Spring is, Well… Springing.

Buds on our Indian Free Peach Tree

Buds on our Indian Free Peach Tree

Murphy’s Law.  Gets me everytime.  After three days of gale-force winds and driving, soaking rain, today was beautiful, sunny, calm, and the warmest day of the year so far.  My parents have been up to visit three times since we moved in last June.  My mom also came up once to look at the house with me before we bought it.  Every single time, it has been cold and raining.  Consequently, my family seems to believe all the negative hype about the Pacific NW – that it’s col, gray, and rainy practically all the time.  I try to tell them differently, but I don’t think they really believe me.  At least this blog now offers photographic evidence.  For the entire week before this most recent visit, it was sunny, clear, and cool.  Please note my post, “Sunshine, Glorious Sunshine” from less than a week ago.  It was like that all the way until they got here this past Saturday and then the freakin’ winter hurricane arrived and stayed just long enough to prove to them that we never get good weather.  Murphy’s Law.  Seriously.

Anyway, I have had a recent request for more gardening posts, so I will include more garden stuff starting now.  While the first official day of Spring isn’t until this Saturday, nature has been hinting at it for a while now.  Trees and shrubs are budding out, spring bulbs are popping up everywhere, and my chives have been back up for weeks.  While we have spent most of our efforts undoing the existing landscaping at our house, I was recently pleasantly surprised to notice some daffodils and tulips that were peeking up through the dirt in various spots around the front yard.  You can’t go wrong with those :)  Also, our two baby peach trees are the first to hint at blooming.  The other trees have buds but are still looking pretty dormant – but the peach trees’ buds are about ready to pop (see pic above).  Today, I could see a bit of a pink petal at the top of a couple of buds.

just a hint of the pink blooms to come

just a hint of the pink blooms to come

As for the mini-orchard, I am currently trying to decide what to do with my newly-delivered Gold Rush apple tree.  All of my other fruit trees are heirloom varieties that I purchsed from local Raintree Nursery, but once I stumbled upon Gold Rush (a new-ish hybrid from the 1980s) at the farmers’ market this past fall, I knew I had to have a tree.  So, this one I got from Gurney’s online and had it shipped in.  This apple is a beautiful yellow-gold color on the outside and the inside, it is extremely firm, crisp, and juicy.  It has the most intense sweet-tartness and aroma I’ve ever experienced in an apple… add that to the fact that it’s one of the best storage apples on record (some say the flavor even improves with time and they store for months) and you’ve got yourself a winner.  If you are interested in learning more about the cultivar, go here for a  great article from Purdue University.  But, I digress.  The dilemma is that we left one open spot in the orchard for a third plum tree that I’m not sure I’m going to get anymore.  This means that there really isn’t a spot for the Gold Rush.  So, the options are to plant the Gold Rush in the plum’s spot and put things out of order (my trees are grouped by fruit type) or to plant it somewhere else entirely.  Fruit trees are pretty so it could really be planted anywhere and we have plenty of space.  So, I am torn.

Our orchard

Our orchard

In other garden news, I was originally going to have my 3-way organic vegetable garden soil (organic soil, compost, and sand, hence “3-way”) delivered this past Monday, but the rain cancelled those plans.  The problem is that I am having 14 cubic yards of the stuff delivered and we are going to have to load it into the raised beds ourselves by hand.  Thus, we want it dumped as closely as possible to the boxes.  However, this involves taking the delivery truck a couple of hundred feet off the pavement and across our grass.  Please note that I said “grass” and not “lawn.”  We just let the native grasses and weeds grow as they will.  Up here there is enough rainfall to keep it relatively green year-round and we mow it periodically and that’s good enough for us.  We have no desire to pump a velvety-green blanket of non-native grass full of chicmicals and fertilizers to maintain an actual lawn.  That goes against most everything I believe.  Anyway, the aesthetic of having the truck drive over the wet grass and leave tracks is not our concern… our concern is that the soil company won’t even try it if it’s been raining.  They say the truck is too heavy and will get stuck.  So, if they get here and it’s been raining… they’ll just dump the soil 200+ feet and two garden gates away.  That would not be good.  So, I delayed the delivery for another week.  I am hoping that next Monday will be dried than this past one.  So, here are some pictures of our empty and unfinished cedar garden boxes.

unfinished garden boxes with the coop in the background

unfinished garden boxes with the coop in the background

The stuff in the bottom of them is 1/2-inch hardware cloth (sqaure wire mesh), just like we have used to line the chicken run.  This is to keep moles and gophers from eating our veggies from the roots up.  It works like a charm.

a better view of the hardware cloth... it is a work in progress

a better view of the hardware cloth... it is a work in progress

 Ultimately, there will be two parallel rows of boxes and one wide, low one at the far end.  Also down past the end will eventually be our berry trellises.  Matthew helped me build them this past weekend – 10 foot 4×4 rough cedar posts that will be sunken 2-3 feet into the ground in concrete and they have 2×4 cross pieces at what will be approximately 5 feet and 3 feet off the ground.  Between these, we will string 20 gague wire to support the berry canes.  The berries we have already purchased and just need to plant:

  • Jewel Black Raspberry
  • Anne Golden Raspberry
  • Autumn Britten Raspberry
  • Rosanna Raspberry
  • Thornless Loganberry

Those are the cane berries that will go on the trellis.  I couldn’t see buying blackberry canes since we already have a large patch of wild blackberries that are growing along our fence next to the garden boxes.  They produce gigantic amounts of wonderfully tasty berries, so we’re all set on blackberries.

blackberry canes on the fence past the boxes

blackberry canes on the fence past the boxes

I also have 4 different blueberries to plant:

  • Patriot
  • Elizabeth
  • Jersey
  • Brigitta

And, lastly, I have high bush cranberries.  I don’t know what I was thinking when I purchsed FIVE of these.  I didn’t pay attention and assumed that since they are a viburnum and related to blueberries that they would grow on a similarly small bush and we would need several to get any sort of harvest.  After I got the bareroot canes home, I read up on them and realized that one bush gest 10 feet high and 8 feet wide and produces so many berries you can hardly see the leaves!  Holy cow are we going to be swimming in the high-bush cranberries (not to be confused with European cranberries, which is what we have at thanksgiving, etc.)!!  I am going to plant them as a hedge somewhere because they won’t fit in the garden!

Lastly on the topic of garedning, I will mention that Charlie (my dog, for those of you who don’t know) decided to eat my sweet pea seedlings and their peat pots the other day while I had them outside, hardening off.  I KNEW he was going to do this, but I guess I was in denial.  That dog LOVES to eat dirt and potted plants.  I have no clue why.  Maybe I need to change his feed.  Tilly is nearly as bad, but this was Charlie’s handywork through and through.  We found the torn pots and dirt all over the backyard and seedlings were everywhere.  My mom and I tried to salvage what we could and stuck them back in some dirt.  The next day, I found more seedlings that were sitting, bare-rooted, out on the grass all night… and they actually seemed stronger for it.  So for now I have an old pot filled with some sorry-looking sweet pea seedlings sitting outside.  I’ll let you know if they make it.  So much for my labeling the varieties!

Back to the Chickens

Pippin with his/her newly red "comb"

Pippin with his/her newly red "comb"

Today I got some good pics of Pippin (formerly Mystery Chick) and his/her color-changing comb area.  I have more and more votes that this is just another Ameraucana chick and not a different breed at all.  If that is true, however, I wonder if the red comb means anything.  After I put my camera away for the day, I noticed one other Ameraucana chick also now has a red-ish comb area.  I really, REALLY hope this doesn’t mean they’re both boys.  I just can’t have that many roosters and I only have a home for my extra Marans roosters at this point… plus I’m really hoping for at least 10-12 hens.  If I have four Marans roos, plus two more Amer roos, that’s only nine hens out of fifteen chicks!  I hope not!  Ideally, I have two Marans roos and everyone else is a hens.  Then I can keep everyone!  I will, of course, keep you posted.

Pippin, enjoying some free-range time

Pippin, enjoying some free-range time

Pippin and a Buff Orpington, out in the sunshine and grass

Pippin and a Buff Orpington, out in the sunshine and grass

Everyone else is doing well.  Since it was nice today, they got to have their doors open to the run all day today, which they loved.  They dash out first thing in the morning and bounce all around the run, flying and sparring and playing tag with clumps of grass.  They also got to free-range three times today – first thing in the morning, during our lunch break, and after work while I worked on the garden boxes.  They all love coming out to free-range now, though they aren’t particularly brave about it.  They mostly stay within about 5 feet of the run and they all dash inside whenever any one of them is startled.  Anyway, I’m happy my birds are getting the chance to enjoy sunshine, grass, bugs, and the great outdoors.  I am so saddened by factory farming when birds literally never see the light of day.  Sometimes birds are lucky enough to be “rescued” by backyard enthusiasts and some of the stories I’ve read are heartbreaking.  For some insight into this topic and a story with a great happy ending, check out Moonroot‘s posts “Rescued” and “Dear Diary.”  Did you know that it is sunlight that makes the difference in the color of an egg yolk?  Eggs from free-range chickens are orange, while standard factory-farmed eggs have pale yellow yolks.  This is a sure sign that the poor chicken who laid your eggs has never seen sunlight.  Sure, diet also effects the color, texture, flavor, and nutritional content of the egg yolk, but it is sunlight that makes the difference between orange and yellow.

On a lighter note, Scruffy is now convinced that every human being exists solely to bring him worms to eat.  Whenever anyone bends down, stands up, sits down, or basically moves at all, he comes running over.  By the way, have I mentioned how hilarious it is when chickens run?  They stretch their necks forward, lift their legs high with each step and waddle back and forth dramatically.  You’ll just have to see it for yourself someday to get the full effect.

"Got any worms???"

"Got any worms???"

It is also important to note that the twins are both still sporting their eyeliner, but I don’t think it’s going to last much longer.  I believe that once their heads are fully feathered out, the makeup will go bye-bye.  So, Brian had better pick which is Amy Winehouse pretty soon.  Of course, on that note… one of the twins is the one with the now-red comb-area.  Hopefully she’s not a boy if she’s going to be named Amy!

Can you see the reddish comb?  Please note the eyeliner is still visible.

Can you see the reddish comb? Please note the eyeliner is still visible.

And here they are, enjoying the nice weather.

chicks in the sun

chicks in the sun

The jury is still out on this Marans chick, but I’m definitely leaning toward boy.

Boy or girl?

Boy or girl?

and here is a good shot of Scruffy – I have no doubt he is a boy.

Scruffy

Scruffy

 And here is one of my female Marans with a Buff Orpington.  Note how dark she is.

Buff Orpington and Cuckoo Marans pullets

Buff Orpington and Cuckoo Marans pullets

And here is JB, being his usual handsome self.

JB - toughguy extraordinaire

JB - toughguy extraordinaire

Other Other News

This afternoon, I was showing Brian my progress on the garden boxes when I heard a familiar sound.  I looked and two garter snakes were slithering along in one of my boxes under the sheet of wire (it’s not yet pushed down into the box firmly).  They crawled out of the boxes and into a clump of grass under the blackberry canes and coiled up.  I believe I caught them in the act of mating, and since they didn’t want interrupt the act, they let me come quite close and I got some pretty good shots.  Spring is sprung!  Time for all kings of animals to start thinking about making babies!

crawling through the grass

crawling through the grass

In this next pic, you can see that their tails are twisted together – this is what they do when they mate.  So cool that I captured this on film!

note the twisted tails

note the twisted tails

The bigger, plainer one is the female.  The smaller one with the red patterns on his body is the male.

close up

close up

One more pic for good measure… in this one you can see their whole bodies and it’s a good view of their entwined tails.  That’s a blackberry leaf overhead.

a complete view

a complete view

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3 thoughts on “Spring is, Well… Springing.

  1. what a great, multi-faceted post! i’m loving the pix of pippin – i hope it’s not a boy! :) i am literally drooling – reading about all those stone fruits and berries. YUMMERS!!!!

    and yay for snake babies!! SO COOL!!

  2. Pingback: All Cooped Up « Lisa Has Chickens

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