Thursday, April 30, 2015


This is one of my favorite garden programs.  It's been out for a handful of years, but I just love it.  The whole garden, the seasonal changes, the advice and discussion of various lovely's just wonderful.  It's a four part series, so if you watch this one and fall in love, I highly recommend you watch the other three.  Plus, it's rather nice to watch someone else slave away in their rampant garden, in between your own bouts of slavish work in the back garden.

Speaking of which, I believe I have some dirt to haul...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My, How They've Grown!

The wee kits are getting larger as the days go by.  Right now, they are likely about a pound each, more or less, and about the length of a hot dog bun.  A wiggly, white furred hot dog bun. 

Man, are they cute.

I'll be sexing them and separating them soon, girls in one cage and boys in the other.  They are pretty much weaned at this point, much to Ophelia's delight.  She's a very good mother, but eight active children constantly climbing on her and wanting to nurse all the freakin' time wears a doe out.

In a couple more weeks, Alys Fowler's first litter should appear.  She's a rather twitchy and territorial doe, so I'm wondering how she will do with everything.  I'm certainly not expecting her to tolerate me checking her babies out as readily as Ophelia lets me.  With any luck, she'll do well and I won't need to fuss with her teeny kits too much.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sad News

Well, you may have already guessed this.  And if you've liked my Facebook page, you already heard the news.

Attempt #2 at hatching out my beloved Swedish Flower Hens was a complete failure.  Day 21 rolled around on Thursday, and there wasn't a peep or  pip.  Day 22?  Same thing.  Day 23, nada.  After Day 24, it was time to throw in the towel...well, to chuck the eggs, in any case.


Well, what is a chicken lady to do?  Trying a third attempt at hatching eggs seems silly.  I can't afford the ridiculous cost of a day-old chick, so it seems like my SFH dreams need to wait.  Again.

Of course, I need some chickens.  It feels far too weird to not have any chickens on this Farmlette, like my right arm is missing or something.  So, I did a little research and opted to order some chicks from McMurray Hatchery.  They've teamed up with The Livestock Conservancy and offer rare breed chicks, often from the Threatened or Critical lists, which come as day-old healthy chicks WITH a guarantee (eggs do not come with one, if you were wondering.)

Around about May 9th, a box full of fifteen lively Silver Penciled Rocks should arrive.  They are lovely birds, with particularly flashy roosters.  They make good mothers, lay lovely brown eggs, and are good dual-purpose birds for meat use.  With any luck, I'll wind up with a small flock and a muffled rooster (using a no-crow collar, of course) that will happily keep me in eggs and roasters for years to come.

Until those elusive Swedish lovelies come my way, I think I'll be pretty happy with my lovely Rocks.  They are cute as chicks, too, don't you think?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

All in a Day's Work

Saturday was a lovely sunny day.  A bit windy, but full of bird song and the smell of fresh earth.  I worked on the front raised bed garden, which always seems to slide into decreptitude right at the end of summer.  It's rather crummy soil under the rich compost-filled beds that I've put in--chock full of chunks of concrete, stones, and a bare inch of diggable dirt.  So, the raised beds are a necessity.  Sadly, the invasive roots of persistent weeds like quack grass seem to wheedle their way in at a moment's notice.  It needed a good dig-out, and then a new four-inch thick deep layer of mulch around them.  The mulch will squish down (it's so nice and fluffy now), and hopefully deter any new weeds from settling in.

I took the opportunity to plant in some of the brassicas I've been hardening off in the cold frame for a few weeks.  It's a tad early, I suppose, but they've been doing really well and I can always pop a bit of fleece over them if it gets frosty some night.  Brassicas don't seem very bothered by the cold, once they get going, and frankly, I needed the space.  There's a few semi-hardy seedlings which really need to get moving outdoors in I can free up some spots under the indoor lights!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Chitting Away

I got my box of potatoes from Moose Tubers the other day, and I am so excited.  I opted for one of their variety packs this year, and I got five varieties that I have never tried before.  In the box there was one pound each of French Fingerling (a fingerling variety, duh), Magic Molly (a purple potato), Red Pontiac (a rather fat type of red potato), Peter Wilcox, also known as Blue Gold (blue skinned with a golden interior), and Augusta, a good floury white potato.

They will rest on the porch, growing some nice little shoots, for a couple of weeks and then I will plant them in the large galvanized barrels that I use for my potato growing.  I'll sterilize the containers with a bleach wash first, and then fill them with a mix of composted hay from the Bunny Barn and a good all-around soil mix for containers by Pro-Mix.  Park them in the sunshine, and they should be happy as clams...well, potatoes, at any rate.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ruth Stout Smiles

Ruth Stout, you are one of my garden goddess inspirations.  Thanks to you, I have a reason for hoarding copious amounts of mulching material. 

Well, I have a good reason to do that, anyway.

The other day, during a break in the rain, I prepared two beds a la Ruth.  The Bunny Barn needed its spring cleaning, so I emptied out a good 1/3 of the mulching down hay-mixed-with-poo and layered it on 10 inches thick (give or take) on my corn bed.
And then, since I was still feeling ambitious, I took the black plastic off the bed I had solarized last summer and added a foot-deep layer to that, too.
Eventually, I'll plant out gourds in this bed, which should happily scramble along the fence all summer.

After a few weeks, the layer of mulch will likely squash down a little but it should be thick enough to smother out any persistent weeds.  Well, the quack may rear it's ugly pervasive head, but hopefully it will be weak and spindly and easy to yank out due to the lovely thick and moisture-laden mulch.

Ruth Stout would be most pleased, I think...and possibly envious of the hearty amount of rabbit poo (which I lovingly refer to as "rocket fuel").  I can hardly wait to plant things out in my lovely mulched beds!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


You know how it seems like fallen branches multiply at the end of winter?  I decided to transform my surplus supply into two new hugelkulture beds.  The idea behind these beds is that the wood bits absorb water and start to rot down, which provides a great source of nutrients as well as moisture for the growing plants above ground.  Right now, there's a mass of branches, small logs and other woody debris layered in the base of two eight foot-by-four foot beds (remnants of my torched chicken tractors).  On top of this, I'll add some half-done compost, and then on top of that layer, I'll add nice rich topsoil.  Both beds will be slightly mounded in the center, which will promote good drainage. 

Into each of these beds, I'll be putting my new blueberry plants.  They should be arriving as bare root plantlets later this week, ready to be popped into the ground and wake up with the growing season.  They should love the good drainage and constant moisture, as well as the acidity contributed by the rotting pine branches and needles.  I'll be mulching them with a layer of cocoa beans mixed with pine bark mulch, which should also boost the acidity.  I'll dress them with Blueberries Alive! organic fertilizer, which I purchased from the Gardens Alive catalog.  Hopefully, they will be extremely happy and reward me with a bumper crop of blueberries in a couple of years.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Beware, Sexy Vampires!

My wee little 4 foot-by-4 foot garlic bed is coming to life!  It always makes me so happy to see my garlic appear in the spring.  It's an act of faith, poking garlic cloves deep into the garden bed in the chill of fall.  Will they rot?  Will they be consumed by voles?  Will the dang kitties dig them up, looking for a comfy place to take a wee?  But lo, green spears appear and grow taller daily.

I've got four different varieties in there, although I can't remember the names right now...I've got them written in my garden journal and I'll have to look them up before too long.  With luck, I'll find one or two that work well and I'll save and plant on as my own homegrown seed garlic for next year's crop.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sweet Angelica

Last spring, I started some angelica from seed.  After planting it out in the small herb garden in the backyard, it didn't do very much--it seemed happy enough, but lacked any serious ummph. I wasn't sure it would return after winter...but look at it now!

This is just one of three very healthy clumps, all growing lovely hollow stems and fat vanilla scented leaves.  It's already six-to-eight inches high, and will grow to at least two feet tall before it's done stretching.  I envision some candied angelica in my future...and sipping shrub through an angelica stem straw?  Perfection!

Sunday, April 19, 2015


A new delightful little flower has appeared in the fairy garden.  I didn't plant them, and I have no idea how they arrived--perhaps by fairies?  But they are very sweet, and very small, and very, very welcome indeed.  They are the most lovely, intense blue, little stars of cerulean bobbing above small grass-like leaves.  I hope they grow and spread, and come back year after year.

Friday, April 17, 2015

My, How They've Grown!

Over the past week, the eight little kits have decided to go exploring.  At first, when they would follow Mama Ophelia out of the nest (possibly still attached and nursing), they couldn't figure out how to climb back in and would be a huddle, chilly and sleepy, when I'd come out in the morning.  But now, they've learned how legs work and can clamber back inside when they want to...although they don't want to very much.

In fact, they enjoy hanging out in the unlikeliest of places...
Thankfully, this bowl had been drunk dry at the time of this photo.  Bunnies are not known to be the happiest of swimmers, in water bowls or otherwise.

Poor Ophelia, she just can't escape her maternal duties.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sage Business

A couple of weeks have passed since I dipped and planted some cuttings off the large sage plant.  Check out the roots that developed!  All but three took off and grew amazing root systems.  I spent part of the day this past Saturday potting them on into three inch pots, where they can continue to grow roots, and leaves, and little healthy branches.  Propagation is where its at, I tell you!

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Dahlias are Bent on World Domination...

This jungle is my tray of dahlias.

It's hard to believe that just a handful of weeks ago, they looked like this:
They are growing like trifids.

And look:
Yep.  That's a flower bud.  There's more of them hiding in there...ack!  Too soon!  Too soon!  So, I'll be pinching out the growing tip and encouraging side shoots to develop.  I think I may also pot them on (again), and if the warm weather keeps up over the next week or two, I may park them into the cold frame with a light fleece cover to slow them down.  We still have another month to go until frosts (should) be done.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Gardening Bits

This weekend has been glorious.  I broke out the worn gloves, the ratty hat, and my trusty garden fork and spent a lovely morning in the garden yesterday.  I am trying not to go too mad, which is a challenge, so really, I only dug up two beds.  This one is planted with ziar breadseed poppies.  After digging over, weeding, and adding some handfuls of worm castings (my version of slow release fertilizer), it was simply a matter of sowing seeds and patting them into place.  After this photo was taken, I covered up the newly dug dirt with some mesh trays and bits of caning to keep the cats off.  They do love it when I dig over their potties...

Then it was on to sowing America spinach (under the fleece tunnel) and purple-podded peas (the metal supports are temporary, and mostly serve to keep the cats off).  There's nothing quite so satisfying as a morning spent outside, sowing some seeds and digging in the garden!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Another Season, Hurray!

I love this show, so much.  Sadly, the BBC occasionally decides that their premier gardening program cannot be shown on YouTube (gasp, the horror! free access?  noooo!!!) and makes it inaccessible for those of us on this side of The Pond who don't pay exortionist fees for cable.  But, I've been able to track down the past couple of episodes, such as this one, and for now, I can get my fix of my beloved Monty Don.  Watch it fast, folks, because it may vanish again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

One Week Old

It's been one week since the wee little kits arrived, and just look at them: fat as sausages, a nice coat of soft white fur grown in, and their eyes just starting to peep open.  In another week, they should be popping out of the nest box and starting to explore.  Ophelia is such an excellent mother--she is not happy when I check on them, so I don't do it often, but she allowed a brief photo shoot the other evening.  They were feeling fairly lively, and flip-flopped like little minnows when I stuck my hand into their midst.  It's still hard to get a proper head count, but I think there's at least seven in there.

I think, anyway.  Could be six, could be eight.  Once they start exploring, it gets easier to count them!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Of Peas & Mulch

With the mild spring weather we've been enjoying, it's the perfect time to plant peas.  Peas, of course, do best in cool weather.  The past couple of years we've had snow on the ground at this time, and by the time things defrosted and I could get them in the ground, it would be warm mid-June weather.  Oh, the peas grew, of course, but they weren't quite the same as when you can get them started now.

I suppose you need to be a pea aficionado to understand.

In any case, I planted a wide row (about 12 inches wide) of peas in scatter formation in this bed, and then parked a willow support in the middle.  I plan to poke a few more seeds into the ground around it in a week or so, so I can get a staggered harvest over a longer period.  It's a great trick when you (1) love peas and (2) have a rather small garden to work with.  After the peas are done in mid-July, I plan to remove the vines and plant something Swiss Chard, my other love.

Another benefit of this mild start to the season is that it's a perfect time to spread some mulch around.  With the apple trees just starting to wake up, it's nice to give their little surface feeder roots something to enjoy.  The compost from the potatoes is still good for something (although, not potatoes again...) so I spread it around the trees in a 2-3 inch deep mulch layer, roughly outward to the dripline of the tree.  It won't keep the grass from growing all season, but it should work its way into the roots where the tree can enjoy it.

Monday, April 6, 2015

All Around the Gooseberry Bush

I am so happy to add to my collection of soft fruits in the garden.  This latest addition is from a friend's garden, who is soon to move to a yet-to-be-determined-perfect-little-house and will be moving her garden with her.  After several years of happy harvests, she was ready to part with her gooseberry bush and since I have been wanting one, it came home with me.  It was remarkably easy to dig up (vicious pointy thorns notwithstanding), and seems happy to be in a new fertile hole with some mulch surrounding it.  With any luck, it will settle in nicely and continue to be cheerful.  It is, thankfully, very hard to kill a gooseberry.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter

Possibly my most favorite Easter cartoon, it's a lovely tradition on a lazy Sunday morning replete with colored eggs (of the Cadbury kind, preferably) and waffles.  Happy Easter, everyone!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Loading up the Cold Frame

Remember this cold and frosty picture from a couple weeks ago?  Check it out now:
No snow, beginnings of green grass (or weeds), and one section is already home to some rather happy little plants.
Under a layer of horticultural fleece, my young brassicas and allium seedlings are perfectly content.  I'm glad they are tough little boogers, because I'm rapidly running out of room indoors for all the seedlings that suddenly need lots of light.  But the broccoli, cabbage, kale, leeks and onions can handle chilly evenings.  One thing they can't stand, however, is to get too warm, so I just need to remember to slide the window open when the sun is shining.  Cooking these little green babies would be a very sad thing...

In the coming weeks, I plan to use the cold frame and hoop house to gradually harden off seedlings making the transition from the house to the garden.  I can't safely plant much outside yet  given our late frost date in mid-May (although planting peas is in the plans for this weekend), but I should be able to move some hardy seedlings outdoors under cover with the help of a bit of fleece to pop over them if the weather turns frosty.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


I adore Julia Child.

It should only be fitting that I honor her in my garden by growing a variety of delicious, red and robust tomato bearing her name.  In a recent online seed trade, I scored a small envelope of Julia Child tomatoes.  With any luck, they'll all sprout and grow into strong plants that will produce a crop of tasty tomatoes.  And if I like them, I plan to save seeds from them, thus continuing to have plants that I can call out "Bon Appetit!" to as I weed around them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


My sage plant from last summer survived the winter indoors.  In fact, it did so well that it started to bloom--very pretty, but usually an indicator that the plant has decided its time to set seed and die.

Before it keeled over, I took cuttings of new growth from strong shoots of the plant.  A dab of rooting hormone and a tuck into damp seedling mix later, and I have a container filled with new potential sage plants.

In the coming weeks, I'll be doing the same with my rosemary plant.  It's got long medusa branches on it that are just crying out for propagation.