Thursday, May 26, 2011

5 Reasons to Raise Chickens: Organic Gardening

As many of you know I have chickens.  20 hens and 3 roosters to be exact but I will soon find homes for 2 of the roosters.  I so enjoyed this article in my Organic Gardening newsletter about the benefits of having your own backyard chickens I wanted to share.  The link for the entire article is at the bottom.

I got a kick out of Belgium giving chickens to homeowners!

5 Reasons to Raise Chickens

Backyard hens not only provide high-quality eggs, but also serve as master gardeners, organic pest exterminators, and unpaid city workers.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—After the massive egg recall, you're were probably left pondering egg carton claims in search of the healthiest eggs. One surefire solution: raising a handful of your own backyard chickens, giving you complete control over egg quality. Home-raised chickens may not be an option for everybody, but they are more of an option than you may think. Even if you live in the city, once you realize the myriad benefits a small flock of three or more hens can provide, you'll start thinking of your non-chicken-keeping neighbors as the strange ones. "Most people are going to get chickens because they love eggs, but then they're going to find out how useful they are in other ways," says Patrician Foreman, author of City Chicks: Keeping Micro-flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-reyclers, and Local Food Producers (Good Earth Publications, 2010).

Of course, you should first figure out if you have what it takes to own a chicken, which Foreman says falls in between raising a dog and a cat in terms of difficulty. Generally speaking, you should be able to take care of a small flock of chickens in a few minutes a day, less time than it takes you to take your dog on a decent walk.

Which isn't to say there's not a lot to learn. We can't even begin to detail all of the information crammed into Foreman's 459-page ultimate guide to raising urban chickens, ranging from lobbying your local government to make raising an urban micro-flock legal, and from choosing location-appropriate breeds and raising day-old chicks to feeding guidelines and coop design ideas. But we can tell you that Foreman lays out a strong argument for keeping a small flock on the premises (she suggests six to 10 feet of coop space per bird for a micro-flock).

Here are five reasons why chickens belong in the city:

#1. Urban chickens as bargain-basement backyard city workers.

Foreman concludes that the most economic and politically compelling reason to keep hens is to recycle food and yard waste, therefore keeping it out of landfills as it composts into an invaluable organic soil builder for your garden. The idea is that you feed your chickens kitchen scraps, they poop out a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, and you compost it with leaves and other untreated yard waste.

In fact, in Belgium, one city is actually giving three laying hens to 2,000 homes in an effort to reduce landfill costs. City officials expect to recover a significant portion of the $600,000 a year the city spends on dealing with this type of household "trash." According to Foreman, a single chicken can biorecycle about seven pounds of food residuals in a month. If just 2,000 households raise three hens, it could divert 252 tons of waste from landfills annually.

#2. City chickens as a backyard organic exterminating service.

Chickens love to eat protein-packed insects, which works out well because they can serve as the organic pest-cleanup crew in your garden and devour ticks on your property. They also love to eat many weeds, and serve as post-harvest garden bed gleaners, potentially making your work as a gardener very, very easy.

#3. Urban chickens as soil savers.

The health of our food is tied directly to the health of our soil. And chickens perform multiple functions that can turn parts of our boring old yards into fertile garden patches. Their natural scratching and digging tendencies serve them well and can help you create top-notch garden beds. They are expert in mixing manure with mulch to create raised beds, which allow you to grow more produce in a smaller space and use less water, which is particularly useful to urban gardeners. They also act as gasoline-free, noise-free tillers, mixing the top layers of soil with compost or other mulches. (OK, they're not completely noise-free, but hens sure do make cute noises, adding entertainment value for the whole family!)

#4. Heritage-breed city chickens as an extinction-prevention task force.

Because factory-farm operations prefer pretty much the same type of high-volume laying breeds (or in the case of meat, heavy, fast-growing meat birds), the preservation of rare, heritage breeds is threatened. If we lose these beautiful breeds, we wipe out genetic material from a species, perhaps losing genes that could save the poultry industry one day if the standard production breeds fall susceptible to illness. To learn more about heritage breeds, check out What's the Best Chicken for You.

#5. Urban chickens as antidepressants.

Ever hear of oxytocin, the love hormone? It's a stress-lowering chemical in your body that's unleashed when you hug someone you love, or even pet your dog or cat. And anyone who has raised backyard chickens can probably contend the same effect holds true for hens. Believe it or not, Foreman says, there are actually hens employed as therapy chickens! That's something to cluck about!

5 Reasons to Raise Chickens: Organic Gardening

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I was Surprised!

Good morning all.  We are about to face another cold snap so I must protect my tomatoes and peppers I put out last week. We may even get some snow.
I am not complaining, mind you, just stating a fact.  Considering the wild weather in the middle of the country whining about some cold temperatures seems petty. 

Sunday was the last day I was able to spend time in my garden, the past 2 days I have been a painting fool.  I an nearly done with the wedding signs that are due June 1st and I have fit in the painting of other special order signs as well. 

Yesterday I received my Country Gardens Magazine in the mail, it is one of my favorites to relax with at the end of the day.  I have discontinued most of my magazines subscriptions but this is one I will not give up. The cover page of this edition had me doing a double take…


Can you see the sign on the garden shed??? 

I just did one for a customer, special order that is so similar I had to look at it long and hard.  I need to make up a batch of these for my website and I will, very soon.

Potting Shed

Here are some other signs I have completed just the past couple of days…
A special order for a beach house..


Signs for the bride commissioned by her mother..this is a progress shot so still some work to do on these…


A beach house sign to replace the one ordered off my website.


Another Open/Closed sign


A cabinet door sign…I had a reader ask me about one like this and I need to go find out has been a few weeks. But here is this one.


Another reason I am pushing to get all this painting done is we are about ready to close on a large contract for our business.  Once that is done I will have little time for painting. I will be running my legs of getting things set up for the bookkeeping and legal end. After over 2 years of being out of the corporate world it is time to leap back in and though I do dislike it (rather be painting and building or gardening) it is a means to an end. 

The job will be an interesting and super crazy one to fulfill but gratifying.  It is for disaster relief housing.  Not your cheap trailer houses or shacks but good quality, quickly built and sturdy houses. Not only houses but factories to build houses, they can be set up in the locality of the disaster.  They can run on the sun and wind and are totally green. No infrastructure is required, not even septic. 

More on all of that later…if it comes to fruition.  I count on nothing until the deposit is in my account!

I most likely will start a blog on the project and be busy with it as well.  So you may see me hit and miss here but I shall check in as frequently as I can. 

Time for me to get to work here, I need to run get chicken feed. On the way I will deliver some tomato plants, (I started way too many and have plenty to share), and some Climbing Tombocino seeds (a super yummy zucchini that maintains its firm texture when cooked and has a flavor reminiscent of artichokes).

I cannot grow it here, too cool, it needs a longer, hotter season so a friend who lives in such an area agreed to grow some for me. 

I wish you calm weather and sunny skies!

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday, a day of planting!

Good Sunday evening!  I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend.  Mine was filled with garden chores but I do enjoy digging in the dirt so “chores” may not be the best word to describe it.

I thought everyone may enjoy seeing how my “depressed tulips” fared once the sun started to shine with real warmth. They were so happy they fairly glowed! 


This was Friday in my front garden, I was out reveling in the warmth, listening to an audio book as I weeded, raked and generally had a relaxing time.  I was weary of painting signs, I had been diligently painting them for 5 days straight and I needed a break.   


My Fritillaria’s are trying to recover but I do not think they will be straight again this year.  I will have to enjoy them crooked.


The Muscari seems to have come thru with little damage.


The dogwoods are in full bloom around the neighborhood, they grow wild here.  The woods are full of them.



This lone little tulip must’ve been hijacked by some squirrels.  It is blooming across the street from our house in the woods. I know I did not plant it there but it is one of mine.  It pushed it’s way past the thick layer of pine needles and is a bright spot amongst the drab.


Today I decided it was safe to plant my tomatoes and pepper plants.  First I planted tomatoes, 2 Brandywines, 2 San Marzano, 2 Costoluto Genovese,  a Camp Joy cherry and an Early Girl.   The peppers were Jalapeno and Zavory Habanero.  Zavory is a variety with little heat so you can enjoy the Habanero flavor without blistering your mouth.  I love hot peppers but I wanted to give this variety a whirl.  My basil is still so tiny, I may have to buy some plants if mine don’t get bigger. I think the nights are too cool in the greenhouse, basil really loves the heat.

Now that I have things planted I will not be able to let my chickens loose until I fence off my garden or they will dig up my seedlings in their hunt for bugs to eat. 
My lettuce is finally popping up in the raised beds.  I am so behind this year, normally I am harvesting lettuce by now.  The deep snow in April prevented me from getting it started earlier. I miss my fresh home grown lettuce!

I should take a walk, it is still nice out and the aerobic exercise would be good for me.  I don’t know why I am so lazy…

Enjoy your Sunday evening…until we meet again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Depressed Tulips

Well the sun is wrestling with the clouds and for the most part today the clouds have won but the sunshine is not giving up.  We are seeing a bit now but for how long?…it has been a day that if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it changes.  We have gone from a misty icy morning to sunshine, then more dark ominous clouds and a spit of rain to more sun and not too long ago a bit of hail.   The up side is, it is NOT snowing!

I have spent the past few rainy snowy days ensconced in my studio..


painting a bazillion signs (at least it feels like a bazillion).  Signs ordered for a rustic wedding, it is on a sizable property and they need directional signs along with others like Just Married, Tomfoolery Ahead (remember the Hydrangea tutorial) and the names of the bride and groom. 

I have also been painting some signs to put on my website to replace some that have been ordered and I have been fulfilling other special orders.  One painting table in my studio, I mostly base paint and put the varathane on the signs using this table..


This table is where I do the design and lettering…


Some of the signs for the website..



The trim on this Farm Fresh Eggs sign is a blue but it does not show up well in the photograph..


This one reminds me that summer will be here….eventually!


My last post I shared with you all the sad state of my poor downtrodden (maybe that should be snowtrodden) tulips.  This morning they were displaying how they felt about this late seasonal snow..


I think many residents of this small mountain town feel the same way.  We have had enough of old man winter…


Some tulips stubbornly stayed upright despite the weight placed upon them.  Many of my roses and a Japanese Maple lost a limb or two. 


My fritillaria do not seem to be able to handle it in the least. My one hope is when the sun shines they can perk up and reach for the sky once again.  They were just starting to bloom too.


Funny thing is, that though it looks and feels like winter it sounds like Spring.  The birds are still singing their sweet spring songs and each time I have to walk between the garage and my studio I can hear them serenading each other.  It is a constant reminder that we only have to endure so much of this and that warmer days will prevail and very soon! 

The fate of my broccoli is still undetermined…hmm, they are reputed to not minding a cold snap but they hadn’t bargained for this.


But now the snow has melted off and tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and mild. 


Things are already looking brighter.  I just have to trim up the broken limbs and branches, soon they well send out more and though most things are a month behind around here they will bloom and be all the sweeter for we will have been in anticipation. 


Actually all this lousy weather has been a blessing in disguise.  If it was warm and gloriously sunny out I would’ve preferred digging in the dirt to painting and I have a tight schedule with all these special order signs.  I would’ve resented being stuck indoors instead of enjoying painting them. 

I put on a movie or mini series on my laptop and listen to it as I paint away the day and am generally oblivious to what is going on outside, unless I have to trudge thru the rain to get to my garage to saw or sand a sign.

I hope all are well and you are enjoying your day, no matter the weather in your neck of the woods!

ta ta..

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

May 15th with SNOW!

Good morning all.  I awoke this morning to this…
Yes, that is my freshly painted potting bench in the background, this will be the first test of Chalk Paint enduring snow. 
The weatherman said 4 inches of snow ABOVE 6000 feet and maybe a wee bit at our 4500 feet elevation.  I guess he was WRONG again.  We have at least 6 inches on the back deck and more is falling, fast and furious as we speak.  My tulips are groaning under the weight of it all..
They were all starting to bloom so pretty. 
My rose tree and a potted rose are under there…somewhere.
This will most likely punch out my greenhouse roof again.  Sigh!
On another note, our trip to the valley was most enjoyable yesterday.  I had forgotten how busy places like Michaels, Wal-Mart and Costco are on weekends.  Everyone was out and about town. The weather was quite pleasant, a comfy 65 degrees. 
I need to dig out my snow boots so I can go feed and water the chickens.  My only consolation is in a few days it will be back into the 70’s and this will melt faster than a wink.  (note positive attitude, it may not last!)
I hope you have sunny skies and balmy temps where you are!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Painting and more painting!

Blogger seems to be having an issue, you can only view it in reader mode.  I cannot access my blog to edit, link up to parties or anything like that right now.  So glad someone had told me about Live Writer when I was beginning to blog.  What a great service!  Love it.  I can still write out my blog post even if I cannot publish it yet.

I have been a painting fool of late.  I have received a boatload of sign orders and I have to have some done by the first of the month.  With the size of one order, getting them done in a timely fashion will take some dedication, long painting hours and being organized!  Here is a few I just finished…


Potting Shed


I replanted the broccoli that was demolished but the new plant was also eradicated by something, this time it looks to have been pawed out of the ground.

  I suspect cats but I did not find anything disgusting left behind.  I will need to fence off or some other way protect that bed until the poor little plants can grow in a bit.
I started to paint my potting bench today, I really am enjoying the chalk paint.  I also painted a sign with it.  I used the leftover fence boards..


It is sizable.  I am not sure what text to use on it.  I will put some in the bottom border and something could be arching over the rose.  Any suggestions, ideas?? 

 The background is Chalk paint Old White and the bottom border is Country Gray, the rose I had to use acrylic craft paint, I did not have chalk paint in pink.

I wrote all of the above on Thursday and now here it is Saturday morning and I am just now getting back to it to post it.  I hope you all have a great weekend. 

 I am off to the valley to pick up painting supplies as I have a large order and I am out of certain mediums and colors of paint I need for it.  Looks to be wet and cold the next few days but then next week a warm up, so I can really get my garden going….YES!
Ta ta…

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