This has been a busy month! While I still have a knitting and sewing project to show you, I didn’t accomplish my goal of two sewing projects this month. If I can ever trouble myself to finish up the last bit of my current project, my plan for the next sewing project is for a spring trench coat, which I am excited about. I’ve been thinking about resurrecting my weekly craft posts, just to give me an outlet for writing about things I’m excited about making, even if I don’t actually make them. :)
Anyway, February has seen an inordinate amount of yard and garden work at the ol’ Joshifer homestead. Not only did we install an egress window, but this weekend Josh was able to polish it off with the final soil grading, landscape fabric, and wood mulch, in preparation for planting some native plants in a few weeks. We’re still trying to decide if the red wood mulch is too red (or if we should have gone with brown) but I think we should wait until we’ve planted things before making the final assessment. We also need to find some stylish solar lights, because Josh is worried about someone falling into the hole at night.
Before this project, this area was sort of a flower bed with an overgrown wild rose bush (which I had spent 18 months trying to tame) and large lava rocks as the border to the grass. While I enjoy yard and garden work, I am definitely of the inclination to make this work easier rather than more cumbersome and arduous. And those rocks as a border made mowing the grass very cumbersome and irritating – - either I’d have to move the ginormous lava rocks to mow the grass at the border (which invariably involved me cursing loudly in frustration) or just not mow the grass there (which didn’t look very good, even by my casual lawncare standards). So with the finishing steps of this project, I am DELIGHTED that Josh implemented an easy way for me to mow the grass around the flower bed! Also, quite honestly, I think flower beds with a neat and clean border with the grass look so much better than some amateur placement of rocks.
Geez, it sure is funny how opinionated a person can be about unimportant things like borders to flower beds!
Anyway, the next step in our “plan” for landscaping along the front yard is to drastically reduce the amount of lawn we have in favor of low water native plant beds, both to be environmentally friendly AND to make it easier to keep things looking nicer. Tending to the huge swath of lawn, I have found to be not my most favorite garden chore, nor do I find the huge swath of lawn to be particularly captivating to the visual and olfactory senses.
This is the flower bed on the other side of the house, with the old mulch pulled up, revealing lots of spring bulbs popping up as well as the two unruly rose bushes.
One piece of this puzzle has been to move the fence on the west side, dividing our back and front yards, up by about 20 feet. What used to be an extensive front side yard was a beast for me to try and take care of – - it was so out of the way that it was very neglected (hard to drag the hose around the house to water and was very overgrown with weeds). I decided that I’d rather have that area be part of our more unsightly back yard, where I can grow edibles and give access to the chickens, rather than the front yard (which we are hoping to keep nicely presentable). Last weekend, Josh was able to move the whole fence and regrade the soil. I am working on getting this area weeded and the chickens are having a blast exploring this new area. Our neighbor recommended making this area a big raspberry growing zone, which sounds splendid.
From the flower beds in the front yard, we’ve pulled up all of the old mulch and I’m planning on using that to create walkways in my garden area.
Josh has been such a busy bee! This is the strawberry tower that he built me. In my January Garden Journal, I wrote ALL about how I was growing about 200 wild alpine strawberry seedlings. The seedlings are doing very well and are looking forward to being transplanted to their new home in a few months. My plan is to plant this tower with as many seedlings as can be comfortably planted, and donate the remaining seedlings to friends and neighbors.
In addition to my 200 wild alpine strawberries, I have a bed for Ozark Beauty strawberries. This is my bed from last year (I planted two plants last year) that I spruced up this weekend. I pruned off some of the older leaves from the existing plants and situated the new runners where I wanted them. I also expanded the bed to fit 10 more bareroot plants (which I got planted) and reinvigorated my netting around the bed – which uses chicken fencing and bird netting to keep out squirrels. And added a layer of fresh straw for mulch. There are a couple of bunching onions growing with the strawberries. And the bed above the strawberry bed, bordered by the concrete blocks, is my rhubarb bed. Last year, I planted two bareroot rhubarb crowns and only one of them made it through the year, so I added two more crowns this weekend. While I was digging around, I saw that the rhubarb that is already established is about ready to send up its first stem of the year!
This weekend, I also finished my cucumber trellises, which I’ve designed to hopefully provide protection from the chickens for my plants. (We’ll see how well this works). The backyard is basically going to become a farm this year and I’m hoping to be able to grow a good portion of our food, so I’m trying to develop some growing structures to be able to bring some of the edibles into the chicken area. As you can see, I’ve painted the trellises to match the purple trim on the chicken coop.
I started several varieties of dwarf peas in containers at the beginning of this month and have sown a ginormous bed of peas. I had a few packets of peas leftover from last year, and their germination has been slow, but my fresher peas are germinating quicklier.
I also planted some of my cold hardy brassicas this weekend. This is kale and broccoli, among some kale and onions that I planted last fall.
Miraculously, several kale plants successfully overwintered, despite the deep freeze. This is Red Russian kale, which I believe is grown successfully in Siberia. Obviously, it went dormant over the winter, but it has recently come alive and is sending out new growth.
I have a big bed of beets, which I may have started a bit too early. As they say, only time will tell… So far, my beets are doing well.
This weekend, I finally got my asparagus bed prepared and planted with 24 bareroot Jersey Knight crowns. Preparing the bed for asparagus is a big project and I felt so satisfied with getting it done. Unfortunately, right before their bedtime, the chickens managed to squeeze their way into the garden area and, within five minutes, and uprooted every single asparagus crown! So now, I need to go and do this all again. Gah, chickens!
Anyway, I had debated with myself all winter about whether to grow the fancy heirloom Mary Washington variety of asparagus, or the Jersey Knight hybrid. I finally decided to go with the latter because it is more productive and less finicky (supposedly). I hope I made a good choice!
I planted my three Brussels Sprouts. B. Sprouts are heavy feeders so I planted them next to the compost pile, in the hopes that the soil there is nutrient dense.
In other news, the chickens celebrated their first birthday this month. I remember thinking it was a really big deal for me to get chickens, and now they are just a normal part of my daily life.
Here is Madeline enjoying some water in the sunshine.
And here is Bully Queen Josephine, who is clearly needing to get into someone’s business. I got really mad at her this weekend because she was being overly aggressive with Florence. If she had kept it up much longer, I would have made her into some chicken noodle soup!
And this is Florence! Despite being virtually the same age as the others, she didn’t start laying eggs until two months later and then stopped laying last year around September (I suspect after the stress of being attacked by a dog, after she flew into the neighbor’s yard), and went through two molts this winter. She’s a very high anxiety chicken who prefers to sleep with her head tucked under the breast of another chicken.
She just recently started laying eggs again and I am super happy that she’s made it through her various discomforts no worse for wear.
Here is Florence in the coop, trying to find a spot to lay her egg. I recently did some redecorating, adding a nice paisley shower curtain for added privacy to the next boxes. I also refreshed the sand on the poop board under the roost (top right corner of the photo) and everything is much fresher in here. Once it warms up some more, I’m going to do a deep clean of the whole shed and coop.
And here’s Florence from the other angle, approaching the nest boxes.
Even though they lay eggs every day, they always act like it’s this super big deal, honking and cackling loudly so that everyone knows they’re going to lay an egg. And afterwards, they announce their successful egg laying so loudly that the entire neighborhood can hear. We have quite a few neighbors with chickens, and the mornings are always resounding with hens calling out to the world.
Approaching the nest boxes stealthily, Florence peers into a box…
Oh no! Penelope is in the exact box that Florence was eyeing! Even though Jennifer has provided them with four nest boxes, they always want to use the box that someone else is using.
hmmm… maybe this other nest box will do. Florence spends a good amount of time making sure that this box is good enough for her purposes.
Looking down memory lane, here is a photo of the four pretty ladies when they were two weeks old. So cute!
Sigh… They grew up so fast! Here they are a month later.
Wow, that was a long post! Maybe I should have divided this up into seventeen posts.
Anyway, catch you later!