Thursday, April 10, 2014

Raised bed..

I found two pieces of lumber under the house- left over from the deck construction 8 years ago. Perfect for a xeriscape raised bed in the back.

I'm on a sedum kick recently, but was having a hard time figuring out how to highlight them/ protect them from the fall leaves/weeds/garden detritus. I found the round blocks at the in-law's house last weekend- they came from my husband's grandmother's old house in Houston. I think they fit in perfectly, and I love how they will hold the sedums up high (until they trail over the edge).

Other plants in the bed include a Jerusalem Sage, a Beargrass (Nolina texana), and  two Octopus agave that looked wonderfully quirky (and unarmed..) as well as a Mexican honeysuckle, some rescued bluebonnets and an aloe plant.

The mystery of the blooming tree at Big Stacy is solved- it is a Mexican Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa). I found an old seed pod and the seeds were shiny and beautiful. They are reportedly poisonous, so I did not take them home..

After a day of sawing, drilling and wheelbarrowing I made myself sit for a minute, and saw lots of winged wildlife- an orange butterfly or two (perhaps a frittilary), multiple cardinals/blue jays and doves fighting over the birdfeeder, and a beautiful hummingbird eating at the coral honeysuckle. Of course, the only creature I got a picture of was this (kinda tattered) moth resting by the water spigot. It has elements of a wasp moth..

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New chicken coop..

Really, I thought it would take a few hours. Drilling, cutting, stapling- how long can it take? The answer is - all day. I made a new (and I think fairly fabulous though a bit off kilter) chicken coop for the juveniles..

Let me mention that I am new to powertools.  Growing up, we were proud when Dad learned to program the VCR, but the usual refrain when trying anything technical was "God-damnit!!!!". I really thought that backing up a trailer always entailed 20 attempts, near jackknifes and inevitable frustration. My mother was good at assembling furniture, but my father was (bless him) a wildly impractical disaster. He had his amazing points, being wise and cerebral and goofy, but the man still wouldn't be able to cook an egg if his life depended on it. My parents have become a bit craftier with time: while Mom was the first to wield a chainsaw (on her foot when I was 16, requiring a low-key "not doing anything exciting" visit to our old family practitioner for stitches), they both now glory in the ability to chop down hundreds of cedar trees on their 400 acres near Mason, TX. Nonetheless, I did not grow up in a household that used powertools to make things. Recently I have learned to use them, and it's refreshing/liberating/fun to make stuff (instead of surfing Craigslist for a scam artist handiman to do things for me). Above is my circular saw, my new friend. A few weeks ago I thought it needed a new blade, but then I realized that the blade needs to be tightened back on every once in a while. Having used a handsaw a few previously crafty times in my life it is liberating and miraculous to be able to take things that don't fit and cut them to the right side in seconds. I have little flash-nightmares of cutting myself, but do a mental "time out" (thank you Atul Gawande) every time I use it. Honestly, I'm most paranoid about the power cord- apparently cutting it is not uncommon.

Ironically, my saw-horse/lumber cutting table is... the toy work bench my mother bought my youngest for Christmas. It's a bit of a parable for how growing up in Northwest Hills/the suburbs (and a lot like my post-structuralist wa-wa-wa cultural studies at Brown was): everything is a simulacrum, a copy, a pastiche and parody. Except when you have to (really) make a (real) chicken coop for chickens that you hope don't die this time. The (toy) work bench has been wonderful- just the right size, with everything I need. It came with a (toy but real metal and kinda sharp including a real handsaw) tool box that I used through the day. The 90 degree ruler was perfect for drawing lines on the wood I was going to cut and.. my cuts were straight today!

Halfway through (thinking I'd get to build a raised bed for sure in the afternoon, ha!). A big duplex is being built in the lot next door. Today there was no Tejano, no gangsta-rap music blaring, but I still tucked myself around the corner in the breezeway of the addition because I was self-conscious about what I was doing. I need to get over that- the feeling that I am a dilettante, silly, not to be taken seriously. That feeling affects me at work, too, which is ironic since I am good at what I do and if I had a Y chromosome and grey hair I think my ideas would be taken more seriously. Hmm. Need to get over that-anyone have ideas how?

Voila- the finished product. The girls are snuggled in there tonight and I am tickled that it looks similar to the addition with it's shed roof and windows. The roost bars ROCK (all three chicks were happily perched there the last I saw them) and I'm excited to either put wheels on it (Mom is bringing some back from the ranch this weekend) or just move it to the (unwatered and weed strewn) bed above the stone retaining wall on the south side of the backyard. Once they make friends I hope all four chickens can spend their days in the chicken tractor (eating grubs and fertilizing my yard), and they'll use the coops for overnights.

If she's got a white head I think she's a Cookoo Maran, settling into the new coop this evening. Of course she might be a Silver Laced Wyandotte..

Ruby is kinda lazy. Instead of hopping 6 inches into her own private coop, she inevitably snuggles down under the coop. After her terrible cold (that killed sweet Red) I finally heard her crow and talk this afternoon. I don't think I'd heard her since she got sick (perhaps she had laryngotracheitis, a viral infection that can prevented by vaccinations.. which my new chicks have had..). At first I thought she was making the sound chickens make when they lay an egg, but no such luck. I think she was sniffing the chicken tractor and loudly voicing her disapproval of the new gals. I hope they make friends in the end..

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What the hail?!

Green leaf confetti in the square foot garden this morning.. After the sun came out most of the plants straightened up, but they looked pretty pathetic at first.

Luckily the new 6 week old chicks snuggled in for the night and awoke unfazed by the storm. I couldn't help myself and got a variety. Ruby the elder has become jealous and has tried to peck at them so I am keeping them separate. I'm building a new little coop (for the new gals to use overnight)- love using  my powertools! I'll post pics of the coop tomorrow..

This gal is either a Coockoo Maran or Silver Wyandotte (I got one of each and they look similar as chicks). I loosened the top of the cardboard box in the car as I was driving and she popped up into my lap. Maybe I'll call her Lightning McQueen..

I call this gal Houdini. She's a Speckled Sussex and escaped the tractor yesterday until I reinforced the hardware cloth. It took me 20 minutes to catch her..

Sunday, April 6, 2014

... and the IPad gets thrown out the car window..

At 75 miles per hour, down IH35 on the way to San Antonio. This involved endless nagging from my eldest after he lost IPad privileges early in the drive, ultimatums from my husband, then the moment of truth as my husband unrolled the window and tossed his IPad out. We're not usually a dramatic family.. but that was impressive. In principle I'm happy to have less media in our lives and more reason to have the kids playing outside, but I might have picked a different way to make it happen...

On to garden things.. Happy to get April showers the last two days. No time to do any significant work, but I got some bright pictures to add..

Happy moth on wild onions last week. Species unknown..

The big poppies have woken up!

He's got the world in his eyes..

I need to expand the xeriscape bed into that big patch of dead grass. This is the only remaining purple bearded iris from the batch I bought a few years ago. I'm hoping it gets big enough to divide and spread..