Home Sweet Home

"It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home"
-Edgar Guest
Jenna and I have different experiences of home. My family moved fairly often, so I can quickly adapt and feel comfortable in a new place. Where I lay my head is home. On the other hand, my wife grew up in the same house her entire life, and the transition is more difficult for her.
I think she was just starting to feel comfortable at our house in St. Paul when we uprooted and moved to the country. Personally I was getting sick of it and restless for a change!


Here's the story of how I built my little backyard chicken coop. I decided to use found materials as much as possible, which was probably a mistake in hindsight, as it ended up taking more time and not saving me all that much money. The frame was built with pallets salvaged from my office alleyway.

I sort of got the walls squared up and put some supports underneath. Just getting to this stage took much longer than it should have. I was figuring out a lot of things about the design as I went along and kept revising my plans. My inspiration came from online photos and the basic guidelines in my chicken book.

There was a bunch of lumber in our barn and I found these cool old tongue-and-groove floorboards for the coop floor. They fit together pretty nicely. Too bad you'll never see them because the floor is always covered in several inches of wood shavings and chicken droppings!

When I had the coop finished to this point, Jenna helped me carry it out of our garage and up the hill to its final resting place, beside the ramshackle deck. It was unbelievably heavy. The tiny legs I had used snapped right off so I put on more substantial treated 4x4s.

And here's the finished product, covered with the cheapest siding I could buy at Home Depot. I've been doing some tweaks ever since the hens moved in, but the basic shape is as complete as it ever will be. We cleared out most of the rotted wood planks and turned the old deck area into our new enclosed chicken run. It's not perfect but it was a fun project, and it works!

Weekend of Adventure

Last weekend was a nonstop adventure with my family! I came home early on Friday afternoon so that Jenna could set up for Nickle Dickle Day (she shared a craft booth with her mom this year). While she was gone, Natalie and I walked around downtown Chaska. I got a library card, she got a balloon, and we ate some delicious ice cream: raspberry Oreo cheesecake flavor!
On Saturday we all woke up early for the festivities in Waconia. I stood in line in the rain for the book sale to open and filled a bag with good stuff.* My parents came to the fair and sampled the campfire ice cream that I made with marshmallows we roasted the previous weekend. Then we prepared a bath of peaches ice cream. My dad had fun feeding the chickens, who learned how to escape their run, and we had to corral them back inside several times before I found and patched the hole.
We visited the Chaska Moravian Church on Sunday morning. In the afternoon, my parents and I drove to the Science Museum for the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. It was such a fantastic collection that the actual scroll fragments at the end were a bit of a letdown. Still, overall it was an incredible experience. I could have stayed all day and wished we had more time to see the original St. John's Bible pages at the end.
*Mike Lynch's Minnesota Starwatch, The Glorious Qur'an, The New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV w/ the Apocrypha 3rd edition, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual 3rd edition, The Dark Tower The Gunslinger, Watership Down, The Gospel in Dostoyevsky, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 3 books in the Time-Life Encyclopedia of Gardening (Perennials, Vegetables and Fruits, and Foliage House Plants) (to match 4 other books in the series that I bought for a quarter each from a garage sale the previous weekend) and Villa Incognito by Tom Robbins.

Pecha Kucha Night Mpls Video: Andy Krueger

Here's a video [edit: no longer available] of that Pecha Kucha presentation I did last year, "How to organize an indie craft fair in your spare time." I'm terrified to watch it. But you, go right ahead and enjoy.

Playing catch-up

I've been so wrapped up in MIX planning that I've been lax in other areas of life, like being a good husband and father, but most importantly blogging. Here are some highlights from the past few months that I want to remember forever and ever:
  • Wall up: Jerry and our neighbor Dwight came over with a backhoe this weekend and reassembled our rock wall that had collapsed in the storm. It looks much better now especially since they put the biggest rocks on the bottom this time, which, I'm no expert but I think will work out better in the long run.
  • Trips to the lake: we drove out to Alexandria for every 3-day holiday weekend this summer. Last weekend (Labor Day) we ate special mix-your-own-flavor ice cream, played at a water park, and visited a nautical museum. Water fun photos below!
  • Dog problems: Lola had a days-long bout of diarrhea that left puddles of poop all over our house and prompted a visit to the vet. They were concerned that she may have Addison's disease, but further testing ruled that out. She's been on special food for a week now and doing much better.
  • Garden neglected: I fell out of love with our little vegetable plot when I started my chicken phase, as is my wont. Luckily Jenna picks up the pieces when I start dropping balls and that's why she's the apple of my eye, the Jeeves to my Wooster, and the mixer of my metaphors. So we still got some food out of it, is what I'm trying to say.
  • Adam and Miranda Lu, friends who we have not seen practically since college seven years ago, made a surprise visit to our house! They cooked us dinner and it was awesome. Next we get to visit their new place in Rochester, which would be a beautiful drive in the fall.

Eggs, one-half doz.

1/2 dozen homegrown eggs vs. store-bought "large" whites
Once they got rolling, our chickens have laid at least one egg per day among the four of them. Today's running total is seven brown (two broke) and three blue. The brown shells come in a pleasant creamy tone, sometimes lightly speckled. The others are some kind of amazing blue-green Martha Stewart Living color.
After a few days they even learned to use the nesting box, just like the book said they would. In fact I've had a textbook flock so far. I should not be surprised but it is still delightful to follow instructions and see everything come out the way it was promised. This has not been my experience with for example, parenting books, by way of contrast.
I sort of don't want to eat the eggs. The first one tasted great, so I have no reason to hesitate on that front. It's just that they look so beautiful. Maybe I'll do them up all hard-boiled, and admire the shells for just a little bit longer.

Wildlife report

Our French doors have given us a whole new perspective on insect viewing. They seem to be a magnet for bugs. A giant grasshopper hung out there for a long time and I watched its spiracle muscles flexing for respiration. So cool!
Then there's the big fellow above. Jenna found this unicorn-horned caterpillar in the yard on August 15. It was about as long as her index finger, and so colorful. I'm convinced it's a Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth, based on the photos on that page. Any amateur lepidopterists out there can feel free to set me straight.
Moving from insects to larger things, I was driving through a marsh near our house in the early evening, and saw that it was full of egrets! They were everywhere! I have never seen so many together in one place. I guess they were all nesting down for the night. Super cool.

My Pet Chickens

This chicken is the first one I named because she was the most curious. A few days after they arrived, while the others were hiding under the coop, Starbuck was peeking around corners to see what I was up to. I would glance up and there she was, staring right back at me! I love her coloring. It's hard to make out from the photo, but the dark spots on her feathers are actually tinted brown. And the grey legs... so cool! She's like a robot hen.
I don't know which bird is at the top of the pecking order, but Lacey is definitely at the bottom. She's the most shy and the other birds will put her in her place. Many nights when I go outside to tuck them in and all the other birds are lined up on the perch inside, Lacey is nesting on top of the roof like an outcast. I'm reasonably certain that she is a Silver Laced Wyandotte (thus the name).
Prinny is a Barred Plymouth Rock hen. Before these chickens came up free on Craigslist, I had planned to use this breed for my entire flock. I ended up with a much more interesting assortment but these are still beautiful birds! Rocks are supposedly docile, cold-hardy, dependable layers. I wonder if my first egg came from her?
This lovely brown bird is either a true Araucana/Ameraucana or (more likely) a mixed breed known as "Easter Eggers." That's what I think Starbuck is, too. In any case, they should both lay blue-shelled eggs. Cadbury is my prettiest chicken. Look at that tail! And that neck tuft! I love the color variation on her feathers too. Anyway, that's my whole flock.
"But Andy," I hear you asking, "didn't you say you got SIX chickens? What happened to the other two?"
Well I have good news for you, animal lovers, I didn't turn them into chicken soup. I originally designed the coop for 3-4 hens and there simply wasn't enough room for six to fit comfortably. So I drove them over to my coworker Greg's house where they joined his bigger flock of free-range chickens. They now share a spacious coop building with other happy hens. Here they are on the way to their new home:
Bye bye, birdies.

I got it egg time

Chickens laid my first homegrown egg today! I made it into three tiny crepes. It was delicious.