Monday, June 22, 2009

Guest editor

Nikki and the kids took a road trip with friends this week, so it's my turn to post something. Unfortunately for you, the reader, it's like getting a brick of cheddar cheese when you were expecting warm brie. Or getting a 150cc scooter when you were hoping for the new 1,300cc Honda Fury. You get the idea. Nikki is the one who researches, finds, plants, and feeds everything growing at our house. She's well versed on pH levels, hours of sunlight required, and zones. I mow the lawn. Occasionally I'll put some weed and feed out there, but that's about it. Here's my contribution to the picture gallery - the edge of the lawn along the front curb. Based on the detail, I apparently need to sharpen the edger blade.

My wife is very special and I'm not sure how I convinced her to marry me, but I'm glad she agreed. I think I can safely say we'll all be happy when she gets back home next week.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Chicken Update

Wow, are the chicks getting big! They will be four weeks old tomorrow and they are definitely not little chicks anymore. Here they are sitting on my husband's arm.
Henrietta's close up

Daisy's close up

The chicks and their favorite activity...sneaking into the garden and nestling into the dust by the tomato plants. They are half asleep in this picture and totally soaking up the warm sun.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The happy ending...

After much weeding and sweating the garden is looking lovelier than ever. We got all of the weeds out, my husband rearranged the sprinkler system and added a new line, and veggies are growing. Ahhhhh. We still may lay down weed paper and then cover it with bark so that things look a little nicer, but I really am relieved that it is looking so good for now. All those nights of weeding have resulted in a nice little garden spot for us...and just as things are starting to bloom, too! I intended to share a picture of my Mother's Day gift a while ago. Here it is in the middle of the garden -a beautiful new trellis for the Thompson Seedless grape! I've always loved these and I'm so pleased that I now have one of my own. I've been inspired to really plan out the garden next year, and it is going to be centered on this grape vine. I'll plant rows of veggies and herbs in a star burst pattern with the trellis at the center. I really want the garden to look like something next year...whether it is a pattern of boxes or circles or whatever. The tomatoes, as enormous as they get, won't be able to participate in the pattern, but I'm thinking I can use them in the corners to anchor the natural square shape of the garden. So many fun things to consider!
I'm rushing to get a few things read this morning and commented on because my darling son Noah asked me this morning if it is a cleaning day or a shopping day or a school day...all no. So he said, "Mommy, can it be a play with Noah day?" I'm limiting myself to all computer work and showering during Sesame Street and then the rest of the day will be with the kids. Hope you are having a great play with your kids day, too!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Where has Nikki been?

Weeding, that's where. Remember when I posted about my love for weed paper? Well, phooey, says I. A few weeks ago, I walked into the garden and noticed the distinct feeling of walking on pillows. Pillows? My husband and I pulled back the weed paper and and found this...

BEFORE pulling back the paper

After pulling back the paper

More of the weedy interlopers

For the next few weeks, our precious evening hour with light went to weeding the garden. You know the hour I'm talking about...the one from 7:30pm to 8:30pm. That hour when the kids are in bed and there is still just enough light left to do something outside. So rather than enjoy it and pick some veggies, we spent it elbow deep in wretched weeds.

The pictures aren't really doing it justice. I was too disgusted with the whole thing to take enough pictures, but you get the idea. Our 20 x 20 foot garden was truly carpeted with weeds wherever there was weed paper.
Of course there is a happy ending. But you'll have to tune in tomorrow for that story...

Look who did our pictures...

My sweet friend Adrea took the chick pictures of the kids that I posted and I totally forgot to include a link to her blog where she publishes all of her work. You have to check it out! Her pictures are so great and I love that I get to have her around to take my kids' pictures. Adrea can be found at Bright Waters Photography and right now it is totally plastered with my little darlings. Have a great day!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The chicks are growing!

Oh, the little chicks aren't so little anymore. Their fuzz has turned into feathers and they are now big enough to live in the coop! The kids have been loving having them to play with and the chicks seem to be just as in love with the kids. We still haven't totally figured out the composting thing, but all in good time. Daisy and Henrietta will be with us for a long time, so we'll figure it all out eventually.

Noah with Henrietta and Daisy
Sarah with Henrietta
Me with Daisy and Henrietta

Friday, May 15, 2009

May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

I haven't posted much lately because of a weed situation in the garden that I'll be going into more detail about soon. Weeds - the scourge of the garden! But my son and I went around the yard today taking some pictures to share what we have blooming today. Thank you to May Dreams Gardens for hosting this! Things are really starting to grow quickly in the vegetable garden so many of the pictures are edibles...I can't wait for summer salads!
First up is the lovely purple flower of an eggplant

Our first beefsteak tomato
Yellow Pear tomato blooms Pumpkin Blossoms
Cucumber blossoms...

and our first cucumber

Strawberry flower

The nasturtiums are blooming, which I was so happy to see. I expected them not to do much since they are in very fertile soil, having just been given a dose of manure and worm gold at the beginning of the year. Looking forward to adding these to salads!

The zucchini has the prettiest blossoms right now

Scarlet runner bean flowers
And finally - a bee we found on a growing strawberry - yay bees!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Temporary chick housing

For the next 4 weeks, the chicks will be living in an orange box in the garage where we can keep the area heated evenly. They need it to be 90 degrees in there!

Of course, an ordinary box isn't good enough for our babies, so my husband created the luxury edition for Daisy and Henrietta. We lined the bottom with newspaper shred, gave them fresh water and food from feeders, and Rob even built a roost (a stick for perching) for them! He used an old wood scrap and even sanded it down for their tender little feet. The lid is a mitred wood frame with chicken wire covering it. We were a little concerned about animals somehow finding their way in to the garage, so we felt it best to keep them covered up. The heat lamp is an inexpensive one from Home Depot fitted with a clamp and a 60 watt bulb. Toasty!

The chicks had their first experience playing in the grass last night, which they seemed to love. They stayed pretty close to the kids and even snuggled up to Noah a little bit. We picked out some friendly birds.
(Please ignore the plants in the background that I haven't planted yet - oops).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Daisy and Henrietta the chicks

Yes, it is true. We have two new little chicks at our house! They are so fuzzy and fluffy and sweet and we just adore them.
Henrietta is on the left and Daisy is on the right.
Daisy is a Buff Orpington.

Henrietta is a Rhode Island Red.

Sarah cried and screamed all the way home from the feed store where we bought them because she thought we were leaving them there. The kids LOVE the chicken. Noah likes to sit outside and "chicksit" them so that they won't be alone. Adorable.

Oooh, chickens!

My dear husband built a coop for them, which is now situated comfortably behind the shed in a spot that will stay cool in the summer. I am planning to plant some yummy things that chickens like to eat in their little run - things like lettuces, sorrel, chives, and hosta are some of the things I've heard they like to eat. Of course, they'll scratch and wreck their plants, which is fine as long as they leave mine alone.
For now they are in the garage in a box covered with chicken wire with a heat lamp attached. They'll live in the garage for about 4 weeks or so until they are ready to move into the shed.
Oh, the adventure we have started!

Monday, May 4, 2009

LA Garden Show purchases

So here they are - all of my wonderful new plants from the show!
First is the Lavender Lady Passion Flower vine (Passiflora x Amethyst). The gorgeous flowers were totally irresistible. I knew my husband would love how unusual they are, so it was an easy choice. I will be planting this either in the veggie garden on a trellis or in a pot to grow on a trellis on the shed.I've wanted Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) ever since reading about it in California Gardener Magazine. It was tough to find, but an herb booth at the show had tons of hard-to-find plants, and I was so happy to bring one home! This is the newest fad in sweeteners and the leaves taste like candy. I'm planning to dry it to add to tea mixes. Unfortunately I broke a stem of it during planting, so I'm hoping it survives.
I bought a Thompson Seedless grape vine (Vitis vinifera), for which my sweet husband is going to build a trellis. I can't wait to be able to pick my own grapes from the backyard!
This new Petite Plum Dwarf Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii nanhoensis 'Monum') will probably go into the veggie garden. I have another possible location for it among some roses, but with our long growing season, I'm afraid it might get too large for that space, even though it is a dwarf variety.
I've been wanting to add scented geranium to the herb garden area and this one had such sweet little flowers. It is Peacock Scented (Pelargonium cv.). Things are starting to get pretty crowded in there, so I might have to keep it cut back, but I just couldn't resist.
This lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) may end up in the front yard planter as part of a bee and butterfly garden that I'm starting to create, but I haven't decided yet. It will be a big part of the tea-making process and I love to run my hands through it for the fabulous fragrance.
Lime Thyme will be heading into the veggie garden and is such a lovely color. I saw this plant first at Plant Life, a blog I've enjoyed visiting.
Perhaps you know that I'm not exactly the most successful potted plant gardener. I am too lazy about watering to keep potted plants alive. However, I seem to fall prey to pots every year and this year I chose this beautiful Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) plant as my first victim. I really hope to keep it watered, especially since Bay can be cut into a topiary and I'm planning to make a short little ball out of it. The leaves can be picked in the morning and placed under a weight. By dinnertime, they leaves are dry and ready to be used in recipes!And finally, the plant about which I am most excited. Green Tea (Camellia Sinensis) is the tea plant! I had been planning to order a plant online, but there was a tea exhibit at the show and the Arboretum's booth was selling the plant. I was surprised to find out that the tea plant is in the camellia family, which makes it perfect for my partially shaded Heuchera garden where I already have three azaleas and a camellia japonica growing. The great thing about that mixture is that Camellias and Azaleas are both acid loving, so they should live together fairly harmoniously.
Although not pictured, I also got 6 Casablanca Lily bulbs in the ground and I hope to see them bloom by late summer. Whew! For not planning on buying much, I sure came home with plenty...hooray!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Making Chamomile Tea

I made chamomile tea today and it was so easy! Here's how I did it.

I started with our lovely chamomile plant that bloomed beautifully this year.

I cut it back to about 8 or 10 inches tall and then bundled the bouquet and hung it to dry.

After about a week, I clipped off the dried flowers from the stems.

I had to separate the stems out one by one, which leads me to think that it might be easier next time to bundle them more evenly so that I can cut straight across and have less stems to pick out.

Ta da! Tea in a container. A teaspoon per cup is enough for a medium-strength tea. I'm sincerely hoping for another harvest this year, but with my love of chamomile tea, I think I'll need to plant a few more plants next year. Once I try the straight tea, I'm going to try adding some of the other dried herbs to create a fun blend. More on that another day!