Sunday, May 30, 2010

It ain't easy being green

I'm beginning to notice a trend. I can't speak for others, but I'm noticing that for me, being a sassy, city girl gardener means getting comments from random people that question my farming abilities. Like when I was in the feed store buying my chicks and the farmer behind me in line, purchasing 25 of each of several breeds compared to my three, asked if I had named them already. The same farmer wrapped up our conversation by saying that it'd be just a matter of time before I started painting their toenails. And then today, when my neighbor leaned over the fence to check out the progress we've made on our incredible coop (pictures to come soon!), he asked if I was building a coop or an apartment. These off-the-cuff comments don't faze me much, but I'm wondering if they come with the urban farming territory. I was never in 4-H, I didn't grow up with chickens, I don't live in a rural environment, nor have I ever. I wear artsy galoshes, dangly earrings and a bohemian fabric garden tool belt, and just in general, probably don't look much like a farmer besides the dirt under my nails and stains on my jeans. But, there is more to me than meets the eye. I've done my homework – I've accumulated enough gardening and chicken books to start a library. Plus, enthusiasm goes a long way. An expert I am not, but I'm not as green as I look.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Honey Bee Mosaic

After I got the flagstone path installed for my wild flower garden, I discovered that we needed one more stone to make for a smoother transition across the grass. So to fill the space and honor the pollinators that I hope to attract, I made a honey bee mosaic stepping stone with tumbled stained glass. Here is the stone from start to finish.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cutlery Plant Markers

If you read my blog, you've heard me say before that I've been known to enjoy instant gratification. But my garden is teaching me to slow it down and be patient. There is nothing better than sowing seeds and discovering a little green sprout pushing up through the soil.

Right now, I'm being patient with my wild flower path garden. Since I gave all of the new plants the space they need for their future growth, a lush flower bed it is not...yet! I have visions of this garden being dense and bursting with blooms. In fact, I left the little colored picture plant markers next to a few of the plants, so when I walk down the path, I'm reminded of the beauty that is yet to come. Many were recommended by GreatPlant Picks, so I have high hopes. So far, I've planted:
To keep myself busy while I wait for everything to fill in and look beautiful, I've taken to make cutlery plant markers. I was first inspired when I saw this post on Willi's blog. But like most crafty things I see, I think to myself, I can make that! A trip to the Goodwill left me with a bag full of old forks, knives, and spoons for under $5. Of course, they're not all actually vintage, but it's the overall look that really appealed to me anyway, not the fact that they were actually antique.

Since I tend to be a pretty artsy girl, I sat down and hand-painted a bunch of the spoons and knives. A little acrylic paint, a thin paint brush, and some clear sealer will go a long way.

The forks are really my favorite though and are very easy to make. I found a thin sheet of aluminum at my local hardware store for around $10. I cut it into thin strips by scoring the metal with an Exacto knife and snapping the strips off the main piece of metal. Make sure to wear gloves to protect your fingers from the raw edge. Then, I wrote the name of each plant on a strip with a sharpie and wedged it in between the tines of a fork. The perfect afternoon project for an antsy girl, waiting for her flowers to bloom.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Buyer Beware

It's week seven and the girls are getting plump, feathered out, and seem generally content. But at this point, I am almost literally counting down the hours until we get the coop constructed and get the chicks outside. Jake and I thought that it would probably be a good idea for me to write a post about what life is like living with chicks in your spare bath tub when they're seven weeks old so that those of you who might be considering getting chickens really know what you're getting into. Don't get me wrong, the experience is delightful and I would make the same decision in a heartbeat. Chickens have very unique and charming personalities and I look forward to seeing them everyday. But it has its downsides, which I think you should know.

Chicks are typically raised inside or in a brooder with a heat lamp until the chicks or pullets (young hens) are about eight weeks old or are fully feathered out. The cardboard-box-in-a-tub setup has worked out really well as far as the brooder size to chick size ratio is concerned. But when they hit about five and a half to six weeks, I began spending a lot of time fretting about the chicks' growing lack of space and about where I could transport them if I decided to try and find a bigger space. Create a bigger brooder (where, I don't know) for one more week?

Because they're bigger and more active, they do an incredible job tearing up the new clean newspaper and bedding I lay down. At this point, I clean out the brooder every day. And as soon as I get everything nice and cleaned up, I hear their feet happily scratching it all up again. I can't blame them – that's what chickens do. But as long as they're in such tight quarters, with so much energy to spare, it's what I have to do and it's starting to get old.

Jake and I will be furiously working to finish the coop this weekend and next week, I will start gradually easing them into their new digs. To help get them prepared, I've been turning the light off in the brooder at night. They are a little frantic at first being in the dark, but they eventually settle in to sleep for the night. Like I said, I've enjoyed many aspects of hosting these house guests, but I can't wait to take back my space. I'm sure my little hens will be much happier as well.

*Thanks to my student, Maddy, for the hand-drawn chicks and bees. She knows me well!