Friday, October 19, 2012

Garden Helpers...or Hooligans?

First of all, in case you remember way back to October 1, I planned to participate in Nester's "31 Days" challenge. When October 15 arrived, I thought I would actually realize my goal--posting about "31 Days of Garden Delights" throughout October.

Then, this week, Peter and the Kristen stayed home, sick.

And guess what? 

They shared their germs with me.

So, for the past two days, I've napped when I normally write. I've gone to bed at 10:30 p.m., instead of my usual 1 a.m. or later. Honestly, even if I hadn't spent the last 48 hours sleeping during every free second, my bleary brain couldn't find one topic that I cared to share.

I'm still pretty foggy, but while I'm upright, I thought I'd share some photos of my garden helpers/vandals.

 Sugar (left) and Spice (right)

I'm conflicted by the popular idea of chickens and gardens coexisting. I know there's a book on the subject--which I haven't read yet. And every time I see a plan for a chicken coop with a green roof on Pinterest, I wonder how long that roof will remain green. Perhaps I'm missing something, but I know from experience that our girls need serious supervision in the garden--not only to keep them from flying to the dogs' side of the backyard, but also to prevent them from eating every plant in sight.


Trust me--my poor trays of lettuce, awaiting their new home in the potager, became a snack for some feathered culprits. 

I was not happy.
They look so innocent.

Sugar and Spice certainly aren't nice to my climbing hydrangeas. Grrr!

The gardens definitely benefit from the girls' insect patrols. However, they aren't selective in their foraging. All insects are fair game to them--pests as well as beneficials. 

Although, I tend to forgive them for feasting on my plants and beneficial bugs, because honestly--watching chickens hanging around the pool is better than anything on TV.

And chasing escaped chickens through the forest definitely encourages family bonding.

I'm training the girls to eat only my dreams. I wish someone would write a book about how to teach a chicken to identify a weed and pull it from the garden. Now, that's a book I would buy!

Weeds are a great treat. Usually, after a marathon weeding session, I take the bucket and dump it into the girls' area. It's great entertainment for them, scratching through the greens to find grubs and such.  

While the girls are great with pest control and loosening soil when they forage, they haven't learned to clean up after themselves. Again, if you're interested in a pristine garden--chickens will not make you happy. We constantly have a broom floating around to clean up after the girls.

The original fabulous five, from left: Clue, Pepper, Meggie, and Risa. 
(Roxanne scooted out of the photo.)


It's interesting. When we added the three chicks last spring--Saltine, Sugar and Spice--we read about how to introduce the young chickens into an established flock. It's not an easy task, and honestly--it needs to be considered carefully, or the babies can be killed.

While the chicks were small, we used the portable run Peter built for the original flock and placed it near the area where we keep the big girls. Both flocks could see each other--but from a safe distance.

As the babies grew, we moved the run into the same space with the big girls, which is a large fenced area behind the pool, with the coop situated between the kids'/dogs' side of the yard and the pool side.  

(Note: Yes, our backyard is broken out by "kids' and dogs' side/pool side." It's crazy, but especially when the kids were small, we kept the pool area locked. Perhaps I need to consider a more formal name: "Jardin les Chiens et les Enfants." There, that sounds better. I don't know if it's correct, but it sounds good.)  

Much curiosity ensued--but the babies stayed safe.

We then began supervised play dates.

The girls roamed freely by the pool while the kids swam. And whenever one of the big girls began picking on a younger chicken, Kristen chased the bully away.

When that didn't work, we implemented another tactic:

Water guns.

A quick squirt at the offender soon led to peace. 

During the flock integration phase, we also kept the younger girls in a dog kennel inside the coop at night, just to make certain the big girls didn't haze them while we weren't looking. 

Interestingly, rather than accomplish a fully integrated flock, we now have two distinct flocks that tolerate each other. Regardless if the girls forage in the backyard...

...the forest...

...the side yard, or back by the compost pile, they stay with their flock of 3 or 5.

The big girls get a drink...

...and off run the babies, heading for the compost pile.

 Risa! Leave that hosta alone!

Play time is over, and Chicken Mama rounds up her girls. While we love to let them free range, we don't leave them out unsupervised. If I'm working in the large kitchen garden, we'll put the babies in the old, original coop/run (above) so they can forage safely while I'm busy. Not only do I worry about neighborhood dogs, but the girls also like to head toward our neighbors' house.

They are not chicken people. I want to keep the peace. 

Today, though, the girls will be stuck in their area behind the pool, now known as "Le Jardin les Poules."(Of course, that's probably not correct, either. Any French speakers, please feel free to correct me. I obviously don't remember much of my high school French class.)  Kristen took grapes and pear scraps down to their area this morning, because I knew that I won't be out in the garden today.

In fact, I think it's time for two Advil and a nap.

Happy Friday, friends--and may you stay well.

XO ~


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

World Food Day.

I'm disappointed in myself. Somehow, a very important day, one that means a lot to me--well, I missed it. I could blame it on a sick girlie, a sick hubby, and even my own bleary head. (I will NOT succumb to their germs, I won't!) 

Still, I missed it. And it's something we should all celebrate.

My passion is gardening--and helping people learn how to grow food. Still, so many people don't have the resources to grow a garden due to their living arrangements. So many thousands of children go to bed hungry, relying on school breakfasts and lunches, often as their only source of nutrition. 

Our family is lucky. Our kids don't know hunger, unless they refuse to eat what's on the table. If they had known hunger, they wouldn't be picky eaters.

I don't have the answers to how we can change the system. I'm no politician. I wish I could feed every hungry person, but I know I can't. But together, we can start a conversation. Together, we can celebrate the people and organizations who work tirelessly to feed the hungry. Together, we can take small steps that might turn into something big.

And although I've almost missed World Food Day, I thought I'd share a few links to some of those amazing organizations who work to feed the hungry. I hope you'll check them out. These are just a few of my favorites. 

World Food Day
Growing Power
Feed the Children 
Feeding America 
Heifer International 
World Food Programme 
Alice Water's Edible Schoolyard 
Action Against Hunger 

Will you share your favorties?

And between now and next year, let's think about a way we can work together to help feed hungry families on World Food Day 2013.

Thanks, friends.

XO ~


Monday, October 15, 2012

October Blooms: Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! Today, I wandered into the garden, curious if I would find enough blooms to participate in Bloom Day, hosted by May Dreams Gardens. Our garden is in transition, with a few summer blooms remaining, and not many fall flowering plants grace our garden.

(Note to self: need more fall blooming perennials and shrubs. Note to Peter: don't have a heart attack.)

It's pansy time in South Carolina, yet I've been too busy transitioning the kitchen gardens to bother with the pansies just yet. After a solid six hours of working in the potager and the large kitchen garden today, though, I may treat myself to a pansy splurge tomorrow. 

I love pansies.

But, sadly, there are no pansies to share for Bloom Day. Instead, I discovered several unexpected surprises:

Verbena bonariensis, or tall verbena. I appreciate how this plant adds a splash of airy color and height to the front perennial bed. 

Phlox paniculata, 'Bright Eyes,' often sports powdery mildew during the summer. Somehow, we avoided that nasty disease this summer--I didn't see even a trace of mildew on the plant. The blooms have slowed, but they still add a much needed burst of color along the front walk.

Geranium, 'Rozanne,' appreciates our cooler fall temperatures. Dormant for much of the summer, it's now adding a bright burst of blue to the perennial bed.

Thank goodness for lantana. Without 'Miss Huff,' our garden would lack color, hummingbirds, and butterflies in the late summer/early fall. It's truly a garden workhorse.

The Japanese anemones continue to bloom, although sadly, they're nearing their end. Sniff. They've provided an amazing, cheerful border for almost two months now. What will I do without them?

Surprise! One bloom remains on the native hibiscus in the front garden...

...and one bloom on the 'Blushing Bride' hydrangea. 

The camellias, however, are putting on their finery...

Each bush is filled with buds, soon ready to burst with color.

A few blooms remain on the barberry...

...and a single bud waits to open on the tea rose my mother gave to me more than 17 years ago.

A few blooms also remain on the butterfly bushes, but not many. In fact, the butterfly bushes need a good pruning. They look rather pitiful.

The gaura still hangs in there, offering a few airy blooms.


Oreo, of course, climbed in my lap while photographing the gaura. She's a bit ticked at me, because I kept removing her from my lap. All day. It's really not easy to dig holes with a cat in your lap.


Swamp sunflower, my most recent impulse buy. Honestly, how could I turn away from such a burst of cheerfulness? Oh, right...I have very little sun. This cutie will reside by the big greenhouse, where there is a bit of decent sun.

Mexican sage, also an impulse buy, will probably reside in the front perennial bed. Although, it's so pretty next to the swamp sunflowers that I might rethink my original intent. Hmmm.

Toad lilies, though, were not an impulse buy. I have several toad lilies growing in the front bed by the office. At the Hatcher Gardens' Plant Sale, I found several more to add throughout our shady gardens. I think they're becoming one of my favorite plants.

The Encore azaleas add a much needed splash of color in the garden by the pool. Honestly, it's pretty drab back there right now.

The hydrangeas, so full of blooms a few weeks ago, are turning papery.

Interestingly, many of the edibles continue to produce pretty blooms, including herbs.

Even a few blooms reappeared on the 'Provence' lavender.

I'm sure you're tired of me singing the praises of Fraise des Boise, but honestly--look at that cute little bloom! Plus, we're still finding sweet berries, a lovely treat when digging in the garden. How can you not love this plant?

Although I grow far too many hot pepper plants, 'Chinese 5 Color' pepper will always find a place in our gardens. The tiny purple flowers turn into cream, red, purple, orange, and yellow peppers--all on one plant. Even if you don't like hot peppers, you will love the beauty of this plant.

The last nasturtium, uncovered today when pulling up the hot pepper plants to make room for garlic...

...and our last cucumber blooms. I contemplated clearing the cucumber bed today, but it's still producing, although slowly. Still, in two weeks we should have our first frost. I decided to wait until then to clear the bed. After all, cucumbers are one of the few vegetables the kids will eat without a fuss. We need to make them last as long as possible.

Too soon, most of the blooms will be gone. It's definitely time to add the pansies.

Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

XO ~