Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Raising Chickens in Alaska for Food, Yard Work, and Companionship

We raise chickens for breakfast (eggs) and rabbits for, well, dinner.  The latter is harder because rabbits are so darn cute and it is poor protocol to use such adjectives about future stew.  You never see “cute” on a restaurant menu, do you?

I recommend both animals for pets, and although my husband would prefer that I regard the animals merely as food producers, I must confess that I treat the chickens somewhat as pets and I am endeavoring not to do the same with the rabbits.  This article is about raising chickens.  A following article is about raising rabbits.
Our coop and run, with bear wire fence post

Our chickens live in an insulated green and white, 4x6 coop attached to a 4x10 roofed run, located in the lower meadow visible from our cabin.  (Both are padded by straw that we harvest in the summer.)  Together, the structures remind me of a little old fashioned train car and caboose, awaiting an engine to cart them away. To keep the water from freezing and to power a small heat lamp inside during the winter, my husband ran electric line (powered by our solar panels and wind turbines) to the buildings.  We also have a solar powered electric fence around the coop to deter hungry bears (in summer) and wayward moose, although, to our knowledge, that has not been tested yet, even though we have seen bears and moose in the yard.  The coop is elevated about 6 inches, which provides the chickens with a shady nook.

Sometimes they take naps under there and the other day, I swear, I heard one of them snoring.  The space also provides an accessible hiding place from flying predators, like eagles and owls.  ( In Alaska, we don’t have to worry about snakes or rats). Unfortunately, though,they are vulnerable to other animals.  A wily weasel dug under the run last year and killed half our flock.  Subsequently, Bryan dug down about a foot on all sides of the run and inserted a below ground “fence” of roofing metal.  We hope that will foil future attempts.   

Monday, May 6, 2013

Easy, Inexpensive Window Sill Gardening

With a minimal investment of time (1 -2 month), space (4 inches wide), and money ($25), beginning gardeners can enjoy rapid results by planting seeds in an indoor window sill garden.    

On my 4 inch wide window sills of two, four foot (double paned) windows that face south, I fit six plastic six- pack planters each (twelve packs total, 72 plant holes). Starting March 10 (still winter here - it snowed until May 3), I planted the seeds of a variety of herbs, flowers, and vegetables. My expectations were low because the setting wasn’t the greatest – the window doesn’t offer full sun all day (because of spruce and birch trees) and the temperature inside our log cabin varies from a low of 53 at night to a high of 69 during the day, and the temperatures just beyond the window were below freezing every night. 

May 3, 2013 snow fall in front of the shower house
Of the 21 plants I started indoors, below are my notes on the fastest, easiest and most robust ones that grew on my window sill from March 10 through May 5 (today), during one of the coldest Aprils in Alaskan history. Since they did so well for me, I hope the results inspire readers to try seedlings on window sills of their homes, classrooms, or perhaps, offices or hospital rooms.