Saturday, August 22, 2009

In the garden

I was out in the garden with the camera a couple days ago. Here is what's going on in our garden right now.

I'm amazed when I stand back and see how green everything is. It has been a foggy and cold summer here most of the time which has aided in this I'm sure. But standing back makes me realize I really didn't suck as bad as I thought at the garden scene this summer!

The children's garden never took off and I didn't have the body to care for it so we ended up with a whole lotta sunflowers and volunteer amaranth with a few zinnias thrown in. It looked much better last year!

This was my new big idea: The canopy garden. Most of the seeds were eaten by birds, but the morning glories have really taken off and had it not been so foggy when I took this photo they'd all be open. Colven (my 3 year old) really enjoys being in here. Next year I need to reinforce the netting and use something other than hemp twine. I'm thinking some kind of open mesh fencing.
These Flying Saucer morning glories are gorgeous, this photo doesn't do them justice!

Peppers! Our jalapenos are doing terrific. The plants aren't the biggest we've had, but they are LOADED with peppers. My husband tried one last night and proclaimed they have great flavor and the perfect amount of spice. I tried really hard not to water them too much. Over-watering dilutes the heat in spicy peppers.

Every garden should have a gourd vine. This year I planted Corsicans, they will make a wide base bowl shape. The baby fruits are so fuzzy and soft. Even the big leaves are soft and fuzzy. The vines send out huge, long tendrils to grab onto things. It's really fun for kids to watch because they grow so fast. These vines have tons of baby gourds on them. I'm excited to see what happens.

When I was filling this old hot tub up with soil a friend of ours offered old organic mix from.. umm... an indoor garden (remember we are in California wink wink). Funny thing happened: A mysterious plant sprouted and grew. I confess I let it grow until it sexed haha. It was male. I shouldn't have let it grow though, and not for the reason you might think! It shaded out the Moon&Stars watermelon so now it's just this puny little thing I doubt will bear fruit. The first year aspargus is looking fabulous!
And look! We finally got some potatoes in the ground. And they are sprouting! You should have seen the state of the seed potatoes when they went in. They had been sitting in their box in the dirt since spring. They looked like shriveled little deadies.


Kentucky Wonder bean vines with a mesclun salad mix, corn and volunteer purslane.

The Black Beauty zucchini got a late start so it is still robust and big and strong at the end of August, amazing! Newly planted (and protected from birds) are beets, scallions, Monet's Garden Mesclun mix and All American parsnips.

A tradition in our garden is a giant pumpkin vine. This is the first baby!

I had to include these photos of the amaranth. It is beyond gorgeous.

Look how long this is!

Tomatoes are slowly ripening

The first cover crop of buckwheat is already ready for tilling and re-seeding!
I also managed to seed some Purple Queen bush beans, Giant Musselburg leeks, and Southern Giant Curled mustard greens. The photo was just of an empty looking wet bed though! :)

Chickens.... chickens chickens...

We have our hands full of broody chickens. A hen is referred to as broody when she has decided to sit on a clutch of eggs. I'm not sure what has gotten into our flock of 20-some-odd hens and a single roo, but after the first hen hatched her chicks the others went running to nesting boxes with intentions of their own.
What to do with all these gals? Well, we only had one separate pen set up for a broody, so today my darling husband (oh how he is patient with this stuff he cares nothing about!) made yet another brooding box with two separate areas which enable us to house two more broody hens. And then their chicks. I thought the view from inside looking out down the little walk way was pretty darn cute.
These two gals, a Rhode Island Red and a Buff Orpington, will house the new digs. We move them at night, when they are sleepy. Ever hear the saying about a sitting duck? I think it should be about sleeping chickens. Our flock isn't overly friendly, we don't handle them. I don't view them as our pets, they are our food. We are kind, feed them awesome food, and make sure they have good lives. Beyond that, let's be honest: Chickens are food. It's funny to handle them at night then. They seem awake, but don't protest a bit. I've opened the coop door to see who was sleeping in a nesting box (and thus pooping in it, a big no-no) and move them to the roost (yup, some chickens have to be trained to follow basic survival instincts. It's not called a bird brain for nothin'!) only to have a sleeping chicken fall to the ground and not even wake up! Pretty funny.
I just recently moved this Golden Laced Wyandotte to the original broody box.
When I moved the Wyandotte, this Buff Orpington and her five 7 week old chicks were forced to move out.
There are several fun things about watching a hen hatch chicks. First, it takes no direct work. Provided a safe spot, she sits on them, she hatches them, she ensures they eat and drink. After a few short days, the chicks start to find their way out of the pen and into the garden. It's pretty neat. We've learned to keep the mama hen out of the garden; After the last one went nuts on the asparagus bed I exiled all adult chickens from the garden. I have a soft spot for babies though, and they aren't big enough to venture too far or do too much damage. I move them all to the main flock when they are around 7 weeks, it has turned out really well so far. Our resident rooster, Rowdy, defends those chicks almost as fiercely as the mama! Our flock has a covered pen and a huge fenced yard to which they have constant access. The fence is more to keep neighbor dogs out, the chickens can slip through if they wish but dogs can not.

I'll tell you a bummer about a bunch of broody hens though --
empty nesting boxes!

This is the first graduate. She has integrated in with the main flock quite well. As far as I can tell she is a Rhode Island Red/Golden Laced Wyandotte cross. She is the lone survivor from our first hatch of six. Not great odds on that first batch. Our second hatch has been better. Only one has gone missing.
She's cute, isn't she?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thankful in the Garden

I was racing through the garden tonight getting dinner together as quickly as I could when I found myself in a big rush with 2 leeks, a handful of purple bush beans, a creamy zucchini, and a handful of herbs in my hand. I had to stop. And think. And give thanks. I'm thankful to my garden for so many reasons. I'm thankful we spent the time double digging, building strong beds, adding compost and earthworm castings and kelp and..... everything lovely and organic. I'm thankful we chose all that because apparently the ways in which we have chosen do just fine on their own. I'm especially thankful because besides putting seeds in the ground and watering, I haven't been able to do much for the garden this season.

Thank you garden. And back atcha!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Another ripe type!

I'm so happy to report that my tomatoes are finally starting to ripen! Yipee! The larger types still have a ways to go, but the smaller tomatoes are starting. I did an accidental experiment with my Black Krim tomato and ended up completely dry farming it because the chickens had scratched the drip spout away from the plant and I only just noticed. Dang. I don't think it will recover.
Green Zebra tomato

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why I love Black Beauty zucchini

Because even when they get away from me and grow giant as this one did (that is our big chef knife!)

they still have a soft skin and a creamy, solid center.
These rounds are perfect tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper and grilled.
Tastes like summer!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Garden Images from Today

Homegrown Breakfast

I've never mastered the art of the omelet. While tasty, it isn't generally pretty. Since I've been making so many of them with our homegrown veggies and eggs, I've decided the only real way I'm going to be able to fit in all the veggies I want is to give up on the pretty omelet and make breakfast gallettes instead! :)It's quite nice looking, isn't it?
Baby beet, chard, and zucchini 3 egg gallette

Just because they are so lovely here is a photo of some Purple Haze carrot sticks I cut up this morning and packed in water in the fridge for snacking the next few days.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Keep an eye on Mars! Or not. But hey, looking to the sky expecting something brilliant to happen isn't so bad.

On August 27, Mars will be within approximately 35 million miles from Earth and the brightest object in the sky (next to the moon).

This event has not occurred in the last 5,000 years of recorded history, and it may be another 60,000 years before it happens again.

Watch the night sky as Mars grow progressively brighter throughout the month of August.

On August 27, Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye!

If you received this email like I did, read this:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The buckwheat cover crop has sprouted. I should have taken a photo of the bird protection I had to rig up! I'm about to start another patch so I'll be sure to capture it this time. Such cute little seedlings, aren't they?

Full moon in the garden at dusk.