Category Archives: Growing and gardening

Poppies and peanuts close at night

I’ve got some varmint taking out my beans.  It’s really annoying.  I suspected a vole, but, would a vole cut down the beans and then drag them under the overhanging thyme and sage in the next bed?   I’ve got something like a tiny beaver, felling beanstalks and then hauling them to the adjacent garden bed to hide under herbs. These stalks are freshly wilted!I thought I already had scapes.  These are the second round of late or postponed scapery.  Almost as much as the first round.  I’ve got some garlic.

The fence posts I put in this spring are growing.  fenceposts growing branches leavesThree new garden fence posts are sprouting a half dozen lush plumes of leaves.  This isn’t too surprising, fenceposts are known to do that, but the posts are in upside down.  Opposite of the way the tree was growing before I cut it down.  So the wood has decided to reverse the flow of sap?  Root from the skyward end?  That’s wild.  In the greenhouse, the peanuts fold their leaves tightly closed every night like prayer hands.  I like this reactionary plant movement.  Plants have their own responsive awareness.

The tomatoes are all strung up now, in the greenhouse.  They’re looking good, despite our wack weather.  There’s a fair number of green tomatoes.  The cucumbers on the other hand have just decided to get off the couch and grow.

The orphan chicks learned how to let themselves today, squeezing through the orange mesh of the doors.  Happily, they let themselves back in, too, and were ready to go to bed.Two more days in for this bunch.  I want they controlled for the rain coming on Friday, so I can keep them dry in the GH.  Then it will be freedom time!  They’ve taken to hanging out on the top of their cardboard box, even en famille.Speaking of freedom.  This one and (his?/her?) sister, the first chicks of the year, are still all about slipping out of the Silkieland tractor.  They are not as good at getting back in.  I had to catch her this time, so I took some pictures. Ok, show us your wing now. Cutie.  They’re great fliers.


The quince is a blaze of hot pink.I have one little tiny magnolia bloom starting to open.  Cute.  I’m pleased that it survived the winter.  It’s covered with little green buds.Outside, the chickens are doing very well at large.    Even the wretched roosters are acting less like weirdos, finally.  The Colonel keeps them at bay from the hens, but they are part of the general flock now, and have even been observed food clucking (which the hens totally ignore).  I got something good!  I really do!  Why doesn’t anyone listen to me?

Actually, there’s been a surprising usurpation! One of the new crew of roosters has unseated the Deputy.  It’s the one that immediately left the others when they first arrived, started lurking around my fenced off Silkie flock, and wouldn’t sleep in the coop, making me think he was different.  I’m not with them.  I’m meant for something better. I referred to him as the one with a brain, and let him sleep where he wanted to in the greenhouse (next to the big coop where all the ladies lived).

He has become number two (with hard work and struggle no doubt), and the Colonel tolerates him up in the middle of the hens with him.   He looks very, very pleased with himself.  The (former) deputy has switched to trying to boss layers around.

The hens perch up in the pine tree, which is adorable.  A few will get up in the branches when the flock is all hanging out under there.


The shuttle

Every night there’s a risk of frost I bring in the seedlings from the tomato safe.  Now most of the tomatoes are planted in the GH, so there’s only one wheelbarrow load, plus two flats of peppers etc.

Since the big Benadryl freeze fiasco (well, and before), I carefully check the weather and if it’s dipping, it’s shuttle time.  There’s also a pile of flats occupying the windowsills in the house, and they get set out on the deck during the day, which is a short commute.The more mature tomatoes that have already been put in the ground get tucked in to a cozy frost blanket, just in case.  I think the last frost has passed (May 10), but watching the long term forecast just in case.Hard to believe these little babies will be 8 ft+ tall in just a few months.

Early gardening…In the outside garden, the garlic is off to a proud start; the perennials are wide awake; half of it is planted but it’s still mostly brown.

Sweeping a thick blanket of mulch off of a bed, making worms dive out of sight, and directly planting into moist dark soil, is infinitely satisfying.  No-till is working out exceptionally well.

Oh no!  I took a pile of pictures of Silkies, feathers glowing backlit by the evening sun, and expecting to post them, I find none of them are there!  Some error.  :(  It was a sunny day and the the birds were fuzzy and adorable hopping around in the grass.

Still potting up some small starts, and little Apples gets excited. Every time the dirt comes out, so does she.  She likes to knock over a pot and kick it around (I give her one to play with).  She has developed some extravagantly feathered feet.Little chamomiles

Ready for rain

Tomorrow is greenhouse planting day, so today I reinstalled the famous greenhouse gutter (ok, it’s not famous, I’m just smug about inventing it).  Or at least, the framing for the gutter.  That’s the part that requires walking around inside, that needed to get done before the plants go in.  I put it off after moving the greenhouse.  The gutter will just clip on afterwards.It went very well.  Smooth, just took time.  All sealed up, chicken tight.  I’ll be happy to not have to remove it again for a couple of years.These lazy birds will have a rude surprise tomorrow when they’re finally shut out.  I will have to put a couple of hay bales outside for standing on.  Guaranteed they’ll be staring in the door at us all day.  And just like last year, it’s supposed to rain, but not very much.  So no sympathy this time!

The walnut tree is leafing out.

I’m going to make it.  I’m better today.  There’s so much to be done!  The first broody hen of the year needs some privacy and coddling; calls, emails, cleaning; starts need to go out, get potted up, and divided, galore… things have been growing even while I’ve been down, and there’s been much emerging. The peanuts are popping up.

Most amazingly, these cells of pie pumpkins are TWO DAYS OLD!  3″ tall!  Astonishing, nay, aggressive seedling vigour.  Yesterday I saw them break ground, like these just did.  Outside, it’s pouring rain and grey.


Seedling disaster

I left the tomato seedlings out in the greenhouse overnight, and most of them were killed by frost.

I wasn’t just stupid enough to forget to bring them in; I knew, 100%, that they had to come in.  However, I had some allergic reaction come on in the evening with a rash that spread quickly all over my body with redness and bumps – strange and alarming.  The benadryl I took for that, that I’m not sure I’ve ever taken before, conked me out like an anesthetic, so that I woke up in the morning howling “the tomatoes!”

I ran out and looked and they appeared fine.  They were just frozen in the posture of life, though, and when it warmed up they collapsed, their structural cells exploded by the frost crystals inside them.  I was sick about it all day.Strangely, there was no pattern to the survivors.  Some tomatoes are standing perfectly unscathed, among their fellows looking like steamed spinach.  Same strain, no pattern to where they were on the rack… a mystery.  Either perfectly intact, or destroyed.  No in between.

I’m hoping that many or most of them will stage a comeback, like they did after the great chicken decimation last year.  Most of them have most of their stalk intact- still firm and upright, and may regenerate leaves in a few days.  I’m sure their roots didn’t freeze.  And we have many smaller seedlings lying in wait in case of just such a disaster, but they will be behind.  It’s a setback, any way you look at it.

Mystery allergy rash was gone in the morning, thanks to benadryl.  I’d rather have the tomatoes and keep the rash.

tiny tobaccy

The tobacco has sprouted.  And wow, it looks like every seed sprouted.  The seeds are fine, like chamomile.  This experiment de l’année is not because I’m planning to take up smoking.

Apparently tobacco interplanted with potatoes and cucumbers repels potato beetles.  We haven’t seen any of those nasty culprits out here in the woods yet, but if any get imported, I’m ready.

I had a close encounter with a chickadee.  I was standing still at the edge of the field where the alders begin, listening to people shouting on the road at a distance, when whoop, whoop, I saw a chickadee swooping right at me.  It landed on a twig about two feet from my face, and stared right at me, cocking its little head.  I could have had it in my hand without stretching.  The first chickadee was almost immediately joined by two other chickadees, swooping in and landing just as close, one behind my head and one on the opposite side.  All of them giving me a careful beady black-eyed inspection, with different head angles.  What are you doing here?  Just curious!  We live here.  Whatcha doin’?  Funny little birds.

chicken tight, guinea strong

It’s time for the tomato starts to go out into the greenhouse.  I didn’t actually build the greenhouse for the chickens to live in (that was just a convenient side effect). But because the chickens still  live in the greenhouse, the tomatoes must be protected from them, in an unquestionably secure way.  They are in a maximum security safe, complete with roof, because guaranteed there’ll be a guinea walking around up there.

I’ve learned the hard way to not underestimate the power of chickens to access what they want, especially green things. But in a reversal of the norm, the plants are caged, not the chickens.

A friend gave me this adjustable shelf unit that is performing spectacularly well.  120 tomato starts don’t even take up half of it, and it will be more than enough for all the starts we’ll need to transition to outdoor living.The chickery has been repurposed, again.  It will easily revert back from function as tomato safe before we hear the pitter patter of little chicken feet.