It was a fun Easter weekend with the kids, a happy dog, horses, calves & cows, chickens, Easter bunny, eggs and lots of flowers & veggies in the garden. Enjoy!
It was a great gardening day today in Southern California. We got a lot of things done that we had on our “to do” list.
At lunch I talked to my friend who reads this blog and she told me I never explained what happened to my chicken after Cleo attacked her. The short story is that she is alive and well and laying eggs. The long story is that about ten days after the attack my daughter came in every upset because she found a giant scab covering a wound on the back of Doodle’s neck. It looked like a wad of tar the size of a small fist. The feathers were gone or falling out. Doodle was lucky to escape with her life. She hid her injury, and despite seeming extra scared of the dog, went back to laying eggs shortly after her attack. In fact, she was the first to give us an egg after a three-month break. We are so lucky and we keep a much better eye on the dog around the chickens.
Today, we made some adjustments in the henhouse and attached their roosting branches to the walls. They were loose before and the chickens had taken to sleeping in the egg box. Now that they are laying again, I want them out of there at night to keep it clean. I am going out there right now to spy and see where they are sleeping. If they are in the egg box, I will push them out! Ha!…
Well a sleeping chicken won’t budge. JHnny and Chicken Little were in the egg box but Doodle was perched on the roost. I was able to shoo Chicken Little on the branch–she was very compliant, but Henny wouldn’t budge. I tried to gently push her but she pushed back with force even though she seemed to be asleep. I thought she might fall out of the egg box, if I pushed her too hard, so I gave up. I will try again tomorrow.
Here are some photos from the garden today and the jobs we did: weeding, although in a drought there aren’t as many weeds; putting compost on all the perennials–finally I am using my compost out of my compost bin–it’s been a really long time and I’ve never used it; planting alstroemeria on the hill and dividing my Princess alstroemerias; fixing sprinklers in the front yard and beginning to replace the base of our old fountain.
One thing I learned about the alstroemerias–the Princess variety that I have on my upper hill are short stalked and grow close to the ground. The pink ones have been very hearty and fairly drought-tolerant. They get full sun up there. I could not find them at my local nursery so I gave up and bought the regular variety for the far right side of the hill–the ugly side. I hope these grow. I wanted orange ones but they don’t seem to have those either. Anyway, I hope the two I planted will grow.
We have some flowers on the apple and the nectarine. The peach is not flowering and I hope I pruned it right. It’s almost time to replant to veggie garden but we still have peas, lettuce and our tomatoes are ripening. Isn’t that crazy? We planted them in November and just ate our first cherry tomatoes last week. The weather is all messed up!
At least it is supposed to rain this week, and I have put the compost out so I am hoping it refreshes everything.
Other than the travesty of our coffee maker breaking, the week has been off to a pretty good start.
Warning—this blog was written entirely without coffee.
Even though it was not a perfectly sunny weekend, it was warm enough to garden, and I got a lot done. I planted almost all the plants I bought last fall and I only have one rose left from last spring’s order that I still need to plant. I’m scoping out a new spot–that means I’ll have to get another rose to plant where I thought I would plant this one. You can never enough roses!
It’s good not to have planting last spring’s plant purchases hanging over my head.
For some reason, I finally worked up the nerve to start using the Rose Pro method of fertilizing, what appears to be a complicated series of odd things you have to hunt down at nurseries and drug stores to pour on your roses each month—urea, potash and Milogranite—just a few of the things in my future. This week, I put Epson Salts and Super Phosphate on half of them today (the half that didn’t get the Ada Perry’s Magic Formula—I just love that name and won’t stop using it!).
Now I have an experiment going. We will see what works better. I can’t put the Ada Perry’s with Bone Meal on my roses where the dogs will eat it so it goes on the plants outside the wall. The puppy took a lick of the Epson Salts but I stopped her right away and most of my roses are fenced off (for this reason and the because of the chickens) with that low green wire fence.
I put my first chicken poop compost on a few of my plants too. Hoping that doesn’t burn, but it sat for six months and looked like real compost you’d buy in a store (Ha ha) and the dogs don’t want to eat it because it doesn’t smell like chicken poop anymore—just a guess…
I planted rosemary and horsetail reeds in my chicken garden. I need to buy more to fill out the space because they look nice and the chickens aren’t eating them. Rosemary chicken is a new joke around here.
I planted two azaleas because I have acid soil and they are supposed to like that. We planted artichokes, tomatoes, delphiniums, blue berries, onions and Iceland poppies, which I had to fight over with little sister who wanted them all for her fairy garden. She is envious of big sister’s fabulous fairy garden but hers is just as good…
Boy, I’m so random. That’s a problem with liking plants and not having enough coffee.
My husband bought a Raticator. You should hear Henrietta squawk when she sees a rat. It sounds she is being strangled. I heard chickens can stop laying eggs when the rats come so it should make Henrietta happy to have a new rat trap to save her.
Anyway, here’s stuff I don’t want to forget to buy:
More Bill Wallis geraniums—they are looking great.
More Peruvian lily
Rosa Rugosa alba
Ferns for fern grotto—new idea for under elm tree
Remember to consider weeping willows because Tacoma Stands look terrible and may need replacing
One new Zuni Crape Myrtle tree
Cat mint to plant under roses
New lemon (dwarf)
Plant eggplant this year
Okay that’s enough! It will probably take me a year to plant all that.
If I had a decent cup of coffee, I would probably make more sense. The French press is our salvation and our curse–it’s a slow process for a small cup of coffee. Today I heard my husband talking to my father about how to make cowboy coffee or boiled coffee, his lifetime specialty. We have to do something while we wait for our new coffee maker to come in the mail. Here is his try at cowboy coffee.
I haven’t done a chicken update for a while. So sorry, gals! They are remarkable and we now get three eggs a day. Along with our garden goods, we are feeling somewhat self-sustaining these days. I just need a goat!
We had an ongoing debate whether our chicken named “Grilled” — terrible name, I know–blame my thirty-year-old nephew for that—but back to my point—we all thought grilled was a rooster. While the two Buff Orphs were laying eggs every day, Grilled was turning on us and pecking so hard that she the broke skin. She made odd cackling noises in the morning. Bigger and more decorated than the other two, she also had sprouts of rooster-like spurs on her legs, a larger comb and wattle. My daughter took to carrying a stick or broom around with her to protect herself from Grilled “attacks.” She came in the house crying a couple of times, not because Grilled pecked at her, but because she was sure Grilled was a rooster and we’d have to “send him back.” I had no idea if the feed store would really take him. I’d had calls from friends in similar situations who went back to return a rooster and ended up driving around to various East County feed stores because they were all “full” of roosters and couldn’t take more. My one consolation was that Grilled never crowed, which seemed to be the 100 percent sure sign of rooster-in-the-coop.
Then one day, Grilled laid an egg. Whew! Grilled’s eggs have a very nice dark brown shell. Grilled likes to sneak off to find little nests in secret places like the corner of the fence under the bottle brush tree. She did that last weekend—more crying and screaming from my girls. “Grilled is gone,” the cried. “She’s lost!” We all ran around —well, like you know what—looking for that damn chicken. Of course, I found her after the hysteria had gone on for about 30 minutes. I was not about to stick my hand under her to grab the egg and shoo her out of her sneaky nest. Later I went back and there was an egg. Later my husband went back and took away her nest! Poor thing.Anyway, the most challenging part of the chickens, which I find relatively easy to care for in exchange for all the lovely eggs and entertainment they are giving us, is Cleo, the puppy. And, the fact that the two blonde chickens are hellbent on escaping their “free range” area and stepping right into the waiting jaws of our six-month-old pup!
Now our old dog is very good with the chickens. He tried to eat them when they were chicks–you might recall in a past post, but he is sensitive. You yell at him once, and he won’t do it again.
Cleo on the other hand–as you can see she is a puppy school graduate–but that doesn’t matter. Here’s her perspective: I am out in the yard. Yippee. Yawn. I’m tired, but really I’m full of energy. I’m chewing leaves, crunch, crunch. I’ll eat this stick. Hey, looky there!!!! A fluffy flying thing–it’s coming to me! Ha. And look at that fat fluffy blonde, squeezing between the slats of the gate my dad built to keep me out. Yeehaw! It’s my lucky day! Those fluffy squeaky toys are heading up the hill. Hey, they must be bad, I must stop them, I am a herding dog! Oooo, really…I must eat them–no I shouldn’t–but a taste of feather–oOOOO. Delicious and disgusting–yet, why did that thing squat down. Who wants to chase that limp, prone bird? Is it dead or is this a trick? I am a smart dog. I cannot be fooled by a bird. Oh no, here comes mom with a broom. She’s screaming at me, again! Oh, I must stop myself. She looks mad. She is picking up that fluffy thing and making noises that she usually says to me when I get stepped on. I will chase the other one. Yikes! more broom, swishing the air near my butt! How does she do that?
Okay. We use brooms a lot around here. (Note to husband: I did not say ride brooms.)
Puppy vs. chicken. Neither of them are learning! Why two fat little birds squeeze themselves through three or four-inch slats on the gate to get chased by a puppy, I will never understand! For now, I’m on standby with my broom–it keeps Grilled chicken in line, and Cleo too!
I wake up and I’m outside a lot earlier these days because of the puppy. While I wish I could sleep in, the morning sunrise and the stillness is something I love. I remember the mornings on the ranch when my mother would wake me in the dark, and my father would already be awake drinking his second cup of coffee and listening to the weather radio. The weather was what set his mood—rain was a happy morning and a brisk walk to the barn. When it was bad news, we’d drive the truck, late from listening more to make sure the radio hadn’t changed the forecast in those last few minutes.
The barn was dark and still with only one light on in the tack room, and in the dark corrals, the horses stamped and shuffled, waiting for us to saddle them.
The sunrise would build behind the western hills and the sky would turn from dusky lavender to yellow then orange. The sun was seemed like it didn’t come up for hours (even though it was probably only one hour) as we rode out to find the cattle. When the sun did come, it was blinding and its rays seemed to ignite the sharp yucca leaves and grasses.
The sound of dark morning was always peaceful and silent even with birds chirping and the jingle of spurs, the slushing of horse legs and saddles. Maybe a whistle or low whisper of Spanish about the weather of the work to come.
Unfortunately I get about ten minutes of silence nowadays—from the time I sat down to write this until here on the page.
Now dogs are barking in my house. The senior grandma dog just woke up and she is wheezing and puffing. Chairs are rattling. The kids are humming and buzzing and building fairy houses and singing a song about the puppy to Ode to Joy (boy, that is a big theme in my house). The chickens are cackling to be let out of the pen. Feet are scuffling across our hardwood floors. And my husband is calling my name with a question mark at the end trying to find me to cook breakfast or bring him a dustpan.
Fortunately, I was already outside at 6:30 a.m. and caught this picture of silence (below). See the pretty morning moon. And here are some pictures (2nd and 3rd down) of the ranch so you can get an idea of what it was like. You can look at them and imagine the silence.
First, my headline is misleading. This is not really a blog about how to grow a rainforest. This is a blog about why I don’t garden much in the summer in San Diego.
San Diego summers mean beach, visitors, house guests, theme parks, no rain, watering, restricted watering, the beach, house guests, theme parks, visitors. Should I continue?
I go into maintenance mode. Plus you need a break! We could grow something amazing and significant here every month of the year. When I first started gardening here and realized this, it was a little overwhelming. Then I hit summer–I remember running around trying to garden while my house guests ate breakfast. It was stressful. I had to stop trying to have a perfect yard and let things be (as best I could).
Watering is still a priority and my vegetable garden, which really needs fertilizing.
But once you get things growing, you can take a rest. Here’s my favorite story about that — One day at my old house, while I was walking through the neighborhood, I found a house that intrigued me. There was a stand of unique lime green palm trees in the front, some orchids growing in the shade and other tropical. I walked by there every day, trying to figure out this interesting house and the palms, which I realized also grew to enormous heights behind the house. I told my husband about it and soon he was walking by there too and we discussed it, trying to figure out what was going on. The person had a license plate on his/her car that said “Palms.” Clearly this was not some minor experiment in horticulture. This was serious.
Well, one day, my hubby being the kind of talk-to-strangers with ease guy that he is, got us an invitation to tour the property. It was in fact owned by an expert in palm trees and his wife was a landscape architect.
The backyard contained a bona fide rainforest. It was tremendous. They had bought the house next door and knocked out the walls so the rainforest could take over two back yards. They had what must have been 60 foot palms with a treehouse half-way up. I think there were hundreds of palm trees of all varieties and paths and orchids and impatients and all kinds of wonderous flora.
Our tour guide explained, “Once the canopy was established, it was easy to grow all the other rainforest plants beneath it.”
That stuck with us. In our wonder, we found a bit of humor. We repeated the phrase because it was so far out and so ridiculous to us–being from Michigan and Arizona–that someone could establish a rainforest with a canopy right in our neighborhood.
We use that phrase a lot in our marriage. It comes up two or three times a year one of us will say to the other– “Once the canopy is established,” and laugh. It has become one of those inside jokes that only the two of us can understand. And that’s nice. But really, back to gardening, I think once your garden gets to a certain point, it can keep going with only a little bit of care here and there and a few seasonal clean up days. If you think you don’t have time to garden, consider that. Once you get your “canopy” in place, you can just watch it grow.
Anyway, that’s what I am saying about my garden right now! Good thing, because I have a house full of guests waiting for breakfast!
Here are some pictures from my vegetable garden and one of my naughty puppy. I really need to fence her out of my vegetables–that’s one job that really shouldn’t wait.
My siblings aren’t competitive about dogs or gardening. No, not at all, which is why my brother keeps emailing me pictures of his vegetable garden and poems and stories about how this year he’s got a grade “A” plot.
So I told him I’d blog about his great garden to make him happy. After all, grumpy lawyers need happiness in the form of great homegrown tomatoes, endless abundance of zucchini and other garden produce. A garden is a great outlet for stress relief. To me nothing could be more peaceful than working a long Saturday pruning, watering and planting in the garden. Also, cooking and eating the food you grow is a great byproduct of the joy gardening brings. I also enjoy feeding caterpillars to the chickens—get ‘em girls.
My brother, who is much older ( I don’t know why I say that here, but it seems to tie in. I’m trying to say he is very wise.) Anyway, he says gardening is genetic, and I wonder if this is true. Perhaps. I’d love to know what you think. I can’t say because obviously, as I’ve written, gardening runs in my family. All of my three siblings garden and have their own specialty. Wildflowers and vegetables for the mountain woman, whose winters are snowy so her growing season is short; herbs, roses and flowers for the preschool teacher who lives in desert dwellings; and of course, my brother, who is famous for tomatoes grown in the urban jungles of Phoenix, Arizona. Just look at his pictures and you will agree.
He taught me that there are two kinds of tomato plants—a “determinate” type and the indeterminate type. I had one of the indeterminate type in my front yard once. It would not die. It was an heirloom and made beautiful purple fruits. It quit producing in winter but kept growing and growing lush green foliage until one day, I don’t know why, I pulled it out. I should have transplanted it, but I didn’t. Now I wish I had.
I thought homegrown tomatoes mean instant sweetness, but I now have one in a pot that makes the worst tasting tomatoes. It makes a lot of them, but they are garbage. Maybe because they were grown in a pot. Who knows. Hey, brother, do you know? If you answer, I will know that you read this.
To make my brother happy, here are his photos and his poem.
See how high the tomato tree grows,
into the sky like hairs from my nose.
If it was a bean stalk, I’d be Jack,
But instead no tomatoes I lack.
So gather ’round and we’ll sing a tomato song
Put the soup on and we’ll be along
to grill sandwiches so cheesy
and slurp soup that makes me queasy.
Here is his tomato tree:
Here is the harvest — already!
I like the fence around his garden to keep out his tomato-eating dachshunds. And I am jealous that he already has produce! Look at all that!
For the record, even though my tomatoes are mealy, my dog is still the best dog on earth. He would never eat a tomato.