Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Beginning a new chapter of our lives

After two years of renting and NOT digging in the dirt, we have saved our pennies and will be moving back onto some land.  I will be chronicling our new adventures at The Little Biddy Hen House. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


After much deliberations, we have decided to pull up roots and move back home to The South. As a result, the chickens (including Kickstart) have been re-homed, as well as my kitty. And, I did not plant out a garden this year. Still, I cannot "not garden." The land and the cycles of the seasons are so much a part of me. Luckily, I have my apple trees and perennial herbs to amuse me. And, yes, I planted out a packet of beans. 24 bean plants almost doesn't seem like a garden. Still, it's better than nothing, and beans take almost no effort and are forgiving.
But first, a vacation photo. Some people go to museums or amusement parks for vacation - my daughters and granddaughters and I went to a U-Pick strawberry farm in California! Oh how I long for enough home grown strawberries to make jam and syrup with!

Alas, not My strawberry fields!
And now for today's updates from the not-garden garden..
I planted a mixed packet of bush beans. The yellow wax ones are coming on strong, and are ignoring the heat. The green ones are about a week behind. And so far, the purple ones haven't even set any tiny beans yet. They were planted at the same time and given the same neglect. Hopefully the purple ones will start setting soon. Yellow and purple are easier to see and harvest than the green ones.
First Bean Harvest of the Season
Apples doing well, and even hanging on during our wind storms; however, we won't be here to see them ripen. Well, the birds and chipmunks will have a feast. The really sad part is, even though I will water them deeply before we leave, all of my trees are probably destined to die.
They are about golf ball sized now.
Oregano, Sweet Marjoram, Lemon Balm, Culinary Sage, and Silver Thyme all came back from last year and are doing well. I sheared back the Oregano a few weeks ago, but it is threatening to bloom again. I have harvested some of the sage. I love the soft, pebbly feel of the leaves. Sadly, my two foot tall rosemary did not survive the winter. Her dried stalks still smell great, though, and I've left the dead plant there so that I can rub my hands on it and capture that scent. The 3 unknown day lilies have returned, and the two that get full sun are blooming. Lizards continue to find my 3 little garden beds to be an oasis. A few hardy tumble weeds have sprouted in the main area of the garden (where I did not grow anything and am not watering). Took down my bird feeder and washed it out. It isn't super expensive, but enough, and it's going with me. ...as are my bearded irises! And now, back to packing...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Good Morning!

Not sure why I woke up at 4:30 a.m., but glad I did. Lovely 50*F morning in the garden this morning. Golden sunlight. Unfortunately, I think I have dropped my phone one too many times, and the pictures are now a little out of focus. Still, a little sepia tone can fix a lot of issues. View of the chicken coop through the branches of my little Royal Gala apple tree from Stark Bros. I have no illusions that I will actually get to eat these - summer winds are sure to tear them from the branches when they are about golf ball size.
Today's garden activities and comments
  • ate 6 strawberries
  • took some semi-blurry pictures
  • watered everything
  • weather predicted to be in high 80*s today
  • did my morning exercise in the garden
  • inhaled fresh, cool, not dusty! air
  • listened to neighborhood roosters crow
  • yellow clover is over 2 ft tall
  • beans in beds 2 and 3 doing well
  • one iris blooms
Ok, now time to get ready for work. Maybe I'll take the top off of the Jeep. Starting out to be an excellent day.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Seed Catalog Season Already?

Thanksgiving brought some balmy days in the mid-60's (*F) and mild nights that only flirted with freezing.  Bright blue skies and wispy clouds.  Makes it difficult to believe that it could be Seed Catalog Season already!  But it is, and my second catalog arrived this week - from Totally Tomatoes.  The tomatoes have such delightful names, like Jaune Flammee, Tigerella, and Purple Russian.  I want to buy them all!
This week it is going to be down in the teens at night again - Winter is doing her best to arrive.  All those cold desert days with barely a hint of green raises the odds that I will buy way more tomato seeds that I could possibly grow... Today is a breezy 54*F, though, and feels more like early Autumn, before the apple trees shed their leaves and the chill nights killed the last of the tomato plants.  In keeping with that lazy Autumn feeling, here's a picture of one of my ducks napping in the warm October sun.  Well, almost napping - the eyes are not quite closed yet.

I am so blessed to have had such a productive and enjoyable year in the garden.  The soil continues to improve with every wheel barrel full of composted chickie-poo pine bedding.  Automatic waterer did wonders to keep everything alive during the blistering Summer sun, and my flock were all to happy to devour excess zucchinis bigger than my arm!  

... Hill Billy, Old German, Orange Strawberry, Merlot and  Mexico Midget - tomato dreaming...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Been a long time since I've posted

Too busy for words... but, as if I haven't anything else to do... my newest blog A Tiny Slice Of Paradise.  It isn't a blog in the traditional sense.  It is, essentially, where I am transcribing my garden journal.  Grouping everything by date.  One might think that the two blogs would eventually merge, but I don't think so.  They serve two different purposes for me.  Well, we shall see...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Vacation Time in Tennessee

Spent one of our mornings at the historic Carnton Plantation.  Although the outside has seen some wear and tear, the insides have been restored back to the original time period - sans carpeting in most rooms, so as to display the blood stains of the wounded Confederate Soldiers.  Alas, they don't allow indoor photography, so you will have to visit to see it; however, there are no such restrictions on the outside or in the garden. 
And, of course, being of the homo sapiens jardinis species, a brief hour in the gardens was just a tease. (Don't forget to click on the photo to view the full sized picture).
I was somewhate disappointed by the gardens, thinking they would be well tended; however, there were weeds in the beds and cherry tomatoes seemed to have been allowed to sprout and grow randomly.  And, of course, I was visiting at the end of the season, so the bearded irises were sporting berries and most of the flowers were beginning to put out seed heads.  Still, there were many delightly little vingets to be had.  For example, bees that were as big as the first joint of my thumb and darn near as fat.  Their favorite food? Some purple runner beans.

And, the little copper colored butterflies that I chased in my youth, hundreds of them enjoying the late summer bounty.

I love my little garden in the desert; but sometimes, I really miss living in Dixie.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Current Status

Current state of the garden:
  • Sunflowers - 10 in bloom in the main sunflower location  - one "Mammoth" has a central disk about 8" across; however, most have central disks closer to 5 and 6 inches.  Both of the ones in Raised Bed 2 are blooming, as are two of the volunteers (from bird seed) near the nectarine tree.  About 10 more main buds.  Good soil, good water means that many of them look like they will have smaller "side buds" that will bloom later one.  Need to protect the ripening heads from birds and other creatures.
  • Corn - first set is beginning to tassel.  Second set is growing strong, as well as the bush beans planted in between them.  The sunflowers planted between them, of course, have been devoured by some wildling.  I am thinking of planting more corn next weekend - a losing bet to get ripening ears of corn out of them; however, I am sure the chickens will enjoy tearing it up at the end of the season when they are let loose in the garden to eat and till things under.
  • Bush beans - in full swing.  They will probably be done with their crop in a few weeks.  Then time to till them under.
  • Dow Gawk (Asparagus or Yard Long Beans) - the ones in the corn are starting to flower; the new ones planted against the fence along the South are barely surviving.  The ones by the dead apple tree keep getting eaten up.
  • Blackeye Peas and Purple Hull Peas - are both beginning to bloom and set tiny bean pods.  The blooms are lavender and turn brownish after pollination. A few more weeks and we will have "shelly peas."  One nice thing about them is that they hold the bean pods high above the plant, so they are easy to see.
  • Cukes - They are producing the first of their flowers and fruits; however, I think the heat and water stress are causing them to ripen small and fast.  The 3 inch ones I plucked today were prickly and bitter.  But the chickens like 'em!
  • Blue Bedder Salvia (Ornamental Sage) - Has so far survived critter depredations and has its first buds.  It is a perennial, so maybe I will get lucky and see them again next year.  I have 3 small plants that have survived so far.
  • CA Poppies - 3 plants are barely surviving, and one is actually thriving and blooming.  One bloom is done, one is open, and 3 more will be ready later this week.  The plant is small, and the blooms are small, but perhaps next year's seed will sprout sooner and be stronger by this time of year.
  • Morning Glories - in all locations, MGs and Moon Flowers are suffering from being too tasty.  They are prolific and vigorous, so the plants aren't dead, yet - but they don't actually get a chance to thrive.  A casualty of laziness and a disinclination to use synthetic chemicals.  I heard about a fermented solution of garlic and hot peppers that is supposed to keep critters away.  I might try some next year.
  • Raspberry - lives and looks healthy - but not flower buds yet, so no fruit.  But it lives, so that is a grand improvement over its several predecessors.
  • Strawberries - The runners from three hen-pecked plants have re-filled bed two, and I have foolish hopes that next year I will have strawberries to eat.
  • Silver Thyme - done blooming, and now going to seed.
  • Rosemary - finished blooming a while ago, but still sending up new shoots.  This is the longest into Summer that it has ever done so.  I wonder if it is because of our relatively cool weather, or if it is just because it is big and old enough to do so now, or some combination thereof.
  • Oregano - some that I let go to flower looks lovely; the rest looks tired.  Much of it is getting woody.  I think it may be time to give it a sharp trimming so it will grow mostly on tender new stems next year.
  • Melissa (Lemon Balm) - Looks sad and brown around the edges as it always does this time of year.
  • Day Lilly - the one in sun has bloomed several times this season; the other two, not.  I should move the other two now so that they have time to become established before winter.  I am actually quite surprised that they came back this year - they were looking quite poorly at the end of last season.
  • Desert Mallow - my original weed in Raised Bed One from several years ago is in great decline.  I think she is done.  The good news is, I sprinkled seed in Raised Bed Three last year, and one of her progeny has taken root there and is looking quite vigorous.  Perhaps at the end of this season, it will be time to rip out the original plant.
  • Unknown summer squashes - probably yellow straight neck, yellow crook neck, a patty-pan and some more zukes.  Laziness means that I will be surprised when they produce.  They should be ready to bloom in about 4 more weeks - in time to get some good squash before frost.  They are, of course, planted too close together.  I cannot seem to bring myself to either plant further apart or to thin.
Ducky enjoying the kiddie wading pool.  They really are waterproof.

    Sunday, July 31, 2011

    Harvest Begins

    Gathered enough green beans today (and a tiny purple one that I couldn't resist) to actually have enough to eat as a side dish today.  There are still 30 or more tiny, tiny ones that will hopefully be ready to eat next weekend when I return home.
    The harvest actually started in June with the first of the garlic.  This place is from last week - the last of the small garlics to be cured and the first little beans to be picked.
    I just love the colors and textures of the hard necked garlics.  It was a cool, wet Spring, and many of the garlics did not bulb up as much as I expected.  Still, my house smells either delightful - or stinky - right now, depending how much one loves the stinky rose.
    Herbs that were chopped fine and added to my home grown eggs this morning: a sage leaf, a touch of oregano, and some tender new growth from my rosemary. 
    I worried about taking my eye off the zukes for 5 seconds to go on business travel.  While I did not find any that were baseball bat sized, I did find one that was as long and as thick around as my fore arm!  Won't have time to do anything with it, and there are 5 young ones on the vine right now, so I think I will slice it length-wise and let the chickies devour it tomorrow.

    Saturday, July 30, 2011

    Critters in the Garden Day

    Over a dozen sunflowers are blooming in various places in the garden - and the bees are intimately familiar with all of them.  Often times 2, 3 or more bees will be collecting pollen and nectar.  Note the pollen-filled legs of these buzzing ladies. (Click on the photo for a larger version)

    Besides the buzzing of bustling, busy bees, there is also the humming of dragon flies as they patrol the skies for mosquitoes and other flying, biting things.  This one rests on the tip of my dead cherry tree.  See - laziness on my part (in clearing the dead tree) provides a place to relax for this mighty hunter!

    Speaking of hunters, not only gatherers frequent the sunflowers.  Several of these spiders also frequent the sunflower disks. Their legs are a semi-translucent white color that picks up the yellow hue of the sunflowers - making them appear to be just a light yellow dot on the disk - nothing threatening looking at all.  I haven't seen what it eats, yet, but a number of little gnat-like creatures also seek sustenance from the sunflower, so I suspect those are what this arachnid hunts.
    Another hunter, but not of the insect or arachnid family - a local lizard that frequents the garden.  Here it is chomping on an ant.  We are fairly used to one another, so if I move slowly, I can often get withing 3 feet of this one before it scampers off.  I try and back away before invading it's personal space, however, and I think this contributes to its tolerance of me.
    Well, this critter is not allowed in the garden to place.  He continues the canine tradition of the "race track" around the garden/chicken run, and so runs his laps while I am puttering around inside the fence. 

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    Random Photo Day

    Some early morning photos from this morning.  Nothing fancy or revolutionary - just a nice  little walk around the garden before the blazing sun warms everything up.  The rule of thumb is, 60*F by 6 am, 70*F by 7 am, 80*F by 8 am, and 90*F by noon.  Remember, you can click on the photo for a larger version.
    Just a few years ago this apple tree was a mere stick, barely bigger in diameter than my thumb.  It now sports a trunk bigger around than my wrist.  Fickle Desert Spring froze all the buds this year, so no apples.  Still, it is nice and green - and I harvest the suckers (some call them water sprouts) for the ducks and chickens to dine on.
     This is a purple bush bean called Velour.  The flowers and stems are purple, and some of the leaves have purple flecks in them.  The tiny beans (the one in the photo is about an inch long) turn purple as they mature, and turn deep green when blanched or cooked.  The plants are not as vigorous as say, Kentucky Wonder; however, they are cute, and the purple beans are easy to find among the green foliage.
     Early morning view of sweet corn in the foreground, the root stock of a peach tree (redish leaves), all overlooking sunlit weeds in the distance.  Fill flash was a little too heavy, giving it a very contrasty, almost artificial look compared to what I saw - but it still picked up the glow of the weeds, and that was one of my main objectives.
     Detail of a garlic scape.  I let about 50 of these form bubils.  Not sure that they will make new garlic plants, and even if they do, it could take 5 years before they are big enough to harvest.  Chickens really do eat anything, however, so I have been giving some to them.  Garlic is supposed to act as a natural de-wormer.  I don't think they have worms, but I'm feeding them the bubils just in case.  Besides, they love chasing down the little balls of garlic when I throw them in their pen.
     Nodding garlic scapes with their hundreds of tiny bubils.  The early morning golden light really brings out the pink colors in them.  During the flat light of the day, they look more brown.
     My girl on patrol.  Her web is in bed one and is strung between Sweet Marjoram, Rosemary, and Lemon Balm (although I like it's official name better: Melissa Officinalis.).  I know she is a girl because most male spiders have hooks on their front legs to hold the female with during mating.  She has been hanging out for a few weeks, now.  Eat and be merry, Garden Friend!
    More weeds and morning sunshine.  This time the weeds are inside the garden.  I left them there because I want them to spread their 900,000,000,000 seeds all over my garden.  Actually, I left them up because the ducks rest on the other side of the fence in the shade of these weeds in the late afternoon.  Makes a decent wind break for them.