Since this blog began in September 2011 the focus has shifted several times. We started as an urban garden blog and moved into advocating for a healthy locavore lifestyle. Next it was biking, beer and enthusiasm for Atlanta. Since May it's been all about backyard chickens. At this point I think it's in my best interest to ditch all labels and just say: this is my blog and I'll write about whatever I want! So that's my plan for And Topher Too in 2015 - blog about anything/everything without worrying how it fits into the blogosphere.
After weeks of trying to find Starbuck and Sparrow new homes through Craigslist and Facebook I gave up and looked for other options. More than one person suggested eating them; I considered it but decided it wasn't what I wanted to do. Then a friend mentioned a poultry auction in Barnesville, Georgia (90 minutes south of our home). It was the only option left. The boys had to go. So Friday at noon we packed the two Splash Silkie Roosters into a make shift cage and headed to the country. We arrived a little before 2pm and joined the line of pick-up trucks waiting to register barnyard animals for that evening's auction. At some point a goat escaped; this sent half a dozen people in denim and camouflage running around a field in half hearted attempts to catch it. A teenager in muck boots, with a noticeable ring of dip in his back pocket, finally got close enough to pin the goat to the ground with his knee. I was impressed. After our chickens were checked in and dropped off we headed into Barnesville for lunch. There were two pizza places, two BBQ places and a Chinese Buffet to chose from. After eating we wandered around the three antique shops/flea markets. At dusk we headed back to the auction. All the poultry had been lined up in rows. The make-shift cages were as interesting as their contents. I found Starbuck and Sparrow between a peacock and turkey. I couldn't help but wonder how they were feeling about all this. The auction started with what they call "farm miscellaneous" but could more accurately described as "garage sale crap". Tiki torches, old buckets of house paint, a cat bed, a bag of nails. The auctioneer was genuinely entertaining but as far as I could tell everything eventually sold for "one dollar bill". The poultry bidding was still two hours away. I decided if I didn't know who took Starbuck and Sparrow then I could go on pretending they ended up on a big beautiful farm somewhere out in the country. With that in mind we left the auction and headed home to Atlanta. Maybe we'll be back in a month or two to pick out a few more hens. Flock update: • 2 Gold Laced Wyandotte hens • 2 Ameraucana hens • 1 Black Silkie Rooster - we're going to try and keep him quiet (so we can keep him) but if it doesn't work he'll need to find a new home too.
A summary of our first six months raising urban backyard chickens in Grant Park, Atlanta: • May 29th - bring home 7 chicks. 4 Ameraucanas, 3 Silkies. We hand raise them in a brooder in our dining room. The "chick cam" is born. • June 7th - the chicks pose on the front porch in my favorite vintage milk glass pieces for their official baby pics. • July 11th - the chicks move outside into the coop. • August 23rd - Mary Anne mysteriously dies. We suspect she either ate glass (there is a lot of it buried in the yard) or suffered heat stroke. • Late August - Blackbeard crows: surprise Roo#1. • September 7th - bring home three 5 month old Gold Lace Wyandottes to replace the unexpected rooster and unexpected death. The "new girls" quickly dominate the existing flock. • September 13th - Starbuck crows: surprise Roo#2. • September 24th - Professor dies after battling a parasite for several days. She was the friendliest and my clear favorite; this loss is hard. • October 12th - We find our first eggs in the coop. It seems the Wyandottes are laying but the Ameraucanas are not (those eggs should be mint colored). • October 17th - "New Girl" Wyandotte is eaten by the neighbor's dog. • November 9th - Sparrow crows: surprise Roo#3. This means all of the Silkies are roosters. This news coincides with a neighbor finally complaining. Verdict: my adorable "Muppets" must go... but where? Help, please (seriously - help)!
Halloween weekend was the kind of weekend that highlights how wonderful life is in in-town Atlanta. The more I hear people comment on how "safe" they feel in the suburbs the more I realize they have no idea what they're missing out on. Friday night, after handing out candy to over 100 trick-or-treaters in Grant Park, we headed to a friend's costume party in Reynoldstown (costumes, with hints, below). Bluegrass band and BBQ from DBA? Perhaps I can overlook the sudden freezing temperature!
At noon the next day we hopped on our bikes and braved the frigid headwinds to join friends tailgating the Georgia Tech Homecoming game. After a couple of hours we jumped on the Beltline and cruised over to Cabbagetown for Chomp and Stomp. There we hung out with my brother and a few former co-workers. The transition from engineer friends to artist friends was barely noticeable as both events were so full of lively, happy people (and beer). Next weekend is MothBall - after that I'm hanging up all my costumes until 2015!!
If you're not following And Topher Too on Pinterest and Twitter then you're missing most of the new content! Twitter has up to the minute updates from the Coop Cam* (with photos) and Pinterest has links to both helpful relative articles and images from our daily life on this teeny tiny urban hobby farm.
*After clicking the link to the cam, then click "flash" or "browser".
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 http://chickcam.andtophertoo.me/ and then click Browser.
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.
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 TopherToo now has it's very own Twitter account! Click here to follow us.
(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:
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.
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).