[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
This cold weather is dragging me down. Between that and finances, I'm further behind than I wish to be on getting ready for spring. Thanks to the help of a recent houseguest, however, I am not as far behind as I was. :)

The pagoda has been started, but due to an unfortunately timed bout of illness is not finished. The patio is swept, however, and all the leaves stacked in the big pen. I also finished one more panel of chicken wire. The pathway is weeded, and in the process we found more path! This is one of the joys of an older home. :) It can surprise you.

The ladies are clucking along, 2-4 eggs a day, despite the weather. Possibly because I've been winter-spoiling them when it is cold. I hate the cold, so I presume they do to. I'll give the wyndottes this much, they may not like the heat, and they are annoyingly consistent flyers, but they weather winter like no ones business.

I've built a makeshift windbreak on the side of their kennel that faces in to the nest box, and have been feeding them warm rice and lightly coating their feed with drippings on the freezing days. Seems to be helping, or at least not hurting any.

I found that seed catalogs are far too tempting and lead to great indecision. Since I want to start a garden bed and fill the earth boxes this spring, I've decided to go with what providence suggests. In this case, three articles that showed up in my inbox had lists of suggested veggies. One of "Easy to grow", one of "kid friendly veggies" , and one with "top ten nutritious". So I'm gonna make a list of those, and whichever of them I can find, that is what I'll try to grow this year. Fate, fate will be blamed. bwahahaha

ahem.

I may have a lead on some no-longer-fit-for-critters hay, which would be awesome, and make building the garden bed just about free.

Now if it would just warm up.... ~longing sigh~ I really hate the cold.
cut for big copypasta )
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
I haven't updated in a while as my non-gardening life is crazy right now. The garden, on the other hand, is dead, having fallen victim to my housemate's equally busy life. No water equals dessicated plants. We got ONE tomato off of it there at the end...this strange two lobed thing. Neither of us have eaten it. I think perhaps out of guilt.

I remind myself that there is always next year.

The good news is that not watering is something I also subject my lawn to. Cuz really, why water something I can't eat? It's dormant for the most part now, so we only have to mow when it rains. The back yard hasn't been mowed all year...when it got too long I just let the chickens over for a few days, what they didn't nibble down, they flattened in their wanderings.

Speaking of chickens...we've had some casualties. I'm sad to report that a predator, probably a raccoon, took Tarfeather during the night last time I was out of town. Giblet was a victim during the day recently and judging from the poof of feathers and NOTHING else, I'd guess a hawk. Either way, we are down to 8 hens, and have lost our most reliable layer. :( I have a sadness. The ladies are penned now, in two separate pens because I don't consider either of them big enough for all 8 when they are used to having a whole backyard, and I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that what I need is one big pen with two sides. This would allow me to raise new ones in the spring (when things are usually plentiful enough that yard wandering is safe) and still pen them all during lean times of freeze or drought when the predators are hungrier and bold enough to risk entering my yard and the possibility of encountering me or my dog. I could also do what Oma does (a friend's mom who has chickens) and toss down birdseed or pasture seed on one side, water it until it sprouts, then let the chickens into that side...I hear they LOVE that.

If all goes as planned we will soon have our rainwater catchment system not just back up and running but much improved. Also should be getting the sinkhole/patio fixed and the weepholes repaired on the house. We've hired a green contractor out of Austin to do the work. I'll give you a review when he's done. :)

Gryphynshadow will be moving out next month. Her path has shifted, and it's time for her to move on to a venue that better supports her current focus. The plan is for us to still see her a lot, and I hope to have her help with gardening and such, but for now the focus around here will need to shift too. I'll probably be pondering and planning a lot this winter with that in mind. My abilities are different from a "fully functional" person, and I'm only one adult, so things will need to be set up accordingly if I'm going to maintain things.

That's what is going on here....and now you know why I haven't been updating the blog much. :P
[identity profile] gryphynshadow.livejournal.com

the chickens in the side yard, doing chicken things.

In the picture above, you can see our lovely chicken ladies running around in the side yard, doing chicken things. They've managed to eat everything except the rosemary bush, and I'm wondering how much longer it'll be before they go after it, too!

Spring is definitely in the air, and I've been feeling it hardcore. Last week I spent a lot of time in the yard getting ready for planting. It looks great, at least out front, and I can't wait for the current rainy weather to stop so I can start in the backyard.

In the front yard, [livejournal.com profile] gailmom and I spent a day weeding, trimming and cleaning up after the cold icky winter. The jasmine around the maple tree got trimmed back, the area that's been set aside for the brick patio has been cleared, and the weeds in the yard all got pulled. We also trimmed back the pampass grass, and in the process, found where the crickets have been overwintering. (ew)

This got very picture heavy, so in the interests of not clutterin up your friend's page with tons of pictures of our awesome garden and chickens, I stuck it all behind a cut. Click the cut for awesomeness! )
[identity profile] gryphynshadow.livejournal.com
Today, I did a lot of work on the garden. I'm very proud of myself, and also quite pink and sore. :)

I had planned to be up by five thirty this morning, so I could take advantage of the cooler temperatures. My body had different plans, however, so I slept in till eight thirty.

Despite my late start, I did get my entire list of chores to be done in the garden cleared away. I've earned my afternoon/evening off!

I loosened the soil in the EarthBoxes in the driveway. Then I emptied the three that are missing pieces (the irrigation tube, and some of the underpinnings for the grate system in the bottom), mixed their soil with more sand, and rebuilt them. I used some PVC from a section of the sprinkler system in the backyard that we're taking out to replace the upright irrigation tubes, and set bricks in the bottoms to hold up the grate. I mixed compost into all the boxes, and then mulched them all with 5 inches of leaf litter.

I raked the leaf litter I used for mulch from the kidney shaped bed in the backyard -- the one we haven't done anything with yet. We still need to clear that bed out, and take out the giant honeysuckle of doom, and its leaning half rotted T post support. However, that wasn't on the list for today, and can wait for another massive gardening spree.

I worked up two beds on the North, North-East side of the house (and found another buried flagstone, while I was at it.) I used some of the lovely black rich dirt from there to fill 11 peat pots, and repotted the tomato seedlings.

Side note on tomato seedlings: tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers are all in the Nightshade family, and they all have one characteristic in common. They will all root from the stem, if buried, or in contact with soil. Gardeners use this characteristic to their advantage, when growing potatoes, and if they're wise, when growing tomatoes. For potatoes, as they grow, you 'hill up' the plants -- bury them, leaving the top six inches unburied. Every bit that you bury will become roots, and the roots will produce tubers. And it's the tubers that we eat!

Same deal with tomatoes, only, we don't eat the roots. When you start tomatoes from seed, before you set them out in their final location, you need to repot them. Move them from their little seedling trays into larger pots (not too much larger, just a bit will do). As you move them up, position them so that only the top with the leaves is above the soil -- bury the stem. Do this (according to Earl at the gardening class) twice before you put them out. Bury the stems to promote strong root systems. In harsh climates (and ours is harsh, especially right now), strong healthy root systems will support the plants better, creating healthier plants in general, and an increased yield.

So, today I potted up 11 tomato seedlings. I've got 3 Cherokee Purple, 4 Arkansas Traveler and 4 Bush Celebrity.

Also, if you're using the peat pots that you fill yourself with soil or potting mix, when you repot or transplant your young plants, peel off the peat pot. Yes, they will break down and biodegrade, eventually. However, it's the 'eventually' part that is tricky. I've set out plants from the home improvement store in those, and been able to get the peat pot back out of the ground at the end of the season. Peel the pot off so the roots of the plant can expand into the surrounding soil. It's what roots do, so why discourage them?

Lest you think I set up two garden beds and then did nothing with them, let me assure you that I did indeed make use of them. They now each have one cucumber seedling, and two okra seedlings in them. I'll let those get a good start, then in August, I'll set garlic out around them, and if I'm feeling frisky, some bush beans as well.

The EarthBoxes are ready and waiting for their tenants! By next weekend the tomatoes should be big enough to go into them, and the week after that will be pepper and bush bean time. Also in two weeks, I'll be setting up the bean tripods, and starting pole beans in the backyard. I still need to prep the beds they'll be in, and when it comes time to plant, I'll need to set aside space for the spinach, later in the season.

The garden is changing, on a daily basis, and it's so much fun to watch all the young plants growing! (The spaghetti squash is up to six inches tall already, and the first zucchini hill is 4 inches tall!)

Here's hoping everyone's fall gardens are healthy, productive, and fun!
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Ok, update: we ate our first strawberry out of the garden last week, and this week we had our first harvested broccoli. Apparently there are little grub worm things that like broccoli, but [livejournal.com profile] gryphynshadow  managed to pick them out when cooking, so I don't think we got too much extra protein from that. She has planted the heirloom tomato seedlings she started, 7 of them (I'll let her update you on the varieties and which are doing better or worse) and has shared a bunch of them with [livejournal.com profile] laughingturtle  as well. LT reports that something is attacking said tomatoes and is planning on spraying them with a soap nut mix to see if that solves the problem.

We have the chicken pen almost finished enough to bring the chickens over (taking long enough, isn't it?), we just need to add the roof. Then it will be time to find some food-grade DE to paint the wooden parts of the will-be-a-coop and treat the litter with. We are planning to try the deep litter method, so I'm on the lookout for side-of-the-road plywood to add an edge to the coop area to contain the litter. We still haven't figure out how the best way to add a rain barrier roof over the coop area, but we have some ideas we are bouncing around, so hopefully we will solve that one soon.

Progress in the yard has been slightly delayed by the Evil-Cold-of-Neverending-Lethargy that is making it's way through the family, and by us taking a weekend to work on our yurts for Flipside with [livejournal.com profile] errantember , but we hope to have at least the chickens moved over before we head out to that in May.

The spinach apparently either went in too late to take advantage of the cool weather, or needs to be planted on a side of the house that isn't quite so sunny and warm, as it has all gone to seed.[livejournal.com profile] gryphynshadow  dutifully saved the seeds when it bolted, so while we didn't get edible spinach, we did get the beginning of future spinach out of them.

The peppers lost their blossoms to the last cold snap, but those that had already set are doing their darndest to become peppers we can eat. And the accidental-pumpkins are blossoming as well.

The compost is doing better, and our daughters were absolutely enthralled to learn what our son already knew; that when you play outside, the mommies LIKE it when you pee in the compost.

[livejournal.com profile] goudananda  has offered to be on the lookout and try to get a hold of some barrels for us to use for rainwater catchment, so hopefully by the end of the season we can get a hold of a few of those and go about converting them to harvest rain off the roof.

Chicken pen progress, this pic is slightly outdated, as I have actually taken the pile of salvaged brick from the garden-bed-against-the-house removal and placed them inside the pen around the edge to discourage chicken digging of holes beneath the fence.

future peppers! Our first strawberry! wheee!! It was delicious...we shared it between [livejournal.com profile] gryphynshadow , myself, and our friend [livejournal.com profile] tazfromtx  who was over at the moment of harvest (clever timing) and all agreed it tasted far superior to store purchased strawberries.

Pumpking blossoms! Broccoli! They got slightly larger than this, but not by much, and then we harvested....I don't remember if GS said that was because she couldn't wait, or because they were starting to open up and preparing to bolt, but either way, it was tasty.





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Suburban Permaculture Project

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