Sunday, October 19, 2014

Live Backyard Chicken Cam back up and better then ever!

The backyard chicken cam is back up and better then ever! The camera has been moved from the coop to the run so now you'll be eye to eye with the girls. To watch go to and then click Browser.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The unbelievable (but true) life of the general who tried to defend Atlanta

My interest in General John Hood can be pinpointed to one historic marker in Oakland Cemetery (high five to Roman Mars/99% invisible - "always read the plaque"). It said something along the lines of "it was here that General John Hood watched the burning of Atlanta from the second story window of a [future Atlanta mayor's] home". At the time of reading I knew enough to think: why is the man in charge of defending Atlanta during Sherman's raid watching from a second story window a couple of miles from the action!? The answer is so much better (and more complicated) then I could have imagined. Read on.

• 1831 - John Hood born in Owingsville, Kentucky
• 1849 - Obtains an appointment to West Point from his uncle, Representative Richard French; his father would prefer a career in medicine. An average student, he is nearly expelled by Superintendent Colonel Robert E. Lee for an unauthorized visit to a local tavern. (1)
• 1853 - Hood graduates 44th out of 52 and is assigned to infantry in California. James McPherson, Hood's classmate, friend and future Union General opponent, graduates first in this class. (4)
• 1855 - Reassigned to the 2nd US Cavalry in Texas.
• 1857 - Wounded in the hand by an arrow during a routine patrol.
• 1861 - Battle of Fort Sumter. The Civil War begins; Hood immediately resigns from the US Army and enlists in the Confederate Army.
• 1863 (July) - Battle of Gettysburg. Hood is badly wounded in his left arm by shrapnel. The arm is saved but remains useless for the rest of his life.
• 1863 (September) - Battle of Chickamauga. Hood leads a key attack which drives much of the Union army from the field. In the fighting, his right leg is severely wounded and must be amputated four inches below the hip. Hood's condition is so grave that the surgeon sends the severed leg along with him in the ambulance (assuming that they will be buried together). For his bravery, he is promoted to lieutenant general. (2)
• 1864 (spring) - Members of Hood's 1855 Texas Brigade collect $3,100 in a single day to buy him a prosthetic cork leg imported (through the Union blockade) from Europe . Despite his two damaged limbs, Hood rides well (strapped to his horse with his artificial leg hanging stiffly, and an orderly following closely behind with crutches).
• 1864 (July) - Hood is promoted to the temporary rank of full general and given command of the confederate army just outside the gates of Atlanta. At 33 years old Hood is the youngest man on either side to be given command of an army.
** This is where the aforementioned historic marker comes into play. At this point, Hood has one leg and one arm yet still finds himself in the 2nd story of someone's home. My question this time was how did he get up those stairs!? Crutches?!**
• 1864 (September) - Battle of Atlanta. Hood fails to defend the city and is forced to surrender. His West Point classmate, friend and Union rival, James McPherson is killed during battle. Hood writes "the announcement of which cause[s] me sincere sorrow".
• 1865 (January) - Hood is replaced. 
• 1865 (spring) - the Civil War ends. Hood moves to New Orleans to start anew. 
• 1866 - Hood establishes a career in the cotton insurance business. (3)
• 1868 - Hood marries Anna Marie Hennen, the highly educated daughter of a New Orleans attorney. During the next ten years they have eleven children - including three sets of twins. They live an elegant home at the corner Camp and Third Street in NOLA's Garden District.
• 1878 (summer) - Yellow Fever ravages New Orleans. The family retreats to Hammond, LA for safety but Hood's insurance business is decimated and the family is forced to mortgage their home.
• 1879 (summer) - Yellow Fever continues to threaten the people of New Orleans but the Hood family no longer has the financial means to leave. A neighbor across the street develops Yellow Fever. 
• 1879 (August 24) - Hood's beloved wife dies of Yellow Fever.
• 1879 (August 29) - Hood's oldest daughter dies of Yellow Fever.
• 1879 (August 31) - Hood dies of Yellow Fever. He is 48 years old and leaves behind 10 orphans. The children are adopted by seven different families in Louisiana, New York, Mississippi, Georgia and Kentucky.

Links & Sources:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Something to Twitter about: our first eggs

Sunday evening we found our first eggs in the coop! Since then there has been one a day in the same spot. They're brown which means they're from either the Gold Lace Wyandottes or the Silkie (though we're pretty sure it's the former). They've all been relatively small but I think they will gradually get bigger with time. Hopefully the rest of the flock will start laying very soon!

Also, And Topher Too now has it's very own Twitter account! Click here to follow us. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Our Backyard Chickens

(The Ameraucanas and Silkies we raised from chicks are so unbelievably sweet. What you don't see in this video is Professor sitting between my feet. Watch the backround to see Starbuck run from a wyandotte.)

And we could never forget our little guy who started it all - the Toph:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Starbuck (ahem, Kara Thrace) and her special destiny

Well, I guess when you name something after a character defined by their "special destiny" then you get what you deserve. A few weeks ago one of our little Silkies, Starbuck, revealed her special destiny - by crowing. Whoops. A rooster? That wasn't part of our plan. She's (ahem, HE'S - that has been a hard transition) been fighting with the new girls so I've decided he has to go. If you're interested in making Starbuck part of your family please leave a comment. Later this weekend I'll post him on Craigslist.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Gold Lace Wyandottes!

This evening I brought home our newest girls! They're Gold Laced Wyandottes. Aren't their feathers beautiful? The edges look painted. In the beginning I planned on naming all the chickens based off nautical themes (so far, pirates and Gilligan's Island) but I'm thinking of making an exception for this breed. Perhaps they'll be named after female painters/artists. "Georgia" O'Keefe, Mary "Cassatt" and "Marina" Abramović (she was performing her famous The Artist is Present when Oliver propsed at MOMA). 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

LOVE: Iris Apfel & Bill Cunningham

This is a little off topic for the blog, but words cannot describe how inspired and motivated I am by Iris Apfel and Bill Cunningham. Their bold, unapologetic, lively approach to incorporating creativity and design into everyday life quickens the beat of my easily excitable heart. My goal is to live to 2075. By the time I turn 80, I hope I am just like them. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Chickens love snacktime!

In an effort to keep the chickens cool, during the hottest part of summer, we've started giving them frozen treats. Mostly grape tomatoes, blueberries and grapes. The first day they were interested but not enthusiastic. By day three they're so excited about snacktime that they'll eat right out of your hand. We're thinking about what tricks we might be able to teach them to perform for food.

In the video: Professor, front and center. Then the twinsies, Starbuck and Sparrow (aka Tweedle Dee and Tweddle Dum) run over; they specialize in stealing the snacks and running to a corner with them. Next Blackbeard saunters over but Lovey jumps passed him for the grape. Ginger is standing in the back. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The trouble with bedtime / we lost our first chicken

The photos for this post were taken earlier in the week with the intention of writing about "the trouble with bedtime". And while that is still what I want to cover there has been a sad and unexpected turn of events. Saturday morning, around sunrise, I went to let the chicks out of the coop. One by one everyone filed out except Mary Anne. I climbed up the ladder and opened the door to shoo her out. Instead I found her dead; she was laying in the shavings just below the spot on the roost where I'd placed her the night before. No blood, no bite marks, no obvious cause of death. The only significant thing was her behavior the night before: she'd gone into the coop on her own, alone, and settled into the corner while the rest of her flock did their adorably ridiculous corner crowding in the dirt below. I now realize she probably went off on her own because she wasn't feeling well. 

When I found Mary Anne in the coop the night before I was excited because it is rare that any of the chicks move indoors at night. When I found her there I thought "they're finally getting it!!" The rest of the flock was still piled like puppies in their "yard". 

In an effort to teach them what they need to be doing, every evening at dusk we go into the coop and move them, one by one, from their hot crowded cuddle to their upstairs roost. Once placed on the roost they quickly fall back to sleep and stay in that exact spot until the next morning. We're not sure why they won't move to the roost on their own. The Ameraucana's have no trouble with the ramp between the yard and coop but the Silkies struggle. Starbuck, Sparrow and Blackbeard have to be encouraged up the ramp (and poor dumb Starbuck frequently sticks her head to the side or spreads her wings out just as she should be ducking into the doorway).  Perhaps the problem is they all want to stay together? And the Ameraucanas feel sorry for their chubby friends who aren't so good at climbing the ramp so they all sleep together outside? Doubtful, I know. It is sweet though, the way they wrap their necks around one another and rest their heads on each other's backs. It almost makes me want to leave them in their snuggle. But for safety from predators and (the seemingly far off) winter weather they need to learn to go inside at night. If anyone has a suggestion, I'm all ears. Otherwise, I'll let you know when the girls finally figure it out.

For our record keeping/bloggy almanac:
Sorry to lose you little Mary Anne. You were spastic but sweet and smart. As a chick you liked to jump. 
Died at 13 weeks. Cause of death unknown, possibly heat stress/stroke or eating a shard of glass. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

EAV and Grant Park Criterion, Summer Shade Fest

This time of year always makes me thankful for Atlanta's fantastic intown neighborhoods. The East Atlanta and Grant Park Criterion were held last weekend. Friends with homes/businesses along the courses hosted leisurely front porch parties with neighbors drifting in and out. Today and tomorrow are the annual Grant Park Summer Shade Fest. In a couple of hours we'll walk to the park with a blanket, cooler and hopes of running into my brother. (If you go to the fest be sure look for his t-shirt booth, Wandering Line.) And of course next weekend, Labor Day weekend, is my favorite Atlanta 3-day weekend. Bring on Dragon*Con and SEC football!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Urban Chickens: the girls are growing up!

Friends and neighbors, I cannot even begin to tell you how much fun and entertainment the chickens continue to bring us. I'd try to regale you with stories of their antics but I'm afraid they're possibly only interesting to me because I love them. Suffice it to say, the chickens' intelligence and unique personalities grow by the day. And those aren't the only things growing - look how big they've gotten! Over the next few days I'd like to photograph each chick beside the milk glass bowl they were posed in as chicks. (So far so good, but definitely not as easy as the first go round.) Anyone out there have any questions about the girls? We're happy to provide answers!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Midsummer kitchen garden: update

For every perfect tomato we pick we find another half eaten. We assumed it was squirrels until stumbling upon the actual culprit - a mouse! A brave little mouse who continued to chomp away as we stood beside him with the accusing beam of our flash light baring down on him. So while the above harvest looks good it's a little disappointing that there were really twice as many but half had to be thrown away.

A few tomatoes will become BLTs, more will go into a panzanella I'm bringing to a cook out tomorrow and most will be canned. We're planning to roast and stuff the peppers. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Lake Michigan road trip

We've just returned from a 2000 mile road trip that took us from Atlanta directly North to Lake Michigan and back. Along the way we camped in the bed of our pick-up truck. The first time we "camped" like this was August 2010 on a road trip from Wyoming to Atlanta. On that trip we found ourselves in rural Nebraska, sleeping under the stars, during the perseid meteor show. It was amazing. The next night, somewhere in Kansas, we found ourselves eaten alive by mosquitoes. Not amazing. At that time we vowed to build a mosquito proof cover for the next time we attempted open air truck bed camping. Four years, a couple dozen feet of pvc pipe and one mosquito net later - TruckTentTruck was born! 

During this roadtrip we learned a few new lessons. Namely, some "campgrounds" provide little to no privacy! The looks we got from a few of the fancy RVs were priceless. A couple even ventured over to us to ask "So... what are you, uh, doing?" (I really wish we'd made up a story about being meteorology students who were working on an experiment.) In Holland, MI the strange looks and lack of privacy were a decent price to pay for being right on the beach. In Ludington State Park they could have been avoided if we'd not been stuck with the very last, most public, campsight. After those locations we decided to stick to National Forests where campers are allowed to sleep anywhere; this is how we ended up off a dirt road in Indiana's Hoosier National Forest (close to the Helmock Cliffs). The photos below show our set up in a couple of places. Not pictured is the time we spent in Fife Lake (visiting family) and a day in Louisville. 

Holland State Park in Holland, Michigan 

Ludington State Park, Michigan 
(From here we hiked through giant sand dunes to the Big Sable Lighthouse - pictured at top)

South Haven, Michigan
Traverse City, Michigan
Saugatauk, Michigan

Hoosier National Forest, Indiana

Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky