Tag Archives: Permaculture

Oh, clever!

I was reading a recent post from cyber friends at Milkwood Farm and this handy little diy gadget caught my eye; I thought it was just so clever (definitely came as one of those “why didn’t I think of that” moments) that I just had to share.

“Nifty aid of a piece of cutoff re-bar has squares of precisely 10x10cm, which makes planting without a seeder possible while ensuring the rows don’t wiggle or the space between pea plants truncate.”

See the full post at the Milkwood Permaculture Blog

One Misty, Moisty Morning…

One misty, moisty morning,
When cloudy was the weather,
I chanced to meet an old man clothed all in leather.
He began to compliment, and I began to grin,
How do you do, and how do you do?
And how do you do again?

It’s been a misty, moisty day here, (though the sun has just broken through) so this old tune my dad used to hum to me has been going through my head all morning.

Yes it’s been raining again, and I’m very happy for that. I “should” be cleaning the house, but… well, I’d rather chat with you, dear friends.

As promised a couple of weeks back, I’ve updated the Cast of Characters page with some better pictures –I love the new camera. In addition to the regular motley crew we have a canine house guest at the moment. This is my dad’s new dog Alex. Isn’t he just the prettiest thing? And such a sweet-heart too.

Alex

I’ve been in love with Alex for over a year now but I can hardly keep up with the pack I have right now. So I’m very happy that dad adopted him; I think they will be fast friends and hope they have many happy years of fishing together.

Dad is heading back up north for the summer, so we have a few months to catch up in the remodeling projects he’s started for us. I’m really pleased with how it’s all turning out; it’s nice when you see your vision come to reality. I have a functional laundry room once again, yippee! There is still a lot to do though – onward and upward.

On the gardening front, spring planting season is fast coming to a close in this part of the world and (as usual) I haven’t got all the plants I wanted to in the ground; so time to plan for “over summering”.

On the blogging front, I have a number of draft topics simmering away in my brain; I just need to find some quiet time to put them to paper. In the meantime I have run across a number of items that I wanted to share with you. My cyber-friend Deborah at Romancing the Bee wrote an excellent post on the nitrogen cycle (sigh, another post someone else beat me to). She’s also posting some excellent recipes (but I’m trying to ignore them so that I can continue to fit into my new smaller clothes).

For those of you who have/are considering chickens I also have a couple of “for the birds” items you.  First, I found another article on feeding your flock – how to make your own chicken feed; and I found this interesting post on Nesting Box Herbs – Chicken Aromatherapy. If you need housing for your feathered friends I may have found the perfect coop for you. Isn’t this the cutest thing? (I know you’ve been racking your brain on what to do with that old playhouse!)

Little Tikes Chicken Coop from: cluckingaround.blogspot.com

If this isn’t quite up your alley I have some other interesting ideas posted on my Pinterest; and if you just have to experience real coop envy then you’ll have to visit BackYard Chickens.

Ok, the house isn’t cleaning itself.

I hope you have a great weekend!

Food as Medicine: 9 Food Cures You Can Grow at Home: Organic Gardening

Food as Medicine: 9 Food Cures You Can Grow at Home: Organic Gardening.

Stop this garden tour, I want to get off…

Off the bus, the garden tour bus, come on people get your minds out of the gutter. I mean I know it’s spring and gardening is all about sex right now (yes, and asexual reproduction, etc. too) but I’m trying to keep this blog “G” rated. Seriously though, UNCLE, I’m crying uncle. I really thought I’d nearly got the garden in and then yesterday I cleaned out the greenhouse and discovered flats, and flats, and flats of seedlings – some varieties I haven’t even planted yet. I tell you, this garden better produce otherwise I’m going to be very, very grumpy!

Enough whinging though, I really want to talk about chickens. You may remember that I made a pun about fodder in a previous post, but said you’d have to stay tuned to get the joke. Well, I’ve been wanting to follow-up since then but… well see above. Anyway, spring has been glorious here – mild with nice steady rains – so we’ve been doing lots of lawn moving. For years we’ve been throwing the clippings into the chicken run; the girls love, love, love them. However, occasionally we get more than even they can deal with and the clippings go into the compost heap. I got to thinking though (I know, that’s where the trouble starts), wondering if there was a use for these excess clippings a little higher up the food chain? So I got on trusty ol’ Google and started looking into it. The first thing I found was a fellow who discussed making hay (which he uses for bedding) with his clippings. I thought this was pretty clever but wondered “could I use the hay as food, rather than just bedding?” This led me down the rabbit hole to silage. Ideally chickens (and rabbits) should have access to greens year round, and I try to make sure they get at least some by way of scraps and cole crops during the summer and winter, but I know that they aren’t really getting enough. Now I knew about putting up silage for cattle, but I never thought of putting it up for chickens. (If you don’t know what silage is, it is essentially high moisture vegetation that has undergone some aerobic, but primarily anaerobic fermentation in order to be used as fodder.) Mother Earth News has a short article with some excellent resources on the hows and whys of small-scale silage production. Things are starting to get hot and dry here so I think I’ve missed my window for this year, but I’m definitely going to remember it for next year.

In other chicken news, one of the things I least like about keeping chickens is the whole “how to keep their water clean” issue. I tried traditional waters, I tried large bowls but inevitably I ended up with poop soup (and now you all know why the Kale right outside the coop is so big and vibrant). In addition to wanting to keep the water clean and reduce maintenance I also have to be able to add ice or super cold water to the waterers in the summer to ensure that the chickens take on enough fluids; I have the same requirement for the rabbits. Now there are all sorts of commercially available or DIY products (such as the one pictured below) that will address my needs, but to be perfectly honest with you I didn’t want to spend the money to buy one, or time to make one.

I’d remembered reading a couple of articles about watering chickens with rabbit bottle, so I tried it. Result! Poop soup problem solved, but it was still a pain to take them down and fill them up every day. So I went in search of bigger bottles and I stumbled upon flip-top waterers.

I love it when a plan comes together! The chickens took to them quickly (I was a little worried as this uses a nipple instead of roller ball). Yippee… easy, clean water that I can easily add ice to. Now if I could only convince the rabbits to use them.

Oh, the good life, full of fun seems to be the ideal…

Do you remember a British television show called “The Good Life”, about a middle-class (in the British sense) couple living in Surrey who decide to pack it all in and become suburban homesteaders (much to the chagrin of their social climbing neighbours)? I’ve always loved that show and always related to Tom and Barbara Good. I consider myself very lucky (charmed, some may say) to get to spend most of my days doing what I love and basically living “the good life”. However, today it was as if central casting had thrust me in a one-off special, complete with all the toil and MUD, but decidedly lacking Margot and Jerry plying me with booze! Now, of course, I brought the day on myself… but still. It started with a planned run to the landfill to dispose of construction bits that we couldn’t reclaim or recycle (and you know it has to be bad if we’re chucking it). MrGrubbyFungus was an angel and decided to ply me with coffee and breakfast beforehand, which softened the task dramatically. After that productive start the day just seemed to go hilariously off the rails.

Here’s the thing, I’ve had my girls for about 4 years now (raising them from 1-day old chicks), we’ve had some losses in that time and our flock is dwindling, so I was considering getting some new chicks to revive the flock. Not that we need more chickens – the remaining girls supply the two of us quite nicely – but friends and family really like the eggs too and there just aren’t enough to share these days. You will however notice that I said “I was considering”, as in not quite ready to do this thing? Why don’t I learn to be careful what I wish for? So here I am last night reading through one of my favorite local gardening forums, making trades, etc., when I notice a message from one of my friends asking if anyone wants some chickens that one of her friends needs to give up– me, me!!! It’s actually a rather upsetting story (and I think rather unjust, but I’ll save you the rant). This family has had a backyard flock for three years, many of their neighbours have backyard flocks – it’s the norm in their neighborhood, no one is bothered. It seems though that the city they live in is on a code compliance campaign of some sort (I have another friend in the same city who is also struggling with code compliance over different issues). On their first visit city personnel told the lady if the house that she could keep half her flock, but they subsequently decided that she had to get rid of her whole flock and they’d “give her a few days” (whatever that means) to do so before they came back and cite and fine  her. So it was mutually advantageous for me to take some of her girls. Now though I was in a bit of a logistical muddle, as I can’t go pick up several new chickens and just throw them in with my girls. This would not make for a sitting around the table at a quilting bee chatting back and forth kind of scenario; no, this is very much more a plot from “Mean Girls” sort of situation. It’s alright, I’m sure I can work this out, no really… have I convinced you?

I have a chicken tractor that someone very generously gave me a few months back. So I decide the best course of action is to move it over to the coop area, move my girls into it, deep clean the coop, put the new girls in the coop and then reintroduce my girls. Sounds like a reasonable plan, right? Yeah, so…
I don’t know what the guy who built this chicken tractor was thinking, perhaps he thought it would serve as an air raid shelter if needs be, whatever he designed it for though it was not to be mobile! Ok, chicken tractor FINALLY moved, now to put my girls in it – only, for some reason, they weren’t so keen on this idea. So I finally get them moved without too much bloodshed (mine or theirs), now to deep clean the coop. Before I can start in on this though the lady with the chickens I’m getting calls and we decide now would be a good time to come get them. So I grab the only thing I can think of to transport them in, an extra-large dog crate, throw it in the back of the truck and away I go. I get to her house no problem, more chicken wrangling ensues.  We get them in the crate and in the truck, the kids say their goodbyes, we agree that they are welcome to come by and visit and I will try to bring them eggs when I’m in their area, and away we go. I must say that we had a rather uneventful ride home, a dog-crate seems to be rather effective for transporting chickens.

We all make it home in one piece, I’m getting ready to deep clean the coop and the skies open! So picture, if you will, me with one bunch of angry chickens in a “tractor” they don’t want to be in, another bunch sitting in a dog crate wondering what’s going on, me up to my marigolds (rubber gloves) in chicken coop cleaning, and our sweet neighbour comes over for some eggs. So I have to explain to her why I’m out in the pouring rain cleaning a chicken coop, calling in to MrGF, who is up a ladder plastering a ceiling, to bring out some eggs. It’s a good thing that the neighbours seem to kind of like the fact that we’re “eccentric”. I won’t belabor the point, I eventually get the coop clean… but you can imagine what I look like at this point. Time to introduce the new chickens to the coop; now in my mind this was going to be a simple case of me opening the door and them running into the coop. Do I need to say that it didn’t play out that way? Nope, they weren’t having it, wouldn’t budge. So here’s me manhandling and tipping this big ol’ dog crate into the narrow door of the coop trying to “pour” these chickens into the coop, while meanwhile they’re doing everything in their power to stay in the crate (bearing in mind they’ve been in there for a couple of hours now, and done what chickens do a lot of – not pretty, not at all pretty my friends). We finally agree that they will go in the coop and, hey, they kind of like the new digs. I’m still finishing up some of my clean-up, it’s still pouring, and everything seems to be going well with the new girls so let’s introduce a couple of my girls to the mix; this is one of my more brilliant ideas. Needless to say, all hades breaks out and my girls dash to the run, only IT’S POURING RAIN. There is no way I’m getting them back out of the run and back into the “tractor”, and they are dripping wet looking at me like I’m the vilest biped to ever walk the earth. Fortunately, we had some very large pieces of cardboard lying about in the garage, so I’m able to put a makeshift roof on the run and provide them with some shelter. At this point I surrender; I don’t think I can adequately describe to you (and I’m not sure you want me to) how sodden, muddy and filthy I am at this point. Suffice it to say, the pile of clothes is sitting right inside the backdoor, where I peeled them off, I contemplating just waiting for them to dry and then burning them – I’m not sure washing will work. I crawl into a hot bath and then basically pass out for the next couple of hours, after Goggling how I should go about getting the rest of my girls back in the coop. Turns out you should do so at dusk when they’re all groggy and want to go to sleep. I have to admit that it worked like a charm, except for the very last one who shrieked like I was murdering her.

So who’s buying the first round?

By the way Pyjama Gardener, remind me of this story the next time I say I miss the rain in England.

More adventures tomorrow, see you later!

No more pencils, no more books, no more…

So it’s another grey, chilly, rainy day in these parts. Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining, we need the rain and I’m not quite ready for the “heat” just yet, but for some reason days like today seem to zap me of any ambition to get up and out and do things. When I’m in these moods one of my favorite ways of procrastinating is to read (I think I’ve got myself convinced that it’s not really procrastinating if I’m working my mind) and every once in a while it turns into a productive endeavor of its own – like today!

In my mental bumbling about this morning I came across Horticulture Magazine’s  Garden How-To University and I know that I’ve mentioned Cornell University’s online Horticultural distance learning courses. I have no doubt that both of these courses are well worth the time and money but, the thing is, I’m sure for many of us spending the money for these courses just isn’t an option. So what’s the alternative? Sure there and books, magazines, text books, etc., but if you’re anything like me every now and then you like to take a class. And then it hit me — all the great “classes” I’ve taken for free through the power of the internet.

Now my first “go to” place is iTunes U, where you can find such courses as:

“Plant Growth and Development” by John Harada of UC Davis
“Southwest Yard and Garden Series” by New Mexico Stanten University
“Southwest Home Horticulture” by Urban Horticulture, College of Technology and Innovation, Arizona State University

I also subscribe to a number of podcasts that, although not “course based”, I find educational. These include:

Paul Wheaton’s Permaculture Podcast
You Bet Your Garden
The Self-Sufficient Gardener
The gardening and permaculture episodes on The Survival Podcast
Growing Your Grub

Then there is YouTube:
Camarillo Gardens
Thrifty Gardener
The Permaculture Channel
Eat The Weeds
Midwest Permaculture

These are just a few of the many, many videos available.

Other resources I’ve found useful include:
The Victory Garden
The UK’s Open University, Open Learn
MIT’s OpenCourseWare
The Open Education Database lists several courses in Botany
Wikiversity

Now if you would just like to sit down and read a book there are a number of them on my goodreads list that I recommend, and if you only have time to page through a magazine some of the ones I turn to are:

Texas Gardener
Horticulture Magazine
Fine Gardening
Mother Earth News

If you’ve found any great resources, please let me know so that I can add it to the list.

Have a lovely day.

Won’t you be my neighbor … a guide to companion planting

Here is a great companion planting chart produced by the IDEP Foundation. It will work for everyone, but is designed with the permaculturalist in mind. The image will take you to a page where you can download the chart as a PDF. Please read the accompanying article as it is informative.