Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Goodbye to Shirley, things as usual in the garden

 It was a sad day at our house yesterday;  Shirley, who had not been well for several months, died in her sleep overnight.  I always count the chickens when I check on them in the morning, and noticed there were only six in the enclosure.  I found Shirley laying peacefully at the back of the hen house.  I wanted to perform an autopsy on her to ascertain a cause of death (long illness with no real external symptoms, weight loss, lethargy), but only got as far as cutting open her crop (the place in her neck where her food is stored before it goes to the gizzard) because I then discovered she already had maggots.  I couldn't deal with that, so I just buried her, with Franklin's help.   
 Here she is facing the camera, when we first got her last year.  She and the other six were all rescued ex-factory farm hens, meant for the slaughterhouse.  For the first year of her life, she had never seen the sky or rain or bugs or grass.  She'd never flown, roosted, scratched the ground, or had a dustbath.  Poor Shirley.  She died before her time, but at least we gave her a good year, of fresh air, grass, sunshine, and bugs.

 I picked this bouquet on Friday from my garden and took this photo yesterday (Wednesday).  Still looks amazing.
 Franklin found this branch, cut from our overgrown hedge at the back, and declared it an "angry birds stick" so we made it into a slingshot with rubber bands.  The design needs some work, though.  See my netted cherry tree in the background?
 Well now, who's this on our boot scraper at 11 o'clock at night?  I'd just gone to shut the chicken house door, and heard a little metallic "ping", which I immediately recognized from the boot scraper.  I thought to myself:  oh no.  It's a rat.  And I could see in the dark a small shape on it, but when I got close I found this little sweetie pie, just hanging out, in no rush.
 My main veggie patch!  It's covered in growth, as per my polyculture plans for this year.  A lot of this growth is weeds, or as we now call them:  "chicken feed."  But everything is really big, both weeds and vegetables, and when the weeds get too tall, I chop them down and let them compost/act as mulch where they fall on the bed.  I think the only thing immediately distinguishable from the general green-ness are the peas growing up the fence at the back.  And maybe those onions with flower buds not quite open.  Let me assure you, there are at least 12 different vegetables/flowers in the mayhem, and that's not counting the chicken feed.
The other side of the veg patch, with netted strawberries on the right and billowy yellow flowering broccoli all across the foreground.  I'm determined to collect seed from it this year, so I won't cut it down and replant until I get some.  The strawberries, planted last summer, have formed plenty of berries, and some are blushing up nicely.  Hoping to eat our first one tomorrow.  

We've had a run of dry, sometimes sunny weather this month, a far cry from last year's sodden June.  Actually the whole summer of 2012 was a wash-out for us, raining nearly every day with quite cool temperatures and sun only rarely.  I still got a good harvest of onions, potatoes, cabbages, peas, and garlic, though.  Speaking of garlic, after a year of eating through it, I have a few bulbs from last July's harvest, and they're still good!  The smallest cloves have shrunk and withered a little, but nearly all of them are still in good eating order--and I'm nearly ready to begin this year's garlic harvest.  Which, I might add, was completely planted from last year's harvest, too:  totally self-sufficient in garlic for a whole year!  Now if only I could say that for the rest of our vegetables. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

With photos

 Franklin painting.
 One of my dodgy trellises (I made it!), with the cold frame, planted with squash.  That straw mulch is actually chicken bedding, and I covered the plot  with about 4-6 inches of it over winter to keep the weeds down, and when I went to plant it up, I discovered the soil was very soft and full of juicy worms.  Previously it'd been dry and compacted, so I was amazed at the change, and with almost no effort on my part.  All those sticks poking up are intended as a barrier against chickens scratching.  Pecking isn't so bad, but scratching tears up my plants (I've lost a few too many to  chickens rampaging this spring).
 Roses beginning to bloom!
 My window box with cilantro, cherry tomatoes, dill, lobelia, calendula, and basil.
Cherry tree in its second year, covered in little green cherries (it's about as tall as my shoulder).  Last year I got four cherries.
 Inside my garage with new transparent roof:  lots of tomatoes and a few cucumbers, peppers, carrots, and herbs.  They're growing much more quickly than the few I planted outdoors.
 My front garden bed, with red peonies.  It was covered in weeds last year, so I sheet mulched with cardboard and a thick layer of straw.  The shrubs are all happy, and I've planted a few kale and cosmos in the gaps--they're still pretty small, though.  A few persistent weeds have forced their way through the sheet mulching, but on the whole it's been successful;  and it looks a bit less anti-social, too.
A cute miniature rose, always covered in flowers, and with the loveliest red hips.