Daily Archives: May 4, 2012

Tedium and Chickens

One of the most tedious of garden jobs to me is pricking out seedlings into flats.  I have a ton of flats that are overdue for transplant.  The weather this spring has been so odd, I’m off my game.  Today, I was lucky that my dear friend who owns garden D came over to talk to me while I moved plants around.  That always helps me stay on task.  We had a nice (albeit muggy) afternoon talking and transplanting.

I’ve been out doing promotions for the backyard tour and one of the questions that comes up a lot is the noise of chickens.   Chickens talk a lot.  Roosters yell a lot.  Roosters don’t just crow at sunrise.  I find chicken noise to be incredibly peaceful for the most part.  They have very communicative little noises.  Play, food, surprise are all things they are able to communicate.  One thing that they do drives me bonkers, but they don’t do it much.  If the hawk flies over, one will run out and start and alarm cluck that is incredibly loud.  The others will then go hide.  The red hen sounds the alarm for hawks and the turken does it for cats.  Very weird little system they have.

Two of the chicks moved next door this week to their forever home.  They have lush new accommodations, but cannot figure out how to get to their nest boxes at night.  My neighbor goes out every night and picks them up and puts them up high.  While we were transplanting starts and tossing worms to the chicks, I noticed that one of the old hens was up in the kids fort.  I couldn’t believe it, I had no idea they went up there.  It provided our answer about the chicks, they should be capable of getting into their nest boxes on their own.

Good place to escape my blood thirsty dog boy, but bad place for escaping the hawk.  The hawk swoops over the yard and over to the tree on the left beyond the fort.  I’ve seen it just that low about right there where she is standing.

Looks like I have two roosters.  One of the Lankenvelters turns out has decided to be a boy.  Isn’t he beautiful?  His name is now “soup”.  This issue is probably the biggest one I get questioned about when speaking to people about chickens.  Roosters are not allowed in many municipalities.  Sad, but it’s the way it is.  You can order chicks that are “female”, but there are mistakes in sexing.  Always expect that the supplier will get some wrong.  Hens get old.  If you want pets, that’s ok.  If you are producing eggs, it may not be.  Feed costs money.  It’s not too bad to feed a pet, but a non productive chicken is another thing.  I’m only allowed a certain number of chickens.  My chickens become soup when they stop laying.  I don’t have room for chickens as pets.  That’s my decision, but it is something to consider before you get backyard urban chickens.

My other roo is an unusual breed called Derbyshire Red Cap.  He isn’t technically mine.  He belongs to my friend Heather.  She has not named him soup.   She would like to find him a home and I’m good with that.  It will take quite a while to get him up to an edible size because of his breed.  The comb that is growing on his head is fascinating to me though and I find him quite beautiful as well.  Sadly, his comb is obscured in this picture.

So with good company and inquisitive chickens milling about we had a really nice afternoon transplanting.  I can’t imagine how people could focus on the noise when chickens can be such nice companions.  The white rock at the top has the worm game all figured out and won’t stray too far from me when I’m outside.  They are the breed that picked up the fastest on the human having good treats.

Whirlwind Days

What happened to this week???

It has been raining and raining a lot here in St. Louis.  Last Saturday (I think), Phil and Terry from Home Eco came over to film some B-roll for the show Green Time on local channel 24.  I’m helping organize this year’s Sustainable Living Tour on June 24th.  Terry and Phil started it out and they are some of the quality people that have come into my life since I put my house on that tour last year.  It’s been a tremendously fun thing to be involved with.

Anyway, Terry asked for volunteers to be on the show and I was thinking like a three minute informational blurb, but I’m always up for an adventure and I don’t mind public speaking so I volunteered.  Really, let me show you around my yard!  I can talk to you all day about it.  I like my yard.  I want to see your yard, I can totally geek out on yards.  So Phil and Terry came over and we filmed a bunch of stuff and Phil said he would splice it and get it ready for the interview part on Thursday night.  Awesome.

While getting ready for them to come over I took a ton of seeds out to work on starting flats and transplanting.  It started raining off and on all day.  During one rainstorm, I went in to put my hair up in curls so I wouldn’t look like my usually bedraggled self for when they got here.  We were pushing it to the line to get the yard together but thanks to my dear wonderful husband, we did it.  Somehow we managed to fit the filming in the yard in between rain storms and I went inside and sat down to play some Everquest I hate to admit.

The next morning I got up and remembered that container of seeds I took outside.  Now sitting in a couple inches of water, they were soaked.  It’s amazing how water soluble glue can be.  I kept them together as best as I could and laid them out to dry.  It took all week because of the rain and humidity.  They seem to be ok,   I’ve been trying to get them in flats all week.  Didn’t happen though.

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday….  what happened there?  Who even knows?  Sometime in there I went to Heather’s house and we planted dozens of native shrubs and worked on yard clean up.  I even found a fountain and cleaned it and fixed it in her backyard.  Pretty cute little thing.  Serious sense of accomplishment.  Working over there reminded me of when I used to be a boss at landscaping.  So funny.  I had a crew of teenage boys helping me out and trying to aggravate each other at the same time.  We planted plum, filberts, blackberries, golden currants, and elderberries.  Her yard is going to look amazing once it fills out.  She got a great deal on bare root plants from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Leftover plants went to Dittmer, MO and home with me.  I took some over to my garden C and planted their yard with all five.  They just got a new vinyl fence which has completely changed the face of their yard.  The shrubs are just the right thing to really make the yard look lush now.  I decided to subject my poor neighbor to my gardening and planted blackberries and one plum in her yard.  Then decided to force them to take tomato, cucumber and who knows what else starts for their garden.  Oh, I also found a ground cover that I think will do really well in her front yard and planted some to test it out.  I’m rearranging the universe.

Sometime in here I had a garden hose explode, got a grant and went to spend the money.  Perfect timing is amazing.  I was able to replace the blown hose and get all the straw I needed to mulch the garden across the street.

Wednesday, I went to garden B and started it up.  It has been so hot and humid, I started on it about 6PM so that I wouldn’t get heat sick.  She has three raised beds that are basically FULL of lemon balm.  Before I headed out I forced a flat of vegetables on some of my favorite vegetarians and grabbed another to take with me to garden B.  I also took a plum and two elderberries.  No one was home there so I set to work tearing out lemon balm.  It’s kind of like trying to suffocate yourself on lemon scented household cleaners.  Once I got the shovel in and started working it out bit by bit it went pretty well.  Justin, the teenager that lives there came out and pleasantly surprised me by helping out.  We had a great conversation and I had a ton of fun working with him.  His mom got home by the second bed and we pulled lemon balm and dug up Mulberries until it was too dark to see.  We managed to get the middle bed planted with patty pan squash.  Hopefully we can get those grown up without having to worry about chemicals.  Squash bugs are really bad here.  I’ve read you can inject Bt into the stems to control it as an organic solution, but I’m on the fence about Bt being ok.

Somehow I ended up staying up until 1 am talking to friends of friends on Ventrilo about all sorts of sustainability, political and educational issues.  Wow!  Such a stimulating and inspiring conversation.  I got to know a guy who lives on Vancouver Island who has successfully done many of the things I have only done on small scale like Aquaponics.  He doesn’t live to far from Compassion Farm either.  Dirk Becker at Compassion Farms has proven to be an invaluable source of information on sustainability issues to me through Facebook.

Thursday morning was breakfast with the girls.  We have gotten together for probably 15 years and had breakfast together.  We’ve done it more often and less often, but it’s always fun and relaxing.

After breakfast I took my friend Cynthia grocery shopping at Sappington Market and found a new sign they had up that I dearly love.  Great idea!  If you live in St. Louis, shop here, it’s a wonderful resource that we have and needs all the support it can get.

I got home just in time to again set my hair for finishing up the filming on the show.  I had no idea what to wear so I decided to err on the side of over dressed.  How often do people get a chance to be on TV, even if it is a small local channel?  I went over and caught a ride with Terry.  I love spending time with her and can talk to her for hours.  She is a wonderful muse for my gardening obsession.  We got to the station and found a parking place.  For those of you who don’t know, KNLC is run by and housed in the same building as a homeless shelter.  You have to walk through the shelter to get to the studio.  I’ve never been in a studio or a homeless shelter so this was a wonderful adventure for me.  It’s a very welcoming and comfortable place.  Such nice people.  We met the host, Don Fitz, and I found him to be very charming and interesting to talk to.  He asked great questions that really made me think and look at things in new ways.  Amazingly, we weren’t doing an informational blurb but about 20 minutes of interview that will not get edited.  He doesn’t want to know answers ahead of time and doesn’t like to edit anything.  It was so much fun.  I got nervous at the last minute, but I’m so grateful to have had the experience.  It was a wonderful opportunity.  When filming was over, the camera lady came over and started asking me all sorts of questions that she had about sustainable living topic.  It was a pleasure to answer such a nice lady.  I could have talked to her a lot longer but they had to film the next show.

Terry took me to see City Garden after the filming and it’s amazing.  Beautifully landscaped, and all I can say is that any place with giant bunny sculptures is ok by me.  After that we went to Mei Kong on Grand for supper.  I love Vietnamese food.  We sat there way too late talking about everything and having a wonderful evening.  I thought we left about 8PM, but as I was getting in my car to come home, my husband called to find out if I was dead.  It was 10PM, I can’t believe how quickly time will fly with good conversation.    I have had so many good talks with people this week!  What a fantastic week.  Where the heck did it get to so fast???

Oh, this morning I got up and ran out to get my groceries and look up a couple of gardens I had heard about.  After I left the Mexican grocery I spied these beauties in a store window.    All I can say is have a fantastic Cinco de Mayo!

Pleasant Surprises and Thanks!

I got home from planting native fruit shrubs in friends yards today and found two pleasant surprises.  One was in the mail.  I received a gardening grant from Slow Food St. Louis!  What a fantastic and exciting program to have in our community.  I’m thrilled and hope I can get some fresh vegetables to market and increase the local offerings for organic produce.

The next pleasant surprise was finding that someone had recommended my blog to Reddit.  Thank you, I’m embarrassed to say I was not familiar with Reddit.  I have no idea where I am at on their list, but I hope whoever was thoughtful enough to submit it hears my appreciation.

Thank you!

The last thing I would like to add is that the Missouri Department of Conservation apparently has a very good program for ordering plants.  My friend Heather ordered native edible shrubs from them this spring.  I’m amazed at the quality and size of these plants.  Very healthy stock.  They come bare root and are a pretty good size especially for the price.  She has been kind enough to share leftovers that don’t fit in her yard and I think at this point we have planted 5 yards with what she ordered.  They have a grow native program, click on the link to check it out.  I’m unclear on how or when she ordered, but I love this state’s Department of Conservation!  Great classes, great services, and wonderful people.  Hopefully, when I’m ready to get my pond in I can get some bluegill spawn from them.   There is just too much that I want to do and too little time.