Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Ruffians--When Cute Chicks Go Punk

My sweet little day-old peeps are growing up fast.   We went from fluffy oreos...

 to these scruffy rapidly-growing pullets in three short weeks.  Sigh. 

At three weeks old, they are half fluff, half feather--they've definitely got a punk vibe going. Happily, a sweet chorus of peeps still serenades us from their powder room homestead.

They're skittish babies one moment and fearless ruffians the next--as schizoid as spring weather.

Their chick brooder aka former rabbit cage seems to be rapidly shrinking in size so I'm looking forward to fully-feathered damsels that can graduate to outdoor living in another three to five weeks. It's time to plan what changes will be needed for this new flock

I need to lower the coop for easy access (for the pullets not for me!) and plan to update the run. I'm especially looking forward to constructing a cottage-style white picket fence and gate this time around. The current rickety structure was thrown together quickly before we went on a trip and isn't exactly something you'd Pin or see featured on Backyard Chickens.

I was thinking a spiffy white, but don't you love this blue gate that Manuela has in her garden? I could picture an aqua one--very tempting.

 Especially since it would nicely match the inside of the coop. 

And we all know girls appreciate those thoughtful decorating touches.  Happy chicks are my aim.  That...and fresh eggs in four months.

And since it's supposed to be eighty-seven degrees tomorrow, guess who's gonna get their first outing into the Great Outdoors?!  Photos to come...

Sharing at My Romantic Home's Show and Tell Friday, of course!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Le Potager in Mid-May

Our early spring has benefited the vegetable garden.  Le potager is almost a whole month ahead of where we usually are plantwise.

I planted our seed potatoes on St. Paddy's Day, a tradition that makes it easy to remember when I planted.  This year we'll be trying Cal White and Kennebec taters. I wanted to plant last year's winner--the Peter Wilcox--and although I couldn't find them as seed potatoes I had a few marble-sized Wilcoxians left from last year's harvest that I planted.

Pretty much all our veggies go in raised beds in our climate because of our year-round cold nights, but the potatoes go the raised route for ease of harvest.  I'm trying a straw mulch system this year...once the seed potatoes sprouted and reached the top of the bottom boards, I piled on compost and raised the bed with a second set of boards.  Within a week they were well above the six inch boards so I added yet another set of boards and more compost/cherry blossom drop/straw.  As you can see, they've flourished and I think I'll add one more layer and then leave them alone.  Theoretically we should be able to (easily) harvest a (bumper) crop of potatoes from the organic layers I added on top of the soil.  I wasn't diligent last year about adding layers but I did notice that I did get a decent crop from what I did layer and I didn't have to dig much to harvest them.

We usually have good luck with our Sugar Snap peas but this year they were dug up within a few days by the Golden Retriever who seems to enjoy digging more than I'd like. At least I could tell they were germinating. I just tucked them back in, watered them and crossed my fingers. Because I do love those pods in our salads well into summer! Most of them made it and I had enough extra seed to replant the little corner that didn't.  With three (completely accidental) planting dates, we'll have an extended season for peas this year.

It's not like the peas need the added protection from the row cover since they like our cool springtimes, but I had the time to sew a custom cover to fit the PVC frame so I did.  Protection from the marauding Golden was a bonus.

I wanted to get some sweet onions again since our crop last year was my most successful try at onions yet. I settled for Stuttgartner which sound delicious. At least they look happy in their new home. Although it looks a bit like a jail with the hardware cloth protecting it from chickens and Golden retrievers.

I planted a package of Black Seeded Simpson lettuce back in late March. It's not fancy, but I didn't get the germination from my Farmers Market blend that I wanted due to a dry winter, so I went with what I could easily get and knew would do well. Sometimes it's better to just go for the sure thing. However the fates seemed to be against any lettuce harvest since Miss Golden Retriever (who else) dug a very deep hole in the lettuce plot as well. Lettuce needs light to germinate and who know how many seeds were left anywhere near the surface. Watering and hoping didn't do any good.

As it turns out, the dog paws left just enough plants that we've actually already harvest three good salads with no end in sight.  There's nothing quite as tenderly delicious as home-grown lettuce!

Without a full bed of lettuce I had room for an experiment.  I'm gambling (I live in Nevada, after all) and planted a first crop of Blue Lake Bush beans in the blank spaces.  It's waaay too early but I have the row cover and if the weather stays as warm as it has, we'll be harvesting quicker than usual.  I'll be planting French filet green beans and some pole beans too as the season rolls along.

This year I wanted to grow Sunsugar or Sungold tomatoes, or Santas, all of which get good reviews for flavor.  But do you think I could find the seeds anywhere in this town? I'm not into mail order...but maybe next year. Anyway, the Romas (beloved of my son) are in as well as a giant Red Cherry tomato and we're seeing true leaves so they're ready to transplant.

I did find a packet of Black Cherry tomatoes (at the feed store--go figure) which are described as having intense flavor so I'm hoping they germinate as nicely and live up to their advance advertising!

I can hardly wait to start some zucchini and more beans. And see if the pumpkin seeds I saved from the minis last fall will germinate and give me a fall decorating bonus.

Tuesday Garden Party time!
Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It's Baby Chicks Day

You can have your Tiffany Blue boxes and the sparkling treasures within.

You can keep your scrumptious dinners with an excellent wine in a restaurant where someone else cooks and cleans up.

You can keep your tropical vacations to Hawaii when springtime is still way too cold at home.

I'd like all those things too.  But... these little peeps are what bring me real, true, deep-down happiness and joy. 

So here are the obligatory baby pictures from a doting chicken mama. (I currently have 430 chicken photos on my hard drive.  In my defense, that's only 33 photos per chick.  It could be worse.)


Seriously, what's cuter than a day-old peep running amock on your coffee table right before Easter?


Or an Oreo sandwich?  And check out that cute lil white chicken butt on the left.  So sweet!

I say do whatever brings you true happiness, no matter how crazy it might seem to anybody else. And if your dream also provides fresh eggs, consumes scrap veggies and provides excellent compost--all the better.

Where I Party On:

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

I Got The Art Bug and Finally Started Painting

I'm very proud of myself. Apparently Spring Break is exactly what I needed to get enthused enough to finally grab a paint brush and begin those paintings that have been fermenting in my brain.

I had time and inspiration enough to paint a landscape on the weekend. Then the knowledge that there was no school bell ruling my life yesterday enabled me to work on these two small seascapes.

I bought an expensive frame for the larger canvas ages ago, hoping it would motivate me into turning a blank white into a lovely decorating piece.  Here's a peek at how it looks when I put it together.  Don't you just loooove it?!

Me neither!  April Fool's! 

I couldn't resist since I had the raw materials:  I found the frame and canvases in a "free" pile when a neighbor moved out two weeks ago.  I never turn my nose up at canvases no matter how bad they are.  Even if the "trees" are strokes of paint over a "leaf" background and the mountain is nearly invisible.  Or the seascapes completely ignore the rule of thirds.  Or the artist mistakenly thinks the Pacific is dark blue.  Because all I see is a free canvas!

I once picked up a completely black canvas and carried it home (it's pink homage of roses and rose quotes now). 

The frame is truly hideous.  The light wood is nice but the rough carved dark part is challenging my creative instincts.  Any suggestions?  Maybe a driftwood treatment and add a chalkboard?  Or a bright turquoise paint job for a modern fun look?  Or even a nice bonfire to warm my hands from my morning walk?

Now go forth and punk someone you love.



Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Guideposts - Week101

The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.

 ~William Morris

Happiness is...spring break and a chance to combine spring cleaning, spring sewing and spring gardening!


Thursday, March 20, 2014

If a Bird Can Build a Nest, Then So Can I

Birds just have their beaks assisted by basic instinct to guide them when building a nest. I've got two hands, opposable thumbs and a lawn filled with birch branches blown down by the last windstorm--how hard can it be?
Since I had to gather up all the twigs anyway, I kept some to weave into a nest.

First I took all the wispiest pieces--some were already off the ends of larger branches, some I clipped off  if they were attached to pieces to thick to weave together.

Then I circled them all in my big soup pot, covered them with hot water and heated it to a boil before I turned off the burner and let them soak for thirty minutes.  The branches in springtime are usually alive and pliable anyway (as opposed to dead branches in the fall), but the heat makes them extra springy and less likely to break as I work with them.

Then I bent a few into a circle and spiraled both ends into a wreath shape.  Perfection isn't required--lots of ends stick out but we'll deal with them late.  Keep adding twigs until you have a nice hefty little wreath.  
Make one large wreath, one medium and one bitty.  My large was less than four inches in diameter and each smaller one was about an inch smaller.  The sizes aren't exact.  They just need to be graduated so that the next littlest one is smaller than the one above but still overlaps the inner diameter a bit.  You can see I made the littlest one nice and full--it'll be on the bottom and you don't want your eggs to fall through.  I had enough twigs for a second nest and my top was almost six inches, so you can make them as big or little as you'd like.

Then stack them up--can you see the spaces showing between the layers?

I saved some fine and very pliable twiglets to use as "thread" to sew the layers together.  I just wove them in and out, using areas that were open, until I had a more-or-less unified look.

Then I basically gave it a haircut--I clipped off the spikiest stems that stuck out before I glued on some moss.  When you hot glue a very thin layer of moss (Dollar Store or craft store) on top you camouflage any flaws as well as make it an softly inviting place to lay a few eggs.

I shaped a piece of wire about six inches long like a hairpin and stuck in through the bottom of the nest so I could easily attach it to my grapevine wreath and remove it as needed.  If you're displaying your wreath atop an old trophy or on a shelf, you obviously can just lay it in place without wiring it.

I'm an Offical Craft Hoarder so of course I've had a little bag of speckled eggs laying around for years just waiting for a project.  I squirted together a bit of light blue, ironically named Blue Jay, and added a dollop of a lime green acrylic paint to get just the exact shade of robins egg blue that my brain was visualizing, painted one side at a time and patiently waiting until it was dry before carefully painting the other side.

(And if you believe that I have some tropical acreage here in Northern Nevada that I'd like to sell you!)

Paint at here at Meadowsweet doesn't have much of a chance to dry before I'm ready to put on a second coat.  I have a system dedicated to my impatience now--an index card with thumb tacks pushed through that I use as a little drying rack.  It keeps the eggs from rolling around and the little points support the eggs but allow the paint to dry without needed a repaint to cover places where wet paint stuck to whatever I previously set them on.

A bit of hot glue--making sure that your eggs are attached to the twigs beneath the moss rather than the moss itself--and nestle your little robin's eggs in place.

Voila! You're ready to attach your nest to a wreath

or place it in an old trophy, 

or set it on a china plate.

  Nothing says springtime like a bird's nest filled with eggs!

More wonderful springtime lovelies at My Romantic Home's Show and Tell Friday!

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Nest and the Scrub Jays

I didn't mean to create a "situation" but I think I was born to be the neighborhood trouble-maker.

I have a spring wreath on my front door. It's so cheery and springlike that it makes my heart happy every time I come up my front walk.

Winters are way too long and cold and spring is worth celebrating, wouldn't you agree?

Nestled among the silk flowers is a faux nest I created from little birch branches and inside are three little eggs painted robins egg blue.

The nest is cute, the eggs are colorful and everything seemed just fine until this year...when I noticed there were only two eggs in the nest.   

Darned hot glue just didn't hold or somebody shut the door extra hard, I figured.  I looked everywhere for that egg but couldn't find it.

Then most of the second egg disappeared.   Hmmmm.

And the last remaining egg showed signs of...

 (dum, dum, da,da, DUM)

egg-stealing, nest-robbing, hungry hoodlum scrub jay attack!

I can just imagine the conversation around the Jay Family table that evening.

Fledglings:  "Mom, are you sure we're supposed to eat eggs?" as they show her the empty shell they carried home.
            Momma: "They just don't make eggs like they used. I don't know what robins are coming to these days."
            Grandpa Jay:  "You young whippersnappers complain about everything.  Why, I flew upwind to school both ways and had to eat moldy worms for lunch when I was your age."
           Dad:  "I'll show you how it's done tomorrow."

Famous last words--can't you just picture the glee of the young ones when Dad had to eat his words.  Literally!

But gets worse for them.  We've replaced the eggs and have taken to listening for commotion at the front door.  My sweetie and son thoroughly enjoy flinging the door open and scaring the jays right out of their tail feathers. It might be hard on the hungry jays but I suspect they'll think twice before attacking the songbird nests for a quick snack later this spring!

I shouldn't laugh but I can't help it.

Meanwhile, I'm working on a nest-making tute--so you can be the trouble-maker in your neighborhood too. 

Sharing the silliness at An Oregon Cottage,
My Romantic Home Show and Tell Friday
and Feathered Nest Friday (how appropriate!) at French Country Cottage