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Happy 2014! Here are a few items to kick off the New Year in the garden.

1) Now is the time to harvest your lettuce. Last week, I needed  healthy groceries and I was planning to go shopping at lunch to buy produce for a salad. I went outside to throw something in the compost pile, and I saw lettuce and apples right there in my backyard! Duh. Just what I was planning to shop for.  Don’t forget to harvest what you sowed! Delicious.20140113-101612.jpg

2) Broccoli.  Why is broccoli so hard to get right?  It attracts pests and the best way I have found to eliminate them is — water! Shoot a stream of water at the aphids or yuckies on there every morning, and your broccoli should be fine. There is a floret in this photo, if you can see it right there in the middle of the plant.

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3) New beginnings.  My plumbing disaster is over. Now I am left with this in my front yard.  I have to plan out what I will plant. It is a chance to revise.  When starting a new garden, think about colors you wish to incorporate.  My garden is blue and gray so I will stick to that, but if you are starting totally fresh, you can think of the palette you find most soothing or interesting.  I love coral and orange mixed with blue, too. That is my backyard.

Another thing to consider–is your style formal or traditional, cottage or contemporary? You may wish to match your house style to keep the look consistent and provide you with guidelines. It takes the guess-work out if you match your house. My style is cottage (low water is also a priority.)  You can have a low water garden without turning to cactus or without staying purely contemporary.  Cottage can work for drought tolerant gardening too. And boy, we better get going on that. What a drought we are in! 76 degrees today, too.

More thoughts on planting later as I get going. I know for one thing, instead of lambs ear, which always gets funky, I am going to use artichokes to provide the soft grey contrast colors my garden plan contains.

4) What has Cleo eaten lately?  Well, she behaved over the holidays. There was always commotion and entertainment for her. Aside from carrying a few socks around, she did not destroy much.

But after being gone for a week from our house (in the kennel and on the road with the family), she came home and decided she’d forgotten her chicken manners. Of course, this drama coincided with the kids going back to school…

The first day the kids went back to school, I was sorting through boxes of Christmas decor that I needed to put away, when I got a phone call from my neighbor.

“Something is eating your chickens,” she said.

I ran out there and sure enough, even though the gate was shut, Cleo had dug her way in and pinned one of our hens to the ground.  I started screaming, wailing, really. I couldn’t imagine this happening, and I kept thinking of my friend, who told me her greyhound had sliced her chicken’s chest open. I chased Cleo off and  poor Doodle just sat there in a well she had dug into the ground, her wings outspread as if she were dead. Her head was still up and alert, but she had a limp, flat body.

I couldn’t face her, so instead, I scooped up Henny who was climbing the fence for the same neighbor who had called about the commotion. Henny was calmer than I thought and seemed to like me holding her. I shut her in the cage.

Then I went back to poor Doodle. I was afraid to touch her. I softly prodded her, investigating her feathers for blood. There wasn’t any, so I scooped under her and examined her chest. No cuts. She had simply played dead.

I now think that despite how bad it looked, Cleo could have done much worse. I think she was playing, smelling, burying her nose in Doodle’s feathers. I’m sure she chased Henny and Doodle, and caught Doodle who, poor thing, found a best defense in pretend death.

We were so lucky. Cleo had lost her chicken manners over vacation. Now we are rebuilding them back–doggy boot camp.

Anyway, she is still our baby even if she is in time out:

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