Monday, October 20, 2014

Our first egg!

One of our girls finally delivered an egg! And due to it's greenish tint, we know exactly who's responsible. Betsy Ross, the American,  (also known as an "Easter Egger") is our only chicken who does not lay brown eggs. So Betsy wins the prize for laying the first egg in the flock.

Poultry word of the day: Nest egg: savings (well, not in our case, at least not for awhile!)

It's greenish, so it must be Betsy's!

Betsy is the colorful bird on the right.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to get free mulch and help your local waterways at the same time

One of the permaculture principles that I continue to work toward more fully integrating into my garden is to reduce importing energy and materials from outside our property. For the last couple of springs, I have purchased hay bales to use as mulch in the garden. It's locally sourced, and I organize my neighbors to have a large truckload delivered to our block, so it's a fairly efficient and cost-effective way of getting mulch for lots of people.

Still, I've been thinking of how I can use what I have or can get my hands on locally that will serve the same purpose. This weekend I found a great source of mulching material that is nearby and easy to gather. You of course know of the "manna from the sky" that happens in the autumn, as the leaves fall to the ground. However, our backyard doesn't have a lot of trees, and our neighbors leaves mostly fall into their yards.

But as I looked around my street, I noticed that some of my neighbors were piling their leaves on the curb to be collected by the city. I also saw a lot of leaves in the gutters, just waiting for a rain to wash them in the storm sewers and out into our lakes. Here in Madison, we have a "Don't leaf our lakes" campaign to encourage people not to put leaves in the gutters because they add significant source of pollution to our lakes.

So this afternoon in about an hour, I accomplished to wonderful things; I easily collected a lot of leaves that had gathered in the gutters, and for my small part, remove these from the potential of washing into the lakes.

I found it very easy to rake leaves into piles right there in the gutters. Way easier than raking the lawn! Some of the leaves were a little wet, and I had to scrape them off the pavement, but it was a relatively easy task. Then I brought out my trusty tarp, and loaded it up from the piles I made.
I then hauled my leaves into the backyard. The tarp had grommet holes and I put a long nylon rope through several of them on one side. I was able to loop the rope around both my shoulders and just haul them like they were a big, heavy cape behind me.
I dumped them in a corner of our back yard, where I will run over them over with our electric lawnmower, put them into compost bins, add coffee grounds, mix and wait for the magic to happen before using this compost next spring for mulch around all my veggie plants.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Farewell, Floyd

We said goodbye to Floyd this morning. Thanks to social media and a network of fellow farmers, we found a home for our silkie rooster. Marissa spent some time with the flock yesterday, and this morning, packed Floyd up in a box and brought him to Jay's friend, Richard's house in Madison.  Richard then drove up to his farm near Wonewoc, Wis. with Floyd.

I'm sorry to see Floyd go, but I'm gad that tomorrow morning we'll hear muffled clucking, but no crowing. We may replace Floyd with another silkie, this time making sure it's a female. Marissa is checking into our options.

 April 9, 2014

 April 27, 2014
June 12, 2014

 Aug. 17, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Garden party success

It was an absolute pleasure and delight to participate in my friend Megan's first (and hopefully annual) Summer Garden Party. I've known Megan, also known as The Creative Vegetable Gardener, for several years, and have learned a lot from the classes she's taught around town.

We started at Megan's new home (only been there three months!) where 40 people brought their favorite pot luck brunch dishes. People got to know one another as guests arrived on a perfect summer morning. Megan introduced herself and the three other gardeners, myself, Janet and Brian.

Gardener, friend and blogger Megan Cain.

Megan talked about her garden, what they had done and what they plan to do, and then we drove over to Janet's home which is just a few blocks from our house.

Janet gave us a tour of her front, side and back yards. Janet isn't afraid to try something new, and is an avid perennial food gardener, and has lots of fruit trees and bushes throughout her urban lot.

One of the neatest features in Janet's back is a solar photo-voltaic array that doubles as a shelter, and in the summer, she uses it to dry garlic.

Janet's back yard is a lush canvass of annual and perennial food production. Except for the paths, every square inch is growing something edible or beautiful.

After spending an hour in Janet's corner of paradise, we moved one block over and one block down to Brian's home. Janet told us she "doesn't move dirt" to create what she wants. Brian told us "I move dirt, lots and lots of dirt." He's not afraid to dig and dig until the landscape works for him and the plants he wants to grow.

Brian also keeps bees, is about to erect a permanent greenhouse and is also fond of experimenting. While he's trying to figure out what to do with his front terrace, he's keeping it productive with cover crops such as winter rye.
Brian introducing people in front of his house.

Brian and I both collect coffee grounds from the same cafes on Madison's east side. He piles them in a cool and shady corner of his lot, where red wiggler worms turn it into fantastic compost. Like me, he's still not sure what to do about all those coffee filters.

After spending an hour or so in Brian's yard, we moved one more block over and a few more blocks down to our house. I hurried ahead to greet people as they arrived.

Waiting for guests to arrive. The terrace wild flower and butterfly garden is looking great in its second year.

I gave a tour of the front yard orchard, explaining how we sheet-mulched it and what trees and fruit bushes we are growing.
Showing the side yard and perennial herb garden.
There were only two gardeners with chicken coops on the tour, Megan also had one. As I'm seeing more and more coops here in Madison, I'm now realizing we've build more of a palace than a coop :)

Oh. Boy.

Last week Jay woke up with a start. It didn't take long for me to rise out of a deep sleep.

"What is that sound?" immediately followed by simultaneous thoughts, "Oh oh."

Still in our jammies, we went outside to the coop. The five chickens were milling about in the run, but no one made a sound. Still, it was unmistakable, we heard our first cock-a-doodle-doo. One of those five birds was a rooster.

When we spoke with Matt and Marissa about it, they had heard it too. Marissa said she heard it and asked Matt what kind of animal was "crying" outside. It didn't take long for them to realize what was making the noise.

Saturday morning we didn't hear anything, but Sunday morning it started again.

We went outside but as soon as we arrived the bird quieted down.

Monday morning Jay attempted to get video of it, sneaking his camera around a corner. It was too dark to see who was making the noise and as soon as it saw him, it quieted down. It was as if it knew it wasn't supposed to crow.

By Wednesday, however, he got some video, the proof we needed to know that it was Flora, now known as Floyd, who was making the noise.

Floyd is a Silkie - and we knew the risks when we got him. Silkies can not be gender identified when they are chicks, while the other breeds we have can be gender identified to a 95 percent accuracy.

So now we have a noisy rooster that we have to get rid of. I have a friend who has a friend with a  farm, but we haven't heard if they want the bird.

Do you have a farm? Do you want a Silkie rooster? Let me know - quick. Floyd has to go by end of this weekend!

Flora, now known as Floyd, needs a home.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Community garden

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer garden party: breakfast and tours of four urban gardens

Summary: this garden party starts with a pot luck breakfast, followed by tours of four vegetable gardens on Madison's east side, including mine!
Saturday, August 16
10am – 2pm 

  • A relaxing and fun morning to connect with other gardeners.
  • Leave the day feeling inspired to go create magic in your own garden.
  • Fun giveaways from The Creative Vegetable Gardener online store at each garden stop!

Schedule for the day:
10-11:30am ~ Potluck in the first front yard garden on the east side of Madison (near Habitat Re-Store). Address will be provide upon registration. Coffee and other breakfast drinks provided, you bring a dish to share, followed by a tour of the first yard.

11:30am – 2pm ~ Drive 10 minutes to another east side neighborhood and tour three gardens within walking distance of each other, INCLUDING MY FRONT AND BACK YARDS.

The gardens feature chickens, a front yard food forest, hugelkultur beds, fences created with old bike wheels, fig trees and other surprises!

I would love to see you join this very cool (it might be hot!) garden tour party!

This event is limited to 25 people. RSVP on the event page here to be put on the guest list.

Chicken phrase of the day: Don't put all your eggs in one basket: Proverb cautioning against committing too many assets until they are in hand.