Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Garden Rules


Many people have asked me how I manage to have fairly decent flower gardens and still let the chickens free range around the yard.  Most people would expect the chickens to scratch up and trample on everything, and to some extent they are correct, but you can have both if you follow a few rules..


One of the main strategies is that I don't mulch anywhere I wouldn't want the chickens to scratch.  Of course, they are still going to scratch even bare dirt some, but putting down mulch of any kind is the exact same thing as putting a person in a room full of bubblewrap.  They go wild.  Can't help themselves.  Chickens are absolutely sure that that next few inches of mulch is harboring a motherload of tasty bugs and by God they are going to fling that stuff everywhere until they find it.  You simply don't go there.  You will never win.


You can mulch with stone, but it better be heavier than pea gravel and hard pine cones work pretty good but are not absolute.  My strategy is to just plant things close enough that the foliage serves as mulch, or use a non-invasive ground cover in between plantings.  I also mainly use sturdy plants, such as iris, lilies, echinacea, mums, peonies and so on.  The girls will make little trails through the beds but the flowing foliage of such plants usually hide them.

                           

 I have also included a number of flowering shrubs with arching habits as these serve as hide-aways for the girls when the hawks are out.  And they are sturdy enough that the hens can't hurt them.


When I plant something new I always lay some small stones around the plant for a couple of weeks because the newly turned soil is an open invitation to scratching!  They can no more resist that than they can the mulch. 


If you insist on growing something that tends towards the delicate I would recommend putting it in a pot and then mulching the pot with stone.  My girls have shown no inclination to eat my flowers; but for some bizarre reason they love to eat the perlite and fertilizer pellets that come with potted plants, so be aware of that.  If I'm planting something that has arrived with commercial soil I always throw a couple of inches of my plain dirt over that stuff so the chickens can't see the "goodies" in the potting mix.


The vegetable garden is another matter entirely because they will happily eat most anything you have planted there in addition to scratching everything up.  Now, you all know I have my garden fenced, which is mandatory, and a couple of runs available for the girls depending on the season and age of groups.  This did take a bit of work to build, and is much more than what most people would be willing to do, but it works great for us and we didn't mind doing it.  The runs come off the coop at a right angle and run alongside the main garden.  Their main run is solely for the chickens but the other one, which includes the Goober Chicken Memorial Pen, is divided in two and can serve as a bittie pen or a larger run for adult chickens, mainly if we separate pullets or roosters.  The larger section of this run can also be garden and this is where I have planted my winter crops this year.  I sold George last weekend so I knew this run would be empty and just the right size since we don't plant near as much in the colder months.


This allows me to let the girls use the main garden now that the warm weather crops are gone.  It's very handy to keep them in here on days when we need to leave before sundown or if there is only one of us here and that person needs to run into town for a minute.  You can see the black gate in the back that goes into their main run and coop.  Chickens are very much creatures of habit and if you disturb one of their beloved daily rituals, like getting out into the yard, they will get their cranky pants on in a hurry, so this is sort of a happy medium with them.  Big enough that they feel they are "outside" but still safe from most predators and at the end of the day they go straight back to the coop without us having to worry if they all got in before dark.


By the time winter is over they have picked the garden pretty clean of bugs and larvae and fertilized it all over, even working in into the soil with their scratching.  The only thing I don't like is that they have decided that underneath the blueberry bushes is the best spot to dust bathe and have dug huge holes there.  I may have to fence off the fruit bushes for that reason but that would not be terribly hard to do just for the winter. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

No More No Less


My photo mojo has just abandoned me these past few weeks so I'm going to have to rely on an old pic for today's post.  I was trying to capture a similar look while out on my early morning walk with Chigger today but I had waited too late; the sun was too high and the mists we've been having had mostly dissipated.

At any rate, this is going to be a shorter post, I think.  I just wanted to share a link to a site that I thought some of you, who are on the minimalist wagon with me, might enjoy if you didn't already know about it.  I've been reading posts on Becoming Minimalist for some time now and have really enjoyed what I have found.  And if you are not sure about living a life based on reduced consumerism, this site might help explain what it's all about.  Most people just assume that minimalism means doing without- most everything.  But that's simply not true.  It simply means reserving your hard earned money and time for the items and people in your life that are truly important, not things that our misbegotten society tells you is important.  Some of the statistics that he provides on just how far our western society has fallen down the greed hole is truly mind-boggling.  It is scary really, how much our media controls our minds and impulses, and ultimately, our pocketbook.

Now, unless you are some self-sufficient super person, we all have to buy some goods, and that's okay.  In fact, after I finish this and a few other chores I'm off to town to buy some groceries!  And I'll most likely treat myself to a nice lunch since it will be an all day trip. But the key here is that because I do not indulge in "sport shopping" as I like to call it, for crap I have absolutely no true use for, I can afford to have a nice day off from my regular jobs with a nice lunch while I stock us back up on a few things and run some other needed errands.

I'll try to write a little more about my minimalist practices later but in the meantime check out the site.  The articles are very well written and include everything from not buying so much, to decluttering what you have (something most people want to do), to just making more time for yourself.  I think it has a little something for anybody that wants to live a more conscious life.

Now, I'm off to clean the chicken coop and get all the critters ready for my day out!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

When You're Alone


  While Jack has been enjoying his family trip to Texas I've been remembering what it's like to live alone.  I've spent a great deal of my life living alone, so really, it's a comfortable feeling to me.  Like that favorite old sweater that's worn enough that you don't mind spilling something on it.  That's not at all to say I don't miss Jack, just that I keep myself pretty good company.  I guess a lot of it is just what you get used to though.
I've also found that this time has something of a meditative quality to it.  Maybe it's because my body is forcing me to move at a slower pace, I don't know, but it's not a bad feeling.  Or maybe I'm just trying to come to grips with the constant pain.  Either way I've been enjoying myself to a great extent.  Jack normally does most all of the animal care now, so it's a new thing to me to have to get out there and let the girls out, get everybody their breakfasts and tend things during the day.  I like being able to just take my time doing chores and in the order I feel like.
Because of the rural area where we live I can go days without speaking to another human, if I try and I think that lends to the Zen quality of things.  Of course, I talk to the girls.  I mean, who wouldn't?  And they are very chatty themselves.  Sometimes I know what they are telling me and sometimes I just go along pretending.  Chigger and I go for several walks each day now that it has gotten so much cooler.  To be a short-haired dog the hot weather really seems to bother her.  But let it turn cool and she is a puppy again.

I had hoped to do some work in the kitchen while Jack is gone but not sure that I'm going to get to that.  I am doing some fall cleaning before the house is snugged up for winter and it's better for both of us if I get that done while he's gone.  I think he gets a little nervous when I start deep cleaning.  And don't worry Jack, I'm not messing with any of your stuff!
I finally got a few things planted in the garden yesterday and am using a new system this year, which I'll show ya'll soon.

Well, my brain is sluggish today so that's all I can come up with right now.  I hope you all are enjoying some of this fabulous autumn weather like we are having.  Anybody else do a fall cleaning as opposed to or in addition to spring cleaning??

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Walking On Sunshine


The weather has just been SO gorgeous here the past week.  If I were not so drugged on pain medication I would really be tearing my hair out about now to hit the road to somewhere, anywhere.  Even in my fog it pulls at me terribly.  I settled by taking Chigger for a short hike around the place.


Well, not exactly around the place.  That would take a while.  We just hiked up the ridge about halfway and took a deer trail over to where several large trees were downed by a storm.  They are not too far off the main trail because Jack has been slowly harvesting some of the wood.  Shame to let it just rot.


Anyway, it was something to keep me from sitting down for a while.  The Birmingham Botanical Gardens is having their biannual plant sale this weekend and I really wanted to go to that but just did not feel like driving that far.  Don't really have extra cash for plants anyway. 


I thought it was amazing that this tree got this big all the while being that hollow!  All things endure.

Why is it we get the wanderlust when we are least able to indulge it?  Or, at least I do.  Maybe it's a good lesson for me for when I am able-bodied again....lol!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Funny How Time Slips Away


Well, earlier today I had come up with a topic I wanted to post about, and had even half written the post in my head, and now I can't remember most any of it...Funny how thoughts slip away too.  I've read that chronic pain can cause immense bodily and mental fatigue, and that would explain a lot!  Then again, maybe I'm just getting old!  Nah!  I'm not old.  I just got here yesterday!  Or so it seems sometimes.
Once again it is the fall season and I can't believe summer is over.  I do know one thing; the older I get the more I dread cold weather.  And I don't even live where it really gets cold, although last winter was fairly stout.  The girls are loving the falling leaves though, as you can see above.  Jack raked up some piles of leaves near the house and they have spent the past couple of days spreading them all back out again!  I actually planted a shrub and a few daylilies that had been sitting on the deck for ever, so ZuZu was just ecstatic.  I could barely plant anything for her jumping in the hole or on the shovels full of dirt as I was trying to move them.  She's a sweetheart though.


Here is Chigger in her vigilant watchdog pose.  She's actually pretty alert most of the time but the warm sun on a cool day and the fact she had spent most of the night barking at deer finally got the best of her.  She was out like a light.


Heddy (on the left) was kinda put out that the older hens ran her off from the Feather Fixer grub.  Not all of them like that stuff but the ones that do go after it like it's chicken candy.  Bertha slurps it down so fast I kinda have to watch her and make sure she lets some of the other hens have some.  I think she's got a major addiction going on.  But, if they are that needy of protein and it makes them feel good I'll go get some more.


Things are slowly changing around her for fall and I've noticed a bunch of these mushrooms all over the place.  I believe this is a turkey tail mushroom but you can correct me if I'm wrong.  This one was probably about 8 inches across.

So, some of you may have noticed I changed a few things on the blog.  I did delete the pottery page because I just am not producing crap right now.  Not that anybody orders anything from this site but just in case.  Some days I hurt so bad I can barely sit down at all.  I'll even eat breakfast and lunch standing up.  And then some days I can sit for a while and I'm okay.  Still hurts but not as bad.  So, it makes it a devil of a time to sit and throw most days.  I got another restoration job so I've been making more money in that area anyway.  I've been thinking I may just take a break from pottery for a little while.  I have come up with a couple of new glazes I like but other than that I'm just not feeling very inspired in that area right now.  It's been my experience that when you get like that to not try to force it.  Just go off and work on something else for a while and I have a list of other things I need to do.
Basically I've just been biding my time and trying not to hurt so much.  Waiting for this next MRI and hoping and praying that it shows something and they can fix it.  Who knows?  I've got to find a solution somewhere though.  Jack is going to Texas next week to visit with family but I won't be making the trip with him.  Ya'll know how I like to travel but I can barely make it to Birmingham and back these days, so driving half way across Texas is certainly out of the question for me.  Such a bummer.  We haven't even been able to do a road trip around here in a couple of months or more.  Sorry to gripe about how I feel on here so much but I don't really have much elsewhere to let it out.  Jack is very supportive of me but I don't like to complain to him all the time. 
Well, the bed is calling me so I'm gonna wrap this up now.  Need to stand up anyway!  Hope you all are doing well.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Summer's End


Well, there's not been a tremendous amount of things going on around here but I have managed to keep consistently busy for the past couple of weeks.  I've been hurting pretty badly during this time also, so I haven't even tried to do any pottery.  I did do a little welding for a small repair job, which was fun, but I paid for it that evening.  I figured standing up and working would be better than sitting down and working but I guess I was bent over just enough and could barely move by the time I was finished.  So, most of my time has just been spent cleaning up around the place, cleaning the garden up (as you see here) and cleaning and purging the house.  That in itself has made me feel better.  I told Jack the other day it had got to looking like a bunch of white trash lived here.


The girls were a big help in the garden.  We had a few days where we were going to leave in the afternoon, well before they like to go inside, so rather than risk not being able to get them all back in when we needed to go, we just opened the gate from their run into the garden.  I'm so glad we built their run next to the garden with that gate because it has been very handy at times.  Of course, during the summer months we can't let them in there but in the fall and winter there are many times when we can and so they have an expanded area on days when they can't go out in the yard for one reason or another.  The big fig trees in there are good coverage for them too.  If they are under there I can't even see them without digging!  Or they can just run back into their covered run and coop.
Anyway, they really had a good time going through the garden after I had pulled up all the plants I wanted to discard.  I kept a few tomatoes that were still producing a little and the cayenne peppers are still going strong.  Despite those peppers being red the girls don't bother them! Haha!  I find very few grubs in the garden anymore since letting the girls in every so often throughout the year.  And of course, they fertilize as they go!


Susie was trying to decide which of my beautiful marigolds she wanted to trample upon.  They actually left them alone but goofy George, with his gimpy foot, managed to mangle 1 or 2 of the plants.  That's okay though.  The marigolds had gotten so large they had split anyway and were flopped over.


Here Susie is making a last minute inspection to see if I accidentally threw anything away she might want.  They are terribly curious about wheelbarrows and always go through them if you have anything in them.
I also harvested some herbs before the frost gets them and a bucket load of cayenne peppers to dry.  I took my time about doing this cleanup though and enjoyed it, despite having to do much of it on my hands and knees or sprawled out on my hip.  Bending over and sitting much are pretty much out of the question at this point.
I did go last week to see the BFD (big, fancy doctor) again and he has scheduled a MRI on the 20th of this month of my lower spine.  I am very anxious to get that done and see what comes of it.  Until then I skooch along on the ground and walk around a lot.  Ha!  I have developed a bit more enthusiasm for some actual building projects around here but my body is just not cooperating at this point.  So, I do what I can.


The mums are blooming here and there but other than that the flower beds are pretty drab.  The goldfinches were having a blast with a lot of the old seed heads so I always leave them. 
The leaves are just barely starting to turn here now and I heard we are supposed to have a colorful fall this year.  How they can tell I have no idea but we'll see.  It was well into the 80s this week but next week is supposed to cool off considerably.
Has fall arrived where you are (or spring?) or are you still stuck in Indian summer?

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Bare Naked Ladies


Actually, I fudged a bit on this post title.  The ladies are not totally bare naked and that is, of course, a music group and not a song title, but hey, after 7 years of blogging I'm allowed a cheat every so often!  In fact, after 7 years I should just throw up a variety of photos and let ya'll try to guess what's going on!  But, I would not do my dear readers that way.  Anywhoo, I had mentioned before that the girls were going through their annual molt and it's a real doozy this time.  The girls would be truly scandalized if they knew I were sharing their nakedness with the whole world but since they have not yet learned the ways of the Internets (at least I don't think) I think we are safe to snicker a little at their ragged accouterments.


After observing chickens go through molt over a few years, no one will ever be able to convince me that they, or any animal, does not have an awareness of self.  They know they all resemble the remnants of a major pillow fight and scoot around in the bushes or hide under the deck most of the day.  There's no strutting going on amongst the afflicted right now I'll tell ya.  The photo above of Marlena is actually about a week old and she is really looking bedraggled at this point.  That big beautiful tail she had is completely gone.  Only a few little wispy tufts blowing in the breeze back there.


Every morning Jack sweeps the lost feathers out of the hen house and they have almost carpeted the big run.  I think we almost could have filled one big pillow with what they have put off this year.


Missy is quite distraught over the whole thing and coupled with the fact we are letting George out with them now she goes about in a constant state of grumpy.  If you look close you can see she is getting back the smallest stub of a new tail though, so hopefully she is on the upswing now.



 They all appear to have had a run-in with the business end of a weed-eater but I think it shows up worse on Marilyn since she is all white.  She's always been kind of uppity anyway so the other hens are probably rubbing it in.  You know, I just noticed, it's funny how she has bright pink skin everywhere but has those blue feet!  Like she's wearing knee socks.  Ha!


 Now, Ms. BeaBea has gone completely through her molt and is now sporting a fresh, clean set of feathers in her customized black stripes.  Something of which Marlena may be jealous as she kept trying to photobomb her and partially succeeded with this one.
To help the girls hurry on through their change I usually up their protein intake a bit.  You can use any kind of natural protein like more oats, cooked eggs, organic soy in addition to throwing them a handful of good, dry catfood each day or mealworms.  This year I bought a new product called Feather Fixer that I found at Tractor Supply.  It was like an 8 or 10 lb. bag for $6 so it was pretty affordable and I thought, what the heck...worth a try.  It says to use it as their only food source but I just put a bowl of it out every day up near the house where they hang out and let them eat it when they want it.  We keep layer mix available in the hen house too and I do have a few hens still laying who are not molting..


So, in other news, Big George hurt his foot really bad about a week ago so he had to stay in the little run for a while until we were sure he could manage the yard on one foot.  We have no idea what he did to hurt it or even what he hurt exactly.  We have examined him several times and can find no cuts, no punctures, nothing to indicate what happened.  He just hops around on one foot like so.


I have no idea what to do to help him, other than keeping him up for a few days, and we gave him a baby aspirin for a couple of days in case he was in pain.  He is improving now and will let his foot touch the ground at least, putting a little bit of weight on it.  He has also resumed his pursuits of the girls but he's not much of a threat to them in this condition.  They have no sympathy for him either!  He still gets the crap kicked or bit out of him.  Poor feller.  I almost feel kinda sorry for him but the girls don't need him jumping on them right now anyway, in their "delicate" conditions!  If he gets use of his foot back before they all get their new feathers he may be spending some long days alone in the Goober Chicken Memorial Pen.  Big T and Pumpkin haven't forgotten him though and when he is confined they take breaks during the day to come sit next to the fence with him and chat.  I though that was sweet and George seems to appreciate it too.  He'll always lay next to them on the other side.