Saturday, March 26, 2011

Results of the finished foundation garden

I have completed the front left foundation bed. If you haven't read the previous post on the work of my foundation bed then click here . I am very happy with the results and so glad to get it finished. I can't wait for it to grow up a little. So here once again is the list of plants I chose for this side of house...

tea olive
white azalea

daylily 'Happy Returns'

dianthus (acts as a perennial here)

dwarf gardenia
Here it is all put together...

The dianthus will fill out nicely soon enough.

I just love that little fountain!

I love the fact I have all different plants on both sides giving me something new all season with color, fragrance, and bloom time. As soon as the knockout roses on the other side are all blooming I will post a picture of that as well with the new nepta I planted there last summer. It is blooming right now and it so pretty, can't wait to see it with the pink roses and then this summer when the white daisies are blooming as well!

Here was the before...
Those were a salmon colored azalea (builders put those in there) that never grew more than that in 5 years, grass was always getting in there too. It just drove me nuts and I didn't like the color of the azaleas.
This was after I ripped it all out. Then I ammended the soil as I have a lot of clay.*I wanted to post the step by step process and thought I had. Apparently I didn't have the card in my camera. Well there's always a next time.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chickens have taken over my herb bed...

Don't you just love it! I love chickens! This is one of my two herb/tomato beds that I haven't gotten around to planting yet. I just don't have the heart to at the moment because everytime I let them out this is where they all go to and glory in the nice cool soft dirt. Sometimes like in this video they are all in there at the same time and right up close to one another even though there is plenty more space. I took some pictures and a video so you can hear them as they take there bath (there is a sprinkler going in the background,sorry). I have read many times where first time chicken owners would panic when they saw a chicken do this because they thought it was dying. It does look strange if you don't know what they are doing. So here they are my girls..enjoy!
How they don't get dirt in their eyes beats me!

They close there eyes and roll their necks and heads in the dirt.

And there you are chickens all bathing together! Well all except Emma who in every picture is standing there watching them but I guess didn't feel the need to bathe. Maybe she took one before bed! lol She just scratched about.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Root bound plants..what to do?

We have all done it, bought a plant brought it home and it looked like this when we pull it out of its container....
Horrible case of root bound but I have seen worse. This was a Society Garlic I bought yesterday at my local nursery. I went there only to buy one single bale of pine straw I needed to finish an area that I ran short on but being a plant lover there was no way I was going to walk out of there without at least one little ol plant! Back to the issue... so you bought this lovely plant and you pull it out and you see that mess. I actually could not get this one out of the container and had to cut the bottom off with a knife.

If you were to plant this in the ground this way the roots would stay like this and it would not be healthy for the plant and it can also stunt its growth. So if you buy a plant like this here then this is what to do. If you can, use your hand and gently try to break up the root ball with your hands. This will allow the roots to spread out and take root in the soil.If it is so compact that you can't use your hand then break out a knife and cut about an inch or so off the bottom and you can even slice the sides on a couple sides as well. Don't worry I know this sounds drastic but really you are helping the plant. It will soon grow new roots and the existing roots can now have a chance to spread out allowing the plant to get the most of the water and nutrients it needs. Here is the plant after I teased out the roots and cut some off the bottom....
Much better! I could have cut a little more off but this is just fine and now the plant will be very happy in a few weeks. Now go ahead and plant this as you normally would and water good and deep. Keep it watered regularly for  the next few weeks till established but be sure not to drown it just be sure it doesn't dry out as it is been under some stress already. Then mulch and now you have a pretty happy little plant in its new home!

When shopping for plants try to avoid root bound plants if possible. You can tell because they will have roots sticking out the bottom like this...

This one isn't so bad again I have seen worse. However the signs are there. Now there is nothing really wrong with buying plants like this, just do what I have said above and it will be fine. A lot of times you can buy some plants cheap that have been clearanced but chances are this is how you will find them. They have been sitting in those pots for awhile which is why the roots wrap around  themselves like that. It's just if you have a choice look for the healthiest plants that don't show signs of root bound. Sometimes I have bought shrubs for super deals but the roots were really super duper root bound. I had to take a shovel and chop off several inches off the bottom and really work at it to loosen the root ball. It took a little tending to till it got off on its own feet but they are happy and healthy plants today. A little fertilizer would help too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Goodbye my dear sweet Hannah

My dear sweet Hannah had to be put down yesterday morning. She was only 4 years old. She had I firmly believe, a condition known as internal laying or false laying. There is no cure for this and sadly it is common in high production hens. Hannah was a Red Star or Sex Linked chicken which is a cross between either a Rhode Island Red/New Hampshire and Barred Rock/white Rhode Island/Silver laced Wyandotte or Delaware. Those hens that they are crossed with are high egg production hens bred to really put out eggs. If you click on the link you can read a little more about the condition. It really is a sad and horrible way to die. They stop laying external eggs but their bodies still produce eggs (no shell) and build up forming a mass inside their bodies. This eventually suffocates the bird pressing on its organs. The only way to tell for certain if your hen has it is to open them up after they die which I have no desire to do. However all her symptoms point to it.

A year ago she and another of my hens Ginger stopped laying pretty much at the same time. During the past year however she acted perfectly normal and content as all the other hens. Their was however one thing I started to notice...she was getting heavy. Well 2 Sundays ago after we got home from church I noticed her standing legs spread apart and standing alone and not moving. So I go outside to get a closer look and she seemed to be breathing slow and heavy. I felt her underside and where it should be narrow it was large, swollen and hard. Not good. I honestly didn't think she was going to live to see another morning. Next morning she was outside and alive, this went on for a week getting progressively worse day by day. Here is the hardest part about owning chickens...

You might as well understand now for you new chicken owners that chickens though they may be your pets are not like other pets. Yes, chickens can live upwards to 10 or more years but that is if nothing gets them before hand. There are many things that can happen to chickens. They are bred for food and eggs and not pets. There may come a time to where you must make the hard decision of whether or not you are going to end their life or not. I have lost two hens, one died suddenly on her own and the other is Hannah whom I felt it was best to end her suffering....

For a week I agonized over whether or not I should kill her. She hardly walked but she was still eating and drinking. The last 2 days she went down hill fast. She didn't come out of the coop and didn't move from the spot I found her in. She was laying there gasping for breath eyes closed. It was so sad and horrible to watch her slowly die like that. I should have done it sooner but as I said it is not easy to do what I felt was best. I told my husband to shoot her. Their are many ways to cull (kill) a bird and I have read them all in case I needed to do it. But for me I just could not bring myself to do any of them. I think if I had a huge flock of chickens that didn't have names and weren't considered pets I could do it. I wanted to be sure it was fast and painless as possible. So he took a .22 rifle and took her behind the shed and shot her  in the head and it was over just like that. As I said it was not easy but I couldn't stand to watch her suffering like that, eyes closed gasping for breath. So now she isn't suffering and is buried among my roses.

Chickens are prey animals and because of that they do a very good job of hiding their pain so they don't look weak and stand apart from all the others. This is why watching and observing your hens everyday is important, you can get to know what is normal and not normal. Every hen is different but if you should see anything even a little different pay close attention because many times once you really notice that they are not acting right it can be too late. Like I said they will hide it for as long as they can. In the case of Hannah there was nothing that I could do to save her anyway. I have had several cases in a few of my hens to where I have had them in a kennel in my bathroom nursing them back to health. One was for 3 months! Others may have put her down but I wanted to give her a chance and she ended up making a full recovery. That is another good point...chickens are pretty resilient and can bounce back given some time and care.

So goodbye my sweet girl! You will be missed!

Monday, March 21, 2011

First rose blooms...more to come

 The roses are really budding out now about to put on a beautiful show! The first roses to produce a bloom or two is Dutcher (upper left) and Duchess de Brabant (bottom left). This is just a sneak peek...

A few others that have a few blooms are The Charlestonian which is best photographed as a bush shot as the flowers are small and in clusters. Buff Beauty has a bloom half open, as does Mrs Dudley Cross.

 The grass actually had to be cut today! The front garden is done and will post a picture of before and after! Oh how I love spring!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Eggtra Special Eggs

These beautiful eggs are what you could be enjoying everyday! Large pretty colorful eggs!
 These are upside down (wish I turned them right side up for the picture) because I have read they last longer that way...who knows. Now isn't that so much better looking than boring little ol white eggs? Which by the way cause I get asked this question many times...brown, green, blue, pink, or makes no difference at all on the taste or quality of the eggs. Egg color is determinded by breed and that is all. I wish I also had a picture to show you the difference both in the size of the eggs but also in how much richer the yolk looks verses pale yellow and how nice the whites stand up verses the runny whites of a store bought egg. I still say hands down that backyard eggs are far better then any store bought eggs you can buy. Yes, even the so called "cage free" birds. Cage free simply means they aren't kept in small cages but are allowed to roam a chicken house though they are still pretty packed together. They are kept indoors unless otherwise stated on the carton. Don't be fooled by terms they give...if you really want to know eggsactly what you are buying, do a little research. There are so many types these days and if you buy grocery store eggs (which hey, there is nothing in the world wrong with buying reg. store bought eggs) and want a better tasting egg then there are some you can buy at the store that do taste and look better then regular eggs. I had fresh backyard eggs for 3 years from my 3 original hens and all of the sudden 1 died and shortly after the other two hens stopped laying (that's another story). No more eggs till my chicks were old enough to start laying. Well after you have gotten used to eating eggs as I have I just could not get used to eating the regular white eggs you buy at the grocery store. I'm telling you they are that much better!   So I bought the more eggspensive eggs can't remember which ones I ended up going with but they were ok till I could get fresh eggs from my backyard again. You can also probably find fresh farm eggs at your local farmers market too...I have seen a guy selling them at mine, though you will pay a little more for them. What is so nice too about getting eggs right from your backyard is you know what your chickens are eating for the most part...though sometimes that can gross you out...ok moving on...hens just lay better eggs when they are happy and free to do what chickens love to do. Do a test, get yourself a farm fresh/backyard egg and then a regular store bought egg. In two seperate bowls crack each egg and you will see eggsactly what I am talking about!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Raising Chicks part 1

In the back is a Easter Egger  and up front is a Barred Rock
I know this is probably a bit late but I wanted to post on raising chicks for those first timers. It really is very very easy and a lot of fun too. Here is the basics of caring for young chicks and as always should you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or email me and I will do my best to answer your question.

Here is a list of things you will need before your chicks arrive..
  • chick waterer- 1quart( I had a 1 gal. so I used it but be careful one of mine almost drowned. You could place those sooth round stones along the base to keep that from happening)
  • chick starter- can get this at your local feed & seed or Tractor Supply- DO NOT buy medicated if your chicks have been vaccinated already. Chick starter comes in regular or medicated. If your chicks have not been vaccinated then it is probably a good idea to get this. However if you are ordering chicks from a hatchery I recommend getting them vaccinated, it is very cheap!
  • I also recommend purchasing some grow gel when you order your chicks or you can purchase it separately, this gets them off to a good start after their rough journey through the mail.
  • chick feeder or  you can buy a plastic or galvanized round bottom that screws onto a pint or quart sized canning jar
  • heating lamp with reflector and either a white or red 250watt light bulb. Red is best as it is easier on their eyes making it easier to sleep and helps prevent picking/pecking.
  • something to put them in (a brooder which can be bought or homemade), chicks like hens need so much space per bird, 2 sq ft per bird (chicks grow very fast and will need the room). You can make a little smaller but you will soon find the need for space and may need to move them into something else. Now a brooder can be as simple as a large cardboard box (I used 2 cut out one side of each box and duck taped them together), a small child swimming pool with something high going around the sides (chicks can jump pretty high!), even plastic storage bins. Anything is fine as long as it as high enough sides or something to put on top to keep them from getting out. I put a window screen on my box to keep them from getting out.
This picture shows the half of the brooder that was out of the heat lamp and had the food and water. The green stuff is the grow gel.
Rhode Island Red
Now the day your little ones arrive should should get them into their new home under the heat lamp. The heating lamp is very important. They will tell you that it should be 90-95 degrees for the first week and then subtract 5 degrees every week till you get to 70 degrees. Well  to make life simpler just follow this tip..start it out about 2 feet above the floor of the brooder. Make sure you have an area from them to come and go from the light/heat as they need to. How I did it I had two cardboard boxes one had the heat lamp the other did not and also had there food and water. They would go in and out when they needed. You must make it so they can get out of the heat. Now as to adjusting it just let your chicks tell you when they are too hot or cold. If you find they are always under the heat lamp then move it a little closer and again if you find them staying out or near the edge of the heat lamp then raise it a little. You should see them happily going to and from this lets you know they are good to go. I wish I had better pictures of the entire brooder to show.

 Once in there new home go ahead and if you have the grow gel give them this and no water or other food for the first hour. The grow gel provides important nutrients and hydration to day old chicks. It is bright green so to attract them to it. I remember mine ate it up like nobodies business!  This should only be given them on the first day. After one hour of the grow gel go ahead and give them water. After day one start them on chick starter for at least the first 8 weeks. Then switch to a grower/finisher till about 17 weeks and then a complete layer. Layer feed can come in crumbles/mash or pellets, organic, or homemade, the choice is up to you however I prefer the $13 bag of Demor laying crumbles/pellets.  Chicks should also be given some grit but not the kind for adult hens,go to your local pet store or even super market and get the kind for pet birds as it is much finer. Then switch to a crushed granite when they get bigger. The grit is swallowed and kept in there crop to help grind their food.

A good bedding for chicks is pine shavings as it is absorbent and and they can't eat it but you can use newspaper though I have read people advise not to as it can cause them to slip and mess up there legs but I know friends who have used it and no problems.

* One other thing that is really important to keep an eye on is what is known as pasting up. This is caused by poop which is a bit runny or loose at first and it forms a crust on their bottom preventing them to go to the bathroom. I had this happen to a couple of mine a number of times. What you will need to do if this happens is get a warm wash cloth and gently keeping rubbing their bottom till it is washed off. After a few days you shouldn't have a problem with this.

A few others things to consider...

On warm days you can let them out in a small confined area under supervision.
Rhode Island Red really feathering out now spending some warm afternoons outside.

A small roost bar in the brooder if possible as they will start to want to perch at night.

They are a little older here getting wing and tail feathers in , you can see the roost bar in the background now.
That's pretty much it for a while. If you are not introducing them to an established flock then at about 10 weeks you can move them into their new coop. If you still have cold nights then you should continue with a heat lamp at night by then they should have most of there feathers to help keep them warm. If you are introducing them to an established flock for the first time I have some tips that might help to introduce them into the flock with as little stress as possible..that will be in part 2.

 Enjoy them, they grow so fast and oh are they ever so cute to watch! Often when someone was missing from the family it was because they were with the chicks! lol They are so cuddly too. Oh I miss when mine were that small. Watching them grow, getting in their tiny little wing and tail feathers, then watching them just starting to scratch like the big girls and even start trying to take a dust bath (which can be really scary at first as you think something is wrong with them but they are just fine). They are a joy and boy do they make some noise! We kept ours in the hall bathroom as we had nowhere to keep them. There cheeps are very loud and that was only from 6!  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My little blue visitor...

This little guy or girl wanted in my house so bad for two weeks. These pictures were taken last year. My big indoor project last year was painting my kitchen cabinets and glazing them. The project took much longer than I was hoping but this bluebird kept me company the entire time. Everyday he or she would fly at my window repeatedly then stopping to perch on the screen as he is in the photo above.  I could stand right up to the window and take his picture and he wouldn't fly away. I don't know why he was so determined to try to get in the house. Maybe it was the colbalt blue bottle collection I have on the sill? Maybe he really liked the job I was doing on the cabinets?  Maybe it was a she and wanted to build her nest in my house?   Whatever the reason everyday I was painting cabinets and everyday this little guy was there keeping me company and driving my lab nuts at the same time!

This wasn't the only window either. He would try coming it at the front door side windows and my bedroom window even. Though the kitchen window was the one he used the most. I thought the bird had lost its crackers! He eventually left and I had a pair of bluebirds nest in the box. I don't know if it was this little fella or not because I have several pairs checking out my box at the same time but I do hope he or she found a mate and made a nest somewhere! I love bluebirds, don't you?!