Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lessons Learned 2008

Many blessings in the garden this year. Although not as productive as the 2007 season, I was also more focused on chickens and work travel during the 2008 season. Now that the chickens are under control, I shall try to be more focused on the gardening aspects again.

Procrastination Kills Plants!

  • Spring planted peas - probably they could have benefited from mulch and a floating row cover, but by garlic harvesting time in early June, they were going like gang busters.
  • Garlic - planted on time in the fall of 2007, mulched and fed and watered at the correct times
  • Fruit trees growing well - bloomed nicely before winter came and froze the buds. No fruits yet, but the trees are maturing nicely and are starting to look like, well, real trees (as opposed to sticks)
  • Sunflowers - planted in basically pure sand. They were stunted, but all grew. Watering enough was a challenge. Planting in trenches, watering deeply and mulching probably will help. As well as some fertilization. Chickens loved the sunflower seeds (what few they got) and loved eating the leaves, too.
  • Chickens - grew well and started laying right on schedule in mid-November.
  • Corn - well, not successful in that people didn't get to eat it, but very successful in that chickens enjoyed the heck out of their corn stalk forest and ate and shredded both the corn, the leaves and the stalks. Going to grow some for them and some for us in 2009.
  • Zucchini - Eight Ball - will grow standard zukes next year, but the protected ones did well. The others were eaten to the ground by the young chickens.
  • Oregano, Rosemary, Lemon Balm - surprise survivors that overwintered from 2007
  • Shredded paper mulch - made mostly of bills and junk mail. Need to do this for the trees this year.
  • Watering the compost pile and keeping it mostly covered - I noticed a seemingly overnight improvement in the speed of the pile decomposing as soon as I started doing that.

Chickens Kill Plants!

    Problems and Challenges
  • Chickens - they are cute and they love scratching around the garden and eating everything green in site. Meaning, anything unprotected got trampled, eaten or trampled and eaten.

    • Zucchini
    • Young tomatoes (they didn't eat them; just trample them as they hunted tomato worms)
    • Bearded irises
    • Strawberry plants

  • Tomatoes - tomatoes plus desert sun equals no fruit setting; fruit setting in Sept won't ripen before the first hard frost
  • Cukes - keep planting these too late, but the flowers are pretty, so not a total loss
  • Didn't plant garlic for 2009 on time; going to be a small harvest this year
  • Sunflowers - wild birds got to the seeds before I was able to feed them to the chickens, so the chickies only got to eat some of the seeds.
  • Beans - too hot for them. Miss one day of watering and they wilt and die when the temps are over 100°F. Mulching and planting in trenches might help. Grasshoppers loved them.
  • Lots of space yet unused. Need to fill it or Nature will fill it with weeds!

The Desert Kills Plants!

    Some Ideas for the 2009 Season
  • Tomatoes - grow in 3 - 5 gallon buckets and haul in and out and grow under lights so that they are well on their way when the last frost is done
  • Make cages for the plants so that the chickens can't get at them - SLW in photo above is showing her disdain for the fencing I used to protect sleeping garlic bulbs!
  • Plant some corn in the chicken run - protect until it is well matured. That will give them shade in the summer and something to play in throughout the fall and into the winter.
  • Shred more paper - it's tough to keep up with, but it works wonderfully as both mulch and chicken bedding
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch and mulch some more
  • Compost more
  • Make manure tea for the trees and plants
  • Implement an automated drip or sprinkler system
  • Plant more hybrid poplar trees along the front - plant in trenches, flood irrigate and mulch and feed well.
  • Plant a few hybrid poplars on the outside of the south and north sides of the chicken run - this will provide shade and wind blocks during the summer. (If I plant them inside the run, the chickens will be able to use the trees to escape from the run!)
  • Plant extra herb and tomato plants so I can give some away
  • Try early maturing, "closer to wild" grape or current tomatoes to see if I can get a harvest this year; protect them when the nights start getting colder
  • Grow enough basil to make pesto

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Counting My Blessings

White RoosterLovely clear, warm (above 40°F, calm day. I let the chickens into the barren winter garden for the afternoon, tossed out some uncooked oatmeal and cracked corn and let them have at it. Spent several hours just puttering around, taking pictures, adding fresh pine bedding to the chicken coop, and generally just whiling away the day doing "not much of anything."
Eggs du jourI suppose that some of the point of raising chickens would be to go out and collect the eggs fresh before breakfast and fry them up on the spot. It was still in the 20's at breakfast time, so we ate yesterday's eggs, and these lovelys sat in the pine shavings for several more hours as the morning thawed out.
Hen in the Herb bed in WinterI have barricaded the bed with the garlic so that it is "Chicken-proof", but I have not done the same to the herb bed. Caught this girl red-handed (or red-headed) among the dried basil stalks, tomato plant trash and flattened down Irises. Hard to believe that 7 months ago, this bed was in full bloom (First Day of June 2008).
Sadie The Chicken HawkShe's my chicken killer. Can't train something like that out of a dog, so we have strong fencing and try and be extra diligent at surveillance. She came to us skiddish, shy, and with her ribs sticking out. Now she is fat, happy, bouncy and full of kisses for everyone. My toddler granddaughter still scares her a little, and after an hour or so of toddler pursuit, Sadie is ready to hide in her bed in the laundry room. Come to think of it, after an hour of toddler pursuit, I am ready to hide in my room, too! Working on one of the carsWell, I can't complain too much about the flock of disabled vehicles that live on our little farm. It keeps the boys amused - and I know where everyone is on Saturday night - at home, warming up by the fire after playing with the cars all afternoon!Fancy-Pant's tailAfter much "Schooling by broom", the PIA rooster seems to be behaving much better now. He has been re-named "Fancy Pants". Here's a closeup of his fancy tail. He better keep behaving, as we have a turkey fryer, now, and he'd fit, no problem!Snow PrintsMany blessings for the New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Battening down the hatches

What a difference a few months makes. Here's a photo from mid-October - nearly done at this point, and ready for winter. Roof is weather-proofed even though we are still five shingles short of having all the roofing on. I guess we're buying a full bundle of shingles to finish it off.

Way too cold for shorts these days - one morning was three degrees last week. My husband forced me to get a warm, hooded, "Carhardt-style" work jacket at Cabellas yesterday. I whined about spending so much money on a jacket... and then I went to play with the chickens this morning, and, ok, so maybe it was worth it! Now I have a heavy jacket and socks. What'll it be next? Snow boots or something?!

Well, it certainly doesn't snow this much where we are. If it did, well, we probably wouldn't be living here! It's pretty, but it isn't fun to drive in, even with 4WD. And it never really snows enough around here for anyone (including me) to actually really learn how to drive in the stuff. Is it summer, yet? Then I can whine about the heat instead of the cold! One nice thing about winter, though - I have lots of time to plan projects for my husband for Spring and Summer next year!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Baby, it's cold outside!

The song, according to Wikipedia, is written by Frank Loesser. In my mind, it is sung by Doris Day and Frank Sinatra, but according to the article, the chart topping version that everyone remembers is actually recorded by Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer. Frankie & Doris appear to have never recorded it. No matter - at 14 °, it's cold outside! Chickens were especially appreciative of getting warm water this morning! And the coop is significantly warmer than outside, so if it was 14 in the coop and 55.4° in the house, I shudder to think what the outside temp was!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Oh, no, more Photoshop

Maran Egg by kmom246@yahoo.comThe only thing exciting is the egg hunt and egg counts. Today there were a total of 9. 5 tan from the Silver Laced Wyandottes, 3 dark brown from the Marans and a weird olive colored egg that could have been an odd one from either a Maran or an Easter Egger.
Summer 2008 garlic by kmom246@yahoo.comUsed a bunch of this in some wonderful home made vegetable soup. The other ingredients were store bought, but still, nothing like fresh, hot soup on a cold winter day! The maroonish colored garlic have deep, golden brown cloves with a nice, spicy taste. The taste mellows with cooking, though, so I think my daughter could have tripled (or more) the amount of garlic in the soup! (Ok, so what if I think you can never have enough garlic!)Summer 2008 garlic by kmom246@yahoo.comYes, these are all made from actual digital photos of my 2008 garlic harvest. I'm so desperate for Spring and Summer that I have resorted to "photoshopping" my harvest!This is a still life that I took a few years ago. The lighting wasn't very good and it just didn't quite make it as a photograph. But I think it turned out OK as a photoshopped picture.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Artistic Eggs

These are made from actual photographs of mine. In the case of the eggs, the photo did not really turn out that great. Add a little photoshopping, though, and they look great (at least to me - I'm biased!). Remember, you can click on the picture for a full sized version...

This is from a photo of the Pain In The A... rooster. I think I have this as a non-photoshopped photo somewhere else on this blog. He looks so lovely and pleasant in this photo. If only he were so in real life. Periodic chasing with a broom and letting a toddler hoot and holler at him seems to have made him a little nicer to be around, however.