Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Giant Slugs & Garden Mulch

Armed with salt in one hand and my camera in the other, I prepared to kill this slug. But, after taking it's picture, I could tell that it was a beneficial Banana Slug, helpful to the garden because it is a decomposer.Rich has been hard at work in the garden this week. He mulched all the paths and beds that are not in use, and transplanted the strawberries that were growing in a path.

I planted sweet potato vines, and the corn and butternut squash from seed. Things are really growing quickly now, and we need to get stakes and trellises up for our tomatoes and beans.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Thanks, everybody, for all the condolences and sweet words. I can't believe how much the loss of our chickens has affected me today...

To answer your questions, Kylin was at her dad's this weekend and will come back tomorrow--so I am dreading giving her the sad news. Kaden asked several times today to see the chickens, especially since he had carried a cup full of treats for them down to the coop this morning when we found them missing. I played videos for him that I had taken of the chicks...that seemed to satisfy his need to "look chickens."

We are going to get more chicks ASAP. I don't want to waste any time--the later we get them, the later it will be to start getting eggs, so we are hopping right back on the horse...or whatever that euphemism is. Foster gets more chicks in on Wednesday, so I will be there picking some more up.


Something ate all of our chickens last night. This has happened to several other friends in the past few weeks... are the gophers just really hungry right now or something?

Last night was their 2nd night outside. The first night I was so concerned about them being cold--even though it was a very warm night. Rich had driven stakes deep into the ground at least every 12 inches all around the coop...we were concerned about larger animals like raccoons trying to get the chickens. By the size of the hole that was dug under the cage, and the tunnel coming up from the ground about a foot away from the coop, it looks like it was a gopher.

I eat meat. I would even raise chickens for meat. The thing that makes me the most sad is that they were surely scared and traumatized when they died... I can't get the image out of my head of the chickens trapped inside their cage, cornered, while something kills them one by one. The only evidence left was scatterings of feathers, a couple of tiny spots of blood, and bulging spots in the chicken wire...the chickens are completely gone.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Nightshades & Squash

There is something about rapidly changing weather that makes us more susceptible to colds... I'm not sure why... But while battling snotty, coughy, yuckiness today we got some fresh air, enjoyed the sunshine, and got some more plants in the ground.

Yesterday our garden fairies left 2 trays full of beautiful plants and seeds on our doorstep. I was excited to plant again, and thankful for such gorgeous weather to do it in, but I was also a little overwhelmed by the amount of plants we had and my unfamiliarity with gardening. I wasn't exactly sure where everything was supposed to go, wasn't sure which squash were "vining" and which were not, and couldn't exactly remember the instructions for planting the 3 sisters--2 of which were sitting in my tray waiting for me to figure it all out.

I started by preparing the beds I thought I would be planting in. I broke up the topsoil (I should have mulched it after adding the compost, initially) and evened the beds out so there was less of a slope to them.
I set out all the plants roughly where I thought they would be planted, and then I opened up my notebook to get specific instructions. The sheet with all the instructions (culture info??) did not tell me how far to space the tomatoes (probably because it depends on how you are going to grow them), so I was unsure. With 8 tomato plants I was concerned that they would not all fit, but I just spaced them all evenly apart--zigzagging them to maximize distance--and hoped for the best.

I dug down 8" (I've got the hang of digging those holes now!!), sprinkled in 1/4 cup of bone meal, and put the plant down in the hole. I carefully packed the soil back into the hole, making sure the roots had contact with the soil, and covered them all back up.

By this point the boys were tired and ready for some milk, so I took a break and came in to get one or both of them down for a nap (Kiran ended up sleeping, Kaden did not) and to have some lunch myself. While I was inside, Donna returned my phone call. I ran down my list of questions for her, and she clarified everything I was supposed to be doing. It turned out that the tomatoes, because we will be staking them, need to be spaced 24" apart... I had to dig them all back up.

I returned to the garden to undo all of the work I had spent the morning doing. It was hot and dusty, and the moment I got down there and plugged in the monitor Kiran woke back up. With both boys, we pressed on, trying to finish our work while they ran around--wreaking havoc on our beds.

Rich prepared another bed for the tomato plants that wouldn't fit in the current one. He had turned all of the alpaca manure under, and the soil underneath was rich, loamy, and dark brown...it looked beautiful!! He mulched the bed with straw, and then dug holes for the tomatoes. Un-planting plants is not easy, and the whole time I was digging them out I was afraid that I was killing our tomato plants. I am hoping that they survive all of the trauma they went through yesterday!! I then planted the sweet peppers and eggplant, made bowls of earth around all of their stems, and we watered them thoroughly when we were through.

I then moved on to the squash bed, where I planted 7 plants. Those went much much faster, I think because I was figuring out a system for digging and planting, and because the holes were much more shallow than the 8" I had to dig for the tomatoes. I noted everything we planted for the day on our garden map.

I ended the evening by picking some fresh greens for dinner and our first small radish!! The mustard greens were starting to bolt, because it was so hot last week, so I picked all of those. The collards were starting to get pretty big, and the lettuce was really packed in the bed--so I thinned it a little by picking some baby lettuce for our salad. There were some holes in the collards, and when I inspected the leaves I saw some tiny flying bugs.. aphids??

After dinner, when it started to get dark, the sky turned bright pink and a lightening storm began. My mom and I cuddled with the boys on the living room floor and watched the lights streak across the sky...it was so beautiful, and the biggest lightening storm I've seen in a long time. I was thankful for the fresh rain on our newly planted plants...hopefully it will get them off to a good start. The lightning went on for a couple of hours, at least, and the boys were enthralled the whole time--Kaden would as after each bolt "More light-name?!?"

Rich had put the chickens out in the morning, and I made him go out and check on them before bed to be sure they weren't too cold on their first night outside. He set up the heat lamp for them, because he wasn't sure, and I slept better knowing they had a warm place to snuggle.

Kaden loves to chase the 2 rabbits that live in our yard. I'm so surprised by how close to them they let him get, before turning and running out of reach. So far they are not a problem in our garden, and I am thinking of planting them some lettuce of their own in the front yard, to karmically keep them out of our food in the back.
The Pirate Bunny!!
The First Worm

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chicken Tractor #1

Rich spent the day in the garage and built our first chicken tractor! We got most of the lumber at the Re-Building Center for super cheap, which we were totally excited about. The tractor is 8 feet long, and can be lifted with one person on each end. I think it will be big enough for 2 full-sized chickens.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I think I heard that we set a record this week for high temperature..it got up to, like, 99 degrees!

The garden seems to be doing well--Rich has been watering every night to cool off the little plants that are now growing at an amazing rate! With this sun, everything has really shot up.

The chickens are getting bigger and bigger every day. Their behavior has changed as they have gotten older, and now they are getting really crazy. When I open the door to go in and check on them, they fly all around, seem to have little stand-offs and confrontations with each other, and generally act nervous... is this normal? I have tried giving them "treats"--kitchen scraps like carrot peelings, cilantro, and even dandelions...but they don't seem interested in anything but their food. Rich is hoping to finish the coop soon so that we can move them outside next week.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

May Planting

The weather has been beautiful and sunny for the past week, with little bits of rain here and there. Just about all of the seeds we have planted so far have sprouted up above the ground, and some of them are almost ready to harvest! Tonight we actually ate some of the little radish sprouts in our salad, to thin the radishes because some of them were planted to close together.

Today I planted most of the seeds for May:
  • Chard
  • Dill
  • Slicing Cucumbers
  • Lemon Cucumbers
  • Pole Beans
  • Sunflowers
I also planted more:
  • Beets
  • Radishes
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce Mix
Later in the month we will be planting corn, more sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant!

Calendula in the plot where the animals will be
Rich finished staking the garden
He transplanted the strawberries and raspberries
And today he built the trellis for the snap peas, which are 4 and 5 inches tall now, with little tentacles that are ready to wrap around the twine

Monday, May 5, 2008

Strutting Their Stuff

The chicks got to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine today on the front lawn.
Poop has quite the wingspan, and a lot of her big-girl feathers
Peck is right behind her
Little Buffy is the mellowest of the bunch, so far
Isadore watching the Australorp try to escape
Even Blake couldn't resist their soft fluffiness
The girls thought worms would make a nice treat for the chickens...
but the chickens had no clue
Mayan's in love