REnew, REuse, Recycle…the birth of a new coop for our girls!

Sweetie peeking through the fence, wondering "what's out there?".

Sweetie peeking through the fence, wondering “what’s out there?”.

I have moved into an abandoned hoarders’ house.  My boyfriend moved here first.  I will post about some of the transformation we have accomplished later.  This post is about the new home for our girls.

Prior to moving here, I had a dozen chickens.  My boyfriend had 14.  He re-homed 8 of his and I re-homed 6 of mine and so we blended an even dozen.  No roosters! We live in the city limits. I had to get rid of my beloved Pumpkin who I had raised since he was days old.

Now, try to imagine a corner city lot with an 1800 square foot home that is completely filled with stuff!!!  The house had paths from the doors to the various rooms.  Two of the three bedrooms were filled with stuff to the doorway with one of the rooms impenetrable.  The outside was similar.  There is an extra long driveway/patio that has debris completely filling it except for a parking area near the roadway.  The backyard, and side yard were full of garbage and debris.

coop 11

The makeshift coop in the back of the house under a bunch of overgrown trees and grape vines. Piles of garbage and debris on both sides! It’s only 4 feet tall.

When my guy moved here and brought his chickens he built a makeshift coop/run.  It worked.  It wasn’t easy to access for cleaning.  It was dark because it was in the over run jungle of a yard.  The girls did not seem happy.  I wasn’t happy about where they were.  I wanted a place where I could hang out with them when I wanted to.

After 3 months of working on getting the inside of the house livable, it was time to make a new spot for the girls.

We cleared out an area, shoving all the garbage and debris into a pile on the side yard.  We will get it hauled away later.  I will tell you more about debris and having things hauled away in another blog post.

Now, my guy, he can throw anything together and make it work.  So he starts piecing this 8ftx8ft square together.  He calls me out and asks me to hold a couple of boards up while he screws them in place.  I had no idea he was going to do this over Labor Day weekend until Sunday morning when he stated his intentions.  So while he is sorting through the various piles looking for pieces of lumber, I start thinking about what I want in a coop.  What do we have that can be used that we want to get out of the house?  I am always looking for ways to get rid of things that are still in here.  I remembered an entertainment center that I thought would work as a place for nesting boxes. I emptied it out (it actually had a few salvageable games like Trivia Pursuit and Monopoly in it) and cleaned it up and the guys hauled it out.

Walls were put up.  A window (I have a few from a 1902 house that I have moved with me two times now with hopes of building a greenhouse SOMEday) was installed.  A light was found and installed.  An old door was found and it too was installed so that we can actually walk into the coop to attend to the girls.  That is a real nice change from the makeshift coop I’ve been entering all stooped over because it’s only 4 feet tall.  I can go in and collect eggs fully upright!  I like that.

Time to move some more debris out of the way.  We fenced in an area for a run. This isn’t being built with the intention of it being a permanent structure. It is just for the year or so we intend on being here.  The guys didn’t bother to dig holes for posts, they just built the fence with scraps of lumber and added a little picket fence gate because I liked it and wanted an entrance to the yard for hanging with my girls.

I asked for some roosting bars, a ramp for them to access the nests at the top of the entertainment center and of course the pop door for the girls to get out of the coop and into the run.

There are plans of rigging up a pulley system for opening and closing the pop door, but we ran out of steam and time.  The weekend is over and it was time to get some dinner ready and prepare for the work week and the young man of the house has school tomorrow!  It is his senior year.  I’m sure he would have rather spent this last weekend doing something else, but he helped his dad and learned how to build something useable out of what many would have considered junk.  I am proud of them both and grateful for the wonderful new housing our chickens have.

Oh, and we also have 2 new chickens that arrive last week.  They are Blue Laced Red Wyandottes that were brought here from Utah on Monday.  My boyfriend’s cousin raises them and we hope to become Wyandotte breeders eventually.  So these cute girls (Baby Blue and Big Blue) are our beginnings!  And this mess of a house that we are making into a home is my guys’ and my beginnings.  I think we are doing pretty good so far!  We are making a home for us, for the last kid living at home who is soon to fly the coop and for our feathered kids!  It is going to be a heck of a year in what I had called “Hoarder’s Hell”, which is quickly becoming “Our Haven”.

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Waste not, want not…using what I have!

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Last week I responded to a local ad regarding a bartering offer and I ended up being gifted some plant starts.  A very kind woman took me to her greenhouse and explained how some things in life had been challenging this spring and she wasn’t going to be able to market her plants.  The “need” in the barter request was being fulfilled by another resource.  She said to take any starts I thought I could use or would want since I had responded to the ad and been willing to do the barter.  There were hundreds of tomatoes and peppers of all kinds imaginable.  Various herbs.  It was a wonderful place for me to be…just standing there in that greenhouse with such beauty in the bounty of food all those plants represented.

I tried to be realistic.  I thought about what I could and would do with tomatoes and peppers.  Salsa, spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes, dried peppers.   I ended up with about 15 tomato plants and the same amount in peppers.  I had 6 pony packs which had cilantro, parsley, fennel, basil, another parsley and another herb that I am unsure what it is.  I think there were 3 squash plants that when I saw them at first I thought they were geraniums.  Might still be geraniums.  These plants aren’t marked. The woman had left me alone and said to help myself.

Butterfly pepper

Butterfly on the pepper plant in the garden.

Because I lost last years garden bounty, I have been hesitant to plant all my seeds and starts in the ground.  I am a renter, and I am anticipating I will be leaving here at some, I just don’t know when.  I was offered a place to garden in one of the many growing areas on this property and I utilized that.  A couple of days ago I planted 6 tomatoes and 5 peppers and 3 pony packs of the parsley and cilantro and basil in the area I cleaned out to use .  I still had LOTS more to plant. I wanted to have a mobile garden.  One I could take with me if I were to move before harvest time.  I did have some black pots I have acquired as well as I intended to make planters with old pallets.  I have been collecting some pallets over the last few weeks.  Figuring out how to use them was the next line of thought.  That was my goal this afternoon.

Do you know how hard it is to dismantle old pallets?  They are put together to STAY put together. The have a bazillion nails in them.  Nails that aren’t easy to get out. I took apart 2 pallets a few weeks ago and realized I just don’t have the strength to do that kind of hard repetitive work.  So I had to figure out a way where I would just cut them without removing the nails.   After numerous searches on the web this is what I came up with.

I cut the pallet into three pieces.  I then cut to size and nailed into place some empty feed bags.  I have used these feed bags to add decor to the walls of my coop also!  The shorter ones are filled with organic potting soil and planted with the herbs.  As a “filler” in the taller one (to conserve on the cost of plant mix) I went and scooped up some of the old straw/shavings/chicken poop that was scattered after the last two cleanings of the coop.  The bottom layer is 9 months old and really breaking down well.  The top layer is still fairly dry and has been sitting for over 2 months.  I believe that anything sending roots down further than the 8 inches will find that the stuff underneath has broken down more and will allow for nice long root systems.  Another experiment for me to monitor.

I did the same trick on the big black pots I used.  I filled them about 1/2 full with the partially composted coop mix and then topped them off with the Organic Plant Mix.  I worked until I ran out of the 2 bags of soil I had and it was almost dark.  I think I planted about 14 pots.  Some of them have double duty with more than one plant in it.  It felt so good to accomplish this.  I have been very slow to get going with planting a garden of any type, and yet when God provided all that I needed to do so, I had to get out there and do my part!  I am grateful for this woman’s generosity.

IN the midst of doing this planting I realized I had not eaten anything except for the Latte I had treated myself to when I was running errands in town.  I had received a FREE coupon a week ago.  Free is always good, but that free drink wasn’t going to give me the energy I needed to get this job done.  I had no ideas of what sounded good.  I just needed food.

What I had that needed to be used

Peppers, onion, Portabella mushroom, mayonnaise, avocado, fresh tomato and potato, basil, Organic Seed Bread, Mozzarella cheese

I opened up my little fridge and started searching.  What you see in the picture is what I pulled out  that needed to be used so it wouldn’t go bad or to waste over the weekend.  There were 3 peppers and a little bit of red onion that was left over and then the Portobello mushroom that my friend had given me the other day.  Hmmm…a sandwich sounded good….what kind could I throw together with this stuff?  I continued to rummage and found the little bit of the homemade mayonnaise with avocado added I had made last week and it was still good, but wouldn’t be for much longer.   My boyfriend had said something about a Philly Beefsteak Sandwich earlier and those peppers and onions triggered the idea into action!  An epic Portabella Philly Sandwich was about to be born!  A sandwich of this magnitude needs to be served with some chips.  But I didn’t have chips.  Yet I had bought an organic russet just today on my trip to Cartwright Meats.  I had also bought 3 of their Bacon Wrapped sirloin with hopes of a BBQ over the weekend.  They are only $3.49 each every Friday!

The chips: Turn oven to 450 degrees.  I used my stoneware bake pan and heated it also during the preheat time.  The chips were made by slicing on a mandolin and soaking in rice vinegar and water brine for 20 minutes. I drained the water off using a salad spinner to get them really dry! This was some good exercise for arms!  Then I drizzled some EVOO on and made sure all the slices had some oil.  I sprinkled Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime blend all over the chips.  I opened the oven and spread them out as single level as I could.  I cooked for 10 minutes and then turned them and cooked another 10 minutes.  This was the perfect amount of time to make the sandwich.

This is how the sandwich was made!!!

Slice 1/2 red pepper, 1/2 green pepper and 1/2 small red onion.  Saute in cast iron skillet on medium heat in 1 tbsp. EVOO until onions are carmelized.  Remove from heat (I used my 12 inch cast iron and only put 1/2 the pan over heat so I just pushed the pepper onion mix on the unheated side to keep warm).  There should be just a small glaze of the oil left seen in the pan..it’s barely there. Slice washed and stemmed mushroom and lay sliced into hot pan.  Put one slice of Organic Seed bread in the toaster.  Turn the mushroom after about 1 minute when it is just seared.  Spread lightly with homemade mayo.  Stir mushrooms with peppers to combine all in pan and add 3 sprigs of fresh basil and cook one more minute. Take off heat and squeeze half a lime over the entire pan of food. Scoop onto toasted bread.  Place 1 ounce sliced mozzarella cheese on top of grilled veggies and place under broiler until cheese is melted.  Add sliced tomatoes and a spread more of the mayonnaise. Top with avocado and a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper and sea salt.

Portabella Philly Sandwich

Portabella Philly Sandwich

I hope you give this a try as a substitute for the traditional Philly Steak Sandwich.  The only thing I will change in my recipe for next time is to have a nice hoagie roll instead of the seed bread.  This has some juiciness to it and the bread didn’t hold up through the time it took me to take a few photos and eat it!  A hefty roll will be much better!  And it would make it portable!  Portable plants and portable Portabella Philly sandwich!