Friday, March 4, 2016

Wide angles, blooms and bugs..

Yellow irises blooming..

Mexican plum quickly putting out leaves

Blooms from the cherry laurel

and mountain laurel

Homestead verbena spreading far and wide

Henry Duelberg salvia happy to have skipped winter

Volunteer tropical sage is brittle (when I rake branches break off easily) but rebounds and self seeds elsewhere easily... Don't plant if you want it to stay put..

Sages, coral honeysuckle and 4 nerve daisies aglow


Less welcome aphids on a native Texas milkweed. Waiting for lady bugs to clean up..

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Chickens and gardening..

First, what I do when I don't garden...

What a short, warm winter. Between the drought and my chickens my backyard began to feel like a dustbowl last fall, so I retreated inside to knit (another way to be creative) on the days it felt cold. I had lots of inspiration (thanks to the amazing website Ravelry) and drawers full of yarn that needed to be used and so I knit and knit and knit... I'm not a "crafty" person in other ways, but I'm happy to have become competent enough to make small pretty things for people I care for..

Striped Noro scarf for my youngest.. 

Patterns have the loveliest names- this one is "The Age of Brass and Steam" shawl. Spontaneously gifted to my niece at dinner when she said she liked it. Wrapped like a thick scarf trailing to the shoulder she made it look glamorous..

Finished baby set for a dear work friend. The cap is my favorite- called a "Sweet Norweigan baby cap".

Literary bunny for the same friend's baby.

Another baby set for our former nanny who now lives in Chicago. She was wonderful and even still sends birthday gifts for the boys though she moved two years ago.

Lace trim chemo hat in a soft silk/merino blend for an aunt. She also knits so I was glad to send her love in a language she understands..

Holiday fingerless gloves for family. The bottom ones were for my husband's grandmother who says she's always cold in her nursing home. 

I even found uses for my left overs- a gift bag in a bit of cashmere/merino blend to hold earrings :)

Post holiday hat for my husband, modeled by my oldest :)

And then I made a couple of items for myself before it started to get warm.

A nubby asymmetrical kerchief scarf in a wool/bamboo blend. I fell into the trap of starting with a leftover skein and having to buy more to complete the project.

Detailed cabled mittens made from yarn my parents brought back from Yorkshire.

So I was productive, though my garden was ignored. But it has warmed up over the last few weeks (too early!!) and so I've been going outside to take stock. And it looked grim.

My garden had become a series of wire enclosures with chicken wire protecting more and more plants from my chickens' trampling and eating. They had developed a taste for herbs and veggies that included: chard, kale, tomatoes (even the leaves which they are supposed to not like), peas, mint, dill, fennel and more. Those did not surprise me too much and I was ok fencing off the raised beds. But they also began to eat plumbago, salvias, society garlic, poppy plants, and Turks cap leaves. And they developed an unbreakable habit of digging most of my other plants up so they could scratch for grubs or other treats at their roots. They damaged skullcaps, 4 nerve daisies, lambs ear, blackfoot daisies and other fairly new plants and even killed an soft leaf yucca I planted as a barrier plant. They also ate and dug up the majority of the St. Augustine in the back which was barely alive after minimal watering and a grub infestation. 

My in-laws gave us a power washer for the holidays and we refinished our decks a few weeks ago. The thought of them getting covered in chicken poop again finally drove me to action and the creation of "chicken tunnels" to enclose the ladies (the idea was from a few chicken blogs). They consist of fencing curved into a hoop placed into the ground, and they lead to an enclosure where they can dustbathe and peck happily. They seem to have settled into it well- and were happily protected when a hawk swooped over our yard and checked them out from a tree this evening. Yay hawk (there are a few that I see on telephone poles in the neighborhood and they always make me happy) and yay safe chickens, too :)

Here are pics below:

Enclosure in the foreground, "chunnels" leading to the main coop in the distance. I have not had much success with plants in the bed they are in- the main thing that grows is a Carolina snailseed vine. I wouldn't mind encouraging it now to grow along the trellis to provide the ladies more shade.

Proud hawk on one of my walks. Everytime I see one I use it as a visual cue to stop, breathe and be present and just pay attention like they are doing.

The warm days have motivated me to finally replace my (sad) water wasting St. Augustine in the back with something better adapted to the area. The chicken damage made removal easy- the leafless runners that remained pulled up easily with a lawn aerator. On the southern side there were no weeds either since they were eaten as soon as they sprouted. The northern patch took more time since I had to manually remove Bermuda grass that had invaded- but it satisfied my OCD tendencies to dig deep to get the rhizomes underneath. I was impressed by how deep the roots could go- 6 to 9 inches in some places. 

Wide angle.. no grass yet.

I chose Thunderturf to replace the St Augustine since it consists of native grasses that do well in thin or clay soil. It is a combination of buffalograss, curly mesquite and blue grama. My parents used it to seed the yard around their place in Mason and while it isn't as soft as St Augustine it's soft enough to go barefoot in. It has survived well despite blistering summers and watering every 3-4 weeks at best. I've mixed in a thin amount of compost, spread the seeds, raked and walked and am now watering and waiting.. In other years February would be too early but I think this year it is better to get it established early before the heat (and drought) set in again. Once it establishes I'm looking forward to mowing and watering less. Perhaps I'll let the chickens out at some point.. but maybe in little pens so they can work on weeds that develop :)