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Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Sleeping Promise from Spring

I've inventoried my seed collection, faced once again with the thought that I may have a problem with hoarding.  Over 400 varieties.  Some seeds so old that germination may be iffy.  Some seeds arriving just in time for the Winter Solstice.  A resolution to plant at least 70% of the varieties out.  A resolution always broken.  But, at least some go into the ground to get their chance at being. Perhaps what I have is not too much hoarding, but an abundance of optimism? Each sleeping seed a promise that Spring will come.

Southern Pea (cowpea): Colossus. 
Nikon D5100
1/20 sec
ISO 800
36mm/35 mm eq 54mm
Max aperture 4.7
Metering Mode Center-weighted Average

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Backyard Bird Photographs

I should probably name these, but in the interest of actually getting the photos edited and posted, I'm just going to toss them on here.  I'll name the ones I know... (Click the picture for larger image.)

Male Cardinal

Baby it's cold out here!

But yes, cracked corn!
Lady Cardinal

Why hello!


Same one?

A different woodpecker.

In a more natural setting


Look who got the prize!

High in a tree with poor lighting

Unknown, but maybe male & female of the same?
Lots of action going on

Who am I?
Cuckoo Marans Rooster Crowing about the day
(short tail feathers due to recent molt)

Spring Bulb Raised Beds

The bounty of next Summer starts with preparations in Winter.  Got most of my Spring Bulbs planted out - Beds #1 and #2 for 2018.  Plant once, never plant again.  These varieties should come back year after year.  In fact, they should multiply and I should have many more to plant out within a few to several more years.  For the last two seasons I have been gardening in raised beds that were essentially mounds of dirt.  Well, the crab grass pretty much took over last summer as I gallivanted around the country for work. I have always wanted "real" raised beds with wooden sides so I could turn them into cold frames if desired.  So, this is the year that I start.  I made my beds almost 3 foot by almost 6 foot due to material size and the fact that I am short.  Many people make their beds 4 foot wide; however, 3 feet works better for me - and saves on materials.

  • 6 Cedar or Pressure Treated fence boards
  • 1 4" x 4" x 6' Pressure Treated fence post
  • Nails
  • 10 cu ft dirt (12 cu ft would have been better)
  • Lots of mulch
I am fortunate that my husband is a man who can build anything and who collects tools like I collect seeds and plants.  His nail gun and chop saw made quick work. Sorry no instructions, but hopefully the photos will give you a good enough idea.

I set the raised beds over two layers of cardboard (I love Amazon; I hoard cardboard.) right over the dried weeds from last year.  Eventually the cardboard will decompose; however, the theory is that those weed seeds will be covered by 6-10 inches of soil at that point that they will not have a chance to germinate until I am long dead and decomposing myself.  The white plastic looking stuff are dog and chicken food bags cut open and inside up.  They will get covered by cardboard, too.  And then mulch. They will become the isles between the beds. 

I threw a thin layer of mulch all over the top of the cardboard inside of the bed.  The theory being that it would help hold water and also inoculate the bed with fungi at some point. The mixed wood mulch is free for the hauling from the city. Yay!

Here is some detail to show what the sides and corner of the bed looks like.  The posts are flush on the top, but because a 6 foot post is not exactly 6 foot, the bottoms are not. Don't forget to click on any of the photos to see full-sized.

10 Cubic Feet of purchased garden soil. Compost not done, and don't want to add more weed seeds than will just blow in from around the dead weed filled garden and surroundings.  I probably should have used more dirt so that the roots could go down further, but I didn't.  I did top off with more mulch after planting.

Daffodils from Brent and Becky's bulbs were large and many were "double-nosed."  Means more blooms, healthy plants, and a high probability that they will come back year after year and "go forth and multiply."  8 Dutch Irises (Blue Magic) surrounded by Daffodils.  Early, Mid-, and Late seasoned Daffodils - there should be spring color for more than a month from these beds.  Thinking of over-seeding with creeping herbs, such as Oregano and Thyme for summer production.  

Here is a view of the bed and what will become the path - all covered in mulch for a good Winter's nap. A thin layer over the dirt in the bed, and a thicker layer in the pathways.  I'd like to get 6 inches in the pathways, but have to get the brakes fixed on my truck before I can get another load of mulch from the city.

This is the planting schemes for the two beds.  At some point I plan on painting the beds white and then stenciling inspirational sayings and such.  Ok, yeah, right.  In reality, I'll be doing good to stencil the bed numbers on them. But, gardens are for dreaming, so I'll say that it could happen.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Next Season is Always The Best

Male Cardinal enjoying some cracked corn.
(Click to view larger)

I am ambitious and optimistic, if nothing else!  (And made of unlimited amounts of cash, it would seem.) I did my raised beds without sides the last few years, and the crab grass just took over.  The few beds that had sides and thick mulch in the rows did much better.  So the plan is to convert all the beds this winter... hahahaha!

Regular Beds - 3 x 6 x 2 boards high

  1. Spring Bulbs over planted with herbs - 2017 - built - Planted
  2. Spring Bulbs over planted with herbs - 2017 - built
  3. Bush green beans - mixed - for eating
  4. Bush shelling beans - mixed - for eating
  5. Bush beans & Cow peas - for seed saving - BB/CP/BB
  6.  Planted away from other beans/cow peas, I could save a total of 3 varieties of each total
  7. Bush beans & Cow peas - for seed saving - CP/BB/CP
  8.  Planted away from other beans/cow peas, I could save a total of 3 varieties of each total
  9. Cow Peas - mixed for eating
  10. Soy Beans 
  11. Sunflowers - small varieties for succession planting & cutting
  12. Sunflowers - large headed - for eating - Build wire sides for containment
  13. Onions
  14. Lettuce/Greens/Spinach - with Cukes on a flat trellis
  15. Lettuce/Greens/Spinach - with Cukes on a flat trellis
  16. Tomatoes
  17. Tomatoes
  18. Roma Tomatoes
  19. Blue Herbs - Hyssop & Sages & Lupines
  20. Prairie - Cone Flowers, Lupines, Poppies, Bunnie Tails, Sunflowers, Monarda, Ornamental
  21. Sages
  22. Prairie - Cone Flowers, Lupines, Poppies, Bunnie Tails, Sunflowers, Monarda, Ornamental
  23. Sages
  24. Herbs
  25. Ornamental Sages
  26. Ornamental Asgaches

Deep Bed 3 x 6 x 3 boards

  1.  Baby Tree Nursery

Mound Beds Tall - 3 x 3 x 3 boards high

    Mound up with more soil and mulch as time goes on
  1. Sweet potatoes
  2. Potatoes
  3. Peanuts

Mound Beds Short - 3 x 3 x 2 boards high

Deep mulch over thick cardboard where vines will grow
  1. Pumpkin
  2. Pumpkin
  3. Watermelon
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Honeydew
  6. Pole Bean Tent
  7. Peas followed by Pole Bean Tent
  8. Peas followed by Pole Bean Tent

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

An afternoon walk

Summer can be hot, humid, and somewhat oppressive; however, with a hammock and the sounds of birds, it can also be a slice of heaven.  Most of the little woods is still wild and full of vines choking trees.  Sr. has be hard at work to turn some of it into a park.  For my and my hammock's benefit, for sure, but also to take down the vines that are trying to kill the trees.  Where the vines have been removed, the trees are definitely showing signs of improved growth.
Trees in the wild parts being engulfed by vines.

Wild parts that are mostly impassable to people and filled with ticks!
Park-like area where I can hang with my hammock and the dogs.
Leaving some of it wild, however, provides food and cover for the rabbits that like to taunt the dogs.  Also provides cover and browse for the deer that like to visit.  Alas, it also provides habitat for the adorable but stinky skunks.

Flowers are starting to really come into their own this time of year.  Little yellow Rudbeckias are beginning to bloom around the edges of the woods.  Passion flowers are blooming among the weeds.  Queen Ann's Lace is starting to set seed.  And a few Honey Suckle blooms can be spotted here and there. 

Passion Flower.

Grows everywhere.

Queen Ann's Lace going to seed.

Unknown weed similar to Queen Ann's lace in flower form,
but much smaller and with different leaves.

Comfrey - hey, I actually planted this one!

Blooms about 1 1/2 inches across -
going to be an explosion of yellow under the trees soon.

Some say that the power lines are an eye-sore, but I have come to see them as protection from suburbia coming too close.  The tree line on the left is 75 feet from the middle of the power lines - the closest they can build on the neighboring property.  Our fence line on the right is 75 feed from the middle of the power lines - the closest we can have trees or other structures.  That means that, should the wild acres next door to us be sold, the closes they can build houses to us is 150 feet.    I'm hoping that is enough buffer to protect our little bit of paradise.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Drying Tomatoes

Years ago someone gave me a few slices of (store bought) sun dried tomatoes.  I instantly fell in love - until I saw the price - over $20 a pound.  For someone who can eat dried tomatoes like candy - well, that was going to be a pretty expensive habit!  Tomatoes are prolific here, and even when mine drown or get stepped on by large puppies, they are abundant at the weekly summer farmers market.  Turns out, I can make my own for pennies on the dollar.

While in theory one could solar dry tomatoes in The South, the amount of rain that we normally get here in Middle TN combined with this years exceptional rain production means that solar is not a practical solution - it's warm enough, but too humid.  Even so, I wasn't too keen on spending several hundred dollars on a large dehydrator - what if this dried tomato thing was just a passing craze?

After much research, I found an under $100 version that had both temperature control and an integrated timer.  Both being particularly useful if you will not always be home during drying time.  Turns out that I really like that it tells me what temperature to use right on the lid - I know evernote and google would tell me - but just having it there is pretty nice.

Not the best photos, but you get the idea.

So this batch started off as 3 pounds of Roma Tomatoes and a few slices from a tomato used for BLTs. Some of the tomatoes had a pretty dense core, so I cut the centers out of those.  But for ones that had softer cores, I just left them.  I hand sliced about 1/4 in thick - but some were thicker and some were thinner.  Being more consistent in slicing thickness probably would have improved the overall quality of the batch, but, well, even though some tomatoes got a little over done (turned black), they were still tasty.  No burn flavor at all.  And they were kinda crunchy instead of chewy.  

Some of the cored toms in the front and non-cored ones in the back.
Didn't think to take "before" photos.  This tray was edge to edge tomato rings with the tomatoes barely separated from each other.  They dried down to less than half size.  They will last nearly forever in the freezer. 

They will last nearly forever in the freezer.
My tomatoes have pretty much succumbed to Early Blight; however, it is only the beginning of tomato season at the Farmers Market!   And now, to go dry Serano hot peppers.  I dry the tomatoes in the house to capture that yummy tomatoes aroma.  I dry hot peppers outside so as not to burn my eyes from the "fumes!"

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Loverly Weeds

Between school and work and trying to get some sleep, the garden has fallen into quite some disrepair, by human standards.  The weeds and the bugs are enjoying, however.  Mother Nature never sleeps.
Queen Ann's Lace going to seed.

Passion Flower Fruit and a random Morning Glory Leaf.
Rain 4 or 5 days out of every 7 has made this a horrible year for Cedar Apple Rust.  Some of the apple varieties have been hit worse than others.  Having wet, humidity holding weeds all around, doesn't help.  Cleared the weeds away from this one today.  It's the only one that hasn't shown signs of growing new leaves since the initial onslaught.  I hope I can save it.

Cedar Apple Rust damaged two year old apple tree.
Some of the apple trees got hit early on, but then recovered - difficult to see in this photo, but the tree below has regrown almost 100% of the leaves that it lost to Cedar-Apple Rust.  I know that better hygiene for the trees would help - and possibly some toxic gick spray.  So I will just have to  pay attention to who can survive this wet, humid, Southern world, and plant more of them.  Didn't have this issue in the desert!
Apple tree behind the weeds - recovering from Cedar-Apple Rust.
One good thing about having a diverse and semi-wild garden is that, while one plant suffers from too much rain, another just gobbles up the rain and goes crazy.  Wild black raspberries are springing up everywhere with strong, 3-5 foot arching canes - nice and healthy for next year's production.  Alas, they are invading, and I have been chopping them down at every turn.  I am keeping 3 of the healthiest stands, however.  So if I can remember to cover them at the appropriate time, I will get to eat more of them.  But harvesting song bird viewings is not a bad yield for a garden.  And the blooms are like clouds of miniature white roses.

Black raspberries - next year's harvest growing strong.
And then there are volunteers from plants grown on purpose in years past.  Nothing like a random Sunflower to brighten one's day.  Each year I say I'm going to plant them sooner, and plant more of them.  And I was saddened to think that I didn't plant any at all this year because of school and work and life in general.  And then Nature came along and sent me a few to cheer me.

Volunteer Sunflower for the Volunteer State.
So while the puppies stomped on many of the pepper plants, and rain and rain and more rain drowned the tomatoes and brought on early blight, the weeds entertained me today as I spent a hot, muggy, rainy, sticky, glorious day outside.  A rare treat, but now time to study - Managerial Accounting!  Ugh!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Compost Turners

These are 10 month old Buff Rocks and Colombian Wyandottes turning some 5 week old compost.  This batch is about 50% chickie poo pine litter, 25% dried leaves from last autumn, and 25% shredded tree trimming compost from the city.  Still not enough carbon to nitrogen (chickie poo) so it burns and off gasses ammonia for a few weeks.  I turn daily during that stage - but once the ammonia smell is gone, I let the girls have at it, raking it back into a pile every few days.  By week 5, there are all kinds of tasty creepy crawlies in the compost pile as it cools down and starts smelling like woodland earth.  At least tasty to an ambitious hen.  This pile started out as about 6 wheelbarrows full of stuff and now barely makes one wheelbarrow full.  It is technically ready to mix in the garden beds; however, I haven't had time, so I let the biddies continue to enjoy turning it.  In theory, I should be starting another compost pile... but, well, yeah, what was I thinking when I decided to go back to school!

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Friday, March 24, 2017

My How They've Grown

Chickies that were "Day Olds" in Feb 2016 and July 2016. All grown up and producing 12-18 eggs a day. Too many predators to let them free range while I'm at work, but they do get an hour or more before work, and longer periods during the weekend.  At least as good as therapy!

(Somehow, the video moniker doesn't always display; however, these are videos.) 

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 And, of course, video of the current batch of babies. I've been bad about posting lately.  In fact, work and work have been pretty all consuming.  But, getting to a better place.  They will be outside on the grass tomorrow before the storm rolls in.  They are definitely  enjoying flying these days.  Going to build them a larger play pen for outside so they can really get some exercise.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Day 11 - More Photos

Been under the weather, and barely able to keep my own life together, but here are more photos from Saturday, 3/11.  Aren't we cute?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Day 11 - The Little Chickie Photo Op Teaser

Just a teaser today.  Heated my little mini-green house up to 90*F and took a bunch of photos on Sunday (by bunch, I mean hundreds).  They were quite happy at 90*F.  I was sweltering.  Click on the picture to see larger versions of the photos.

What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Eggs from my big girls. Probably from our Buff Rocks.

Showing our attitude.  Am I a Dominique or a Barred Rock?
You can't see my feet, but judging by my feet color, I might be a Dominique.

We've got a secret!