Wow, did the weekend ever fly by! And before I knew it, Sunday evening was upon me and I realized there would be no blog post. This week might continue to be patchy in the posting department but a more settled schedule is on the horizon.
The Dashwoods are now six weeks old. Technically they can go out to their coop but the weather has not been cooperating. In spite of the very early spring – the lilacs are blooming already, two weeks ahead of time! – we had frost Saturday and Sunday. The Dashwoods have been living under a heat lamp their entire lives, keeping them at a constant temperature. We raise the lamp a little every week in order to acclimate them and they are currently at 70F/21C. To toss them outdoors into even a well-insulated coop would be a bit shocking. So they are hanging out in their brooder one more week.
Which works out great for Bookman and I because the wet, cold, windy weather last week did not allow us to finish getting all the tiny details done on the coop, not to mention finishing the wiring around the run. Bookman had to work Saturday but had Sunday off. We finished all the details on the coop like the ventilation and framing the windows so they don’t fall out. We put baseboard trim up inside the coop to hold down the flooring on the edges and cover over a few gaps from some not so straight saw cuts and crooked angles. Now the coop just needs to be painted. About half of the wire is up around the run and should not take too long to finish. Famous last words!
As for the Dashwoods themselves, just one of them is now about the size of all four of them squished together when they were a couple days old. It’s crazy how big they are. They know I am the bringer of treats so whenever I even open the door they immediately get excited. Their newest treat this week was worms.
Remember a few years ago I started worm composting in my kitchen? The red wiggler population has grown huge and the bin is a mass of worms. So I thinned the population a little on Sunday. Not much, only about a dozen worms were sacrificed to the chickens. I slopped a few worms onto an old plastic lid and did not bother cleaning off the compost, I figured chickens like to dig and scratch and all birds like worms so they could figure it out. I put the lid in the brooder, the Dashwoods expecting dandelions or lettuce, and they didn’t know what to do. They ignored the worms and pecked at the lid instead. Since they have never seen worms before I realized I was going to have to be Mama Hen and show them what to do.
Don’t worry, I did not eat worms. I took the lid out of the brooder, picked up a worm, cleaned the compost off it, and offered it to the chickens. They were not sure about the wiggling thing. They knew it must be food but they didn’t know how to eat it. As a consequence, at one point there were about four worms wiggling in the litter with the Dashwoods peeping and running around and working themselves up into a frenzy.
Finally Elinor figured out how to eat the worms. Once she did she was a greedy chicken and pretty much got all of them. She’d grab the worm from my fingers and slurp it down like a string of spaghetti before any of the others knew what was happening. It was hilarious. I did not feel bad the others didn’t get much because Elinor usually has a hard time getting her share of dandelions. I did feel a little bad about feeding the worms to the Dashwoods, but one of the main reasons I got chickens was to eat bugs in the garden and worms are much easier to start with than grasshoppers or beetles.
Here is Fresh Dashwood video. Their eye-beak coordination sucks and since they are big enough that when they miss the proffered leaf — and they miss a lot — their pecks hurt, especially when they all miss at the same time. So I thought I would tear up some dandelion and sorrel and put it on a little plate for them. For some reason I imagined they would be neat and orderly, all four of them bellied up and peacefully chomping away. As you will see, orderly is not in their frame of reference. The all black one is Margaret, the red/brown one is Elinor, the black one with white speckles is Mrs. Dashwood and the one with the white head is Marianne.
Next weekend is also my very first race! Saturday will see me at the starting line for Riot Gravel, a 33-mile race over dirt and gravel roads. It’s a women-only race so that is pretty exciting. I had to trick Astrid out with some new tires. She went from smooth 25mm road tires to slightly nubby 28mm tires. In order to get the larger tires fitted onto Astrid I had to remove the fenders. In order to remove the fenders I had to first remove the brake calipers. That made me a bit nervous, but thankfully the entire brake unit comes off as one piece so it didn’t turn out to be as scary as it first seemed like it was going to be.
Since we had frost over the weekend I am very glad I have not had much chance to plant anything from the plant sale we went to. The frost touched a few of the shrubs and perennials we already have growing in the garden that are up earlier than usual, but for the most part, everything is fine. The new plants were protected with a blanket. Our average last frost date is May 15th so very likely we will be frost-free from now until October. That means, the week ahead will involve lots of planting. It’s about time really. I have been anxious to do it but the chicken coop has kept me busy. Turned out to be a good thing though.
Next weekend Bookman and I will build the beds on the green roof and add the soil and plant the plants while we also get the Dashwoods used to their new home.
And of course I had to go on a ride to test out the tires. I rode out to the Minnetonka light rail trail which is a trail made of packed dirt and gravel. There were a variety of conditions on the trail I got to sample from mud puddles to ruts to loose gravel and a partial trail closure I had to carry Astrid through a ditch in order to bypass. And what a difference slightly bigger tires with a lower psi inflation make! I was enormously pleased. If only the weather could have been better. It was just above freezing when I left with winds gusting up to 20-25 mph/32-40 kph. And of course, no matter what direction I went, the wind was always against me.
But I had a great time. At one point I came upon about two dozen swallows dipping and diving over and around the path after bugs I could not see. Astrid and I glided through them and they surrounded us briefly as though we were flying with them. It was amazing!
I put 71 miles/114 km on the new tires and it felt really good. In spite of arriving home cold and a little wind burnt, it was a fun adventure and I felt like I still had a lot left in my legs. Bring on the race!