What’s Happening in the Garden–July 11, 2016

Oh my goodness… It’s been a month.. and I have a million posts written in my head but not one made it’s way to my blog.  I’m sorry!

People ask questions at work that would be great posts all the time. I need to  write about the experience of serving people in a garden center and share some of that. I love the questions! Some are very common and happen all day (is it the annual or the perennial that comes back every year?) and some are surprises. Let’s just say I’m learning a lot about plants and gardening so I’m probably much happier than the average garden center employee.

I wish I had about five more hours in the day. I think I’d feel perfectly balanced and on top of everything if I did.

Or not.

Then, there’s the garden…

That keeps us busy.

This isn’t exactly the epic gardening year that I always think it’s going to be, but we’re doing okay. It’s been quite dry so the watering is non-stop. I think I lost my garlic crop to neglect and I feel badly about that, but it happens.

IMG_1709On the bright side, the potatoes are doing well. These are kennebec and we have three pots of them. I like growing them in pots because the disease and critter issues decrease a lot when they’re protected by the wall of the container.

IMG_1710The sungold tomatoes did better than I expected. My tomatoes went through a rough patch when I was just too busy with work and end of the school  year commitments to take care of them, but many have rebounded nicely. This variety does great in a pot.

IMG_1717I think that’s a little spider web, but some of you may know better. Is it going  to be okay?

IMG_1718The blueberry bushes are clinging to life. This is so sad because they were great last year. I’m still blaming that extreme cold(-10)  few days for this. I’d welcome any ideas for organically fertilizing and shoring them up.

IMG_1721The lovage has lept. I love leaping lovage. It tastes like celery and it looks so cool.

IMG_1722Most of our kaleidoscope mix and chocolate beauty pepper plants are still with us. The bunnies got a few of them.

IMG_1724These rattlesnake beans came from seeds that Michael’s uncle gave us when we were in Arizona in January. I’m waiting for them to climb their poles but they’re just sitting there teasing me!

IMG_1725-001This is Russian kale and it’s sweet! I’m using it as a vegetable, and as a filler in containers. Stay tuned for a better look at that on Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day on the fifteenth.

IMG_1726Here’s a few more tomato plants that I had given up hope on.

I believe my exact words to Michael were “we’re going to have to go buy some tomato  plants.”

He wasn’t too happy about that since they’d been living on our pool table for quite a while.

You just never know if things are going to come back…

IMG_1727The opalka tomatoes are too, along with the strawberry plants that I thought we had lost a few years  ago.

IMG_1728It’s late, but there’s basil growing and there’ll be plenty of time to enjoy it. This variety is Osmin from Pinetree Seeds. I need to do rock removal everywhere. They look huge next to the seedlings, don’t they?

IMG_1729And this is lemon basil. and little rocks.

If it all survives the critters it should be a foot high for my next What’s Happening update.

IMG_1731The lettuce is awesome, I need to plant some more asap!

IMG_1735And then there’s the onions… remember my onions last year?

IMG_9473Here they are! They were fabulous!

I’m not so sure about this year’s crop. They’re competing for space with a chipmunk and it’s been quite a battle. Those furrows that you see in the middle of the photo of this year’s onions are the chipmunk’s mark.

I know chippys are cute, and they have stripes on their back, and they sing in a movie…

But, I’d like for them to stay away from the garden. That’s all..

IMG_1736So this may be my favorite photo of this post, if not the whole season. Michael is using rhubarb leaves as mulch! I have a zillion questions about whether or not this is a good idea, but I think it’s really creative. Will it work, I don’t know? Are those leaves okay for the soil?  I’m not sure… but they look great!

IMG_1738I caved and planted store bought zucchini  plants, so far so good.

IMG_1739Same with the cucumber. This isn’t a great photo but I got these bamboo hoops from freecycle a few years ago and I love them. I hope the plants grow up over them again.

IMG_1741-001Mother Swiss chard and baby swiss chard are happy together.

IMG_1765So are our new baby chicks. This is one of the easter eggers.

IMG_1755We also have another Easter egger, two white leghorns, two Buckeyes and a Black Giant.

IMG_1743The black Giant is going to weigh ten pounds and she already rules the roost.

I’m loving our new little flock this year. These chicks seem special, maybe because with the exception of the EEs, they’re all new breeds to us.

If you’re still reading I need to say thank you so so much, this is a long post!

If I posted more often, they could be quite short, and easy to read.

Hmmm…

How’s your garden growing? Leave me a comment so I can check in with you 😉 I love to hear about how you’re doing!

Enjoy everything!

Love, Michele

Our Coop Construction, 2007-Present

It’s time to get ready for those backyard chickens! I’ve encountered a few people who are thinking about building a chicken coop recently, so I thought I’d re-blog this post about our chicken coop construction process. It looks like I did the same thing last year as well. If you want more information on chicken keeping be sure to click on the Chickens category in the menu at the top of the page. Most of my posts about chickens can be found there! Michele

The Salem Garden

Good almost spring morning!

I seem to be encountering lots of people who are planning to build or buy a chicken coop these days so I thought I’d share an overview of ours as it was constructed.

We didn’t exactly plan the coop before our first batch of chicks arrived in 2007 so our pullets (young chickens) lived in our basement for several months during construction. I don’t recommend that at all. You will save yourself a huge amount of anxiety by building or buying a coop before your chicks arrive. We kind of go with the flow around here but those few months were quite difficult. Fortunately we were totally in love with our brand new chickens so we all got through it together.

Okay, here goes:
IMG_0440The garden, pre chicken, around 2006.

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The very beginning… The corner posts were placed into holes dug approximately two feet into the…

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Our Coop Construction, 2007-Present

Are you thinking about raising chickens? It’s that “brand new flock” time of year again!  I thought I’d share this post that I wrote last year about the building and design process of our coop just in case you’re doing some research. Please be sure to leave your questions in the comments section and use the search box at the bottom of the page to find more chicken raising related posts!   We’re happy to help as much as we can.      Michele

Good almost spring morning!

I seem to be encountering lots of people who are planning to build or buy a chicken coop these days so I thought I’d share an overview of ours as it was constructed.

We didn’t exactly plan the coop before our first batch of chicks arrived in 2007 so our pullets (young chickens) lived in our basement for several months during construction. I don’t recommend that at all. You will save yourself a huge amount of anxiety by building or buying a coop before your chicks arrive. We kind of go with the flow around here but those few months were quite difficult. Fortunately we were totally in love with our brand new chickens so we all got through it together.

Okay, here goes:
IMG_0440The garden, pre chicken, around 2006.

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The very beginning… The corner posts were placed into holes dug approximately two feet into the ground. Michael hit a lot of rock but says he put them in as far down as he could go. The floor is plywood, the main posts are 4×4, the floor and ceiling were constructed with 2×6 boards and the walls with 2x4s.

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The roof going on..IMG_1511

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The roof pitch echoes our house’s roofline. It doesn’t match but it coordinates nicely.

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The walls are plywood attached to the frame with roofing paper applied over it to seal. The windows were mostly salvaged with the exception of the front window that my son is standing in. I think that one came from a building supply warehouse nearby (on the clearance rack I’m sure).

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Looking at the front; long windows for lots of light, a nice wide front door for easy access and the little chicken door on the bottom right.

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Here’s the back side. That overhang provides handy shelter for things like garden tools and wheelbarrows.You just have to watch that you don’t hit your head on the corner.

IMG_1622My little girl (who turned nine last week!)… windows and doors in. No screening on the run yet but that was in process.

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Looking down at a habitable coop without siding. It took another year or two for siding to be added.

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But then it was, and primer was applied to preserve the clapboard.

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Painted and decorated, with flowers growing, of course.

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It is a pretty little coop!

DSC01461Far back view in winter. The girls get afternoon sun through that window which helps to keep them cozy in the colder months.

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Here’s the front door and porch area. The porch is great because it gives the chickens a dry place to spend time and there’s space under it so they can hide if needed. It also saves us from having to step into mud pits…

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… like this one. Unless your a blogger who wants to take a picture of the front door of the chicken coop during mud season.

But who do you know who would do that? 😉

I realize that this is kind of a quick overview of our process and there’s lots of details missing. I took these photos as we went along but never with the idea that they would someday be used on my blog. So, I apologize for the gaps but hope it gives you an idea of what our coop exterior looks like and what our construction journey entailed. I’m going to do an inside tour in the next week or so.  I think I’ll include the head chicken keeper’s direct input as I write it to insure accuracy and probably some entertainment.

Leave me questions! Michael and I will be happy to answer them!

Happy Coop Building!

Michele

It’s a Yard Party!

To keep them safe, the chicks had spent most of their time in the chicken tractor until the other day. Michael let them out in the yard for a few hours and they had a blast!

IMG_5434 The first order of business was figuring out how to get out and how to get back in

IMG_5436which is not an easy thing…

IMG_5440 Really sisters, come join us!

IMG_5444 Or maybe we need to go home..

IMG_5445 But how?

IMG_5473No worries, we’ll come your way

IMG_5454Iris to eat, how tasty!

IMG_5478 Or just good old bugs in the grass.


IMG_5487I think I’ll learn to fly in all of this open space…

IMG_5491Mr Mallard stopped by for dinner.

IMG_5497 He’s beautiful and he knows it!

Mrs Mallard flies into the scene... Mrs Mallard flew in as well.

Dear, Dear... please use caution around the young onesMr Mallard said “Be careful around those young one’s dear!”
I'm not afraid of these young whipper snappers!She’s loves him but she’s very independent. I think I heard her say “I can more than hold my own with these young whippersnappers!”

IMG_5504The chickens didn’t seem to worry too much about the ducks visiting. Maybe that’s because Mr and Mrs Mallard often say hi as they walk past the tractor.

IMG_5506 Time for dinner…

IMG_5508 He always stands guard when she eats. It’s really cute!

IMG_5510Time to go home, this yard is a little too crazy for us tonight!

IMG_5516No worries, the chicks will keep things hopping…

IMG_5517Hey sisters, I think there’s something good over here..

IMG_5518On second thought, let’s head over the fence and look for some lettuce seedlings. I hear their really tasty!

Or not, depends on your palate 🙂

The party went on until they went home at dusk.

Those young chickens love to party!

I was ready for bed at nine 😉

Michele

 

 

Out In the Tractor!

 

Today is the first day that it’s been warm enough for a little jaunt to the yard. I wish I’d had my camera ready when we put the babies into the tractor. They were so cute, running and flapping and scratching. Usually by this age the chicks are very familiar with the outdoors but this little flock hasn’t experienced that since it’s been so cold.

IMG_5208Here’s our chicken tractor. We use it for lots of things… it’s a nursery, hospital/icu, transition place and even a space for a bunny to enjoy sometimes. Chicken tractors come in handy if your a chicken owner.

IMG_5206Looking in, it’s built as an a-frame with a little house at one end. When the chicks are too big for their basement cage they transition into this full time until their big enough to be integrated into the larger, older flock. Today it’s just a temporary play space for a few hours. Their still living in a cozy metal cage in the basement.

IMG_5195As you can see the tractor opens up a whole new world.

IMG_5192Everyone is growing so quickly. Michael was commenting earlier about how our dark cochin seems to be dominant. This is kind of a roosterish look… let’s hope she’s not a he.

IMG_5184The feathers are coming in so quickly…

IMG_5181Winnie stands guard. Stay away coyotes and raccoons!

IMG_5180This little chicken is growing the fastest of all.

She’s too much!

Enjoy everything!

Michele

 

Gangly chicks

I can’t believe they’ve grown this much! Where did the time go? That cute, fluffy stage is winding down fast.  At three weeks old the chicks are looking pretty gangly. This early adolescent age is cute in it’s own way. It’s fun to see the feathers coming and get a sense of how they’ll look as adults.

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Their still in their brooder with towels and a light to stay warm. It’s kind of chilly in our playroom.

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Michael took the cardboard box out to give them more space and added a log.

We’ll put a nice perch in soon too.

IMG_5020Golden-laced wyandotte…

IMG_5021Buff Orpington…

IMG_5022Silver-laced wyandotte…

IMG_5025The back of the golden-laced again, this girl is going to be beautiful.


IMG_5027Our dark cochin..

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The other buff orpington; we need more than one to maintain good balance and we’ll have three when these two chicks grow up

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Here’s our little cuckoo maran. I’ve been trying to give her extra socialization training because this breed is known to be pretty unfriendly. Doesn’t she look thrilled to see me?

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Best friends for life!

That’s how we raise them here~

Enjoy everything!

Michele

 

 

 

 

 




The Lovely, Motherly Cochin

If your deciding on breeds of chicken to raise, another fun possibility is the cochin. Cochins originated in China in the 1800s and are now commonly found here in the United States. Their most unique features are their furry feet and legs and their round, fluffy shape. They are just beautiful girls!

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The hen on the left is a buff cochin and the one in the middle is a white cochin.  While their not widely considered to be good layers we find that ours lay medium sized eggs regularly.

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Here’s one of our current babies who will grow up to be a dark cochin. We like lots of varied colors in our flock so we’re looking forward to adding her in with the buffs, whites and banty cochin!IMG_4589

Our little white hen is a banty cochin. Banties are small chickens who usually look just like their standard (regular) sized counterparts but in a mini version. She probably weighs about two pounds, compared to the six to eight pound weights of the standards.

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She may be smaller than her sisters but she is mighty! She’s also quite a mother-to-be wannabe. She gets broody to the point that we have to take her off the nest at times. Last summer we went through a period when she pulled all of the feathers off of her belly so that she could keep the eggs warmer. They grew back over time but we had to regularly move her out to the run to break the pattern. Broodiness (a huge desire to sit on eggs to hatch them) is a common cochin characteristic and while it’s a little messy and inconvenient, it isn’t a problem as long as the chicken eats and drinks regularly.

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You just can’t go wrong with a few beautiful cochin in your flock!

We love them and you will too!

Happy Saturday!

Love, Michele

Poop-poop-e-doop

That’s what Michael always said when we were dealing with a really poopy diaper back in the diaper days and it’s my first thought when I step into the chicken coop in the morning.

I love to talk about all of the lovely reasons to raise chickens… the eggs, the colors, the educational benefits, the pest control, the fluffy beautiful fun. There is another side to this business though and to be fair and transparent the time has come for me to hit that too.

There is a LOT of poop.

DSC03868Here we go… this is from one night in the coop and it’s just one side of the room. This is a lot of poop to clean up.

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We use this handy dandy scraper. It’s located in a tricky spot, over to the right where I can’t quite reach without leaning into the perch but I manage when I have to. Truth be told, Michael does most of the scraping. I fill in when he’s not able to which was the case yesterday morning because he wasn’t feeling well. So, I finally got these chicken poop photos I’ve been meaning to take.

I’m a pretty spoiled chicken mama and Michael is a very dedicated chicken dad so it all works out.

DSC03877This is what one morning’s poop removal looks like.

We scrape it up every day first thing. I know that not everyone does it this way, you can wait and add hay on top then clean it out less often but we’re kind of daily chicken coop cleaners. About once every four to six weeks we (I use the word “we” very loosely here) do a more thorough cleaning and remove the old hay and put fresh down.

The daily poop goes out to the compost piles down in the woods to break down. We add it to the garden as compost after a year or so.

It’s one of the best composts ever!

Guess I’m right back to the good reasons to keep chickens!

poop-poop-e-doop!

Have a great day!

Michele