This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. But Skippy always stood by me and was a great friend. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps and garden with me. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees and berry bushes, chickens and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

pumpkin vases for the Thanksgiving table

flowers in a pumpkin These are a couple of pumpkins from my garden. I don't think they're good eating pumpkins, so I used then for vases on my Thanksgiving table. It was a wild Day as we had 16 of us for dinner - 14 staying overnight with us. We had such fun cooking, visiting and eating.

Anyway, the pumpkin vases worked well. I cut off the tops them stuck the flower stems into the seeds and fiber, then added water. The seeds and fibers did a good job of holding the stems in place.

two pumpkins pumkin vase pumpkin vases on thanksgiving table

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

spoiled chickens

I think I am going to spoil my chickens. Why not.

They've just been shipped across the country (from Iowa) as young, barely feathered hens, they have nice coop, but we're having a bitter November cold snap here in New England. Its 25*F and windy as can be. I know experienced chicken keepers tell me they don't need extra heat, but it seems a bit of spoiling may be OK for their transition. I'm running an incandecsant bulb (40 watt) for the chickens so they have about 15 hours of light (about 6 am to 9 pm) to encourage winter egg laying. This adds some heat. But I'd like to add a bit more heat to the coop. I've tried putting a tarp over the coop to break this wind and contain warmth, but the humidity went WAY up, so NO tarp. (I have a nice little remote thermometer and humidity meter that I like for monitoring the girls' situation.) They seem to like the red heat lamp that I have been using a couple hours now and them. I've ordered a ceramic 100 watt heater that should arrive soon that I think may be nicer. I think I will use continue to use the heat lamp (red or ceramic) below about 30*F for a couple hours in the evening until they are bigger and start laying.

The hens have been spending the nights together huddled in a nest box or on the coop floor. I think if they were warm enough they be on the nice roosting bar.

They have been eating very well. They have free access to pellets. I give them an ear of corn and a few leaves of lettuce every day. Occasional raisins, cottage cheese, even some earthworms I find for them. After three days in their run on nice grass, they've eaten the all the grass and sctatched up all the worms. Yesterday, I let them forage in the yard for an hour. They loved it. After an hour, they wandered back into their coop and settled down to rest. I opened their door today but it wa so cold and windy they didn't want to go out.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

egg watch

No eggs yet today, but I'm keeping my eyes out....

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its snowing!

... our first snow flurries! ...

my new chickens

This is Ginger, my Araucana chicken. She will lay blue/green eggs! ginger - an araucana chicken IMG_5433

And this is Penny, a Black Australorp. She is supposed to be very easygoing, a very good layer of dark brown eggs, and will have black feathers with green highlights. penny -  a black australorp chicken IMG_5448

And last, but not least, Bertha, a Light Brahma. She will be BIG and hardy, and beautiful and will lay a few light brown eggs now and then. bertha - light brahma chicken IMG_5447

All three are between 18 and 22 weeks old. Pullets. Right now all are the same size, about as big as a large pigeon. When full grown, Ginger will be 5-6 lbs, Penny will be 6-7 lbs, and Bertha will be huge: 10-14 pounds! I am looking forward to their eggs.

Suzie keeps an eye out over the flock. I'm working on training the two dogs that these are pets. Copy (2) of IMG_5462

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Friday, November 22, 2013

salt marsh hay mulch for my garlic bed

Copy of photo 33 Its been getting chilly, so yesterday I brought a bale of salt marsh hay to my community plot and spread a good layer on my garlic bed. Suzie thought this was really fun! Skippy gave her a look and tried to tell her it was not a place for a puppy.

Copy of photo

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

today's harvest

Copy of photo 6

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

the chickens are home

Today I picked up my 3 new chickens from the local post office. They all came in one small box. They were clucking away on the bench at the Post Office.

chickens 1

They are pullets (females, hens 18-22 weeks old). All are about the size of a large pigeon. I think they'll grow quite a bit more. One of the breeds I got grows to 10 lbs and I can't imagine she's much more than 3 or 4 lbs right now. They are supposed to start laying in a week or two.

When I brought them home, I opened their box in their new coop. They immediately began to explore, scratch and eat what they could. I had scattered feed pellets and some chicken treats. They found their waterer. One of the chickens dug up a nice worm! Slirp. They seemed very comfy in their new home.

Only Ginger, the Auracana, went up the ramp and into the hen house at dusk. Bertha the big white Brahma and Penny the black Australorp, settled down to sleep in the run. So I picked them up and put them inside. Ahh - they noticed the feed bucket inside and the roosting bar and the reading lamp. How nice, they seemed to say.

I was worried about the young birds in the cold weather. Emily wrote that they are fine and don't need special chicken comforters or heated blankets. I called McMurray Hatchery and they repeated what Emily said. They are fully feathered out and don't need special attention, no matter how cold. As long as the hen house has no drafts. I said what if it's 10*F - she said they are OK. I said what if it's 0*, she said they are OK .... (She said I could check and see if they are huddling together and look cold and if so, plug in a heat lamp.)

Right now its, 31*F inside the hen house, and 27* outside. Brrr. I trust the 3 young hens are happy and sleeping soundly. (I know I'll be sleeping under a warm comforter!) roosting chickens 3

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

the chickens are in the mail .....

I got my delivery confirmation this afternoon. I hope the mailman takes good care of them.

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storing dahlia tubers

Our new house doesn't have a basement or attic. Or a garage. It has a beautiful view and great location. After I dug my dahlia tubers I realized I had no place to store them for the winter. Dahlias need to be at about 50*F and low humidity to overwinter. After almost a month of sitting in our house at almost 70*F, my dahlia tubers were starting to sprout. So, today I brought them up to my parents' house. My dad will put them in his basement with his dahlia tubers.

One of the things I would like to work into the renovations we will do on our new house is to build a small basement, or root cellar. Some vegetables do fine being stored in the kitchen at 70*, like sweet potatoes and dried chilies. Some are best in a refrigerator, like beets and carrots. But the onions, garlic, potatoes, squashes and dahlias really need the cellar. We have a space that should work for a cellar and hopefully we'll be able to build this by next winter.

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

getting ready for the chickens

My 3 chickens ship tomorrow! They should arrive here on Wednesday. I'll have to go down to the post office and pick them up.

Today I read that chicken food should be inside the coop to keep it dry. I'm working on getting a hook inside to hang the feeder.

Also read I'll need a light to extend daylight time, and a heat lamp. Someone recommended a ceramic heater instead of a heat lamp. Seems like its going to get cold next week, so I'll get these installed soon. I'm going by the Essex Coop (Topsfield MA) tomorrow and will see what they recommend.

For food I have a big bag of pellets ready. I'm planning to pick up some wheat and corn to go with it. I have a lot of kale in my garden and am hoping the chickens will help me eat this.

Give me advice!!

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

new chicken coop

Since I'm waiting to start my vegetable garden - I'm getting some chickens!

Copy of IMG_5376 Today we set our new chicken coop into place in our new back yard. Its a small (3 x 4 feet), sturdy coop with an attached run. I've ordered 3 pullets for arrival midweek from McMurray Hatchery. Exciting! I hope I can figure out how to care for them.

The 3 pullets (hens 18-22 weeks old) I ordered are three different varieties: Black Australorp, Araucana/Ameraucana, and light brahma. I did a lot of reading on different varieties and in the end, not quite sure why I selected the ones I did. They look nice! I want to raise chickens for eggs, to eat bugs (especially the prolific ticks we have) and to help provide manure for the vegetable garden. The Araucana is a very good layer with beautiful green or blue eggs. The Australorp is gentle and also a good layer. Brahma's are heavily feathered, winter hardy, regal and beautiful. All should be good for our cold winter around the corner, I hope.

We placed the coop in a sheltered location near to our back door. Next spring, I think we'll move it down closer to the vegetable garden, but the current location will be easier for me to get to if we have a lot of snow this winter. We leveled the coop well, then I added pine shavings inside the coop and nesting boxes. I hung the waterer in the run and the feeder in the coop. Tomorrow we will put some poultry wire around the base for predator protection (I hear the Fisher cats are the worst around here). Then we will wait for the birds.... I hope they will like my dogs..... and vice versa ...

Copy of IMG_5366

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

planting garlic

Copy of photo 13 I was late to plant, but finally planted 75 cloves of garlic. Less than my usual 100 cloves, but all were very big and I spaced them so they used the whole bed that I usually use for 100 cloves. The variety is mostly "Music", a second year planting.

I planted the garlic in my community plot. I've decided to keep my plot another year. Next year, I'll work on getting my new home garden going, but since the soil is so hard, that will take some time.

Copy of photo 24 Copy of photo 14 Copy of photo 25

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

compacted soil

I tried to turn the soil in the area I marked out for my new garden, but its very dense and compacted. I couldn't get the shovel in, much let turn the entire area I was thinking of. So --- change of plan: I will wait for spring and then construct raised beds and bring in new soil. That will give me the entire winter to plan.

I have a great new (old actually) book I am reading: Bob Thompson's , The New Victory Garden. The photos of his garden and its rich soil are amazing! To me a garden book should be about photos of dirt...

















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