Burbstead Update: Birds, Bees, and Sweet Peas

Last bird standing.

Last bird standing.

It’s summer on the burbstead! Time for an update.


Just yesterday, Neil took our chickens for “processing” at a friends’ house where he has access to a mechanical plucker and other handy equipment. We got back from vacation the day before and he tried to pack everything that night since, of his own admission, he always forgets something. Of course, the chickens are the one component he couldn’t pack until the morning.

A couple hours after he left I went outside to hang laundry. My two-year-old came with me to play in the sandbox. She wandered over to the chicken tractor as she had every morning. She’d given us a Stoic summary of what happens to the chickens the day before: “Sometimes my dad feed the chickens. Sometimes he kill them. Then we eat them up in the tummy.” So I wasn’t worried about her discovering the empty tractor.

“The chickens aren’t in there,” I warned as she headed over.

“This chicken need food,” she declared.

“Dad took the chickens to the farm,” I reminded.

“This chicken need food,” she insisted. For a second I thought there might be a dead chicken in there. What if one died in the night and he hadn’t had time to deal with it this morning? It seemed unlikely, but I looked over and, lo and behold, there was a live chicken walking around in the box.

Neil forgot a chicken! In the rush over going back and forth to load up the car, he’d left behind the last chicken.

Shoot, I thought. That’s going to be messy.

Vegetarians, cover your eyes. Luckily it wasn’t too bad, and it gave Neil a chance to try his hand at skinning rather than plucking. He’s considered doing a second round of chickens later in the summer when he wouldn’t have access to special equipment. He concluded that it was quite manageable. After all, plucking chickens used to be the wife’s job. Let’s just say I’m a city girl.

Guess how he hauled these chickens to the farm? In his trusty, rusty 2-door hatchback. One of the spending fallacies we most try to avoid is the “hobby accouterments” pitfall. It goes like this: I like biking, so I need expensive bike shorts, bike gloves, bike shirts, bike attachments, etc. Since we’re not racing the Tour de France we’ve stuck with basic safety equipment instead.

For the burbstead, the thinking could easily be, “I’m hauling manure, wood, plants, and live animals. I need a pickup truck.” This would be the perfect example of a values-based budgeting blind spot. We value these endeavors so it’d be tempting to justify a truck. Though Neil sorely misses his 1985 Ford F150 he’s resisted the urge to replace it since it’s much more vehicle than we need.


The bait hive.

The bait hive.

We promised to update y’all on our bait bee hive. So far, we’ve seen bees scouting it out, and even had bees guarding the entrance for a while. But those bees passed on this move-in ready apartment. Further research indicates the bait hive is on the small side. Maybe when Neil’s schedule clears a bit he’ll make a bigger one, but for now it’s in our friends’ woods.

Peas (Garden)

Our snow peas and sugar snaps are ripe and the kids can’t get enough of them. They have to be the easiest way to eat vegetables, ever. We’ve enjoyed some strawberries and picked our first black raspberry yesterday. Tomatoes, cucumbers, hot peppers, and garlic are planted. We’re already enjoyed this year’s harvest of asparagus. Herbs like mint, dill, chives, scallions, and coolantro (a heartier plant that tastes a lot like cilantro) are flourishing.

When we returned from vacation, our garden looked like it grew a lettuce Afro. After months of unlimited salad, the lettuce finally bolted. Neil pulled most of it and planted peppers. We’ll plant lettuce again near the end of summer and enjoy it in the cooler fall weather.

In Rockin’ the Burbstead, we mentioned our plan to double our garden space. Alas, that much manure is one thing the Focus can’t haul, and plans to use a friend’s truck fell through.

Instead we brainstormed an optimal alternative. In fact, it’s even better than our original plan. I mentioned to Neil that some friends are renting community plots, and the light bulb went on. Why not rent a plot for $8? We used to do this back in our apartment days. The soil is already tilled and water is included in the cost. The plots are 2 miles from our home, right on Neil’s route to work.

Since they’ll be slightly less convenient to tend, we’ll plant one low maintenance crop like corn. And this leaves more our of yard available for other uses.


How is your garden? What is your favorite part of summer?

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38 Responses to “Burbstead Update: Birds, Bees, and Sweet Peas”

  1. The Green Swan says :

    Poor lonely chicken left behind! Skinning the birds is pretty easy, I used to do it all the time with pheasants and got pretty fast at it (I don’t hunt as much today as I used to).

    Hopefully you get some bees soon! I was just cleaning out some stuff in the shed this weekend and found an abandoned bee / wasp nest…I’m glad it was empty because I didn’t realize I was tossing it around a bit.

    Our favorite part of the summer is going for bike rides and to the pool. Our two year old has a Stryder bike that he has really started getting used to and he loves the pool as well.

    • Kalie says :

      I know, my son was crying because he felt bad for the chicken! The skinning was pretty quick and I’m sure he’d get even faster at it with practice.

      Yikes to the wasp nest. I’m glad it was empty!

      I wish we had an affordable pool closer, but there are little wading pools nearby that are free, and that’s fine for our kids for this summer. We also love riding bikes!

  2. Tonya says :

    I’ve always wanted chicken for eggs, but I’m not sure I’d have the stomach to do much more if you know what I mean. Your garden sounds awesome. I’m still waiting for the tomatoes to turn from green to red. I have no idea why it’s taking so long!

    • Kalie says :

      We’ve considered getting layers, but my mom gets us fresh eggs from a friend so we’re not very motivated. Tomatoes take a while!

  3. Rebecca says :

    You’ll have to update how the community plot goes. We have a community garden a few miles from our home too. I’ve always been curious.

    • Kalie says :

      We rented a community plot for a couple years when we lived in an apartment. The plots were large and there was water accessible for no additional cost. The soil was good and it was already tilled, while was really nice. Some people set up plastic fencing to keep out animals. Unlike our yard, the community plots aren’t fenced in.

  4. Ms MoneyPennies says :

    I love that you hauled the chickens in a hatchback! I am definitely guilty of letting my hobbies increase my spend.

    Picked my first sugar snap peas of the summer last week, they were amazing! Gardening is a hobby where I probably spend too much money but hopefully I will get some of the spend back in the form of veggies 🙂

    • Kalie says :

      Congrats on your peas! They are sooo good. I think the better we get at gardening (and by we I mostly mean my husband), we’ve been able to spend less. We used to buy $3 plants at Lowe’s. Now we buy vegetable flats at a garden center, 48 plants for $15. We aren’t great at growing from seed, unless it’s peas or lettuce. It is nice to spend less on vegetables, and they taste so much better when they’re fresh.

  5. FinanceSuperhero says :

    Anyone who has chickens deserves a ton of credit, in my opinion. That will never be my thing.

    That said, I do have quite the green thumb and typically spend hours each day tending to my gardens during the summer months. I garden for aesthetic purposes (no vegetables or fruits), and it keeps me active and lowers my blood pressure.

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks; all the chicken credit goes to Neil; I just feed them! Our flower gardens are pretty pathetic since we’ve decided to focus on edibles, but I do love seeing people’s beautiful flowers. That’s great that gardening also helps your health.

  6. rosie says :

    It’s so calming to read about your plants and bees. My dream is to one day live self sufficiently.


    • Kalie says :

      Thanks, Rosie. I don’t think we’ll ever be self-sufficient, but it does feel good to grow some of our own food.

  7. Our Frugal Escapades says :

    It must be an amazing feeling knowing that you are able to raise your own chickens!

    We like to support our local farms so we go there to buy our chicken and eggs. The taste difference is incredible! We also like the fact that it’s eco-friendly.

    Good luck with the bees! 🙂

    • Kalie says :

      Farm fresh really does taste better! We do like knowing that they were treated well. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for the bees!

  8. Mr. PIE says :

    Mrs. PIE has great plans for bees and raising chickens and a herb garden when we relocate to our new home in FIRE. Just having time is not within our grasp right now with our careers. Our kids can’t put enough honey on their bread/toast so that’s another factor!

    • Kalie says :

      That sounds like a fun plan. Me being at home with the kids definitely helps give us more time, especially since the kids like to help. Sometimes I wonder how Neil has the energy for this stuff after work, but I think he finds it relaxing. It’s a way for him to “un-cube” I guess. My kids love honey, too!

  9. Hannah says :

    I’m impressed that you haven’t caved for a pickup yet. Due to our renovations, we’ve rented a pickup five times in the last year- if we ever buy another fixer, we’ll probably buy a pickup first.

    My miniscule garden is doing great this year! Abundant herbs (which is really what I like), and just a few flowers (day lilies). We’ve found a few wild blackberry bushes that should be ripe for picking in the next few days, and I actually made my first mulberry pie a few weeks back.

    • Kalie says :

      Neil’s pickup was for work when he maintained rental properties in college. So I could see that being super helpful in your case.

      Glad to hear your garden is doing well. Fresh herbs are so nice to have on hand, and they are so expensive at the grocery store! Plus you can just pick what you need without wasting or force-feeding yourself the rest. That’s exciting that you have wild blackberries. I remember having a mulberry bush growing up, but I’ve never had mulberry pie.

  10. Josh says :

    Eating fresh peas is one of the most exciting things of gardening. In fact, it was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite vegetable (possibly his favorite food).

    Our spring garden was a dud. We are inheriting a cucumber plant this week that should be ready for the harvest when we moved into our new house in August!

    • Kalie says :

      Eating peas off the vine reminds me of childhood summers and I think that makes them taste even sweeter. I had no idea that Jefferson loved them!

      I hope your cucumber plant thrives, and that your move goes well.

  11. Our Next Life says :

    LOL — I love your description of all the cycling accoutrements that people convince themselves they “need.” We always see people out riding in that stuff, when we’re in just our basic workout clothes (though with helmet and gloves — don’t skip on safety!), and who knows what they think of us. 🙂 (Honestly I would feel silly getting dressed up like I’m racing the Tour de France when I’m just riding for fun! Who cares if I’m optimally aerodynamic?!)

    Props to you guys for taking on the full spectrum of chicken raising. We’ve had several friends raise chickens for eggs and then not know what to do when the chickens stop laying. Of course, I don’t think I’d ever be able to do that dirty work, so probably better that we don’t have chickens ourselves. 🙂 Good luck on the bee hive!

    • Kalie says :

      It’s good to know we’re not the only ones baffled by the extreme biking gear trend. And that’s just one example. You could pick just about any hobby and find lots of extras to “invest” in.

      Neil amazed me with his unflinching ability to take care of business with the left behind chicken. I know he doesn’t enjoy any of it. It’s also amazing that this was how everyone got food not long ago, and still is in man parts of the world. I’m so pampered!

  12. Amanda says :

    Thanks for the update! I LOVE reading about how others are raising their own food.

    We just got back from vacation yesterday and I could not believe how much the garden had grown! Big green tomatoes, potatoes blooming, peppers, cabbage, strawberries and the peas are almost ready. All squash is blooming, just dealing with nasty squash bugs.

    That’s a great deal on the rental of the plot! Especially since water is included. We’ve lacked rain for two weeks and I’m sure to cringe when I see my water bill. Looking forward to your next update!

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks for reading, Amanda. I think gardening brings back good memories of my mother’s garden and eating sugar snaps straight off the vine as a kid. I’m glad your garden is flourishing! At least water is a relatively inexpensive utility.

  13. Abigail says :

    I wish I were up to gardening, though here in AZ most stuff would need to be in containers so that I could move it out of the scorching sun at some points during the day.

    Sorry you guys had to go through the hassle of skinning. Yick. On the bright side, I’m guessing he’ll double check that he got ALL the chickens next time.

    • Kalie says :

      I’m not sure what you can grow in AZ in the summer, but I imagine it’d look much different than here. Neil finds gardening relaxing after being in a cube all day, but it definitely takes some energy. He does most of the work; I handle more of the picking and preparing the food. Which isn’t necessarily more work than going to the store.

      Yeah, the left behind chicken was a bit of a hassle. I sure hope you’re right that he will double check next time!

  14. Holly says :

    Our garden is doing really well! I only planted four things – squash, tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers, but I planted a lot of each item. I can’t wait for the fresh veggies to start rolling in!

    • Kalie says :

      Glad to hear your garden is thriving. Waiting is the hard part after you get it planted! I think we will just plant lots of one thing in the community plot to keep things simple.

  15. Harmony says :

    Thanks for posting that picture of the bait hive. It’s definitely on our burbstead to-do list. I love honey!

    Too funny about your little one discovering the survivor chicken.

  16. It Pays Dividends says :

    Haha just shows that rushing leads to more work! At least he was willing to take care of the chicken himself! I have never heard of a bait bee hive. I’ll be interested to hear how the bigger one does once it is built!

  17. Amy says :

    I’m doing straw bale gardening again this year. My squash (summer, patty pan, and butternut), cucumbers, and cantaloupe are doing well, but the tomato and pepper plants aren’t taking off as quickly as I’d like. Let’s hope they’ll be okay after a slow start…

    I have pea envy! The chipmunks dug all of my plants up this year. 🙁

    • Kalie says :

      We’ve never successfully grown melons, so kudos to you for your cantaloupe doing well! Sorry about your peas, that’s sad.

      I notice you have a new blog–I’ll have to check it out!

  18. DC YAM says :

    Our neighbors recently got three chickens and it’s crazy how big they got from when they were just a couple weeks old. I’ve been hearing more and more people trying to grow their own veggies, considering getting chickens, etc. I think it’s a positive trend.

    • Kalie says :

      The chickens do grow really fast! We only had ours about 7 weeks. Homegrown food is definitely making a comeback, which makes sense in light of all the bad news in the food industry. I think it’s also a fun hobby for people who sit at computers all day!

  19. DividendsDownUnder says :

    Hey Kalie,

    Firstly I just want to re-iterate how awesome you guys are for doing these different projects, they’re really cool.

    Raising bees and chickens is really sweet and I’d love to do something like that too. I hope Neil does a good job on the last chicken.

    It’s a shame the bees haven’t taken to the box, hopefully they will with your next box 🙂


    • Kalie says :

      Thanks, Tristan. We certainly find it fun. Neil took care of the last chicken without any problems. We’ll see about the bees! Our friends who purchased bees lost their colony but harvested more honey than I would have expected, so that was neat.

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