Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chicken Wrangling

Oh, I had so many plans for this week. Posts to write, plants to tend, gardens to weed and plant, birthday parties to plan. 

Instead, I've spent the last three days at home with a sick boy.

Since Monday, we've watched 36 episodes of the old show "Tin Tin" on Netflix. I have no idea how this marathon began. I know you all want to award me "Mother of the Year" for my fine parenting skills.

And it looks like tomorrow we'll be doing more of the same.

I despise viruses.

To top it off, my girlie is sad. For months, she counted the days until March 28--the day our local feed and seed was scheduled to receive its shipment of chicks. There's a Barred Plymouth Rock she's coveting, and in another shipment next week--two Golden Campines. 

The brooder is up, the heat lamp is on. (You know, the lamp must be on for 24-hours prior to the peep's arrival to achieve the proper temperature, says Chicken Mama.) The feed is in the dish.

But no chick.

After three calls to the store, we found that the chicks will arrive tomorrow.

So, to celebrate the impending arrival of our new peeps, I thought I'd share some photos of Chicken Mama and two of her girls.

Oreo decided that Kristen is a good pillow.
Now, I must rejoin my sickie. I need to find out if Tin Tin and Snowy make it to the moon...

XO ~


Monday, March 26, 2012

Conquering Mulch Mountain...Who Really Won?

I love mulch.

I'm one of those odd people who gets ridiculously excited about the prospect of freshly spread mulch.

I love ordering it. “Double ground hardwood, please”--even though, after all of these years of using the same local company—I still can't understand the super nice owner's extreme southern drawl.

Sometimes, I wonder exactly what I've agreed to after talking with him.

The kids love mulch. As soon as the truck dumps the mulch, the kids fly outside to Mulch Mountain—where they climb, slide, dig, and generally wreck havoc on the mulch and each other.

Our oldest son is not quite as enthusiastic. He was summoned home from college this weekend to help spread mulch. Well, actually, he's the fill-the-wheelbarrow-and-dump guy.

Don't feel too sorry for him. He was well-fed. And he earned much praise, because he really makes the process so much easier.

I love the aesthetics of mulch. So clean, so fresh. I love the smell of mulch, although my 6-year-old said it smelled like something died outside. More importantly, I love the organic benefits of mulch. Water retention. Weed control. Increased soil health as the mulch decomposes.

The only glitch with mulching is...perennials. Everywhere. This is the problem if you wait too late to spread mulch. You can kiss the rake goodbye.

It's hand-mulching time.

Yes, for two straight days, I filled tubs with mulch and carefully, carefully, dressed the perennials by hand.

Two days. From early morning until last light—which is now about 8 p.m.—I knelt, squatted, pliéd, and bent in awkward positions to mulch my babies.

And I hurt.

A lot.

But it was worth it.

Look! Look! See what I did! (Please pretend you don't see the dandelion in the corner. Thank you.)

Even Sammy enjoys the new mulch.

Now, I know I'm not the only gardener in the throws of heavy lifting, bending, and stretching in the efforts to ready the garden for the season ahead. I just hope you are more fit and less achy than I am. Perhaps you even stretch and such before you begin gardening each day.

However, in case you, too, are feeling less than spry after your gardening work, I have a treat for you.

It will make you happy.

It's a bath.

I rarely take a bath. The idea of a bath is delicious. Soaking, peacefully, in a steamy tub sounds like bliss.

However, I'm a mom.

The minute I contemplate a bath, everyone needs something.

Right. Now.


You probably are too familiar with this scenario. It just isn't worth it.

Most of the time.

As sore as I am, though, a bath is a medical necessity.

So, my friends, I'm sharing with you a lovely recipe for a bath, borrowed from Amy Stewart's charming book, From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden. Have you read her memoir? If not, I highly recommend you take it with you to the tub, read about her adventures as a first-time gardener, and just soak. Both your body and your spirit will be nicely rejuvenated after your bath, and you'll be ready for another day in the garden.

Gardener's Bath
1 cup oatmeal
¼ cup baking soda
¼ cup powdered whole-milk
Herbs (the recipe calls for dried herbs, but I've cut fresh lavender, rosemary, and lemon balm to add to the bath. Mint, comfrey, rose petals, and chamomile are also options.)

Blend ingredients together in a food processor or blender until you have a fine powder. The oats ease itchy skin, and the fat in whole-milk powder moisturizes, while the lactic acid gently exfoliates. Baking soda helps soften the skin and also relieves itch.

In her book, Amy sprinkles the blend directly in the bath. Instead, you could also minimize the post-bath clean-up by putting the blend in a fine mesh bag, such as a lingerie laundry bag, and letting it soak in the tub under the faucet to release the aroma.

Relax and enjoy!

XO ~


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Spring Gift for You!

Finally, my friends—it's here.

The day we've all been awaiting.

The day that kept us going through those dreary, chilly winter days...

SPRING! Tra la!

To celebrate the happiest of days...

 I'm giving away a “Spring into Spring” gift to one lucky, randomly selected reader!

Look! Books! Plants! Seeds! And a tub!

The lucky winner will receive:

The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table by Amy Goldman. This is a seriously gorgeous book, filled with stunning photography, amazing history, and recipes, too! It was the first book I bought when I began my heirloom adventure. (You'll get a new copy—not mine!)

Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces by Gayla Trail. This is a great how-to book. It's the perfect book for those who are land-challenged. Don't have a big backyard? No worries, you can grow a great harvest in containers! I like it, because even though we do have a yard, I still enjoy growing in containers on the balcony. 

OK, maybe I'm lazy, but it's so nice to open a door, pick some herbs, and keep cooking dinner.

Plus—you get recipes! And instructions to preserve your harvest! You'll really like this book.

I'm also sending the winner some seeds from my favorite sources: Baker's Creek Heirloom Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange. Honestly, if you haven't visited these sites yet—please do. You will be amazed at the wonderful selections you'll find. (Plus, they're just really good people.)

Plus—who doesn't need a garden tub? I love these little tubs—they're great for collecting weeds, mixing soil with amendments, and carrying compostables to the bin.

And finally—the winner will receive six, organic heirloom tomatoes from Garden Delights! (Yes, that's me!) The plants still need some more greenhouse time, but look at these roots, my friends! This is why I use organic, OMRI certified Dot Pots. When you plant these babies, you plant the entire pot—and the roots aren't disturbed. The winner can select six plants from the Garden Delights site, and I'll send you the secret code so that they will be FREE.

BUT—that's not all!

Everyone is a winner on the first day of spring! 

Today through April 1, my ALL get 25% off any Garden Delights order! Just enter the code GROWING2012 at checkout, and you'll receive your discount. (If you're in Upstate SC, please remember you can pick up your plants at The Urban Planter. No shipping charges for you!!! And, you can find some gorgeous containers and garden décor while you're there!)

For your chance to win the “Spring into Spring” gift, please leave a comment below or on the Garden Delights Facebook page, answering this very important question:

What is your favorite garden treat?

Are you a tomato girl? Love flowers? Can't wait for the first spring peas?

The giveaway begins NOW and will continue until April 1 at midnight EST. (And if you'd like to follow this blog or “Like” Garden Delights on Facebook, I'd be most grateful—but it won't affect your chance to win!)

UPDATE: Because I'm new to this giveaway thing, I completely forgot an important note: the winner must reside in the contiguous United States. I can't ship plants to Alaska, Hawaii, or abroad (and honestly, you wouldn't want me to...those would be some very sad plants by the time they arrived! Sorry for any inconvenience...)

Happy spring to you!!!

XO ~


Thursday, March 15, 2012

And she emerged from the greenhouse in time for...Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

Whew...I've barely made it! I've lived in the greenhouse during the past few weeks, potting up thousands of heirloom tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and flowers. My brain is--quite literally-- fried after our unexpected jump from winter to summer (high temps in the mid-80s today, which of course means it's well over 100 degrees in the greenhouse, even with three fans on full power.)

Today, though, I'm doing the happiest of dances, because...

I'm DONE!!!

Yes, all the itty bitty green babies are nestled safely in their OMRI certified biodegradable pots, surrounded by lovely organic soil, awaiting tomorrow's feeding of fish emulsion.

My neighbors will hate us for the next day or two.

The neighborhood cats, however, will be lining up outside the greenhouse. As much as my green babies love fish emulsion, it's the one element in the process that kills me a little bit. It just lingers, no matter how often I shower. It overwhelms my sense of smell, and I think I smell like rotten fish for days. Phew.

But that's a task for tomorrow.

Today, after I watered the last newly planted tray, I drank a celebratory Diet Coke, grabbed my camera, and took a quick walk around the gardens.

The hardest part of owning a small nursery is that I miss the best time of the year—spring. I'm so consumed with starting seeds that I forget why I started gardening in the first place—to enjoy the magic of the first blooms of the season. Even though today is hectic—work, kids' horseback lessons, errands—I'm so grateful for May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. It forces me to stop for a few moments and enjoy what's happening in the gardens.

And—oh my. What a crazy plant party is going on!

Edibles! Ornamentals! Medicinals! Oh my!

The overwhelming theme, though, is—weeds. Eek! And mulch—needed ASAP! And—where did all of those leaves come from? I vividly remember hauling ten billion leaves out of the beds this fall. Yeesh.

So, if you'd be so kind to overlook the random weeds that crept into the photos, and search carefully under the bed of'll find what's blooming and growing in our garden.

Let's start with the pretties:

Daphne. Last Bloom Day, I raved about my neighbor's daphne. Now, I have two pots to call my own.

And it is heavenly.

Tra la! It's almost spring! Five more days, and it's official! Our daffodils, though, are almost gone, except for a the other hundred or so that I planted about a month ago. (I know, I know...I was overzealous last fall and seriously over-ordered bulbs. Twelve-hundred bulbs, to be exact. I still have a few boxes that I'm going to plant to see what happens. Curse those 40% off sales.)

But these Ziva paperwhites were from that order, and they are now gracing the path to the small greenhouse. 

Totally worth it.

And these tulips, too, somehow had the stamina to endure weeks (months) of dark to be planted a mere six weeks ago...

And then there are the cherries...

This is my daughter's birthday tree. We planted it when she was born.

She'll be 11 on April 2.

I'm teary, just thinking about it. (You can see her through the years with her tree here.)

Can I tell you, my tomboy, chicken-loving, horse crazy girl had to change outfits, fix her hair, and put on lip gloss before we went to Barnes and Noble last night?

I'm dying. I need to stop time and keep her little.


One of my favorite additions to the garden is the weeping cherry. 

The chickens enjoy it, too.

The viburnum is ready to pop. I've never seen it so full of potential blooms.

And the forsythia...finally, all of the bushes in the front, back garden and forest are filled with cheerfulness. Even the bushes our pups chewed last year recuperated and are blooming like mad. Nothing announces spring like forsythia blossoms.

I even cut some to bring inside this year. 

The hellebores continue to amaze...more and more keep popping up all over the gardens, which is fabulous because we have so much shade. And--I just discovered a nursery that specializes in amazing hellebores. Don't tell my husband, but I think I need some online retail therapy. 

(You know, he reads my blog. I think he's even a fan. This is just my subtle way of letting him know that I'm ordering a few plants...) 

Just a few. Not 1,200.

This camellia makes me think of brides...lovely, blushing brides. Or sweet, itty bitty baby girls who don't care about lip gloss. 

Crazy--even the coreopsis is blooming.

My favorite perennial is peeking out from the leaves. Truly, is there anything as gorgeous as a bleeding heart? 

In the back tiered beds by the pool, coral bells are emerging...

 ...and the creeping phlox popped a few blooms.

Ferns fill our shady gardens, and I adore watching the fiddleheads emerge.

Woodland violets...scattered throughout the forest.

Tea Olives with new growth and tiny blooms...

Pieris Japonica...which I used to abhor and now adore.

I've always much preferred spring flowers like columbine compared to imposing, in-your-face shrubbery...

The blooms are darling and the leaves are lovely on their own.

Then, yummy: Edibles!

In my opinion, most edibles are as gorgeous as any ornamental--with the added value of deliciousness! 

"This is the dawning of the Age of Asparagus, the Age of Asparagus..."

Future blueberry pie!

Divine Fraise des Bois! We'll never have a pie from them, but they are the most scrumptious treat imaginable. I've planted them in containers, in the forest, as borders...they are beautiful, evergreen, and mouthwatering.

Swiss Chard is still going strong...and is about to become a frittata tomorrow.

Peas are beginning to peak out...

This year, I'm growing eight varieties of garlic, plus shallots and onions, in grow bags and containers. So far, the results look promising.

I am, of course, in dire need of getting the big garden and potager cleaned up and planted. You know what they say about the shoemaker's children? Well, that's the same as the trials of the nursery owner's gardens. 

Finally, herbalicious:

I'm honestly in awe of this little raised bed that I planted to showcase medicinal herbs. Now, I'm not an herbalist, but I do have herbalists who request that I grow specific plants for them. I'm fascinated by the history of herbal cures. In fact, I attended an organic growers' workshop this past weekend, with a tract dedicated to medicinal herb usage. I was so excited to learn about how to use mugwort and tansy, wormwood and clary sage.

It was so disappointing.

However, when I looked at the herb gardens today, I was far from disappointed. In fact, I was amazed by the growth:




Clary Sage



Wood Betony
 Roman Chamomile

Still, I have a shelf of books devoted to herbs, so I'm going to keep reading and learning. Will I ever treat my kids with an herbal concoction I brew in the kitchen?

Probably not.

But I think I'm brave enough to make lemon balm tea. Just brushing the dead leaves away from the lemon balm left the most delicious fragrance on my fingers.


Thank you, May Dreams Gardens, for reminding me to get outside and enjoy the blooms. I'm looking forward to virtually visiting the other garden bloggers' spring gardens!

Happy almost-spring!

XO ~