Saturday, May 28, 2011

Week 10

So I keep meaning to post some update pictures, but I keep getting distracted by other things. So here you go. The last one I posted was Week 2. This is week 10. Oops.

Baby Japanese cucumber

One of my seven raised beds. This one houses my (unfortunately shade-prone) tomatoes, lettuce, onions and squash.

Another showy bed. Home to: popcorn, cabbage, Chiogga beets, borage, chives, amaranth, orach, okra, thai basil, pinto beans, and nasturtiums.

Pole beans, cowpeas, okra, peppercress (currently setting seeds - yay!), Genovese basil, zataar oregano, green shiso, purple shiso, dahlias, melon, marigolds, and a baby kamo kamo squash plant.

Bonango Bateson! No longer a stick!

Marigolds are blooming.

I swear the calla lilies I thought weren't going to come up have come up and flowered in less than a month.


Green and purple shiso! And Zataar oregano from seed...

Friday, May 27, 2011

And Behold! The Chicken Palace!

No. Unfortunately for this hungry chica, this is not a new Chinese restaurant miraculously open close to my remote patch of woods.

BUT. It is my chickens' new palatial home.

They will be free range chickens, but half of them are about 2 weeks shy of being big (and feathered) enough to fend for themselves out in the world, and the other half are about a month away. And they do need a secure place to be at night (we have raccoons and wild turkeys out here). And I have delusions of being able to provide nesting boxes comfy enough that they will lay eggs in. As opposed to the forest floor.

As I mentioned before, my great-aunt rescued a couple of half destroyed gazebo kits from the local Aldi's. Between the two 'sets', we got one whole one up.

And decided that this will be the chicken palace.

Once we decided that, we used chicken wire, 2x4's, some paint, the screen that came with the gazebo, some hinges and latches, and a gazillion cable ties.Oh. And a sheet of plywood, despite the fact that it contains substances known to the state of California to cause cancer.

All in all, I think we did good...

Oh yeah. Esmeralda made it *almost* all the way down to the palace site. (I love my mud tires!)

Sorting out the good pieces from the bad...

The skeleton.

The gazebo structure getting chicken wire added to the 2x4's we used to help shape out the bottom. We put a skirt of chicken wire staked in around the bottom - digging and installing a 12-inch apron underground is just not possible without heavy power tools on our property. Seriously. Very manly men have been thwarted.

I bought it. Four 70-yr old men loaded it into my car. My mom primed and painted it. And out of this shall come the door.

The chicken wire wrangler. Cable tires are awesome!

Behold. The back of the door...

Screens down, and stapled all around the bottom to the 2x4's. Except for where the door opens (proud of myself for remembering that bit while hurriedly stapling as a thunderstorm rolled in and rain started to come down)

Hampies, still in their hutch, and Rhodies with their new (homemade) waterer/feeder. And mom releasing the last Rhodie into the wild ... er... palace.

The Hampies kinda want to know what's going on...

How long did it take them to figure out the new feeder/waterer? about 30 seconds. Although one of them IS having a tough time with the see-through-ness. (Sorry dude! I could only find clear!)
And now... on to the weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blueberries for Caitlin

As you may or may not know, this property has been in my family for (let's round it off, shall we?) 50 years. My great-grandfather bulldozed a house site, graded a few roads, dug some irrigation ditches (hence the 'glorified puddle', or the 'small pond' - they all in theory drain into that one), and (most importantly to me) dug a well. Other than that no one has done anything to this place.

He also put in an asparagus bed and a blueberry patch in when not a lot of folks here in the Piedmont were eating either of those things. (Blueberries are a big thing in SE NC, but asparagus?) Needless to say many of our neighbors remember Mr Cammack, and many have asked me about the blueberries and asparagus and whether or not they're still here.

The asparagus, alas, we have not been able to find and I think its chances of having survived this long would have been something of a miracle anyway.

BUT. The blueberries are THRIVING. The original patch we know is such due to the disintegrating (yet still there) plastic (?) mulch someone put down at some point poking up out of the fallen leaves, etc. Blueberries LOVE acidic soil, and we've got 40 acres of pines that have been adding a nice thick layer of compost to the ground, and acid to the soil, for years. So there are volunteer blueberry bushes all over the property. You can hardly swing a cat without hitting one.

Who the hell came up with that expression?

Anyway, the first task my mother set to upon arriving here was to clear out the copious amounts of dead growth from the original patch. Which we estimate to be about 50' x 15' (the width GREATLY varies in places). This is mostly to make MY job of pruning them this fall after they produce easier (especially since I will be the first to admit I really don't know what I'm doing), and also to help try to curb their height. In some places I'd say they're a good 12' high. Some varieties are supposed to grow that tall, but I have NO idea what type he

Behold the transformation:
Before. Yup. THICK.

AFTER. FYI: my mom is kneeling. She is not an elf, nor are the berries building-height.
Within days they were flowering and producing new growth in mass quantities. There are (green) berries everywhere. I am super duper excited. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chick Chickety Chick Chick: The Official Update

So.... the chicken saga continues. To refresh your memory, we had decided to wait until next year to acquire chickens. That plan didn't work out so well, and now I have 8 Rhodies, and 7 Hampies (one of our New Hampshire Reds has gone to the big coop in the sky. Don't be too too sad. This is part of life!). The Rhodies live in our now finished Multi-Media Chicken Tractor.

The Multi-Media Chicken Tractor.
OK. So if you're into the whole brevity thing, and contrary to popular belief I am, and you don't know what a chicken tractor is, go here. (If you thought that sentence was strange then you didn't get the movie reference and this is a problem. You must watch this for us to be friends.)

Our tractor is slightly different from the dictionary definition as I knew I was putting chicks that (let's face it) were really too young to be taken out of a straight-up brooder environment, but I needed said brooder for the Hampies, so the Rhodies moved in early. The modifications I made were to put deer netting along the floor of the run as well to add some protection and keep them from getting out. Or worse yet hurting themselves trying to (chickens are dumb. In case you were wondering). I also tucked a heat lamp up under the roof and above the 'roost' I put in. The heat lamp was on 24/7 for the first week or so, then on a timer so it only came on at night, and now it's off completely. It's 92 degrees outside. I also put pine shavings on the floor as the holes in the deer netting are bigger than the chick's feet were when they went in there and I really didn't need any human-induced injuries. (The shelter part of the tractor has no deer netting - it just sits on the ground)

Why is it called that? I am so glad you asked! Because it is made out of as much stuff as we already had on hand as possible. I would say we still ended up spending about $50 on it, but that does include primer and paint that will be used for other things. It's got an old wall from a shed built in the 40's or 50's (we think - it was the shed of a friend of a friend of a relative type scenario), some roofing tin (from the same shed), shelf brackets and hinges I had, PVC I had, deer netting I had, twist ties I had, cable ties I had, and 2 studs I had. We only really bought the sheet of plywood, primer, paint, a bamboo window screen (from the clearance section at Lowe's and used for the door), and some more screws and glue and such. Hence multi-media.

The Multi-Media Chicken Tractor will be our brooder next year.

Month old chicks just look funny.
And then there are the Hampies. They are already really different personality-wise from the Rhodies - I would say they are more skittish, aggressive towards each other, and loud. But they look identical so far. They are also seeing to want to roost MUCH earlier than the Rhodies did, which is why the door to the shed they are sequestered in now stays closed all the time:

In theory, pecking order is not established until the 6 month mark. Like I believe that. These guys are 2 weeks old in this picture.
 The Rhodies (is it hard to follow when I jump back and forth? Really?) also have begun to understand the wonderful world of bugs (I FINALLY saw one eat a tick today, Mr Manfriend), and the joys of veggies. Case in point, the cabbage leaf that is the size of a dinner plate and lasted less than 5 minutes:

Zora DOESN'T understand the joys of veggies, and would really very much like them to pay attention to HER, thankyouverymuch.
So now of course the task of building the already-named Chicken Palace remains. My great-aunt in her everlasting hilariousness, gave us two gazebo kits she saved from the dumpster at Aldi's that the garbage truck had run over (albeit, only the corners of the 'boxes' were run over). My mother and I had enough parts out of the two to put one whole gazebo up out of all good parts. So. Now we will make a Chicken Palace out of this:

Soon this will be a Palace full of Chickens. Mwahahaha.

This is gonna be interesting....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'm still here!!

I AM still here.

However. So is my mother. And I am distracted. And I don't have the interwebs at my house (ha!), so let's just pretend I'm on hiatus, shall we?

And we've been busy. So. I have much to say when I return.

In the meantime, some sweet pics. Man I love my phone. It's the best camera I own!

It's a double

Also it was full. You could see the whole thing from end to end.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to my mom, my grandmothers, my godmother, my aunts, my friends who are moms, and all those that I have come in contact with in the past with something maternal to say. You rock.

This was a good day with my mom.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Holy Buckets of Wildlife Galore

I have said time and time again that it surprises me how little of the east coast flora and fauna I know. I don't know if I thought I'd remember more of it (I did live in CT until the age of 10. Not the same? OK. Fine), or if I thought it wouldn't be so different, or if I didn't think of it at all. But the amount of things that I see/hear/smell that I have to look up somehow is amazing, and continues to knock my socks off. I feel like this may be lost on some...

Case in point - here's a recent conversation with the manfriend:

     Me (starry eyed and full of wonder): There are so many different kinds of butterflies! And spiders! I barely know any of them! We didn't have nearly this many in California!
     Him (looking at me like I may, in fact, be insane): We just really have a lot of bugs.

Ok. Fine. But still. I wake up at 3am to a cacophony of bird and bug song, and dammit they don't stop. Ever.

And the snakes. I  personally have only seen one Copperhead so far. Unfortunately (and this is NOT my normal MO) Mr. Copperhead had to go - he was inhabiting one of the metal containers that has since been transformed into an herb bed, and would not leave. No amount of stones thrown against the metal sides would get him to budge, and he was not only in my garden, he was right where the chicken coop is gonna go. So he had to go...

But I have also seen a Mole Kingsnake, a Rough Green Snake, and a Black Racer. I am happy to see these guys, as they aren't venomous, and unless you're dumb or you accidentally corner them they won't bite. The presence of a Racer also means the lack of a Copperhead, and they all eat small animals and bugs and the like. So the Black Racer sunning himself in my garden is totally OK by me.

I will spare you spider pictures. Mostly because I don't take any, but also because there would be too many for your page to load - regardless of your connection speed.

Mole Kingsnake sunning himself across my driveway.

Black Racer

Finally no longer eating my veggies

So many lizards! (sorry the zoom on my iPhone gets pixelated)

That black blob is a cricket. Two seconds later there was no more black blob.

What is this flower? No, I didn't grow up here and I have no idea...

The goddamn honeysuckle is EVERYWHERE.

It's hard to find a nook on the property without some sort of flower on it at the moment.

More irises from my godmother!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Playing Chicken Again. Or, Peep!!

Yes. We decided to wait until next year for chickens. We had a big wall from an old shed that was sitting and melting into the treescape that my mom and I started to resurrect into a chicken tractor for the 6 to 8 chicks that we are going to get next year for our small flock of 4 or 5.

We got it mostly finished. I think it's gonna be awesome.

Small problem, though. We're doing chickens this year. And due to a slight kerfuffle, we're gonna have 16 chicks. 8 Rhode Island Reds, and 8 New Hampshire Reds (because evidently being able to tell them apart is not something I care about...). The 8 Rhodies are currently in my shed peep peep peeping away under a heat lamp that makes them look slightly evil. The 8 Hampies (as I have decided to call them) are coming next week. Zora runs in the shed when she hears them peep particularly loudly and tries to lick them. (for now, anyway)

So scrap that plan, now we gotta build a full blown coop. 

Zora DOES have experience with chickens, and it wasn't the best...but I'm hoping that exposure to them as chicks (while they're in a protected environment...a rubbermaid with me sitting next to it) and being with them as they grow up will help. Or she'll go after them and I'll have to take the opportunity to break her of attacking them (I choose to believe that will be possible). Many many dogs coexist with chickens just fine. I just hope (hope hope!) that Zora will somehow morph into one.

In the meantime I will distract you from any morbid thoughts with cuteness! BEHOLD THE CUTENESS:

Cuteness in a box. On the way home.

Zora likes to lick them...

See? They look slightly evil under the red heat lamp...
 *Update: due to some strange planning, I had no chicken care this weekend while I was away at the manfriend's. So they came with. After 3 hours in the car together, Zora now sits next to the tub and sleeps. She only perks her ears up when one peeps particularly loudly.... I am hoping this is a guard instinct. (SHHHH! Please don't burst my bubble. It's been quite the week for me!)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

(Yet Another) Organizational Spasm

I have been getting tired of this jumble of planters and plants that I’ve got going on by the side of my shed. The inside of the shed and its constant lack of organization drives me nuts, but at least I know where everything is and at the end of the day I can close my door on it and not have to look at the jumbled heap of (mostly) crap.
The side of the shed where planters seem to go to die, however, is a different story. It is the first thing I see when I wake up and look out the window (except not right now as I gave my mother that bunk, so now she gets to look at the heap. Hehe), and I pass by it every time I leave the camper to go…anywhere.
I had some extra wildflowers and nasturtiums and poppies and calendulas and the like, so I finally decided to put them in the self-watering planters my cousin gave me. I’m also growing a lavender plant from seed (dude. Buy a plant. So much easier and in this instance I will NOT call it cheating), and Nesbitt (the grape) and Figgy (the fig) are still over there in pots waiting to get put in the ground (which I haven’t cleared yet. But I picked out a great slop for the grapes/orchard…WHY do I ADD to my to-do list instead of subtract??). Add a half a bag of topsoil, shovels, a random Rubbermaid lid…you get the idea.
Remember the beehive I built (update coming soon!)? Or am 99% done with anyway? If you remember I cut out enough pieces for 2 hives, but only built one…so I’m repurposing the side planks I cut out of plywood and some extra furring strips into two staggered shelves to hold my planters and whatnot over against the side of the shed.
I rock.
I even had left over butcher block oil (but of course not quite enough and had to go get more to finish said project. Sigh…) to use on them, so very happy with myself indeed.
Before. Blech.

Side plank for beehive number 2 which has yet to built. Really it's just been floating around the shed and trying to trip me when my hands are too full to turn on the light.

Ditto, top bars. I cut come down to 8 inches, so we get two shelves staggered in height.

Pre-drilling is the only way to go with shitty plywood. Even if it is pine and only 3/4 inch thick.

Building by yourself? No vice? Co clamps? No workspace? No patience? No one will see it anyway? Staple before screwing the top on!

Waiting to be bathed in oil.