Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Chicken Whisperer

Let me tell you about my pet (apparently) chicken. Lisa is one of The Ladies, as they are collectively called. She provides us with delicious brown eggs that are good enough to eat! Seriously, folks, if you have any room at all and want to make a big change in the quality of eggs you're eating, buy a few chickens. I cannot believe how yummy a hard-boiled egg tastes from these free-range, clover munchin', bug chompin' ladies. What a difference!

But I digress. Back to Lisa. We had five chickens--two Ameraucanas (Fiona, Stella, and Edie) and two Golden Comets (Mattie and Lisa) . All too sadly, Mattie died last month. It was heartbreaking. I will readily admit that I cried -- a LOT -- for that chicken. And since then, Lisa has seemed a bit lonely. Like she knows the other three are of a different breed, and she doesn't really fit in. They all get along and all, but Lisa is a little bigger and is a different color (can chickens see in color?), and I just think she feels a little out of place.

Enter me, Lisa's new BFF. We let The Ladies out to free range every day for anywhere from 30-45 minutes. They love to have new turf to scratch up and they are tremendously entertaining to watch. Lisa has taken to following me around . . . and if I bend down, rather than running away as she used to (and as the others still do), she will sort of crouch and wait to be petted. It's awfully cute to see. After a few strokes she'll get up, ruffle herself, and join her buddies in the scratching and bug chasing. But she never gets too very far away from me.

Sidebar: I was telling a friend this heartwarming, or what I thought was heartwarming, story, and he commented thusly: "I dunno, sounds an awful lot like Lisa is going into a breeding crouch for you. Apparently you're her boyfriend."

I will continue to think that she views me as a sister, or cool best girlfriend, or something. I'm no one's rooster.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Two whole days off--what house projects do I want to take on?

Someone wise once wrote that you know you're an old house owner when you look forward to vacations as time to work on the house. That's exactly what I'll be doing next week. After a particularly difficult couple of weeks (read: months) at work, I am going to take a Friday/Monday combo off. And the house better look out!, because I'm coming at her with tools in hand and a whole lotta determination.

High on my list:
  • Whip out the heat gun and strip some trim and maybe a few doors while I'm at it
  • Finish the two huge lasagna beds outside before it gets too cold...then they can just sit there all winter while we work on stuff inside.
  • Start yanking up carpet.
  • Start listing house-found items on eBay. It's time. We're tripping over ourselves, and we could use the cash! Our checking account is starting to look mighty pitiful.
  • Finish the sweater I began knitting for V three seasons ago. The same sweater I have been promising to have finished by "the next cold season." Gee, I wonder why he's stopped believing that?

Since I am a chronic overscheduler, I figure that I'll be able to get at least three of the above finished. I believe I will plan to finish that sweater (honest!), strip the trim/doors, and begin eBaying my little heart out.

I'm so looking forward to having a nice long weekend to do nothing but house stuff. This has been a long time coming.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What kinds of plants I winter sowed

Here's a partial list of what I successfully grew from seed over the past three years. I had never, ever managed to grow something from seed before now.

--sunflowers (4 varieties)
--daisies (several varieties)
--herbs (catnip, basil, chives, flat parsley, thyme, anise hyssop, rue, oregano, dill, cilantro)
--black-eyed susans (a couple of different varieties)
--butterfly bush
--perennial flax
--rose campion
--decorative grasses
--trailing lobelia
--tomatoes (yes, tomatoes)
--calendula (which quickly became a HUGE favorite of mine)
--bachelor buttons (annual and perennial)
--scented stock
--marigolds (several varieties)
--red penstemon
--tons of poppies
--sage (purple and traditional)
--tithonia ("Mexican Sunflower")

There are others, but without looking at my log (yes, I'm a dork, I kept a log) I can't list them all. These are just off the top of my head.

Gardening on the cheap--winter sowing!

You will not believe me. I understand that you will not believe me. What I am about to tell you, however, is completely true and is unexaggerated. You can sow seeds all through the winter and in the spring, you will most likely have more plants than you can shake a stick at!

I am a huge fan of a process called winter sowing. I was turned on to it a few years back by the kind folks over at the GardenWeb. There is a Winter Sowing forum that I was encouraged to check out. So many threads from people who were wildly successful with growing plants from seed. I had always thought growing from seed meant light setups, a greenhouse, and lots and lots of work. But the more I read, the more winter sowing made sense--think of it as doing what Ma Nature does, but you're just helping her along a bit. Plants typically go to seed in the late summer/early fall. Those seeds fall to the ground, where they stay until they're scratched up and eaten by birds and squirrels, or they germinate and grow.

To winter sow, you take containers of whatever kind (I use milk jugs, orange juice jugs, whatever I can find--bonus, it's recycling!!), take the lids off, cut the tops of the jugs partially off leaving a "hinge," put potting soil into them about 4" high, press seeds into the soil, moisten thoroughly, tape the tops back on, and set the whole deal outside to face the winter. You do not bring them inside, even when there's a blizzard on the way. Snow, ice, etc. will not hurt your seeds in their protective little homes (for a more detailed explanation go to .Basically, you're creating mini greenhouses for your seeds. When the temperatures start to rise, you'll see your containers bursting with seedlings. :) My first year I sowed about 110 containers and had enough to entirely fill a 30x20 foot bed, plus I gave dozens of plants to friends, neighbors, complete get the picture. Let's just say I was very successful. And my total outlay of cash was about 20 bucks for enough potting soil to fill all those containers.

The two best things about winter sowing (in my opinion) are that it is tremendously cost-effective--just the cost of potting soil and seeds, and sometimes you can get seeds from a friend's garden for free, and it's a good way to recycle all those plastic jugs we accumulate throughout the year.

If you'd like to have a huge, lush, full garden, I really encourage you to look into winter sowing. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Here's to you, fellow bloggers!

I have been reading a lot of posts from fellow bloggers who have serious restorations on their hands. They are sharing living space with raccoons and other critters because their houses have no windows, or they are showering at the local truck stop every day because the bathroom is completely nonfunctional. Or they are attempting to have the semblance of a normal life while not one single room of their home is livable.

My hat is off to you, ladies and gentlemen. You know who you are. When I read your posts I am simply overwhelmed at the patience and care you display.

Keep on rockin'.