Wednesday, June 27, 2012

5 things I learned while building a chicken coop

 This is the latest installment in my journey in having backyard chickens (for eggs and models for my chicken paintings)  You can read more about our 6 girls here and here.

1. Location, location, location.

Chickens are fun to have around the house, but they are a farm animal. After reading multiple accounts of how inconvenient it is to hoof through the snow to your coop, we thought we'd be super smart and place the coop where we could collect eggs without needing to step off the porch.

We wouldn’t even need to put on shoes! 

How brilliant! 

Mind you, our porch is a place where we spend many hours in the summer; reading the paper, enjoying an evening meal or cold drink, while admiring the birds and gardens. At the last minute we came to our senses and opted for a site halfway between the house and the back fence, well away from our porch.

Now that the hot summer sun is beating down on our little hen house, it is quite clear (in an olfactory way) that this was a wise decision.

2. It’s true what my 7th grade math teacher said: all those lessons in fractions and geometry will come in handy someday.

 Adding 32 9/16 + 21 7/8 never held as much importance as it does when you’re trying to make a square door. Nor did calculating the hypotenuse of a triangle with a 40 degree angle and a 22 ½ inch adjoining side when trying to make sure the rafters meet at the peak of the roof.

 3. Measure twice, cut once, but just cut already!

Chickens grow fast, so while it’s important to avoid carelessness, it is equally important to finish the damn coop!

When six tiny yellow and brown chicks came home in a container closely resembling a Happy Meal, the sense of urgency was minimal.

Just a few weeks later, six fully-feathered birds the size of our cats were trying to stretch their wings and actually fly within the confines of a plastic bin not large enough to hold our summer clothes. There’s nothing like witnessing the future tenants literally grow overnight to motivate a housing project.

 4. Minivans are better than pick-up trucks. 

Okay, so they’ll never be featured in country and western songs, or pictured alongside roughnecks and cowboys in car commercials, but our minivan can quite easily accommodate a 10 foot length of lumber and a stack of 4’ x 8’ sheets of plywood, with the rear door closed. This is a good feeling after driving compact cars for so many years, having to literally reach out the window and hold a stack of 2 x 4s as we nervously drove home from the lumber yard.

The minivan is the most practical vehicle ever created.

This means you may never look cool driving it, but you don’t have to worry about impaling the guy behind you.

 5. Chickens don’t take long to make a house a home. 

 I was so diligent about keeping the coop clean when it was going up, I caught myself removing my shoes once before climbing inside to install a small door.

Now I need a separate pair of shoes just to go into the coop to open that door.

Friday, June 22, 2012

anatomy of an outdoor art & garden show

Art under the Birches, an outdoor fine art & garden show was a roaring success.

The weather was brilliant and we had so many folks who stopped by anxious to get a peek into the gardens and to see all the artwork on display (and of course meet "the girls").  Thank you to everyone who came!

I was thrilled to be joined this year by my talented friends Caryn King & Luann Udell and my mum too!

Without further ado, I present an anatomy of an art & garden show:

Flowers, art & a vintage repurposed dresser lead the way into the back gardens...

Garden Glimmers: upcycled vintage glass garden ornaments were a big hit! I was hoping my mum would "forget" to take them all home-- they look fantastic in my gardens.

Whimsical metal garden sculptures by Bob Taylor. Loved the rooster!

The back veggie gardens needed a splash of color.

My booth--dusted it off for the first outdoor show of the season.

My daugher kept us well supplied with homemade baked goods.

Paintings by Caryn King

Poppies, bachelor buttons & our chicken cottage...

And of course "The Girls"...who were the stars of the show: Daffodil, Marigold, Buttercup, Edith, Esther & Minnie Pearl.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

weekend destination, ocean breezes, sand & art

Looking for a pleasant activity for this weekend? 

How about a trip to the beach in lovely Narragansett, Rhode Island and an afternoon at the 30th Annual Narragansett Art Festival?

30th Annual Narragansett Art Festival
June 23rd & 24th
9am to 5pm
Veteran's Memorial Park
Memorial Square
Narragansett, Rhode Island

The weather is going to be perfect. Enjoy the sea breezes while strolling through Memorial Park overlooking Narragansett Bay with over 100 fine artist booths on display. 

To get you in the mood here are a couple paintings from my recent best beach series.  This is a new show for me but I'm thinking I'll have to add Narragansett to my best beach repetoire.

You can find me in booth #95. Stop in and say hello!

the best beach, oil on canvas, 8 x 8 inches.  ©2011 Kristina Wentzell

the best beach 2, oil on canvas, 8 x 8 inches.  ©2011 Kristina Wentzell

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

update from the henhouse

The chicks are a just over a month old and are getting BIG.  

hey, it's getting crowded in here!
We haven’t finished the coop quite yet (more on that later) so they are still living in the house and getting a little cramped.  We’re not the most quick or efficient carpenters so building this coop has been quite the learning experience. Of course, I wanted more of a chicken cottage than a coop and managed to pick one of the more challenging patterns in the book (it’s a talent I have).

buff hen,  oil on canvas. Kristina Wentzell ©2011

In the meantime, we’ve been getting to know our 6 girls and my two little charges are quite enamored with the latest addition to our menagerie. We’ve learned a couple more things about chicks:

They go savage for dried mealworms.  I read that this is a favorite treat so I purchased a container of them.  Boy, do they ever love them. At first, I was actually nervous they were going to kill each other in their mad, frantic, peeping scramble to peck up every scrap and bit of worm.

This is probably obvious to everyone but having chicks in the house is a messy ordeal. I’ve moved them to the breezeway now that they’re older and have at least spared most of the house from their mad, dusty ways.

So, without further ado---I’d like to introduce our little brood of girls. These are baby pictures, as you can see above they are much bigger now!

Buttercup & Marigold


Minnie Pearl



Thursday, June 7, 2012

garden delights: how to make chive vinegar

The chives are once again blooming in my garden. 

I thought I'd share my favorite thing to make with the blossoms. A friend shared this with me years ago and I think of her and this recipe every year when those lovely, lavender flowers come out.

chive blossoms, mixed media.  ©2012 Kristina Wentzell

It's so simple and makes the most gorgeously colored pink vinegar--great for salad dressing, cucumber salad or any summertime salad that needs a splash of vinegar. 

You will need: 

  • a large handful of chive blossoms 
  • white wine vinegar 
  • clean, glass jar with a lid


Wash the chive blossoms in a strainer or colander (you don't want any insect hitchhikers!) and  place chives in a clean, glass jar.

In the meantime, bring the white wine vinegar to a boil. You'll need enough to cover the blossoms.

Pour the hot vinegar over the chive blossoms. Let cool, cover and let sit for about a week.

The vinegar will turn the a lovely shade of pink. After 7 days or so, strain off the blossoms and you're done! It looks so pretty sitting in a window with the sun shining through.

Anyone have a favorite salad dressing recipe? 

I usually make a very simple vinaigrette: 2 parts light olive oil to 1 part vinegar, a pinch of salt & pepper, a 1/2 teaspoon or so of Dijon mustard, a bit of sugar or agave to taste.