Monday, March 29, 2010

beautiful day

Any morning starting with freshly ground coffee has a good start but today . . .

The girls and I rode our bicycles up Victory Memorial Parkway to Webber Park. Round trip is about 10 miles. We did it leisurely, as Juju has but a single speed and Mesha is on a tag-a-long style attached to my own cruiser style bike. I love the parkway. Since it is Monday most of the people out were older folks without headphones and so the smiles and good mornings were a welcome change to the usual curt nod one gets.

When we got home we had lunch and while Mesha napped with Hubby, Juju and I went outside.

While she took pictures, I cleaned up the landscape beds. I have always done much of my vegetable gardening in containers, but this year I am going to put my faith in the 5 years of mulch and compost and *gasp* garden in the ground. I dumped old potting soil onto the leaf mulch (now raked up into it's proper place) and stacked up most of the pots by the garage to be posted in the free section of Craigslist later this week. I cleaned up Hubby's attempt at earthworm farming - now a container of mud and stagnant water that smelled like a pigsty - pouring that on the beds also.

I see that the PM rhoderdendron and also the hazelnut shrub I bought at the Friends School Plant Sale last year are budding (WOO HOO!) AND there are alpine strawberries putting out fresh leaves!

Then I went inside for a spell and read.

The rest of the day was spent that way. Work a little, read a little. The sun was shining and the birds were singing.

Only the hens are not thrilled. They have been regulated to their yard (a mere 16x20 ft mind you) to give the plants a chance to grow before they destroy them. There got a little extra scratch for their inconvenience. For a little while, at least, they are content.

Now on to knitting. Mesha's shrug is 1/2 done and due by Easter.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

1st fire pit of the year

Juju gave her dad Color Cones from Plow and Hearth for Christmas.

So for 10 minutes we had green, purple and blue flames by tossing in 3 coated pinecones. VERY COOL.

It's so easy to get smug, until . . .

Earlier this year I was reading a blog where the writer was lamenting that rural neighbors found her small functioning farm an eyesore in their rural neighborhood. During dinner I talked to Hubby about how easy having a beautiful and productive yard is to us. We, I am sure, went on for some time on how many admiring comments we hear from our neighbors, how many questions on what we are growing and how nice it all looks etc etc.

Then the snow melted.

Still I went along with my rose colored glasses, smiling at the hens scratching in the leaf mulch around the yard clucking happily. I noticed the vinca and green shoots of chives in the landscape and little patches of green grass among the brown in the yard. I heard the spring calls of birds and watch Butters poised on the fence surveying his domain. I hear Hubby in the garage using the newly cleaned space as a mini blacksmith shop. Thinking how well his new interest fits with our urban neo-farm idea of life.

But this morning I couldn't find the sidewalk.

I took off my glasses.

There is detritus everywhere. A plastic bag of aluminum cans leans half open by the fence, forgotten on the last run to the recyclers. Miscellaneous cut and painted wood from the partially finish kitchen remodel last summer is stacked in small piles by the garage, where it was evicted from to make room for the anvil, and along the wood fence to the N and stacked on yet unused containers of soil all over the rest of the yard. Toys, forgotten from the last time the girls played outside, or possibly from the last ice age lay scattered among the leaves. Leaves that in the fall were mulch and now are spread all over hell and breakfast by the hens who are eating EATING! the chives and the freshly dug up flower bulbs.

I set down my coffee and still in my PJ's go out and sweep the walk. Rake all the leaves back into the landscape beds. I bring the hens fresh water and crumbles + throw some scratch into their yard to entice them back into the fenced area. I smile at my accomplishments and go back inside pick up my book, pour a fresh cup of coffee and settle in for another hour until the family wakes up.

A while later Hubby is awake and preparing to start his morning coffee in the garage/shop routine.

"I swept the back sidewalk" I announced proudly.

He doesn't say anything for a minute.

"We need to keep the hens in their yard," he comments finally as he goes outside.

I frown and go to the kitchen window. The sidewalk was again covered.

My yard is an eyesore.

Sighing I go upstairs to wake the girls. It is the Sugarbush Pancake Brunch at the Minnesota Arboretum today and any yard work will have to wait until this afternoon. Between laundry and cleaning inside the house and getting in a bike ride from my health and happiness.

I sigh again, no longer feeling self rightous.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Feed Store

Yesterday I went to Anoka Ramsey Farm and Garden to pick up supplies. I love this place. It is a family run business and the only place I have found with organic feed. It feels like I imagine a mercantile would feel back in the time before Walmart. There are always a "barn" cat or two roaming in and out, demanding attention at the door and the counter. They raise and sell fresh eggs and whole chickens. Rabbits are also available. I pick up feed, scratch and straw which they carry out. One of the teenage sons was removing the straw from last years potted shubbery that will be in pristine condition come planting time in May. The first order of baby chicks and ducks were in peeping away behind the seed racks. The sign out front says "come in for lawn advice now" and the patriarch was giving sick chicken advice to another customer when I walked in. They are always friendly and thankful for my business.

This is where Mesha saw baby bob white quail last June and she has been reminding me about them ever since.

I don't buy my "farm" supplies anywhere else.

Next time I go I will see if I can get pictures.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Spring is here!! The snow is gone!!

The irises are poking from beneath last years fallen leaves. Correction, the hens are removing said leaves from the young irises.

Most importantly, the heat, save for a few hours in the am and pm, is off in the house.

In the chicken yard, the annex has been dismantled and a heat light put into the coop for rainy days.

Not that they go inside - except to lay 3-4 eggs a day. Woo Hoo!!

They all laying again!

Jane Doe, Shelly and one of the Naked Necks. Hubby said that the first two were in separate areas of the annex, but Shelly collected them into a single nest before laying her own.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The ugliest season

Early Spring is the ugliest season.

In another month, the grass will be growing, daffodils will be facing their yellow heads to the sky, peas will be planted (even if only in a window box)

But right now all Mother Nature has to offer is a reminder of the clean-up I failed to do last fall. Our small parking spot is a swamp of dirty melted snow - My kingdom for a good pair of Wellies! The weather warms like the little engine that could (I think I can. . . I think I can . . .) and covers the basement floor with little rivulets of water. The yard that has been emptied of snow cannot be stepped on - any pressure will cause me to slip and tear out the fledgling new root system of grass.

You - the ones back in Washington - jealousy seethes through me. Your nightly temperatures match our daily highs. You have planted lettuce, spinach, kale. . .

Then the henlets called from the back step. They are so happy to be out of their winter yard. They cluck and call and scamper about.

And I am smiling again.

After all, the street are almost clear of snow. I stand on the back step, finishing my coffee. Then I take my bike out and go for a ride in the glorious sunshine.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Yet another harbinger!


It was around 45 degrees yesterday . . . warm enough to get a little white egg.


Yeah, I'm a little excited.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spring cleaning

When Hubby built the coop he put it on 2 ft. legs so the hens could have protection from the rain and later have access to the garage annex.

Over the last couple of weeks, however, the ladies have kicked all of the straw out of the annex - all out the door and under the coop. The space was then barely 6 inches.

So I spent a good hour on my knees raking and forking straw from under the coop. (I love Carhart overalls! They make kneeling in the snow comfortable!)

While I was doing this, I heard a loud squeal/skweek. Yeah - I thought - take that mouse. They have been awful this winter - so bad we have even considered giving entrance for the local feral cats into the garage.

Then I went into the garage, where all the hens were glaring at me from the dog kennel/annex. I enticed them back outside with a handful of grain, blocked their doorway and cleaned all the straw from the garage floor.

It was not until I picked up the kennel to shop vac under that I saw the dead mouse. It hadn't been me, the small rodent had dared to intrude on the hens. They dispatched it and left it.

I guess it is not rugby season.

The hens are much happier now - they can now reach the bare ground under the compost bins.

Under all that raked out straw is snow.