Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Birds in the Box

So the chicken coop is finished and last week I brought the hens home.  I didn't want to start with chicks this time so I got birds that were about 5 weeks old.  From the available birds on offer at The Urban Farm Store I selected a Welsummer, a Silver Laced Wyandotte, and a Black Sex Link.
Finally finished, complete with lanterns.
3 Little Hens

They all seem to be adjusting to life away from the teeming cages of their first few weeks and the Welsummer has been asserting herself at the top of the pecking order by pecking at the other two.

And my little black beauty Pearl has been keeping a watchful eye on them.

For the first two nights I picked up the birds and placed them in the roost box.  By the third night they had figured out how to put themselves to bed, scrambling up the ramp and hopping into  the loft.  Pretty impressive for such small brains.

Pearl maintains a healthy skepticism of the new arrivals.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


So there won't be many tomatoes coming out of my garden this year, so what.

I will carry on, I will continue to farm.  I planted kale, chard, arugula, peas, beets, mustard greens, and carrots last week and they popped up in just a few days.  Well everything except the carrots.

These fool proof plants will carry us into the fall with loads of leafy greens and the great tomato failure of 2012 will fade into insignificance.

I think of the fear of crop failure for people who really depend on their ability to grow their own food.  We have the luxury of growing food as an amusement, not a means of survival.  But for most of history and for many people in poor countries growing food is a life and death matter.

And in the additional irony department, here is a little dry farmed patch of volunteers that popped up where the compost bin used to be.

There are lots of tomatoes, sunflowers, squash, and buckwheat.  It has only received moisture that has fallen from the sky, no watering on my part. 

I'm not watering, but I'm not plowing them under either.  I think I'll just let them go and see how they do.  Maybe I'll thin them a little to enhance the chances of a few.

This reminds me how hardy and determined plants are.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's Official...2012 Tomato Season a Write Off.

Well, for me anyway.  Oh, I see plenty of healthy looking plants in other peoples gardens, with dark green leaves and limbs heavy with fruit.  But most of my plants succumbed to blight this year, probably due to my own laziness and neglect.  Only a couple of them have survived and look like they will make it to the fall.

I planted too early and didn't protect the tender plants from yet another cool, wet Oregon spring.  Next year, at the very least I will hood them with plastic bags over their cages to shelter them from overhead watering by the gods and splashing water and mud from the ground.

I'll still get a few tomatoes, especially Sungolds, the indomitable little candy factories.  But there will be no Black Krim, no San Marzano, and no Indigo Rose.  That's the one I was especially looking forward to tasting.  It claims to be the darkest cherry tomato ever.  

I'm less upset about this situation that I though I would be.  Easy come, easy go, I guess.  And there are plenty of tomatoes int he farmers markets.  So next year I will put tomatoes in the ground later and do a better job of tending them.  Hopefully.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Yes, I'm Still Here.

Oh, look, it's only been 6 weeks since last I posted.  Not the 6 months I imagined.  And not too long from now the photos in the banner will be current-ish.

So what's been happening?  Well, the garden does look better than the frozen bog that it impersonates for what seems like 9 months out of the year.

The strawberries are acting like they're on spring break, all buxom and flirty.  The raspberries are loaded, striving not to be outdone by the strawberries.  And the hops have already reached the top of the porch and are looking for places to cause trouble, like burrowing in between boards and siding.

Our neighbor's kiwi plants are full of blossoms, just like the previous 2 years.  Maybe they will produce fruit, unlike the previous 2 years.

And while we enjoyed a couple of gloriously, warm, sultry summer-like weeks, we are now back in the embrace of a more normal PNW spring, 55 degrees and showers.

I hope you'll forgive me if these photos look just like the ones I posted last year at this time. Or better yet, maybe you won't notice.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Season of Superlatives

Here in Portland we have just closed the door on one of the wettest Marches ever.  Not THE wettest, but pretty darn wet.  And we have had temperatures below average that should continue through the next couple of months.  Wet and cold, just like the last two springs.  Tiresome.

And while it's been wet and cold, cold and wet here we have had to endure weather reports about most of the rest of the country enjoying unseasonable warmth.

And right now, hail is pelting down outside my window.  It seems to me I wrote about hail last April too.   Hah, I just checked and I actually I wrote complaining about the weather into the last days of May.  So you've got that to look forward to.

But this year I don't mind as much, I am even feeling optimistic. Yeah, that's right, optimistic.  Seed catalogs have arrived and the Bean Queen and I have started to plan our strategy for the 2012 gardening season.

And there has been great bird watching so far this season.  Along with the familiar and cute Chickadees,  and clouds of Bushtits swarming the suet feeder.  The usual Scrub Jays, who come to the back door for peanuts, and also several Steller's Jay

Listing these groups of birds reminds me of a favorite book called An Exaltation Of Larks, which gives the names for various groups of creatures, including a murder of crows, of which we also have plenty. 

I have friend who loves crows enough to have a tattoo of one on her back.  And I know they have a revered place in Native American culture as the bringer of corn, beans, and squash.  But I haven't yet developed a fondness for them, particularly when they are cawing noisily outside my window int he early morning hours.

Friday, January 20, 2012

W is For Winter

and the wan, watery light of a January sun passing low across the sky,
disrobed trees sillouetted against a raw, washed out, white backdrop
W is for waiting;  waiting for the light to widen, for days to stretch out again.

And this year W is also for warm, and the W words that make it so. 

Like wool, lots of wool.  Wool socks, sweaters and hats.  But most importantly for the lofty wool comforter under which I spend my nights.  Who knew wool would make such a difference.  It warms up quicker and more thoroughly than cotton, down, or synthetic duvets.  I don't even rely on my beloved hot water bottle as much.  In past winters it was mandatory, now it is pure luxury.  And this is where the blanket of warmth and well being came from.  St. Peter Woolen Mill

W is for wood, as in wood stove, and the penetrating heat it delivers.  Bone warming, dense heat that satisfies a primal desire. It heats the space we use the most, the living room and kitchen.  Why heat the whole house?  The quality of the warmth is far superior to the furnace, as is the cozy atmosphere the dancing flames create.  This is what it looks like Morso, and this is where it came from Homestead Stove.

I hope you are warm.

PS  And of course W stands for wet, but since I have belabored that point on several occasions I will refrain from doing so this time. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's wet, it's cold, it's dark.  But I don't mind, I relish autumn. Apples, wool, and woodsmoke; soup, fresh hop beers, rich red wines, and baking just to warm up the kitchen.  I love the change of seasons, well at least this first part.

And although I ran out of steam at the end of the summer this year, due to various distractions and general disappointment with the  summer growing season, I still like to get out in the garden even if it's just for lots of cleanup.  I've been harvesting fallen leaves from some of my neighbors to fill my compost bins and spread over bare dirt spots as a mulch.

I never got around to planting all the fall/winter crops I intended to plant.  I did manage to plant some Lacinato kale and some peas.  So I haven't been doing much in the garden, but that doesn't mean that the garden has continued to work without me.  There are still edibles being produced and each time I venture out I am suprised and amazed and a little ashamed.

The kale is producing enough to make big batches of kale chips, and the peas a few handfuls each week.  Kale chips are terrific and let you eat dark, leafy greens while pretending you are eating potato chips.  And the Jerusalem artichokes I planted a few years ago, intended to be an automatic food crop, have become just that.   Even though I have been lazy about regularly harvesting them, they go on happily multiplying undeground.