Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mid-Spring Update

I took a couple of days off to give myself a long weekend.  Even though the weather has been mostly awful, I'm enjoying it.   Saturday and Sunday we had lots of rain and thunderstorms.  Yesterday was supposed to be rainy, but it held off and I got out in the garden.   I thought I would show some of the changes in the last 10 days:

In just 10 days, the red potatoes have grown higher than the rim of their container- at least 15 inches!  I need to get something to fill the tub so the potatoes will develop there.   I have some bottomless containers I can put on top to get them to grow even higher. 

The sunflowers have been transplanted, and the new seedlings showing are Comfrey.   The 'empty' pot is onion sets to be used as scallions. 

As fast as some things have grown, I thought this lettuce would be bigger.  I used to hate having to thin seedlings - even though it's necessary - because it seemed like such a waste.  Now I give them to the chickens!   The chicken wire is reminding me that I should have finished the outside pen for the chickens and rabbits.  I didn't though, and it is raining again today.

This shot of  the garden plot looks the same as 10 days ago.  Not so!  I should have taken before and after photos.   It was nearly full of lush growth.  Yesterday I took most of the daffodils and Dutch Iris out.  We've had so much rain that I was able to pull them out rather than dig!  I have read that the number of earthworms in your soil is an indictor of it's health.  Well, mine is bursting with worms!  Even before this rain, every time I would sink a trowel into the earth it came up full of worms! I try to stay off the soil, but when I was pulling out some things yesterday, I had to step in, and sunk up to my ankle in fluffy soil, not mud.  I attribute it entirely to the bunny poo.  I have been throwing bucket after bucket on the garden since last fall, covering the whole thing inches thick.  The winter weather broke it down, and the worms are working it in for me.   I still have a lot of planting to do, but I've put dill and rosemary around the kale, and added chard, chervil and calendula. The lemon balm could be harvested already (can be harvested 3-4 times each season depending on conditions).

The little rooster went to his new home last Monday.  Dolley was very bonded to him, so she is sad, but growing quickly into a very pretty hen. She is already beginning to look like a ball of feathers, like the adults do, and oh-so-soft.  She has learned to "step up" too, but isn't as good at it as Abigail.  They get along OK, but aren't buddies, due to the pecking order.  Abigail is definitely at the top, but looking pretty pathetic right now - she's molting!  Sigh. If it's not one thing.......   I wonder if I will ever get any more eggs from her? 

Bunnies and kitties are doing well.  All eating and hanging out.  The French Angoras are busy growing coats for the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival.   Holly is looking pretty good right now.  I hope she hangs on to her coat for another 3 weeks.  Truffle and Niko could use some more growth.   I'm not sure if Ivy will go or not.   My good intentions for bringing fiber and yarn haven't panned out, although I may manage some.  I will mostly be promoting Angora rabbits as the ideal urban livestock!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dogwood Winter

Is what we're having here today.  The dogwoods began blooming this week, so on schedule, another cold front moved in.  We had 'Redbud Winter' a couple of weeks ago when those bloomed, and got some snow. Today is cold, windy, and supposed to be very rainy, but I've only seen one shower so far.  Actually, I don't mind this weather that much.  I've never been able to take the heat, and now that I've reached a 'certain age,' hot, sunny days do me in.   I have to garden in the morning or evening.   Anyway, I've read about other 'winters,' like Blackberry and 'Locust,' but those aren't talked about here much.

I've got some green at Wren Cottage Urban Farm:

On the left are several Sunflower seedlings.  At the top is my blueberry plant.  It has blooms!!  The variety is supposed to be self-fertile, so we'll see if I get blueberries this year.  On the right is the tub of red potatoes.   As the shoots grow, I will add soil or chopped straw (?) so I can pick potatoes instead of dig them. The white potatoes are up too, but not as much.  That tub is at the bottom of the deck stairs. 

The planter on the left shows the Borage plants well up.  The strawberries....not so much.  You can't tell here, but there are 5 plants with green leaves on them.   The smaller planter has 2 varieties of radish, and are loving this cool weather.   

This 'arial' view of the garden plot - taken from the deck, shows lots of green, but much of that will go after it blooms :(    I haven't done much there yet.  Planted some kale in the lower right, but haven't even gotten the onion sets in yet! 

I may have found a home for little whats-his-name.  Well, I can't call him 'Martha' anymore, and by not giving him a new name, I hope it's less difficult to give him up. A fellow at work was taken with my story about the chick liking to perch and ride on my arm.  He has a couple of chickens already, including one hen that is a real pet.  He said he has taken her to Lowe's and let her ride on the cart handle.  (that's why they make disinfectant wipes, people!)  He said the hen loved it, and  so did the folks in the store.   He is going to assess his room in the coop and let me know Monday.

I've been studying herbs this week.  I grow several kinds already - mostly culinary - but I wanted to see what uses some of the others have.  I have learned how to make alcohol tinctures, oil infusions, salves and lip balms.  Mountain Rose Herbs sells lots of things of course, including things that won't grow here, but they also have articles and how-to video links.   Its looks really easy, so I'm going to try making some things with my homegrown herbs. 

So it's off to do some errands - feed store for chicken and rabbit feed, some groceries, and the liquor store for 100 proof vodka....for herbal tinctures, silly!  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Uh - Oh............

Remember this cute little face?

Well, wishing didn't make it so, and this morning it became clear this little girl is a boy!!    I had heard a weird noise a few days ago, but this morning he must have really found his voice, and started bellowing R-R-r-r-Rrrrrrr!  Rooster it is!!  

I'm really sad, because this little one had such a cute personality.   I've already e-mailed the breeder, who said she just sold all the rest of her splash chicks, but if I want to wait a few weeks, I can bring him back and trade for a mottled, (black with white spots) since she will have a hatch ready to go then.   Of course she has no need for another splash rooster, since she already has one, and suggested if I could re-home him here............. 

So, would anyone like a Cochin bantam rooster on their farm?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Garden Planning

I've never really planned my garden before.   I just stuck veggies and herbs in the flower bed where I could find a spot.  As I 'walked the land' (snort) yesterday evening, to see what is coming up, it became obvious that what was once an English-style garden, still has too many large floral plants in it.   I thought through what could stay, and what needs to go.  

The red rose you see on the lerft has since died from the disease that is attacking florabundas
(see earlier post) 
Before you think my yard isn't all that small, consider that I am standing in the neighbor's yard to take this shot.   

The large rosebush has to stay.  Besides being spectacuIar in May, it's too big to move.  It also provides some valuable filtered shade in the afternoon to one area of the garden.   The dutch Iris will all come out, and what I can't find a place for will be transplanted to some of the 'common' areas here in the neighborhood.  The two peonies will stay.  They too are wonderful in Spring, and die back enough in the heat of summer that they aren't a factor. The last of my Lamb's Ear may have to go, because it spreads so much.   I planted it in one spot in the garden and it has come up everywhere but there since.  The daylilies will be thinned and dug up,  leaving one clump.  I can't completely eliminate "The Gentle Shepherd," - the name of the variety - can I?  After that some clean-up, hoiking out a few shoots I can no longer identify, and I should have room to grow all the veggies I can maintain, while still keeping the 'potager' feel.

The new baby chickies have been fun.  At this stage, their tiny cheeps and trills sound like songbirds.  Martha is a real character, although she's the smaller of ther two. Dolley's quieter, and very food motivated.  They are both eating like piglets - more than Abigail!  Abigail - stepping up like a pro now - is enjoying her nightly time perched by the window.   The babies like to perch on my arm too, but both at the same time. They are very attached to one another, and each tries to get under the other's wing when they are unsure about something.  The cats are over their curiosity, and ignore them.  The bunnies - Luna gave me a look like, 'you've got to be kidding,' the evening I brought them in, that was so funny I laughed out loud.  If she had an eyebrow, I promise you it was raised.    

I'm getting some grief at work (some of it not kidding) about my lifestyle, and being a 'hoarder,' but as long as I know what my motives are and I'm happy, I don't care what others think.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Emergency Supply giveaway!

Jump over to see Amy at Homestead Revival to see the link and giveaway she is featuring today.   For those of us who want to be prepared for the next weather event to shut down our power (water, fuel, etc.), but live in small spaces, this fits the bill!     

Sunday, April 3, 2011

For my Sister ......

Who, when she read that I was going to use a 'First Lady' theme to name any chickens I might acquire, said "You've got to name one Dolley!"

Meet Dolley -

And Martha! 

They are Cochin bantams. Dolley is Blue, and Martha is a Splash.  I picked them up from Wildwood Aviary today.  Thank you Twyla!  I am finding out that sexing chickens is not an exact science, especially at their age. Martha has quite the comb, but Twyla said she (?) is not developing wattles, moves and carries herself like a pullet, and she was pretty confident of her gender.  She was generous though, and said if 'Martha' turns out to be 'George,' she will make it right and let me come and pick out another pullet. Several of her other full-grown hens also have biggish combs, so we'll see how it turns out. She can definitely fly though!  When I was setting them up in a coop/cage, she flew out a couple of times.   She is also very chatty -and 'talked' to us most of the way home, with tiny little chirps and cheeps.

Unlike the sprightly Dolley Madison, this Dolley is the more laid-back of the two chicks.  I really wanted a blue, as I mentioned in an earlier post, but was only offered splash in our communication before today. So when we got there and the first one Twyla pulled out to to show me was blue, I was surprised, and not about to let it go!!  She was so sweet, and fell asleep in my hand.   The photo doesn't do her justice.  Even though both are in that gawky, awkward 'tween' stage, they are still very pretty birds. 

PBS did a docu-drama about Dolley Madison in March during their fundraiser, and it was quite good.   When I did an internet search about her, I found even more interesting things, including these:   

Dolley with her neice.

I've mentioned before that I like history, so please bear with me: 
I find it very remarkable that we have photographs of one of the principle people from the founding years of our nation.   They all have painted portraits, but photos, to see exactly what she looked like!   Dolley lived in virtual poverty in her later years.  Her rogue son from her first marriage used up or lost any money she had, until she literally had to sell the farm.  

Slaveowners, she did not free the slaves as was James' intent, but sold them - for the money.  Installed in a house in Washington owned by her brother-in-law, she finally sold her faithful manservant Paul Jennings, although she had already made out a will in which she promised him freedom.  He was purchased again six months later by Daniel Webster, and with Mr. Webster's encouragement, Paul would take her things from the Webster home - such as baskets of food - when he visited her.   He eventually bought his freedom from Mr. Webster, and wrote the very first memoir of life in the White House.  

The narrator of the documentary pointed out that in all the portraits and photos of her in later life, Dolley is wearing the same outfit - most certainly because it was her best, and the only good outfit she had.     I noticed that even in old age, she still had her determinedly black curls showing from beneath her turban. 

But - back to the chickies: 
So I have two new babies, and  couldn't be more pleased with them.  They will be quarantined in a different part of the house from Abigail for a few weeks, and then I will decide how to house them.   Delores and I were both surprised an how small an area they seemed to need, and were quite happy.  I hope these girls are happy here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Waiting, just waiting......

For Spring to truly come, although today is pretty nice - sunny, if cool and windy.   My radishes are coming up gangbusters, and I see germination on everything else I planted too, even with the snow we've had and a heavy, icy frost yesterday.  Only 3 out of a dozen of the strawberry plants show any sign of life.  I can't blame Walmart, where I bought them, because I bought at a long-established seed store last year, and got 0% growth. 

I got tired of Abigail moping around the coop, and doing nothing but sit in the nest box. She not broody anymore, because she will waddle out of the box with some enthusiasm if I throw down a handfull of scratch grain.  She adores scratch, but I will only give her a little every few days so as not to throw her balanced feed out of balance. 

I took her out of her coop and plopped her on the 4x4 inch carpeted pad on top of the cat's scratching post.  That livened her up!  She looked outside and cackled loudly.  Thinking she wanted out, I took her out on the deck, but it was cold and damp, and all she would do was crouch and shiver.  I put her on my lap and wrapped her up in my arms, and I think she would have stayed there until dark, just looking around. 

oooooooooh, what do you see, Abigail?   

I've been taking her out pretty regularly to roost and watch the outdoors and she seems to love it.  She makes those purr/chirp noises that seem to mean that.  Believe it or not, the 'step-up'  thing is not working out too badly.  Like all of my animals,  she hates being taken out of  her coop/cage, but if I put my arm in and tell her to step up (I usually have to help and tap her bottom a bit)  she will perch on my arm, come out without a fuss, and is content to ride on my  arm like a parrot.
Abigail and her buddy (?) Ciaran sitting on their respective perches.  Notice how she has confiscated the big round cat tower top, and left him the 4x4 pad!   She doesn't really trust the cats, and I don't blame her.  They've never tried anything with her, but I'm always at arm's length when she is out. 

Her feathers aren't ruffled - she must have some 'frizzle' in her background , because she has some of each kind of feather.

Watching the world go by........

All this pampering hasn't caused her to start laying again (I think she's a young bird?) and tomorrow I'm going to go get her a friend or two.  Due to quarantine she won't get to meet them for a while.  I'm hoping she will be happier in a 'flock."  I'm working on a chicken tractor/playpen that will serve both the birds and the buns.  I've got one panel done (you can see it outside the door) but I'm waiting for warm weather to finish it.