Friday, January 27, 2012

"Fresh" the Movie - Viewable on our Desktops!

 Good rainy, stormy morning!  67 balmy degrees here in Virginia Beach - with a truly nasty looking red-band storm front bearing down on us.  Dashed out to feed the chickens and walk small dogs.... back in for good coffee and a hello to the blogosphere!

This is a really quick post to make sure that none of my gardening friends miss this neat chance to view the movie documentary, "Fresh", for free on your own computer.  I've been very inspired by this movie - don't panic, there are factory farming scenes in there but nothing that is not real or faint-worthy (at least to someone like me who's been aware of the realities for some time).  It will make you want to grow, grow, grow wonderful food and support the terrific small farms in your area.  Here's the info you need:

Here at FRESH, we're always looking for ways to build the good food movement and reach a tipping point where sustainable food is the rule, not the exception. So, we'd like to continue spreading the word with an exciting new initiative: FRESH is available for viewing online for FREE! For a limited time (we do need to pay our bills after all), you can access the full-length film from your desktop. The movie will be available for one week, from Thursday, January 26th through Wednesday, February 1st, so don't wait to watch! To access the movie, simply click below.

Great Day to be inside watching an inspiring movie!  - Sybil

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Weeds by Any Other Name.....

Winter weeds.  Are they amazing?  
Not a thing green in the perennial garden... but the winter weeds.  
Recognize any of these?

 This is a combination of Henbit, which is the rounded Lamium family member (see the rounded heavily veined leaves?) and Chickweed (Stellaria media) forming a flat, small-leaved mat of green around a central root base.  It's what's taking over the garden beds right now.

In former years, I went crazy fighting these weeds. 
Then I got chickens.
Chickens who needed lots of greens for their winter diet.
And, suddenly, I knew WHY the old traditional gardeners gave them 
these names.
Henbit gets hen bit immediately.  Munch, munch.
Loved only less than Chickweed.
Which really IS the chick's weed.

Butter chicken feasting on Chickweed.
Freckles and Peacock Cuppers lining up for weeds.
Henny Penny is suspicious about the beet leaf in her weeds.

So now weeding is a lot more fun for everyone!
Who knew?
Henbit, Chickweed....
Do you suppose they'd be better layers
if I fed them Eggplant????

with a grin,

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

War on the Sapsuckers! Save the Loquat!

Yellow Bellied Sapsucker
Is this not a charming little birdie?  Lots of stripes, perky little red head?  Scrabbles up and down the sides of the tree trunks like a feathered monkey?

My Beloved Loquat Tree
Good thing this little sucker - Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, to be exact -is protected or I'd blow him right out of my Loquat tree.  There has been a pair of them working on my poor Loquat tree nonstop in the mild weather.  The sap is flowing in the Loquat, which is evergreen and the sapsuckers adore that sweet sap.

If they did minor damage, I'd tolerate them because they are so personable.  But take a look at what they have managed in the last couple of weeks, while my back was turned:

 They have girdled several of the main trunks with their drillings.  The "wet" that you see in the photo is freely running tree sap - my poor Loquat is literally hemorrhaging sap from the wounds.

Notice in the closeup that there is no area with enough vertical undamaged bark left to keep the phloem moving sap.  They may have already killed this tree.

In desperation, as a quick arbor triage, I've done what I could - I melted all the leftover scented holiday candles we were given that never got burned (heaven save me from Yankee Candles) and brushed the melted wax in many layers over the damaged trunk areas, filling in the holes as best I could.  The watery sap kept some of the holes slightly open, but at least the major open wounds are protected from further damage - from sapsuckers, insects, fungus and worse.

It looks pretty shabby, poor beautiful tree.

I hope this is going to help it.

It reeks, too, in the most amazing fashion - part "Holiday Pine"and part "Christmas in Paris".  Maybe the scent alone will drive the horrible (formerly adorable) Sapsuckers away.  Heaven knows it should keep insects at bay but who knows?

Tree wrap has been ordered and is on the way.

I wonder if Sapsucker tastes like quail?

Sadly,   Sybil

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Imperial Star Artichoke Plants!

Every spring I love to check out at least one nursery that is new to me, and to try out a product I have never ordered before.

I love fresh artichokes and I've had great luck with Imperial Star, which has produced wonderful harvest of 'chokes here in Virginia Beach, so when I saw that The Natural Gardening Company catalog included Imperial Start plants I had to have some.

Normally, I have to start the seeds early enough that they are hardy enough to go out for a chill couple of weeks before being planted out, thereby fooling the biennial genes in the artichoke into thinking it just enjoyed the world's shortest winter.  Even so, I've generally had to winter them over to get a big harvest.

My plan is to get these seedlings, toughen them up a bit so that they are good and sturdy, then let them sojourn in the chilly spring sunshine before planting out into the garden bed.

Just one more step in my plan to become a wildly efficient gardener this year.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Frolic in the Chicken Coop

Everyone snugged down in the ticky-tacky chicken run 
to ride out this week's weather.
They have lots of fresh hay - a real treat - 
along with some freshly mowed grass
(thank you warm spell).

Cuppers, the Peacock, maneuvers very carefully
life is awkward when you are turning
with a five foot tail.

He and Cue (Q, QT, Cutie, Curlique) his snowy mate
like hanging with the chickens
and are quite calm about being in the run 
for a few weeks.

But - soon... SOON he will be back in the garden
like a fabulous ornament.
A fabulous, seed bed ruining, flower stomping
He's perfect.
And he knows it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Butter! New chicken arrives!

This is lonely Butter, my friend Colleen's last chicken.
Everyone else at their coop had been eaten.
By a raccoon, probably.
Butter was just waiting it out,
waiting her turn.
Now she's at our house, and this is her looking out at the new neighborhood, wondering.....

Butter is very lovely.  She is an  Auracana hen, probably one of the Americanas and every feather is decorated and beautiful.  She has a striking ruff and wonderful cheek fluffs.  Rumor has it that she regularly lays green eggs.

Rob is waiting for green eggs and ham.

Right now, Butter is mostly sitting on her separate perch, carefully watching the home flock and checking out who is in charge, who is friendly, who is to be feared....   We tried sneaking her in with the others but they were running her ragged and we decided to let her acclimate in her own little side "house".

Let me tell you, any time I hear some well-meaning fool chiming along about "Oh, Why can't we all get along in harmony, like in nature and the animals"  I just shake my head.  What I know immediately is that this la-la-land resident has never truly observed animals or raised animals.  It's a chicken-peck-chicken world out there. No one cooperates - - very much. Welcome a newcomer with open arms?  "Oh, hello, why don't you step over here and share our cracked corn?"  Ooooooh, not likely. It's more like "Yo, bitch, step back and get outta here!"

The welcome wagon ladies?  I think not.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hick Trash Chicken Coop

Yep. We are now the most disreputable chicken coop in the neighborhood.  And, in my rural neighborhood, that is really saying something.

That mess back there is the chicken coop and run, now with full added winter wind protection.  What a tacky mess... but (a) it works and (b) it is actually staying on in the wind!  I took this photo from a ways away so y'all could appreciate that this coop, with its tiny stand of trees, is smack out in the barren fields.  Wide wind country.  Double plus un-good for Nor'easters that will be coming....

The peacocks were determined to roost in that pathetic stand of trees and were getting blown in the icy winds.  Things didn't look good.

Now they - and the chickens - are incarcerated in that tacky, gypsy tent of a chicken run until the end of March.  They will survive, getting fat on lots of hay and laying in the sunshine in the open south side.

It doesn't look any better from the front, does it?
Notice that it's the only place on the whole darned farm
that has shade in the summer.
Notice the far, far tree line?
That's the next state.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In winter, a gardener's thoughts turn to spring.....

One of my greatest winter pleasures is sitting nestled in front of the fireplace in my favorite reading chair with an armload of new gardening catalogs, my gardening notebook and a fistful of post-it notes.  I love to look through the colorful photos and lively descriptions, imagining new garden beds full of food and color.  Look at those gardening gloves!  And the darling cloches and parterres and sculptures! And those zinnias! (My personal total weakness - I'd seed the world with brilliant, hardy zinnias, given my druthers.)  <sigh>  
Zinnia hybrid "Zowie"

So I mark and scribbled and plot and plan and draw out garden designs and redesigns.
How to keep the chickens out of the seed beds?
I've lost my space for the artichokes - - now what???

I wonder if anyone else is ordering from  Their seed packets are so beautiful and so huge.... it'd be great to swap/share some seeds.  Their peppers are fabulous.

Next I'm into the seed storage drawer, where I have to sort out what's left from past years. Then I need to test some samples to see if the seeds I've hoarded are still viable (got a couple of unhappy surprises last spring) while there's still time to order replacements.

So much to do ....
and we're not even gardening yet!
Well, yes... of course we are....
gardening is, as always, as much inspiration as perspiration.

That's why it lifts our spirits so!