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Thursday, April 30, 2009

No Turning Back Now

I have been wanting to do something with this boring and barren area right in front of my house for quite some time now. I guess there is no time like the present. Especially when you are right in the middle of building a Big Intimidating Row Garden and a Chicken House mixed with a garden gate for the lawn mower to pass through and moving an aging and disabled father and all his crap. This week. I always do this to myself. It must be genetic. Anyhow, I have been playing with a drawing and design plan for this space on earlier posts and decided to just start. Then I couldn't talk myself out of it and put it off until next year.

Do you like the camper in the front drive? We also had plumbing issues last week had to use the camper for our bathroom. At least we had the camper and didn't have to rent a porta-potty. That would have seriously freaked me out. One power auger rental later and some very unsavory moments of cutting roots from the sewer line, we once again had plumbing. I love old houses. I really love old plumbing. Good times.

I suppose you are now wondering what the trench is. Well, I will tell you. I don't know, it just seemed like the first logical step. I was planning to define the new planting bed with an edge then cover it all with cardboard and start layering dirt and compost on top of that. I figured the cardboard would turn the underlying turf into compost and it would allow me to not dig all that lawn out. I like to edge all my planting beds with river rock and thought I would raise this planting bed to kind of give it that garden room feel. Then after a rain, it dug up pretty easily and I decided..... well, I am not sure what I decided. I just thought I would start. I think I already have enough rock to edge it and will have to get dirt and utilize our huge compost pile in the back field. This area is always wet and I would like to get plant feet out of the soggy parts. It is a low spot in my yard.

As you can see, the outline of the planting bed only loosely follows the plan. Flat rocks are hard to find around here so I will make a paver walkway instead. The flat rocks I already found  will become bench landings or a nice spot for a little table and chairs. I suppose I will decide that one on the fly too. Funny how I plan to plan and make a master list to add to the things to do list. But my plan always changes at the last minute. Maybe that isn't so funny and I should seek help for this problem. But it works for me and Doyle has learned to roll with the punches.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Finally Thundercloud Plum, Finally!

Since this is a garden blog, and chickens are not actually flowers, I thought I would share a few blooms in my yard right now. We planted this Thundercloud Plum 5 years ago, at least. It has done absolutely nothing in my landscape. It's bloom is pathetic and the thing just does not seem to grow. Except from the base of the trunk. It grows there just fine. 'Weedy tree' comes to mind when I look for descriptors for this species. Last year I poured on the water, killed off all the grass around it and fertilized the heck out of it. Well, I'll be. It bloomed more than one bloom. Finally. I am not a very patient person and this tree was about be yarded out of the landscape. If you don't perform and I don't kill you, you may be on the short list. It was. It still might be but a stay of execution is in force at least this year. I think I might like it after all. I just seriously hope this isn't it's last 'hurrah' before it dies. Sometimes that happens to me too.

One thing I am still unhappy with is it's scrubby growth habit. All the limbs seem to go up and not out. Doyle actually fashioned some spreaders out of wood for me to push the limbs apart. Hopefully they will grow that way now. The nursery I purchased this from says the limbs will "relax" as it grows and it will be full and round. I think they are pulling my leg. Dang nursery. They actually no longer guarantee their trees for a year (or even a season) anymore either. I don't think I will buy from them anymore. The very, very, very old man who owned it his whole life died. The people who took over (possibly his children) don't seem to understand customer service very well. Poor Mr. Carnifix, I sure hope he can't see what is going on in his earthly nursery. I don't think he would like it very well. But he might like my Thundercloud Plum now. It does have nice blooms.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Inspiration Chicken House

Everyone has to have an inspiration piece, right? Well here is mine. I admit to being more than a little chicken crazy. I talk about it to my captive patients all day. My boss and his assistants hear about it all day from the next operatory. My husband hears it as he tries to fall asleep at night.  It seems to be all I can talk about, because quite frankly it is all I think about. I dream about it, and I obsess about the details. I hope that the chicks will arrive alive, and that the promised 90% sexing accuracy is way low and they will all be pullets. I want all the feeders to match and the waterers to be easily heatable for winter. I want to stock up on pine shavings now, nevermind I have no where to store them. And last but not least I wonder what to name 30 chickens. Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Ross are just some I have thought of. My husband has a whole other plan, guaranteed.

My friend, Brenda, has the chicken house that changed my husbands mind about keeping chickens. Hers is fun and quaint with lots of attention to detail. Her husband, Dolan, is quite the craftsman, and built her this dandy chicken house. The 'Girls' have a huge fenced in run but they chose to fly over it and free range in the field. Very cool. Her eggs are also the most amazing eggs I have ever seen. No one believes me until I crack one of hers next to another farm-fresh egg and then the difference is plain. She feeds those lucky birds to the letter and they get lots of the good stuff in the fields next to her house. Happy, healthy, friendly chickens. That is what I am trying to duplicate. 

And in closing, I will show you more progress on my chicken house. As I had my hands deeply entrenched in a patient's mouth yesterday, yacking all about my new chicken house and how big it seems, I shoved my own feet in my mouth. This actually happens a lot in my life. She asked if I pulled permits. What? Yep, permits. Seems her relation is the building inspector in our county, the real one, not Ollie. Whoops! Do you need a permit for a chicken house? Maybe if I could learn to call it a coop instead of a chicken house, I would not. But coop sounds dirty to me and I dream of clean chickens with no poop. I know that is very unrealistic but let me have my moments before reality sets in and I scoop the good stuff every day. One can dream can't they? So, I am hoping none of the neighbors that we don't like turn us in. That would really be uncool. I know the building would pass inspection but I don't want to deal with it this late in the game. Does it count if all we are doing is replacing the coop that once sat in this place? I sure as heck hope so.

Monday, April 27, 2009

1 3/4 More Walls Up!

We built two more chicken house walls on Sunday. The wall they guys are holding up is only 3/4 done as it still need 4 more feet added to the top to make it even with the side wall on each end. That portion of the wall will have a 12" tall, 5' wide window across the south wall, up at the top, to add light into the coop so the girls will lay all winter. I will still need to add extra light in the morning but that will help. The east wall (far wall not yet built in this picture) will also have a big window that slides open, that will provide much light without cooking the poor things in the summer. My husband said he reached the end of his ability with framing after these two were done so now we wait for our friend to come back and help finish the framing. Maybe Wednesday. It is so nice of him to help us, he has so much of his own stuff to work on. But I am seriously impatient. I tried my hardest to talk Doyle into trying to build the rest without help but he wasn't biting. Darn it! Just thought I would show the progress!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The First Wall Is Up!

The first wall of the chicken house is up! Whoohoo!!!!! I am so excited. I spent the whole grueling day in Boise trying to pack up my Dad's house and hating every minute of it. When I got home, I got this! Life got much better after seeing progress on the new chicken coop. This picture does not really show how tall this is. I am actually shocked it is so tall. The south wall is 12 ft tall to accommodate the pitch for shedding snow. I don't visualize very well so I was aghast at how tall that is when you stand right up next to it. We wanted to be able to stand inside the whole thing. The footprint of the coop will be 10 x 16 with 6 foot of that an ante room you walk into first. I plan to store all my supplies and feed in there so we don't have to treck around in the snow in the winter. We also preplanned a pop door in this area so that in the future, one side can be used as a brooder. You know... just in case we go totally chicken crazy. We are no construction gurus. Our friend, Monte, is helping us build this. Actually he seems to be building while we watch and get what he needs. He is one meticulous fellow. I thought I was bad. He is seriously anal. All in a good way, of course. He will need to really like chicken and eggs. We are on the barter system around here, with the lovely economy and all. So I plan to keep his family in the good stuff for as long as they will take them. The main body of the house only has one roof elevation and off the back side, there will be a covered run. It will look a lot more even when it is all there. I will keep you all updated.

And last but not least, the Inspector showed up again. Ollie loves to smell the hammer just before you swing it to drive a nail. He also likes to lick the tape measure and is absolutely in love with string line. Lime green is his favorite. What a pain in the rear end when he is putting his feet up on your legs when you are squatted down to look something over closely. Kind of throws off the balance a bit. We finally had to put them away. Way too curious for safety reasons. Osha must have some kind of rule against livestock on a construction site.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mowing in April- Awww Nuts!

This time last year we still had a pretty good bit of snow on the ground. Last year wasn't normal and this year is proving to be equally odd. Here it is, April, and I had to mow the big yard today. We call this area in the center of our circle drive the 'Big Yard' because it is, well, big. It takes over an hour on a John Deer Riding mower and that is only one of the lawns. The other is inside the fence, around the house. That is the one I am currently trying to convert into flower beds and less lawn. I love how this space looks in the spring. As the summer wears on and I have emptied the lower pond trying to flood irrigate it, I like it less. It does all seem worth it when just one person compliments our efforts. It takes a lot of effort. Last year we began killing off the lawn around the trees and that made our mowing job 348% easier. That is a lot easier! As everything begins to leaf out you can hardly tell my husband is a chainsaw pruning addict. 

This is a Flicker hole that the Flicker or Flickers have been madly preparing. There is actually one equal in size on the opposite side of this same tree. You can't seem to kill a willow so I like to have the birds around. Magpies are a whole other story. We have watched this bird getting mouthfuls of sawdust material and spitting it out of the hole. Fun to watch. What does that tell you about our lives? We might need to get out more.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Planted In the Garden So Far

Well, so far I have most of my cool season crops planted. A few of this years plantings are new to me. This list is as follows:
  • Swiss Chard - Mixed Color
  • Swiss Chard - Fordhook Giant
  • Lettuce - Butter Crunch
  • Lettuce - Simpson Elite
  • Lettuce - Rouge d'Hiver
  • Lettuce - Red Salad Bowl
  • Spinach
  • Beets - Detroit Dark Red
  • Peas - Maestro (shelling)
  • Peas - Green Arrow (shelling)
  • Strawberries (already growing)
  • Onion - Lisbon, White Bunching
  • Onion - Red
  • Onion - Yellow
  • Leeks
  • Asparagus
  • Brocolli
  • Brussel Sprouts
I only have one of the smaller raised beds left and was waiting on another type of beet for canning to show but Park Seed has failed me once again. I may plant Sugar Snap peas in that spot. Funny how we just expanded the raised beds last year and this year I am out of space. Good thing the new Intimidating Row Garden is under construction or I wouldn't have a place to put everything else I plan to grow. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Intimidating New Garden in Beginning Phase

Have you ever wondered how to get help on the big projects you want done? Well, in or around our home it means renting heavy equipment and letting my husband play on it. Big boy toys, I guess you would say. His friend owns this pretty little mini excavator and he was more than happy to let Doyle play on it to begin construction on the new Intimidating Row Garden. I happily call it that as I can't imagine how I will keep up with it all when it is done. 

After digging up all the field sod growing in this area, Doyle began tilling it. By hand.... well, with a very old tiller he borrowed and never returned to his mom and dad. It is officially dead now that it has tilled this spot. The actual garden turned out to be 91 x 27 feet and I say that is more than enough to weed.  I guess we will be buying a new bigger, healthier tiller after the chicken house is constructed. We decided the family that lived here before us and erected the milking barn, must have fed their cows in this space in the winter. There were thousands, and I am not exaggerating, of bale strings that wrapped around the tines of the tiller and had to be burnt off dozens of times during this process. We also unearthed tons of old metal things, and who knows what else in this spot. Sometimes I wonder what people were thinking back in the old days. The dump must have been way too far an old farm truck.  Doyle tilled in the nasty old wind we had last week and got all of the area tilled twice. Now the Super Highway pathways and the side road paths can go in. We have that started but then get overwhelmed with the sheer size of this project.
More on the layout in an upcoming post. I would like to plant onions and a few other cool items in here soon as the raised bed garden is full to the brim. I know I really was out of room in the raised beds, it just seems all so big to me. Hope we can keep up with it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

You Say Potato, I Say Potato

I planted my potatoes in fabric pots the other day. The pots themselves are Potato Bins from Gardener's Supply but they can also be purchased directly from the manufacturer, Smart Pots. These bins are 15 gallons and should hold 10-13 pounds of potatoes by season's end. We will see. This is my first year growing potatoes and I was unable to get the ones I wanted. No one ships to Idaho, funny as this is often called the potato state. But apparently Idaho doesn't want any new diseases for their main crop. I guess I can't blame them, it just puts a crimp in my ordering plans.

I planted:
  • Red LaSoda
  • Yukon Gold
  • Red Norland
I will keep you all posted as to how well these grow. I haven't moved them outside yet but plan to today or tomorrow. For now, they reside in the new garden shed/room. Love that space! I put 5 seed potatoes in each bin, mine didn't have tons of eyes so I left them whole. The wind has finally ceased today so we are out to work on the new huge garden area, (intimidating garden area). My husband is a saint as he has tilled even in the wind. I would not even go outside in those conditions.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

She Said, He Said

SHE SAID: Could you please fire up the saw and clean up the weedy growth on all the willows in the big yard? I will pick up all the limbs and twigs if you will do that for me. Please, pretty please?

HE SAID: No problem! They looked a little crowded anyway.

SHE SAID: No, just clean the trunks up and I will put all the little twigs and small limbs in the 'to be shredded' pile. What do you mean they look crowded?

There, don't they look a little better?

Moral of the Story~ Be careful what you ask for.

My husband falls timber for a living. Big timber. He is very good at his job but in Idaho, log cutters get layed off for a while in the winter until it dries out a little. He misses his saw and he is bored. He likes to prune with a Stihl. I should have known better and been standing there when he started. This isn't the first time he's thinned the trees. You would think I would have learned 10 trees ago. But no, I thought we were clear on these points now. Nope, I guess I still have a lot to learn. But they do look better, not so crowded. Some were (are) leaning just trying to get to their part of the sunshine. Willows have a life span and I am pretty sure ours have exceeded their time on earth. But for now they will do. Our plan is to add trees to this big area so when the old willows need to be removed there are others ready to take their place. They look pretty sad before they leaf out but OK once they do.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Meat Chicken Room

I promised to show pictures of our new meat chicken room so here they are. I think the room turned out very nicely. We only used 10 2x4's, which a friend gave us for free, and some old 3/4in. 12" wide boards that were rotting in the loft of the barn. They weren't good for anything but this purpose, but they made dandy walls. We have rectangular wire fencing coming from another friend and that will complete the walls above the wood wall partitions up to the ceiling. I am pretty happy with how it all turned out. We are saving our pennies to build the big new laying chicken house so the meat chicken room needed to be a thrifty project. Mission accomplished.

This took up about 1/6 th of the old milking barn. The goats have another room we walled off in the opposite corner. They will keep the meat chickens company. Ollie, the pygmy goat, was actually living inside a chicken house with the chickens when we got him. He liked the birds and they apparently liked him too. Maybe he will feel right at home with the chickens.

This is a view with the door open. It also has a large door to the outside barnyard on the opposite end. This room may serve several purposes in the future. Doyle thinks it would be the perfect pygmy goat kidding room. I say we are full up with pygmy goats for now. We still need to put plexiglass over the old windows as they are not very draft proof. They should provide nice daylight for the birds. There are two windows in this room.

This view is looking out from inside the new room. Notice all the fishing poles against the wall. Doyle had started buying new poles saying his were all broken. I found at least double that amount in a massive pile with fishing lines securing them all together. I started cutting and amazingly none of them were actually broken, just tangled to the point he wasn't able to use them so he bought new. I fixed that for him and he is tickled pink that he has so many usable poles now.

And finally this will be their home when they first get here. It will still get cold at night when the chicks arrive on May 8th so the metal bar across the top will hang two heat lamps. This feeder/waterer is actually 5 ft. across, it just looks small in this picture.

That completes the tour of the new meat chicken room. I am happy with how it turned out. I like the barn a lot better now that it isn't full of crap scattered and piled up every where. It just about killed my husband to clean it with me but he did and I must say we did a good job. It didn't even take long once we buckled down and got it done. I love neat and tidy. Oh, I almost forgot...... my in-laws gave us a large old freezer that did not work anymore. It was cleaned when it broke and has just been stored for years. We will store a huge quantity of chicken feed in it. That way it is air tight and rodent proof. Now all I need are the chicks and I am all set!

In For A Dime, In For A Dollar

We ordered our laying chicks a week and half ago only to find out that most hatcheries in America are out or seriously backlogged with orders. That was the Run On Chickens post and I must admit I was truly surprised. I have thought a lot about our nation coming to it's food senses and starting to get back to the basics, I just didn't think it would all happen this year. I decided that since I could not control everyone else, I would make my family healthier and raise our own chickens for eggs. It took a long time to convince my husband. The tour to my friend Brenda's beautiful coop finally did the trick. Her chickens are happy, healthy, clean and friendly. All the traits he was sure weren't possible. So we ordered 30 of own and plan to supply eggs to all of our family. I was so excited to finally find a hachery that had most of the breeds I wanted and ordered quickly so they would not run out while I gazed at the pretty pictures. They told me to call in a week to get my ship date. June. What? Yep, June. Boy was I mad! But as they quickly explained, I feel fortunate I am getting them at all. Lots and lots of people aren't. So that leads me to the next topic.

My husband thinks if we are going to feed animals every day, like pygmy goats and laying chickens, we might as well raise meat chickens too! I must say I was not on board with this plan in the beginning. I am still not sure I am. See, I move worms out of the way and let spiders go when I find them inside. I don't fish or hunt. I will eat it. I just don't want to get to know it first. But all that comes back to my plan to know my food before I feed it to my family. I don't mean know it's name and the color of it's eyes, but to know how it ate and what it was exposed to before it made it to my dinner plate. Meat chickens are most commonly the Cornish Cross shown in the picture above. There are others varieties and all have good traits but this is the fastest growing, plumpest bird. To me, the longer I "know" it, the harder it will be to eat it. This plan may go totally wrong but I have researched this all winter. The pros and the cons of this particular breed and the hundreds of reasons I will wish I had chosen another. But I want it over with quickly. We will use a processor to harvest our birds for dinner. You take them live and pick them up hours later in a sack for the freezer. Quick, clean and humane. As humane as eating your pal can be. I believe their life will be infinitely better in my care than that of the large raisers like Foster Farms. Even though it will still be short. This breed is considered a terminal bird, and comes to you as a chick with a short life expectancy. This means even if I become attached, which I doubt will happen, it would be cruel not to process and will likely die of some other ailment like growing too fast for it's systems to keep up.

I guess it took me a long time to get to the point here. I ordered 50 this morning. We built a permanent room in the barn, I will show pics of that later today. That room may become the pygmy goat kidding room if this goes badly. I hope I will still be able to eat chicken after all this. We ordered enough to jump right in with both feet and feed several to each of our family members. Wish me luck. I think I will need it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

New Humongous Row Garden

I have written about the plans for the new row garden for the last few days. This plan (idea) has been brewing for the entire winter and now we have begun working on it. The rain has slowed the appearance of the excavator but we got another huge load of compost yesterday and deposited it near the new garden area to be worked into the soil. That makes 3 or 4 big loads now. Should be good soil (probably already is) for the garden. I have been trying to convince my husband that a 'no-till' method would be favorable to a traditional row garden. He likes the old-fashioned (Read: tillable for weeding purposes) row garden and I like the permanent paths with slightly raised beds that remain the same every year. We would rotate the crops of course, but the basic layout would be the same. I have been reading a little about cover crops and with the sheer scale of this undertaking, I think some of the beds will need to be planted with a cover crop this year and uncovered and implemented next year. I like to get the 'bones' of a project completed and then fine tune it as time goes on. That way we aren't disrupting our crops as we define areas from the previous year. The gray areas are the main paths that we would be able to drive a yard tractor or a 4 wheeler with a trailer on for access and ease of adding compost and the like. I guess I still need the 4 wheeler but I have a nice yard tractor. The green represents the actual planting beds, and the white around them would be smaller paths for accessing the growing area for planting and weeding. And finally, the yellow is the corn area on the north end. Here I would be willing to let my husband do it his way, with a rototiller in his paths as I suspect the corn will be his baby. I like things to be neat and orderly. His obscession with tidiness is non-existent. (As I read him that part, he mentioned that I pick on him here sometimes, which is certainly not my intention. I tease him constantly about his lack of neatness and he reminded me that he sleeps way better than me and maybe I should be more like him. Maybe in the next decade I will accomplish the zen-like attitude he has about not sweating the small stuff. For now, we laugh at each other and our quirks. I will continue to remain grateful that he puts up with my OCD and high strung personality:D)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Asparagus From Seed

Look what I have!!! I planted asparagus from seed last year and waited and waited for one of these babies to pop up. I finally gave up when a funny little fern-like plant came up instead. I was actually going to pull it out when I noticed that there were matching ones in all the other places I planted the seeds so I left them and waited for a sprig of asparagus to come up anyway. Well, not having grown this before, my wait was in vain.  The first year you won't get the actual spears, you only get the plants. Then this year I got one or two of these near each of the mother plants. The instructions say to dig them up and lay them in shallow trenches covering them with more dirt as they grow but I am bucking the system and doing it my own way. I planted them in rows and spaced them appropriately so I am leaving them right where they are. They are in one of the shallower 4x10 raised beds and I plan to leave them there for all eternity. These things grow wild on ditch banks all over Idaho and I figure I can grow them without too much fuss if mother nature can do it with no effort at all. I won't be able to harvest any of the spears this year either. I will let them go to seed to propagate more plants and maybe a very light harvest next season. By the fourth year I should be good to go. I would love to have a much larger space for this veggie as my whole family loves it so maybe I will dedicate a spot in the new (humongous) row garden. We will have to see. For now I was excited to see my patience pay off. Yeah!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What DId I Get Myself Into?

We have been talking about adding a row garden into the north field all winter. We actually started planning it last fall but just didn't get it done for spring. My husband wants to grow corn, melons, and some of the larger plants in this garden so my raised bed garden stays neat and tidy. I thought, no problem, I only work 3 days per week, I can handle it. He said he thought 100 x 40 would be a nice size. I agreed. Did I mention I don't visualize very well? Well in reality that is 1/3 of a football field. Dammit. He scraped it off and called me to come look at it. Crap. That is one big area. I actually started to panic. I don't sleep if things still need weeding. I know I have mentioned my 'issues' with mild OCD. Well, that is one of the ways it manifests itself. Still have weeds, no sleep. This picture does not truly represent the scope of the size here. I had a better picture from the other end but the barn is in that picture and the barn is very ugly. I am not really ready to show off an ugly old (old is the key word here) milking barn. No, I don't milk cows. There is just so much cement in the flooring in that barn, it's easier to leave it standing and let the goats live in it, than to dynamite all the cement out of it. It really was a masterpiece of engineering for it's day. Maybe I will show you the barn someday:D

I have some plans as to how to build this garden. My husband want a true old fashioned row garden he can weed with a rototiller. I want permanent paths with slightly raised wide rows in a no-till garden. I have a feeling it will be a combination of both. Corn, his way. Everything else my way. See how we compromise? I want the path down the center and one perpendicular to that to be drivable with a garden tractor or four-wheeler. That will make adding compost much easier every year. I will draw a big map of what I
envision and let you all help me plan it better. I love input. That will be tomorrow. Today, you get to see the site of the future end of my free time. The excavator is coming on Friday and the Bobcat will likely follow. Even in a no-till garden, if you are converting field to garden you must till it first. Then plan to be kind to the soil for the rest of your life.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Finally in the Garden!

I am so excited to finally get into the raised bed garden. It has seemed like the longest snow melting season in history even though this time last year we were still covered in snow. Maybe two heavier snow years in a row has worn me down. But I am over it now. I even braved the wind to go outside. Don't get the wrong idea... Idaho isn't always windy, just in the spring when you really want to go out. It will die down soon enough it just irritates me to no end. I think I even got a sunburn on my face. Whoohoo!

I worked 6 of my 12 beds today. We turned them and added compost to each one. I like lots of compost. It makes things grow better in my garden. In case you're wondering the metal grates over each box are cattle panel that is rigid and sits on top of each bed. This keeps the cats out. And the dogs out. I learned this after the first year without them. But it still allows the goats to eat whatever they want. Really they leave everything but the strawberries alone. Goats are browsers so they will eat anything dry and leave most things that aren't. Except strawberries, grapes, red twigged dogwood bushes, new fruit trees, roses. You get the idea.
I also planted two beds full of peas. These little trellises are planted with Green Arrow shelling peas on either side of each wooden trellis. That will be lots of peas to harvest and freeze for winter eating. I can't wait. I haven't tried Green Arrow before so hopefully they will taste great. They came highly recommended.

And last but certainly not least this 4 x 10 bed is another bed of shelling peas. Maestro is the name of this pea and they were the shelling pea I planted last year and loved. Great flavor and good storage in the freezer. My only problem with this pea was that I did not plant enough of them. This year I ought to have plenty. We used metal stakes to make a zigzag pattern and ran string between each one at 6 levels. I planted peas on each side of the strings so that I could harvest all the peas without having to get into the bed and smash down the dirt. Rows would have made me have to climb in. I think this is a viable alternative. We will see how it goes. This too is experimental this year.  I will keep you posted. 
The package the seeds came in said to plant as soon as I could work the earth. Today I could work the dirt so I planted. I hope they can truly handle frost (freeze) as that is destined to happen in these here parts. Like how I said "these here parts"? Makes is sound like I ought to start the post with "howdy pardner". Maybe the next post.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Run on Chickens

When we planned to order chickens for eggs, I never in a million years would have imagined that they would be hard to come by. I called and was online all morning with different reputable hatcheries from around the country. There has been a huge run on chicks. I was looking at ship dates in late May and early June. Maybe. No one could guarantee that I would even get them then. Some places had some but not all of what I would like to order and other places had next to nothing. I guess America is starting to see that knowing your food and it's source is of vital importance.
So here is the lineup of what I ordered from Randall Burkey this morning. This first picture is of a Barred Plymouth Rock. Docile, good layer and cold hardy.

This one is a Black Australorp. Also prized for its friendly nature, good large eggs and cold hardiness. I find that I am attracted to speckled chickens and tried to order a couple kinds of solid colored birds to make them an attractive mix.

This one is called a Buff Orphington. A pretty and large bird that is friendly and curious. Great for egg production and can still lay in good conditions during the winters of Idaho.

This beauty is called a Gold Laced Wyandotte and they are truly pretty birds. My husband was still skeptical about the probability of a pretty chicken until I took him back to the egg lady's house and he got to see one first hand. My friend, Brenda, has truly been my inspiration for having my own backyard flock.

This one is a Silver Laced Wyandotte and is a relative of the golden one above. Both are friendly and mild mannered coupled with great egg production. I love the pattern in their feathers. Each feather looks like it's own lace piece. Very pretty!
And last but not least, I ordered this interesting one. It is a Speckled Sussex. Good in all of the categories that mattered to me. I like the unique feathers and coloration of the whole bird.

These images are all borrowed from Google Images as I don't even know for sure yet when my chicks will ship. We are going to begin building our chicken house in the next week, I hope. I ordered a total of 30 birds which is about double what I needed. I figure there will be a learning curve even though I researched all winter. The hatchery I ordered from had a 25 bird minimum and I just have a gut feeling they will conveniently be out of at least one they promised me at shipping time. Most places have a 25 bird minimum as they are packaged to keep each other warm. I also paid extra to have them sexed so I have as few roosters as possible. We have quite a bit of family close by that will benefit from my over zealous ordering habits. I will keep you updated on our progress. I can't wait to start being a chicken keeper!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mother Nature, Why Do You Hate Me?

I was not very excited to see this scene this morning.  Mother Nature has a cruel sense of humor or maybe none at all. I thought I had been good this year. I tried not to be mean to people, not even my family. I opened doors for people, I even donated my time on a few projects in my community. Why then, am I being punished? I had plans this weekend. I want to plant my cool weather crops. I intended to put the pea zig-zag in use. I even planned out how to build a nice little compost sifter. And now this. On a brighter note, it did melt over the next few hours and warmed up without blowing wind. These are all good things around here. You know what they say........ If you don't like the weather in Idaho, just wait a minute. Actually, my sister said they say this in Texas but according to the weather channel, they are probably saying it all over the nation. Hope your day was filled with sunshine and good dirt!

Peas in a Row? Aha Moment

OK, so I am sure that most people have a solid planting plan for peas. I on the other hand do not and I have actually lost sleep (not much) over how to get the best bang for my buck, so to speak. I have mentioned before that I have some issues with tidiness. Maybe that is obvious to anyone following this blog for any length of time, but I am no longer ashamed of it and use it to my advantage. My rows are usually strait, I like the beds to look organized.... that kind of thing. But I really wanted to maximize the planting of the peas because I plan to harvest and preserve as many as possible. So.... while sitting in a beginners gardening class on Tuesday night, this was brought up and it was an Aha Moment for sure. What about planting in a zigzag pattern lengthwise down the bed. This way all sides are accessible from the outside of the bed. Maybe most everyone knows this one and I am way behind but I thought it was good enough info to share. I cannot believe I have never thought of this before but you know how that goes? Sometimes it takes a lightning bolt. You would set up your stakes and string or whatever pea trellises you use, as the above diagram shows. Then you would plant along both sides of the zigzag as shown by the green lines. Viola', maximized growing space in a 4 x 10 bed. OK, so I have the 4 x 10 bed, but you get the idea. 10 years of gardening and this little tidbit never occurred to me.

About This Blog

We started this blog in Feb. of 2009 to help us stay motivated and to track our progess in the garden. We live on 5 acres surrounded by Idaho farmland. We have wildlife galore and are attempting to attract more in the bird catagory. This is our journal. Welcome!


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