My first garden harvest

Look what I grew! A cucumber! It is my first one and was the only one so far. I don’t have any recipes that call for cucumber so I think it will get put into a salad with some hard boiled eggs from my girls in the backyard. I’m not much of a salad person unless there is some boiled egg and ranch dressing involved.

please excuse the blurry photo but YAY

Something else I’m currently “growing” is this abandoned kitten a friend found. She didn’t have a place to keep it and it was tiny and bony scrawny and flea infested. He is currently getting kitten formula and combings with a flea comb and is doing well. I’m planning to rehome him but we’ll see. It is kitten season so all the rescues all overrun with babies. Meet Yoda:

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My volunteer pumpkin vine is doing well although no pumpkins yet. I really need to get out and work in the yard but the mosquitos are awful, even with bug spray on. Heck, everything is awful this year; mosquitos, fleas, ticks, flies. Ugh. I knew it would be like this though because our winter was so warm this year. It’s always warm, this is Georgia after all, but we needed a good hard freeze to kill off the bugs. We’re also getting crazy things like earwigs and carpenter ants all over the place. I’m starting prayers NOW for snow this winter.

Making it up as I go along

I’ve been doing the stay at home mom thing for a week now. So far, so good.
Finding things to keep the kids occupied has been tough. They’re obsessed with their tablets, TV, and for the oldest, Minecraft. I kick them off technology regularly and get whines of “I’m bored!”. Ugh. I tried suggesting things for them to do and got a resounding “No!”. I’ve been leaving them to solve the boredom and after a whole week, they are finally getting into pretend play again with their toys, and reading or looking at books. The other day I made banana bread and the oldest volunteered to help and really enjoyed it. He also ate it (actually over half of the loaf) without telling me it looked weird, so I call it a success.
Yesterday I painted a “No Solicitors” sign, because the religious and sales people have been driving me up the wall. Both boys kept wanting to help, so I went and dug through my craft supplies and found some flower pots for them to paint. I think we’ll try turning them into wind chimes in a day or two when they’re getting antsy to do some crafting again. If I suggest it, it will be a no, but if I let them start asking, they’ll be gung ho for it.
Can you tell from my painting that I’m a huge Mary Engelbreit fan? I’ve always loved how bright and cheerful her pictures are. I’d never painted something like this before and wound up painting how I doodle. The slate plaque is from Goodwill – it has an ugly Christmas scene on the other side. I tried removing it with nail polish remover but that didn’t work so I just flipped it over.
Next week is vacation Bible school for the oldest and that will be a relief. I’m still trying to come up with creative things for them to do and it will give more time.

What’s living so far

I sprouted from seeds this year instead of buying baby plants. Not everything has died so I consider that a success. One vine cucumber is thriving:

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The peppers are all perking along and need to be transplanted to give each other more room:

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And I have a volunteer something from the compost I mixed into the soil around the raspberry bush. I think and hope it is a pumpkin vine:

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What do you think? Is my pumpkin guess correct?

 

Taking stock

I found several packets of outdated seeds  (peas, lettuce, and pumpkins). I’m going to try sprouting them and see what happens. I bought 2 bags of potting soil tonight and I’ve been saving my toilet paper and paper towel rolls and popsicle sticks. The popsicle sticks are to label and stick in the dirt and the toilet paper rolls are to cut into little seed sprouting cups. Hooray for recycling! One things I’ve already learned is that gardening doesn’t have to be expensive.

I redeemed some of my Swagbucks  for e-Bay gift certificates and bought some muscadine seeds from a seller on a farm in Virginia. For those that don’t know, muscadines are big, fat grapes, perfect for jelly and wine. I plan to sprout some vines and grow them up a trellis attached to the privacy fence. Then, some day, I’ll harvest them and make wine.

Mmm, muscadine wine. I remember the first time I had some. I was at a sleepover and my friend’s mom had made some and let us each have a little shot glass of some. The other girls didn’t like it but I did. I waited until they set their glasses aside and then snagged and drank them. It was enough to give little 13 year old me a healthy buzz. I know, I was a terrible child.

Now that I’m older (you know, legal drinking age) I’ve had some bought off the shelf in a store and it is not the same as home made. I can’t wait to try making my own. Of course there are tons of recipes on the interwebz.

Any wine makers here? If so, do you have a great muscadine wine recipe I should try?

Spring will be here soon

Spring isn’t here officially yet, but it feels like it. Everything is budding and trying to bloom so the pollen count is already ridiculous and we’re hitting temps in the 70s (we’re just outside of Atlanta, GA). I’m not going to run out and plant anything yet, because I know better. There has been blizzards in March and April and while I don’t *think* thats happening this year, I’m not going to chance it. Still, the weather is gorgeous. I spent Saturday raking up the back yard and planning what I want to do. It includes additional fencing in a large chunk of the backyard so the ladies have their own space. We’ve had some close calls with people accidentally letting the dogs out when the girls were free ranging. I also want (one or three) more chickens. I’ve read that it is better to have even numbers when you have fewer chickens so that they don’t gang up on one which is what happens now with having three.

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Other than that I’m debating on what I want to plant. I was thinking of peppers (pepperoncini and maybe one other), some sort of tomato, green beans, pumpkins for Halloween, strawberries, and maybe a birdhouse or luffa gourd. Is that too much though? Oh and various herbs in containers. I also want to plant all of this in raised beds that we build in the front yard. I’m thinking the front to keep out the chickens and dogs.

Are you planning your summer garden yet? What are you planting?

What I’m Reading – Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway

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I had read reviews on of Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway and finally found a great price on e-Bay. It talks about permaculture for your home garden which is something I’d heard about but didn’t totally understand. This is a great manual which really breaks down what permaculture is and how to use it in your garden. Basically, you’re working with nature and creating a natural garden with layers that benefit each other (trees, shrubs, herbs, ground cover, etc). It also talks about important things like water conservation and harvesting, using small animals to help (hello, backyard chickens!), composting, and fruit trees. It is seriously a wealth of information and I love it. It is very text book like and can be slow going at times, because it can get a bit, well, technical, but it is fascinating and a must read.  I’ve skimmed through, then read through, and now I’m going back and taking notes.

Have you read this? What did you think? What are you currently reading?

We got chickens!!

For years and years, I’ve wanted a flock of chickens in the backyard, as pets and for egg production. Hubby was skeptical, I think because of the cost and the work involved. Still, I dreamed, read homesteading websites, stalked Instagram feeds of people with chickens, and lurked on the Backyard Chickens forum.  

When we moved, I started trying to come up with a chicken coop plan. We have an old playhouse we wanted to use and had started researching. One night I was on e-Bay though and found a local seller trying to sell 5 chicken coops for $99 each. They were A-frame tractors so they would be easily movable, although only hold a few chickens. I messaged the seller and made a deal to buy two of them for $150.

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Hubby assembling our coop!

A few weeks later, I was on Facebook and someone posted in a local group that they needed to re-home their flock of 11 chickens of various breeds. I texted Hubby and he reluctantly agreed that we could go take a look. I messaged the lady and made arrangements. Since I wouldn’t have time to go home for cat carriers, I snagged some large boxes and poked holes for air in them.

The chicken lady had a huge coop and a fantastic set up. She pointed out the different types of chickens and told me about each one. I picked a Rhode Island Red that had been rescued from an overcrowded farm, an Easter Egger, and what I think she said was an Orpington mix. We popped them in the boxes and headed home.

One our way home, we stopped and picked the boys up from daycare. We did not tell them what was in the boxes. When we got home, we set the boxes down in the backyard and let them boys take the lids off.

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Background chicken is molting
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Surprise! Chickens!

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They did not come with names and we had fun coming up with what to call them. The RIR is now Gladys, the Orpington is Gertrude, and the little gray Easter Egger is Bernadette.

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The boys love them. Orion especially, and he is great at helping catch them when it is time to put them up. “Mama! Catch chickens! Orion catch chickens!” It is the cutest thing, and anything that gets him to practice talking is a miracle. He has a speech delay and has had speech therapy but is still making progress.

I will admit, that to my embarrassment, I was a little afraid of them at first. They were squawky, and unfriendly, and Gertrude was so loud when we’d get close. Things are calming down now that they know we’re nice and give them treats. So far I’ve learned that they like strawberries, even just the tops I cut off for the kids. They also liked Sebastian’s leftover peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich. Bananas, oranges, and apple chunks were not a hit.

For the first 2 weeks, we didn’t get any eggs which I expected since they were traumatized with the move. Then we started getting one a day. I suspect it is Gladys. She was the quickest to catch on to the humans=treats thing and is now the friendliest.

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Side note: That isn’t a giant egg, I just have really small hands.

I love the chicken tractor because we can move it around the yard every few days to give them some new green space and a clean floor. I’m using wood shavings inside the coop and just add a little layer every day and then clean it out on the weekends. The dirty shavings go in my compost bin.

It has been about 3 weeks and we’re up to a dozen eggs now. The girls are getting used to us but I need to plan an enclosure around their coop so they can get out and about without us worrying about the dogs.

OK, I’ve rambled enough about our new ladies. If you have a flock, please tell me about them! What treats do they like?