol' Aunt Bee would have something in common.  Bad pickles.  Well we don't know that for sure just yet.  My first attempt may come out a blue ribbon winner.  At least that's what I am hoping for.  It does remain to be seen.  I will warn you now, this is my longest blog post to date.  I tried to fill it with as much info as I could to help you along.   I've included numerous pictures as well.  If you are new to my blog you can click on a picture for a larger view.

 Every morning I go out to the garden to pull a few weeds and get my watering done before the heat sets in too awful bad.  As I mentioned before, the only edible crop that seems to be thriving in my awful soil and the oppressive TX heat has been my cucumbers. Now don't get me wrong, we like cucumbers. We use them in salads, eat them chilled and soaked in water and vinegar.  As with anything else though too much of a good thing is still, too much. So I have been wondering what I was going to do with all of the extras I was going to end up with. Intially my plan was to hand some out to the neighbors. Hopefully I am still going to be able to do that but a couple of days ago it hit me. Pickles.

Now I can remember watching that episode of Andy Griffin as a kid and thinking that making pickles must be a long process, and you must have to have just the right spices to produce a good tasting batch. Aunt Bee was a smart gal, and to have her pickles taste like kerosene, then there must be something in the process she was goofing up. As near as I can rememeber I've never had a home canned pickle. My mother may correct me on that, but for the life of me I don't ever remember eating a pickle that wasn't store bought.

So I began to research pickling. Starting with my two favorite books. The first is The Backyard Homestead. A must have reference for anyone that wants to produce their own food. I wasn't too impressed with the actual pickle recipe that was in the book. The process was the old fashioned way, including 6 weeks of salt brining. No good.

So I referenced my second favorite book that my sister got me for my last birthday. Self Sufficiency for the 21st Century. This book is also a must have for anyone with self sustainment in mind. Everything from building your own composting toilet to root cellaring your sweet potatoes.  But neither book covered making pickles. They both covered pickling well enough but it just wasn't what I was looking for specifically. So it was off to the interwebs!

I finally settled on a recipe and a method I thought I could handle. And so began my journey into canning things that actually came from my garden. Which I have never attempted before. Knowing some of the basics I knew I would need a canner, and some jars and lids. None of which I had on hand. Off to the store we go. I had a specific canner in mind that I remember my Great Grandma in Onaga KS had and used. I know I had seen them before in passing so I knew they were still out there. I hit the jackpot on the first stop. Wally-world. As much as I truly hate that place, they do carry everything.

Here's my new gear.

I picked up a Canner, 12 Qt sized jars and lids, an extra box of lids(the lids aren't reusable and considering this was my first attempt I figured I had better have a couple extras for screw ups.) I also grabbed a box of canning tools including a jar grabber, a magnet for snagging the lids out of the boiling water and a air bubble dispenser that also seconds as a gauge for headspace in the jar. Now you can run out to Wally-world yourself to grab all this stuff. Or you can pick them up right here, right now.

Columbian Home 0707-1 Granite Ware 21-1/2-Quart Steel/Porcelain Water-Bath Canner with Rack

Now for the jars I bought regular mouth Qt jars. Which I list for you here. There are also wide mouth jars for tomatoes or sauces. Just make sure you note what you are getting so you can get lids to match.

Ball Regular Mason Canning Jar 1 Qt., Case of 12

Here is a nice canning tool kit that includes all the tools I got today.

Fagor Home Canning Kit

The last thing I picked up was this bag of pickling salt.

Pickling And Canning Salt By Precision Foods Inc

So just just to make sure we are all on the same sheet of music here, the list of the minimum equipment needed.

A Canner - The big pot - You don't specifically have to have the canner pot but whatever you are using cannot be aluminum and has to be big enough to fully submerge your jars.

Jars and lids - Make sure the lids match the mouth of your jars. Quart or Pint depending on how many pickles you are making and how big you want them.

Some sort of tongs to get the boiling hot jars out of the canner.

Equipment that makes things easier.

Funnel for the jars - makes for easier pouring of the pickling solution.

A flat spatula - gets all the air bubbles out prior to sealing

Now for the recipe.


4 full grown cucumbers

6 cups of white distilled vinegar(5% acidity)

6 cups of water(tap is fine)

6 Tblsp of pickling salt(or kosher, not iodized table salt)

3 heads of fresh dill or 3 tsp of dill seed(one for each Qt jar)

3 cloves of garlic(same as above)


Now for the fun part. I will be including a "Things I learned" during some of these instructions. So watch for them.

Take your canning pot and fill with water. Put the cans and lids in the water and bring to a boil. The canner I got was a 21 Qt pot. Thats ALOT of water. It never seemed to reach a what I would call a rolling boil while I was sanitizing my jars.

Put the lid on the pot. It traps the heat in and brings the water to a a full boil. Unfortunately I didn't learn this until I had to re-process a jar(more on that later)

When your canner is getting close to boiling start your brine. In a large saucepan combine the vinegar, water, and salt and bring to a boil.

Make sure the canner is on the verge of boiling. I had my brine to the boiling point long before my jars where ready so I had to lower the heat and wait till the jars were ready and then bring the brine back to a boil prior to filling the jars. There is no time limit on sanitizing the jars. Because we are using the hot bath method, as soon as the canner reaches the boiling point you can pull the jars out and fill them.

While you are waiting for the canner to boil you can get your cucumbers, dill, and garlic ready to go.

During my research I read that taking the ends off of the cucumbers helps to make the pickles more crisp. I'm not sure why, but they sounded like they knew what they were talking about so I did it.

Once you have the cucumbers sliced and diced the way you want them and both pots are boiling it's time to fill the jars.

Very carefully remove a jar from the canner and put a clove of garlic and a head of dill in it.

Then begin to pack your cucumbers in. If you cut them too long for the jar just clip a bit off the end. I saved all of my clipped ends and stuffed them into my last jar that didn't have enough spears to fill it up. Make sure you really pack the spears in tightly. It helps to keep them down and not float up in the brine.

Now if you have a funnel, insert it into jar and pour just enough boiling brine to fill the jar 1/2in below the lip. This is called the headspace of the jar and is very important. The proper headspace allows for a good seal and keeps the cucumbers off the lid. Using your air removal tool(flat spatula, bamboo skewer, butter knife) remove all of the air bubbles out of the jar. If your headspace lowers after this process just add a little more brine until the 1/2in is achieved again.

Take a damp cloth or paper towel and wipe the lip of the jar where the lid will sit to clean it. Pull a lid out of the canner(which is still boiling) and place on jar. Put the ring on and tighten down.

Less is definitely more when tightening lids. I over tightened on the first round and didn't get a good seal and had to re-process a jar. During the second tightening I used the three finger method. Which was actually two fingers and thumb...but that's an argument for another day. The point being, no tighter than you can get with three fingers.

Once all the jars are filled with the lids on and tightened its time for the hot bath.   Here's my last jar.  Notice the clipped ends and the color of the cucumbers.

After reviewing a couple canning websites I found that the time for the hot bath differed between them. A few I saw said to keep the filled jars in the canner for up to 30 min. A majority of the sites though had the time between 10 and 15 min. So I took the middle. 12 min sounded good to me so that's what I went with. Again use the lid of the canner and watch for over boiling. That lid on method really gets that water hot!

After 12 min has passed it's time to pull out the jars. Carefully remove the jars from the canner and gently set on a dish towel. You may here a hissing sound coming from the lid. This is what you want, but don't worry if they aren't. It's not a requirement for a good seal. Cover the jars with another towel and allow to slowly cool.

Check the lids in about an hour. If you can see it, the lid should be concave a little, and you should not feel any give when you push down on it. Careful the lids are still going to be hot. If the lid has give or if it makes a popping noise as it goes up and down then the jar has not sealed. Wait another 30 min to an hour and check again. If the jar hasn't sealed at this point, there is two options. Re-process the jar or, put it in the fridge and enjoy the pickles within the next 30 days. If you get a good seal the pickles will keep in a cool dark place for about a year.

Wait that second hour for the jar to seal. One of my jars sealed within the first 20 min during the cooling period. After an hour the other 2 had not. I thought I had over tightened the lids. I decided to try something out. I was going to re-process one of the jars and just consume the other jar within the month. It would give me a good test bed for taste and crispness having the two to compare against each other. I pulled the lid off of one and brought the canner back to boiling with a new lid in to get sterilized and heated up. With the new lid in place and three fingered tightened, the jar was re-processed. Another 12 min in the canner, then pulled out to be cooled. During this process I rechecked the other jar, only to find that it had sealed itself during that second hour. Once again my impatience had got the better of me. Oh well, I can now still compare the two and see how reprocessing will affect the first jar.

Here are my jars cooling off. Notice the color change to a more "pickle color". I was really surprised by this. I thought that color change would only come with the six week salt brining method. I was wrong.

The whole hot water bath can be done away with if you plan on consuming the entire jar within 30 days. Simply add the cucumbers, dill, and garlic to any jar, pour boiling brine over it, cover, and let it cool down to room temperature. Then put your pickles in the fridge and eat within a month.

So there you have it. Pickles in an afternoon, including a shopping trip. Once again I am amazed at the simplicity of producing something that I would have normally just picked up from the store more than likely filled with numerous, unpronounceable preservatives.  So do me and Aunt Bee really have bad pickles in common?  We don't know yet.  The pickles can be consumed 24 hours after being jarred.  The recommended time is 2 weeks to allow the brine to fully soak into the cucumbers.  I am going on the road next week so I will be doing a taste test next Sunday when I return.  You may want to wait to try this recipe until then.  If they turn out to taste like they were pickled in kerosene, then I will have saved you a few cucumbers and an afternoon of canning.  If they do turn out to be a bad batch maybe the Mrs. and the kids will be just like Andy and Barney, learning to love them to spare my feelings.  For some reason, I seriously doubt that though. =)

If you liked the post or found it to be informative don't forget to like it on Facebook.  There is a Facebook button at the bottom of the post or one at the top off to the right.  If you want to wait to see how they turned out, I don't blame you.

Y'all keep it straight out there.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fruits of my labor

Thought I would share a picture of the melon and some flowers pulled from the garden. I had thought the melon was ripe for picking. I think I was a little anxious. I thought my tried and true method of thumping the melon like I do in the store was sufficient. I was wrong. It turned out to be just ripe enough to be edible but should have stayed on the vine a little longer. I went and did some research and am going to share what I learned so that y'all don't make the same mistake I did.

From almanac.com

When the stem curls and turns brown and the place where the melon touches the ground turns yellow, it's ready. Rap it with your knuckles and listen for a dull, hollow sound.

The curl of the vine seems to be the general consensus of all the sites I read. My only hope now considering it was the only melon on the vine was that maybe it will produce one more before the growing season ends. Here's hoping anyways. Next time I will try no to be so impatient. One of my many flaws.

The flowers are called zinnias and they have done wonderfully in the garden with no signs of heat stress and just getting the same watering I used on the rest of the garden. With an occasional feeding of Miracle-Gro.You can get the seeds here.

Here is the future master gardener collecting his flowers. The flowers were his, from a school project. They were started in class from seeds and then transplanted at home at the end of the school year. I am really impressed by their resiliency and look.

Y'all keep it straight out there.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The joys of gardening

In honor of my 1000th page view today(thank you loyal readers!) I've decided to make today a double post day! So make sure you enjoy the post just below this one as well.

One of the good things about growing a garden in TX is the long growing season. I believe the last frost hit around March here. Which makes people in Montana jealous. The bad thing about growing a garden in TX is the over bearing heat. Which has decimated my tomato plants this year. I even bought a pair of "heat resistant" plants to see how they would do. They actually ended up producing more tomatoes than my non heat resistant plants but the tomatoes are small and there were not very many of them. The plants that seem to do the best in this heat seem to be my cucumbers. They have spread over a quarter of my garden and encroached on some of my other crops.

I underestimated the size those cucumber plants would need. I also put them up against my fence line with the intent of them climbing the fence and saving some space. I tried to train them the best I could. Apparently the plants had other plans growing more the exact opposite direction from the fence. I'm still not sure why.

I also underestimated the size of my watermelon plant. It actually came as a surprise. I had thought all was lost with the sowing of those seeds. At least 6 weeks had gone by after sowing and no signs of sprouts. Finally a single plant out of about 6 seeds planted showed up. The plan was to transplant after the plant had a chance to get a little stronger but as usual, other things always come up and its put off till tomorrow. Well tomorrow ended up being weeks later and by that point I decided to just leave it. It has entirely consumed a 3ft by 12ft space in the back of my garden. Surprisingly it has only produce one melon. But it sure is a beaut.

My soil here is crap as well so I used a method taught to me by a master gardener(my father). Each plant had a hole dug about 8 - 12 inches deep and about 12 inches wide and filled with a good potting soil.

The plants themselves did great before this heat hit. I will be using the method again early next spring. I will be sowing early in the planting season to see if I can get a pre-summer harvest.

I only have one more growing season before I have to replace all the grass I've killed in my backyard to prepare to sell this house and hopefully move on to our small homestead somewhere in KS. If any of you have any tips or tricks to beat this summer heat beating down our gardens leave a comment and let me know.

Thanks again to all of you, my loyal readers. This truly is a labor of love when you know people are returning time and time again to check out and read the posts on the site. Make sure you are clicking the share to Facebook or the Tweet This link at the top of the page and help me in spreading the word about self sustainment practices.

Y'all keep it straight out there.

Spinning your own yarn.

My sister has been my inspiration for starting a blog and has been gracious enough to even send me a few her wonderful viewers. Here is her blog with a tutorial on how to spin your own yarn from wool. If that ain't self sustainment, I don't know what is.

Take it away sis.

How to spin yarn with a spindle

Here is the book she talks about in her post.

A nice beginners kit.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chicken Stock

People choose to be more and more self sufficient for many reasons. One of the reasons we decided to change the way we live was the type and quality of food that we were taking in, as well as giving to our children. Which brings us to today's post. Making your own chicken stock. Not only is this a more affordable option, the scale as to how much better for you it is, is almost immeasurable.

Up until a couple of years ago I never would have thought twice about store bought chicken stock. I figure if the FDA says its good to go,then it must be. The problem with that is I have become a firm believer that just because something is "safe" that doesn't necessarily mean its good for you. Our normal brand of choice when it came to store bought chicken stock was a popular name brand instant bouillon cubes. You take a cube, throw it in a pot of boiling water and VOILA', chicken stock. Very easy, but you are paying for that ease, in more than one way.

Lets take a look at the back of the jar of cubes shall we? (Yes yes I know...I still have some in the house, sometimes I run out of homemade and have to suffer through a cube every now and then. I trust you loyal readers will forgive me =) ) First off the #1 ingredient listed is salt. Not a good start, each cube contains 33% of your daily intake for sodium. If we look further into the ingredients we start to see the things I consider to be the real problem. The words I don't recognize as food. Starting with Monosodium Glutamate(MSG), Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Silicon Dioxide, Tricalcium Phosphate, Alpha Tocopherol, BHA(its labeled as a preservative....must be too long to type out on the list), and to finish it off, Propyl Gallate.

I am afraid to google any of that. It may make me throw the jar out. What if I told you in about 5 hours, you could make your own chicken stock that included nothing else but chicken, celery, onion, carrots, pepper, and water? That's it! Not only does it taste better, it's better for you, and in the long run, cheaper to make as well. Considering most of the ingredients we are going to use are "scraps", that would have ended up in the trash or compost bin, there is almost no cost at all to make homemade chicken stock.

There is a little preparation that has to go in if you are going to make the "free" version. Every time you chop up some celery or onions there are always the leftover ends that go into the trash(or compost). Instead, save those. Put them in a freezer bag and throw them in the freezer. The ends of carrots as well. After roasting your next chicken when you have pulled all the meat off for supper and leftovers, take the whole set of bones, with what ever meat is left on them, and put that in a freezer bag as well. Once you have acquired all your ingredients its time to make your stock. If you wish to make this but havent had the prep time or enough ingredients its ok to use fresh. A whole chicken or even some legs or thighs bought from the store will work. No need to strip them. They will just go directly in the pot. Same with the veggies.

I like to make my chicken stock on Sunday afternoons. Those are usually our lazy, hang out, nothing going on days. You do need to devote some time to this. The work isn't hard but the stock has to simmer for hours so it does take up some time. The reward at the end makes it worth it though. Let's get started shall we?


1 Leftover whole chicken bones(or legs, wings, and thighs whatever you have)
2 About 3 or 4 stalks worth of celery
3 3 large carrots or a handful of baby carrots
4 Half a medium onion
5 5 Tbsp Black pepper(we like pepper - adjust to taste)

Roughly chop all the celery, onion, and carrots into large pieces and place into stock pot. Take chicken(frozen or not) and place it in as well. Fill stock pot with water just until it covers all the ingredients. Then place on stove over medium high heat and bring to a boil. As the stock just begins to boil a foamy film will rise to the top. It has a grayish, dirty color to it. This is some of the impurities being boiled off spoon this foam out. Reduce heat and simmer the stock for 4-6 hours removing any impurities that float to the top. The longer it simmers the more flavorful the stock will be. Make sure to check it periodically and adjust the heat as necessary. You want simmering, just to the point where the bubbles are slow and just breaking the surface.

When the stock is complete it must be strained to remove all the solids. A fine wire mesh strainer will get the job done but something like cheese cloth is better. Strain the stock a few times.

Depending when you are planning to use it, you can place the stock in a container in the fridge for a few days or freeze it for several months. I usually freeze it in 1 cup or 2 cup sizes for the ease of pulling it out and putting right in a pot for a recipe. Bring frozen stock to a boil in a separate pot prior to using in your recipe. Here is 16 cups of fresh chicken stock ready for the freezer.

There you have it. Homemade chicken stock at almost no cost. With no chemical ingredients. Post a comment and let me know how it turns out.

Y'all keep it straight out there.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Indoor Gardening

So here in Texas we are in one of the worst heat waves since the 1980s. Which also means summer is in full swing. I have been monitoring my tomato plants very closely and making sure they are getting plenty of water. The yield is going to be pretty low I think, but we are going to get a few. How are your gardens looking out there? I know some of you ran out of time this year to get your small garden planted, or maybe you are in an apartment in the city and don't have a yard to put your garden into. Does that mean you cannot enjoy a homegrown tomato? Of course not! One thing you can do is grow an indoor tomato plant.

Are you wondering if it will be worth the time, effort and cost? The answer is a resounding YES! The store cannot compare to the taste of a home grown. Store bought tomatoes, to satisfy our year-round demand, are bought from commerical suppliers that plant tomato varieties suitable to production and shipping needs(read that genetically altered). These tomatoes lack the taste, color or texture that most people prefer. To better withstand shipping, they usually are picked at the "mature green" stage. To complete ripening at their destination, they are gassed with ethylene, a natural plant hormone that is part of the ripening process. I try to avoid them at all costs. Even if you cannot grow any, as long as they are in season you can buy them fresh for local farmers markets. Seasonal is the key to buying fresh.


To start, all you will need is a 6 inch pot to grow one plant in, a small package of seed and some soil of some sort. Either potting soil or garden mulch, or if you have fertile soil outdoors there is no reason you cannot pull from your own soil to put into your pot, which in the end would cost you nothing to start with. You could use a larger pot if you want to do two plants, and there is always the option of using multiple pots depending on how much room you actually have.

The recommended varieties for growing tomatoes are Pixie, Patio, Toy Boy, Small Fry or Tiny Tim. These varieties will produce small plants, but they still may need to be staked, especially when they begin to bear fruit. All of these listed are a cherry tomato type. If you are looking for a bigger indoor tomato you could also go with a Roma style or even bigger to the full size Big Boys or Brandywine. I recommend heirloom tomatoes. Its a personal preference but its totally up to your taste and whether or not genetic altering is something you are ok with.


Germinate seeds in a small pot with starter mix. Plant seeds about 1/4 inch deep and water. Keep starter mix moist but not soggy. Germination should occur in 5 to l0 days.

Transplant from starter mix into potting soil when seedlings are about 3 inches tall or two sets of leaves. Place your indoor tomatoes plants facing south where they will receive the most sunlight. Sunshine is the gardener’s secret ingredient in growing colorful tomatoes.


Once you have you plants transplanted into their permanent pots its time to sit back and enjoy watching them grow. With daily waterings there shouldn't be any further work needed to be done to them. Water regularly. Check soil daily to keep it evenly moist. Some even mist the plants during the day between waterings.


Tomatoes grown indoors are like patio tomatoes in that their roots cannot reach deeply into the soil. They feed on only what you give them. Well-drained containers mean nutrients leak out into saucers. Fertilize regularly, but lightly, beginning about two weeks after transplanting. Feed your indoor tomatoes every 10-14 days with a balanced tomato fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro Tomato Plant Food.

Without insects and outdoor breezes to pollinate your indoor tomatoes you may need to help them along a little. After the flowers begin to form, you should tap the stems each time you water plants or use a fan to move air and help pollinate blossoms. This should ensure that your flowers will actually turn into tomatoes.


Depending on the type of plant you are growing, harvesting begins in about 60 days. Give or take a few. Some plants will go later so only use that time frame as a guide.


There are a few occasions when you may have to use growing lights. Tomatoes grow best when temperatures are between 65-85 degrees F, with an average time in the sun around 10 hours. If these ranges cannot be met then growing light might be necessary. If you are trying to grow them in the winter it may be an absolute or in a climate that does not produce alot of sunlight. But I would try it without first to see if you can produce results withouth them.

Here is a link for more information on growing lights. Click here.

So there you have it. Cost effective homegrown tomatoes in the tight space of your appartment or house, during any season. Yes, you can do it.

Y'all keep it straight out there.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A backyard chicken

Ok I can already hear you now. I can't keep a chicken in my backyard! Its not big enough. Or its going to take too much time, or too much money to keep chickens. None of that is true. There is nothing better than walking out into your backyard and finding the daily egg. Knowing exactly what your chicken has been eating and how it has been treated. Knowing that its not housed in a 2ft X 2ft box, unable to walk. Just to sit there, feed, and produce eggs. Terrible conditions. I had wanted to get a few for a while. I just had to convince the boss it was a good idea. Luckily, baby chickens are really really cute.

I visit a feed store every now and then for some bones for my dogs or to pick up some seeds or plants for my garden and have always noticed the little chicks in the back corner. Up until last year I thought the same thing you were thinking before. There was no way I could do it. So I started doing research, beginning with any city ordinances. I seemed to be all clear there so I moved on to my HOA rules, which is where I hit the brick wall. According to the rules I was not allowed to keep any type of fowl on the property.

Well I've never been one to abide by all the rules put in front of me, so with my wife in tow we went up to the local feed store and picked up our first pair of Buff Orpingtons. After arriving home with our new fluffy friends I realized something. I had no idea where I was going to keep them, or what they really needed to thrive and survive, not a good plan. Of course I picked up a bag of chick food and a waterer, but that was the extent of my knowledge. So I began to do some research. After a quick internet search, we found a nice big tote for the chicks to stay in and got some bedding, food, and water all in place.

That worked for about 2 weeks. At which point the chicks had decided it was time to start practicing their jumping and flapping. Soon the chicks had become quite the escape artists. It was time to start building a coop for their permanent move to the outdoors. My first coop was a combination of a few designs I had found in some chicken coop books from places like Home Depot, Tractor Supply, Lowes. They all have do it yourself coop design books. Books along the lines like, this or this. There as many plans for coops as there are for houses you actually live in. So I took my best shot at combining a few that I though looked practical and easy to build. So building what looked like a dog house raised up for floods and the painting skills of a few children we had ourselves a coop.

It was around this time one of the chicks didn't make it. After searching some of her symptoms I'm pretty sure she had succumbed to a very common illness. So she was buried and we pressed on with our sole remaining chick. Our dog house on stilts worked for quite a while. The chicken quickly learned that the perch inside was her roosting spot at night and all was well, until she starting laying eggs. She liked to go into the coop to lay her eggs but it was random and I didnt want to be on egg hunt everyday. I needed a proper nesting box, which the coop didn't have. So I set out again to try and find better coop plans.

I finally found a plan on a forum website, www.backyardchickens.com/ I highly recommend that site for any info you are looking for if you have questions about raising a few chickens. The people that post there are super friendly and very knowledgeable.

The chicken coop design I used was from the people at Purina. It was relatively easy to build and perfomed all of the functions I needed it to. A place to roost at night safe from predators and a place for her to lay her eggs. It was a success! The coop was finished and the very next day without any coaching at all she hopped right up into the nesting box and laid her daily egg there.

Here is the link for the coop I built. This first one is a pdf.
Pictures and directions

Here is the materials list.
Material list.

Here are a few pics of the process.

The materials gathered.

Framing the roof.

With skylight!!

I think the kids want a clubhouse

Job complete


The egg picture was the very next day, without any coaching from me. No fake eggs, no holding her in place with a door, nothing. She naturally wanted to get up in that hidey hole to lay her egg.

This post was more my story about raising a chicken than it was a how to or information on raising chickens. I will make that my theme for this month. I will try to pass along some how to's and all the information I learned while raising a chicken.

I wish this story had a happy ending, IE our chicken on the dinner plate, alas it does not. It seems she has succumbed to global warming. I have no shade trees anywhere near my house. There was no where for her to get relief from this relentless heat we have had here the last month and a half. DAMN YOU AL GORE!! I will have to read up on what to do about overheating chickens. Stay tuned this month for that sort of info.

Y'all keep it straight out there.