Heat wave and new layers


Its too hot here.  Its also too dry.  My chicks started laying two weeks ago and I have stopped locking them up at night or taking them out of the tree.  Its just to darn hot.  That has led me to a weird sort of daily egg hunt.  My husband and I noticed a preference for laying in some of the cooler areas of the back yard like the back porch.  Instead of forcing them to stay in the coop, I’ve converted some boxes into temporary nesting boxes.  This is working out very well.  I’ve placed the boxes around the yard and the daily egg hunt is over.  Hope the heat doesn’t keep this intensity much longer.


New layers

Today we got one of the first eggs out of the new batch of layers.  Later eggs start off small but get bigger right away.generally I have not experienced this because I don’t have very many chickens.  The large egg in the photo is from a one year old naked neck, and the small egg is from a naked neck born march 25.


Quiet after the storm

We are still recovering from the tour.  It went well and we estimate we had 300 folks through.  I really appreciate my friends that came and sat with me.

After, we found lice on the kids which immediately buried me in all the laundry on the planet.  Glad I’m paranoid and caught it early.

Then the fashion label I work with decided to really get on top of things and need to deliver their product so I need to get on top of that. 

Its been 110 degrees here no joke, so I end up having to schedule everything I need to do around watering.  Last year I watered 4ever times all summer, this year, its more like for times a week.

We dug all the potatoes and thanks to my friend mark, sold some produce to a chef.  Petty awesome.  The farmers market is still being stalled by the city.

Somewhere in there I hand fed a baby parrot for a friend which was an interesting learning experience for all of us.  I’m still not on the right sleep schedule.

I learned to make kombucha and it is awesome, so now there are weird things fermenting every where in the house.  Very interesting and wonderful new taste adventures.  I even put a scoby in a gallon of mt dew, so far so good.  I accidentally made hard lemonade and a sour dough starter that might be sentient.

Oh oh and I decided to make dim sum while sleep walking and set fire to the kitchen, so still trying to get that cleaned up.  I have to get that done tomorrow so the cabbage I picked up to make a crock of kimchi so it doesn’t rot.

pigeons are great, garden is great.  I suddenly need a rabbit hutch for prisoners of gardening war. Some chickens from this springs batch have started laying.  My there year old hens got weirdly broody so I’m letting then suit out of curiosity.  If they make chicks it will be interesting how they treat the mutts. 

Tonight I put corn to soak in water so I can make hominy from scratch tomorrow.  So excited!

Them I need the magic night end elves to complete the sweater orders, weed the garden, replant the garden, make a giant garlic mascot costume, take my kids to the pool for lessons, make meals, do laundry, and change the rabbit litter.  Ufff.

Chicken limp


This is my neighbors chicken Fluffy (names have been changed to protect the innocent).  Fluffy woke up this morning with a pronounced limp.  City chicken keepers get attached to their chickens and don’t have the heart to cull out just any sick hen.  So what to do?  What we do often have due to the smaller flocks is time. 

There are a couple of possibilities for why Fluffy is limping.  For a little bit she lived in a dog kennel with a slick floor.  This is really hard on chickens, they just haven’t been bred for hard slick surfaces.  This can strain tendons and muscles and cause them problems.  Secondly, chickens dig all day and can cut their feet and are susceptible to staff infections. 

The first thing I did after my neighbor called was to survey her behavior and environment.   They keep chickens of different ages in a fairly large run, and do it with some success.  She is the bottom bird in order of dominance in the flock.  Her tail feathers are plucked out.  She was hiding in a bale of straw to keep the other chickens off of her.  This means that her nutrition may be compromised a well as her hydration.  The left leg is kept out away from her body when she can.  I sat for a minute near her to scrutinize her to me, then gently took her into my lap.  her eyes were not glazed and she seemed mentally fine so I decided she probably want egg bound.  With gentle but firm pressure I started working at her types up to her hip feeling the bones and joints of the injured leg.  No heat our swelling was apparent.   I worked up the opposite leg to see if anything felt different.  There were no obvious differences between the two legs.  The bottoms of her feet looked intact and I examined the tops as well as I could.  She is a feather foot which makes it difficult.  All the joints bend easily and fluidly without complaint.  The only complaint I received out of her was on the foot.  This makes me feel it is either a cut or strain of some sort.

I took her home and put her in a small pen to restrict her movement.  I padded the floor with two inches of fresh wood chips.  She has chicken starter feeder and fresh water so she doesn’t have to move.  Tomorrow morning I will fortify some starter with egg yolk and honey to start the day.  Riboflavin deficiency is a possibility so she has fresh greens available to her.  Her toes are not curled so I don’t think that is what it is.  I will continue to check her progress and brought up the possibility of giving her penicillan shots if we start to see signs of infection.  Hopefully, isolation, rest, and increased nutrition will perk her right up.   If like to be bring a healthy chicken back to the owner in a couple of weeks.  I’m feeling optimistic.

Fred and Ginger

Let me introduce to you Fred and Ginger.  The new additions to or sustainable food sources!  They aren’t old enough to breed yet, but if all goes well, by the end of the summer squab will be on the menu.  I’m anxious to find out what keeping them is like. 



This is their temp housing since I literally just walked in the door with then.

Meme Day

Why would you grow potatoes?

“I’ve never seen anyone grow potatoes before, I just can’t figure out why you would.  They are so cheap at the store!”  – Mr. Trivia, (he says this to me about twice a week.)

There is no explaining to Mr. Trivia why I do what I do.  I’m his favorite crazy person as he is mine.  He’s one of the better neighbors I’ve ever had and entertainment wise he has to be the best.  He knows EVERYTHING about St. Louis history.  I love talking to him, but that has nothing to do with why there are 40 lbs of potatoes planted in his yard.

It occurred to me though that I should consider why I grow them.  There are a lot of options as to why.  Is it entertainment?  nutritional?  flavor?  environmental?  Why?

Entertainment wise, I LOVE IT!  Potato plants are somewhat impressive and pretty.  The flowers vary in color.  The plants put on an impressive show of foliage.  If you straw them they provide even more impact to the viewer.  They are easy to grow.  If you need something that won’t fail to encourage you, throw some on the ground.  They will grow and make you feel good about your green thumb.  Potato bugs are somewhat fascinating, don’t really do much damage, and look like fleas.

Potatoes are high in potassium, vitamin C, and B6.  The starch in potatoes is resistant to digestion and functions similarly to fiber in your intestines.  Organically grown vegetables have a higher nutritional content than vegetables from industrial agriculture.

All the micronutrients found in these roots have to be processed from the surrounding soil.  If the soil is low in Iron, Niacin, Thiamin, or Riboflavin, the gardener may not necessarily recognize that while growing.  The organic farmer will be rotating crops and adding soil amendments that will replace these nutrients and any hidden deficiencies have a better chance of being corrected.   The industrial farmer will apply the big three Potassium, Phosphorus, and Nitrogen.  If he is growing on soil that has had the same crop over and over and over again, those others will naturally be depleted and provide a potato that isn’t a healthy.  As a potato sits in storage it also looses nutrients.  If I grow a potato, I can dig it out of the ground as a living thing and eat it.  If I buy a potato, it has been in transit or sitting on a shelf and has had that time to loose nutrients.  Vitamin C is especially easy to degrade.

I love food.  I love to cook food, grow food, and eat food.  I love to touch it, chop it, process it.  I especially love to taste it.  My brother at Chism Heritage Farm grows pasture raised organic chicken.  It is succulent and that can’t even begin to describe the difference between that product and a similar product at the grocery store.  Recently, my husband brought me some fried chicken from the grocery.  I took a breast and couldn’t even finish it, it was so bland.  The difference wasn’t the way it was cooked, it was the meat itself.  The same thing happens with fruits and vegetables.  No one disputes the difference between a home grown tomato and a store tomato, why wouldn’t it apply to potatoes as well?  They are even in the same family of plants.  Home grown potatoes are just different.  Better.

Roots absorb nutrients by diffusion, mass flow, root interception, and foliar absorption.  Diffusion in particular is when a high concentration of nutrient flows across the membrane of the skin of the root because there is a lower concentration of that element inside.  Nature wants to naturally balance it out.  If there is a poisonous chemical in the soil, it would be a natural process for it to cross that membrane.  Since potatoes are roots, it will accumulate in the potato.  There are many studies showing abnormal concentrations of cadmium and other toxins in roots growing in polluted fields.  This unsettles me and I would like to know where those roots are growing so I have some expectation of what might be in my food.

I live by the Mississippi River which is more and more polluted all the time.  I would not like to contribute to that.  I drink that water.  King Corn + Big River Special Edition DVD SET goes into detail on what is going into that water already from industrial agriculture.  I’m uncomfortable with the concept that my saving money on potatoes might in some way pollute someone else’s or my own water.  It’s too easy to grow potatoes for that to be worth a few pennies.

More than half of the world’s potato fields are grown with Russet Burbank potatoes.  A contributing factor of this is McDonald’s, but people also buy them because they like them and the taste is familiar.  This effectively sets us up for problems associated with monoculture.  People remember the Irish potato famine, but now believe that technology will save us from that and it will never happen here.  Not so.  Technology may move fast enough to make a dent, but chances are that what will happen is a deluge of chemicals on our fields resulting in pollution and not necessarily saving the crop.  It all depends upon what starts killing the potatoes.  Why take the risk?  The easy solution is to grow other varieties and keep some genetic diversity in our seed stock.  If we grow lots of varieties of potatoes, we have lots of variety of flavor as well.  I’m constantly amazed that in a society that seemingly values gourmet food and cooking so much that there are whole channels dedicated to it on television, there isn’t a demand for more variety.  In the Seed Savers 2008 year book, there are 15 pages of potato varieties.  Each page has apx. 40 varieties.  That would make about 600 varieties available through them alone.  Why does the world have half of all potatoes in one variety???  That’s just crazy to me.  Half the world isn’t the same growing conditions.  Out of those 600 potatoes, there are some that are better tasting and better suited to almost everywhere!  Now I don’t have a good variety planted this year.  Before I got some of the more obscure ones, I went with some cheap ones from Rural King to get my legs underneath me for growing them.  I don’t want to waste a limited supply of seed potatoes by failing to grow them.  I have my confidence now and hope that my financial situation will improve enough for me to pick up seed potato for next year from Seed Savers.  I can’t wait to start trying different varieties and flavors!

So, my neighbor can’t understand why I’m doing what I’m doing because cost is the overriding factor in his brain.  Potatoes are cheap, but they are also ridiculously cheap to grow.  50 lbs of potatoes was $12 and three bales of straw was $9.  If I only get 70lbs of potatoes out they are $0.30 a pound.  If I get out the high end possible (which won’t happen) of 400 pounds, they are $0.05 per pound.   I’ve spent a whole hour or so working on them.  They don’t need weeded because of the straw.  They will taste amazing.  I can get them as baby potatoes or big potatoes.  All in all I think I end up a winner on cost.  When you add in all my other reasons, I really feel ahead and I’ve had some really nice relaxing entertainment while doing it.

Resources (Information Links):

Links for tubers:

Chickens in the Trees!

Oh, there are chickens in the trees!

What on earth is going on that the chickens have decided to sleep in the trees.  This is all because of the black minorcas I picked up.  Turkens don’t fly well enough for this to occur to them.  I wouldn’t be concerned, but my neighbors haven’t managed to solve the grey tabby cat problem.  They are trying really hard to solve it, but we still have that cat hunting our yards at night.  I’m not sure it is enough of an issue to clip their wings and it has been ridiculously hot here.  I wouldn’t want to sleep in the coop either.

There’s the silly rooster.  It’s utterly absurd.  At night the minorca has been sleeping up there, but she is a black chicken with black feet and I can never find her.  I went to Chism Heritage Farm for the weekend and my husband texted me with “the chickens are in the tree and not the coop, I hope that is ok”.    I was pulling them out of the tree last night and putting them back in the coop but gave up halfway through and went to bed.   It’s something I will have to ponder today.

Trichogramma Wasps

I was pleasantly surprised by my friend Marcail from Carondelet Garden today at lunchtime.  He was enlisting me to be a “general” in the war on squash vine borer.  I was intrigued.  Recently, while filming the show “Green Time” on KNLC Channel 24, the host asked me what I do about these horrible pests.  I didn’t really have a good answer.  I have planted them in a new location that hasn’t had a garden in a while is this years trial plan.  My side yard always gets them, some years sooner than others.  Rodale says to inject Bt into the stems to control the infestation, but it seems Bt may not be a good solution either.  Click here for an abstract on researching showing Bt in the blood of pregnant women.  Organic gardening is complicated and seems to have some slippery slope options available to it.  I’ve held off on Bt since reading that research.  Is it bad?  I don’t know, I have to think about it for a while.

So I decided the wasps would be worth a try.  Will it imbalance the other caterpillars in the neighborhood?  I don’t know.  I have some unanswered questions about that, but I think rebugging will always be my preferred solution to chemicals.  I went to meet Marcail and picked up the wasps.

The wasps come 5000 eggs on a little sheet of paper.  They are little grey specks.  My husband immediately opened the container to look and I couldn’t get him stopped, so there a four or five microscopic wasps buzzing about my house.  They had already started to hatch.  The instructions say to place in shade where ants can’t get them.  I decided for now I would put them on the sill on the south side of the garden.  They will get a little sun in the morning but not much.  I may go set some pebbles in the bottom of the container and set it in a cup of water to keep the ants out later.

Marcail ordered these in and passed them out to some urban farmers in our area.  This way the whole neighborhood is inoculated.  Brilliant.  Hope it works I will let you know as the summer goes on if I notice a change.  The squash always get infested the first week of June so I should see a difference soon.  I have some volunteers coming up in the garden I have chosen to leave in place to see what they do and I will be able to monitor those.  I’m tempted to order a package for garden “D” where all the zuchinni are planted.  That garden is squash heavy this year.


Orcon TR-C3SQ Live Trichogramma, 3 Squares/12,000 Eggs

Recommended Reading:

Rebugging Your Home & Garden: A Step-By-Step Guide to Modern Pest Control

Rodale’s Garden Problem Solver: Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs

Sweet Potato Slips Part II

So you have these potatoes sitting in water with shoots sticking out of them, what do you do now?  Sorry I didn’t post this sooner for those playing along.

Carefully twist them off the potato.  You should get a tiny bit of the tuber at the base of the stem.  Stick the stems in a jar, bowl or cup with water in it.  In two days come back and check the roots.  When they are about an inch long, take them to the garden and plant them.  It’s that easy.  The time is in growing the shoots on the potatoes.

Sweet Potato Slips Part 1