Hatton House Diaries

One day, we decided to buy a 125 year old Victorian House in Des Moines, Iowa…….

Chickens of the Corn July 20, 2012

imageWe are in a drought in Iowa, and I’ve almost completely given up on growing corn this year in the garden. All is not lost, as the chickens love taking their dirt baths among the (pathetic) corn and tomato plants. I’m told by one of my fellow backyard farmers that chickens like a take baths in the dirt to clean their feathers and get cool. This is definitely the place for them!

 

Peach Brandy! (T Minus a Month) July 11, 2012

imageI posted on Facebook asking for ideas for what to do with my 10 gallons of peaches, and by far, the most interesting idea in my book was “peach brandy.” I did some research online, and found a recipe for peach brandy on Cooks.comthat was as follows:

2 gallons + 3 quarts boiled water
3 qts. peaches, extremely ripe
3 lemons, cut into sections
2 sm. pkgs. yeast
10 lbs. sugar
4 lbs. dark raisins
Place peaches, lemons and sugar in crock. Dissolve yeast in water (must NOT be to hot). Stir thoroughly. Stir daily for 7 days. Keep crock or vessel covered with cheesecloth.On the 7th day, add the raisins and stir. Let mixture sit UNTOUCHED for 21 days, then bottle. (5 gallon crocks).

So my friend Rachel came over and helped process the peaches (we left skins on, because on another website I read it said it would give the brandy a rose color). I got the crock bleached, the ingredients all boiled, chopped, and covered, and it’s going.

When I stirred it this morning, it was very fizzy and smelled like alcohol, but I think it was just the yeast. The things I’m unsure of are whether or not cheesecloth is enough to keep bugs out, and if I’m supposed to cover it for the 21 days or not. Then my mother in law stopped by tonight and said if you don’t chop up the raisins, they can swell up and explode. Apparently this happened in another family member’s wine making.

So here’s your chance to voice your opinion/advice on our first brandy making venture. Save us from our inexperienced selves as needed!

 

A Sad Day for Urban Chickens

Filed under: Urban Farming — hattonhousedsm @ 8:26 pm
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image  I’m starting this post with a photo of the chickens happily munching on our peach cuttings from our peach tree. They’re happy here, and I need to focus on that. It’s taken me a few days to write another post after the last one, where my nine chickens looked so happy running around our yard. A couple days after I posted that, someone broke into our fenced back yard, tore apart our chicken run, and terrorized our girls with a hack saw that the criminal(s) brought with, and a sledgehammer we’d left out from some construction. When my husband found them, our girls were still loose in the yard, two were out of the yard, and one had been either chased or beaten to death (it was during the 100+ temps heat spell, so chasing a chicken to exhaustion wouldn’t have been impossible). I can only call this devastating to all of us, humans and chickens alike. As our nine year old daughter put it “This is awful two ways, one because they look so lonely, just the six of them, and now they’re going to be harder to mother.” (Yes, I could not love that child and her animal loving heart any more).

We reported it to the police. In our city, animal cruelty is an aggravated misdemeanor on the first offense, and a felony on the second, but that only helps if we catch these people. We have our neighbors keeping an eye out and an ear to the ground, but so far, we’ve had no word on who might have done this.

The chickens are recovering slowly. They aren’t as outgoing as they once were. In my last post, you can see that they’d walk right up to me without any treats offered. They’re not as afraid of humans as they were right after the massacre, but I don’t know if they’ll ever be as loving as they once were. I’d love to add more chickens, but we’re trying to regroup and let the coop emotions settle before adding more chaos…..chicken shiva, if you will. We’ll get there, eventually.

 

Peach Season! July 3, 2012

Filed under: In the Garden,Keep It Local,Urban Farming — hattonhousedsm @ 7:00 pm
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imagePeach season has arrived at the Hatton House! From our single peach tree, we harvested almost 10 gallons of peaches before we ran out of buckets. We’ve already frozen some, given some to neighbors, and made a peach cobbler. Still not at all sick of them. Peaches grown organically and eaten 100 degree hot right off the tree is an intensely delicious experience!

 

The Chickens Are Coming! June 23, 2012

Filed under: Urban Farming — hattonhousedsm @ 7:57 am
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The chickens are getting huge, but we have had one escapee. If you see one of these walking around River Bend, kindly escort her back…or at least call us. We’re also missing our mouser cat, Nick. Our almost 5 year old son is desperate to put up signs that say “Missing: 1 cat and 1 chicken. I may do it just for the comedic value.

 

Chicken Coop Moving Day! April 30, 2012

Filed under: Remodeling and Design Projects,Urban Farming — hattonhousedsm @ 4:42 am

imageWe found a chicken coop on Facebook for the low low price of “you have to move it out of our yard.” When I first went to see it, it didn’t seem like that big a deal, but as we measured and planned, the coop seemed to grow. It’s 4×8′ and wouldn’t fit on my friend’s trailer, which meant that we had to rent a trailer and have several friends help with loading it. You could write a joke about the engineer, the architect, and the contractor trying to figure out how to get this coop out of our benefactor’s back yard without hitting their house, garage, or trees. I deeply regret not getting this exchange on video, but at least I have this photo, with Gregory Barnum (the contractor) getting out of the van, having just moved the coop, while Steve Wilke-Shapiro and my husband, Doug Jotzke (the architect and engineer respectively) were still discussing various clearances and angles. It was pretty classic.

We never would have gotten this thing moved (or have been so entertained) without the help of Steve, who is an architect with Silent Rivers, Gregory Barnum of ConcretEquity, and Mike Hildbrand, who is the President of the River Bend Neighborhood association (although he was helping in unofficial capacity!) You won’t find nicer people to work with/neighbors anywhere!

 

The Chicks: One Week Later April 29, 2012

Filed under: Keep It Local,Urban Farming — hattonhousedsm @ 4:29 am
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imageMiraculously, the chicks have survived their first week with us! And they are growing like crazy. Sometimes, I will walk by them an hour later and I swear they’re bigger. They’re super cute, and pretty funny interacting with the kids and trying to hide from the cats. Luckily, the chicken coop is moving here soon, and we will no longer have predators and prey living together!

PS I suppose I should say, we got all Buff Orpingtons, for you chicken geeks out there!

 

Chicks Have Arrived! April 22, 2012

Filed under: Keep It Local,Urban Farming — hattonhousedsm @ 4:19 am
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ImageSomewhere along the way, I decided that raising chickens would be fun. We get our eggs from local farms, and they taste so much better, so why not get them right out of the backyard? I have a few chicken raising friends, and I found the Iowa Urban Chicken Farmers Facebook Page, so what could go wrong?

I decided to get 6 chickens, but then we got to the farm supply store and they were so cute, I thought “8 would be good.” I said 8, and my 4 year old son exclaimed “No! TEN!” So now we have 10 chickens, in a little box, and I feel like I-just-brought-my-first-kid-home awkward. What the heck am I doing? I’m a city dweller from New Jersey. How the heck did I end up raising chickens in Iowa? Too late now…the adventure begins!