Sunday, June 28, 2009


Peas growing up the fence around our backyard

We've been enjoying fresh peas for the past week. I adore fresh peas! And it seems like there's never enough peas, no matter how much I plant. Fresh peas are an entirely different breed of cat than those nasty, mushy, canned things we were served frequently in the school cafeteria. If those are the only peas a person has ever had, it's no wonder folks hate peas!

A small portion of the peas I just picked

Years ago (close to 30!) when we were first married and living in Anderson, Indiana, our little neighbor boy, who was three years old at the time, would often come over to visit us from across the street. One day I was working in my garden behind the house, and I asked him if he liked peas. "NO!" was his answer. I told him my peas tasted like candy and talked him into trying one, fresh-picked and raw. He loved them! I was told by his folks years later, that he still talks about his introduction to fresh peas, and still eats fresh peas.

I've got several beds of peas growing this year. I planted a long row of them along the fence that keeps the dogs in our backyard. These peas are looking wonderful, and amazingly, they haven't been touched by the resident groundhogs. The peas that are growing closer to the groundhog hole seem to disappear at an alarming rate, yet I'm still able to get a few peas from those beds.

Dwarf gray sugar snap peas that I planted for sprouts

Something I've been doing the last few years is to grow peas for sprouts, which make a delicious addition to salads and stir fries. I read somewhere that the best peas for sprouts were "dwarf gray sugar snap" peas. I've been planting these the past few years and the sprouts are very tasty. I plant a row of peas fairly close together, and when they're a couple inches high I take the scissors to them and cut them off, leaving about a half inch of stem. They re-grow, at which time you can cut them off again. You can continue doing this, (also called "cut and come again"), or you can let them grow and produce peas after a few cuttings.

Fresh Pea Soup

One of my favorite ways to fix peas is to make fresh pea soup. So very easy, and so tasty. It can be harty fare, or it can be very elegant, all decked out with cute little flowers for a garnish.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

One of My Many "Latest Projects"

A work in progress...variable-height future herb planters lining a flower bed

For years I've been contemplating what I can do with these tiles that I found on our property years ago when we moved here (about 17 years ago!). And for years I've had an idea of what I wanted to do, but just never got my rear in gear and DID it. Well, I take that back. One year I actually did make a sort of "sculpture" with them and planted some stuff in them. This year I've decided to edge a flower bed with them and plant herbs in them.

I've been keeping myself busy the last few days. Yesterday was a major mulch day, and I finally got most of the front yard flower beds mulched. There are still a few areas that need it out front. Today I've been getting a few more things planted in the Secret Garden, plus a bit more mulching done out there.

What else needs to be done here at Cairnwood Cottage? Dead heading rhododendrons, roses, and hanging baskets. Mulching the berry patch. Finishing the vineyard. Planting the millions of seed packets that cover my dining room table. Getting more raised beds ready to plant. Weeding. Plant two azaleas that I've got sitting in pots. Turning the compost. The list is endless...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Peeps--Two Months Later

Welsummer cockerel--Dumpling

Gone are the fuzzy little fluff balls that I picked up at the post office two months ago, and in their place are fine looking young chickens, all grown up looking but still very much just teenagers. It will be a while yet before we see any eggs from the girls, and I have no idea when the boys will attempt their first crow.

I had ordered six Welsummer pullets and six Welsummer "straight run", which means they just grab a hand full of chicks and I get whatever sex happens to be in the mix. Turns out eleven of the twelve were pullets, and I've got one handsome Welsummer cockerel, named Dumpling at the moment. He could end up with a more majestic name later on.

I also had ordered six Specked Sussex pullets, but turns out one of them is a little fella named Noodle. He's a sweet little roo and likes to hang around me when I'm out there tending the flock, but he's becoming aggressive towards the other chickies and I think he's trying to, uh, do the nasty with the hens already. I didn't really want a Sussex roo, so I think I'll be finding a home for Noodle. I can't bear the idea of turning him into Chicken & Noodles, if ya know what I mean. He is a beautiful bird, though.

Noodle, a Speckled Sussex rooster

And last but not least, I had ordered 6 Ameraucana pullets and six straight run Ameraucanas. I still have no idea how many cockerels and pullets I've got, but I think I've got two roosters and the remaining eight (I gave two pullets to Marlenah, my son's girlfriend) I'm thinking are pullets. I'm guessing about the two roosters simply because their combs are bigger and redder than the others, and they themselves are much larger than the others. Time will tell.

Ameraucana pullet

Besides the mail order chickies, I've also got four Golden Sexlink pullets that I got from our local Tractor Supply store the same day I picked up my post office peeps. These four girls are sweet and friendly, though they can look fierce, as the following photo demonstrates.

Who needs gargoyles when you've got chickens?! This is a Golden Sexlink pullet, trying her best to scare off predators and other nasties

Now that the chickens are all grown up, or so they think, they've been spending lots of time in the baths...dust baths. They're loads of fun to watch, but they just make me laugh when they're bathing, which involves much fluffing of feathers, rolling about, shooting dirt out from beneath them (as the photo below shows) and just enjoying what most kids like to do...getting covered in dirt.

Dust bathing chickies...Ameraucana on the left is shooting dirt out from beneath her as the other Ameraucana and the Speckled Sussex relax

We were away all day Saturday, and when we got home I found one of the Welsummer girls with a lame leg. I have no idea what happened to her, but she's very gimpy and hobbles about when she does try to get somewhere, which isn't very often; she spends most of her time sitting. It was suggested that perhaps the Sussex roo was trying uh, mate, with her already and she just didn't have the strength to support that much weight. I'm thinking this is very possible, because yesterday when I went out to check them in the a.m., I saw the Sussex roo, Noodle, just pounce on her, poor little thing. So, I've removed this girl from the flock and put her in a dog crate. I put another Welsummer hen in there with her for company, and they seem happy. I chose this particular hen as a "nurse maid" because she seemed very concerned when I removed the injured girl, and made attempts to follow me. I'd like to think that they're buddies and that this chicken really was concerned about her comrade.

Injured Welsummer pullet in foreground, with her "nurse maid" in back

Here's hoping my little Welly girl heals and gets better soon!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wild Strawberries

Yes, these are WILD strawberries! HUGE, aren't they?

For years I've battled wild strawberries growing in my garden. Weeds. I've been pulling them out, hoeing them, mulching over them, but whatever I do, they just come back. This year I'm behind in a lot of gardenly things, and around the edges of the section of garden where my raised beds are, the wild strawberries are flourishing. In fact, some of the rows between the raised beds have some wild strawberries growing in them. I just can't get rid of them.

The other day I noticed that many of the wild strawberries are producing berries. Massive berries, for wild strawberries. Most wild strawberries that I've encountered are tiny little things, about the size of my little fingernail, if that. These babies are the size of many domestic strawberries. And their flavor? Superb! They have that wild strawberry flavor with the size of domestics. How can that combination be beat?

This morning I picked a bowl full of these wild strawberries to enjoy with my homemade yogurt for breakfast. Divine. Now I'm wondering...why on earth am I going to all the trouble to start an official strawberry bed of domestic strawberries that need to be pampered, when I could just graze off the ones growing around my garden?

Honestly, I'm thinking I'll propagate the wild strawberry plants that seem to be producing the largest berries and start a large patch of very big wild strawberries.

I'm so glad my husband isn't a fan of strawberries....