Friday, March 27, 2009

More rain and new chicks

Man, what a storm!  Wednesday, a storm blew in at work.  It was a helluva busy day with delivery after delivery after delivery.  The driveway was lined, both sides, with plants and we'd been trying to get them all put up all day when about 5:00 we started hearing about a storm in Marble Falls coming our way.  By 5:30, I looked up to see it ~ big, black, boiling clouds with that tornado green color that tells you something bad is in that storm.  I concentrated on getting in the fragile impatiens and geraniums that were covered in blooms that would easily be torn off by a hard rain.  Sharon and Lacey came out to take down anything tall that would be blow over, and we started getting the hanging baskets down and under cover.  Finally, we were done and I could go home.

When I got home, the rain gauge said 1.5"!  There might have been a bit of trash in it that altered the level, but not that much.  We definitely got over an inch.  Perfect!  My pastures are going to look so green in a few weeks, more than they already are.  

But then I noticed the hail.  Ouch!  Most of it was a bit bigger than a quarter, but many stones were as big as a fifty cent piece.  There wasn't a whole lot of it, but enough to have gathered in places on the porch where it was washed into clumps.  Once I noticed it, Kelly and Leslie started noticing it in the grass and elsewhere.  I checked my peppers I'd just set out last week and thank goodness there wasn't much damage.  Only one plant had half it's leaves torn off.  The herbs and other things looked pretty good still.  

Austin didn't fare as well ~ all along 183 rear windows of cars were knocked out, skylights and home windows broken.  As I watched the news, pictures started coming in from Marble Falls.  People's backyards looked like it had snowed.  Amazing.  

The weird thing?  This is one of the three worst hail storms on record for our area, and all were on March 25th.  Oooo-EEEEE-OOOOO-ooooo...

On a lighter note, I have new chicks!  Picked them up yesterday morning from Naumann Feed.  Aren't they cute?!  I can hear them chirping contentedly right now, in their homemade brooder in a chair in the kitchen. 

I've been needing a few more layers since I've started bartering with the eggs.  I'll be giving Brad a dozen a week for a while for fixing my computer, giving Kelly a dozen a week for my carpool contribution, and I just like to have some extra to give to Leslie and Rhonda every now and again.

I've got them in a homemade brooder right now, just a rubbermaid container.  It's easy to clean, so thisround of chick keeping should be easier.  You can see the lamp inside ~ there's a hundred watt incandescent bulb in there. The  jar on the right is the waterer ~ it's a metal thing that  screws onto a kerr jar of water.  Nifty.  And a LOT better than those crappy plastic ones I had last time.

Here's the container I'm talking about.  You can get them just about anywhere.  I think I'll need a bigger one soon, or maybe I'll just move half of them to another one.

Here's what I got ~ from the top: Black Jersey Giant, Buff Orpington, Cuckoo Maran and Ameraucana.

I got half a dozen straight run Jersey Giants and Orpingtons as I want to evaluate the males as meat birds and the pullets will make good layers.  I got half a dozen Ameracauna pullets to have blue and green eggs, and three Maran pullets to have those dark brown "chocolate" eggs.  They'll make cool surprises for Brad, Kelly, etc.  I think they'll like them.  I know I'll have fun with them.

And the guineas are laying! I got three eggs yesterday.  How cool!  Once I get these chicks outside, I think I'll start some guineas in the incubator.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Man, I got a lot done today!

Man, did I ever get a lot done today!  I started by planting some peppers and herbs in one of the raised beds by the peace sign.  They all came from work, all save one were frost damaged or otherwise unfit to sell.  I put a basil plant in the north end then, clockwise from that, I planted an eggplant (unknown variety), two Senorita jalapenos, a Hot Cherry, a Hot Banana, a Tabasco, an unknown pepper, a Fooled You jalapeno, another Senorita jalapeno, and another unknown eggplant.  In between I put a catnip plant towards the south end and a Jim's Best oregano towards the north (that was the only plant I purchased).  I'm hoping those two will spread out and act as a living mulch for the peppers.

I was out there, I noticed that the potatoes were looking good, atleast one pot was.  I'm not sure which one those are.  I'm actually not sure what either of the two types are ~ I need to ask David again.  The second variety is coming up, but not as vigorously as the first one.  I think I let them get a little too dried out before planting, plus the second ones weren't sprouting green from the eyes before I planted them.

I also noticed that the herbs were doing fairly well, recovering from the winter nicely.  In that pot are Golden sage French thyme, English thyme and Greek oregano.  They're all nicely spreading and filling out the pot.

Next up, I put the new hose on the backhoe and got that fixed.  Billy came over and helped me move the chicken tractor over so I could till that plot and the one next to it.  I put the tiller on the tractor and did it to it.  It looks great!  I also tilled about a quarter of the stud pen plot.  There's some bermuda growing in the middle of it and a few other small patches elsewhere, so I won't till those areas until I get rid of it.  

Lastly, I planted those agaves Kelly and Billy gave me.  I think they'll look nice out front oneither side of the driveway, especially once they get big.  I think I'll put a rosemary bush on the left side to match the one on the right.    

And some lantanas would look nice.


WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is getting a new garden.

First lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to break ground Friday on a new garden near the fountain on the South Lawn that will supply the White House kitchen.

She will be joined by students from Bancroft Elementary School in the District of Columbia. The children will stay involved with the project, including planting the fruits, vegetables and herbs in the coming weeks and harvesting the crops later in the year.

Mrs. Obama spent time earlier this week at an exhibit on rooftop gardening.

"We're going to get a big one in our back yard, the South Lawn," she promised the volunteers.

Foodies Celebrate White House Veggie Garden ~ ABC News

Michelle Obama has said she wants to make the White House vegetable garden an opportunity to talk about America's diet.

"We want to use it as a point of education, to talk about health and how delicious it is to eat fresh food, and how you can take that food and make it part of a healthy diet," she told Oprah Winfrey in the April issue of O magazine, first reported by food writer Eddie Gehman Kohan. "You know, the tomato that's from your garden tastes very different from one that isn't. And peas -- what is it like to eat peas in season? So we want the White House to be a place of education and awareness. And, hopefully, kids will be interested because there are kids living here [in the White House]."

Obamas to Plant White House Vegetable Garden ~ New York Times

WASHINGTON — On Friday, Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets (the president doesn’t like them) but arugula will make the cut.

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at time when obesity has become a national concern.

In an interview in her office, Mrs. Obama said, “My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It’s just below the Obama girls’ swing set.) Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs.

Almost the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said laughing. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, would probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.”

Yes, White House Garden Will Be Organic ~ Mother Nature Network

Michelle Obama Orders up White House Garden (no beets needed) ~ LA Times Daily Dish

Obamas Ready to Start a White House Garden ~ Chicago Tribune

Read more news about it.

Kitchen Gardeners International

The Who Farm Starts Today

Why don't you go thank them yourself?  I did, and here's what I wrote:

A million thanks for yet again leading the way! As I said in my comment when I signed the petition, people who grow their own food are healthier mentally and physically because of the exercise they get from doing it, the better nutrition they get from eating it and the lessening of stress from knowing they can feed themselves no matter what. This better mental and physical health will serve them well in the trying times we find ourselves in. Thank you for setting yet another good example for many more to follow. Because of your actions in starting a vegetable garden on the White House lawn, even larger numbers of Americans will be able to take advantage of the mental and physical benefits of gardening.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rain, rain, glorious rain!

Last week we got about four inches of rain!  YEEEAH!  It rained all week, starting on Tuesday when temps dropped to the forties.  I had to work out in it unloading trucks, but I did it.  Nobody at work that day was very happy about it, but we got through it.  Sharon sent Neil to Academy to get some rain slickers for us and that helped tremendously.  Wednesday was a repeat of Tuesday, 

but not quite so much rain.  Thursday was a lot better, too ~ warmer temps.  But it dropped back down again Friday and brought more rain with it, but I was home so could enjoy watching it out my window.  We got so much rain that they lifted the burn ban for a few days so I called my buddy Brad and asked if he wanted to come play pyro.  We got a bit of things burned, but not everything by any means.  There's another chance for rain this weekend.  Hope it comes with enough moisture to lift the ban for longer.

This week, temps are up in the low 80s during the day.  This warmth is making the grass just jump up out of the ground!  The pastures are greening up, so all the animals are out there, nose down, eating like crazy.  

Speaking of animals, check out the two new ones at Bob and Bettie's place.  They're the first new calves from Tuffy.  Looks like they got color this time!  Too cute.  I'm so happy they've come out so loud.  I don't know if they're heifers or bull calves yet.  I'll be missing out on spring calves this year, so I need a calf fix.  I think I'll drive down to see them.  

In the garden, things are popping.  Something ate all my cilantro!  I thought it was caterpillars at first, then thought maybe my guineas.  So I kept the guineas locked up the next day to see, but whatever it was kept eating ~ finished off the rest of the leaves and stems.  So I'm back to thinking caterpillars.  I bought some BT, and will use it before I lose anything else.  I'm thinking that's what was getting my coles last fall.

All three of my brugs left outside in pots all winter have sprouted.  Way cool!  I'll be able to move the rest of them out of the greenhouse soon, along with all the other tropicals.  Then I'll have plenty of room for all the tomatoes, peppers and things.  I'll be potting up like a madwoman to be ready for the plant sale.  I hope to have the gooseneck trailer full.  I talked to Bettie and Carol about that and they're going to set me up with my own cash box at the garage sale to make it easier to keep that money separate.  Fence and solarizing plastic for the Library Pea Patch here we come!

Speaking of that, at the board meeting last Saturday I gave a presentation on the Library veggie garden.  I wasn't planning on anything happening other than just letting them know what we had planned, but they heartily accepted the idea, passed a motion for us to move on with it and Jim even said if we ended up needing some money they'd give us some!  Woohoo!  It's ON!  

I'm still talking to Jane's friend Sandy about getting her friend who owns a fence company to donate a lot of materials and maybe some labor, too.  Dewey offered to hire some guys to build it, but we butted heads on how to build it, so I don't know what'll happen there.  Hopefully I'll get all the materials rounded up and can still use his guys ~ he'll just be writing the paycheck after all, so what does it matter what I tell them to do, kwim?  Brad offered to help, too, and I imagine I'll have more people volunteer, so I'll get it done the way I want to do it in the end.  

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Edible and Useful Wild Plants

There are many useful plants around us.  The pastures and parks are full of them.  A group is working on compiling a 12-volume encyclopedia of the ones found in Texas and I can't wait for them to get it done!  They need help, so if this interests you, please go to the site and see how you can volunteer.  They need people to do a wide variety of things ~ growing plants for sale to benefit the project, giving talks about useful wild plants, photographing useful wild plant events, even proofreading articles.

On this same note, DragonFlyWings told of how milkweed pods are edible and asked about other edible wild plants on this thread, and I answered:
I didn't know about the milkweed pods, Dragonfly! Cool! I've made jelly from those hog plums, as well as the wild grapes, prickly pear cactuses, dewberries and agarita bushes (a good trick to harvest those is spread a sheet out below the bush and use two sticks to harvest ~ pull one branch out with one stick and tap that one firmly with the other stick ~ all the ripe berries will drop onto the sheet). There are also wild persimmons ~ not the little black things, but real persimmons, yellowey-orange and everything. They don't taste very good if we don't get much rain, and still don't taste nice until after a frost. Well, they still don't taste really good unless you add a lot of sugar. LOL! And of course who could forget pecans. I make pies and pies and more pies every year from those, as well as add them to soups, salads and stir-fries.

Speaking of salads, there are wild onions, pickle plants (those light green "shamrock" sort of weeds ~ you eat the seed pods), purslane, watercress and sorrel to flesh out that salad of dandelions. And wild mint to go in your tea or mint juleps. And chicory for use as a coffee substitute. If you want a cooked dish, use those sorrel leaves with some lambs' quarters and spiderwort to add to soups and such like spinach. And you can cook young prickly pear pads after burning off all the spines. They're good in scrambled eggs and are called napolitos in Mexico. They're even sold in cans in HEB.

As for medicinals, there is mullein for chest congestion, senna for constipation, the aforementioned horehound for colds (IF you can get past the naaaasty bitterness), and tickle tongue tree (aka toothache tree) to stand in for Oragel (it really does make your mouth numb).

Euell Gibbons is a great resource! He wrote two or three books, but the most popular was the first one Dorothy mentioned. Another good book for our area is Edible and Useful Wild Plants of Texas and the Southwest by Delena Tull. I can't personally attest to it's usefulness yet since I just bought it (just a minute ago took the plastic off as a matter of fact), but three people have told me that it's a really good one. This thread's got me motivated to read through it this morning to see what it says about the things I've already been using (the things listed above). The cover says it contains recipes as well as information on natural dyes, harmful plants and textile fibers.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Library Pea Patch Plan

Edit: The link I used to show the plan appears to change as I make changes at the site, so what you see below isn't what it was when I originally posted it. If you'd like, you can go to the Pea Patch blog and see the updated plan.
Here's a proposed plan for the Library Pea Patch. It takes a bit to load, but not long. Once there, you can fiddle around with the design (but can't save your changes).

It's not complete, but does show the majority of the garden. In between the greenhouse/potting area and the beds will be a patio/gathering area with something else on either side of it. Not sure how to use up the extra space ~ more beds? A knot garden of herbs? Any other ideas? (Both links will update themselves automatically as I work on the plan, so if you come to this posting late, the "classroom" area will likely be filled in already. But please still post comments on ideas and suggestions for it if you have them.)

Here it is posted directly. Drag the windows over until you can close them, then you can drag the garden itself around to see it all.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Those lovely brugs

The brugs have sprouted! The brugs have sprouted!  Two of the three I left outside in their pots last year are sprouting new leaves from the bases.  I dug around the base of the third one and saw green down there, too!  Now that I've learned that brugs are root-hardy to my zone, the world is my oyster. No longer do I need to make sure there's room in the greenhouse for all the 20+ gallon pots.  No more do I have to restrict myself to just a few because of lack of room.  Now I can plant them in the ground, knowing that they'll come back.  I'm on cloud nine!  

Pink SuaveolensFrosty PinkPink FavoriteDr. SeussCharles GrimaldiJean PaskoShredded White and Variegata.  That's the list of the ones I have so far.  Emphasis on the "so far" since now I can have as many as I have flowerbeds for.  Considering there's over sixty acres here, I'd say my collection will be growing.  I've been eyeing Wretched Mess (among others from that website).  Triple blooms!  That hang in a sort of chain!  I have to quit using so many exclamation points!

So here's the plan ~ I'll amend the beds I already have and build a few more around where the large horse trough pond is now, then plant them out, all seven of them.  I'll replace the large round trough pond with the smaller oblong one to have some sort of water feature there, which will be nice. I'll build beds in that corner and put the brugs there, atleast three and maybe four of them.  I think some of the dwarf cavendish bananas would look good in front of them, and some of the Queen ferns I have in front of those.  I also found out that my Split Leaf Philo is hardy, as is the big colocasia, both left out in pots and sprouting now.  I may try to fit those in that corner as well, probably closer to the cabin in the shade.  I'll have a little tropical garden there, complete with pond and birdbath (atop the 3' electric pole that's still there).  

This fall, before the first frost, I'll cut the brugs down to the ground, making cuttings to start in the greenhouse from the tops.  I'll have a gajillion next year to sell.  I'll probably start a few cuttings in pots earlier in the season so I'll have a blooming-sized one in time for the first plant sale.  If I haul an actual blooming brugmansia to the sale, even eight inch rooted cuttings in a quart pot would sell like hotcakes for twenty bucks.  Money trees ~ there really is such a thing!  Imagine the money I could make to fund the library veggie garden just from brugs.

Man, I'm so excited.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Square Foot Gardening

I've been learning about square foot gardening lately.  Bought the book and am reading it now.  I'm not a fan of the "Yes, it really works!" infomercial tone it takes sometimes, but the simplicity of the system is winning me over.  I plan to try a few beds this year. 

The beds at work seem to be doing great.  They've planted one with the "Mel's Mix" recommended in the book ~ 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat and 1/3 compost (pic at right, front bed).

They've also planted beds with different things in them, such as the Rose Soil and Hill Country Soil we sell, and one with straight manure compost (pic at left).   It looks to me like the other soils do just as good, and maybe even a bit better for some crops, than the Mel's Mix.  They're cheaper, too ~ less than half the cost of Mel's Mix (1/3 the cost in some cases).  

More pictures:

Comparison of different beds (top to bottom) ~ 1/2 Rose Soil and 1/2 peat, Mel's Mix, 1/2 Hill Country Soil and 1/2 peat, and straight Hill Country Soil.  

This is a neat way to do the guides.  It's concrete reinforcement wire used to make the various planting guides.  The crm has 6"x6" holes, so if you cut out one "cross" per square foot, you'll get the main square foot guide to attach to your bed's frame.  If you cut out one square foot total (as in the upper left guide laying on the main guide), you get a 6" spacing guide.  You can cut and glue/weld other wires onto sections to get the other spacing guides.  These last three aren't attached ~ just shown laying on the main guide in the pic to show the idea.  You'll use them individually as you plant.

I just love the veggie garden at work.  They make it look SO easy!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Another new egg and more new sprouts

What a cute little thing!  Found it in one of the nests today as I was putting up the chickens.  I got all the guineas in.  They'd been roosting outside in Grandma Wall's catalpa tree instead of going in the coop.  Today, as I was walking around looking at the garden, I noticed they were following me around.  That gave me an idea ... so tonight, I played Pied Piper to their Children of Hamelin.  Instead of a flute, I had a bag of bird seed.  Worked like a charm.

On the seedling front, aren't these as cute or cuter than that little egg?  Beefsteak hybrid seedlings.  They're sitting on the table with the Taxi seedlings, the amaranth seedlings, the Brandywine seedlings, the Yellow Pear seedlings, the Principe Borghese seedlings, and what I think are basil seedlings.  There are also some Early Jalapeno seedlings in the same flat as what I think are the basil seedlings.  Those two are in the flat I floated (with the Pasilla Bajio seeds).  Atleast all isn't lost from it. :)  Serranos are up, too ~ been up for a few days, but I forgot to write about it.  

Amaranth seedlings, Illumination

A pretty in the greenhouse, Billbergia nutans

And the onions, watched over by Nellie and the guinea that never seems to keep up with the others.  Today, while leading all the others in, he got stuck behind the fence I'd just led him and his five brethren and sistren around.  Yeah.  I dunno either.  I think I'll call him Dimwit.

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