Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chicks, Chicks, Chickens!

Day one in their new home.

The girls have arrived!

They've been here for a week and we're having a blast with them.  We ordered six, but seven arrived.  She is a mystery -- not sure what breed she is.

In any event, she joins her sisters -- Buff Orpington, Blue Laced Red Wyandotte, and Barred Rock.  

Regardless of breed, just hoping SHE is a SHE!

Thus far our adventure has been eye-opening.  What we've learned so far:
  1. Chickens are messy.  Wowza...I thought kids were tough to keep clean?  Kids have nothing on these chickens!  No sooner do they have fresh water than BAM, full of pine shavings!!!
  2. Chicks fall asleep.  Fast.  Super Fast.  One second they're drinking water and the next they're face down in a pile of pine!
  3. They need more room than you think they will ever need.  Yeah, that little brooder won't last long!  Two weeks in and hubby is off to build a larger one this weekend.
  4. They have personalities!  We have the laid back chick, the bully, and the gal who just wants to lay under the heat lamp and get some rest.  Sometimes I think she looks like she is waiting for her cocktails to arrive!  
  5. Love.  Yup. We're crazy about them.  In fact, even my reluctant husband has been caught fussing over them.

Chicken run is in place, the coop has been ordered, and plans are afoot for a larger brooder in the meantime.  I'd say things are running smoothly.

If anyone has questions about what to get me for Christmas, here's a hint.
“Alvin smiled back, and kissed her. "People talk about fools counting chickens before they hatch. That's nothing. We name them.”   - Orson Scott Card, Alvin Journeyman

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Getting Warmed Up

Today I'm sitting in front of a warm and toasty fire, watching the sun began its late-afternoon walk down the walls of my dining room.  The window in this room offers the only southern exposure on the main floor of the house.  I've often thought that it's the the abundant sunshine in hues of orange and gold that keeps me from succumbing to the winter doldrums.  I look for any reason to spend an afternoon there.  If we had a cat I'm sure he would do the same!

It comes as no surprise that the plants in that window do well too.  Thank goodness they are hearty.  I am a terrible indoor gardener.  (Truth be told, I'm only a marginally better outdoor gardener!)

I forget all about the poor window plants, but they thrive thanks to a bit of water and attention from my husband.  I've often thought this would be a good spot to keep those kitchen herbs growing all winter.  Maybe next year.  Of course, I'd rather grow herbs indoors like this.  Surely this must be foolproof!

Back to last years adventures in growing food crops.  We learned a lot!  For example,

  • Cucumbers Should Be Staked.  Now it seems obvious, but it didn't last year!
  • Label What You Plant.  If you think you will remember what is planted in which row, trust me.  You will not.  Many a parsely plant were lost due to forgetting where the carrots were.  (Are these carrots?  Yes, they must be!  Wait.  Oh no!  I pulled out all of the parsley!)
  • You Can Never Have Enough Green Beans.  We ate them as fast as we picked them.
  • Never Underestimate A Hungry Gopher.  Underground sound, though, does seem to keep them away.
  • Tomato Plants Needs A Lot of Full Sun.  Of course, but I didn't really get what "a lot of full sun" meant so we would up with tremendous tomato plants with no fruit!  We cut the offending shade-producing branches out of the way, but too late in the season for the fruit to mature on the vine.  
  • Make Do With What You Have.   Rather than lose out on  the promise of beautiful tomatoes, we picked the fruit when it was still green, but before it got too cold and kept them in paper bags on the counter in the kitchen.  They ripened slowly in the bags, but the result was garden-fresh tomatoes through October!  
So on to our 2013 plans.  First up is recognizing the need to organize my garden early this year.  

This year we're planting more green beans and tomatoes and adding red peppers, potatoes, and more kitchen herbs.  Who knows, we may even try carrots again.  I've also added two climbing rose bushes outside of the garden gate that I bought on the cheap at the end of the season last year.  The plan is to add an arbor for climbing that serves as the entrance to a small winding path, bringing you to the current garden gate.  Lots of work ahead for us.

We're also going to garden for the chickens!

We've gone chicken-crazy over here.  Well, at least the kids and I have.  Not so sure about my husband.  We're expecting our first chicks in May, but more on that later.

Perhaps the chickens might help with the weeding.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues have never been discovered."


Monday, September 10, 2012

Falling for Winter Veggies

Yes!  The weather cooled down a touch this weekend so we were back outside pulling weeds, clearing crops that have run their course, and planning for the fall, excited to try our hand at growing heirloom spinach, radish, and turnips.  We're going to try to grow carrots as well, but it may perhaps be a bit too late in the season to get anything out of them this year.

Since we're on the topic of "not getting anything out of them this year" I am disappointed by our lack of tomatoes in the garden this year.  We have four giant-sized plants (6 foot plus), with some flowers, but so far just ONE tomato has been plucked from the vine.  Yes, it is September, so things are not looking good.

For sure, planting location is one of the biggest problems -- too much shade.  So yesterday my husband, tired of hearing me lament the lack of bright red fruit on the vine, took out his chain saw and got to work.

My husband and a chain saw can be a frightening combination.  

He has been know to go a little overboard.  Midday yesterday, a sudden visitor to our yard would have been sure the weekends tornadoes in New York had hit our backyard -- or that a minor hurricane had come through.  Lots of branches were brought down meaning more sunlight for our garden.  We're hoping this will coax a few of these beautiful heirloom tomatoes off the vine before fall is truly upon us.

The pear tree also now has room to grow and won't have to work so hard stretching and bending to get to the sun.  Removing impediments to growth -- good stuff inside and outside the garden walls.

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you. 
 ~Maori Proverb

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Good For the Soul

Buckets of rain this weekend provided the weeds with an amazingly hospitable home in my garden. We spent the morning pulling them,  in quiet reverie, punctuated by questions from the wee ones about our plants, why weeds grow, where we'll put the chickens and such.  It was a wonderful morning despite the gray clouds.

Leaving space for the garden's intended plants to grow, I'm reminded of what my dad always told me when I quizzed him about the flowers in his gardens.  "A weed is anything that grows where you don't want it to," he would say.

Yup.  Like the mint that had taken over the garden.  I think it's a weed, but my husband felt otherwise having moved it to another location without plantings.  It's taking over there and he's happy it's doing so.  So it seems there is a place and space for everything.  It's nice to be reminded of that.

Looking forward to picking raspberries and putting up some preserves.  The nearly over-the-hill batch of strawberries in the fridge are calling to me.  I'm thinking fresh strawberry preserves and toast for breakfast...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tis the Season

Just realized that the other day was 5 months until Christmas.  Seriously.  Which got me thinking....I really need to enjoy my garden now while I can. The gifts of the bounty, such as they are.  Of course, the first string beans of our first harvest were nothing short of glorious.

Looking forward to biting into a delicious heirloom tomato soon....

And the chickens.  Yes, plans are in the making...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

High Anxiety

Here comes spring! Well, not yet, but it is getting closer and now that I have announced, in a very public way, my intention to build an herb garden out of a mound of dirt in my backyard, I'm getting a bit anxious. Holy what to plant, Batman!

I am ordering seeds today to start in my fantastic southern exposure window. My dad says anything can grow in a window like this. Ummm, not my experience thus far. (Not sure when The Grinch showed up!) Let's hope my green thumb just needs some outside sunshine and nice weather to fully blossom!

This spring in particular seems so full of possibilities. I hope I am right.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Seeds & Plants for Gourmet Gardeners

Received my first catalog this weekend and I am more excited about this than I thought I would be. (As comfortable as I am with all things web, I still like to sit with a cup of tea and thumb through a magazine or catalog. Computers, Kindles, Androids, etc. just don't provide the same satisfaction.) Anyway, lest I digress -- seed catalogs are here!

One thing I noticed is that it's easy to get distracted by the vibrant photographs of bright orange carrots and stunning asparagus plants, especially when they have exotic names like "Purple Passion," "Imperial Star," and "Napoli". I can just imagine the satisfaction of cooking an amazing array of photography-ready meals that, of course, taste as divine as they look. Reality? Not too sure about that -- I suggested to my husband today that perhaps we enroll in a cooking class. I'm thinking Italian Cooking as it seems like it would go well with herbs grown in our garden.

Sounds great (and perhaps fodder for another blog?!?!) but I think for this garden to ever see the light of day I must stay focused. Herbs. An herb garden. Nothing more, nothing less. A single garden that if all goes well can be the start of a set of garden plans that will remake my yard and summer table. That statement alone overwhelms me, one of the many reasons I have committed to starting simple.

Since Keeping it Simple is the mission I'm considering buying a pre-made collection of herbs to help streamline the what to plant conversation I'm having in my head. I came across one in this catalog that could work: The Cook's Garden Cupboard which includes favorites like basil, chives, and oregano. I think I'd like to add more to the plan -- including non-kitchen herbs that provide robust fragrance in the garden -- but a pre-selected pack may be a good start.

I'm working hard to stay focused on Spring. I'm impressed that the catalogs tagline says Seeds and Plants for Gourmet Gardeners. Even if it's just a tagline, it makes me happy to think of myself among that group. Can't wait for the rest of my catalogs!

Waiting for the future to see what it will bring. A few things, however, are certain -- Spring will arrive, time will march on, and the circle of life will continue. A miracle if ever there was one...