Our Coop Construction, 2007-Present

It’s time to get ready for those backyard chickens! I’ve encountered a few people who are thinking about building a chicken coop recently, so I thought I’d re-blog this post about our chicken coop construction process. It looks like I did the same thing last year as well. If you want more information on chicken keeping be sure to click on the Chickens category in the menu at the top of the page. Most of my posts about chickens can be found there! Michele

The Salem Garden

Good almost spring morning!

I seem to be encountering lots of people who are planning to build or buy a chicken coop these days so I thought I’d share an overview of ours as it was constructed.

We didn’t exactly plan the coop before our first batch of chicks arrived in 2007 so our pullets (young chickens) lived in our basement for several months during construction. I don’t recommend that at all. You will save yourself a huge amount of anxiety by building or buying a coop before your chicks arrive. We kind of go with the flow around here but those few months were quite difficult. Fortunately we were totally in love with our brand new chickens so we all got through it together.

Okay, here goes:
IMG_0440The garden, pre chicken, around 2006.


The very beginning… The corner posts were placed into holes dug approximately two feet into the…

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About those Onion Seedlings…. and… Spring is Springing!

Here’s my first tiny little dose of spring for you…

It’s really going to happen!

I believe that this particular crocus is always the first one every year. It’s in the exact same spot of my front yard, next to the walkway.

I don’t remember seeing it in February before but it’s out there this morning, as beautiful as can be.


And then there are the onions…

IMG_1023I planted them on Saturday and left them covered up and in the dark. I think they should have had light for half the time.

IMG_1024Yesterday was a very busy day and I didn’t have a chance to check them. It was a nice treat to look under the wrap this morning to see that they were well on their way!

IMG_1027The only problem is this hairy looking mold.

I don’t know…

I’ve never seen this before and I’m wondering if it’s going to be a problem going forward.

Anyone have experience with this?

There’s getting to be a bit of a time crunch so I’m reluctant to start over but that may be best.

Weigh in if you have any suggestions!

About the onions:

–I planted them in damp seed starting mix

–about three or four seeds to a cell, 1/4 inch deep or so

–covered them with saran wrap (because I couldn’t find the plastic cover that goes with the cells)

–and put them on a heating pad to keep the soil at 70 degrees. I’m leaving them on the heat until most have germinated.

It’s as simple as that.

I planted four varieties… sweet Spanish, candy, southport red globe and Alisa Craig exhibition. The Alisa Craig were kind of a cheat because I used leftover seed. Generally onion seeds are only considered to be viable for a year, but I had some space so I thought I’d plant one row of cell spaces and see what happens.

I did look around at different planting methods. There were plenty of suggestions such as spreading the seeds randomly or in rows in an open container then moving them to cells or pots, direct sowing, and not worrying about drainage  (really)?  I had good results last year so I decided to let history repeat itself. I’ll try to keep you posted on  how things are going.

Further along on the spring is springing subject:

IMG_1030Swiss chard that wintered over, I kid you not!

I was very sure that the -10 temp of a few weeks ago pretty much eliminated anything that might be borderline. Swiss chard is amazingly hardy!

IMG_1033Because it’s 58 degrees outside today I moved this plexiglass over this little bed to warm the soil and create an area to start some lettuce soon. I covered that open edge with some boards, then my camera died so you can’t see it finished…

We have nothing to loose other than a $1.49 package of seed..

IMG_1029The snowdrops are popping… not sure about the cause of the blurriness of this shot, it may  be related to the mud in the yard and the indoor shoes that I was wearing…

IMG_1035And the daffodils are coming up too. February is kind of early for daffodils but if we stay in this weather pattern they should be okay.

How’s your garden growing?

I hope that spring is springing early for you too!

Lots of love,


Wordless Wednesday-Oak Creek Canyon


I had so wanted to have my post about starting onion seeds ready for today, but, my heat pad was curled up and I had to weigh it down with books to flatten it out..

Oh well…

Instead, here’s our drive through absolutely beautiful Oak Creek Canyon, between Sedona and Flagstaff.

So happy that the road was open!

No words needed….IMG_0226IMG_0216IMG_0219IMG_0222IMG_0224

Onion seeds and some cool Winslow AZ stuff coming, I promise!

Love, Michele


Our Snowy Grand Canyon Day

It looks like we have a theme here. When we started to plan our trip to Arizona we thought that the entire state would be much warmer than New England, however as we learned in Sedona, it’s snowy in northern Arizona in the winter. The altitude at the south rim of the Grand Canyon is 6500 feet above sea level, higher than Mount Washington which at 6288 is the highest peak in the Northeastern US. Who knew? We do now!

To make our way to the Grand Canyon from Sedona, we drove through a winter wonderland of snow.

IMG_0226Oak Creek Canyon

After leaving our hotel we turned toward Sedona by mistake on our way out to the highway. We were thoroughly enjoying the scenery and didn’t realize our mistake until we reached the town of Sedona. The drive back to route 17 toward Flagstaff was about 15 miles, so, rather than backtracking we took the scenic route through Oak Creek Canyon and we were so glad that we did. It was breathtaking, and while we didn’t use it, we had four wheel drive if we needed it.

Anyway, two and a half hours after leaving Sedona we made it to Grand Canyon!

IMG_0230… looking over the south rim of the Grand Canyon!

This moment had been on my bucket list for years. I have very fond memories of seeing it with my family as a child and I’d always wanted for Michael and our kids to experience it, so I was kind of overwhelmed. I barely looked at the view myself because I was having a great time watching their reactions.

IMG_0238Good thing I took lots of pictures! The views are amazing from every possible vantage point. In case you missed it, I posted photos of nothing but views of the Grand Canyon on Wordless Wednesday last week. You can see them here.


Just above is the exterior of the main visitor center at Grand Canyon Village in the south rim. I didn’t take photos inside but it was beautiful with engaging exhibits about many different aspects of the history, wildlife and geology of the canyon.

The south rim and north rim of the canyon are very different. While it’s less than twenty miles straight across, the trip to the north rim from the south rim is over 200 miles each way. The north rim is closed in the winter and sounds much less developed then the main viewing area of the south rim, which has a village that includes ten hotels, several visitor centers and museums, restaurants and a post office.

DSC04998After seeing the canyon and looking around the visitor center, we had lunch at the El Tovar Hotel. This is one of a few remaining Fred Harvey Hotels and it’s an interesting stop. It was built to be one of the most elegant hotels in the west in the early 1900s. Fred Harvey was a British immigrant who built many restaurants and several grand hotels on the rail lines and on Route 66. El Tovar was designed by well known architect Mary Colter who also designed grand hotels in Winslow, AZ and several other cities across the southwest. We’ll run into Fred and Mary again soon in Winslow. We grew quite fond of them and appreciated their very cozy and elegant design style!


One of the wonderful aspects of traveling in the winter is the lack of crowds. While the lodge and dining room were pleasantly busy, we were seated right away. IMG_0250The El Tovar dining room was lovely. At $400/night per room, we weren’t staying there, but lunch was as reasonably priced as many of the other stops on our trip. The food was good, not spectacular, but very good, and the service was great. After a few days on the road white linen tablecloths and napkins were a treat.

IMG_0254These beautiful stained glass chandeliers were too.

IMG_0261I would have loved to have gone up to see the mezzanine… the view of the canyon must be awesome up there!

IMG_0263The front porch looks like an inviting place to sit on a warmer day.

The hotel had the look, feel and smell (in a good way) of a huge log cabin. It should probably be a post of it’s own.

This is a garden blog, not a hotel blog, but hmm….


IMG_0287This photo (complete with window reflection) was taken inside the Yavapai Geology Museum. This was our “homeschooling for ten days” moment of the day.. I should probably call it the “un-schooling” moment because I worked very hard to let the kids experience it on their own terms without intervening too much, so that they would really get it, and they did.  The geological miracle of the canyon is crystal clear after spending a half hour there. I should have taken more photos but I was busy looking around and learning.

We also visited the Hopi Lodge, which is a recreated Hopi house thats used as a gift shop. The visitor center right behind Hopi Lodge had an interesting exhibit about life as a resident of Grand Canyon Village. Apparently a few thousand people live there in a housing complex that’s tucked away out of view. There’s even a school and a health clinic. I think that it would be an interesting place to live as a park service family.

DSC04961Here’s our official Grand Canyon family portrait.

Before I close I’ll summarize a little bit about the logistics of our visit to the Grand Canyon.

  1. The literature says “stay in the park”… my mom intuition said “stay where it’s less expensive and there’s an indoor pool.” So, we did that… the Grand Canyon Holiday Inn Express worked well for us. It was clean, cozy and included a very extensive continental breakfast. Other family restaurants were within walking distance.
  2. Don’t be afraid of winter, just dress for it, then embrace the experience!
  3. We had one beautiful afternoon to spend there, which was pushing it a bit, but it was enough time. We weren’t hiking into the canyon and some of the roads were closed due to snow so we enjoyed our experience immensely and then felt ready to move on. I think that the time frame needed to see everything varies with each visitor and their interests and abilities.
  4. At any time of the year be sure to monitor the weather conditions before you go. We stayed in Sedona for an extra night because the roads were still snowy and the canyon was full of clouds. The NPS website (click here) has an accurate forecast, park alerts and a webcam that you can check to make sure your visit will be the best it can be
  5. Even if you’re not concerned about the weather, the NPS website is a great starting point for planning your visit to the Grand Canyon.
  6. Enjoy every minute!

Coming Soon: Winslow Arizona and starting onion seeds!

Stay warm!



The Seed Order Is Underway!

I’m working on the next post about our trip, but I thought I shouldn’t stray too far away from the garden. The Grand Canyon was pretty snow covered, so, not much garden activity to report. When I move on to Winslow that will change in a big way! Still wintery, but definitely some gardens to share at that stop.

In the meantime, here’s what’s happening here in Salem this morning:IMG_0753Yes! The seed order is underway!

I’m anxious to get this done because it’s almost time to start the onions and a few other things that need a lot of time to get stronger and can hang in there in the natural light of my office while I use the grow lights for other plants.

I like to use sticky notes to organize my order. This year I had these cute color coded stickies on hand so I’m actually marking the possibilities by color… green is a yes, light green a probably, pink a maybe and orange needs some research. I just texted Michael a picture of this and said “I think we need more beds”… no response back… I wonder why? Lol

This is the Pinetree Seed Catalog which is the company that I used last year. I like Pinetree because their based in Maine, so it tends to be geared toward the New England climate. Another big plus is that they sell seed in smaller quantities at a much lower price. This gives me the chance to grow close to the specific mount of produce that we’ll actually use with more variety, so my garden is more interesting and there’s less waste of plant material and money. I had a nice high germination rate last year as well. I didn’t keep track formally but I’d estimate it at about 90%. I’m looking at other catalogs but I tend to come back to this one.


It’s also time to start saving yogurt cups, plastic cups and clear containers that make good mini greenhouses. I love these yogurt containers because their nice and sturdy and just the right size for many of the plants that are best for us.

I really, truly can’t wait to get things growing again!

Have you started your seed order yet? What are you thinking about growing?

Hope your enjoying this beautiful Saturday!