Category Archives: Chickens

Spring again… happy me!

3March 26, 2017 (26)

Tiny Pink and White French Breakfast Radishes

Every year about this time, the daffodils bloom, the birds sing during the day and the frogs party by the light of the moon. We survived another winter. It’s good to be alive.

2february-25-2017-1 I have a couple of garden projects I like to start in January and February, but those are mostly to scratch what starts to itch with the first seed catalog. My Gardening starts to get honest when the peas and first potatoes go into the cold, wet soil.

3March 26, 2017 (21) I planted a lot of pea seeds, Tall Alderman, a French Heirloom sno pea, Sugar Snaps and a row of Green Arrow peas. I could show you pictures of those but right now they look a whole lot like clean dirt, wood chips and a nice structure Ray made for them to climb. These peas (a big pot of Cascade Snap Peas and another of Maestro) I started on Presidents Day. They seem to like it outside.

3March 26, 2017 (27) Potatoes: These were started in February. I’ve planted Vikings (Purple, Gold, Fight Fight) Yellow Bananas, and some kind of yellow that I saved from last year. I still have some Russet Burbanks and another fingerling still to put out. We do not have a lot of room for lots of potatoes, but we do what we can. A man once said that if I haven’t had a fresh from the dirt potato then you really do not know what a potato tastes like. He was right.

There is more to spring then peas and potatoes. I had a walk-about  this morning to see whats happening. Here is a small selection.

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The Herb Garden …chives are looking good

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Comfrey coming up in the Raspberry bed. It won’t be long until I’m pulling up big bundles of this daily for the chickens and all my medicinal needs.

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Two years ago I planted some very expensive flowering broccoli (a kale-brussels sprout hybrid). It comes back, or maybe better, it doesn’t die. Every year it sends up a new stem and makes a new branch of kale flowers. I guess it was worth the price of the seed. My hens sure like it.

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There is still a lot of work to do but we are enjoying every moment.

3March 26, 2017 (18) That’s my Rudy Valentine standing in my new strawberry bed. It was supposed to be an asparagus bed but they didn’t take. So all of the strawberries that I pulled out of the herb bed went upstairs into my new strawberry bed. I think these are called Pacific Reliant. I bought two or three plants last spring and now they are everywhere… well they were everywhere, now they’ve moved to this bed. In front of Rudy is a stand of Fever Few, the tea from the flowers does everything an aspirin does without eating away your stomach. The echinacea (cone flower) is just coming up all burgundy and fresh. If I’m not careful where I step, the scent of peppermint fills the air. It’s nice. Welcome back Spring!

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Filed under Back to Eden Garden, Chickens, Square Foot Garden, Urban Farm

Chicken Tractors and today’s bento

Chicks out for a little sun

Chicks out for a little sun

The last day of April started out chilly and wet but by this afternoon it was beautiful. I brought the baby nuggets out for a little bit of sunshine. Meanwhile, the original nuggets (now 5 years old and still giving us eggs every day) were in their own tractor getting a different planting bed ready. The bed in front of the tractor is where I get my daily greens for my school bento.

Sweet ol' girls

Sweet ol’ girls

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Speaking of Bento today’s featured slices of Ray’s Enchilada with our fresh greens, the newest radishes, kiwi, cantaloupe and watermelon stars, plain Greek yogurt with bananas and blueberries. (one day soon there will be some kind of fresh fruit)

Everett’s pretty day: 59/46 but it felt warmer then that. Sunrise at 5:52, soon to set at 8:20 for 14 hours and 28 minutes of day light. A little rain this morning but it hardly registered in the rain-gauge. Expecting the same tomorrow.

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Meet the new nuggets!

Gypsy-Julia, Honey-Hannah and Misty-Meghan

Gypsy-Julia, Honey-Hannah and Misty-Meghan

The mother of one of my students asked if we wanted chicks. “YES!” (and thank you for thinking of us)

The best part was listening to her kindergarten son introduce them all to me. These are the friendliest chicks, thanks Dillon for raising such sweet girls for me. He assures me that they will like riding on my shoulder when I take them outside. They already will climb on my hand like a parrot when I press against their tummy. So far they do not run from me, that is REALLY nice.

We are going to need better weather and soon. While writing this I had to go rescue Meghan. She has already figured out how to get out of the box. The kitty-kover (and sometime chick-tractor) is more chick friendly (and safer) then the cardboard box.

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Food soverginty in the burbs

Corn grown in a SFG at the Toy Box Sub-Urban Farm

Corn grown in a SFG at the Toy Box Sub-Urban Farm

So you want to take control of what your family eats but you do not have the land for it? You can start where you are at. Even apartment dwellers with widows can do a few things.

Knowledge is your base. Read. Books, blogs, dedicated facebook pages, Seriously, read. I got my start at the library. Even before I bought my first shovel, I bought books. My dream started with the book Two Acer Eden. Back in the 70’s the title of this book made me realize that I could feed my family on a lot less land then I originally believed. Before there was a web, there was Organic Gardening from Rodale Press. Back when the magazine was the size of Readers Digest, before it took on the look of Glamour it was full of solid information instead of fluff. Find a newsy blog or forum and learn. Most of us know that knowing about a subject and experience with a subject have to marry to be of use.

Get out of the grocery store and get to know a farmer. Pull into the driveway when you see those signs telling you there is corn for sale. Raw milk, tomatoes, eggs, strawberries. You are going to get a deal in most places. The headline food is often just the tip of the ice burg. But the real investment comes from chatting it up with the farmer or his wife (or her husband). Most of us want you to be successful with your beans and broccoli. We want to pass on what we know.

Go to the Farmers Market. Most of the time you will not find a “deal” at big markets but you will find mostly local food and crafts. Be aware that farmers have to pay a fee for space to sell their goods. They also have to get up early, invest in items that keep food fresh and pay outrageous prices for gas, real-estate tax and permits of all kinds. The price you pay at the market is probably closer to what it really costs to buy food (think about that next time you complain about high taxes). I have noticed that Snohomish County farmers markets seem to have set prices for different food items. Even if there are six booths from six different farms selling strawberries, they are all going to charge the exact same price for a box or half-flat of fruit. No deals here. Even so, that bag of sugar snap peas is going to be miles and days fresher then the cello-bag of snap peas you pick up at your favorite organic grocery store. One bite and you will remember what it is you love about fresh food, be it snap beans, apricots or the humble radish. Don’t know what to do with boc-choi, ask the people selling it.

Plant a pot of herbs. One of the best ways for a busy working mom to start taking control of her kitchen is to plant a basket of herbs. Oregano puts up with all kinds of abuse. Sage is another herb that is very forgiving. Even pretty rosemary puts up with a lot of rookie mistakes. If all you have is parsley, use it! Beloved basil may be the most difficult to grow in the PNW, so if you have it, use it. Clip it up, toss it in. Basil is an annual so it only lives for one season anyway. Plant lavender in your flower bed, use it! Thyme will give and give. How do you use fresh herbs? Remember to read. Use your nose, rub some fresh herb between your palms while you cook. If the scents of your stove and the herb in your hand makes your mouth water, you may have a winner. Some say, be careful, a little goes a long way. Me? I like to go a little crazy.

Plant a tomato in the flower Garden. This spring, when you are buying snapdragons, pick up a tomato start. If you can grow a petunia, you can grow a tomato.

Build a Square Foot Garden on your lawn. Square Foot Gardening may be the easiest and safest way to turn your lawn into food. You can start small and add as you feel more competent. SFG does not use your native soil. You make a growing medium from peat, vermiculite and bagged compost that you pick up at the place you buy your beauty bark. You do not need to commit to tearing out your whole lawn to SFG. If you have any doubts about the history of your yard (Many yards in my home-town of Everett, Washington are toxic from our history as a mill town) then Mel’s Mix (the growing medium named after Mel Bartholomew, author of Square Foot Gardening) is a safe way to get started.

Get Really Radical, compost your bio-garbage instead of sending it to a land fill (your garden will love it!). Every city has different regulations, but you can raise chickens, bunnies or mini goats in the burbs. Did you know you can raise fish in a barrel? It is called aqua-ponics. Collect rain water, plant fruit trees, build a mason bee house. As long as you keep your neighbors happy and check with the city before starting a project you can do just about anything. Learn which flowers in your garden you can eat. Just get started.

Debs….. who started with a tiny pot of oregano in her bedroom window, then learned to make pizza sauce. Everyone begins somewhere.

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Filed under Chickens, Fresh from the garden, Square Foot Garden, Urban Farm

For A Kale Smoothy

A kale smoothy sounded like a nice way to celebrate the last day of the Wolf Moon. It also seemed like a good idea for the first day of 2013 that has 10+ hours of daylight. I knew I had a few large kale plants thriving in the garden. It was only on a whim that I picked up the new basket Chris made.

New toy for the Toy Box

New toy for the Toy Box

How did it get so full? The morning started in silver fog but the sun came out in the afternoon. I have so little time after school and puppy walks. I thought I would just get started on the garden that I plan to plant peas in. I saved the best of the skinny spring leeks and the tiny fingerling carrots hidden under weedy oregano. I love this new basket.

Stella and Bertha finish the job.

Stella and Bertha finish the job.

While I was out, I let my chickens out to graze. They seem to love their job… except for Miss Purdy, over by the fence. She was the first to molt this year and the last to recover BUT I suspect it is more than a tough molt. Her comb and waddle are a sickly orange-yellow instead of bright red like the rest of the girls. She just wants to sit in the sun. Poor thing. Little Bit was in the house laying an egg. I saw her when I cleaned out the old bedding in the easter basket. I cleaned out the run and put down fresh straw.

Kale Smoothie, nice after working in the cold winter sun.

Kale Smoothie, nice after working in the cold winter sun.

I did finally get that smoothy. Sunrise at 7:22 AM. Ten hours and two minutes later it sets at 5:24. That is when we say good-by to the Wolf Moon and Hellow to the Snow Moon (a reminder that it isn’t spring yet.)

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Advice from the Easter Basket

So I was out taking pictures for my blog and SFG page. Honestly I did not see this intruder until I looked at the pics.

Good Camo

YUCK! Since I was wearing gloves I took this intruder to the girls gossip group to see if they had any suggestions.

Bertha, thinking about what to do.

Since the other girls were elsewhere, Bertha had me drop the problem on her desk so she could chew on it for a while.

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Spring 2012 countdown (20 days to go)


The transition is beginning. Life is showing optimism in the garden. Every shade of green has begun to assert themselves. To be sure, any green that I see in the garden today has to be tough enough to survive the last hurrah of winter. Hard frost glistens on the green leaves during the transition time. But make no mistake, spring is coming. The frogs in the pond are singing a song of praise to the creator. Birds spend their afternoon gossiping about it. I listen to their music and it ignites a gentle flame of energy in my soul.

New strawberry growth

In the Northern Hemisphere spring starts on March 20th this year. Why March 20th? On that date the daylight hours will be equal to the number of night-time hours. It is known as the equinox. In the beginning, at the creation of the sun and the moon (and the stars) YHVH/The LORD gave one of the very first commandments to creation. On the fourth day, before the creation of men, YHVH, Elohim set the moon and sun in their place. The moon to rule and light the night and the sun for the day. He decreed that these lights be for “signs and seasons,” the “genesis” of our reason for measuring seasons by the hours of the sun and moon. When the hours from sunrise to sunset are equal to the hours of night, we welcome spring.

Blueberries in bud

First I noticed the daffodils. Every year, along a path that I stop seeing, one day there will be a stand of daffodils insisting I pause to see them. They are not in bloom yet, but the promise of swollen buds bursting out of cold ground has returned. There are other earth signs. Days before I come with my tools and bucket to tidy up the herb garden the chives offer their goodness to my kitchen. Even this early, snipping them down brings more. From under the piles of straw and leaves come green spears of garlic, shallots and strawberries. I am sure the grass is growing and will soon need a trim.

Mixed greens started in January

My garden plans have been loosely made. Peas, my personal start to spring, have been pressed into the ground. There are two trays of sprouts that commute daily from my window to the porch and back. One tray of mixed greens for my late spring salads and one tray of broccoli and cauliflower to plant out come April. The compost has been turned and the trees trimmed.

Red Kale from the 2011 garden

Saint Patrick’s Day is my next big day outside. If the weather co-operates, potatoes will be started (they should be planted but often I just get around to cutting them up) on St Patty’s Day. Mel’s Mix (Square Foot Gardening planting mix) will need to be made; enough to fill the two new 4×8 boxes and maybe enough extra for my large pots of summer vegetables. The chicken run will need to be mucked out which means I might (as Ray suggested) need to start another cylinder for compost. With two smaller plastic bins of compost and one large cylinder I thought I might have enough already but those are full before I muck the chicken yard. Soon I will need to find a place for grass clippings and weeds from the herb and flower gardens. The boarders of the new gardens need to have a weed barrier laid that I can cover with beauty bark (it looks tidy that way).

Frosted cleric from 2011

Speaking of chickens, it is time to decide if I want any chicks. I can only have a total of 6 chickens in the city (four is plenty) and my girls are only a year old but I need to start thinking about eggs next year. I think I can wait another year for chicks. My girls should still lay enough eggs every week for the four of us.

Jason and I have been talking about bunnies this easter. We raised California Rabbits when we lived in Robe Valley. They are the best meat rabbits. Better than New Zealand in temperament. They are cute like a siamese kitten. If we get bunnies it would be nice to have hutches ready BEFORE we bring them home. They can live in the house for a short season like the chickens did. In fact, it is probably good to handle them like pets while they are young. Their poo is garden gold. Rabbit meat is loved by all three of my guys. I am a little worried about my terriers, Bomber and Rudy, who kill rats for a living. Actually Rudy only tries to kill them. Mostly he nips at them on the run. Bomber was created with the powerful jaw required to humanely kill a rat with one chomp. He is very good at what he does. I do not want them to mistake bunnies for rats. When I let the chickens out for a scratch in the compost they watch the girls with interest. Unfortunately they still get too excited if the girls have a fuss with each other and start flapping their wings.

Bomber reminds me of Bruce the Shark on Finding Nemo. The one who has to convince himself that “fish are our friends” and goes out of his way to prove it. But let one drop of blood enter his nostril and who he was created to be asserts itself. Bomber is that way with the nuggets. I watch him follow them about, fussing if one disappears to lay her egg, worried until once again all four are together. “Chickens are our friends.” But let them start squawking and flapping at each other and the heart of a good terrier takes over. So far he has responded quickly to my firm, “NO Bomber!” Good boy that he is.

Cole sprouts already getting "leggy"

Aquaponics has been moved back from spring to late summer but it would still be kewl if we could start a test pond of one or two barrels. Unless a killer deal for a greenhouse pops into our lap we need to wait until late summer, when hope is telling us Ray may be working again, to buy a the greenhouse. My spring fava beans, garlic and shallots have all been planted where we plan to put the greenhouse. We could sacrifice those but we are in no hurry.

Ray’s other project is bees. Not honey bees but mason bees. He has his “milky way boxes of bees” in the crisper drawer with my seed stash. We attended the free class on Mason Bees at Sunnyside Nursery last week. He has his book, an awesome web-site and starter straws. Now all we need is spring to sprong and the fruit trees to blossom to start the mason bees outside. Twenty more days.

Have rats will hunt. Bomber and his little pest Rudy

Winter Advisory in effect. Mostly that means that it is going to be really wet with a good chance of chunky rain (snow and rain mixed). That will keep the high temperature down to 46 degrees (the low is projected to be 36, cold but above freezing). As of today we get 11 hours and 5 minutes of daylight, wet and cloudy but day light none the less. Sunrise at 6:48, Sunset at 5:54. I’ll take it!

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Filed under Chickens, Everyday Adventure, Fresh from the garden, Square Foot Garden, Urban Farm