Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The birds (chickens) and the bees

Lena laid her first egg, giving us our first day with 4 eggs in the nest at one time!  It is tiny compared to the others, as you can see, but perfect and beautiful.  Despite my hopes, it is a pale brown egg, not blue or green.  The Barred Rock in her won out over the Ameraucana.   Expresso, the young rooster, still lives with us.  For now he has found a place in our hearts (although this will change quickly if he gets rooster mean).  Poor boy, he has reached the point where he really, really, really wants to . . . well . . . be a rooster.  The hens, however, see it differently.  He has, as a result, developed his own technique; we call it "ambush."  Very, very funny around the backyard these days.

The bees are out working hard on the new fall flowering weeds.  This one is on a late rosemary blossom.  This was a very lucky shot, and I love it.  Notice that her wings are ragged?  This must be an older bee, working hard to the end.  The yard also is full of butterflies, and the one in the photo was particularly pretty.  The underside of the wings is chocolate brown with large white spots!  

Finally, the pitiful gardens.  As you know, my first fall planting died from lack of water.  My second planting was lost to wandering chickens in the vegetable beds earlier this week.  I have just made a third planting of kale, arugula, beets, carrots, and onion seeds.  However, I must be away for almost two weeks, so the chance that they will get enough water to survive is slim.  I will be quite put out if I have no fall garden, but it looks like that may be a possibility.  It will not be too late to put in lettuce when I get back, and I may even be able to find some leftover transplants somewhere for one last, late try.  I do have the 4 brocolli and 4 collard transplants that have survived, so that is a little something.

I love this new, cooler weather, even if we only have it for a week.  The change of seasons into fall has always been my favorite time of year.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Thyme time, big bites, green tangerine

As I went out this morning, my first thought was that I would not find anything worth discussing for this week's blog, as this is the slowest time for my gardens. In fact, however, I had to really weed out the photos I took, as I found moon flowers and balloon flowers, pineapple guava fruit, a half ripe melon on a vine planted by a passing bird, spiny seed pods, and Rose of Sharon flowers in full glory. The photos I chose for you show three types of thyme, two tangerines getting ready to ripen, and a collard plant missing big chunks of leaf where a hungry cabbage moth larvae had dinner.
The thyme is ready to harvest and dry carefully in a low over to use in sauces and on fish. The thyme itself stays green much, if not all of the year, so sometimes I use it fresh and sometimes dried. Note that one variety is short and hugs the ground, another tall and upright. You can choose your thyme for both taste and stature!
The pineapple guava fruit, along with the tangerines and orangequats, are starting to swell, and they all look beautiful. It has been so dry that many of the young fruit have dropped off each of these trees/shrubs, but luckily a few remain. I hope that they are able to ripen this winter, and that the plants themselves continue to survive our colder days. A lemon tree has now been added, and the grapefruit has struggled back again from the roots, and is now about 18 inches tall. It is fun to watch these tropicals thrive in my not so tropical setting. I am hoping that our winters stay mild for awhile, as these get fully established. Older trees sometimes survive winter temperatures that would kill younger trees.
Finally, the brocolli and collard plants have been visited by those lovely yellow butterflies that leave behind eggs to hatch into cabbage moth caterpillars: voracious eaters of all things in the cole crop family (cabbage, collards, brocolli, kale and such). The caterpillars grow quickly, and eat more and more each day. I treat with Bt, a disease of caterpillars, when the chomping begins. You can purchase Bt at many garden stores. It works, and has the added benefit of not harming any other insect.
We had very little wind, and almost no rain, from Hannah. It is dry in all my beds, and I have been waiting to seed the garden until we have some moisture in the soil. If there is no rain this week, I will have to flood the garden from the rain barrels, as time to plant is running out.
The chickens and bees send their regards.