Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Babies!


adorable

These baby chicks are too cute for words. The girls loved visiting with them and can't wait to go back to see them again. They are coming home to us in about 2 weeks, earlier than expected, so we will have to begin building the coop this weekend. But first, I have to try to level out my backyard a bit and possibly most definitely will have to put in a retaining wall. My budget doesn't allow me to hire a landscaper to do this job (think in  around the $5000 mark)...<insert gasp here> so we will be doing the labour ourselves....meaning I will probably be doing most of the labour myself since Josh is crazy busy working golfing. Here's hoping for nice weather.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Ainsi Font, Font, Font





Ainsi Font, Font, Font

Ainsi font, font, font,
Les petites marionnettes,
Ainsi font, font, font,
Trois p'tits tours et puis s'en vont.
For Easter my mom bought each girl a cute little marionette . She happened to find a chicken for McKayla and horses for the other girls and since I first laid eyes on this little guy I have been singing 'Ainsi font, font, font'.......Well we are at 24 hours now and I still cannot get it out of my head!! 

EXCITING NEWS: The girls and I get to go and visit our little baby chicks tomorrow. Cannot wait! We have decided to go ahead with building the chicken coop and are keeping our fingers crossed that none of our neighbours will complain once the ladies move in. If they do then we will aggressively pursue our aldermen to amend the by-law. 

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Baking of a Cake

The girls and I had a great 'adventure' in the making of this cake. Between our van breaking down on the way to Auntie Meagan's to pick up icing bags and tips, to forgetting to buy the much needed shortening at the grocery store, to leaving the cake in the freezer for 4 hours instead of just the one hour that it needed and finally to the FIVE plus hours that we spent on making the cake, lemon custard and the two different types of icing, to the actual grand finale (so to speak) of icing the top into the shape of 'flower petals'? To top it all off I decided to use lemon concentrate instead of fresh squeezed lemons (far too much work on top of all the other work to do) and the custard turned out far too sour in comparison to the rest of the very sweet cake.  Other than that it tastes great...sort of. The girls had a blast helping me mix the three colours for the petals and licking every spoon, fork and spatula in sight.

Here's the website in case you would like to see how the cake was supposed to turn out or in case you might actually want the recipe, because despite how mine turned out this time, I can see how with a few changes this could be a must have in my recipe cupboard. The buttercream frosting recipe is very good but the lemon frosting is AMAZING! This was our first attempt at any sort of 'not from box cake' and definitely the first time we have tried to frost the cake into any sort of defined shape or pattern. So by about 2 hours in I really think I was finally getting the hang of it!!

http://iammommy.typepad.com/i_am_baker/2011/03/hydreangea-cake.html

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Making Butter

The girls and I have decided to expand our blog to include some of the other fun, crazy and silly things that we do in between our adventures with chickens. Or our hopefully, soon-to-be, possible adventures with chickens:)

So the other day the girls and I thought that we would experiment and make some butter. I had come across a simple recipe using a Kitchen Aid mixer that I thought would be easy enough for the girls to help with.
McKayla starting the mixer  


Our adventure began when I went to the grocery store to purchase the 'heavy cream' that my recipe called for. I had never seen heavy cream in a grocery store so I did a quick bit of research and came to the conclusion that I probably would only find the standard whipping cream (35% fat) and not be able to find 'heavy cream' which should have a fat content in and around 38-40%. (If anyone knows where I can find 'heavy cream' please let me know)  So I purchased the whipping cream along with my other groceries the night before the girls and I intended to make the butter. The next afternoon we go to make the butter and begin frantically looking through the fridge, van (which was with Josh at work) and the cupboards because I can not find the cream for the life of me. I have of course managed to forget the cream at the grocery store and must now go back and ask if they remember me and the fact that I have left my cream there. I really don't want to drag (insert: get dressed, brush hair, bribe) the children to go to the grocery store so I asked told Josh to do it the next day which happened to be his day off. Luckily we live in a small town so they know us and the fact that we tend to forget a lot of things at the checkout counters at various stores all over Smithville (and sometimes Grimsby, St. Catharines, Hamilton...well you get the picture) The next day comes and we finally begin to make the butter, which now has the feel of a major project. Good thing it turned out to be super easy!

Whipping the cream
Starting to make curds
Curds are starting to stick together!
Added a little lemon dilly spice and voila! Butter!
It actually turned out pretty good and only took about 15 to 20 minutes. A little watery but I just drained it off and we patted it into shape. The kids loved the taste, although Josh found it a little bland. I think using heavy cream would really make a difference in giving it a creamier texture. Also it turns out that the 'water' I found left over is actually buttermilk! Who knew? I just dumped it out but next time I will probably use it for pancakes topped with our homemade butter! It doesn't have the same thickness of regular buttermilk but is still great to use for cooking and baking.

Final conclusions: Even after waiting the extra day and the hassle of going back to the grocery store it was an easy and fun activity to make with the kids. We will definitely be doing it again.

Here is the website where I got the original idea from:
http://organicgardening.com/blogs/thegreenearthgirl/2011/04/05/a-butter-tale-part-1/

I just found this one today and will make sure to use some of their ideas:
http://www.organicgardening.com/cook/homemade-butter

Friday, 15 April 2011

My Somewhat Messy Scale Drawing

 












































































Upper Deck































(9x10)









































































































































Lower Deck































(12x16)















s






























t






























a






























i






























r






























s


















































































































































































































g












AREA WHERE I CAN
















a












POTENTIALLY PLACE
















r












CHICKEN COOP
















d






























e













(9 feet away from all















n












neighbouring properties)















(4x10)





































































































































































































































































































































RETAINING WALL – IN PROGRESS







































































































SWALE

















































Notes: the deck is right up against the house and the property narrows to about 6 feet between the fence and the deck at top of the design, essentially losing about 4 feet that I couldn't portray accurately.

So I scoured the internet for an easy to use, free landscape/backyard designer to help me figure out where I could put our potential chicken coop. I could not find one for the life of me so I decided to go old school and use an excel like program and design it to scale myself. The girls and I had a great time measuring the backyard (what a great math lesson), the deck, and the garden. Making sure that it is the proposed 3m (around 9feet) away from all property lines I am left with the area shaded grey as the potential site for our hen house. Based on my design we still have lots of space (about 17'x14') available to place our coop. The coop will probably be around 4'x6' (size of the sheet of plywood we already have:) which will give our ladies lots of room. 

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Possible Petition/Proposed Amendment

Below is a potential petition with my proposed amendments that I have drafted up to see if there are others within the community who feel as I do. I haven't printed it off yet as I was hoping for some feedback or possible changes if needed.





Petition for Amendment to be made to By-Law#

Petition Summary and Background
Our current by-laws state that residents are not allowed to keep poultry in their backyard if they live in a residential zone. That by-law needs to be amended to allow residents to have a minimal number of hens (not roosters) on their property with proper regulations in place. Over 300 hundred North American cities have by-laws permitting residents to keep the traditional farm animal within city limits. The chickens are kept to lay eggs, for consumption, to dispose of kitchen scraps, eat bugs, turn soil and even weed gardens. Common misconceptions that chickens smell, attract rodents and are noisy are just that, misconceptions. Regular coop cleaning, keeping feed off the ground, and the fact that it is the rooster that is noisy, not the hen, should put these concerns aside.

Action Petitioned For
Based on research the amendment specifics that we are asking for are as follows (taken from proposal to the City of Kingston http://www.cityofkingston.ca/cityhall/bylaws/backyardhens.asp )

Anyone wishing to keep backyard hens must first register with the Building & Licensing Division:
  • A maximum of 8 hens are permitted on any one residential property
  • The keeping of roosters is prohibited
  • The owner of the hens must reside on the property where the hens are kept
  • Hens must be kept in their coops at all times
  • The keeping of hens is only permitted in residential and approved agricultural zones
  • Tenants must obtain permission from the property owner to keep hens on the owner's property
  • The maximum size of a chicken coop shall be no greater than 3 x 3 metres
  • Coops must not be greater than 4.5 m in height
  • Coops must be constructed at grade level and the entire roof structure of the coop must be enclosed
  • Coops must be built to allow easy access for manure removal
  • Hen coops are not permitted in any front or side yard
  • Deceased hens shall be disposed of at a livestock disposal facility
  • The sale of eggs, manure and other products associated with the keeping of hens is prohibited
  • Hen coops must be a distance of at least 1.2 m from the rear lot line and at least 3 m from any side lot line of the dwelling lot on which the hen coop is located
  • Hen coops cannot not be located any closer than 15 m from any school
  • The hen coop cannot be located any closer than 7.5 metres from any church or business
  • Coops must be a minimum distance of 3 m from all windows and doors that are located on an abutting property
  • Coops must be maintained in a sanitary condition and the coop must be kept free of obnoxious smells and substances
  • Manure must be stored in the coop and in a fully enclosed structure such as a compost bin
  • Food and water must be kept in a secured coop and leftover food must be removed in a timely manner

Chickens

What starts with 'ch'?
A chicken and a child.
But we are going to talk about the chicken.
These are the things that they eat;
worms, bugs, and grain.
By McKayla Wall


Debunking Common Chicken Misconceptions

After doing some research into raising backyard chickens over the last week or so, I have come to realise that there are a lot of misconceptions floating around that put urban chicken raising in a bad light. Now I originally believed some of these things and have been pleasantly surprised not only by what I have read but also by what I have seen first hand. Below I am picking some of the most oft heard objections and am hoping to raise awareness to the actual truth.

  1. Chickens Smell - Absolutely! Every animal that defecates is going to smell. But the odour that immediately comes to everyone's mind is that of a thousand or so chickens crammed into a chicken barn where the close quarters allow ammonium to build up, although a good farmer doesn't allow this. With urban chickens we are talking about 8 hens in a coop. A proper coop is built to afford each hen with around 2-3 square feet of room and when cleaned out properly has almost no odour. Just as a comparison, the average dog produces 12 ounces of solid waste per day compared with a chicken who produces only 1.5 ounces.
  2.  Noise - Let's travel back to kindergarten for a moment and remember when we were learning about animals and the sounds they make. Chickens go 'Cluck, Cluck' and its the rooster who makes the big 'Cock-a-doodle-doo' Now roosters are NOT part of urban chicken raising. They are definitely the noise maker and no neighbour (or owner) wants to be awoken to their sound. Hens, however, do make a little noise after laying an egg, for about two minutes or so. It has been measured at around 63 decibels which is about the level of two people talking compared with a barking dog which has been measured at about 75 decibels.
  3. Unwanted predators, pests or rodents - I will quote directly from wikipedia.org for this one "Predators and rodents are already living in urban areas. Bird feeders, pet food, gardens, fish ponds, bird baths, trash put out the night before, all attract raccoons, foxes, rodents and flies. Most modern chicken pens are designed to keep predators away." Having chickens will not bring what is not already in the area. Most hen keepers will take multiple steps to ensure their ladies are kept safe from these predators.
Those are the top three that I have been questioned about and that I myself worried about prior to learning about the feasibility of raising chickens in one's backyard. Most of my information came from the websites below. Here's hoping we can put some of these misconceptions to rest.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_chickens

http://www.backyardchickens.com/

http://keeping-chickens.me.uk/

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Copy of Email sent to Aldermen

Below is a copy of the email I sent off to the Aldermen in my ward. Hopefully I will hear back from them and we can go from there. On a side note the children had a wonderful lesson on by-laws, aldermen, mayors and how we as residents can ask for changes to be made within our town. It doesn't mean we will always get the changes we would like but there is no harm in the asking.


Aldermen of Ward 3
Township of West Lincoln


I am writing this email after a phone call I just made to the Township of West Lincoln office. I was enquiring after the by-laws concerning the keeping of poultry in a residential area. My family and I currently reside at 11 Golden Acres Drive in Smithville and would like to be able to keep hens in our backyard. I was extremely surprised that in 1979 a by-law was passed that prohibited the keeping of farm animals on residential property and included in that list of farm animals, was poultry. My only reasonable recourse in this matter, as I do not feel breaking a by-law is a position I would like to find myself in, is in asking the Aldermen of my ward to request a general amendment to this by-law. With more than 300 cities in North America, including Niagara Falls, Brampton, Guelph, Kingston, Vancouver, Victoria and Surrey having amended their bylaws to allow urban chickens, I would hope that Smithville (self proclaimed Chicken Capital of Canada) would be quick in following suit.

I have done some quick research in regards to other cities by-laws and regulations and have included the websites below that I found useful. I will continue to gather information in the hopes that this issue can be brought before council and changes can be made to reflect this growing trend.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours Sincerely,
Alia Wall
11 Golden Acres Drive
Smithville, Ontario
L0R 2A0




http://www.cityofkingston.ca/cityhall/bylaws/backyardhens.asp - this website shows the proposal to amend the by-law which was then amended on August 26, 2010

By-Laws

After much consideration and questioning from various people, I decided to call my township to inquire about the by-laws surrounding the keeping of chickens on one's property. I was informed that in 1979 a by-law prohibiting farm animals was passed and that it included poultry, among other animals such as cows, horses, goats etc... If I wished to apply for an amendment, to said by-law, I could do so (at a cost of $2,630) or risk a fine of 'no more than $25,000' The man was quite kind actually and said that they do not go around town looking for residents who have not complied with this specific by-law, but if a complaint was made that the township would have to respond to it, more than likely by issuing a notice saying that I would have X number of days to remove the chickens from my property or risk facing a fine (probably in and around $200).

Now I really don't like doing things that are against the rules. It just rubs me the wrong way. So I asked him if there was any other recourse I could take in this matter without having to spend $2,630 on what was supposed to be a fun project for the girls and I. The man at the township kindly replied that I could contact the aldermen for my ward and bring my request to them in hopes that they would agree and feel pressed to ask for a general amendment to the by-law.

So this is where we at now. I am in the process of drafting up a letter to my two aldermen and am hoping to bring to their attention the fact that over 300 cities in North America allow residential keeping of poultry (with regulations of course) and that in Smithville (The Chicken Capital of Canada) we should be allowed to do the same. Wish me luck.

Monday, 11 April 2011

What a Chicken Needs
All a chicken needs is love and kindness
food and water and protection.
What else could he or she need
if it has all of those things?
By McKayla Wall


Chickens
I love chickens because they can almost
eat all of the bugs and give us eggs to eat.
We will protect the chickens from the predators 
by building a chicken coop.  We will put hay in so
they can go to sleep and give us their eggs. 
By Braelyn Wall 
O where O where should our chicken coop go?? (view from top of deck)
O where o where should it be? (view from the ground)
On a side note: Getting the garden ready

McKayla took this picture of a chrysalis she found!