Monday, December 29, 2008

Yes, it's time

Here it is, the best time of the gardening year!  New seed catalogs, a warm fire, and greens bravely growing in the (finally) chilly air.  Do you realize it will be time to plant garden peas in only about 5 weeks???

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas

A fake palm tree simply begs for fake fish ornaments, don't you think?  I only wish I had taken a photo of the chickens cleaning the last of the meat off the turkey!  Merry, merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bountiful berries

I went out looking for a different side of the garden that might reflect the holiday season, and I found  . . . berries.   Big black berries on a sabal minor palm that flourishes in my wet feet bed (and is native to our area), bright red berries on a yaupon holly that doesn't mind wind and salt spray (also a native), and glossy berries on a highly adapted indian hawthorne.  Now if only I had even a smidgen of artistic talent to turn some of these berries into holiday decorations! 

The hens love the indian hawthorne berries, and when they were free ranging they often would get so excited eating them from the shed porch that they would step off into mid air over the bush and fall ungracefully through the bush to the ground.  Being hens, they would then hop up and do it all again.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Buzzard head; new status; frosty garden

Here is the promised photo of Lena in molt (when chickens lose their feathers as the hours of sunlight get shorter in the winter).  Her poor naked head is covered only by the "pins" that hold her new feathers.   It appears that the new feathers actually push out the old ones, as she never really was bald:  just went from feathered to pin head.  The others are losing head and tail feathers as well, and the coop looks like someone got eaten and left only feathers behind.  

In other chicken news, Expresso, the rooster, is really starting to shake up the nice, comfortable routine of the hens.  He now insists on roosting on the top bar inside the coop at night, and takes up the space of two hens.  The three who used to roost there (Pauline, Hilda, and Louise) also want to be on that bar.  And, of course, Lena has always roosted beside Expresso, ever since she was 2 days old, so she wants to be up there too.  The roost won't hold them all, so we have a nightly drama.  Last night 4 of them were squeezed onto the roost, with one poor hen (Pauline, surprisingly) left out.  She was trying to spend the night in the nest box, but I can't allow that (don't want those nice, clean nest boxes getting all messy).  Hopefully they will work out some new plan that gives everyone a night time friend.  There just is no room to expand the top roost!

Finally, here are some photos showing how heavy the frost  has been on the garden this week (Arugula, Collards, and Italian Parsley).  So far everything has popped right back, but some of the lettuce will probably be lost soon if I do not come up with a row cover of some sort for the really cold night.  Beautiful salad of mixed lettuce, russian kale, and new carrots last night!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Holiday fruits and flowers are here

While I was out of town for Thanksgiving, my Christmas cactus burst into full flower.  Since it does this like clockwork every November, it now is officially my Thanksgiving cactus.  I wish you could see the hot pink pistil and ring around the mouth of the inner flower.  I leave these cacti outside all spring, summer and fall, and bring them in just as thing start to get really cold.  Apparently that is the secret to getting flowers out of them, because they put on quite a show.  Too much water is the biggest enemy of these plants, so the fact that I tend to forget they exist most of the time actually is a good thing.

Here it is, the first tangerine off my coastal North Carolina tree!  The two we have harvested weighed just under a half a pound each.  The peel just pops off in your hand, they have almost no seeds (0 to 1 seed per segment), they are very sweet and very juicy.  I can't believe that they have grow here, outside, and produced!  Lets hope the winters stay mild, as now I can't imagine not having fresh tangerines to eat and orangequats for eating and cooking (I made orangequat chicken last night for dinner).

This morning the frost is heavy on the vegetable garden.  I have not yet put together any season extenders to protect the plants, so we will see how they hold up.  I will let you know in the next blog.  The hens have started to molt.  Poor Lena looks like a buzzard with nothing but the pins of new feathers on her head.   I'll try and get a photo or two.