Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Coop Coup

One of my darling girlfriends saw fit to gift me with a ridiculous metal rooster that she hauled cross country solely for the purpose of adorning my chicken coop.

Upon seeing the rooster, I realized that my chicken coop had become much too drab to host such an artistic statement. 

It was drabber than it looks in this photo - really needing a new coat of paint and some jazzy color.  (You can see the larger peacock aviary that attaches to the coop in the background.)

So, to celebrate the arrival of the Metal Masterpiece, I spent the weekend scraping and painting the coop.

Alas, the photo shown doesn't include the final coat of new bright barn red paint... but you get the picture!

The color choice was dictated by whatever was in the barn - we are determinedly using up the decades of stuff accumulated out there.  We call it "shopping the barn".  :)

Final photos will follow - but we all agree that the bright yellow trim has cheered us up and the chickens will have a reason to be happy again!  Thanks, Lesley!

Monday, October 24, 2011

R.I.P. Beloved Mr. Chicken

Woe! Tragedy! Disaster!

A loose pack of dogs, roaming at will with neither collar nor tags, went through our farm on a chicken-killing rampage.  Friends helped beat them off but, when the feathers settled, there were no live peacocks or chickens in sight.  Among the bodies was my beloved little rooster, Mr. Chicken, whose toddler-given name stuck for life.  A Cochin banty, Mr. Chicken was only 10" high but he was a terrific, brave and peaceful little rooster who gently fed and gathered his hens where ever they roamed.

The dogs were not mean or feral, four of them were 3/4 grown chocolate and golden labs with the typical happy, happy lab disposition (once we corralled them away from the chickens).  The adult, a chow mix, seemed like a good dog... none were starving or sick, but all had ticks and absolutely no training.  Discards? Escaped cage dogs?

Cuppers and QT, the peacocks, were saved by flying higher in the nearby trees than I could even believe.  At least 35 feet into the air.

(Note: They stayed up there, alert but making no noise, until I came out the next morning.  It wasn't until I let the hens out into the run that they felt safe enough to come down and join us.)

We had no way to know who had survived in hiding - the body count told us who had died in the field.
Come nightfall, Freckles, one of our "middle" hens crept out of hiding, looking for her sisters.  She began calling and shortly her two daughter hens came out from another brushpile. Penny and Lackenflacken, the two oldest hens (shown right) broke cover and made a wild run for the safety of the open coop.

Freckles (show below with one of her chicks last spring) ran across the open yard to the coop.  I had to walk the two daughter hens along until they got close enough to feel safe running alone to the open door.

Everyone is still skittish.  Several hens were never found - either they went far enough to be beyond calling back or they were (I suspect) terminally wounded and died somewhere in the brush where we could not find them.)

It's a sad little flock of five that remain, but they are regaining their courage and roaming again - - but with much more suspicion now!
R.I.P. Mr.Chicken, tiny little rooster, you died trying to save your girls.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Finally October - and Virginia is beautiful again!

The past few months have been a slow blogging (and gardening) season here at Paradise farm.  I've been so worn down by the summer heat and humidity and so irritated by allergies (me! of all people!) that I simply shut down on gardening.

Luckily for me, some of the established plants continued to fight their way onward through the season, despite my neglect - like the beautiful Glory Bower (Clerodendrum trichotomum ) sparkling with seed pods right now.

Each of the determined perennials that pulled through without much aid or interest on my part are really treasured now.  Brave souls.  Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) don't get much respect these days, but what a shot of brightness they've been in my late summer/early fall garden this year.  These are in that group of plants that I utterly take for granted - heck, I spend more time ripping them out than encouraging them. I am humbled by their beautiful tenacity.

 Perhaps even more amazing are the annuals that pulled through almost entirely on their own.  Sure, I threw down the seeds but, believe me, that was the end of it.

I know these zinnias look scraggly when examined on their own, but they brightened every spot in the garden where they sprouted. FYI, these came from free sample seed packets tossed around and discarded at a recent Garden Writers gathering.  I guess zinnias are just too Plain Jane to thrill highbrow Garden Writers..... anyway, I gathered up the leftover packets and stowed them away in my bag.  Mid-summer I discovered the packets and, wandering in my state of garden ennui, languidly waved them about the neglected garden.  A few weeks later, I began spotting clumps of yellow, pink, purple and orange zinnias, happily blooming away in the heat, drought and humidity.  Wonders!   

And I still can't figure out how an area can be in a full-blown drought and be humid.  How miserable is THAT?

Okay - one last cheer for an intrepid annual.   When I discovered the Ligustrum "trees" that I'd spent the last decade sculpting into beautiful multi-stemmed shade features for our pool garden were sending out roots penetrating the pool concrete, they had to go.  The resulting bare fence was HORRIBLE. Something had to go there - asap!!   It was late in the season, planting was mostly over, no perennial shrub would get there this season..... long story short, I dug a shallow trench in the root-bound soil where the trees had been and tossed in a handful of Hyacinth Beans (Dolichos lablab). The result??? Holy mackerel!!

This clump of flowering D. lablab vine has got to extend a full 30' down the fence.  Bees, hummingbirds.... me.... we all love it.   I'm saving all the seeds. I'll have tons.  Let me know if you want some for next spring.  I've always loved this plant - if only because it's so fun to mutter "lab-lab" at it.

Word is those gorgeous bean pods are edible. Haven't worked up the initiative to eat any.  If anyone else has, send in an opinion.  Edible? Delicious?

Anyway, thank heaven for fall.  And thanks for all the enjoyment I've gotten gardening vicariously through all your gardening blogs when I was too out of sorts to do it myself.

 - -  Sybil