Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog

June 3, 2010

More babies!

Filed under: Uncategorized — theburts @ 7:10 pm

Many many babies. Daniel has about 30 new Platy fish babies at work that are isolated in a little plastic tray, we have 33 eggs incubating that should start hatching on Sundayish, and Mr. Chris (our only hen with a male name) is now a mother to 9 baby chicks! There were ten, but I had to send one of them home to baby chick heaven because it was born pretty deformed and wasn’t going to make it anyway. Then there were 3 eggs from Luna, who never let Nubbles or Goldie make it past 3rd base so none of her eggs were fertilized (not in the incubator either). Only one egg should have been fertilized and didn’t hatch…not bad, not bad.

Here’s a link of Mr. Chris and some of her 9 babies.


Mr. Chris has an amazing mother hen instinct. So neat to watch her with the chicks, especially since just weeks ago she’s just a regular ol’ hen who’s never once hatched any eggs (in fact this was her first year to lay!) and hasn’t even been around any chickens who have. She almost bit my hand off!

In other news, we found an amazing architect (if I haven’t said that already) and we are just starting to go to codes with our final plans…which…are…awesome. He came up with a great new idea for our “compound,” so we’ll have to share that soon.

Gardens are growing, everyone’s busy from everything to work to traveling to flood relief to kids to chickens!




April 20, 2010

More pics of the apartment building

Filed under: Uncategorized — theburts @ 10:49 pm

Our friend took some amazing pics a couple of days we’ve been working on the apartments. Here are some examples of the nastiness we found along with some more telling pictures of the building and property. Enjoy!

April 6, 2010

Today in Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — theburts @ 4:44 pm

Planted strawberries. We were given about a hundred plants so we’ve been putting them everywhere. Also transplanted a few more lettuce and kale plants to community bed. Watered all plants to prepare for the hot day. Jason and I prepared the dumpster for replacing at the apartments (it was too full so we’d have been charged extra). Went to lunch at the Frist cafe with Amanda. Went to get chicken feed and gas for weedeater. Weedeated. Hauled off all the carpet we’ve taken out of apartments so far to recycling center. Mowed and weedeated the rest of the yard. Let chickens out and watched them enjoy the freshly cut grass and run through Josh’s barley. Took cold shower, felt great, now waiting for Amanda to get home from work and the Y. Exhausted, and a little farmer’s tan, but a good day!

Off to water again, eat dinner, babysit for a few hours, and hopefully get to bed early!

April 3, 2010

Our New Apartment Building!

Filed under: Uncategorized — theburts @ 7:29 pm

March 31, 2010

Castanea’s Apartment Building

Filed under: Uncategorized — theburts @ 11:27 am

Until we’re able to get back into the habit of pondering and writing online, we’ll have to just keep using the blog for updates on our life! So here goes, again.

  • Castanea is now the name of our community. We were happy being unnamed, but the folks at the Peace by Piece conference asked us to come up with one for the conference. I guess they didn’t want to put on the speaker bios page “A bunch of weird people in downtown Nashville who garden and have chickens.” Here’s what I wrote about the name:
    • Our community’s name, Castanea, is derived from the genus of the Chestnut tree. We are located in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of south Nashville, and it was specifically to this neighborhood that our community relocated, joining God’s work and imagining God’s kingdom together there. Chestnut Hill has a long history of drug and prostitution traffic, and is still infiltrated with both. Like the history of the Chestnut tree, which was all but wiped out by a blight in the early 1900s, the “blight” of addiction, along with the casualties of our country’s economic system, have all but taken the neighborhood past the point of no return. But we trust in God and believe there is hope for Chestnut Hill and for the residents thereof who have endured throughout all the years. Just as there has been a successful attempt at restoring the Chestnut tree, we see glimpses of restoration and life in Chestnut Hill, and are blessed to be a part of it by God’s grace.
  • The most major news is that we finally bought our future home! This is the news we’ve been itching to tell, but were afraid to since the deal hadn’t gone through and we didn’t want to count our chickens before they hatched. It’s a 24 unit apartment building on 0.8 acres, right in the heart of our neighborhood. Just about a block from the Adkins’ house, and about 3 blocks from ours. It sits on a hill, and has a great view of Trevecca Nazarene University where Jason teaches and Brent attends. The building itself is concrete block, and though structurally sound, has a ton of work to be done before it’s the amazing sanctuary we dream it to be. A complete gut and rebuild, basically. Here’s a bad (old) picture from the tax assessors page, I hope to get some better ones soon. It’s actually tan now. 
  • Space! The basic plan is for us as a community to inhabit one of the buildings, creating apartments for our families and single individuals plus some common space for meals and prayer, and then to use the other 12 units for affordable housing to local residents or people from refugee programs, homeless shelters, or other similar programs as either transitional housing or long term apartment investment.
  • Chickens are still doing well, laying bunches of eggs and not getting eaten by possums. Of course, that’s only because we keep having possum killings. I think we’re up to about 5 or 6 now. Seriously. We lost one chicken from a possum attack, and we’ve found them in the coop since then, but no more injuries to chickens since poor ol’ Puff Mama.
  • Garden’s doing well, garlic looks great and hope to be seeing sprouts of the first seeds planted soon! Aquaponics plants at work is ok, not as good as when I had the lights down closer to the plants though…they’re a little spindly.
  • Trip to Haiti was great. We stayed with our translator Archange and his family of 6, got to experience real Haitian life and really were amazed at the hospitality we received and the faith we witnessed.

I guess that’s enough updates for now! We’re just pretty covered up with the apartment building, finding financing and finalizing plans, etc. It’s a really exciting time for us, but pray for us to not get too stressed out as we crunch through the next few months!


Daniel and Amanda

January 7, 2010

Chicks and greens are growing

Filed under: creation care,Gardening/Farming — theburts @ 8:38 am

Our four little chicks are doing really well! They seem to grow every day. This morning I caught them all napping together, and 3 of them were lined up with one wing over the next chick down the line.  :)

The grown chickens are doing well…haven’t frozen their tails off yet. They have a very sympathetic mother who will often tell you she hates the winter, so they get their coop covered at night and just recently got the light bulb turned back on for some extra overnight heat. Spoiled chickens.

It’s definitely a little more time consuming to care for chickens in the cold winter, since you have to either bring their waterer back inside every night or go break up the ice. But it still only takes 2 minutes to water, feed, and let them out in the morning…then about 30 seconds or less in the evening.

About the greens growing, Daniel’s aquaponics system is doing really well. He harvested some arugula, rhubarb chard, kale, and two radishes last night and we all sampled them around the table. The chard was especially beautiful, with its deep green leaves with lush, red veins making it look like something that grows in the jungle! And all very yummy, except we didn’t eat the radishes…apparently, and maybe obviously, you don’t eat the root of any plant grown in aquaponics (since it’s growing in fish water). We still could have eaten the radish leaves, but instead our chickens got them.

Well, stay warm out there, and happy growing and backyard chickening, everyone!

December 30, 2009

Castanea: A Nonviolent Community

Filed under: Uncategorized — theburts @ 9:06 pm

…most of the time.



Peeps in the Hood

Filed under: Uncategorized — theburts @ 9:09 am

No really, Daniel found a shirt at Goodwill that says this and has a picture of some yellow marshmallow peeps on it. Amanda LOVES it…it’s pretty much her favorite shirt ever.

But we do have four little chicks now. The beginning was rough, though. I already mentioned that one chick died cause it had some sort of birth defect. Well, turns out another had a bad leg, and after about a week it wasn’t improving at all (getting worse in fact), and the other chicks were constantly pecking it, so we had to put that one down. :(  Then our strongest chick in that first batch drowned in the waterer cause apparently it got its head stuck in there. Horrible!

Our second batch is doing really well, though, they’re all about a week old now and just as cute as can be. So glad we have a few chicks to carry on the legacy of Nugget!

There are still a few eggs in the incubator, but we’re pretty sure if they were good they’d have hatched by now. We’ll leave them in there a few more days just to make sure.

All the other chickens are doing well. We’re getting about 4-5 eggs a day (not bad from 9 chickens), and that’s even without using any lights to extend their hours of “daylight,” which will increase egg production.

That’s all for now!

December 20, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — theburts @ 9:27 am

It’s hatching time! The eggs we mentioned in the last post are cooked! We had one chick hatch, but it had some sort of birth defect and didn’t last very long. :(  Sad. Another started hatching last night, but hadn’t made any progress at all when we woke this morning, so Daniel had to play doctor a little. It hatched the rest of the way and is now trying to get on its feet. Usually, when they’re too weak to hatch by themselves, they don’t survive…but we’re hoping this one’s a miracle child. Then there’s one more that’s currently hatching, looks like she/he started this morning.

There’s so much that has to be just right to hatch eggs in a man-made incubator. We’re about to run get a hygrometer so we can monitor the humidity, because it’s probably the single most important factor at the end of the incubation. It’s so amazing watching chicks hatch…never gets old, and it’s also significant that the best incubator of all times is a mother hen. We just can’t do better than God, and God’s creation of life even in a chicken egg is just indescribable.

Pray for our babies!  :)

December 12, 2009

Twelve Days of…no, just twelve updates.

Filed under: Intentional community — theburts @ 1:17 pm
  1. The last post was on chickens, and one of the chickens pictured was Nugget, who was then our smallest chicken. Well, turns out she…um, wasn’t a she. We brilliantly deduced this after watching her grow into an enormous (our largest) chicken with beautiful neck feathers, mount her fellow hens at random times, and attempt to crow often. All was well, except for the last of those, especially when it began at 4:30 a.m. just a few feet outside the Burts’ bedroom window. The poppy seed chicken casserole was most excellent, and we are very grateful for the life and sustenance of our dear Nugget. Note to self: do not name chickens until positive of chicken’s future.
  2. As an attempt to leave a legacy, Nugget did manage to thoroughly and constantly enjoy the last week of his post pubescent life, so we are currently incubating most of the eggs that were laid in the 2 weeks following his demise. (After a rooster and hen date, and you know, get to home base, the eggs will be fertile in that hen for about 2 weeks.) Below is a picture of a baby chick growing inside one of the (fertilized) eggs. Click on it to see it larger…it is truly amazing.

    A winner!

    A fertilized egg at about day seven

  3. Lastly regarding chickens, we did get a new one back in October, a beautiful white cochin pictured below that has feathers all down her legs. It was sort of a free birthday present, and that puts us still at 9 chickens, seven of which are laying quite well. We’re getting between 4 and 7 a day! Mmm fresh eggs.

    the burts

    Burts with new chicken

  4. As you know, Daniel is an optometrist. He’s currently enjoying the challenges of updating fee schedules and starting to accept medical insurances and considering new equipment for automated visual field testing and anterior segment photography. Well, he’s mostly enjoying that…but he’d rather be gardening, building a chicken coop or piece of furniture, working on home improvements, etc. It’s just that those things currently pay very poorly. However, he’s figured out a way to be more fulfilled at work…aquaponics. It’s the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil in some sort of structure where nutrient rich water flows past the roots for food). Basically, the fish and decaying food produce ammonia, which is toxic to fish in large quantity, which bacteria turn into nitrites, which more bacteria turn into nitrates, which is plant food, which when eaten by the plants helps to filter the water for the fish, which is wicked cool. It’s a very natural and ecologically proven system that is an almost perfectly closed, cyclic system. Having already an aquarium, he built (with the help of his friend Justin) an aquaponics system that cycles the fish water to and from a growbed above the aquarium, and currently is growing kale, arugula, rhubarb chard, and radishes (not sure if radishes can grow in aquaponics, though). Those were seedlings he already had, but we’re mostly excited to start growing some tomatoes and broccoli and peppers. Many veggies do very well in aquaponics, and you can grow them year round indoors! Will post pictures soon, it’s not quite completed.
  5. March Haiti trip. It’s time to start preparing for the ol’ trip again, and the main thing we’re doing differently this time is where we’ll be staying. We talked to Daniel’s uncle David and let him know that we’ll be staying with locals this year, specifically with Derival Archange (translator from last year) and his family for at least part of the trip. We’re super excited about that, but Daniel needs to really start brushing up on his mostly nonexistent French. Archange was very excited, you could tell, on hearing the news that we’d like to stay with them. He even said something about finishing two rooms for us before our arrival…we had to let him know that wasn’t OK, that we could stay in whatever accommodations they could provide. We really like the idea of staying with our brothers and sisters there at their humble abodes instead of at their equivalent of a Hilton…has always bothered us when we’re devoting a week to help some of the poorest people in the world.
  6. Conference in Arkansas. Dave Pritchett, who we met last year at Haiti, has invited us (as a community) to come speak at the Peace by Piece Conference in Searcy, AR, this coming February. Peace by Piece Conference We’re really excited to go and meet like minded people interested in intentional communities and how many Christians have found them extremely challenging and helpful in their journey toward living in an alternative kingdom. We’ll be doing two classes, “Community Formation: Our Story,” and “Breaking Free: Exploring Alternative Economies.” You should come! There will be a lot of amazing speakers there, and we can’t wait to mingle and learn with everyone.
  7. Because we had to be listed on the list of speakers for the conference, and because “Some people who lived together in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood in Nashville” didn’t really have a great ring to it, we decided it’d be good to come up with a name for our community. One of those things we’d put off for a while because not everyone could agree on “the people’s front of Chestnut Hill” or “being intentionally together in Chestnut Hill.”  :)  So, after much deliberation and brainstorming, we finally came up with a name. One of the things that somewhat defines our community is the location of Chestnut Hill, so we wanted to incorporate that, and in the end we looked up the genus species for the Chestnut tree, which has a really rich history of restoration in America.  The Chestnut tree was nearly wiped out by a blight, but is making a comeback… obvious parallels to this neighborhood.  So, we are now officially “Castanea.”
  8. Community life has been wonderful, but also difficult. We (the Burts) went from having an entire apartment of about 700 square feet to just having one small bedroom to ourselves, and even that, with its sloped floors and slanted, drab walls, wasn’t nice enough to really feel like a place of relaxation and rest to Amanda. It produced a lot of stress within our marriage and made it difficult to fully enjoy community life. We have also had to constantly deal with the complexities of living together with others, the common chores of dish washing and cleaning, questions of commitment and responsibility, etc. We by no means have learned enough to write a book, but we are getting there. First, we realize that we need more room for at least us and also for Amber, who also has an even smaller room. Second, we realize that we’ve neglected to keep Christ at the center of our community, and that makes it tough. There has to be some self sacrifice to make communal living work, and for our Christian community that comes through the example of our Lord. To get so busy with daily chores, raising chickens, or gardening, that we don’t have enough time together to read scripture frequently, keep prayer in our personal lives and life together, I believe means that we’re relying too much on our own efforts to make community work, not enough on the sustenance, forgiveness, and grace of God. We’re making efforts and frequently discussing how to make these changes and keep these vital components at the core of our community.
  9. Community has so many draws. If you want to live in a poorer neighborhood and be a person of God next to houses of ill repute and drugs, there are safety questions, and living together in community necessarily brings some safety in numbers. There’s the daily challenge from community members to not give in to the pressures of the world, whether materialism or careless use of the environment, and accountability to see everyone as children of God. Then there’s the sharing of things and resources and getting away from the idea of ownership. Then, along with the sharing of resources, there’s the sharing of sicknesses….oh wait, that’s not a draw, but it did happen this week. Almost all of us were knocked out for a day or two by a stomach virus. Some of us had a time of bonding in the living room watching movies and being sick. So cool.
  10. Gardening has obviously slowed a bit outside since it’s getting down in the twenties frequently, but I’ve got a hoop over my outside beds so hopefully we’ll get some swiss chard and radishes yet…doubt the kale’s gonna make it to be big enough. Also have garlic going pretty well, so next year we will be ready to make tasty meals and fend off vampires.
  11. It’s been a real stretch turning this blog into 12 separate updates, but it’s too late to turn back now, so number eleven is a summary of our roomates’ lives: Josh is currently working with Hands On Nashville and 2nd Harvest, but because of his desire to be more present in our community will likely be giving up both at the first of the year in search of other meaningful work that will allow him to be around more. Amber is entirely debt-free as of a couple months ago and has a gentleman caller. Brent’s flag football team won the championship game, and he continues volunteering at the Campus for Human Development with things like drum circles with homeless people, washing their feet, etc. that are arranged (I think) through his social justice curricula at Trevecca Nazarene University.
  12. Lastly, we may be finally buying a place in the neighborhood soon. No details yet, just know that all of us are super excited and hopeful about an unbelievable possibility that’s just come up. Seriously, we’ve had an offer in on a house for over a month now and they’ve been ridiculously slow about accepting said offer…now, we’re starting to wonder if God confused their language and caused their phones to stop working or something so that we could do this other thing. :)  Peace, everyone.
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