Garden 2011

I should probably be required to write:

I am a bad blogger. I am a bad blogger. I am a bad blogger. I am a bad blogger….

(you get the idea)

At least 100 times on the blackboard.

Sigh.

Funny how completely working and just accomplishing those basic activities of daily living still leave me completely incapacitated at the end of the day.

I makes me REALLY look forward to the day when it won’t be that way. Please, dear Lord, let there be that day one day soon!

Tonight – after dinner, John and I walked out to the garden to see how things are progressing. The remainder of those post is going to pretty much be photos with a few comments.

Enjoy our garden.

We sure are!

…..

The hydrangea is finally in bloom! In August, for heaven’s sake! I love that it blooms right outside the kitchen window.

Here’s a peek at the “new” garden – this is the plot we put in a few years ago and is adjacent to the “old” garden.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that my Romanesco Zucchini is finally putting out fruit! HOORAY! These plants were grown from seed saved from last year’s planting. I love it when a plan comes together!

TONS of grey zucchini blooms coming on the plant.

And with John’s brilliant new fencing job around both garden plots – it looks like we’ll actually get to eat the green beans this year – instead of the chickens and the deer! I can’t tell you how much that thrill my heart. J

John found a volunteer trio of sunflower plants in the pathway between the two garden plots, dug ’em up and planted them next to one of the cucumber trellises – it’s about to bloom – I can’t wait!

Look! Pickling cucumbers actually usable size! Hooray!

…and the first burpless cuke – just about ready for picking.

The lemon cucumber has lots and lots of blossoms – just no cukes yet. (They make the best Cucumber and Green Onion Salad. I can’t wait!)

Tomato plants…. Lots and lots of tomato plants…

Cherry tomatoes! Now all we need is enough sun to get them ripened up!

Look! It’s blushing!

Jessica – just in case you read this – there will be fresh green beans when you’re home – AND – squash. J

Can you believe this? I’ve still got lettuce in August!

The peppers are ripening up.

And the potato plants in the potato condo are at least 6 feet tall!

Yes, it’s true – there are actually still a few pea pods to be had.

And…

:sigh:

They’re back…

Did I mention that I’ve got 50 tomato plants planted in my gardens? And – oh – probably that same number of basil plants, too?

Squash and zucchini. Be still my heart.

Holding out hope for lots more sunny days – even if they’re on the cool-ish side, I’m okay with that.

Here’s to another 60 days of summer! J

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Squash Pie

As I’ve mentioned before, my great-grandmother – referred to as GG – was a pretty amazing cook and baker. I love it that I’ve found most of her recipes that have been passed down. Today, when I was thumbing through them I stumbled across one I’m pretty sure I’ve never noticed before.

Squash Pie

I actually laughed out loud. I thought, “Is this a joke?”

I mean – who ever heard of Squash Pie?

Right?

Not me.

You’d think they’d have covered that in baking school – for historicity if nothing else!

But nope – this one is totally new for me.

And just because it’s unique.

And old.

And it’s that time of year when folks have squash nearly coming out their ears.

And in my GG’s own hand, I want to share it with you.

Like most of her recipes – there’s no verbosity going on here. What you see is what you get. Do with it what you will!

GG’s Squash Pie

Ingredients
1 Unbaked pie crust
2 cups Squash, cooked, strained
3/4 cups Granulated or brown sugar
2 cups Heavy whipping cream
3 large Eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Mixed spices
  1. Mix the above and fill pie crust.
  2. Bake.

Notes:

This is one of my Great-Grandmother’s recipes.

Seriously – that’s all she wrote!

Obviously – she knew what she used to do and just jotted down some basic info. For the less accustomed to what was the norm of her day – I’m gonna give a whirl at what I think was supposed to be conveyed here.

I would bake off that pie crust. Here’s how:

  • To avoid a soggy, still-raw bottom crust, bake the crust before pouring in the filling.
  • Line the pie crust with aluminum foil or parchment paper and enough dry beans, rice or pie weights to come most of the way up the sides.
  • Bake at 450 F until the edges are lightly browned and the walls of the crust have lost their raw look, from 8 to 12 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the crust. 
  • Remove the pie shell from the oven, and carefully remove the paper or foil full of beans. 
  • Prick with fork to avoid air bubbles. 
  • Use an egg wash to create a seal: lightly beat an egg with a tablespoon of cold water or milk, and brush the sides and bottom of the crust with the egg wash.
  • Return the crust to the oven and bake an additional two to three minutes, until the egg wash is dry and golden.

A nice insider tip is that custard-y type pies often turn out a bit better (and less weepy) if the custard is made the night before and allowed to set – covered – in the refrigerator. With a squash flavor at play here, I’m thinking I’d skip that idea!

Using the whip attachment on my mixer, I’d start by mixing that squash until it was a fine puree. Still debating whether or not to peel those squash before cooking or not – but I think I would. It’s the whole color thing… I guess that’s a personal call kinda thing. Next, I’d add the sugar and beat it until the sugar as dissolved. Next, add the eggs, beating until they are well incorporated.

About those spices… I’d throw in some cinnamon, nutmeg, and maybe a little allspice. But honestly – you could go wild here, couldn’t you? Add the spices and the salt.

Then, gradually add the heavy whipping cream. The idea here is to let it build some body – incorporating air as you go.

When everything is all together, pour the custard mixture into the pie shell. An option? Try adding a layer of cookie crumbs in the bottom of the pre-baked crust – it adds delicious flavor–and the crumbs can also absorb extra moisture in the finished pie.

Bake at 375 F for about 40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

You may well need to protect the pie crust edges from becoming too browned with a pie crust shield. (There are some nice silicone ones out on the market now.)

Finishing: There are a few options. You could add some marshmallows to the top in the last half of the baking time. Or top it with some whipping cream – adding a bit of almond extract or vanilla extract to give it some depth of flavor.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden?!

[Weed infested excuse for a garden!]

What garden?

Ohhhh… yeah. We did plant a garden this year, didn’t we?

A garden we had high hopes for, in fact.

[One of our most prolific items in the garden this year – thistles! They abound!]

Yeah… sad, sad story.

We’re still kinda pondering the turn of events – the outcomes, as they are at present. Trying to figure out, “What went wrong?!”

There have been factors to consider…

…weather – truly horrible garden weather.

…deer – we’ve fenced in a fairly complex manner – I’m amazed they can still get in!

…soil quality – we’ve begun to feel that this may be our biggest issue at hand.

[Can you believe this is all the corn that’s survived?! So much for knee high by the 4th of July!]

In years past we’ve begun dealing with the soil as soon as the summer’s harvest has been completed. We layer fallen leaves, grass clippings, compost, and organic matter all on the garden plot(s). The past several years the girls have done an amazing job of tilling in all of those things – leaving us with a beautiful soil consistency and composition.

The past two years – at the conclusion of a full year of deep litter coop management – we’ve transferred the deep litter to the garden plots. Last year we did so in January. This year, in April. (It was a crazy year – what can we say?!) Both years the girls did a lovely job of tilling the litter into the soil.

[We will likely refer to this as the year of the green bean – those, we can grow! This is green bean plot number 3.]

We usually till the soil anywhere between 3 and 6 times before we get our garden planted each year. After we’ve got either seedlings in the ground, or items that have been direct seeded have sprouted and grown sufficiently, we go to the next step.

That step involves putting down a layer of DE (Diatomaceous Earth); a layer of newspaper or brown craft paper (i.e., brown grocery bags) – making sure to tear the paper so that the base of the plant is not too smothered; then we put down soaker hoses; and finally, we typically purchase a load of organic compost from the local lumber company, and spread several inches worth over the garden plots. These steps do a number of things: help with pest control, build up the soil quality, reduce the amount we need to water, and help with weed control.

[Two types of green beans here – the ones on the left are Blue Lake Pole beans. On the right, the asparagus beans I was SO excited to try. Yeah… not so impressive, are they?]

[Asparagus green beans.]

[Blue Lake Pole green beans. Planted the same day. Draw your own conclusions!]

It’s a great system – and has worked beautifully.

This year we had some twists in the plot, though. With my illness and prolonged recovery, and the resultant financial strains that accompanied it – we couldn’t afford to bring in the compost; the time I’ve been able to devote actually in the garden has been curtailed due to greatly compromised stamina (not to mention having to work away from the home, as well); and our soaker hoses are pretty much toasted, and we just can’t afford to replace them at this point in time.

[Apparently, I am still able to grow a decent plot of basil, at least! Phew! I was starting to feel a little paranoid!]

The weather has also played a part – and not just in regard to the fact that things got in the ground a solid month later than is typical for us. One of the things that we’ve heard from some old timers is that the very heavy rains we experienced in the Spring could well have washed vital nutrients from the soil.

[Pretty much NONE of the 20 cucumber plants made it. This is a store bought that we broke down and put in the ground when it became apparent that the others weren’t gonna make it. And yes, that’s a straggler at the bottom of the picture…. 6 weeks later!]

Compound that with the fact that our deep litter method in the coop uses wood shavings (but no cedar – which has a known growth inhibitor in it) – well, we’ve begun to suspect that our soil may well just be really, really wacked out.

Cases in point:

  1. We couldn’t even get marigolds to grow!
  2. Zucchini wouldn’t sprout.
  3. Cucumbers wouldn’t move past seedling stage.
  4. Tomatoes – which normally go crazy wild here – have struggled merely to survive. The majority of them have died off. By now, most of them are as tall as I am. They most vigorous ones are merely knee high.
  5. Virtually all of the flower seed that I planted simply did NOTHING. We’ve always had wild success with flower seed!

Needless to say, it’s been pretty discouraging.

[Okay, we may amend it to be called the year of the green bean AND the potato condo! The potatoes are doing nicely.]

For a number of reasons, of course. First – the financial loss. About the last thing we need right now with all of the medical bills and the fact that I’m still in the recovery mode! Second – so much hard work – down the drain. Ugh! Third – we’re scrapping our plans for a fall garden now – if the soil is bad, why even go there?

[Volunteer lobelia… Which is pretty wild, ’cause I haven’t put any in this garden plot, and the one I did put it in, it’s been 3 years since there was any there!]

The plan right now is to see if we can’t get the soil tested. There used to be an extension office in our little community, we’re going to investigate and see if they’re still there and ask how much it will cost.

[Stinking deer grazed right through my lettuce patch!]

We’ve been working hard at getting the battle with the horrible, invasive weed problem won. We’re about 65% of the way there. Once it’s all weeded, we’ll fertilize with fish emulsion, water well, put down the paper, and then mulch with straw. We gave up the newspaper in our cost-cutting measures, so I’ll put a “want” out on Freecycle to see if we can’t get our hands on some. We have the straw on hand, and it’s what we can afford right now.

[Yes, an actual tomato blossom. There may still be some hope for a few tomatoes from this garden. Certainly won’t be the bounty of years past!]

And a dear friend and neighbor has a connection to a farm that will not only will give away manure (as in FREE), but they will also load it for you. Said dear friend and neighbor has also volunteered the use of his truck for said venture – a huge blessing! We will plan to take advantage of this wonderful offer in the fall – giving the manure plenty of time to age and compost down.

[Only one out of 30 of my hard-fought for Romanesco Zucchini seeds germinated and made it past seedling stage. I could weep!]

And – depending on the results of a soil test (I’m really hoping this is an affordable thing!), we’ll plan on growing an appropriate winter cover crop(s) in answer to whatever our soil might need.

Accordingly – the plans we’d made for the yields from our planned for garden have been amended.

The few tomatoes we are lucky enough to harvest will likely go for immediate consumption. If we’re fortunate enough to have some excess, I will can tomato sauce or diced tomatoes.

[The dill has actually done fairly well – at least in comparison to lots of other stuff!]

The dreams I had of pickling all sorts of bread and butter pickles, dill pickles, and dill pickle relish – not going to happen unless we find a good deal at a u-pick somewhere nearby. At least there will be a few slicing cucumbers available for munching on!

[A few struggling squash plants…]

But that’s life, right?

When things don’t necessarily go as well as you’d experienced in the past, or hoped for for the future – you analyze, you prayerfully consider, you seek wise counsel, and you go forward with a new plan.

I will say – one thing that we have oodles of is…. (drum roll please…)

…luscious blackberries!

I ate the first truly ripe and perfect one today.

I’m thinking I may get to harvest the first batch tomorrow, and I’ll probably make syrup with it. Or… if there are enough, maybe a batch of jam!

Such is life.

We’ll move forward.

And count the blessings for exactly what they are – gifts from the hand of our Mighty and Faithful God!

A Rare Day Off…

I had to go back to work at the end of May – after 4 months off for medical leave.

I’ve had few days off – although I have been fortunate enough to be able to work first half-time, and most recently, about 3/4ths of a typical work day.

On an average day I’m at work by 7 am, get home by 1:15 pm – and pretty much crash. Getting over this lengthy illness will take a concerted effort and quite a bit of patience! It’s been pretty frustrating not being able to accomplish the many things that I feel I ought to accomplish.

Over the course of the last week – after a substantial delay due to the very cool, very wet Spring we’ve had – our garden has begun to take some shape.

HOORAY!

Here – let me show you what we’ve got put together so far…

This is the “old” garden. I.e., the original garden plot that’s been here since we moved her 5 years ago.

In the foreground are three rows of squash… they are yellow crookneck (my very favorite in the whole entire world), and Mexican squash – sometimes also seen as grey zucchini. The Mexican squash is a new variety for us – I buy it sometimes at the store, but it’s expensive, and not reliably available. So I decided we oughta grow some!

Next, is a row of dill. I’m relying on it to be wildly successful – I have big pickling plans this year!

There’s a reserved space next (i.e., empty) – right before that trellis. It’s for the trellis that is currently being used for peas. When the peas are done, the trellis will move here, and we’ll get another planting of green beans in. And the trellis that you see here:

On the left side are the old standard – Blue Lake pole beans.

On the right – another fun new option:

In the right growing conditions, these beans can grow up to 36″ long! WOW! The rumor is that they’re fabulous, too. I hope to find out. That would mean, of course, that we NOT the deer get to eat the green beans this year!

To that end, I’ve planted lots of flowers that are supposed to be deer deterrents. Like:

My goal is to edge each plot with plantings that the deer are said to be particularly repulsed by. They include: astilbe, coreopsis, gallardia, chives, lavender, sage (quite a number of varieites), purple coneflower, candy tuft, and bee balm. Here’s hoping it works!

After the green bean trellis are five hills of another new to us planting – Romanesco Zucchini. I think this is the variety of squash that I enjoy so much when I’m in Spain – or at least something very similar to it. I heard so many raves about it – and it was SO difficult to obtain the seed. I’m really hoping for success with this one!

And lastly in the old garden – four or five rows of corn – I can’t remember how many now. We’ll see when it comes up! 🙂

In the “new” garden plot we’ve got…

A potato condo with both Red Pontiacs and White Kennebecs. Here’s to a more successful potato year than last year!

Cucumbers! The trellis on the left has pickling cucumbers. The trellis on the right has slicing cucumbers.

In the foreground you may be able to discern a hill – there are actually 3 (I forgot to get a shot of them!) – one of a variety similar to cantaloupe that we’ve enjoyed in Spain, another an heirloom cantaloupe, and then an heirloom watermelon.

We’ve got forty tomato plants in the ground. A few aren’t looking so great. Gosh – they could sure use a few solid days of genuinely summer weather! They are all – of course – heirloom varieties: Paul Robeson, Copia, TC Jones, Grammy Cantrell German Red, Moon Glow, Dr. Wyches, Grace Lahman’s Pink, Roman Candle, Weeping Charlie Roma, Amish Paste, Isis Candy Cherry, Dr. Carolyn Cherry, and Tess Land Race Currant Cherry.

Separating the two banks of tomato trellises is a row of basil plants. I have some serious pesto plans for those basil plants!

Also in the new garden is my weed-infested patch of cabbages…

As well as my weed-infested patch of peas – which have pea pods on them now!!! Woo Hoo!!!

Aren’t they beautiful?

You may recall this entire plot was completely weed infested – as recently as just a week ago! We decided to just till it all under and start over again – sadly, saying goodbye to the spinach and green onions that had limped along thus far. I need to get out there and weed this little corner – and soon! – but only as energy allows.

Also in this plot are…

Parsley…

Cilantro…

Beets…

…and marigolds.

So far.

We will fill up nearly every spare inch we can.

I still need to get lettuce planted, a new planting of spinach, and a new planting of green onions in, as well. I put those under the trellises – it works out nicely.

John also got two more beds tilled tonight.

The front bed – along the street – will have pumpkins and lots and lots of perennial seeds that I’ve saved up and need to get in the ground!

And a bed where we’ve had great success with green beans in the past, will play host to green beans once again! John will get the trellising up in the next day or two, and then it will get planted. And then immediately thereafter – fenced! One MUST protect the garden from the chickens!

And speaking of chickens…

Buffy and three of the babies… the fourth (the Dominique) is always trailing behind somewhere!

One of the little black sex link chicks. Isn’t she pretty?

And – one of the EIGHT mostly naked chickens I have on my hands right now:

I don’t know if it’s the weather being so cool and yucky that’s caused so many of them to decide to molt all at the same time – or what! But there are feathers EVERYWHERE! Poor things – they look kinda pathetic! At least it’s not as cold as when Crayon molted last year! But has sure put a damper on egg production!

So – while I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped to on this lovely day off, I’m thankful for every moment I got to spend here at home with the kids and in the garden, and out with the girls. I even threw together a new fun salad, that I’ll post about later this week. I think it’s going to be a keeper!

Oooh! And – Shelly‘s broody again! I think I’m picking up fertile eggs for her to set in the next day or two. More on that as details are available!

I love this time of year…


I was laying down on the couch-y piece of lawn furniture in the yard this afternoon and looked up and saw this pretty cloud formation. It was about 85° F, there was a bit of a breeze, and it was lovely.

Here’s Crayon checking out the new digs. She – along with the rest of the girls – are trying to figure out the new set up. John built new roosts – so that everyone is at the same height when they sleep. It’s really throwing them for a loop – you should hear them squawk when it’s bed time.

See? It’s cool, huh?

Of course, at the end down there – right before the fan, you take a left into the old part of the coop, where the nest boxes are. There will be additional nest boxes soon – John’s working on them. They’ll be to the right – between the door frame closest to us in the picture and the beginning of that roost.

Are those not the cutest little feet? Isn’t it the cutest little butt? And look! Wing feathers! The chicks are going to be 2 weeks old on Monday. There seriously is nothing more precious than watching these three little adoptees follow their Mama Shelly all through the yard each and every day. She clucks when she finds something yummy for them to eat. She’s teaching them that I am the queen of the world because I bring fun snacks. I love it that they are excited to see me! We are SO doing the letting the broody hen set on fertilized eggs again thing!

There have been lots of visiting kids here the past couple of weeks. My neice and nephew have been visiting off and on over the summer thus far – although they’re returning home on Tuesday. I’m going to miss them so! And my best friend – who lives in Mexico with her husband and children – spends the summers here with her parents, who live right down the street from us and go to the same church that we do. So Pepper has been on recipient of oodles of love overload all week long. I think she’s had more kids throwing balls for her to chase the past two weeks than she has in the entirety of her life. She’s really been sleeping well at night!

 

Here’s one of the Blue Andalusians. I think they’re just beautiful. They are great foragers – and so GREAT for a backyard flock that gets to free range. They’re quiet, polite, and are reputed to be excellent layers – of white eggs! Go figure!

Here’s one of the Delawares in the garden – eating weeds. I love it when they eat weeds – and remember to leave my cucumbers alone! Isn’t she pretty? She’s got black tips on her tail feathers, too. Interestingly enough, the Delawares lay brown eggs!

John and I were lamenting tonight about the sad state of affairs the garden is in this year. Well, I did have a major orthopedic surgery – so I’m almost no help. I can weed some – but as you can see here – not nearly enough! Here a couple of the Speckled Sussex are helping me with weeding. Those are lima and bush beans behind them.

But when it comes right down to it – we’re doing the best we can – and were just so thankful that we have a garden to grow things in!

Look – lots of cucumber flowers – woo hoo!

When this cucumber grows up – it’s going to be in my next batch of Creamy Cucumber Salad!

Here’s Caleb – without a nose. When I was out weeding in the garden tonight he HAD to get close – and as I was trying to take his picture he turned away! Stinker!

OH! And look what we have! I actually ate one tonight – and it was perfectly ripe, sweet, luscious, and perfect. It was the ONLY ONE that was ripe, though. That’s okay – I need the week that it will take them to ripen up to get some projects done before I jump in and start canning jams and jellies.

This is our first year to do corn in AGES. We just really hadn’t had success previously. But with the expanded garden plot we decided to try again. It’s actually about as tall as John – and has put tassels on. I love that! That means there will be corn!

The green beans are coming along nicely. Thus far – no deer have obliterated them. I’ve got a couple of tomato plants that have bites out of them – but so far, they’re leaving the green beans alone.

And if this isn’t cause for rejoicing, then I just don’t know what is!

 

I love these tomatoes – even with the couple of little chicken peck marks in them. They’re a green stripey tomato. I think they’re going to be similar to the ones I eat in Spain – I sure hope so. If so – then it’ll be tomato mush for me!

This really has been the weirdest tomato year we’ve had in a long time. Some of the plants are thriving. Some have set fruit literally at the GROUND – what’s with that? Others are just looking like late bloomers – big time. Virtually every plant has some fruit on it – but man, not the bounty we had last year. Of course, it’s still early…

One of the blogs I’ve read in the past – The Shibaguyz – have constructed potato condos. John decided to give the design a go this year. You build this frame, put the soil in the bottom, add your seed potatoes, and then when the potatoes have come up about a foot or so, you add the next row of boards all around, adding more soil. Again, you wait until more growth, and repeat the process. They say you can harvest 100 pounds of potatoes from one Condo. When it’s time to harvest, you unscrew the bottom row of boards, pull the soil out, and there will be your potatoes! Cool, huh?

Here’s a good peek at the expanded garden plot. See all of the blank space? Yep – it’s the stuff we just haven’t gotten around to planting this year. It’s so bizarre. But, oh well!

Here are my sunflowers (three different varieties, if memory serves), nasturtiums, and poppies that are coming up in the little bed along the street. Please ignore all of the weeds that are coming up along side of them. One day I’ll make it there – just not today, or likely this week.

William was so proud of himself – he caught one of the Delawares!

The hammock my sister sent from Mexico back with Jonathan last year has gotten a real workout the past couple of weeks. The kids swing each other about halfway up the pear tree that it’s tied to. I just don’t watch. They have a great time, though!

So – that’s pretty much what’s going on in the yard!

We’re loving summer – and the beautiful evenings that we can sit out and enjoy the cool breezes and the company of friends and family.

We are blessed.

The Garden, the Flock, et al…

Ever have one of those – well, months! – that just seem to whiz by? I’ve been taking pictures every few days with the sincere intent of updating on the chicks, the big girls, the garden, etc.

Today ends my procrastination! Today I update! (Okay, so technically, it’s tonight now. So sue me!)

The Garden

John has been sick. I’m still recovering from my ankle surgery. Honestly? We’re behind. We’d hoped to get newspaper or brown paper bags down, and then compost or bark mulch on top – but illness, finances, and nuttiness of life took over and it just hasn’t happened yet. That changed today!

A load of compost was delivered – hooray! Yes, this means lots of manual labor on my end, but that will be good for me. I’m just trying to decide how I’m going to keep the stuff out of my cast!

It’s so great to see the corn coming up! And it’s really doing well! We’ve not had much luck with corn in the past, so this is exciting! We’ll try and get it thinned this weekend, and get it mulched.

 John planted two types of pole green beans – the ones in this picture are flourishing – particularly in comparison to the second variety – which seems to be a bit slow and lacking in oomph. I’m hoping a little time will remedy that. I’m determined that WE will eat the green beans this year – NOT the deer!

We were able to actually can some of the green beans from last year – but we ran out quite some time ago – so way not enough! It’s such a bummer when you have to go back to the store bought stuff.

We have actual squash hills now. The plants look so beautiful and healthy – hallelujah! There will be squash soon! I love that so much. Funny how I’ve been missing Mom and Grandma so much this year – the wait for the yellow crookneck squash definitely reminds me of them! J

I’ve done a horrible job of planting flower seed this year. Well, I did get some Cosmos in next to the corn – it’s coming up nicely. And the sunflower, nasturtium, and Shirley poppy in the front bed. It’s nice that the sunflowers are coming along so heartily!

As I’m sure you’ve been able to ascertain from these photos – I haven’t been doing much weeding. I’m a bad gardener! I think that’s part of the reason I’m so excited about the compost delivery today – it’s amazing what a nice layer of mulch can do for a weed problem! Just throw down a layer of saved paper grocery bags, put the compost on top – and voila! No more weeds! You better believe I’ll be out there soon getting that plan into motion!

The Flock

 

 

Remember the Chicken Vortex? First Hallie went missing. Then two of the babies – both Delawares. About a week ago, as I was driving by one of our chicken-owning neighbor’s place, I caught a glimpse of a beautiful Rhode Island Red. “Could it be?” thought I. I promptly determined to bring one of my missing chicken fliers to said neighbor. Later that afternoon William and I did just that, and the neighbor took us to their coop – and said, “Nope. Just our regular group of girls.” She *did* sort of look like Hallie. I wasn’t sure! It was one of those moments when I thought – why haven’t we banded our girls?!

For two nights our babies were missing. Friday we had a family BBQ that we planned to attend. John stayed home – still in the throes of his flu. About halfway into the evening I got a text from him saying, “One of the Delawares is home!”

 We don’t know where she was for 2 nights – but we were thrilled she decided to and found her way home!

 Sunday afternoon as the boys were putting the trash out for collection the next morning Jonathan said, “Doesn’t it smell like there’s something dead over here?” We nosed about but couldn’t find the source. The cats are always finding mice and the likes and playing with them to death – sometimes leaving the partial remains when they’re bored. But couldn’t find anything like that. Yesterday afternoon my cousin Bob and her children were over to play. Her daughter Ari and Karina (my niece who is staying with me this week) were playing hide and seek in the yard when they came in yelling “There’s a dead chicken under the tree!!!” Yes, there certainly was. Poor Hallie. She’d obviously been there for some time. We looked there! But she was quite dark, and it is in a cluster of ground-hugging cedars – and well – we missed her. So – the Chicken Vortex seems to have only gotten one chicken – one of the baby Delawares.

Shelly, one of our California Whites, has gone broody once again. This is the second time for her – the first time was in the dead of winter. You can read about it here. She’s been essentially glued to the nest for several days now – and so after hearing about someone else’s good experiences, we decided to get some fertilized eggs from Eggs 2 U. We got a dozen eggs – part Dominique part Silver Laced Wyandotte. Getting Shelly transferred from the nest boxes where all of the girls lay in the coop to the make-shift “nursery” was an experience for John! But suffice it to say that Shelly and eggs have taken up residence in Pepper’s kennel.

She paced and squawked and paced some more, but she eventually settled down and got to business.

Today she was as happy as a clam to be setting on her eggs.

The funny thing being that she’s always been partial to one of the dummy eggs we’ve kept in the nest boxes in the coop. Last evening we put it in with the fertilized eggs to see if it would entice her to settle down. Don’t know if it did or not – but today – as you can see from the picture – she’s scooted it away from the REAL eggs and is only concerning herself with them!

Our chicks are 9 weeks old today – and are looking less and less like babies – more and more like big girls! I’m still blown away by the fact that the big girls and the not-so-baby-ish babies get along so well. It’s such a relief!

I chose some – well, I guess sort of different – breeds for this batch of chicks. We’re intrigued by the heritage and rare breeds – and so that did have a lot of influence on what we chose.

I’m not sure if my favorites are the Delawares or the Blue Andalusians. They’re completely opposite build. The Delawares are HUGE. The Blues are lanky. We have two roosters for sure – one is a Blue; the other is one of the Buff Minorcas. (There is one other that *might* be a roo – but we’re still watching and waiting.)

We have three different colors of Ameraucana – white, a black with reddish/brownish highlights, and a really golden with brown highlights. They’re all so cute with their puffy little cheeks!

The Fam…

 

 This week we’ve been allowed to have our Jessica home!  She left a week and a half ago to work at a Christian camp about an hour East of here.  She normally wouldn’t be allowed the week off like this, but the camp’s census was down and she was allowed the week off.  (Yay!  I’ve missed her!)  She and William are both working at our church’s version of VBS – called KidFest.  My niece and nephew – Karina and Elijah – are here for the week so that they may attend KidFest, as well.  It’s been great fun for them, too, because my cousin Bob’s children (who are close in age to Karina and Elijah) are attending KidFest, as well.  When they are dismissed at noon, everyone has been congregating at our house for lunch and play time.  These kids sure have been sleeping well!

Jonathan left during the early morning hours Monday for Mexico – where he will go and visit his Mom for the next about six weeks.  It’s so wierd not having him here.  We all miss him!

John is *sort of* getting over the horrible cough/cold/flu or whatever the heck it is that he’s had.  Poor guy – he’s just been having the worst time with this thing.  I’ve threatened actually taking him to the doctor – something he doesn’t much believe in – if he doesn’t get better – soon!

For the most part, we’re all just really glad school is out and the summer is thinking seriously about doing it’s thing.

 What we’re really looking forward to, though…

SLEEPING IN!

I love it when school is out for the summer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is way too long – but suffice it all to say that I love this time of year. And here’s one of the big reasons why! J

Spring is sprung!

This is probably just about as random a collection of photos as you’re gonna find, but it’s spring – and I was outdoors with the camera – and so – well, here you go!

BiL’s Farm Fresh Eggs has got itself an egg sign – and finally – a holder – and it even works! Woo Hoo!

The peas are looking like they may well give us something to snack on soon. I keep looking for a little pea pod to snap off and pop in my mouth – but we’re not there quite yet… soon, tho!

Is there anything more beautiful than Japanese Iris?

This is the new garden plot that John has laid out, tilled, and prepared. We got corn, yellow crookneck squash, and zucchini planted in it yesterday.

Do you have sons? Cause if you do – this next photo will make total sense. Look! One of the pear trees is armed!

The flower bed along the street (adjacent to the low fence at the front of the property) got planted yesterday, too. There will hopefully be lots of Shirley Poppies, nastursiums, and sunflower seeds of varying types.

There are now 30 tomato plants of different varieties planted in the main garden plot, thanks to my husband’s ever diligent efforts.

We love these trellises John put together for tomatoes. They are so easy to tie up (we use construction tape – it’s amazing, and cheap at Home Depot!), and they get lots of good sun and ventilation this way.

This is John’s stack of lumber for the chicken coop expansion project that he’s working on.

He’s removed the little run that was attached to the coop – that was the first step of the project, the demo. Now he’s going to frame out the new addition area, and floor it first.

Can you see them? Baby pears!

Hanging out in the yard with Pepper, admiring the planting John did yesterday.

Pepper, the wonder chicken dog at play!

Gosh I love this time of year! Is there anything better than hanging out in the yard with the one you love and planting some amazing stuff that will enrich your lives?

The thrill…

Will I always feel that thrill when I open the door to the nest boxes and see this? Will I ever be able (willing?) to go to the coop and check for eggs without camera in tow? I’m sure that at some future point in time it will change from a feeling of utter delight to drudgery perhaps… maybe in the dead of winter? Nah… I don’t think so!

I actually have a spreadsheet that I’m keeping that includes which hen laid which egg, what time of the day, how much said egg weighed, and the age of the hen. I’m sure some additional fields will eventually make their way in there, but thus far, these fields seem to be sufficient. I’m such a wierdo sometimes! LOL!

Suffice it to say that the egg watch has retained it’s high level of importance at our house – from the youngest kid on up – we’re all still thrilled with the discovery of a new egg.

Today Millie joined the egg-laying ranks! Woo Hoo! Her first egg was 1.5 ounces – just like Henrietta’s first real egg. But note the difference in color! Millie’s egg is on the left, Henrietta’s is on the right. Interestingly enough, Henrietta is the lightest in color of our three Rhode Island Reds. Wild, huh?

Henrietta’s egg shown here was 2.25 oz – thus far two of hers have been 1.5 oz, and two have been 2.25 oz. We haven’t cracked the second 2.25 oz egg yet, but the first one was a double yolker. Jonathan has dibs on the second one, and I’m sure will be a part of his breakfast in the morning!

This is the first time I’ve raised eggplant. This is an Ichiban variety, and is supposed to be good eats. If lovliness of a plants flower has any weight for the flavor argument, this one is gonna be really good. Wow – isn’t it gorgeous?
John’s pepper plants seem to have gone bezerk all of a sudden. One day you can’t find a pepper, the next, this!
Tonight at dinner John actually took one of these Hungarian wax peppers and diced it to enjoy with the tacos. (Yes, he was the only one interested in consuming it!) He reported that it’s a very sweet pepper thus far, but he’s read it has the potential to kick some serious butt!

Aren’t they gorgeous?
And look! The new planting of green beans are doing their thing!

By the way… I know this is difficult to see, but if you’re good at deciphering clues, you’ll find as we did – HOOF PRINTS! That’s not all we’ve found… more plants uprooted, green tomatoes with bites out of the sides of them, etc. Darn deer!

Thankfully, we’ve got enough tomatoes that the few the deer have gone after thus far have been inconsequential. (I could get QUITE cranky, however, if they don’t watch it!)


Last year our cherry tomato offerings were a little bit paltry. That will not be the case this year!

I think one of the most astounding things in life is to find a tiny little zucchini one day, and the next come back to find a ready to pick and consume fruit!

Of course, there is no such thing as too much yellow crookneck squash, but WOW – we’re getting lots of it, and it’s only just begun! Isn’t it pretty?


I’m watching the berry bushes daily (and of course quality control testing) the fruit to determine if it’s time to start picking. I hope to harvest many, many times in the coming weeks so that we’ll have plenty of jam, jelly, syrup, pie filling, and frozen fruit. I’m sure I’ll find some other things to do with the berries, too – just give me a little time! 🙂

And our first green bean patch is growing like crazy – there are blossoms all over, and baby beans left and right – hooray! I can hardly wait to start canning these for the coming year!

We took a ride out to Ag West today to pick up a couple of things. My heart just yearns for a place that we can call our own… driving through the countryside just outside of the urban growth boundary was a call to my heart… oh, please Lord! Let there be a place for us one of these days!

Strange goings on during the night…

It was a little strange to go out to the garden this afternoon (my first chance today to get out there – it was a busy day!). I was a little puzzled to approach the makeshift gate – which is simply a single panel of the decorative fencing covered with chicken wire, the wire legs get shoved into the ground and – voila! – we have our gate. It isn’t fancy, that’s for sure, but it is effective at keeping the chicks (and dog) out of the garden! The gate was actually bent nearly flat – as in at about a 45 degree angle. Hmmm… something is definitely amiss!

I quickly ascertained that something had been at our lone zucchini plant!

You see that? Like it’s half way dug up! Dang! What would do that?

I moved on…

I don’t know if you can see that, but on the bottom left side of the photo you can kinda see through the trellis… See the branches of the tomato plant that have been pulled down to the ground – and kinda trampled? STINK! What’s been in my garden?

THEN… The outrage of it all…

something had the gall to take a bite out of one of MY squash! See those bite marks?!

Then a little bit later, I found that something had been in the green bean patch, too!

WHAT pray tell, has been in my garden? I am so not amused! You start messing with my squash, some serious battle has been declared!

What do you think? Racoons? We sure have them around here – a lot! We do have a lot of deer issues… Here’s the baby we found leaving the yard last week:

that bite mark was too petite for deer, though, don’t you agree?

I don’t know, but they better not come back!

Our Garden continues to grow…

You get busy with stuff and you turn around and bam! they go and grow up on you! Green beans of course! Can you believe how much they’ve poofed? And there are flowers forming all over the place! Woo Hoo!

Yay! An actual zucchini!

There will be squash for dinner tomorrow night! It is a little unfair, I’m afraid. Jess, my daughter, is away for the week – she’s my squash co-dependent, but in her absence I promise to do my very best to savor every succulent bite! 🙂

I hope this picture shows up okay… It’s a picture of a bumble bee – mid-flight – approaching a German Giant tomato blossom. He was so beautiful – I hoped to get maybe a snatch of a little glimpse of him in a photo – but wow – full-sized it’s quite the photo!

We’ve got a tomato explosion going on! There are green tomatoes everywhere! And they’re beautiful. I’ve got lots of plans for these babies!

Aren’t these the prettiest little pear tomatoes you ever did see?

This is a German Giant heirloom tomato – it’s the most unusual looking little start of a tomato – almost flat. With a name like German Giant you gotta wonder what kinda size this little fella is gonna develop into!You should smell the basil. It’s heavenly. I’m hoping to start making pesto in the next week. I make it up, put it in little freezer-friendly 1-cup containers, and then throw it in the freezer for use throughout the year. Even if I do say so myself, it’s wonderful. What a wonderful thing to thaw it out and be returned to the amazing smell of fresh basil in summer!
The cucumbers are getting bigger!

And John got the next bunch of green beans in. This side is a runner bean called Scarlet – I think they’ll be a great addition to our garden. I honestly can’t remember the name of the beans he planted on the other side, but I promise to try and investigate and report soon!

Here’s a better view of the trellis system that John built a couple of years ago. We’ve used them for cucumbers and peas in the past. It will be interesting to see how it works out for green beans!

They say it’ll rain tomorrow. Today is 22 days without rain. I’m ready for a little rain. It only makes sense, of course, I thorughly watered the garden today! 🙂