Saturday, July 23, 2011

More Freebies

Tiger lily...or mysterious sea creature?
 Years ago a friend dug up a start from one of his "wild lilies" that he had growing on his property, and gave it to me.  I planted it near my Secret Garden, and they've been growing happily ever since.  I love these "wild lilies" ("tiger lillies" or "Lilium Tigrinum")...their brilliant orange contrasts vividly with dark brown spots.   And they look all the world like some kind of sea creature...a type of jelly fish or an octopus.

These lilies spread readily and are low maintenance, though they don't like this drought-y weather we've been having.  And I love how those little seeds just sit there at the junction of leaf and stem. 
View from below... Notice the seeds at the stem/leaf junction


 And what's this?  A ready-made canoe for a very small fairy-like creature sits at the end of each pistil!

I Love Free Stuff

Freebie beans saved from the plant that resulted from one lonely seed...

Sooo, one day at work back in late winter, a package came through the system that had popped open and dried beans from a seed packet spilled.  The beans were carefully put back into the packet and then into the package and continued on its way.  An hour or so later, I noticed a lone bean seed lying on the floor....

Rather than toss the lonely legume into the trash, what can a saver of seeds, such as myself, possibly do other take it home and plant it?!  I planted the little bean along with other seeds that I was starting for the garden, and when it was big enough I planted it in a corner of the asparagus/strawberry bed, all by its lonesome little self.  It grew like a bean possessed, and soon I had a nice crop of green beans (bush) and very early in the season since I started the little guy indoors well before our frost-free date.  Curious, I tasted one bean.  Very nice and stringless.  I let the rest mature, and now I've got a nice little pile of bean seeds to plant out next year.  There are still a few beans maturing on the plant, but I'm guessing I'll end up with another 20 or so bean seeds in addition to the 88 that I already have.

I wish I would have taken note of the packet of beans so I'd know what kind these are; they're probably something like Bush Blue Lake or another popular bean.  I'll always know them as "Work Beans."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Chickens In The Mist

When someone says, "hot chicks", is this the image that pops into your mind?  If not, it will be now!
With current temps in the 100 degree F. range, The Girls are probably wishing they didn't have quite so many feathers, and lucky is the one currently molting!  I do worry about them when it gets this warm, and egg production can suffer greatly when they get overheated.  Last year I came home from work in the midst of a heat wave and found an otherwise healthy hen lying dead on the coop floor under the roost.  It looked as if she just fell off the roost in her sleep.  I made several phone calls (vet, extension agent) to see if I needed to have a "chicken autopsy" done, and it was suggested that no, it was probably due to the heat.  That certainly opened my eyes to the perils of hot weather for the chickens.

You can tell when your chickens are too hot by the way they stand around with their little beaks open and their wings held away from their bodies.  Chickens don't sweat, and like dogs they need to pant to cool themselves off.  See above photo.

Photo of the thermometer in our kitchen.  This monitors the outside temps just outside the the shade.  Photo taken today (July 22, 2011)

Here are some of the things I've been doing to help my girls stay cool.
(1)  I make sure they've got plenty of shade.  The coop and chicken run are in the woods, so this really isn't an issue.
(2)  I make sure they have plenty of water.  Chickens don't like warm water and will forgo drinking it if it gets too warm.  I change their water several times a day to make sure it's cool, AND/OR add ice to the water.  If you're able, freeze a block to toss into your chickens' water.
(3)  When I have "treats" for them, such as old fruit or vegetables, I toss these into the freezer and freeze them solid before feeding to The Girls.  They love pecking at these cool this the chicken equivalent of ice cream?!
(4)  I hose down a section of their run so they've got cool mud to walk through.
(5)  I set up a mister so they can hang out in the mist ("Chickens In The Mist")  They seem to love this.
(6)  I have a fan sucking warm air out of the coop...this is especially important because their coop is on the small side and with 31 chicken bodies in there at night, it warms up fast.
Guinevere taking a turn in the mist
Bandito cooling off in the mist, with Guinevere shaking like a wet dog

I'm trying to keep the girls cool so I get more of these...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Where For Art Thou, Rain?

Sweet pea after the rain...
Yesterday we got a little rain in the evening and through the night.  It wasn't much, though, and today I had to grab the hose and water things that were beginning to wilt.  We just got enough to make things very, very humid.  We had a very wet spring, and I thought it would never stop raining!  We could certainly use some of that excess rain at the moment, however.

I just got chased into the house by a thunderstorm.  The sky is dark, there's lots and lots of thunder, the breeze picked up and cooled the 88 degree F temps down to a chilly 78.  Right.  Chilly...Rain drops have begun to fall, but they're few and far between.  I hope we get more than we did last night, otherwise this dog's bark will certainly be worse than its bite.

The above sweet pea was photographed yesterday after a bit of rain fell.   I think this sweet pea variety is  "King of the Blues" (I'd have to unearth my records to know for sure!) Click on the photo to enlarge it...that lavender bit that hangs down to the left reminds me of a Walt Disney-style ball gown, swooping across the dance floor, bedecked with sparkling raindrop jewels. 

Oh, Those Blasted Hornworms!

Why, hello there, Mr. Hornworm

OK, I'm really tired of the hornworms devouring my tomato plants.  Last year I had more hornworms in the garden than I've had in all previous years combined, I think.  Last night while looking at the garden, I found two hornworms and saw a good bit of hornworm damage (tomato limbs completely denuded of their leaves).  I always called these guys "tomato hornworms", but according to the following Wikipedia article, they're actually  "tobacco hornworms":

"The Five-Spotted Hawkmoth (Manduca quinquemaculata) is a brown and gray hawk moth of the Sphingidae family. The caterpillar is often referred to as the tomato hornworm and can be a major pest in gardens. Tomato hornworms are closely related to (and sometimes confused with) the tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta). This confusion arises because caterpillars of both species feed on the foliage of various plants from the family Solanaceae, so either species can be found on tobacco or tomato leaves, and the plant on which the caterpillar is found does not indicate its species. The larvae of these species can be distinguished by their lateral markings; tomato hornworms have eight V-shaped markings while tobacco hornworms have seven diagonal lines.[2] Furthermore, the caterpillars can be distinguished from the larval stage onwards by the color of the horns on their back ends: M. quinquemaculata caterpillars have black horns, while Manduca sexta caterpillars have red horns. The moths can be distinguished by the number of spots on their abdomen, with M. quinquemaculata having five."

One good thing about the chickens love them.  Whenever I find one that's not covered in parasitic wasp larvae, it gets fed to the girls.  If I see one with the wasp larvae clinging to it, I leave it alone so the larvae can mature and continue the cycle. 

Hornworms can be very difficult to find in amongst the tomato plants (or peppers, or wherever they happen to be feeding).  I normally spot the  hornworms first that are covered with the rice-like parasitic wasp larvae, then look a bit further and discover the rest.

 Hornworm playing host to parasitic wasp larvae.  I'll leave these guys alone so the larvae can mature and produce more parasitic wasps.

 Good riddance, evil hornwom!  I found this deflated fellow on a tomato cage as I was cleaning up garden debris last autumn.

Monday, July 18, 2011

They're Berry, Berry Good!

Currently ripe for the picking here at Cairnwood Cottage:
Strawberries (everbearing varieties)
Yellow raspberries--but only a few since the plants are still young
One ripe strawberry and one on the way...looks like strawberry creamcicle!  Yum!
A favorite way to prepare strawberries!  A perfect union: strawberries and dark chocolate!
Ripe wild blackberries...future cordial or wine

Wineberries...look very much like red raspberries

Future Concord wine!

Life....and Death

In case you haven't figured it out, I love flowers.  I love taking pictures of flowers, especially close-up.  Close up and with things crawling all over them.  See below.

Echinacea with bee and butterfly

I also love to see things living together in peace and harmony, see above.  But, I live in the real world and I know that can't always be the case.  I know things have to kill other things in order to survive, but I just wish it weren't so.  The poor unfortunate bee in the photo below had been enjoying her time on the echinacea flower, probably happily gathering pollen, when suddenly she became ensnared in a spider's web.  Said spider crept out, did the deed and is now happily snacking on the unfortunate bee.  See below.  I just wish the spider had nabbed one of those bugs that we really don't like at all, like Japanese beetles, or something similarly destructive.  Ah, such is life...

Poor little bee has become a spider snack

Saturday, July 16, 2011

So, I Have This Mirror....

 As I was pondering what I could do with this mirror yesterday, Gypsy sauntered by and paused for a look at himself

So, yes, I've got this mirror.  It had been hanging in our dining room for many years, but then we re-did the dining room (painted walls, new floor...) and the mirror came down.  Hubby wanted to toss it in the trash (horrors!)  I wasn't sure what we would do with it if we kept it, so I advertised it on Freecycle, twice.  No takers.  So, I've still got the mirror and it currently resides by the patio waiting for a new home.  I nearly hauled it off to the Goodwill store, but then I remembered....

I remembered the amazing gardens we visited at The National Garden Exhibition in Kilquade, County Wicklow, Ireland back in 2004.  One of the exhibits featured an Oriental Garden, and I remember being intrigued by the mirrors.

Jeremiah posing in front of the TWO mirrors (see the other tucked away under the "bridge" to the right? Click photo to enlarge) in the Oriental garden at the National Garden Exhibition in Kilquade, County Wicklow, Ireland 2004.

Ah yes, now my head is spinning, coming up with ideas of how I can incorporate this mirror into one of my gardens here and have it look right, and how to keep it from getting broken, or how to keep birds from flying into it or from animals from crashing into it...Ideas, anyone?

Where-Oh-Where Have I Been?!

Butterfly enjoying echinacea
So, looking at my poor little blog,  I see that it will soon be a year since I last posted!  I've taken loads and loads of photos with the express purpose of posting them here, but alas!  It just hasn't happened.  There are so many things I want to tell you about, such as my new garden beds, my hugelkulture endeavors, how I've foiled the hawks in their attempts at getting my chickens, etc.,  but I will just have to try and catch up gradually.  In the meantime, enjoy a few recent photos from some of my strolls around Cairnwood Cottage the past few days....
Close-up of the butterfly bush (buddleia) that grows by our front yard stream
Zebra/Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis "Zebrinus") in one of my newer perennial beds
"Cherry Brandy" rudbeckia in a new perennial bed

 The Stamen looks as if these stamen are a choir floating above the petals of this daylily, singing praises to the glorious new day!

 Newly-purchased (and as yet un-planted) varieties of rudbeckia...hey, they were on sale and I couldn't resist.  I LOVE rudbeckia!
 Wild daylilies hovering over our front yard stream....they  look as if they're cooling their "feet" in the water!

 Sweet pea in a front yard flower bed (the variety escapes me at the moment, I have it written down somewhere!)