Monday, April 14, 2014

Now we are one

We are one week old today.  Would you believe we are flapping our tiny wings and trying to fly around the coop.  Well, one of us, anyway.
Bismo flapping those winglettes.
We no longer run screeching from any hands that come into our small plastic home.
We are learning to roost and finding out who rules the roost (see first picture).

And we are quite proud of our big girl feathers that seem to grow in over night.
Jess and her big girl feathers.
By the way, this is much more fun that I thought it would be.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Which chickens should I get?

I was going to find out how many breeds of chickens are in existence today, but I got lazy so let's just say there are hundreds.

You can go for the ultimate in Adorable with a Silkie.
Silkie photo courtesy of

Or show off your hipster side with a David Bowie look alike - the Polish chicken.
photo courtesy of
These breeds are fine and dandy if climate is not an issue for you.  In the case of Minnesota, temperatures drop to -30 degrees and can reach 100 degrees-with-humidity.  How do you pick the right breed for your little backyard flock?

Because I live in Minnesota, I wanted winter hardy breeds that could withstand the sub-zero temps of January (ok, and February . . . sometimes December.  And then there was that foot of snow we got in April) without the aid of warm bubble baths and red wine.  These ladies of the coop need to be robust and hardy; fearless and defiant of the north winds.  I spent about a year reading every frickin' book on breeds, stalked blogs and websites and took chicken keeping classes to figure out just exactly what type of chickens I would want.

It's pretty easy if you have a groovy farm store close by that deals with chickens on a regular basis.  They will already know which chickens have been tested tried and true within your climate.  They also have experience with which breeds tend to be quiet and friendly.  If you live in tight quarters with your neighbors, quiet is a necessity.
Egg/Plant Urban Farm Store was one step ahead of me.  They already new which breeds do best in Minnesota so when I pulled up their chicken-order webpage - my breeds were already there.  I made a compulsive one-time phone call to the store, ordered my chicks and voila - I was an expectant mother.

I waited a few days before I put this information on my husbands desk.  One must be artful in the arena of spousal manipulation.  In this case, I decided to be direct.  Grill some fish, have an ice-cold beer waiting for him when he got home from work and BOOM - I put the 14 page coop-building blueprint/plans in front of him and told him he had until exactly May 15 to get it done.  The chicks will be 6 weeks old and able to move outside.  Oh, and I forgot to tell you, dear - they might need to be in your home office for part (all) of it

I also gave him first pick of the girls.

He chose the soon to be large-breasted and blonde - Buff Orpington.  Isn't that a great name?  Orpington.  Say it out loud.  ORPington. Nice, huh?  He has chosen the name Jessica Simpson.  She is a sweet little thing with a social nature as soft as her soft yellow fluff. She will be a good layer of large brown eggs.
Jess - the Buff Orpington
This is what a Buff Orpington should look like when full grown.
My 15 year old chose the Lace-Wing Wyandotte - a bold little gal and the largest of the bunch.  He has decided to name this little one after one of his favorite Key and Peele skits.  He can't decide between "Quackadilly Blip" and "Bismo Funyuns".   I'm leaning towards Bismo.
Watchful Bismo
Bismo is the one in focus.  She will be a beaut when she is all grown up.  This is a full grown Lace-Winged Wyandotte.

My 11 year old daughter chose the runt of the litter - a Barred Rock.  She has the funniest little white rump.  Paste free, remember - but be sure to keep checking those tiny tooters.  So cute.  "Sparkle"
Little Sparkle - the runt Barred Rock
Sparkle will also be a good looking' gal when she matures.

And my middle kid picked the Silver Ameraucana and named her Dan.  He's weird like that.
Dan is the yellow gal looking at the camera.
We have high hopes that Dan will lay us blue or green eggs.  Maybe even pink.  We won't know until she grows up into something like this:
Americauna's are not as consistent in their coloring as the other breeds I choose, but you can tell by the color of chick what they will look like.  Check out the link on the picture to see the difference in chick color and adult color.  One can't always be sure of the egg color, either.  She may end up with plain old brown eggs.  I don't think they are very handsome, either, but she's supposed to be a sturdy, reliable chicken.  And of the bunch, she is my favorite so far.  Curious and friendly.

There you go.  You've been introduced to the flock.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Death by Cuteness

Prepare yourselves.  You just might die when you see how cute these babies are.

I drove my booty over to St. Paul and picked up  my chicks.  Here's how it works.  You show up; you pay; you pick your chicks and you drive home with them peeping all the way from inside a small cardboard box that you have lovingly seat-belted into the passenger seat next to you.  The store owners will not ask you if you own a hungry boa constrictor.  They store owners will tell you to keep the box closed for their protection but you will immediately open it so you can take pictures and send them to all your relatives and so that the little biddies won't be scared of the dark.  You are their mother now and it is time to start acting like it.  You are now - a farmer.  Welcome.

They look a little scared of me in this picture.
You can bypass your friendly urban farm supply store or local feed store and order your own chicks . . . if you dare.  You can order from a chick supplier, but they usually have a minimum order of say . . . 15.  The number is to ensure that they will keep each other warm.  And it is my hunch that they include a few extra in case the flock looses a few on the way.  I couldn't bear the idea of opening up a perforated cardboard box to day-old deceased chicks.  Also - they can't ensure that they are ALL females and I can assure you that even if your city is chicken friendly, they are not rooster friendly.  You can try to keep him a secret and good luck with that.  You will have to dispose of him eventually and that was not something I wanted to put on The Husband's desk.  I'm seriously pushing my luck as it is.

So I opted for #2.  Go pick them up from the farm store.  In my case, we have a very hip, urban farm store in St. Paul - here's the link Egg/Plant - and they take orders and get the chicks delivered to their store.  They take care of the first few days when the chicks are learning how not to eat pine shavings and how to drink water.  The kind staff also deals with the aptly named "pasty butt" (it's exactly what it sounds like).  All of this is taken care of if you wait a few days after they arrive.  In my case, they were born on Monday and I picked them up Thursday, free of butt paste and healthy as can be.

Friday, April 11, 2014

New Adventures of Rani

Is it just me, or does it seem like there are a lot of knitting blogs out there that turned into chicken keeping blogs.  Remember way back when - there were a handful of us uber-knitting-nerds who couldn't get enough bloggy goodness about other peoples yarn and pattern yumminess?  And then some of the blogs evolved into cooking and cleaning an organizing and some blogs even showed us just how OCD some of our crafty friends could be.

I still knit.  I really do.  And crochet.  Still working on my big, ugly afghan. But I'm so run-around-like-crazy-like-a-chicken-with-its-head-cut-off, that I haven't really had time to sit and knit and tell you all about it.  And yes, I miss it.  And mostly - I miss all of you.

But now that I've mentioned chickens.  I may as well tell you that after about four years of researching and scratching my head and lobbying heavily at the doorstep of The Husband - I finally called my local happy-hippy farmer store and ordered four chicks.  You know, they are not expensive and they don't even do a background check.  What if I also happen to own a boa-constrictor?  Wouldn't you want to know if you were selling chicks?  I would.

I don't have a boa, but I do have a bird dog.  Did they sell them to me anyway - YES!  And they were very nice about it.  And did the husband approve?  Kind of.  Did my city approve?  Nope.  Am I going ahead with it anyway? Yup.

So for now, this little bloggy will be about my new adventure with my little hens.  I know there are people out there like me who have about a million questions about raising chickens and so hopefully I will entertain you and answer some questions along the way.  But it will be a learn as we go, people.  I'm just figuring all this out in real time.  

And now . . . . ONWARD!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hello friends,

This is a quick note to let you know that I am taking a break (just a break) from Raniknits to pursue my writing.  The knitting and crochet needles and hooks are never far from me, but now they are competing with the notebooks, pens and laptop.

As a writing practice and an attempt at some level of discipline, I am writing under a pen name on a different blog.  We had the idea when a friend of mine formed a little writing group.

So take care for now.  I will stop by and see you (on your blogs - that sounded creepy - like I'm stalking you).

Love to all!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Greetings from Minnesota!

Wish you were here?
It's been a lazy long while since I last posted.  I think that by not knitting, I have nothing to post about, but then again, some of you have become bloggy friends and perhaps a shout out now and then is called for.

Last year, I had my garden in.  Potatoes planted, beets, peas blah blah blah.  There is almost 12 inches of snow on my other bird feeder.  The poor little creatures must be so confused.  I don't remember a spring like this in my 42 years.  Whole flocks of robins are demanding their money back on their north bound flights.  I don't even know what the geese and ducks are doing here.  The lakes are frozen.  Strange.  And oddly enough, I've been having dreams about tornadoes.  Do you know what happens when the warm spring air meets this very cold, weird stuff?  Big bad yucky storms.  And I'm afraid of wind (bad experience once).

We did manage to splurge this year on a vacation.  We took the crew and met a friend down in Florida on a tiny little tropical island I will leave unnamed so that no one can find it (the locals requested I say that).
We watched dolphins swim right past our porch, fished, collected shells, tried to read and knit but the ocean was so darn distracting.

Captain and Lumpy with his first shark (catch and release).

Lunker with this baby shark (also catch and release).
It was better than watching Real Housewives.  Pelicans diving, schools of fish swarming and feeding.  Of course, growing up in the Midwest means that we think sharks are just waiting for us to put our feet in the water so they can rush up and gobble us in one gulp.  When two bull sharks were fished up right on the shore, we felt vindicated by all the happy, tanned bathers who merrily paddled around the water with their tropical umbrella drinks, dangling their feet over their inner-tubes.  I imagine they look just like big fat turtles floating on the surface.  No thanks.

Notice the natural shark barrier there?  No one from my family when beyond that.  BUT, do you see that floater in the distance?  Can't you just hear the Jaws theme cranking up.  I couldn't watch.  We didn't get the paper or any TV to hear of any shark incidents, so I'm hoping she made it back to shore.

The trouble with paradise is that there are large numbers of rats and cockroaches on tropical islands.  No one likes to talk about it, but the place was crawling with them.  One cockroach made its way up my husbands leg while we were sleeping.  10 minutes later, three cockroaches were dead, one went missing and I was doing my best impression of a haz-mat suit with nothing but a single sheet wrapped entirely around my body with only my eyes and nose sticking out (which is how I spotted another bug flying into the bathroom).  Mr. seemed nonplussed about the whole thing and fell to sleep in nothing but his boxers - spread eagle on the bed.  What's wrong with him?  My dear sister who lived in Maui told met me, when I called her at 2 am in a panic attack,  to sleep with the lights on and let the little lizards move in.  We kept the tiny lizards outside, thank you, but slept with the lights on after that and never saw another bug.
DOOOLLLPHINNN!!!!  (later: Dolphin)
The dolphin sightings reminded us of when our Icelandic friends come to Minnesota and see squirrels for the first time.  There is a lot of shouting and excitement, picture taking and squeals of delight.  By the end of the trip, when someone sights a dolphin (or said squirrel), the alarm is more like a mellow, "Hey guys.  There's another dolphin."  Barely a glance up from a book or sudoku puzzle.  And no one gets up to see because it's the 17th dolphin to swim by that afternoon.

We could watch the sunset every night from our front door and porch, but I was so distracted by absolutely nothing that I never took a picture.  This was just a really pretty sky later in the evening that seemed so romantic.  I felt like I should stand out on the deck in a long blowing gown and pine for my long lost love, but he was not lost and was sitting next to me drinking a beer and telling me about EVERY. SINGLE. FISH. he caught that day.  (think dolphin and squirrel theme).

And off daddy and daughter go on an island adventure.  She got so tired with the boys and all the fishing that she demanded that daddy pack a picnic and come and explore the island with her.  No fishing pole allowed.  Ta ta.

And so, I'm back in MinneSNOWta.  get it.  I said MinneSNOWta instead of Minne . . .  you know.  Cuz it's snowing so I changed the . . ok, whatev.   No knitting.  No crocheting.  At least nothing finished.  I hope all is well with all of you.  I will be checking my blog roster soon so I can catch up with you all!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

I received a Valentine with the following quote and thought it worth sharing:

Far away in the sunshine
are my highest aspirations.
I may not reach them,
but I can look up and see their beauty,
believe in them, and try to follow
where they lead.
~ Louisa May Alcott

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Spring Fever Strikes Midwest Woman Down

I'm not sure if I should be admitting this all out loud on my blog but I have been self-medicating my spring fever with an overdose of spring planning that includes but is not limited to worm farms, rabbit fencing and chicken coops.  This is not my coop - just a dream coop.
Gorgeous coop from Backyard Chickens
The chicken thing is stewing on a back burner because despite the fact that New York City, Minneapolis and St. Paul allow backyard chickens, my little rural township does not.  I'm not sure if I will fight this one at city hall and call attention to my soon to be illegal flock of hens, or if I should quietly practice civil disobedience and risk getting by with a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.  Any advice?

Between obsession-fests, I crocheted a Valentine bunting.  I suppose that would also fall under "My Obsessions" catogory.  Here in the U.S. a bunting is something we make for babies to wear.  This is not a diaper cover but a party flag thingy.  Do we have a word for that?

Anyway, it is surprisingly quick and easy and cute and silly and a perfect time waster.  I was inspired by THIS and found a tutorial HERE.

Gotta go.  A seed catalog is calling my name.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sub Zero

The wind is sincerely howling around the house.  I can hear it trying to reach down our chimney, but I have that fireplace so stoked with wood that there's not a chance it will get through.

What does one do as the temperature plumets from 35 degrees to -4 in just a few short hours?  If you're born and raised up north, you get the heck outside and get as much vitamin D as you can while the sun doth shine, my friends.  Throw on some extra clothes and play a little boot hockey.  (or sit in your heated car and take pictures of your husband and his friends - it really was too cold).

I took a stroll through our local park and admired the ice sculptures.  I guess it wasn't technically a stroll.  More like a moment of hopping up and down trying to keep warm with my back to the wind and cursing like a sailor.

This one was my favorite sculptures - a growler - what do you call them in your neck of the woods?  You know - a big jug of beer that you can have filled at your local brewery and bring it home to enjoy. Ours is The Excelsior Brewing Company - and low and behold, they have a blog.

This chilly day was also "Hockey Day Minnesota".  The highlight for me was watching a high school varsity hockey game being played outside -  "pond hockey" style.  Go Benilde! (they lost)  I watched this game

. . . from the comfort of my couch.  With half of my family and the half empty growler close by.  No judgement, right?  The other half was . . . playing hockey.  I prefer the spectator sports myself.

And now, the sun has set.  All are sleeping - I am here next to the fire working on a Valentine's Day bunting for a friend.  It's so cute, though.  This might find a home right here.

Happy Hockey Day to all and to all a warm and peaceful night.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'm being swallowed by an afghan . . .

Does anyone remember the song, "I'm Being Swallowed by a Boa Constrictor"?   The song is about a snake that starts eating your toes, then knees, middle and so on.

Here at Chateau DeBris, we have our very own boa constrictor in the form of an insanely large and colorful afghan.

I'm being swallowed by a ripple blanket.

Oh no (oh no) he's up to my toe (he's up to my toe)
Oh gee (oh gee) he's up to my knee (he's up to my knee)

And that's as far as I've come with the blanket affectionaly known as Monstro - the ripple blanket from planet Acid-Trip.  I've gone through my first order of yarn and have just placed my second order.  I'm using Brava by Knit Picks because it's so darn cheap and it comes in a big bunch of colors.  And although it's 100% acrylic (shudder), it doesn't squeak - you know what I mean, right?

Are you seeing any color this cold dark January?

Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012

Goodbye, 2012!
Today is the last day of 2012.  I think it's appropriate that I finish up my scarf and get it blocking before the clock strikes midnight.  It is a self imposed deadline (there's that dreaded word again).  I must finish this scarf before the end of the year and I'm oh so close.

And . . . I'm done.  There it is.  So pretty, a bit scratchy but DONE.

Here's the scoop:
Yarn: Loðband Einband / Icelandic Laceweight
Pattern: Strik by Vedis Jonsdottir 
Published in Einband Icelandic Lace