Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Okay, so the title's a little dramatic, but this is the time of year when we start seeing insect damage in the garden, and sometimes it feels like we're being invaded. Fortunately, if you know what to look for, it's easy to keep things in check before anything major happens. 

Last night when I was in the garden, I saw this:

Tiny holes in my broccoli leaves! Any time I see leaf damage, I go in for a closer look.

See them? They're tiny. No? This should do it: 

That "big" one in the center is just shy of a quarter-inch long. And they blend in so well!

These caterpillars are in the cabbage butterfly family; their Latin name is Pieris rapae. They grow fast and have huge appetites, making for a lot of damage if you aren't careful. The adults are small(ish) white butterflies that can be seen flitting around over most of North America and beyond.

I squash them in place on the leaves when they're this small. This seems to keep other caterpillars away, too, which is nice. (If I miss any, though, the chickens are happy to take care of them for me when I do find them. I don't let them in the garden most of the year, so I just pick off the bugs and toss them over the fence- the girls go bonkers for them. Since the chickens are used to this routine, they tend to hang out around the perimeter when I'm in the garden.)

I typically avoid using sprays to control insects when I'm gardening, so picking them off or squishing them works for me. Other non-toxic options are diatomaceous earth or Bt, applied per their labels. I find it easy enough to monitor the plants for eggs and caterpillars, though, and generally that's all we need around our place.

What pests are you starting to see in your garden?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Them's the Berries!

Just a quick update from the garden... The warm weather we've been having here has the garden going gangbusters, which is great! The berries, in particular, are doing exceptionally well- both our native berries (huckleberry, salmon berry and thimbleberry) and our cultivated ones. The blackberries aren't ripe yet, but  they are loaded with flowers.

We've picked over 2 pounds of raspberries so far: 
Some of which are huge:
And the blueberries aren't far behind!
All in all, it's shaping up to be a good fruit year, here. 

(Note the pale berry in the foreground above- that looks to me to be  a "mummy berry"; that's the common name for a type of fungus here that has wiped out our blueberry harvest for the past 2 years. I'm pleased to see that my control efforts are paying off, and I'll write more on that later.)

What are your favorite berries to grow?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Evolution of a Chicken Coop... on Grit

Hey all- the new post is up over on Grit! Stop by and have a read, when you get a chance...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Meet the girls! (Or 5 reasons why I don't name chickens anymore)

I name things. Well, to be more specific, I name animals... even if they're not mine. There was a steer across the street when we first moved in, and he quickly became Fred. If nothing else, it's for brevity- I mean, really, what's easier in conversation: "Fred" or "That steer across the street, you know, the one who sits under the tree..."? Right.

So anyway, when I got the first batch of chicks, I did what most new owners do- I promptly named them all. After all, how are you supposed to tell those adorable mini-dinosaurs apart? Meet Florence, George, Sylvia and Nugget. (Thank my sister for that last one...) Florence and Sylvia are Silver Laced Wyandottes, whereas George and Nugget are Barred Rocks. They were 10 weeks old, give or take, when I brought them home:

Poultry in Motion

Since we have quite a bit of room, and we're a good ways back from the road, it seemed like a good idea to let the chickens free range during the day once they were big enough. Well, it was, up until we came home one day and discovered that George was missing... all that was left was a pile of feathers down by the pond. Boo. 

Not wanting an odd number of chickens, I picked up three new Americauna chicks from a gal down the road. The naming thing hadn't occurred to me yet, so before I even got home they had names: Flora, Fauna and Merriweather, named after the Fairy Godmothers in Sleeping Beauty. 

Time passed, and eggs started coming. That's an exciting time for chicken keepers... nothing quite like finding that first egg in the nest box. Or under a fern, where one of them decided to start laying. That's a whole other story, though.

In August, Merriweather started coughing. Within a week she died, and I was starting to think that that if I'm going to keep getting chickens, I'd really have to toughen up. Crying over a dead chicken is somewhat embarrassing, and really hard to explain to people who don't have pets, let alone chickens.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving last year; our neighbor dogs got out of their yard, and came over to our house for some dinner. So long, Nugget and Sylvia. Lesson learned here: sometimes, it's better when they just disappear. (There was also a lesson learned about not putting freshly collected eggs into one's coat pocket. Nothing quite like having a conversation with said neighbor about his killer dogs, with a goopy pocket to add insult to injury. Ick.)

Where are we? Oh, three. There's Florence, Fauna and Flora. (Try saying that three times fast!) So this spring, I bought 4 chicks from the feed store: 2 Barred Rocks and 2 Americaunas. Collectively, they're the Muppets. They were not given individual names, and I don't regret that one bit. Sometimes, it's a challenge having a conversation about a specific one, but it was just *that* much easier the day the coyote came and ate one of them. Particularly so in context, when compared to the day last month when I had to put Flora down... that was not at all easy.

Maybe I'm just getting used to the fact that chickens aren't generally long-term companion animals. As fond as I am of them, if naming (or not naming) is the thing that gets me through the losses, then so be it.

One last shot of the Fab Five, enjoying their dust baths: 

Chicken keepers, what do you do? Names or No?