est. 2007

Whitewater Township, Ohio, United States
My wife Julie and I purchased our property in June 2007. Our home sits on seven acres of hillside overlooking the Whitewater River valley in western Hamilton County, Ohio roughly 20 miles west of Cincinnati. The property is well wooded and boasts a pond of about 1/5th acre. Our professional careers dictate we live in Hamilton County, which makes a country setting a bit difficult to find in a county of almost 1 million people. We share the property with our son Casey (3 1/2), and a herd of domesticated animals including 2 dogs, 3 cats, 3 parrots, and 4 Blue Swedish ducks, 10 Buff Orpington chickens, not to mention my oldest hobby aquarium fish.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Count the Birds!!!!!

This is just something else I'm into (can't have too many hobbies), but coming up in February is the Great Backyard Bird Count. It's easy to participate, doesn't take much time, and is a worthwhile endeavor.
Essentially for a 4 day period (February 13-16, 2009) they ask folks to go outside, or just sit at a window and count the birds you see. Go to the website linked above and get started. You DO NOT NEED TO BE A BIRD EXPERT TO PARTICIPATE.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter and Sourdough Bread

I've come to the conclusion that I hate winter. I can't find one positive quality. To be honest I enjoy one good snow a year at that's it, I'm ready for Spring. In my opinion a good snow qualifies as 2" or more. What's to like. Nothing grows. The fish don't bite very well. The only thing to look forward to is Christmas, but that's mostly headache anyway.

That being said, I do find more time to sit in the house around the fireplace, and I definately read more. I also found a good sourdough bread recipe that actually worked out well. That was this week's accomplishment, three loaves of bread. That's it. I've been sick and am suffering from a bit of cabin fever I suppose.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Chicken Coop

In October 2008, I built my chicken coop. It was quite the project and took multiple weekends for my Dad and I to complete, but I think the end result was worth the effort. The picture to the left shows the finished product (mostly anyway). The only items still to be completed is the gutter and rain barrel, I'll be waiting for a warmer weekend to complete those additions. The chicken run is located next to my vegetable garden, eventually there will be an access door cut into the fence so I can let the chickens enter the garden area for an hour or so to eat bugs and fallen vegetables and deposit their fertilizer, again a project for a warmer weekend. I apologize for the quality of the photos, but it was getting dark when I took these.

The coop itself I designed basically from scratch; however I did use ideas found on and several books. The overall dimensions are 5'x8', with a lean to style roof. I hope to house 10 Buff Orpintons or a like number of Barred Plymouth Rocks. It has a human sized door and of course a chicken door. A 2'x2' slider window was installed above the chicken door to allow light to enter. Unfortunately the coop faces west for the most part because the layout worked better that way. An additional window may be needed on the south side of the building for additional light as the west facing window lets in marginal light, at best, during the day. The nest boxes are built into the north facing wall and are accessible from the outside. There are 3 nest boxes in all each one approximately 14"x14"x15"deep. The structure's roof is shingled along with the nest box "dormer". The entire roof over the nest boxes lifts up using a "piano" hinge. When collecting eggs I use a small chain attached to the roof structure to hold it open. The entire building is insulated using R-13 fiberglass insulation, and all interior seams are caulked to avoid any drafts. Ventilation may be an issue in the summer. Most of the wind in my area comes from the west in the summer. The roof rafters are exposed to the open air on the east and west sides creating air flow between them. While most of the roof is insulated 2 of the "channels" created by the rafters were left uninsulated and I placed closable heating vents in the ceiling. When air comes through and the vents are open air comes into the coop, and at a pretty good rate with even the slightest bit of wind. In the winter they are closed to keep heat in.

The chicken run is fenced in but not covered since I don't seem to have a predator problem with my ducks, which generally range freely on my pond. The yard is 15'x20', and is sloped. I haven't devised a scheme to deal with inevitable loss of vegetation in the run. I don't have the space to partition the run into 2 different yards allowing grass to grow on one side while the chickens tear the other side to shreds.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Alright I fell for the whole compost thing when I bought my first house in 2000. I had a very small vegetable garden, perhaps 3'x15'. Just enough to grow a tomato plant and maybe some green beans. I also purchased a wire compost bin, and I diligently placed grass clippings and fallen leaves into it, hoping for an organic miracle. It didn't happen. Five years later I never so much as got one shovel full of dark, rich compost. It just never seemed to break down to the point where it was useable.

When my wife and I got married in 2005 we had one too many houses for two people, so we sold the superfluous home, which just so happened to be mine. It was fine by me, I had plenty of ideas for a new larger garden and set to work taming an unruly hillside next to the patio. It was still small, maybe 10'x15', but now I could grow a couple tomato plants, more green beans, and a pepper plant, along with cilantro and basil. I had even more plant material and grass clippings so I set forth with creating another compost pile or two (as it turned out). After researching the web I learned I may have been less diligent than necessary in turning the pile in my first attempt, quite possibly leading to my failure. I was determined to make compost this time and turned that damn thing, on average, every third day or so. The new planting season arrived in the spring of 2006 and after 12 months of decomposing my compost pile looked better than my first, but not like the stuff Paul James turns out every third show. I used it anyway and the plants did in fact seem to grow better.

When we moved to our current house I had dreams of a large garden (at least for me). This would require a fence to keep out the large number of deer, rabbits, dogs. I also wanted chickens at some point in the future so i fenced in an area adjacent to the garden to house them. In all the garden is 25'x40', and the chicken run is 15'x20', all told this garden was roughly the same square footage as my first house, 1300 sq. ft. I didn't have a garden in 2007, there was just too much to do in the new place to justify the effort. That didn't stop me from trying the compost thing again, and come spring 2008 it was nowhere near ready. Again it likely was not turned near enough.

This year we had one helluva windstorm for the Cincinnati area. Seventy mph winds, something we get every 60 years or so. I lost more trees and limbs than could possibly be counted, so I actually bought a woodchipper, thinking it would be a wise investment considering another wind storm might be coming my way in 2068, at which time I will be 94 years old. I had more carbon material than I could have dreamed of and started two more piles. They heated up nicely the first 5 weeks or so, then the weather turned colder and heating was pretty much done. I add nitrogen materials, and they decompose, but no heat and the wood chips still look like wood chips, but its only been three months, so there is still hope. I turn about every three days or so. I should probably mention I do not have traditional compost bins yet, but by next year they should be ready. I think I will try covering them with a tarp to keep out excess moisture and retain any heat they generate, and hope for the best.

Monday, December 8, 2008

My First Blog Posting

Welcome to my first blog posting. This is a new experience for me so bear with me while I work out the bugs. It's been awhile since I've written anything much less mindless ramblings to the masses posted on the Internet.

I guess I should start with why I'm doing this in the first place. I have many interests and I suppose I wanted a place to organize them in a format anyone could read. Makes sense doesn't it? As i said in the page description my family and I have recently moved to a more rural setting. My wife and I were raised, and lived, until our mid 30's in either city neighborhoods, or suburbs. It has always been a dream of mine to live and raise my family in the country, and shortly after my son was born we took that step.

Please understand that my definition of country may vary slightly from yours, so here is mine. I live, for the most part, in the woods. I have a long gravel driveway that steadily meanders its way up a large hill. I have one neighbor within sight of my home. For the most part my water comes from rain collected by my gutters and dumped into a large concrete hole under my back porch. Having said that I still want the grocery store to be as close as possible without disturbing my delusions of being isolated in the wilderness of southwestern Ohio. To be honest I am perfectly willing to be more removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, but my wife and I both work the government and my wife's employer believes it's their managerial right to dictate where we live until she retires. Don't get me started on that.

Aside from my own selfish reasons for living here I also want my children to experience things that one can't get living in a condo or rowhouse, or a suburban neighborhood for that matter. I can literally walk out of my house and be in a deer hunting stand in 5 minutes. Can't do that in the city. If I walk out the other side of the house there's the chicken coop, albeit currently empty. Try that in the suburbs and count the days until a local zoning official knocks on your door and if that doesn't scare you into removing the egg factory, the ensuing lawsuit likely will. You get my meaning.

So right here and now I have the best of both worlds. I can sit on my deck with a fire in the chiminea, and look for satellites or the space station passing overhead (yes you can see them out here) without the fire department showing up. On the other hand if we are in the mood to go Great American Ballpark and take in a Cincinnati Reds game we can do that too. Who could ask for anything more.