Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Secret to Chicken Happiness only costs a buck

Now that I'm back to blogging and gardening I thought I would do a little PSA on the Secret to Chicken Happiness. I'd like to think my girls are happy with their little chicken lives. They have clean bedding, fresh water, plenty of food and I don't think they spend much time worrying about predators, but none of that is the key to a really and truly happy chicken.

But if you really want a to send your chicken into a frenzied state of happiness, you've gotta give them a treat that will put them on the quick train to chicken nirvana.

For my girls it's the white curdled dairy product of the gods - cottage cheese. They particularly like the Breakstones 100 calorie single serve cups of cottage cheese mixed with fruit that you can buy for a buck at the grocery store. If I was the type that routinely bought cottage cheese for myself, I'd just give the chickens the leftovers, but since I don't, I buy one of these every couple of weeks as a special treat. Clementine likes that they're only 100 calories, because being a full-figured gal already, she has to watch her waistline so she can still fit in the door to the coop.

I once had a young cashier ask me if they were any good. I responded "I don't know, they're for my chickens, but I can ask them and report back to you." She was about 16 and gave me that look that teens give that lets you know you're a big loser in their world. I think she may have slightly snorted and there was definitely an eyeroll involved.

Clearly this young cashier has never had a truly happy chicken.

They key is to mix the fruit and the cottage cheese together for them because they're lazy and will ignore the spoon if you set it down next to the cottage cheese with instructions on how to mix it together.

When they're finished pecking each tiny fruit-splattered curd from the inside of the cup, they'll be covered from comb to wattle in goo and spend the rest of the day ba-gawking happily in the sun.

Ahhh... a zen chicken moment - for a buck.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A plan and a thank you!

I really can't thank you all enough for giving me so many tips on what to do to kickstart my garden for the Spring planting season. I read through all the comments (and the emails I received) and have come up with a plan.

I'm going to remove the dirt from box 1 and shovel it into box 2. Anything that doesn't fit will go into our wheelbarrow. Then I'm going to use the Devil's Urine itself (Roundup) to spray a kill-zone under the area where the box sits. I'm going to put down a new piece of useless landscaping cloth (because I still have some and feel better using it up) and then I'm going to put down some large sheets of cardboard (that Farmer B was nice enough to drag home last night). Then I'm going to put the soil back in, top it up with compost and wash, rinse, repeat on the other box.

The final step to my plan is to buy some stepping stones from Home Depot and place them around the garden as tightly as possible. I realize this is futile because they won't fit perfectly and grass will grow up between them, but the fact that we have thick weeds and grass butting right up against the raised beds can't be good. I figure if the stepping stones at least reduces this by 50% it's a step in the right direction.

I don't know if this is the best plan, but I do know it's at least a plan that's heading me in the right direction. I hope to get it done today and tomorrow, but I'm allowing myself the entire week to pull this off.

Thanks again for all your wonderful tips and advice!!!

Here's a photo of Saffie that I took this morning out at the garden. She's ready for me to be back out there too!

Monday, February 21, 2011

I'm back, I'm dirty and I need help...

I realize I've been gone for a really long time and the list of excuses is long and irrelevant. However, the main reason for my absence is a gardening dilemma that I don't know how to fix. The good news is I've decided to return to the soil and find a way to make it work - even if it's far from perfect.

Here's my grubby garden-loved hand yesterday!

If you've been a long-time reader, you might recall how I let the garden go last summer because it just got too hot and rainy to go out there and weed everyday. One day away from the garden led to a week that led to the entire summer and next thing I knew I couldn't even see my once gorgeous raised beds.

When we finally cleared it out, I discovered - to my horror - that the weeds had gone to seed and my wonderful "Mel's Mix" soil was full of weed seeds. About two weeks after that long weekend back in September of clearing out the weeds I noticed the beds were green again - filled with hundreds upon hundreds of tiny evil weeds.

So I gave up and let the garden go again. You need to know I'm not proud to admit this, but it's what happened and it's time I came clean. It was easy to give up in the late fall. I'd already missed the Fall planting season, we were busy with Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas and then we had a small stretch of cold weather that wasn't good for planting anyway.

Then January rolled around and ever since I started this blog I've always been AWOL in January. It's a month full of birthday parties for our family and it's easy to forget the garden.

But then February rolled around and I looked over at my once-loved garden and thought it's about damn time I roll up my sleeves and figure this monster out. If not, I'm one of those annoying people that "dabbled in gardening" as a hobby and let it go, like quitting scrapbooking or knitting or something. That was never my intention. This garden wasn't meant to be a fad. It was meant to feed my family.

So I went out there and cleared the garden - again. Luckily it wasn't quite so bad this time around. The problem is that I have evil thick Florida grass growing straight through the landscaping cloth at the bottom of the beds. Let this be a lesson to new Florida gardeners - no matter what people tell you and no matter what it says in Mel's SFG book, one sheet of landscaping cloth WILL NOT protect your garden from thick Florida grass and weeds growing straight up through the bottom of your garden.

Farmer B was frustrated that we have bare patches in the yard where grass will not grow, but underneath our gardening beds - underneath landscaping cloth - removed from the sun and air, we have thick grass growing like gangbusters.

I know this photo isn't a good one, but it's the bottom of the garden and you can see some of the thick grass roots growing straight up through the cloth. The grass roots pierced the landscaping cloth like ice picks. It's really quite remarkable. This has happened all throughout the beds. You have to imagine that on the ends of each of these little shoots were 3-5 feet of long thick grass snaking throughout the garden.

So now I have to decide what to do. As far as I can tell I have three options:

1) Spray the garden with Roundup Weed and Grass killer. This will hopefully remove the grass and weeds and give me a fresh start. The problem with that is I know too much about the evils of Monsanto and don't want my family to eat vegetables that have been grown in soil doused in those chemicals. But I know if I don't find a way to get rid of the grass and weeds I won't be able to grow vegetables in it anyway.

2) Remove all the soil from the beds, lay down something a lot hardier than landscaping cloth - some sort of Kevlar bullet-proof vest material - and then put the soil back in. I mentioned this to Farmer B who gave me the "you're on your own with this crazy scheme" speech. I'll be honest, it does seem like an insane amount of work, but maybe it is the way to go. I'm not sure what I should put down under the beds if I do this. Although it won't help me with the problem of all the weed seeds that are obviously in the soil.

3) Just add some compost to the garden, try to stay on top of the weeds and wing it. This seems like the most likely option, but I'm afraid that the thick grass coming through EVERYWHERE and all the weed seeds will make it too hard for me to stay on top of things and I'll be right back where I was last September.

Anyone else got an option for me? I really want to plant again...I'm in. I'm committed, but I don't know the "cure" for what ails my garden.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Twas the Night Before Christmas - A Gardener's Version

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my blogging, gardening, chickening friends out there! I'm still beside myself as to what to do with my weed-filled garden since I can't solarize it 'till summer, so I'm on hiatus until I can think of some way to fix it. Regardless, I still wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas and re-post the Gardening Christmas poem I wrote last year! Hope you enjoy!!!

'Twas the Night Before Christmas - A Gardener's Version
by Kate at Gardening Without Skills

'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the yard,
Not a veggie was growing, not even the chard.
The trellis was strung by the green beans with care,
In hopes that an edible plant would grow there.

The chickens were nestled all snug in their nests,
While visions of pasta worms danced in their heads.
Farmer B with his light beer and I with my wine,
Had just settled down for some nice TV time.

When out in the garden I heard a big noise,
I leapt from the couch and tripped over some toys.
Away to the screen door in four seconds flat,
Flipped open the gate latch and tripped on the cat.

When what to my bloodshot eyes did appear,
But a master gardener with a new pair of shears.
He was pushing a wheelbarrow so heavy with plants,
That I started to do my best happy dance.

He was dressed all in green from his hat to his boots,
And his pants were all muddy with dirt from plant shoots.
A bundle of seedlings he had flung on his back,
And he looked for a place to begin the attack.

His trowel how it twinkled - his hoe was so shiny!
His spade was brand new - his gloves were so tiny!
His droll little mouth was drawn up in a smile,
As he worked with his tools in a whimsical style.

He spoke not a word as he started to plant,
And took out some seedlings that he could transplant.
He filled all the raised beds with veggies galore,
As I stood there watching from my screened back door.

And laying his shovel right next to his hoe,
I knew it was time for the gardener to go.
But I heard him exclaim as rolled out of sight,
Happy Gardening to all and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Greetings from Christmas, Florida

You know how when you live somewhere you take the little things in stride and forget that out-of-towners might think something you see every day is actually quite cool?

Enter the town of Christmas, Florida. We're a stone's throw from Christmas and are quite used to seeing the year-round Christmas decorations at the main intersection. Don't make the mistake of getting excited about Christmas. It's not a quaint little town worth going out of your way to visit. It's rural homes, cows, trailer parks, auto salvage businesses, a gas station, a post office and a park with a historic fort. It doesn't have it's own police or mayor or anything and most people would drive through it and hardly notice they aren't in rural East Orlando anymore.

But when it's time to send Christmas cards, living near Christmas is great. Locals know that it's well worth the visit to the Christmas Post office to send your Christmas cards.

They'll be postmarked "Christmas, Florida," and you can borrow one of their ink stamps to stamp a message from Christmas, Florida, on to your cards.

(I forgot to photograph this myself)

Oddly enough, this year the postal workers are requiring you to give them your Driver's License in exchange for the ink stamps that say Christmas, Florida on them. When you're done stamping your cards, they give you your DL back and you can be on your way. Apparently last year all those stamps were stolen when they were just on a table in the lobby. Says a lot about people when they'll steal an ink stamp meant to adorn Christmas cards.

But we did it today - the boys chose a green candy cane Season's Greetings stamp and we put one on the back of each of our Christmas cards before sending them off. I believe this is an essential part of the Christmas Post Office experience in case someone rips open your card without noticing the oh-so-awesome postmark on the front.

So there you have it - a peek into Christmas, Florida, where it's Christmas year round!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wildlife Weekend: Thanksgiving Roadkill and a Rescue

We aren't into Black Friday shopping at all, but I did send Farmer B out on Thanksgiving morning to a local Walgreens to pick up a Christmas present for the boys that was on sale for 50% off. It was an odd place to find the present, but at that price it warranted a quick run to the store.

On the way home Farmer B called me quite excited that he was pulled over on the side of the road watching our national bird eating his very own Thanksgiving dinner. The eagle was about 3 feet away from his car window and was ripping apart some sort of roadkill. Farmer B took quite a few photos of it and even a short video and it was the hit our our Thanksgiving once he got home and shared it with the boys.

Bald eagles aren't unusual around here, but seeing one so close for so long isn't a daily occurance. I thought it was fitting that the turkey almost beat out the bald eagle as America's national bird and here was our up-close sighting on turkey day! Just think - if the turkey had been chosen as America's national bird, maybe we'd all be eating bald eagle and gravy for Thanksgiving dinner!

We've been on a bit of a wildlife kick recently. Right before Thanksgiving, Farmer B was soaking his legs in the swimming pool when he called for me to come over and see what the dogs were obsessing about. I walked over to the side of the pool and noticed an uninvited visitor stuck between the pool, the screen enclosure and the dogs. I'm not sure what it is about snakes, but we get an insane amount of them in and around our pool - luckily all the ones who have come in our pool area have been non-venomous.

This one was a little garter snake who happened to slither in to the right pool enclosure since I have a firm policy of never killing a non-venomous snake. I put the dogs outside and got a bucket and the boys plastic golf club to begin my rescue attempt.

After a few unsuccessful attempts and some awesome dancing on my part, I flicked the snake into the bucket and brought him inside to show to the boys. The snake was less than grateful for his rescue and spent the entire time striking at the air in the general direction of my hand.

I took him outside and released him under a bush by the front door. I think the whole experience was traumatic enough for him that he won't be back.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

If you've read my blog a time or two you might recall that I have two sons. One's an outgoing sports-loving chatterbox and the other one is a quieter kid who enjoys imaginative play and doing the opposite of his big brother. I love that they're so different because I get the best of both worlds and being an only child myself I get to experience the weirdness of siblings.

Here's what my little one wore to play outside today. This is what he has been wearing pretty much solid for a few weeks now. He prefers to be called Luke (as in Luke Skywalker) and oftentimes he won't even respond to his given name.

This is the same kid that only let us call him Nigel for about a year when he changed into his alter-ego, Nigel Marvin, the British naturalist.

Whenever I point out the eccentricites of this child to my family, they come back with the apple/tree analogy.

I wonder what are they trying to say?
Blog Widget by LinkWithin