[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Woke this morning to puffy eyes and sneezing.

Thanks, trees.

Decided this was not going to change my plans to work in the yard.

So there.

Today's accomplishments:

are behind the cut, with pics )

[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
With the help of much research, I have settled on this year's straight run of "refill the flock and fill the freezer" birds as Black Australorps. Dual purpse, hardy, don't mind being penned up during the predator times, and sweet. Of course, this means that the Wyndottes will likely beat them up. So the Wyndotte Gang is going to either stay in the smaller pen, or get moved into the yard.

Also on our list, picked by the kids with veto power from me, a smaller straight run (because that is how they come) of Partridge (a coloration) Cochin (breed of chicken) Bantam (meaning mini-version).

I wanted Buckeye's, cuz awesome, but they seem happier in cold than heat. and heat is the bigger issue around here.

This will be my first time picking up chickens at the post office and teaching them to eat, so I'm nervous, but I've done my research on reputable hatcheries, and while I'd prefer to go with a smaller, family run one, I think this time will go with big (experienced) business. McMurray is getting our business this time, since they have both breeds we want available in the time frame I was hoping for.

Since most of the companies I can order Turkeys from are doing seperate orders, I think I'm going to wait on those a bit. I can add them later in the season, or next year. Part of my issue is that I haven't fully decided whether I want to just get fast growing turkeys to butcher, or get a heritage breed pair and let them make us some meat. Pets or produce? That is the question. ;P I figure I have no business bringing an animal, even an edible one, into the picture until I am sure of that decision.

Now I just need to get the weather to cooperate (and my bank to deal with its issues) long enough to get set up, and then we'll get on with this.

Oh, and further research has me deciding against ducks. Yard small, creek near, and they need a different feed than turkeys/geese/chickens (who can share, as long as it isn't medicated). So...yeah. No ducks. This makes me sad...sad enough I may change my mind later, but for now...I don't need that added complexity.

This year's further goals in the fowl department: find a source of reasonably priced, reliably available, organic feed. Get their hutch set up for better winter protection before next winter. Continue the seemingly never-ending process of trying to outsmart the raccoons.
[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] gailmom.livejournal.com
All has not been as quiet here as it has been on the blog. This year's chickens grow apace, the rooster will be exchanged for a younger pullet (hopefully) hen on Tuesday, and Spot goes to her new home, stewpot or pet, by the end of the month.

The fabulous tree people came and climbed much higher than I'm willing to, power tools in hand, to remove the three dead trees. They will be back to fix the wire fencing that got damaged, and to remove the last of the stump from within the chicken pen, then I'll be gratefully handing over large wads of cash. I may ask them to take down that small tree in the front yard instead of fixing the fence, we'll see if they go for that.

It's been hot enough that a friend of ours lost 5 of her older 6 chicks this year to the heat. I've been hosing down the roof of the girls pen every afternoon (well, not this afternoon, it's cloudy, drizzly, and relatively cool) and adding ice cubes to the water containers to cool down the water enough they can drink. Hot hot hot. I expect that will get worse before it gets better (because duh) and I'm looking into the possibility of a misting cooling system for a more permanent solution to the too-hot-for-hens. Their egg production has dropped and I suspect that is why.

The sink hole is, indeed, our problem, though the city is grateful that we called them to investigate, since they found two breaks in the sewer line near (but not near enough) to it. I think I have an idea on how to fix it, thanks to my time in the country, and if it works, I'll let you know. :P (and own waders by the time it's fixed).

Our water barrels (2) have been backing up when it storms, and I've spent some time researching a way to fix it that doesn't involve me going out every time it rains to decide if the water should go in the barrel or in the drain today. Think I found one, and though it isn't cheap, it is probably cheaper than roof repair in the long run. 0.o

While doodling around the internet, dreaming and plotting between research, I've come across the idea of toilet tank basins, as well as found conversion kits to install dual flush systems on our perfectly good, if older, toilets. I think I found some that will allow us, for about $330, to install both basins AND dual flush systems on both our households toilets. That would be AWESOME. I'm starting a savings ledger for just that, and will keep you updated (with pics) if I can make that happen.

That's about it around here...I dream of drainage ditches and awnings of grape vine...and then I go hose down my hens. ;P



Jun. 9th, 2010 10:32 am
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
It's raining. That's good and all, but it's revealing a serious problem I will have to make time to deal with as soon as it isn't..ya know...raining.

I just went out to feed the chickens. Who look very silly when wet, btw. They are ALL soaked. Because the roof of their pen has failed, and the drainage in that yard isn't working well, and the full rain barrell is backing up into the gutter and spraying everywhere.

Which is, of course, also not good for the house. :(

So I think we have some major yard work to do when it is no longer pouring.

In other chicken news: the little girls are about a month away from being integrated with the flock, and they are HUGE (comparatively speaking). The top one of that flock (Cleo) is determined to squeeze out of the door when I go in to feed. She thinks she is ready to take over the older flock.

Boy, is she ever in for a shock.

Spot has been saved from the stew pot (theoretically), because an acquaintance has a friend who collects "pretty, loud, non-laying hens" to use as pets and alarms. Well, if ever Spot qualified as anything, it's as pretty and loud an uselessly laying. I explained about her shell-less egg messes, and the friend still wants her. If all goes as planned, she'll be picked up this week and head to her new home.

So I guess she gets to be useful a while longer. Good for her.

And that's about it. Not a lot of progress around here.

So now I just have to try to contain my "stop raining!" thoughts long enough for everyone's gardens to be happy (so I don't feel guilty in some weird way if it does stop raining), and then get to work. :P

Well, that and figure out where to hang the laundry to dry...since it's now wetter than when I hung it out yesterday. ;)
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
My ladies have gotten very comfortable with my presence. I don't know if that's because I've spent so much time in their pen visiting with them, or if it is because they have finally figured out that "Good morning, ladies!" means: "FOOD!!!!..oh yeah...and that tall funny looking chicken that steals our eggs".

Either way there are now new challenges when feeding them: not tripping on a chicken and getting the scrap bucket emptied onto the ground instead of chicken backs.

Having fed the girls this morning, I then refilled their nest box/coop with fresh shredded paper (stealing today's egg at the same time), and decided to go ahead and, despite the drizzle, put another couple of wheelbarrow's worth of leaf litter into their pen.

My ladies may be used to me, but they do NOT feel at all confident about that big blue metal thing. So wheeling in the barrow full of leaves meant chickens scattering in a semi-hurry before me....

....and then around me and out the pen door.

Well, I thought, this could get interesting.

I put the wheelbarrow down and headed out to the entrance of the compost pen, which isn't finished, so has only one 4' layer of fencing and no gate, and placed the gate, on its side so it would reach, across the opening. They could, of course, easily hop/flutter over that (I've seen them hop higher than 4' to catch a moth foolishly taking a short cut through their pen), but I was counting on the compost keeping them busy. It had certainly gotten their attention.

Scratch, scratch, by the time I had the gate propped in place, they had flipped that compost open and were going to town on the bug buffet.

I managed to wheel three times in and out of the pen, each time carefully moving between them and the gate so as not to scare them out...then took the wheelbarrow out before returning to spread the pile of leaf litter around the pen.

Sure enough, the idea of fresh leaves to pick through for bugs proved too much for Top Chicken and she led the way back into the pen. The only chicken I had to go encourage back in was the Bantam, and since she is very much Poulty Non-grata with the flock, I can't blame her for wanting to stay out with the compost.

I'd let her, but I just don't have confidence in them not to go over the short section of the fence and then find themselves a helluva long way down from getting back in. 4' up and over.....12' down with a lot of branches in the way of direct flight back and a creek to land in.

I feel like a good chicken mom today. :)

[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
We have lots of green tomatoes refusing to ripen on the vine, might be time to pull out the frying pan.

Our chickens, after the recent loss of one, seem to have settled in and are recovering from the overcrowding at the other place, so that now we are getting an egg every couple of days. Not bad for a relatively cold time of year. We even had an egg two mornings in a row recently. This makes me happy.

At this rate, if you calculate the cost of layer feed to the number of eggs we are getting, we are paying about 40 cents per egg...but since we are also getting "happy", and scrap management out of them, I really don't care a whole lot about that. I want to expand their space and then get some more ladies next year, bringing our flock up to the 10 hens we are allowed, but for now: happy happy to watch my ladies clucking and scratching about. Eggs are just a bonus. Eventually we'll need to get more eggs out of the girls to support their upkeep, but for now....


I'm in love. :P

This is the lady who meets me at the gate each day, "Top chicken". She was a little unsure about this flashy thing I had brought with me, and was letting me know that even as I snapped the picture.

The other girls decided that if Top Chicken was nervous, they were going to the other part of the pen, thank you much....little did they know that I have a sport option,and running from my camera will not keep it from capturing their souls.

And on a "greener living" note: we haven't turned on the a/c or the heat for a month, with the minor exception of a few hours during a recent party. The house could still use some insulation, but I have to say, starting with brick is a lovely thing. Our neighbors down a few blocks got solar panels for their house, which has me completely envious, and we recently attended Go Green First Friday in Downtown. It is so lovely to see all the little corners of environmental consciousness poking up about town. :)


Oct. 10th, 2009 01:04 pm
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Worked a tiny bit outside in the omg-it's-cold this morning. We put up a  temporary top to the end of the chicken pen (the garden_ladies motto: better half ass than not at all) to give them some dry area the next time it rains. (I was very worried about my ladies last night, all damp from rain when the temperature dropped like a stone).

Then we poked around the garden. This has definitely been a "live and learn" sort of year.

*The tomatoes on the side of the house: nothing. no blossoms, no fruit. The ones in the driveway: working their asses off.

Lesson learned: Sometimes if something isn't doing well, you just need to try a different spot. Don't be so attached to your chosen location you aren't willing to start over.

*If you have quarterly pest control on your house, please note that certain plants will not appreciate what happens if you spot ants inside and the pest people treat the outside perimeter of the house. While the okra doesn't care, many kinds of squash will be massively unhappy with the results.

Lesson learned: next year, most plants get put at least 6-8 feet from the edge of the house, to allow for pest treatment.

*Many of the plants are doing better now that the heat has dropped off and the rains have come, even in the face of weird temperature fluctuations. Meanwhile some friends had a garden doing much better than ours which was semi-shaded by grape vine. And another acquaintance in town had much better luck than we did with his tomatoes, basil etc....and was using a steady drip irrigation system. 

Lesson learned: Summer in Texas is now harsh harsh harsh. Very high temps and months on end of drought are not what even "Texas adapted" plants are used to. Since I personally think we are seeing the effect of global warming, and not just some once-a-decade drought, perhaps it is time to start adapting some techniques from traditionally harsher climates (I tend to think Africa, b/c I'm most familiar with some of the systems tried there) during the summer.  Hopefully we can take a shot at semi-shade gardening next year, as well as a more steady drip irrigation system.

*I have spent this year thinking of myself as the "money management" for the garden, and GS as the "effort and expertise". Perhaps it is time to renegotiate. I say this because, quite frankly, we are looking more and more like a long term sort of affair (crosses fingers and knocks on wood to distract self from inner commitment-phobic panic)....and because this morning I took great joy in helping her pick beans from the garden, and wasn't bored and antsy while she talked about the squash, melons etc. I think I would like to be a bit more hands on, and not just in the "I do the fencing" sort of way. Add in the fact that our budget has shifted in such a way that if we *want* to have money for things, we are going to have to work together to achieve that goal.....and, well, might be time to take another look at our assigned functions.

Lesson learned: just as in a garden, a home and a relationship can often function better if everyone's roles aren't too strictly segregated.

And now, the beans!


Oct. 9th, 2009 11:13 am
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
We have our yard chickens. Actually, we've had them for a little over a week now, but I'm a lazy updater.

We spent a couple of days getting chewed on by mosquitos for several hours at a time so that we could finish it "enough" to get our girls. Put a dog house in the pen up on some cinder blocks (until we can build a coop), and filled it with shredded paper. Purchased a waterer from our local feed store (I know, we could have built one, we decided to face the fact we don't get to these projects quickly and just spend the money), picked up layer feed and grit while we were there...and then drove over to pick up our ladies from the ever patient laughingturtle.

They spent about a week just eating and scratching about, starting to grow back feathers and settle in after being so overcrowded (we never though they would be with LT this long....totally our fault too.)

People kept asking me if they gave us eggs, and I kept answering "not yet, but I don't care". I really didn't either. I am in love with the noises they make, and the sight of them laying on their side or cleaning themselves. I adore it when they fight over their favorite scraps, darting in to steal from the higher ranked chicken while she isn't looking. Or cluck and dart about to see if each handful of layer feed I toss might, just maybe, have been something more wonderful than the last handful I threw 2 seconds ago. Watching them scratch about in the dirt, bright little eyes alert for any possible tidbit, is endlessly fascinating to me. And I laugh out loud when they taste something messy and wipe their beaks clean in the pine needles that the tree has dropped all over their pen.

Today, however, we collected our very first yard egg!

I'm so very proud, you would think *I* had laid it.

It's a small one, so I'm guessing one of the little girls (known in my head as "mini-hens"), but either way, I'm one proud chicken mama right now.

When it stops raining, I'll get you a pic of the girls (there are 3 red hens named Nugget, 2 Bantams named Giblet, and one speckled lady named Spot....yes, we *are* smarty-pants).

It only took them 24 hours to establish a pecking order, and now Top Chicken meets me at the gate each day, ready to see what table scraps I am bringing out. Second Chicken is never far behind.

I'm in love with my girls. I could sit out there for hours with them, if only I had a stool to sit on (still working on that). I think they lay calm as well as eggs.

Speaking of: take a look!

Oh, and that's paint on my workin' shirt, not poo. (though chicken poo is definitely part of my world now) ;)

[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
And all our energy has been going toward getting ready for that. When we get back, the chicken pen becomes the priority again so we can get our chickens out of LT's yard. ;)

The plants are growing, but we haven't gotten any more produce yet.

We have gotten enough rain I haven't needed to turn the sprinkler system on yet, and we managed to arrange a barter deal with our neighbors to mow our lawn in exchange for baked goods, so that's taken care of until we get the conversion finished.

I expect we'll make some more big steps soon, despite have more kids-in-the-house time during the summer, if only because a deer helped me total my car and so we'll have a check coming in about a month that can fund some more yard changes. Our current plan is to try NOT replacing the car, and see if we can just get gryphynshadow's car running well again and manage as a one car household.

So what's going on in your yards? Anybody got garden or patio plant updates to share? :)
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Let's see, I'll leave it up to[livejournal.com profile] gryphynshadow  to let you know what's going on in the plant department, if she hasn't already (that's a hint, lovely lady! :D).

I will say we ate our first tiny tomatoes yesterday...I can blog about that because my teeth were involved. nom nom nom

Progress continues on the chicken pen (weather and illness keep getting in the way). We got two rows of the roof for the main section done, and the posts and bottom row of poulrty netting put in place for the extension around the compost piles the last time we had decent weather and two healthy people. Pictures once we get my desktop back up and running (*hates virus and malware*).

Our chickens, still housed at the ever-patient [livejournal.com profile] laughingturtle 's house, are now making eggs. wee!!

AND an important discovery was made regarding fire ants. For those who do not know, fire ants have an overly-developed fondness for rosemary (for electricity as well, but that's another story). My heart-aunt had some fire ants climb the post of her covered porch, crawl along the joists, and rappel down the wires to reach her hanging pot of said plant, that's how obsessed they are. Several years ago, however, I discovered (while living in my first house) that planting oregano on either side of your rosemary plant will keep fire ants away. Despite the large rosemary bush planted in a raised brick garden bed against the house (note: do NOT put three sided garden beds against your house...very very very bad idea. If anyone doesn't know why, ask, I'll explain) I had no fire ants in the bed, apparently due to the oregano bushes on either side of it.

Now, we have a rosemary bush in one of the beds in the side yard. It is doing much better than last year, thanks to gryphynshadow's judicious use of compost and leaf litter mulch over the winter, and we only recently planted a small oregano plant in there, so that bed has fire ants at the moment. We had the posts for the chicken pen extension piled next to it. So it should not surprise anyone to hear that when I stood up one of said posts, ready to pound it in, I discovered that fire ants were crawling up and down it. Not knowing what else to do, I told GS to stand back, banged it once, hard, with the post driver, and leaped back. As a result, we had some very angry fire ants on the ground, but only one that landed on my leg long enough to bite. We walked away to give them time to disperse before finishing driving the post, and GS plucked a few oregano leaves that we could rub around our ankles to keep any strays from climbing our legs (unbenowst to me, it was too late for that, as I already had one in my sock, but never mind that part).  As an experiment, I crushed the leaf and rubbed the oil on the three fire ant bites on my leg. (yes, those without fire ants, one ant often equals multiple bites, only one of the reasons this particular pest sucks diseased hyena tit).

I am very allergic to fire ants, not as much as when I first moved to Texas, fortunately. Then, one bite on my toe could swell my foot for a week such that I could not wear shoes. Now, I get very red and irritated all around the site of the bite, and the bite itself spends the next days swelling up like a pimple and hurting the whole time.

So I was extremely pleased to discover that within 10 minutes of applying the oregano oil, the redness had disappeared, the pain was only an occasional stinging sensation, and the bites were less noticeable. Imagine my further pleasure when I realized the next day that, although the fire ant bite on my ankle was acting as they always do, the one on my leg was difficult to find, only a faint small bump.

From this we conclude that the reason fire ants do not like to dwell with oregano is that its oils may neutralize their poison. We will be planting more oregano around the rosemary, and oregano oil will be purchased for use in the meantime on any fire ant bites we, or the children, recieve.

Gryphynshadow, or course, also plans to spread dried molasses, to boost soil micro-organism activity (which fire ants also dislike), but it is still a neat trick to know. If any of you try it, let us know your results please, as I would be interested to hear whether it's just me or if that particular trick stands a good chance of helping others as well.
[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.

[identity profile] gryphynshadow.livejournal.com
I turned the compost pile today. Ahhh... smell the dirty nutrition!

I really do think I'm getting the hang of it. Over the weekend, we added quite a bit of stuff to the pile, including a fern, some of the neighbor's sod (she dug it up, it's not like I snuck over there to steal her grass or something. don't look at me like that.), and miscellaneous leaves, vines, weeds and yard stuff.

So, today, I turned that over, spread it out, and layered the old compost on top of it. Mixed it, as'twere. What was on top, is now on bottom. The sides are in the middle, and the bottom is on the top. As I worked, after each layer, I watered it pretty well. You see, I'm tired of my compost being dry in the center.

The very center middle of the pile was looking very nice! I'm starting to see some definite decomposition, the leaves are starting to loose their shape, woody stems are softening up dramatically, and it's got that good compost smell going on. mmm... Stirred up quite a few little bugs, but it looks like the ants have moved on. Too bad, the chickens would have loved to have eaten them.


Speaking of chickens... All that's lacking on the pen is the roof, and plugging holes. We need to chicken wire over the corners, cause there are gaps, and put bricks and paving stones around the inside border to keep the chickens from digging out (and other critters from digging in.) I figure, one good long day of work on it will do.

I've started cleaning up the pathways and patio areas in the backyard. You see, the previous owner massively landscaped, including flagstone pathways through the plantings. These pathways have become overgrown, and so need to be hacked out of the jungle. Talk about a work out! I'm about a third done with that chore.

We've started dismantling the ex-fountain. So far, there's a giant pile of rocks that used to be fountain stuff in the middle of the patio. In the process, we found a really cute garden snake; black with green and yellow longitudinal stripes. He was about 2 1/2 feet long, 3/4 inch in diameter at the thickest. Cute little fella! Still needs to be done on the ex-fountain: pull out leaves, any stones not mortared in place, remove garden hose fragment (?!), put in some soil, add low growing plants (moss, alyssum, creeping herbs, etc...), and decorate to create a faerie altar.

Also still needing to be done:

*knock out remaining bricks from raised foundation beds
*take out sod from random rectangle in backyard, front yard next to tree
*tamp soil in each of above
*add sand
*lay paving stones
*finish weeding established beds
*pull out partially rotted timbers and raised bed in corner
*take out honeysuckle and pole it's on
*fill hole under patio where it's caving in (oh, did I not mention that? well. Like the description says.)
*build, fill and make use of raised beds in front yard, side yard.
*fall over

Since that's a really long list, how about something uplifting to finish this off?

We've got 6 broccoli plants producing flower heads! The cherry tomato isn't totally dead, and is in fact producing little tomatoes! All three of the pepper plants have teeny tiny peppers on them! The potatoes are coming up! I've harvested some of the onions, they're yummy!

Oh, and yet more of the to-do, but in a happy way with not too much labor and more immediate results:

*start herb seeds
*transplant out tomato plants
*prepare curved bed for herbs

A lot has been going on this spring, which would be why, at the end of the day, I'm usually too tired to give a blow by blow of what we did. In the next couple of days I'll post some pictures from the backyard, to show you all what we've been up to.

In the meanwhile, happy spring gardening!!!
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Ok, I've been really bad about posting lately, many of you already know the power supply on my pc blew and I'm having to share computer, but also I've just been lazy, so here's a quick update.

The chicken pen is taking longer than we thought, mostly because life keeps throwing us curve balls, but progress is....progressing. Basically, we have all the posts in for the main section, and the two rows of poultry netting in place that make up the walls, and a kind helper came and installed the privacy fence panels left from our last project to make the walls of the eventual-coop section.

This means what is left is putting the poultry netting over the top (more to keep predators out than to keep chickens in, if our dog was worth anything we wouldn't need this part *grin*), wire the top and bottom panels of netting together (I wish they sold 6' poultry netting here, but they don't), and put paving stones around the inside at the bottom of the wire. We actually didn't know we would need to do that last part, but our chicken-experienced friend came over to check things out (thanks [livejournal.com profile] laughingturtle !) and informed us that if we want to save headache later we should do that now. She informed us that  chickens like to scratch holes in their dirt to give themselves dust baths. I knew that part, what I didn't know was that they have a decided preference for doing so at the EDGE of their pen....and then escaping through the resultant hole.

Suburban chickens + hole in their panel= unhappy neighbors. So we will absolutely want to do the paving stone thing.

So complicated.

On a fun note, we attended the monthly Brazos Progressives potluck and met several other suburban folks with backyard chickens. When they heard we were installing a pen we were regaled with funny stories about their own building surprises and some really hysterical tales of what happens when city folks are faced with their first egg and/or butchering.

It was good to hear others walking this path and know, without doubt,  we aren't the only ones who are finding the practical is often more complex than the theory.

If [livejournal.com profile] gryphynshadow  hasn't told you, she has her first tiny broccolis starting on the now very-much-larger broccoli plants, and we have a few strawberries, they just aren't red yet. She plans to harvest the first crop of (tiny) onions this weekend, and I'll try to get pic updates to you as soon as my pc is back up and running.

[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
...should you ever decide to put in a chicken pen, or any other project that involves driving posts into the ground.

Post driving is really a job for most men and a few women. I say this not because of outmoded gender ideals but because of pure biology. There is just no way for women to utilize their gender-defined leg strength when driving posts. It's all upper body/arm strength. ow.

Also, if you are two women driving posts, and one or both of you is bi or lesbian, do not take off your shirt when post driving or the person holding the post will get distracted. If you choose to do so, be aware you may end up with one or more crooked posts. :P

We spent an hour out there, and have now driven in three of the 2 3/8" posts, and one of the t-posts.

I was shirtless for part of that time.  Two of the four posts are crooked. *snicker*

(To be fair, the first crooked one was because there was no good angle for [livejournal.com profile] gryphynshadow  to hold the post while I got it started, by the time it was low enough for her to reach and take a turn--she's so cute and short--it was pretty darned crooked.)

I'm pretty sure we can work around that though, so I choose to be amused instead of irritated. If we can't work around it and end up having to take one or more out, THEN I will allow myself some irritation.

One final thought:

Don't try to perform such heavy labor if you have not yet eaten breakfast. Just don't do it.

Sore arms, hungry bellies and aching/shaking hands anyone?

ETA: post breakfast, attempted to drive another post in before GS's appt this afternoon.....tree root. Big one. Now I have to go back and re-figure how to do this in some manner that may allow us to miss said big tree root.

This would be the downside of putting in the chicken pen where we are putting it. Big tree roots. The upside of course is that once the pen is installed it will be shaded from the direct afternoon sun in the summer...which is a good thing given this is Texas and it is...um...hot and sunny here much of the time.

But first we must find a way to drive posts in without getting stuck on tree roots. Big, rock hard, tree roots.

Did I mention there was a big tree root in the way? ;)
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Ok, it isn't technically gardening, but it does fit into the whole "permaculture/save the Earth" thing. :)

It took me 3 hours to enter everything on the site, and I had most of the info at my fingertips, but the good news is they give you a number to use, so that you can leave and come back and any page you have entered and saved is still in there, which is nice.

Basically you tell it all about your house and your appliances and how much you use them (and I do mean ALL ) and it uses that info to calculate how much energy you use, and then recommends upgrades to your home to save on energy costs and reduce your carbon footprint. Once you get to the page of recommended upgrades you can un-check any you aren't willing/able to do now and it will gray them out (but still keep the info there for you) and recalculate the savings and cost reduction.

Once I entered all my data, I removed anything from the list with 1)less than a 50% rate of return 2)more than a 2 year payback 3) that would have brought the entire upgrade project above $2000.

After I narrowed it down to the 2K I'm willing to spend upgrading my home, I was left with a list of changes that will pay for themselves in approximately a year (I say a year because all but two of them had a 1 year payback, one had less than a year, and one had two years) and will save, in addition to money, almost 8800 pounds of CO2 per year.  Here's the small version of their chart (the summary only, the whole chart was crazy big and didn't want to stay behind a cut, so I'll spare you. :P)

Modify Upgrades: Your Energy Bill ($/year)
Existing Home $3439
with Selected Upgrades $2358
  Heating Cooling Water
Lighting Small
Existing Home $ 1424 $ 673 $ 620 $ 382 $ 188 $ 152
With Selected Upgrades $ 822 $ 441 $ 461 $ 397 $ 85 $ 152
Potential Annual Savings
Bill: $1,081
Energy: 3,984 kWh & 251 Therms
CO2 Emissions: 8,783 lb. CO2
More detail on energy and CO2...
Click here to Map your home's Carbon Footprint


The spiffy part is the changes that would make the most difference were not always what I THOUGHT would have made the most difference. So our priority list for changes in the house just shifted. yippeee!! Smaller carbon footprint for my house=win.

Oh, and regarding the garden, look, a chicken pen (some assembly required):
The gates aren't on the stack, they are off to the side, and the screws are in a bag in the garage, but otherwise, there it is! In all it's "pile of material freaking out my neighbors cuz it's sitting in my driveway" glory. :P


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Suburban Permaculture Project

May 2011



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