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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chickens as Pals

Here's my girl, Monica. My favorite chicken. I sure hope this one is a girl because I am keeping her either way. She is the sweetest and most trusting of all the chicks so far.  I am naming them in the order they become my pals. Oh yeah, and I have to be able to pick them out. This one has white lines on both of her eyes, kind of like eyeliner. She also comes running when I come out to play with them. Rachel is the second one to become friendly and she just has white cheeks. So far these ones have been easy. All of the nice chicks are barred rocks and I am not sure why that is. I am happy to get what they are willing to give me though. Ross is the third friendly one and he has a twin. So we have Ross-a and Ross-b. They both are equally happy to be held so I am never sure which one I have. All the other chickens are wild for the time being.

And here are some of the standoffish chicks up on the roost like big kids. Too funny. They don't sleep up here yet but they will before we know it. They are 4 weeks old now and a kick to watch. I do a lot of just sitting and watching their antics. These critters are also a great way to get rid of extra lettuce which in truth is probably why several like me now. I am not too proud to bribe my friends but don't tell them that.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Garden Touring

This past weekend I got the opportunity to tour a fellow blogger's garden with some other gals that blog from the same area. Victoria of Our Life In Idaho opened her home and her beautiful garden to four of us other Idaho garden bloggers. Together, she and her husband, Kim, have built an amazing oasis in a quiet neighborhood complete with a pond.
They are a certified Wildlife Garden and it shows. Lot of thought and planning has gone into native plantings and habitat for many forms of wildlife in their garden.

They have a lovely raised porch in the back corner of their garden so that they can look out over the lovely landscape they have created. I love that they planned places to just enjoy their space. I never thought of places like that for my own garden but I will now.

I aspire to have a full garden with lots of whimsy built in. I was amazed that around every corner was something new to see and lot of things you can't see until you're right there upon them. I love a good mystery. This was truly an amazing place to see.

They even have a pond complete with a wonderful waterfall that added so much dimension to their garden. I love the sound of water and it was so peaceful to listen to.  They also had huge fish in their pond and great pond plants too.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet all these ladies. I love their blogs and the people to go with them are great too! So thank you, Victoria and Kim, for opening your home and your beautiful garden to us.  I can't wait to see everyone else's now and to show mine when the time is right.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

First Harvest

Our first harvest (aside from lettuce) has been peas. We loved the shelling peas last year and realized our mistake was not planting enough. So this year we planted more and will likely plant more than that next year. I love them and especially in the cold months of winter. I honestly never knew that there was much difference in a store bought frozen pea and one I grew and froze. Big difference, try it for yourself, you will see what I mean. 

We picked for 30 minutes or so and this was our bounty. Not too bad for a first batch. We shelled them all while listening to the television and then blanched and froze them in Foodsaver bags. They are so sweet and hard to stop eating while you shell. This year we grew Maestro, which we knew from last season was a winner.  But in the spirit of trying new things we also added Green Arrow, which we have yet to harvest.

Maestro promises long pods filled with plump peas (as many as eleven) with a sweet and tender taste and I must say they deliver as promised. I love them. I am anxious to try the Green Arrow variety. Peas are a great crop for any garden but they are great in raised beds as they add nitrogen to the soil and raised beds are easily depleted of their nutrients. One must rotate the crop for the next season as they leave nitrogen in their place but use up some other valuable things. 

The raised bed garden has been floating in a sea of wood chips as the ark we built to get out of the rain wasn't finished yet. Just kidding. It has been raining a lot here which is great when it comes in spurts so I can go mow the lawn every couple of days. But not as great when it just won't quit. I wish mother nature could spread it out a little.

Everything is growing well and I am excited that the beets are responding. I had to replant the chard and also added some cilantro to that bed. We love cilantro in salads and in marinade all summer long, so I plant in succession as it is quick to grow and be done. Note to self: never allow it to go to seed near the strawberries. Lesson learned.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Birds Of My Yard

This pretty Northern flicker was busily building a nest in the hollow of one of our older willows. She worked for weeks and I was sure that she was laying eggs any day. Unfortunately the starlings got in there and threw all of her eggs out. Doyle has now been given the OK to kill all starlings on site. Dang rotten birds. They seem to do this every year. I am amazed anything survives the starlings in Idaho.

This little nuthatch was building a nest in our barnwood Christmas house from the kids. She seemed to be building in tandem with a pair of tree swallows who were also trying to nest in it. They seemed to take turns adding to it. This went on for weeks but now no one is using it. Apparently sharing was out of the question. I am bummed because nuthatches are really fun to watch.

And finally our mystery bird. I think it may be some sort of tanager but not sure at all. Very orange in color and we can't find it in the bird book. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

We have also spotted finches, Cedar Waxwings, grosbeaks and juncos. This year we are growing lots of sunflowers to feed all the pretty birds. Sunflowers don't take up that much room and birds really love them. We have also dried and stored them to be brought out in the winter time. It always seems to be a nice treat for them when there is way too much snow on the ground.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Toads ~ Just Kidding!

The meat chickens are growing into toads. They are huge! They are a White Cornish Cross and they are bred to be super fast growers and holy sh*&, they aren't lying! These soon to be dinner chickens (I am still struggling to be OK with this) are six weeks old and giants already. We actually take their food away from them at night, which a lot of people don't do, and they are still amazing growers. Imagine if we left food out for them 24/7. Taking the food at night slows down their growth a little so that they don't tip over for no apparent reason. This kind of chicken does that a lot. I am happy and proud to report that none of ours have. Yeah us!

Hard to believe they were just tiny little fuzzy guys (and girls) a mere month and a half ago. Nuts. Thank goodness people don't grown like this:-D

On a happier note, the laying chicks are 17 days old now and were starting to fly around the brooder so we let them out of it tonight. I think they love it. They run around and try to fly and bump chests. Sheesh, I hope that isn't the male trait coming out in my female ordered chicks. They better all be girls, that is what the hatchery was supposed to send. Roosters are currently out of my league and I don't want to have to find homes for roosters, that seems an unlikely to succeed task.

We had to put them into the run for a few minutes while we took the brooder out of the chicken house. They weren't sure what the heck was going on. It will probably be at least another week before they go out again, I want to make sure they are feathered properly for temperature control reasons. They have grown a lot already and still seem so small. 
Good news is that I have one very friendly chick. All the others are afraid of me. She comes right up to me and sits down in my hand. It is pretty cute. I named her Monica. She is also the smallest chick we have, kind of a runt. The next 5 friendly ones I can pick out of the bunch will become Rachel, Ross, Joey, Chandler and Phoebe. Can you tell what my all time favorite show was?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What To Do.....

I am in a quandry this morning. Do I murder a plant that got out of control or leave it and see if there is any way to make it look pretty again. Daisies are the problem in this equation. I love them but they can be so unruly. This one was not supposed to 'flop'. Yeah, right.

Not only did it flop, there are 5 of them in the island bed and they all flopped. We have had some uncharacteristic heavy rain for the last two weeks in this part of Idaho. Although I am thankful for the precipitation, I am furious with the these dang flowers. Stupid flowers. There, I feel better. I actually planted these pencil sized starts last fall and look what they did. They grew like they were on something. I think they like the soil here and the rain. But now they are all laying down and squashing some plants next to them. I just don't know what to do, so for today I will leave them. It is supposed to be 81 degrees today and we will see if they perk up at all. I am not, I repeat, not.... holding my breath. I may yard them out of here this weekend.

This bee balm is new to me too! Same thing, I ordered them as pencil sized starts on ebay and they really took off. Which really is amazing as I planted them in the heat of the summer. Silly me. It was cold this morning so everything is heavy with dew. This plant is 3+ ft. tall already and so far it doesn't look like it is slowing down yet. I can't wait to see what color it is. I ordered some double bloom varieties and I hope those survived. It will be another nice surprise.
This is yard art in my flower bed. This chair was being thrown out and I "borrowed" it out if the dump pile. I think it turned out to be the perfect thing to add some whimsy to this bed. The flowers in the pot loved the rain too!

As you can see the final cuff has been taken out of the potato bags and each pot is now full to the brim with compost. These things are growing like weeds. OK, like daisies, but who minces words this early in the morning? They are really going crazy and I sure hope (fingers crossed, here) that the cloth pots are chalk full of baby potatoes. I have a funny way of growing great greenery with no reward, so we will have to wait and see.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wood Shaving By The Yard

Our friend, Dolan, asked Doyle if he would like a truckload of wood shavings from the mill in town. We were needing to get some for the chicken house so the timing could not have been more perfect. Dolan said he would bring them early the next morning and he was right on the money. I thought he was bringing a dump truck load. He brought a humongous truckload. 44 yards to be exact. That was much larger than a dump truck, it was like 4+ dump trucks. He put it way in the back of the coral and it is a monster pile. We filled as many bags as we could find places for and stored them in the loft of the barn. We had to lock the cows out of this area until we could finish. It was scheduled to rain so time was of the essence.

We finally let the cows back into this area. The cows love to be up on any hill they can climb. Doyle says this will "enrich" the future compost these shavings will become. This is basically how we got the last mountain of compost. We made it with a similar pile of sawdust. It took about 3 years and lots of stirring with the tractor but it made some very good stuff. It is wonderful to have a huge pile of pretty compost at my disposal.
The pile has been smooshed down considerably since is first arrived. The cows went ape-crazy over this fun stuff. It liken it to ball pits at Chuck-E-Cheese. Except for cows and not children.

Even the bull had his turn in it. I wish I could have seen this sight first hand but Doyle got the pictures while I was away at the dental conference. I would rather watch cows frolic in the wood shavings pile.

We added more to the chick brooder too. They love this stuff! We waited until they were here for about 5 days before we uncovered the shavings and removed the overlying newspaper. I didn't want them eating it and not the food we put out. Once they know where the food is, that isn't a problem anymore. This little one thought she was hidden from sight. Pretty close but not completely.

Here you can see just how far down she burrowed into the fluff. I thought that was cute. They are still afraid but I do have a friendly one, a little barred rock that comes right up and isn't fearful at all. She lets me pick her up and comes back for more when I walk in. I wish the rest of them would get over their fear of the new mommy (me). I think that looking down at them makes them feel like prey, it should get much better when they are out of the brooder. I hope.

Friday, June 12, 2009

More Veggie Pictures

My potatoes are apparently on steroids this past week. I know that potatoes like it cool but this is insane. I added more compost on Monday and one other time about a week before that. I had actually covered the stems up pretty well and as you can see it is time to take the last cuff out of the bag and add even more. I sure hope there are lots of baby potatoes in these sacks.

This is my first year growing potatoes and I am very hopeful. I am using only soil and compost as the  bag directions stated but have read about many people using straw and layering it that way. If this does not work for me I will try something different next year.
I also have bell peppers. With the cool down of that last week and a half, I am suprised I have them but happy nonetheless. This variety is a Big Bertha, which I might add I chose because I loved the name. I have 16 of these planted. Last year I took my excess peppers and chopped them up like I would cook with them and used my foodsaver to bag and vacuum them, then froze them. I did not buy a bell pepper to cook with until March of this year. I love that since bell peppers are several dollars here in the winter. Mine were free.
And this is a North Atlantic Giant pumpkin plant (or three). Doyle likes to try to grow big ones for the kids every year. This year he says he is only keeping three on the vine, surely that will put some size on them. We will see, last year the cows ate every last one that crept through the fence into the pasture. They didn't even remove them from the vine, just ate the fruit. Crazy cows. Who says happy cows are from California, I am thinking they live happily ever after right here in Idaho, snacking on pumpkins.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New Row Garden

I thought I would share some progress pictures of the new garden. This garden was built in the field north of my house and was likely used to feed the previous owners dairy cows in the winter (for 65 years). Very pretty soil in this area but lot of weeds now that the earth has been disturbed. I know that if I just keep up on it for the next two years or so, it will become a breeze to take care of. It is always just the beginning that is overwhelming. We have had two weeks of cooler weather and lots of rain. I am behind on my weeding but thought you would all forgive me my weeds.

These little mountains are the hills for pattypan squash, summer crookneck squash and zucchini. I haven't grown squash type plants in several years as I have always hosted some kind of squash vine borer and they gross me out. I gave up and rely on someone else's surplus. It has always worked in the past but since we had a new location, we thought we would give it another try.

These are the bean beds and they aren't looking so hot. The tree limb teepees are for climbing pole type beans. I have yellow wax and Kentucky wonder growing on these three. The other beds are pinto, dark red kidney and green bush beans. Something is attacking my beans and I have yet to figure out what but they seem to come up without leaves and none grow on the stem. If they get past the first week they seem to be OK, it's just the first push through the soil that is problematic for them.

The corn is doing well. We spaced the first two rows to 8 inches and had to replant some bald spots so we over planted the last two rows and thinned. Thinning is hard for me because it feels so wasteful but it does save time.

These mounds are for the cucumbers. They have been replanted to fill in bald spots several times. For some reason they are having a hard time getting started this year. Hopefully they will take off next week. Beyond those are the tomatoes and pepper beds (wide rows).

These tomato spirals are new to me this season. I have always searched for prettier ways to cage my tomatoes and I hope this works, it is prettier to me. The other beds of tomatoes have some other methods going. I will let you know what I like best.

And this is a view from the other end of that area. I am basically standing in the bean bed to take this photo. I am off to a dental convention for the next two days so it will be heavy weeding when I get home. I am still finalizing the trim details on the chicken house and need to finish the new flower garden bed but I am going to get them all done, one at a time. I can't wait to start eating out of this garden.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Miss Baylee and the Goats

Our granddaughter, Baylee, loves the goats. I have mentioned this before. She tries to make goat sounds and knows right where they are when she comes to visit. All she has to do is point and Grandpa takes her to see her friends. Baylee is 15 months old now and pretty good at getting what she wants. She is so cute it's hard to deny her anything. 
After a visit on Thursday I posted some pics of the goats and her mom got on to look at the newest post. Oops! Baylee saw the goats and wouldn't let her mom log off. If the screen went to sleep, she cried. If Nichole tried to log off, she cried. She wanted to see the goats.
This funny shot is Baylee kissing Mama Goat through the computer screen. This would never happen in real life, Mama Goat is a big chicken but Baylee does not know that yet.  I just had to share. We laughed till be cried when Nichole sent this picture. Kids are pretty funny creatures.

Friday, June 5, 2009

My Goat Needs Dentures!

Is this not the funniest thing you've seen? I cracked up when I uploaded these pictures and they showed her gummy smile. She is the mother goat, affectionately called Mama Goat. She is also ferral. She was mistreated when we got her and her then 4 week old baby, Clementine so she has been shy the whole year we have had her. She now bites, which is great because it's her way of trying to play and that is a big step forward. Just goes to show that a year of grain and anyone can be your friend.

Here is Ollie, who is almost always photogenic. He actually only wants to smell you so he is pretty easy to get a good picture of.

And Clem with Doyle and our granddaughter, Baylee. Clem is the sweetest goat we have and really loves it if you'll brush her. She is also our ill goat. She has some kind of lung problem. We have treated her with several things and antibiotics. No dice yet. I am starting to think maybe the poor little thing has allergies. She wheezes like my daughter.

Of course Baylee loves the Mama Goat, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her. Baylee just points and smiles at Grandpa and off they go. Back to the goat barn. I know who's wrapped around who's little finger.

So this post is for you, Daffodil Planter. You can live vicariously through my goats until you can get your own!

Raised Bed Garden Update

I thought I better make my garden blog look like I have a garden instead of only a chicken house or two. Here are a few current pics of the raised bed garden.

My broccoli is so puny. The plants are beautiful and big but the florets are tiny. Does anyone know why this is? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I amended all of the beds with mass amounts of compost this year so fertility should not be an issue.

The peas are not nearly as tall this year as last year. It got hot here early and stunted their growth. There are lots of peas on though, and all they need to do now is plump up. In the right hand corner of this picture you can see a sad and weedy looking bed. There are beets growing in there, I promise. I think I weeded out some of the actual plants early on. That will teach me to wait until I am sure what they look like before I weed anything. The other bed of them is growing a little better. They aren't big yet and I don't know why but this is my first year growing beets and I will just have to wait and see.

Here is a closer picture of the lettuce bed. I thought I would get decorative with the planting this year and that may have been a bad idea. It looks kind of silly to me and now some growth is disproportionate to the others. We did have our fist salad out of the garden last night and it was very good. This is the lettuce that my daughter assured everyone that came by was the best ever grown. I am glad she likes homegrown lettuce.

And finally I have a shot of the potatoes growing in bags. These were slow to get going but they are growing great guns now. I have 3 different kinds; Red LaSoda, Yukons and Red Norlands. The Yukons were the slowest to start and I was sure they must have rotted. I added a lot more compost to each bag today and will continue to do so until the end of summer.

Last year the summer was cool and everything in the "cool weather crop" category was a major grower. I was so excited as most of it was new to me. This year the heat hit early and hard and I can see the reverse is true for my early season crops. If you don't like the weather in Idaho, I guess you just wait for the next year. They are never the same twice in a row.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Yikes! More Garden Visitors

Ewww, look at this! Doyle said "Don't freak out when you see a snake in the new garden. It's just a big water snake, it won't hurt you." So I diligently looked for it and this morning Doyle saw it again. 

Now that I know he is there, I won't pass out when I see him (or her). But I definitely walk with a little more caution when I go down to the new garden. The new garden is just a few feet away from the edge of a parking area outside Doyle's shop. It is based with shale and then coved and compressed in road base gravel. I knew there was potential for snakes, I just hadn't seen any yet.

My husband swears it is just a water snake and that they are good to have in the garden. I hope he is right. I am not a fan of venomous snake bites. In fact the thought makes me downright sick to my stomach. But wait it gets better..........

He or she has friends. This one was laying a few feet away, tied in a knot and catching some sprinkles from the sprinkler. It must have been napping because it didn't leave as fast as the other one did. A brave snake is way worse to me than a scaredy cat snake. These snakes are not tiny either. Both were at least 2.5 feet long and as big around as a garden hose. Maybe that means they can eat voles whole. One can dream. We watched which holes they went into in the rocks and now I know what to avoid. Maybe they will eat whatever is eating my beans. Do snakes eat grass hoppers? Boy, I hope so!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

They Are Finally Here!

The laying hen chicks that I can finally become attached to and they won't become dinner, soon or ever, are finally here and I am so excited I can hardly stand it!!! Can you tell? My dad would have a stroke if he knew I used that kind of a run on sentence. He doesn't read this blog so I am safe. Don't tell him:-D

It really is still amazing to me that chicks can ship the day they are hatched and arrive in good shape. Ours came from a hatchery in Texas and all arrived alive and are still that way. The USPS called at 8:45 this morning and told us to come get them. We were ready for them. I had to work so Doyle picked them up and unloaded them into the stock tank that will be home for the next couple weeks. The big brooder is in the chicken house so all our overtime to finish it is for a  good cause.

I will say that I ordered 30 girl chicks and only 27 showed up. Someone working in the hatchery can't count. Kind of ticked me off but it is what it is. At least the ones I got are all safe and sound. The other gripe I have is that I am pretty sure they also shorted me some Gold Laced Wyandottes and added more Black Australorps but didn't mark any of that on the incorrect packing slip. Of course I called to express my feelings. But I was nice and they promised to refund the price of 3 chicks. I am anxious to see what I actually got over the next couple weeks. I may be calling again. It wouldn't irritate me if they took ownership of the problem but I had to wait 3 months to get them as it was and now the order is wrong. I also paid extra, almost double to get pullets, which are girl chickens, and the packing slip says that straight run was shipped on at least one breed. That means I will likely have roosters and I don't want roosters. But maybe the roosters will be the life of the party!

Aren't they cute? They seem so small after you look at the 4 week old meat chicks. They are not housed in the same place but I still feed and water the others and they look like Baby Hueys, as my friend Brenda calls them.  So I thought I would share what has completely consumed all of our time of late. Seems kind of anti-climactic after all the preparations that took place but their new home is a palace and I am so excited for them to get big enough to check it all out.

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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