The amazing story of two 40-something women on the path to matrimonial bliss

It just keeps getting better...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Introducing...Raggedy Hen Farm!

Hello, old friends! We have not intentionally been neglecting all the fine folks here at Lez Get Married, it is just that Teri and I have been up to our necks in entrepreneurship!  We have been working for several months on creating and launching our own small business and now, that dream is a reality!  Raggedy Hen Farm has evolved from our increasing commitment to urban farming and organic, quality ingredients for our every day food.  It really is about comfort foods and products--the kind of things that makes us feel heartily well-cared for--whether a nice bowl of hot soup, a warm biscuit slathered with fresh fruit jam, or a thick bar of goats milk soap. Comfort foods and celebrations from a farm in the city!

The name for our new adventure, Raggedy Hen Farm, came to us as the perfect moniker for this stage of our lives--besides our sometimes raggedy, opinionated flock of hens, the name pretty much suits our middle-aged selves as well.  We are not exactly spring chickens ourselves!

Having launched all our kids and scraped through the past several years of a painful, tough economy, I think Teri and I are very much like a lot of other folks--trying to figure out how to live well, build community, and create a more stable, creative, and soul-feeding livelihood for ourselves.  At this point, we still have our day jobs too, but Raggedy Hen Farm is where our hearts, minds, and shared passions are all being directed. Not to mention, it is a hell of a lot of fun!

We invite you to check us out--we are still telling our stories and sharing our lives--we've even added a YouTube channel where you can watch our slowly evolving library of videos. If you'd like to explore our products, we have a cute little online shop where you can purchase all sorts of tasty treats. We will still work to post and keep Lez Get Married going, but what do two gals do after tying the knot?  How about opening a little urban farm biz?!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Life on Overload!

 I have not intentionally been absent from blogging land, but life has been bubbling over with...well, life!  In addition to our regular work schedules, we've had kids graduate from college, a garden that has been happily twining and vining away, camping, visiting, and so much more!  The living has superseded the writing about the living...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, but I am trying to justify my neglect.  Here's a rundown of what we've been up to the for the last month:

1. One of our 3 young pullets turned out to be a cockerel, so we found a new home for him on a farm. It was either that, or we were going to have to butcher--so we were getting ourselves psyched up for that possibility!
2. We picked up 3, day-old chicks and these young'uns are now 4 weeks old and spending their days outside in a wire run we built from recycled PVC pipe (and coming in for the nights.)
3. We had two kids graduate from college, which involved a decent-sized little garden party hosted at our home, a long ceremony, and one of our other daughters (the one who works for the Conservation Corps in the Southwest) spending several days at our house for a too-short visit.

3. Our honeybees continue to thrive--pouring in and out of the hive on sunny days and continuing to build comb, raise brood and collect pollen and nectar.  I've only had one more sting--and that was from accidentally stepping on a forager bee with my bare feet!

4. We've started preserving--canning, freezing and even dehydrating to keep up with the garden!  Strawberry and blueberry jam, frozen carrots, peas, and berries and we've been eating and even trading and sharing gobs of veggies from the very happy garden beds in our back yard.

5. We continue our work in the garden--much of the spring stuff is done: broccoli, peas, lettuces and we have been stirring in a bunch more compost and replanting with late Fall crops.  Meanwhile, we are starting to harvest the summer squash and we bit into our first two cherry tomatoes just yesterday!

6. Meanwhile, DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) has been declared unconstitutional leading to some great leaps (and predictable backlash) in the land of LGBTIQ rights inevitable.  Since we live in a "domestic partner only" state, we are not yet really included fully in this progress, but it has been exciting and surreal movement nonetheless!

So, you see, it isn't so much that I've meant to neglect the blog, but life has been super duper incredibly busy and I haven't forced myself to sit down and take the time to keep y'all in the loop!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Lord of the Chickens

It only LOOKS calm and cooperative.

Things have been a bit chaotic.  Well, not so much chaotic as they have been driven by the forces and wills of nature and not necessarily by the forces and wills of me. The six supposedly fertilized eggs that we had incubating under our broody Buff Orpington did not hatch and after 24 days, we made the executive decision that it was time to encourage her to move on and off the nest.  Chicken embryos take 21 days to incubate and hatch and after 22 days of steady setting and no sign of "pips" or cracks in the eggs, Teri bravely broke one open to find a runny, goopy, unfertilized yolk and white.  We decided to give her a couple more days just in case the others might still be developing.  Well, Hilda is off the nest and finding her way back into what I loosely call the flock and the eggs got bagged up and tossed.

In case you are wondering, Hilda did not exactly run passionately across the yard to be greeted with the open wings of her other chicken sisters.  Indeed!  While she actually did seem to be a bit relieved to be off the nest and back to foraging and scratching, her return was heralded by being chased down and pecked by alpha Mean Girl, Trudy (a.k.a. Gertrude Stein) and her trusty goon Virginia Woolf.   Seriously.  Of course, it was only a few more moments before Hilda let the teenagers Jolene, Marilla, and the young rooster-in-training formerly known as Sadie know that she was back in the mix and they better steer clear.

Sheesh.  Last night, Teri and I sat out in the lovely backyard under a darkening clear sky and while the bats fluttered and screeched over our heads, the chickens enacted what has become their nightly Machiavellian ritual of coop intrigue and power play.  Otherwise known as the chickens are going in to roost.

Here's how the chicken poop goes down: the younger pullets, who are in the lower grades, go into the coop first, nearly an hour before dark.  We've noticed that Male Sadie, has started to be the one who leads them into the coop--an activity we have come to learn is typical rooster action as the roos have the job of keeping the hens safe so they signal when it's time to go to bed.  So far, only his two peers pay any attention.  They get themselves all safely and calmly settled into the coop and then, after a while, here comes Hilda.

Hilda gets all up in their business, crowds them out and with a few cranky squawks, all three of the teens come strutting and fluffing back out of the coop.  They mill about, a bit agitated and calculating what their next move should be, while Hilda has the coop roosts all to herself.  Right about this time,  Trudy and Virginia start milling about and blocking the entrance to the coop like high school alpha bitches blocking the entrance to the restroom. 

The teens try to run in and get by, only to find Hilda holding court when they get in there. After stops and starts, sneaking in and running out, all those chickens eventually get themselves into the coop.  There are some clucks and squawks, shuffles, and sounds of bumping and tussling.  They have feet and feet of roost space in there to spread out and find safe spaces to sleep for the night.  When we go over and check to see that everyone is safe and sound, opening up the side door, there are six chickens taking up about two feet of space--they are all pressed and piled up against each other like clowns in a Volkswagen! I kid you not.

We don't really get it.  Sometimes, we feel like we need to intervene and our over-developed senses of humanitarian fairness inspire us to try to get the chickens to play by our rules.  Obviously, despite how barbaric and random it all seems to us, there is a system at play in Chickenville that we are not privy to. When folks talk about the "pecking order" that make it sound so...well, orderly, but it doesn't really appear to having any smooth order to me.  There is posturing and stalking and pecks and alliances...and then they all climb into bed together.  There isn't a Shakespeare play or daytime Soap Opera that can hold a candle to life as a chicken!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Planning a Party!

I don't know if I've mentioned it here before, but we've got a couple of new college graduates coming up in our kid clan. It has been exciting (for us) and stressful (for them) as both Lucy and Leah are wrapping up their undergrad careers this Spring.  Lucy officially graduated in March, but plans to walk and celebrate this in, three weeks away June.  And, yes, we are hosting a wee bit-o-celebration here at the house!

 I actually really like planning events and I've done a bunch of it--for work and for play.  As a matter of fact, this whole blog got started as a way to keep in touch with far-away folks when we were planning our wedding!  I have been in a bit of a lull, lately, and this graduation garden party will be the first we've done in a while.  And what a fun purpose for a party!

Since we are officially hosting Lucy's party, and she wants to "just show up" as she put it, she created the initial vibe at a meeting we had where she yay or nayed my suggestions.  Truth be told, she mostly nayed them! Her directive? Simple! And nothing that will make anyone feel awkward or uncomfortable.  And, by anyone, she mostly means her world of scientists, computer programmers, and people who don't particularly like stuffy soirees.  Okay...we can do this thing. music, games, fancy food, or embarrassing walks down memory lane.  Lucy has banned a photo montage of her academic career, slide presentations, and anything remotely weepy and nostalgic. No elementary school photos of her holding test tubes or collecting water samples in bright pink rubber boots! She wants food that makes her happy: a taco/tostada bar with fresh, homemade ingredients (including my salsa and guacamole), summer beverages with some boozy choices, a graduation cake that pays homage to both her degrees (Biology & Economics), and absolutely no speeches! It's going to be a garden party because she wants to wear a Summer sundress and we think it will be less stuffy--and so no one will get trapped inside with an inquisitive elder wanting to know what he or she is going to do with the rest of their life.  She's thought this thing out!

She and I created her announcements and invitations since she had some specific ideas about wording and such.  I'm not particularly craftsy (but she is) and it was fun. The greatest thing about this party is that Lucy's personality is all over it and it is truly a celebration of her accomplishment, with a nod to all the folks who have helped her along the way. It will be unique and oozing individuality...just like her!

A little piece of her announcement...and the pride is all ours!


am proud to announce

my graduation from

the University of Oregon

with two

Bachelor of Science degrees in Biology and Economics

on March 23rd, 2013.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May by Numbers

It has been a while since I've done a "by the numbers" blog.  You know, where I sketch out how things are going down by assigning numbers to stuff.  I'll bet you've been wondering how things are stacking up around here in terms of how many and how much!  Well, here is how May 2013 looks by the numbers...

25...Number of sugar peas we picked from the garden tonight to have for supper
6...Number of times I've been stung so far from the honey bees: 4 times on the hands (my fault), 1 time on the side of the head (a forager gal got stuck in my hair and I couldn't extricate her before she stung me) and 1 time on the foot (sort-of my fault, since I was bare foot over by the hive fixing a fence to keep the chickens out of the squash & bean garden)
0...Number of times Teri has been stung
3...Number of pullets who are now...11 & 12 weeks old
3...Number of hens who are now over a year old
17...Highest number of eggs we've had in one week before the Broodies took over
6...Number of hopefully fertilized eggs we've got under Hilda the hen
9...Number of days left until said eggs should possibly hatch
13...Number of times we've mowed the grass since Winter ended
10...Number of happy raspberry plants blossoming that we transplanted from our friend, Susan's, garden
1...Number of attempted fruit tree grafts of 4 attempts that actually looks to have taken/worked
1...Number of cherry trees that blew over in an early Spring wind storm
26...Number of tomato plants we've got in the garden currently
1...Number of tomato plants that fell victim to a scratching chicken
4...Number of times we've peaked in the bee box
14,000...give or take...Number of bees we hopefully have in our hive

So, there you have it...I may be a little off all things considered (and that's what happens when you put an English major in charge of the math!)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Notes from the Maternity Ward

We have been calling Hilda's Broody Cage "The Maternity Ward" since she is determinedly setting away on the the six hopefully fertilized eggs were gave her over a week ago.  She comes off the nest once a day around noon to drink, eat, scratch around a little, and take care of any other non-nest business.  She's been incredibly predictable.  The rest of the time, she sits on her nest and turns the eggs a few times a day, shifts her position, growls at anyone or anything that gets too close, and remains undeterred from the task at hand.
For our part, we've been following what ought to be going on with the embryo development using some online charts and images.  I tend to like the more graphic, sciency, and actual dissection images, but we've settled on this one for our regular joint check-in, since the images are sort-of cute and that seems to suit Teri better.   As of today, day 9, if the eggs are developing properly, there is actually a miniature, oddly-chick-looking creature in them there eggs!
So far, Hilda is still sitting on all six eggs and none have cracked or broke.  This does not mean they are all healthy, fertilized, developing, etc. and the only way we will know is when we get to end of this adventure (in approximately 11 days) and see what hatches. We have been trying to stay cautiously optimistic but embrace reality as well.  Just because Hilda is good at setting, doesn't mean she will be a great mama; just because she is setting today, does not mean she will remain on the nest tomorrow.  There are so many unpredictables and all we can do is support the process, do our part to ensure safety, fresh food and water, etc. and prepare to adjust to whatever!

Meanwhile, Happy Mother's Day to all those Moms, Moms-to-Be, Grandmoms, Mamas, Aunties and Mom-like folk!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

How to Unbrood a Broody Hen? Maybe...

Trudy--at the left--sits in an empty nest box, while Ginny lays.
Remember, gentle reader, a few weeks back when we were excitedly pulling three eggs a day out of our nest boxes?  Well that feeling of free-flowing abundance was short-lived.  We currently have one hen who is steadily laying--Ginny, our Black Australorp; Hilda is a full time egg incubator and Trudy...well Trudy is being a pill.

Trudy is sort-of broody, but not nearly as determined, committed or dedicated as Hilda.  She is broody enough to have not laid any eggs for 3-4 days, so we are in the midst of a bit of power struggle.  It feels a bit like battling it out with a pre-teen--she's not committed enough to stick to it and win, but she is definitely acting out!

We are trying all the tricks recommended by books, articles and experienced chicken-keepers to, maybe, break a broody spell.  I say maybe because the most seasoned folks say that sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.  Eventually, a broody spell should run its course in about 3 weeks, but every hen and every scene is different.  Meanwhile, things get a bit kooky...

Trudy--at the back--tries to crowd into a nest box with the younger pullets at bed time. She usually sleeps on the roost.
Trudy has been smooshing herself in to the nest box at all sorts of interesting times. We pull her off whenever we find her on there, and after Ginny lays for the day, we've taken to closing up the coop door, so she can't get in.  This generally distracts her for a while, but occasionally, she fusses and clucks and marches around the coop trying to find a way in.  When she gets particularly fussy, we've also tried giving her backside a dip in cool water--something that should help to lower her body temp (which, I guess, gets warmer when a hen is trying to get a nest ready to brood.) The cool water doesn't hurt her and, the side effect has been that Trudy has the cleanest, poop-free backside she's had in months...

Teri & Trudy have a little pool time.
Through it all, Teri and I are total novices.  Like all farmers--urban or other--we're learning as we go.  I think one of the requirements for anything from gardening to chickens to dairy goats is a willingness to bumble, ask questions, and learn as you go.  If you asked Teri--the consummate East Coast city girl--if she'd ever see herself picking up a 9 pound hen and dunking her butt in a bucket of water, she would probably have laughed heartily in disbelief and yet, when the time came, she answered the call.

Chicken and Chicken Keeper get a little wet.
Here's what we know--those calculations you read about how many eggs a certain breed of chicken lays are not always the most reliable; the charts that show you which chickens will go broody and which will not are not always reliable. Hens lay early, lay late, take days off, go broody, get sick, moult, and as Teri says, they behave as if they didn't read the books!

So, maybe we'll succeed in getting Trudy to give up her half-assed ideas about setting and maybe we won't. Eventually, the young pullets should start laying (in about 9-10 weeks or so) but we don't know exactly when that will be.  Who knows if Virginia might decide to get on the broody wagon?  Really, we've decided to just keep going and try to do the best we can by our animals...