Friday, April 27, 2012

Floral Friday.

A million years ago, when I was a new, young, single homeowner, I only cared about flowers. 

Beautiful flowers.

Maybe it had something to do with a college boyfriend. You know the type—the one who sends red roses to say he's sorry.

I despise red roses.

So, with my own tiny plot of land, I decided I'd no longer depend on some guy to deliver flowers to me.

I, as an independent woman, would grow my own bouquets.

Then life happened. Peter arrived on the scene, and I must say—he's a good flower giver. Kids magically appeared. New house, many projects, an obsessive interest in kitchen gardening consumed my time. We started businesses that needed attention.

Lots of attention.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot about the promise I made as my young self. Yes, I still grew flowers. But I couldn't remember the last time I really enjoyed them.

So today, as a way to reconnect with the pleasure of gardening, I'm announcing the Adolf family's Floral Friday.

Each Friday, I'm going out to the garden to gather whatever is pretty.

And then, to celebrate the beginning of the weekend, I'm making myself a bouquet.

Today, as Kristen arrived home from school, she found me in the front yard, pondering where to begin.

She quickly joined in the fun and made her own lovely bouquet!

The yellow rose bush followed me from my old house, and I'm so glad it did. My mom, who passed away more than a year ago, gave me the rose bush. Now, the yellow roses grace her granddaughter's Floral Friday bouquet.

I decided to try to emulate the beautiful, stunning designs created by Floret and Saipau, my favorite guilty-pleasure websites. 

Well, I'm not up to their standards, but I'll keep practicing!

Hope you, too, take a moment and enjoy your own Floral Friday!

Happy weekend to you!!

XO ~


My bouquet (with no Latin names or species, sorry) includes: peonies, gaura, lavender, yellow tea roses, honeysuckle, clematis, wisteria, irises, catmint, and lenten roses.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Art of Raising Beds in the Veggie Garden.

Have you noticed that we always have a project or two happening at our home?

Our projects begin like this:

Me: “Wow, Peter, look at this great photo of this lady's raised bed vegetable garden.”

Peter: “Hmmm....”

Me: “You know, we had a lot of problems with disease last year. I think we really need to consider raised beds, because I'm sure our soil is diseased.”

Peter: “Mmmm...”

Me: (Pulling out the Gardener's Supply catalog). “Wow, take a look at these raised beds. They're cedar, so they won't decompose, and they're completely easy to install!”

Peter: (audible sigh, then choking noises when he sees the price tag for the raised beds.) “I'm sure we can build something...”

Thus began the most recent of our projects: six, 4-foot by 10-foot raised beds.

I'm honest enough to admit that I want instant gratification from our projects. Once I decide on something (like a raised bed garden), I want to install it that day so I can start planting.

Peter, however, is a bit more...practical. And precise.

I think I've mentioned once or ten times that he's Swiss. Well, you know those Swiss. Those lovely people who gave us the finest chocolate and the world's most precise time keeping instruments are not going to rush head-first into a project.

Oh, no.

Instead, very methodically, Peter reminds me that our garden slopes.

I don't remember this. He's just stalling.

I look. Wow, when did that slope get here?

Ah well, we'll just put the beds down and deal with the slope.

Patiently, he explains that the beds won't lay flat. We need to create beds that are adjusted to the slope and that can anchor into the soil.

This is becoming complicated.

While Peter measures and plans and Swiss engineers his design for the raised beds, I gaze longingly at my ideal, too expensive and impractical-for-a-sloping plot Gardener's Supply cedar beds.

Me: (Audible sigh.)

As is par for the course with all of our endeavors, my idealized quick weekend project turns into a month-long, all consuming PROJECT.

This is how it works at our house: I come up with Great Ideas, and Peter somehow makes these ideas a reality.

I just need to work on my patience.

And, I must say, all of the measuring and sawing and Swiss perfectionism is always, always worth the wait.

TA-DA! Our new raised beds!

Our sloping garden is now tiered—we still need another delivery of top soil to fill in the gaps, and then we'll mulch between rows.

But today, I'm making soil.

There's a lovely formula for making soil for raised beds. First, though, we need to calculate the volume for each raised bed. Remember back to your junior high geometry class? Length x width x height? We're determining how many cubic feet each raised bed will hold.

As an example, our raised beds are 10 feet (length) x 4 feet (width) x 6 inches (height). My formula will look like this:

10 x 4 x .5 (half a foot or six inches) = 20 cubic feet.

The raised bed will hold 20 cubic feet of soil.

But wait—I have SIX raised beds.

20 x 6 = 120 cubic feet.

That's a lot of soil.

Particularly when you own a Prius, not a truck.

Once you calculate the volume for your beds, it's time for more math.

I'm sorry.

When building raised beds, there's an excellent formula to use to ensure you're making good, rich soil for your plants. If you follow Square Foot Gardening, the author claims it as his own mix--and has even named it for himself.

Interesting. I learned the formula in Master Gardener class years ago, and no one tried to claim a copyright.

The mix is a rule of “thirds”: 

1/3 peat moss


1/3 vermiculite

1/3 compost.

Peat moss is typically used to provide a light, airy texture to heavy soils. Compost provides nutrients and microorganisms for your plants' health, and vermiculite helps to retain moisture.

Using several forms of compost provides diverse nutrients to the soil. I'm using our homemade compost, comprised of decomposed kitchen scraps, leaves, chicken manure, and grass clippings, as well as purchased mushroom compost. (And I may try to load up the Prius with well-rotted horse manure from Bramblewood Stables, where the kids ride. But we'll see. I may not be brave enough to have it in the new car, even if it's in a covered container.)

So, by rules of “thirds,” I calculated what I needed:

40 cubic feet of peat moss
40 cubic feet of compost
40 cubic feet of vermiculite

Armed with my list, I went to my favorite feed and seed store and stocked up.

Did I mention that I drive a Prius?

As soon as I made the purchase, I drove straight to one of the big box stores to rent a truck to haul my loot home.

Hooray! The truck was waiting in the lot!

Despair! Someone just rented it.

Have I mentioned that I've never driven a truck?

Oddly, I was strangely excited to drive the truck. Perhaps it was the empowering notion that I could follow through on one of my wacky plans without Peter needing to intervene and save me.

The rental person assured me that the truck would be back in 1-1/2 hours. This was at 9 a.m.

By noon, I panicked. Still no truck.

Thank goodness for friends who know of my crazy plans. And thank goodness for my friend Brandy, who volunteered her husband and son to pick up and deliver my stash.

And, honestly—thank goodness that I didn't have to unload the truck!

Seriously. There are good people in this world.

Now, though, my task today is to move this pile to the back garden.

And fill those lovely, Swiss engineered raised beds.

By tonight, after a day of hauling and mixing soil, I'm certain I will be able to fit into my skinny jeans.

(Oh wait. I think I gave them away.)

Wish me luck! I'm determined to get the soil ready so we can PLANT.

It's time to play in the garden!

Do you garden in raised beds? In containers? In the good ol' Earth?

Stay tuned...I'll let you know tomorrow if I can still walk...

Happy Gardening!

XO ~


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Prepping for Peeps (Or What to Expect When You're Expecting Chicks!)

(Oh, my poor, neglected little blog. How I've missed our quiet mornings and late nights, reminiscing about the crazy antics of the Adolf family. Soon, soon, we will again enjoy regular dates. I promise.)

Like any gardener knows, spring is a busy time. As any parent knows, spring is an insanely hectic time. Now, factor in a nursery business, plus a new garden addition and upcoming garden/farm tour, three kids and their myriad activities, school commitments...and my favorite season is gone in a blink of an eye.

Honestly, what happened to April? Helloooo? April? Where did you go?

I've been a bit sentimental about the passage of time lately. April is also the birthday month for Chicken Mama and Mikey. Truly, my babies are growing into independent young people too quickly. Just six months ago, Kristen still looked like a little girl, but now she's turned into a pre-teen, with long, long legs and sassy, cute outfits. 
(My sanity saver is that she's still climbing trees in her sassy outfits. And she just ripped one of those sassy shirts this afternoon while stuck on a branch. Yeesh.)

Plus, of course, she talks about chickens non-stop. I'm hopeful this trait will continue through her teen years, as the incessant chicken-chatter may deter the boys.

Honestly. The girl talks about chickens in her sleep.

I'm not kidding.

(She has been known to bark in her sleep, too.)

So, because I'm a firm believer in keeping kids busy with their interests so that they can't get into trouble, Chicken Mama is now a member of the 4-H Poultry Project.

She's beyond excited!

The 4-H Poultry Project is a terrific program developed for kids to teach them how to raise and care for a small flock of chickens. The 4-Hers raise day-old chicks to 24+ weeks for egg production. Then, at the end of the 24-week time period, the student selects his or her best pullet to be shown in competitions. Integral to the program is a project book, where the 4-Her records important information learned while caring for the flock.

Frankly, I think there should be an adult version of the 4-H program for all of the backyard chicken enthusiasts. While it's easy to impulsively stop in your local feed and seed during “Chick Days” and pick up a few fluffy lovelies, there's much to learn for the first-time chicken-owner.

Chicken Mama, of course, is an expert after raising her first flock of girls. She read more than a dozen books on raising chickens, pounces on Chicken magazine at Barnes & Noble, and is a constant member on the forum (with my supervision, of course.) 

In fact, she was a guest panelist at our local “Green Screen” showing of Mad City Chickens, a movie featuring individuals who raise chickens within city limits. My little semi-shy girlie introduced the audience to Saltine, one of her new pullets, and answered questions from chicken-owner wannabes.

I was a proud mommy. 

And—I was amazed at the number of people who turned out to talk chickens! Who knew? Every seat was (eventually) filled.

Much like a Toddlers and Tiaras' mother, Kristen is prepping her new babies—Saltine, Sugar and Spice--for shows, one of the primary reasons she wanted to join 4-H. Among the materials she received from Clemson Extension as part of her 4-H kit is a guide to Poultry Showmanship.

But rather than focus on the showmanship aspect of chick rearing, I thought I'd share some of the more basic requirements: 

“What to Expect When You're Expecting” chickens.

Before becoming a chicken owner, consider:
What type of chicken will you raise?
Do you want eggs? Plan to have your chicken for Sunday dinner? Most backyard chicken enthusiasts opt for egg production. Still, depending on your needs, there are four types of chickens from which to choose:

These are your good egg-producing girls. The most popular and prolific layer is the Single Comb White Leghorn (ours is named Meggy.) That girl can lay some eggs—about one per day! However, there are numerous varieties to choose from, with our Ameraucanas producing the beautiful greenish-blue “Easter eggs.”

Fun fact: did you know that the color of the hen's earlobe will help you determine what color egg she will lay? A white lobe indicates a white egg layer, while a red-lobed girl will lay brown or colored eggs. (Now, you can astound your friends with chicken trivia!)

Meat Birds
Also known as “broilers” or “fryers.” Enough said. We don't raise those.
Dual Purpose
Varieties that are good for both egg laying and Sunday dinner.
Fancy (exhibition)
Personally, I adore these fluffy, frilly chickens! Feather pattern, comb types, skin color, plumage—these are the prima donnas of the chicken world, raised for beauty more than practicality. Bantams are about 1/3 the size of a standard chicken and are very popular in this category.

Once you determine what type of chicken you want to raise, the varieties are seemingly endless. 

Do you live in an extremely warm climate? Do you want birds that lay well so you can start a small egg selling business? Are you looking for a sweet pet for the kids? Kristen selected her girls by researching the various breeds she liked, then determining which ones had the attributes she wanted.

You can find information about breeds here. And, to make life even easier—do you know there's a “Pickin' Chicken” app offered by Mother Earth News?

Once you've selected your breeds, you need to determine where to find these perfect chicks. Mail order is very popular—but hatcheries typically require a minimum order of 25. A local breeder is ideal—but if you want only pullets (female chicks), make sure that breeder can determine the sex...which is no easy task. A few websites offer small orders due to the popularity of pet chickens.

We chose to use the resources of our local feed and seed. They order from the big hatcheries, and Kristen could select the breeds she wanted, with 98% confidence that they are pullets. (Please oh please oh please don't let us fall into that 2%!)

Honestly, can you imagine if one turns out to be a rooster?

Drama and trauma.

Home Sweet Home.
Your babies' first home is very important. During the chicks' early growth phase, they can't maintain proper body temperature without supplemental heat. They need a place that's warm, secure from drafts and predators.

They need a brooder.

A brooder can be as simple as a cardboard box with a cover and lightbulb. Our brooder is an old dwarf rabbit cage with a heat lamp attached to the top.

Temperature is critical during chick days. The Small Flock Manual provided by Clemson 4-H provides the following guidelines:

Age of Birds     Temperature
1 day                95 degrees
7 days              90 degrees
14 days            85 degrees
21 days            80 degrees
28 days            75 degrees
35 days            70 degrees

If your chicks are huddled together close to the light, it's an indication that the brooder isn't warm enough. Likewise, if they are at the far end of the brooder, away from the lamp—they may be too warm. Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust the height of your heat lamp as needed.

In addition to the heat lamp, you'll need to cover the entire floor of the brooder with litter, approximately four inches deep. Litter can be wood shavings, sawdust, peanut hulls, or pine straw. We use wood shavings, which then go into the compost pile.

Another benefit of chickens—a boost to the compost!

Meal time all of the time. Make sure your chicks have food and water available at all times. The chick's body is more than 50% water, and it needs water for all body functions. Provide two, one-gallon water fountains for 50 chicks. Keep the water clean at all times. We have a smaller waterer, which is approximately a liter for three chicks—but which is cleaned and filled often.

Likewise, chicks grow quickly—and they need continuous access to food. 

In just two weeks, Saltine went from this... this:

...the awkward teenage phase, where chickens show their true relationship to dinosaurs.

(And yes. That is a teddy bear in the brooder. Chicken Mama gave it to Saltine when she was in the brooder alone, before her sisters arrived. She was afraid she would be lonely.)

Begin by offering your chicks starter chick feed, which we buy at our feed and seed store. Depending on the number of chicks you raise, there are different feeder options. Ours is a simple metal, circular feeder with a lid and open feeding stations. (The lid helps prevent the chicks from using their feeder as a litter box.)

And—that's it! Well, at least for now. You're ready to welcome the arrival of your new babies!

(Later, we'll talk about the permanent coop and introducing the chickens to their new outdoor home.)

For now, enjoy your little peeps. Remember—the more that you handle them, the more tame they will become.

Just ask Chicken Mama.

Enjoy your babies--they grow so quickly. 

XO ~


Monday, April 16, 2012

Late for the Garden Party.

I'm terribly tardy for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. 

Then again, it seems I'm always late to the party these days. 


Instead of taking the time to write about our gardens, we spent the weekend:

~ Building raised beds for the large kitchen garden.

~ Creating a robot from recycled materials for Mikey's first grade class Earth Day project.


~ Helping Kiki design her Earth Day float for the school parade: "Just Say No to GMOs."

(I nixed her idea of putting her chickens on the float. I'm such a mean mom.)
~ Racing to Tyler's university for his last orchestra performance of the school year, conducted by John Nelson. Who is John Nelson, you might ask? Why, he's internationally renowned! (At least, his bio in the program is quite impressive, and the symphony was amazing.)
(Naturally, we were late and listened to the lovely "Les Preludes" by Franz Liszt while awaiting entrance in the lobby. I also managed a small nap during the Mendelssohn, but don't tell Tyler.)
~ Designing Mikey's birthday party invitation, which I found myself printing at 1 a.m. this morning.

~ Searching frantically for party ideas that incorporates Lego Ninjago. Don't know about Ninjago? Then, you obviously do not have a 7-year-old child in your home.

~ Reviewing orders to begin shipping. Shipping is the most harrowing, nightmare-inducing moment for me. I'm always extra nice to the UPS guy, hoping that he's in a good mood when he takes my packages and praying that he treats them with care and doesn't drop-kick them. 

I hold my breath until the plants are delivered safely to their new homes.

So, lately, my angst is in overdrive. I whine about work, I whine about kids' projects, and I whine about the beautiful blooms I miss while trying to do it all. 

I'm such a whiner.

But--soon, this will change. I will shift my priorities. I will live in the moment instead of worrying about the container gardening workshop I'm leading later this week. I will enjoy my son's birthday without drowning in the details. 

I will not Pinterest-obsess for creative Ninjago ideas. I won't, I won't. 

(You know I will.)

Maybe, I'll even learn to do yoga.

Some day.

Possibly, I'll decide what I want to be when I grow up.

But--those things won't happen today, I fear. I have 45 minutes until my baby boy arrives home, orders to fill, presents to hide. So, please forgive my pretend post for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by the lovely May Dreams Gardens. Today, I'm just sharing what's blooming--no Latin names, no species, just images of the beautiful spring in Upstate SC. 

(Like "Wordless Wednesday," I think I'll call this "Mayhem Monday"--appropriate, don't you think?)

Here we go...


Now, I have exactly five minutes to meet Mikey's bus. 

Hope you all are enjoying the lovely spring!

Belated Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

XO ~ Julie

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Girl and Her Peeps.

My baby girl turned 11.


How is that possible? Honestly, a minute ago she looked like this:

And in a blink of an eye, she became this long-legged, chicken-and-horse-obsessed tweenish creature.

She slays me. One minute, she's still my little peanut, hiding snakes in her tree house and dressing up chickens. The next moment, she's sneaking lip gloss into her bag for school picture day.

(Just wait until Peter sees the bikini she picked out for vacation—I fear Kristen may be locked in her room until she's forty. And I nixed one that she really, really wanted!)

To celebrate the big 11, we kicked off the weekend (which is also the beginning of the kids' spring break) with a sleepover/birthday party.

The theme?

Why, chickens, of course!

I thought about whether there should be a theme. These are, after all, tricky years. One day, a themed birthday might be fine—or, if the hormones are running rampant, it might cause utter and complete humiliation.

Still, knowing our girlie and her ongoing chicken obsession, I decided to risk it. After all, I spent the week stalking our local feed and seed store, calling for hourly updates on the arrival of Kristen's new chick. It seemed appropriate to center the birthday celebration around the chicks.

First, we were told the chicks would arrive on Wednesday. Kristen was thrilled—she awaited the arrival of her new Barred Plymouth Rock pullet with as much anticipation as any expectant mother.

(I promised to pick her up from school so she could select her new baby, then return her to school afterwards. Her sweet teacher even allowed her to take a test a day early so that she could leave school to meet her new peep.)

And much like a mother-to-be who is sent home from the hospital with false labor, Kristen arrived home from school extremely frustrated and disappointed.

The chicks were a no-show.

Thursday, same plan...

Nothing. No chicks.

Finally, Friday...the chicks arrived! Of course, their arrival also coincided with Michael's class Easter party, and I had volunteered to help hide more than 350 eggs.

Daddy saved the day.

While I hid eggs and served high-fructose corn syrup-laden treats to 6-year-olds, Peter and Kristen raced to the store to meet her new baby:

Introducing Saltine!

(We plan to add two more chicks—Golden Campines—which will hopefully arrive this week.)

While Kristen settled Saltine into her new home, I finished preparations for the Peep Party.

Peep Cupcakes (How did we ever survive without Pinterest?)

Peep shirts for the girls to decorate.

Treat bags featuring candy eggs, chicken note cards, and other chicken-related silliness.

It was enough—but not too much. Being a mom, it's in my nature to micromanage parties. BUT—now that my girlie is older, the last thing 11-year-olds want is a mom lurking over their shoulders too much.

We're lucky, because Kristen's friends are really sweet, nice girls. And—I was amazed at their creativity. Their artwork on the shirts was adorable!

As much as the girls are growing up, they were excited to have a nature scavenger hunt the next morning. (Honestly, I had planned to blow it off, but they asked to do it.) One of the girls even asked if I'd print out a copy of the items so that she could take her sisters on a scavenger hunt when she went home.

I love when kids are excited about nature!

The friend party and the family party are done, we're midway through Spring Break week, and guess what I'm doing?

I'm once again, stalking the feed and seed store, waiting for word...

...that the peeps have landed.

Stay tuned...

XO ~