Monday, May 31, 2010

Sunny sunny days

It has been a gorgeous sunny weekend! I got quite a bit of yard work done and did a little harvesting from the garden. The potatoes had all pretty well given up the ghost so I pulled them up and found about 2 pounds of potatoes down in the soil - added to the pound I already dug up and I have to say I think I did pretty well for just 8 plants. I think if I plant some again at the end of the summer I might be able to get a second harvest so they will go on my "try again in the fall" list. :) I also got another huge number of tomatillos - so tonight for dinner the kids and I had some salsa and oven fries courtesy of the garden to go with our dinner.

Soon it looks like I will start getting cucumbers, tomatoes and plums too! The plums are starting to turn a nice rosy color - I am betting I will have a few ready to pick in the next day or so. I am HOPING that next weekend I have enough that I can make some plum jam! I also have some eggplant starting to form and lots of flowers on the yellow squash. I wonder if I could get the kids to eat stuffed squash blossoms? Hmmmm - maybe I will try it later this week if the flowers keep coming at the rate they are now. I did get my daughter to try some sauteed yellow crookneck squash and she liked it - so that is a good addition to the growing list of veggies she enjoys. My son didn't try them - but I am hoping next time I can get him to give them a try.

I finally got some plants into the small raised bed on the corner of my patio and also potted some citronella plants and put them on my back patio. I am hoping I can keep the mosquitoes away from the patio so the kids and I can enjoy it this summer and not get chewed to bits. Even if they don't work 100% - I think they look nice - so the patio is ready for summer.

The chicks are all doing well - with the exception of the Barred Plymouth Rock that was my son's specially chosen chick. She keeps getting "pasty butt" - which means she gets poop stuck in the feathers around her bottom and can't go to the bathroom. So I have been carefully washing her feathers off about once a day hoping to help her get past it - but it has me a little worried. My son will be really upset if she doesn't make it. Other than the pasty butt issue she seems fine - eating and drinking and pecking around in the shavings - so I am hopeful that she will be fine.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New little peepers!

Our new (and final) set of chicks arrived today! It was a sad start because when we opened the box, two were dead. I think the box might have been a little too big for so few chicks, but whatever the reason, they did not make it. One was a Silkie and the other was an Easter Egger - luckily one Silkie survived. She is pictured to the left - unlike most chickens, Silkies have 5 toes instead of 4, they have black bones, skin and meat, and their "feathers" look more like long fluffy fur. They are a bantam sized chicken so they will be about half the size of a regular chicken which means eggs that are quite small - about twice the size of a quail egg if I understand correctly. I desperately wanted one - and so did my daughter - so I am so relieved that one of the two survived the trip.

We also had special ordered a bantam sized Barred Plymouth Rock - that is the kind my son wanted. I am happy to report that she also survived the trip - her name is Athena. My son loves mythology and decided Athena would be a good name - I have to say it is a pretty lofty name for a chicken, but perhaps she will live up to it ;)

The other two girls that survived the trip are two more Easter Eggers. They were originally ordered for my mom, but she has had a lot of medical issues this year and decided she cannot take them. Luckily I have a friend whose parent's have decided they would like them - so when they are big enough they will move to a new home. But for now they are in the brooder with Athena and the yet to be named Silkie. My daughter is very concerned with getting exactly the right name for such a special chicken. Originally she was going to go with Lilly which is her favorite name for all things, but she also likes Fluffers and Marshmallow - so she is still weighing the options. The Easter Eggers are also missing names - but we will work on those next. Oliver has already resumed his normal post on the back of the couch watching the chicks. He is very interested in them but seems to remember they are off limits - but I am still keeping a close eye on him just to be safe!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Let the harvest begin

After what seems like weeks in the house and away from home, I spent most of the weekend working in the yard and I am so happy. It looks so much better! The Butterfly Bush is starting to bloom and both bushes have really grown a lot and filled in and I think they are going to be gorgeous this year when they are in full bloom.

I also got some new plants in around the mail box - last year I have annuals that burned up - so I went with some perennials this year - Bee Balm and some purple salvia - the tags say deer won't eat them and at my house only the plants at the street edge are usually in danger of being munched - so I am hopeful they will leave the new plants alone. I also have a Satsuma Mandarin in front that nearly burned up last summer and ultimately froze to death over the winter - so I replaced that with a self-pollinating nectarine which should have pretty pink flowers in the spring and of course the added benefit of fruit for the kids and I. It doesn't get a huge amount of sun where I had to put it - so it may not have much fruit but we will hope for the best.

It was also a good weekend for starting the harvest in my garden! I got enough tomatillos along with a handful of cilantro and a tiny red onion that I was able to make some salsa just adding a few store bought tomatoes. My tomatoes are just starting to turn red and I think in another week or two I am going to be overloaded with them - which means canning season will begin! I was a little bummed today because some of my potatoes had turned yellow and looked dead so I went to pull them out and was happy to find a handful of potatoes! The brownish looking things in the picture with the potatoes are from my "Chocolate Cherry" tomato. They are not pretty but the taste ok - although I have to say as tomatoes go they aren't the best so I will skip those next year.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Free rangin'

Well, it has been much too long since I have gotten out in the yard and the grass needs mowing and the pecan flowers(?) need to be raked up - but there was no time for that today. But I got out long enough this afternoon to let the girls out to see how they would do "free-ranging" in the yard. It took them some time to build up their courage enough to come out and when they did they didn't go far from the door. They haven't figured out their way around much yet so when one wandered in and the others were outside there was quite a bit of anxiety caused by the separation but eventually they figured it out. I think I will have to keep an eye on them as they get braver and go farther into the yard because it only took them about 5 minutes to mow down the bean plant that was growing by the corner of the coop. It was a Lima bean plant that my daughter planted at school and since I don't like Lima beans at all I have no sadness over the girls munching away on it. Besides - greens are good for them :)

I still need to plant something in the bed at the far end of the coop. I am wondering what I can plan that might stand a chance of survival pitted against the four of them and I am thinking not much! But maybe if I rig up some kind of wire cover to protect seedlings they could graze on the green bits that come through the wire. I definitely need to put up a barrier so when they get brave enough to cross the driveway they don't eat up my whole garden.

It was fun to see them out - I think they enjoyed pucking at bugs and seeds - but they didn't go near the big fuzzy caterpillar that went right by them. Guess the fuzzy ones aren't a flavor they like :)

The new chicks come next week - hopefully Wednesday so I will post new pics then and with luck and weather on my side maybe I can even get my yard cleaned up enough for a few more pics and updates. I have empty spaces in the garden and I am feeling the need to plant more ... but the question is more of what?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Everything is growing...

The chickens are still getting bigger - and the gardens are growing too. Unfortunately while on a business trip the temperatures went up and the broccoli bloomed so I had to pull it all up and throw it in the composter. The brussel sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower all followed suit - right into the composter. I have to say its a little disappointing that none of those plants produced anything - but if I look at the bright side at least I now know that I need to plant those crops in the fall - not in the spring. Lesson learned.

The cucumbers are starting to work their way up the trellis, the second planting of pole beans (center in this picture) are starting to grow, the fennel is starting to form small bulbs (in front of the pole beans) and the carrots are about 6 inches tall. I am so anxious to actually be able to harvest something it is killing me! We have picked a few snow peas but I really didn't plant enough so the kids are mostly just eating them as garden snacks. I also learned that next year I should probably plant a whole row of them and that I need a taller support structure for them than I tried this year. This garden expansion has no end to learning opportunities :)

So to reintroduce the girls - in front in this picture is Pouf - I think she is a she after all! The "blond" in the middle is Milkshake - you can really see the ruff around her chin in this pic. Amelia is peeking over Milkshake's back - her face is a dark gray and she has a really pronounced ruff that looks like a beard. Maybe Lincoln would have been a better name :) Cadbury is in the back - her feathers are silver in the center with a dark edge around each one. She seems to be the smartest of the four and is usually the first to explore a new treat. Tonight they got horned worms out of the garden - I plucked the little destroyers off the tomatoes and tossed them in the coop. The girls tore into them - a little gross perhaps - but as a friend at work said - it is good revenge!
I hope to get more progress on fences and other things to finish up the yard - but with summer setting in and vacations coming around things may have to go slowly for awhile.