What a busy weekend it has been! It’s been chickens and bicycles and not much time for reading which stresses me out a bit but I suppose I will survive, it is only one weekend after all.

Yesterday I took Bookman to work so I could have the car to go to my chicken class at Egg Plant Urban Farm Supply. I got there a little early so I could buy some seed starting things. Hauled that out to the car and then returned for the class. I had hoped there would be chicks to pet but they had all been bought already. There was a full-grown 8-year-old chicken named Goldilocks that kept us company through the class, however. She was a big girl, I don’t remember what breed, and quietly clucked and cooed, let us feel her crop (that sounds naughty but it isn’t) and give her some seed.

I learned quite a lot about chicken keeping. There is a bit of a start-up cost with building the coop and run and feeders and all that, but after that it seems like it’s not a whole lot of work for quite a lot of satisfaction. As Bob (co-owner of the store and chicken keeper of 8 years) said, chicken care is not as much as dogs but a little more than cats. I can handle that. We talked about health problems and expectations and feed and city permits and coops. In Minnesota it’s a good idea to insulate the coop and provide a heat lamp. Bob said while we should be concerned about keeping chickens warm in winter, they are pretty hardy birds and generally do just fine as long as they are protected from wind and damp. It’s summer heat we have to worry about more. So he talked about the importance of good ventilation and keeping the coop free from moisture and making sure the chickens have shade.

I learned that three is the smallest flock. Bob recommended four with the fourth so if/when one bird dies there are still three. I had only wanted three but having four makes sense because chickens are social and death is an eventuality and I do not want a flock of two being stressed out over not being much of a flock any longer. However, when applying for a Minneapolis permit, you have to say how many chickens you are going to get and when your neighbors give the okay for that number, that is all you get unless you go back to them later for their signatures on additional birds. So, ask for as many as you think you might ever have.

The class ran a little over the scheduled two hours but no one minded because we were all learning what we needed to know. Like me, there were several people there who came because they thought it would be neat to have chickens but wanted to find out what was involved. I think we left wanting to go forward with the process. I just had to convince Bookman.

Bookman has gradually softened from absolutely not to maybe and when I picked him up from work yesterday and told him all about the class he said he couldn’t get as excited about it as I was but that he thought chickens would be ok. Woo hoo! We’re gonna get chickens!

But not this year.

Garage, your days are numbered

Garage, your days are numbered

This year we must deal with the garage. The photo (click to enlarge) is the back quarter of our city lot: a concrete slab and a garage that is out of square. The plan is this summer to have the garage and all of the concrete removed. We never park in the garage even in winter because our car is too low and light to get through the snow in the alley before it gets plowed. We have enough difficulty on the street sometimes and getting stuck in the snow in the alley is a close to nightmare scenario. Since we do not use the garage we are not going to rebuild it. Instead we are going to build a small shed for garden tools and bicycles. This will leave plenty of space for a chicken coop and run as well as additional space for gardening. I have already begun imagining what I want to plant and I don’t even know what the final configuration of it all will be!

When it comes to the chickens, we’ve decided to get a permit to keep five. That means, even though we are only planning on having four, we will build the coop and run to accommodate five. I can foresee a future when one of the hens dies and we are left with three, getting two new chicks because it just seems wrong to raise one chick by itself. Thinking ahead!

Also in the category of counting chickens before they have hatched, I’ve already decided what kind we are going to get. When it was only three in the plan I had decided on three Buff Orpingtons, quiet, docile, friendly birds. I have it in mind I will name them after three literary sisters. Now that we will have four birds, we’ll add a Black Australorp to the mix, an equally docile, quiet bird of a similar size. Bookman will get to name this one. He is saying he might call it “Noodle” as in chicken noodle. I wouldn’t put it past him. He named our first cat together Kamir ( say “come here” fast) and our dearly departed cocker spaniel was Godzilla. So a chicken named Noodle would be quite in line with his naming tradition. Stay tuned.

Because of all the pre-work we have to do to make chickens happen, and because we want to hand-raise chicks so they will imprint on us and be used to being handled by us, and because the chicks are only available from Egg Plant from now until June, we will not be getting them until this time next year. But that’s ok. We want to do this right which means not rushing. I’m sure there will be plenty of chicken preparation stories to tell!

One change we will have to make in our main garden is filling in Amy Pond. I was looking forward to another season of trying to make the pond work, but since it is such a big raccoon attractor and raccoons will eat chickens and our raccoons have already demonstrated their determination and destructive powers in catching very small goldfish, the pond has to go. And it has to go this year so the raccoons will learn it no longer exists and won’t come looking for it after we have chickens to worry about next year. Maybe in the future we might be able to find another location for Amy Pond, but for now it has to go.

Enough about chickens. Bookman and I spent several hours this afternoon at the fantastic Hub Bike Co-op where the marvelous AK helped us find the perfect bikes to propel us to our goal of riding a half-century (50 miles/80km) in October and a century (100 miles/161km) in summer 2016. Bookman decided on a Giant Anyroad cyclocross bike and got a great deal on a 2014 closeout model. I had a hard time deciding between a really nice women’s Jamis model that has a steel frame and a smooth ride or a Liv Avail women’s model that has an aluminum frame with a carbon fork and a bit more vibration than the Jamis. In the end after taking each for a test ride, I went for the Liv Avail because the bike fit me perfectly and since I will be spending hours and hours on this bike, the fit is very important.

I also got clipless pedals (clipless on one side, platform on the other) and bike shoes (they didn’t have my size so I had to order them), a new helmet because mine is well past its prime, and a small, lightweight fender. Bookman got a new helmet too and is getting the pedals that came on my bike put onto his because they have adjustable foot straps on them already. Bookman decided to go with straps because he has clonus in his right ankle due to his MS and he isn’t sure he’d always be able to get his foot unclipped from the pedal quickly enough.

We left the bikes at the Hub for them to add the fenders and do the pedals and make sure everything is tuned-up and ready to go. We’ll pick them up Thursday. Now, if only it would warm up enough to actually make riding a comfortable endeavor without having to don winter gear. With any luck, that could be next weekend. The long-term forecast is predicting 40F/4.5C!

One last thing. The wonderful Colleen of Jam and Idleness interviewed me for her Brain/Food series. Check it out!