Monday, April 20, 2015

Old and New

The little ones hanging around the run.
I've been busy in the garden and with my chicken girls.  The little chicks have been enjoying pleasant days outside in their run, and evenings back inside in their brooder for warmth.  The big chicks have been busy, they left off laying for the winter and it took a while for them to resume, but they have bounced back with plenty of spring!
Looks like no one collected yesterday!!

There are beginnings in spring and there are endings.  Our crab apple trees is aged, which makes it so spectacular, but last night we had heavy rain and winds and it lost a limb.  One more chore to add to the list.

Flower bed by the driveway, needs some serious attention.

The apple trees we planted shortly after we moved in are just now maturing to the point of producing apples, if the deer will let it happen.  
Dwarf Liberty Apple Tree
Brassicas with floating row covers to keep out harlequin beetles and cabbage loopers.

Mixed very baby greens, salad in two weeks!!


Love this color!

Athena supervising my photography.

Ursula, curious, but camera shy.

I was recently asked why I don't write about my cats much and I present to you Exhibit A
Most of their action occurs between 10 PM and 1:30 AM, usually involving hockey with a plastic Easter egg that clatters on our wood floors , or else kitty opera.  At that time of day, I am usually not in the mood to take cute videos.  Their days, at 12 years old next month, involve aerobic napping, hard core snoozing, and, once in a while, illicit tuna mooching.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Layers and Layers

I made a few changes in my gardens this year. Last year I had two vegetable gardens, the front one and the back one.  Yes, we have a vegetable garden in the front yard, we are "those" neighbors. The back one was put in by the previous owner of the house, who also planted a few fruit trees, all too close to the woods, so that they do not receive enough sunlight to produce much of anything. 

The back garden was placed right next to the woods, all the veggies in it leaned and stretched southward toward the sun.  I'd tie up my tomatoes and all of the new growth would lean toward the sun and I would have to pull them back again, and again.  I decided to dig out the fence posts and put them around the front garden. I started digging, what appeared to be 4 ft fence posts were really five foot fence posts sunk really deeply into the clay soil to support a 3 ft chicken wire fence.  It took several sessions of digging while mumbling somewhat unrepeatable words about overkill in sinking posts 2 feet deep for a little chicken wire fence, to get all of the posts removed. The first session with my mom who was visiting. She removed the old chicken wire fence which was attached to the posts in somewhat creative ways, while I fought with the clay.

I finally finished digging the posts out a few weeks ago and moved them to the front yard.  enclosing an area that was twice the size of the garden, anticipating expanding it over the next couple of years.  I bought new fencing, knowing that it won't keep out the deer, but it will keep out the neighborhood dogs, some the the less creative rabbits and maybe even discourage the chickens a little.

As I'm writing this, I am looking out of the window wondering why when it comes time to take pictures for this blog, it's always raining.  I just chuckled to myself, realizing that I would be busy working in the garden and not blogging if it was a dry day.

So, having fenced in twice the developed area, and having decommissioned a decent size garden, I realized that I was going to need more beds than I currently had to plant half of what I wanted to plant.  The issue is with squash, my daughter has finally come around to the idea that winter squash is yummy.  She will eat seconds and then later scrape the bowl for the last bits as we clear the table.  I can grow it and know that it will get eaten now, but it takes up a lot of space.  I will be doing some three sisters plots with popcorn, pole beans and squash, but I want three different squash varieties, which hedges the situation if one type fails...which means that I need more garden space this year, not eventually.

I'm not digging into the soil because it is a slight slope and will erode and because the weeds we call a lawn won't even grow well there, though the weeds do well fifty feet away.  Mowing that section in the front gives me flashes of the beginning parts of The Grapes of Wrath, as the dust swirls and settles around me. This whole region was once tobacco farms and my yard is one of the flatter places around. I know it hasn't been farmland for at least forty-five years, but I think the soil is still destroyed.  No sense it starting with inferior material, I'm building up. I've spent the last few days laying cardboard and covering it with horse manure and the straw that I mucked out of the chicken coop. The cardboard will decompose and be worm food, adding to the soil.

The flower bed

Planting beds on the left are mostly from the last two years, the new ones are forming on the right.

Cardboard with horse manure, I need to make 5 more trips to the horse farm for the veggies and one to two for the flower beds. I need more cardboard!

Sugar snap peas, with bitty weeds.

I get my cardboard at the waste transfer station, here it is called the convenience center.  There are signs that you are not allowed to scavenge there,   Yesterday, my biggest supporter was working, she  started using the cardboard as a weed suppressor in her own yard last year after I explained what I was doing. She fished out a nice thick pile of furniture boxes for me, and even yanked off some of the big pieces of tape.  It feels less like dumpster diving if I have the enthusiastic approval of the people supervising the site. Some of the folks will just sigh and say I can take some, clearly wondering about the sanity of the lady in the square car with the weird gardening methods.

I have made five or six trips to the horse rescue farm to collect the manure in Rubbermaid tubs to tote home in my car.  I'm about half-way there filling in the new plots.  All this so that I can plant butternut, Guatemalan blue and delicata winter squash and still have space for crookneck and zucchini and tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, beans, popcorn, herbs, potatoes...lost control, yeah...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Chicks at 1 Month Old!

The little chicks in the garage are nearing the fluff-free stage, which means that they can soon be scratching up the straw in the big girl run outside.  Circe seems that she will need the most time to mature, still a bit of fluff to go.  Freya has been fluff free for several days and is looking quite mature, I did a little reading on the Delaware chicken, she should be laying eggs a whole month before the others.  The Brahmas are coming right along, BB and Bob are nearly fluff free and are the laziest chickens I have ever seen.  Bubbles moves around much more and has a bundle of personality, which means when she gets older she is going to be a real pill to deal with.   Effie and Diana are the acrobats of the bunch, they are constantly hopping on and off the tops of their waterer and feeder and jumping out of the kiddie pool that they call home, luckily they have learned how to jump back in.

The big chicks, Ursula and Athena have been defying gravity lately.  Their breed descriptions say that they bear confinement well and that they are not flighty, I guess the exceptions prove the rules.  They are locked into their fence every morning and by lunchtime they are scratching anywhere in the yard that they please.  They both have their wings clipped and are heavier weight birds, so flying really isn't really a possibility, but they have been observed throwing themselves over the four foot fence by sheer force of will.  Keeping them in is such a challenge,  the fence is to protect them from roaming dogs and to keep them out of the road, but if they throw themselves over it, it can't do a thing for them.  At least I know when the little ones are fenced in the Brahmas will be so darned heavy that the laws of physics will keep them in, I think.

 Time for a chickie fix...

Diana on the feeder, Circe back left, Freya and Bubbles front right

These are the same little balls of fluff that arrived not quite a month ago!!
Circe and Diana on March 12th

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


As I mentioned last week, our dog, Stella, was ill.    She was suffering from some sort of neurological disorder and was progressively getting worse.  She was requiring 24/7 care, needing to be given water and let out so frequently that attempting to sleep was futile.  I arrived at the point where I was fearing that my husband or I would fall asleep while driving, because we were so groggy from going out with her into the  backyard in our pj's at 2 AM and then again at 2:30 AM and then again at 3:15 AM, and it continued that way all through the night.  She stopped eating.  She looked right through us, not really at us.  We became sources of water, not her people.  If we fell asleep and she didn't get the water her mind demanded, she would enter a frenzied state that she seemed unable to get herself out of.  She would race from one end of the house to the other barking and whining, back and forth, for up to 17 hours.  After three weeks of this, and many, many medical tests that told us only that she didn't have any of the diseases known to cause some of her symptoms, we decided that it was time.  The intervals between her needed drinks were getting shorter and shorter, we could no longer cope. Further tests seemed only to have the purpose of telling us what was going to kill her rather than provide a treatment, so we decided that it was time. At the end of the week we made the difficult decision to put her down.  We really miss her and routinely look for her at certain moments of the day, and tear up,
because she isn't and won't ever be there again.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Falling Behind and Falling Asleep

I haven't kept pace with everything I need to do this spring, things have been conspiring to make it difficult for me.  First my kid gets sick and then she gets well and has a birthday slumber party.  Somewhere along in this our dog develops symptoms that are not making any sense to the vets, it's not looking good.  We are trying a medication route that may or may not help the symptoms, but won't cure whatever it is (or the several whatevers it may be).  Part of her illness is drinking too much and urinating too much, and, yes, we have investigated the usual illnesses (and some rather rare illnesses also) that cause these symptoms and have come back with all negative test results.  She needs to go out many times during the night, my husband and I are sleeping in shifts, so that we get any sleep at all.

My garden is starting to go in.  Most of the greens are planted, from arugula to Swiss chard.  I thought I had one more type of collards than I do, so I will need to go get seed, in between my dog's bathroom breaks.  The peas are planted and due to poke out of the soil at any moment.  My tomato seedlings this year were a total failure, some would come up and immediately die, I'm going  to change my seed starting medium and try again.  I'll set up the cold frame any day now to start heating up and getting ready for baby plants.

The chicks are oblivious to all that is going on in the household.  They grow bigger by the minute and are at that awkward stage when they do not look like chicks and they do not look like chickens.  They have a bit of the teenage dinosaur look to them.  Judge for yourself!

Time to raise the light, they are all ducking.

Circe and Bubbles

Bubbles and Diana

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