Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Garden in review 2014

It has been so good to garden this year!

I have been slowly adding raised beds as the opportunity arises. I refuse to pay full market price for lumber for garden projects so, I wait till I find a great deal on culled lumber.

Strawberry barrels - they dry out way too fast so I will be re-doing the soil mix and replanting the current one and, will make another. I love harvesting and weeding them. Super EASY!





























Pepper Tires - I think i found my pepper solution in using these tires.

These were GREAT!
A mole screen, compost soil mix, keep them pruned...
my solution for growing great peppers in the PacNW!

















I put the tomato in the raised beds and so far so good. Organic EarlyGirl Bush variety did the best. Still not enough though.



The shelling and snap peas were confused and i ended up just shelling all of them. Ended up with a gallon bag full and am not sure the time and real estate was worth it.

Summer squash were prolific.
I think I will cut down to 1 each for 2015.

Green beans did great. Gonna put those in the new raised beds next year.

Cukes love the containers so long as i keep them watered.




I accidentally ended up with lots more pumpkins than i thought i planted.





Wild berries were good this year.
Last Year, the Blackberries got all molded out by a freak rainspell just before harvest time (I lost my tomatoes to that rain spell too).














Springtime garden

I found all these pinks for under $15 a few days after mothers day!
I got rid of the sedum. It got too ratty looking during the winter.
Planted these and added the rock "mulch".
These smell FABULOUS when in bloom.



Garden in November with new raised beds


Great gardening year that produced about $700 worth of fresh, Organic Produce!

Looking forward to 2015. I think I am starting to get the hang of PNW gardening.

I will be trying corn again. Planting it closer together and a variety with a shorter time.
I have a PNW variety of garlic already in the raised beds and cant wait to try it.
I have found a new love of parsnips! Roast chicken and parsnips is a perfect combo.







Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Wizard of Oz 2014 district production

The school districts' 2nd annual production: The Wizard of Oz

Here is a photo run of the 2nd show.













There's no place like home.














Sunday, August 17, 2014

Summer 2014 Peninsula and Astoria Trip

Summers here are heavenly and all too short. Already nearing the end of another summer.

This summer started out with some great gardening and continues as I write this post. So far, I have harvested about $200 worth of organic produce and I am using only half of my potential gardening space this season.

We "remodeled" the main bathroom. That is another post later.


Earlier this year, hubby purchased a weekend in Astoria package at a charity auction. We decided to make our summer vacation out of it and drove the 101 around the peninsula on the way to Astoria.

We stopped in  Sequim Bay State Park for picnic lunch. The park is really nice with short, well maintained trails, nice picnic areas overlooking the bay.


Before checking in to the cabin, we toured the Makah Cultural Museum.
This is a really nice museum and cultural center and a must-see in the area. The area is territory of the Makah tribe and they are so gracious to open and share one of the most beautiful land in the USA to the public. In my opinion, visitors need to take an earnest effort to learn about and give the utmost respect to the culture and the land.

We stayed in a cabin at the Hobuck Beach Resort. The cabins are great and the beach is phenomenal. We wish we could have stayed at least one more night. We relaxed in the cabin and played in the sand. We walked (and ran) along the beach, searching the tidal pools for sea anemones, hermit crabs, barnacles, clams and crabs. We made sand sculptures and drawings.




The hike out to the point on Cape Flattery is moderately challenging and the trail is well-kept. The overlooks are awe-inspiring.



This is the most north-westerly tip of the continental 48 states.


Note that these Cape Flattery photos, I did not re-touch them. Only used a UV filter on the lens and did composting for landscaping and cropped. It is really that beautiful.






















Ruby Beach was our late-lunch stop. We have been to Kalaloch and Beach 2 and 3? in the past. Most everyone that has an opinion of the beaches is of the opinion that Ruby Beach is the most beautiful. I did think it was beautiful but, not any more or less than the others. It is a small beach, rocky and a good elevation change to get down to it.







We took an unplanned stop at Fort Columbia. Hubby had visited years ago before we moved here, and I wanted to give it a go. Very informative, and  cool place to visit. The interpretive signs are kinda willy-nilly stuck in the ground at odd places and the park requires a lot of up and down and climbing up steep hills but the military base is pretty much like it was. I enjoyed walking about, and found myself imagining the feeling of wool socks in laced up leather boots as I marched up and down the misty hills and stairs a midst the crumbling concrete and steel. The salty sea-wind in my face and the barracks at my back.


The Astoria Commodore Hotel is a bare-bones, retro/modern place in the heart of downtown. The service is extraordinary. The beds are fairly comfortable. We booked the river-view suite. A corner room with a queen and full couch with a full bath in the room. Most rooms are MUCH smaller with community bath. Amenities in this room included a shower/bathtub, toilet, sink, toilet paper, shampoo / conditioner / body wash in a dispenser in the shower, tissues, towels, a throw-blanket, TV/dvd (we did not use), table fan (very quiet), clock/radio/sleep-center with ipod station. That's it.  It was very noisy the 1st nite due to the drunks hanging out in the street under the window (historic single pane windows here). The next night was typical road noise. They do offer ear plugs if you need them. The location is great and the building is cool. It is walking distance from just about everything to do in Astoria. I would surely recommend the place for a superior location, charm, service, price as long as you don't expect the modern amenities in-room and can tolerate a historic building downtown with all its sounds.

The Columbia Maritime museum is really good and a must-visit.

Eateries:
BlueOcean Thai is soooo yummy. The Bowpickers fish and chips boat is a must. Check the twitter feed for hours as they are subject to change and bring cash. I thought it was the best fish and chips style fish I have had and although their tartar sauce is great, I thought it was phenomenal with malt-vinegar. The chips are just steak fries from a bag and fried in the fish oil which does make them taste good.
42nd street cafe has good light breakfast. Pig n Pancake has good big breakfasts.
Fort George has 3 opportunities to dine and brew. The Pub is pretty much a pub. The tasting room is located in the brewery itself. It is intimate and urban-rustic with a light selection of nosh. It has a view of the operations. The restaurant is above the Pub and offers outstanding 3 sides of picture windows of the town and the river. It has pub tables, a few small seating arrangement but mostly heavy wood and metal family-style tables. A selection of games adds to the atmosphere. The beers - typical Oregonian IPA hopsy stuff. I am not a fan and should have expected as much. They did have one wheat and 2 stouts that I could enjoy. The food on the other hand was super fab! Smoked salmon spread with pita, apples and carrots - WOW especially on the apples. Elk burger cordon bleu style was tasty and the herbed mashed potato fried blobs were good but would have been fab with some tillamook cheddar in there ;-). The wood-fired pizza - super delish! Carrot cake - yum!


Astoria column - The artwork on the outside is wonderful but, the climb is not worth it not to mention that they just let people go up and down without any kind of traffic limitation - hazard waiting to happen.

Flavel House - nice house, not huge but not tiny either. It is nice but really not a must-see.

We spent 2 nights and felt like we don't ever need to go back. We did everything in one day. It is nice though if you want to get away to a small town that has great walking downtown, a decent river walk and great maritime museum, good food. I do suggest staying downtown as you can walk anywhere. The shops are cool (if they are open). There was an arcade a few blocks down. Yeah, a real one with Donkey-Kong and everything - old school kind - that was totally awesome.


On the way back we visited Cape Disappointment State Park. Also, a must see but give yourself at least a half day. Don't miss the North Lighthouse area. Renting one of the keepers homes in January I expect would be an adrenaline inducing experience.


We had to jot up into Long Beach for a late lunch before heading out. Bobs Chowder is a tiny tiny 9-seater tucked away in a "museum" just off the main drag. Menu is simple. Chowder is pretty much it besides fish and chips and crab rolls. I found the clam chowder good but a too thick and plain for my gold star stamp ( I like mine less potato-y and with more fresh herbs). The smoked salmon chowder on the other-hand was just knock your socks off good. Fish and chips also good as well as the tarter and the slaw had a surprisingly good twist with the addition of cranberries. Super friendly folks.

Then back on to home.






Summer Musical 2014 The Music Man

I am finally getting to sit and write some blog.

The 1st part of the summer was a bathroom remodel while the kid was at workshops.

The kid was signed up for a 5 week theater workshop which she was reluctant to attend.

But, after the 1st day, she was super excited.

By the time the cast party rolled around, she was already to sign up for Beauty and the Beast next summer and audition for the school-year district-wide production of the Wizard of Oz this year.

She played Alma Hicks in The Music Man this summer.



















































Monday, June 2, 2014

The Switch from central electric heat to a Wood-burning Stove


This "wall" in the center of our living and kitchen area just had to come down from the very beginning.

You can read about that remodel here.

We had to get rid of the big, loud, energy vampire of a furnace and fireplace.

We decided on this stove vs a new heat pump unit because of the following
 - we have an abundance of wood and access to wood
 - the house is tiny and the new stoves are so efficient that the wood use should be under 2 cords a year in our "mild" climate.
 - the new stove burns with super low emissions.
 - our summers rarely have temps above 90 so the use of a ac unit part of the heat pump is almost useless
 - when we are without electricity we can still have warmth and cooking
 - when in use, it can be used as a cook-top, reducing the need for the electric range in the winter.
 -  should save us about $400 in electric heating costs per year.



Now for the review of the stove in the 1st season

Stats 

House: Split-level "kit" house with a walk-out basement. 1980 built. Crawl attic. The windows and attic insulation have been updated sometime since the 80's.
Stove is on the top floor where the living/kitchen area and bedrooms are located (appx 1000 sf).

Stove: Pacific Energy, Alderlea cook-top model T4 with, Excel chimney system.

I chose this model because of the high quality of the company. The model features steel box with "floating" iron for heat retention. Built in shield for reduced clearance from combustibles. Hinged removable iron grate flat top for a variety of cooking needs. Big glass door for ambiance. Features air wash flow for the ceramic glass. Size to fit where I needed to put it and for the area of space to heat. Price. ..although it is a top quality stove, they're are way more pricey ones out there.
When I get to old or tired of the work of split wood, I can buy and use pressed logs or convert it to pellets or gass. 

Every time the inspectors come, they comment on the quality and say "This is a really nice stove".

Climate: Mild Pacific northwest USA. 10 months rainy season September-June. 7 months cold starts in October with daytime temps 60 F and under with nites in 40s. Winter cold is usually daytime of 40s and nites dipping down into the upper to mid 30's.
It rarely freezes here. We also have power outages typically in the cooler months due to downed trees from landslides, wet ground and high winds.

History:  We have been acclimating to the cooler weather here. I notice that we like it in the mid-60's in the house at night.
I use a tiny space heater (milkroom heater) under my work table on  "mild" days to get the chill off and it works great in the tiny upstairs. It allows me to heat up the hands and feet but not get too hot while working around the house. It has 1300 and 1500 watt settings.

Review disclaimer: I have not been paid for this review or received free products for it. The review is based on my experience and reflect my own opinions. Performance will not be the same for everyone due to type of wood, moisture of wood, climate, building size & energy efficiency and personal comfort preference.


Season Diary:

This is the boring part!!! I documented some boring details to help me keep record. The first few months are long and it tapers down. Scroll down for a Summary at the end.


September 2013

Early rainy season (fall/winter).
I fired it up on a nice 60degree, sunny day to let the paint cure and open up the windows.

HEATING

We fired it up again on a mildly cool day to knock the chill out and learn how it burns and cooks so we are not having a learning curve on really cold days or in a power outage.
It  was 62 high 51 low F, rainy and cloudy with sun peeks in the evening.
The place got pretty warm (mid - upper 70's). So warm in fact, it was too hot to sleep comfortably.


October 2013

Fall-like weather

Oct1st...
Woke up to 60 in the house with overnite temps of mid-low 40's, current temps of 45 with forecast of 100% rain (of course) and a high of 55 dropping back to mid-low 40s at night.
Decided to use the stove to heat us up this morning and get the house warm for overnite.
Started burn at about 7:30am. By 10am it was 70 in the house. I opened the bedroom doors to let the heat in. Let the fire go out on its own around 3pm.  9pm still 70 in house and 50 outside. Kept the stove "cold" for the nite to see how we do in the 40's this nite.

Oct 2nd...
Woke up to 65 this morning in the house and about 45 out - nice retention house!

Oct 9th
I woke up to 36 degrees and it was a nice 65 in home. With just a maple log on low put in at 8pm - perfect.
It was a bit warm for me going to bed but the waking up temp was wonderful.
Supposed to get to 60 today and mostly sunny so, I just got a small fire going to knock off the chill as the house temps are dropping slowly.

October seemed a bit crazy with using a stove. It is that time of year where most of the time it isn't needed.
Starting up from cold (without coals) has its challenges.

Energy Usage Comparison for October
2012 - 1109.90 kwh   Temp - 49avg, 68H, 32L
2013 -   990.87 kwh   Temp - 47avg, 75H, 28L
       
 = 119.03 less usage (about $15- savings)

November 2013

Nov 7th
Now it is starting to get "winter" around here in the Pacific Northwest. The 1st snow fell in the passes and we are pretty much a constant below 50F with cloudy skies. The stove is being used more often than not but is still on the low burn side most of the time.
Kudos to the house as I have been able to keep it between 60-70 all the time.
I am able to cook on it more often. But, I don't know how much it will help with the electric consumption as I realized I bake more in the cooler months. The oven is another electricity eater.

Nov 30th
It has been a strange fall in the western cascade foothills this year - clear and cool and very "Fall-like".
We have had cold snaps (below freezing at night) of about 3 days followed by about 5 days of typical weather (cool, wet and above freezing).  This month I probably used about an 8'x3' row of wood.


Energy Usage Comparison for November
2012 - 1565.36 kwh   Temp - 45avg, 66H, 23L
2013 -  1086.67 kwh   Temp - 43avg, 60H, 19L

          = 478.69 less usage (about $45-52 savings)
               ($ 80.32 actual compared to previous year November bill)



DECEMBER 2013

December 1st
We start of the month with 2 full cords left.

December 4th
Unusually frigid week. This is not the norm here luckily.
Woke up to 57 in the house this morning - boo. Got a learning curve here with below freezing.
Daytime is no problem. I have been going through more fuel and keeping it on medium to high for the day.
We had about 3 weeks of the coldest temps in a few years here. We got down to 8 one night.
I experimented with pressed logs (100% wood) and it went well. They heat well, evenly and leave a nice coal piece for overnite.


Energy Usage Comparison for December
2012 - 2282.625 kwh   Temp - 36avg, 46H, 26L
2013 -  1466.58 kwh   Temp - 36avg, 53H, 8L

          = 816.045 less usage (about $80-90 savings)

JANUARY 2014

This has been a strange winter here in the PACNW. Not a lot of "warm" rainy days and quite a bit of sun and cold. Really really cold!


Energy Usage Comparison for January
2013 - 2432.37 kwh   Temp - 36avg, 55H, 17L
2014 -  1424.6  kwh   Temp - 40avg, 57H, 19L

      1007.77kwh less usage = (about $110 savings)
                                              ($156.78 actual compared to previous year bill)


February 2014


The first week was another bitterly frigid week with lows in the low teens.
On the 7th the stove started smoking more than it should when we opened the door to reload.
The 8th, I cleaned out the ash. The CO alarm sounded shortly after I cleaned and started a new fire. We aired the house and I let the fire die. The alarm did not sound again but to be safe, we did not use the stove again and instead let the small electric space heater keep the temperature stable.

The 9th, I opened the window in case it was a pressure issue, and lit a paper fire to heat up the chimney and see how the smoke goes up the chimney. I noticed smoke coming out from the stove collar. So, a call to the certified chimney folks is in order for the morning.

Lesson: always have a backup or two.

All cleaned and chimney and stove all in good order. The spark screen was clogged. Good news is they said the chimney looked good for this time in the season and just recommended to have it cleaned again at the end of next season and to go up on the roof about 2 times in the season to clean off the screen and take a look at the chimney.

Energy Usage Comparison for February
2013 - 1835.31 kwh   Temp  - 41avg, 53H, 24L
2014 -  1578.495  kwh  Temp - 38avg, 55H, 10L

   256.815   kwh less usage = (about $25- $31 savings)


March 2014

At the start of March, we have gone through a full cord so far this season. There is a months worth in the log hold on the deck. I think it will last us thru the rest of the season. The weather is actually starting to show a warming trend. I have been lightning it up mainly in the evening around 3-5pm when it starts to cool in the house. March has used almost all the wood on the deck. I light up the stove usually about once a day to every-other day or just in the evening or in the morning.

Energy Usage Comparison for March
2013 - 1718.43 kwh   Temp - 45avg, 71H, 24L
2014 -  1404.03  kwh   Temp -46avg, 68H, 26L
             314.4 kwh less for march


  534    kwh less usage = (about $ 30 savings)
                  $373.37 march2013              ($ 77.86 actual compared to previous year bill)
                  $295.51 march 2014

April 2014

April starts with some nice spring weather. We also have about 2-3 days of wood "left over" from last month.
We had to use it 2-3 times in April but for the most part I use the small space heater most nites set to 65 degrees to make sure it doesn't get too chilly. Hubby turns the thing on full blast in the morning and I turn it back down after he leaves.


Energy Usage Comparison for April
2013 - 1270.82 kwh   Temps - 48avg, 71H, 32L
2014 -   1161.71 kwh Temps - 49avg, 80H, 32L


    109.11 kwh less usage = (about $15 savings)
               

May 2014

Typical spring weather for here. Cool days and nights with occasional warm days and unpredictable rain.
The start of the month, I used it once or twice on cool, very cloudy days where the high was in the low 50's.

Energy Usage Comparison for May
2013 - 948.96 kwh   Temps - 55avg, 84H, 30L
2014 -   873.24 kwh Temps - 56avg, 86H, 39L



      kwh less usage = 75.72 (about $10-13 savings)
                  $238.95 may 2013              ($23.60 actual compared to previous year bill)
                  $215.35 may 2014

so far for season - $338.56


Summary


Savings & Expenses

$338.56 for the 2013-2014 burn season as compared to 2012-2013 electric furnace use.

This is not as much as I had hoped for.
The only difference from last years' energy usage is that... The previous year with the electric furnace, I kept it pretty cool in the house during the day and bundled and used the space heater right next to me while working. There is also a heater in the well house that kicks on whenever it gets under 60F (I've got to fix that). I think the man-cave usage may have been the same. He likes it pretty toasty down there in the winter. This year... I kept it very cozy in the upstairs and if I were using the furnace as opposed to the wood-stove, it would have been a much higher bill. I can't go back past one year in my bill history. I do remember having 2 mid-winter bills in 2011-2012 that were between $500-$600. That is why I was so conservative the following winter. Comparing that to the 2 largest in the conservative year at $375-450, the savings would be a whole lot greater and... I do not have to bundle up so much and sit in front of the space heater.

"Hidden" expenses of woodststove life...

The annual cleaning and inspection which runs about $140 around here.

If you have to purchase wood, you can expect to pay $200-$300 per split cord in this area.

We did purchase a cord the first year as a just-in case. We used the cord and a little of our older stuff.

We do not have to purchase wood for the next 2 years (so far) as we have almost a full cord from 2 years ago, about a cord and a half from a downed maple from last year, and about a large cord from a dead fir we just felled and a dead maple and alder that will be felled next weekend. Looking at all the trees on our acreage that are on the way out (there was a maple disease a few years ago and the fir beatle that are killing quite a few trees around here), we should be set for at least few years after that. Hopefully with only a cord - to one and a half cords per season... our acreage will be self-sustaining.

Start up costs. ..
Stove
Chimney system
Floor protection 
Install 
Inspectors
Insurance will increase
Tools 
Fuel
Fuel storage 
Cleaning maintenance 

Concerns...

Safetey

Yes, there is fire and carbon monoxide hazards. But... you could also have a fire start from the electrical wiring in your home, space heaters, ovens, toasters, fixtures and even the electric furnace. If you are a smoker, or light candles (or tend to burn food - guilty) etc... CO2 is a huge concern if you have gas lines of any use.
When a quality stove and components are properly installed and maintained and used, the risk is no more than any other appliance in your home.
We did have the CO alarm sound one day. Our spark screen had build up and was not allowing the stove to vent properly. A quick and easy maintenance that we could have done ourselves and prevented if we had checked it. After a cleaning and inspection from a certified sweep team, we were on our way. This was toward the end of our burn season anyway. Next year, we will check and clean the screen in December and check it every month.

Accidental burns...
Our stove is steel box surrounded by floating iron plates and a heat shield on the back. During normal burning, I can touch the sides, top, and back without getting burned. It is HOT but not enough to burn unless I intentionally leave my hand on there. The glass and areas of the front door are hot enough to burn as is the cook top (has vented iron cover). I have been burned twice when I have carelessly loaded the box with my hands instead of using tongs or fire gloves (the box is small). If I had a young one I would install a fire gate around the hearth anyway.

Messy. 

Yup, it is messy. Wood sheds dirt, bark, moss and yes, bugs etc... in the house in the wood pile and when loading.
There is ash to clean. During the peak burn season I empty the ash about twice a month. It burns so efficiently that the ash is very minimal.
I vacuum, at least once a day around the hearth because I like it to look clean. I also wipe down the stove from ash and dust and clean the glass about once a week.
Compared to the central unit, there is no more dust in the home than before. And, I feel like there is less.
Glass Is easy to clean. Just a moist rag and a clean paper towel. Add a dab of white ash for tough areas. 

Smell:

It only smelled of smoke when the chimney needed cleaning.
Outside smell - does not smoke except on a start-up and smells of a faint wood-burning scent.

Work:

Yes, especially if you split and collect your own cord wood.
That can be reduced if you purchase your wood and pay to have it stacked. Or use pressed logs. But, you still have to bring it in.

Convenience:

None unless when the electricity is out then, it is a HUGE convenience!
If you are gone most of the day it may not be useful except in power outages.
If if is cold in the house it does take 1-2 hours to get it warm depending on how cold it is in the first place.
We came back from Christmas break in Texas to about a 40 degree house at midnight and it was not fun staying up for the next hour to get the stove warm and going. That is when our bed heaters really were more than welcome!
On the super cold spells I would get up at 2am to re-load. I think i probably had to do that about 6 days out of the whole year.
I can be sure it is going well before i leave to go shopping, return 2 hours later and it is still good.
Sometimes it is really hard to start from cold. Part, I think was the quality of wood we purchased. I don't think it was fully seasoned. Next season we will be using our own wood and will know exactly how long it has been seasoned. I also have cut our own kindling - I like it much better.

Heating:

In the bitter cold (below about 25 F day time temps) it kept the house comfortable at a full burn 24 hours a day. In most of the burn season (non-peak) it is great and I can easily keep it between 60-70 in the house. In the October and April-May months it will get the house really really warm and I prefer to only light up on the occasional evening or morning and use the small electric space heater to knock off the chill and wear my house sweater.

You would think heat is heat and I thought people were crazy when they raved about the "feel" of the heat from their woodstoves. I am joining them in their crazy... I love the heat it makes. It feels natural and beats the forced air furnace in the way it feels. There is a difference.
It may have also helped fight off the SAD this year. Really, it does lift the spirit on a cold, rainy and dark day to sit in front of the stove and watch the flames and feel the warmth.

So far, so good.



Starting of 2nd Season. ..

My own seasoned wood is so much easier to start! Really didn't get started burning till Nov this year and had 2 freezing snaps.  Emptied the ash 3 times and took a month to fill the ash bucket. I check the CO2 alarms almost daily. The numbers have been at zero except when I burn food.  Oops.

Are you considering a woodstove? 
There are so many options and situations. There is no one solution as a woodstove purchase and needs are custom. 
Know your climate
Know your home
How much work do you want to put in? 
Are you gone all day? 
Do you like convenience and consistent, instant comfort?
Do you want complete off grid functionality? 
Do you have a place for it to be safely installed?
Do you know of all the regulations in your area for use,  maintenance, installation etc? 
Are you aware of all the expenses? 
Have you done your research? 



Monday, April 21, 2014

Garden tour April 2014

I know, I have not posted in a long while. Not a bad thing this time. Just a busy time.

I have been working on expanding and re-branding the shop and finding more green ways to do business.

The only shower/bath we have is over 30 years old and is showing signs that if we don't replace it, we will be replacing more than just a bathtub. I have been busy trying to plan a bath remodel within a super tight budget.

I have also split a cord of wood with a half-cord left to go. This has been a great exercise that I have found I really enjoy doing.

I have also been taking advantage of the nice bits of weather and catching up on the gardening.
I had the truck loaded up with 2 cubic yards of mulch from the local supplier and worked for 2 days.
In this post we celebrate spring and take a look at the goods...

The corner garden is a purely decorative garden to welcome us as we come and go and a little eye candy for the passer-bys. I have some daffodils for the spring and gladiolas for the summer. It had tulips but the deer like those too :-(. I pruned the rhododendron and the transplanted Rhodi seems to be growing well despite my horrible job of transplanting. Now that it has a fresh thick load of mulch - they should do much better this year.





A huge ongoing project is the Half-Moon / Japanese style garden. My hubby has been a huge help in this garden. It has been a ton of tearing up and moving rock. The first owners had laid plastic and landscape fabric under rocks and it has been a HUGE headache to clean up. For the most part - all the trash has been removed and I helped the hubby (a little at least) get the rocks out and move them to the rock wall.
The next step for me is to prune the trees. Hubby still needs to get some of the soil out and remove or "grind" the stumps. Then it will receive a huge load of mulch while the garden evolves.







The rock wall garden has received some mulch to help it out and the daisy's are doing great with some fragrant annuals to fill in the gaps. Looks like the calla lilies will recover from the deer munching.

I built a fence to try and help keep out the deer and the chickens. Time will tell how well it will help.












The sedum look pretty cool tucked in the crevices.















I had enough mulch left for the blueberries. Hopefully I will get to taste some this year.

The hill needs to be "scalped" and mulched and I need to clean up the rock-wall there too.
































I took a lot of those rocks from the Half-moon garden and "mulched" the south side foundation bed till the perennials fill it in.

In the meantime, I put a few annuals in there to brighten it up.













 In the food-garden...

The strawberry barrel seems to be working well. The plants are twice as big and are beginning to flower.

I have built 2 trellises for the peas - snap and shelling. So exciting to see the plants you want popping up, popping up.














Till next time.....
Happy gardening!








Saturday, February 22, 2014

Happy Chickies 10 Months Old and other stories

Well, well, well...

The babies are 10 months old now. Red is molting again. And...
I have not blogged in a month :-(.

It seems as it the last I posted about the birds is when they were 4 months old!
SO MUCH has gone on since then!!!

Here is a snippet of the one I was writing for 6 months update...
Imagine you are reading this part October 2013

Happy Chickies 6 months old


These birds are moochers. Still no eggs.

They are all a flock now.
Red will get her feathers in a ruffle every now and then and challenge Rooster.
They got into a big fight the other day and BB finally realized he was twice her size and a rooster.
Red just wouldn't let up and kept at him. She finally gave in after a few scratches and reluctantly gave him his space.

Nutmeg hangs out with them all but still will bite rooster in the face if he gets too close to her food.

Tully is tiny and tough. She likes Red and tries to hang out with her. Tully is the boss of the young ones.

Eagle still has a weak beak and has some issues free-ranging but is coping well and is the biggest of the young hens.

Hawk is just a sweetie. She likes people and will jump right up on you.

Fluffy is one feather short of a tail. She seems a bit on the "slow" side.

BB is growing into his own. Still a big clumsy rooster. He gets super exited if he sees me with something in my hands (thinks it is food). He still prefers to hang out near me when I am outside.


Here is a link to their 1st eggs.


Now, Here is a 10 month old update.


Rooster...

...soooooo.... BB had to be culled.
It was heartbreaking for me to have to do it and necessary.
He and Red did not get on well and were tolerating each-other until that fateful day last November -December (was it?).
I heard a racket coming from the coop and it was Red being chased like a bat out of Hades by BB.
I went over to the run and clapped loudly and yelled at them to distract them and calm the situation. That always worked if the girls had a spat and they would go back to "being friends". I guess it breaks the cycle or something. It did not work so I entered the run and that didn't even distract him. He was focused and I saw him manage to get her a few times before I could snatch him as he was chasing her between my legs.
I held him down to calm him and a few minutes later he was calm enough for me to pick him up and carry him and lock him in the coop (separated from the girls in the run).
I took a look at Red and she had been injured but would heal up soon. He was intent on killing her. She was so scared and just relaxed in my arms (something she never does - she is always alert). I could not re-home a rooster that attacked a hen, nor do I have the resources or the cruelty to let a healthy bird live in isolation. I was left with one option.
I prepared my equipment and my mind. I gave him time to cool down. I spent some time with him and tested him out by holding him outside the run and watching the reactions. The girls high tailed it to the other side in fear and Red literally tried to climb the walls to get away. He went quickly and was not wasted. His carcass provided nourishment and his feathers provided warmth.
His brother (I gave to a neighbor) had to be culled not to long after BB for the same aggression. Unfortunately, they were not able to stave the attack and their favorite hen got scalped. One of thier other roosters came to her rescue, saving her life. She healed after a month in "ICCU" (intensive chicken care unit).


Nutmeg and Red are 2 1/2 years old

Nutmeg has not laid in 4 months and I am keeping an eye on her. She is acting "normal" but is moving slower and rests more than her usual lazy self.

Nutmeg and Red are buds. I think Nutmeg would not know what to do without Red and may die of loneliness. Meg does not socialize with the young ones and mildly tolerates them.
Red at least has been caught socializing with Tulley. The others, she tolerates.






Red is going through a molt. Poor thing. I am giving her extra protein to help her out. She gets really mean and moody in her molt. She is still the boss but takes more of a back seat role, stepping in to assert her status when necessary.


Tully reminds me of Red except she talks more.
She is smart and tiny and alert.





Hawk is a big girl. She still loves people and is not at all timid. She will not hesitate to jump up on your arm or back. She is the alpha of the babies and is a little too alpha sometimes. She will be reminded who is still #1 and #2 by the old girls on occasion.




Eagle is now the bottom of the pecking order. She reminds me of Puff (RIP). She has so many feathers! She is not afraid of people but is timid. It is difficult to catch her. I usually have to get her in the flock and round them all up to get her in the coop. She does not fall for the treats in my hand bit. Her beak is still weak but she manages and her size proves it.




Fluffy is still a nutter!
She is sweet and friendly and trusting.
She has learned to stand up for herself when needed. She is quick to find treats and snatch up food and RUN! Fluffy does not look very fluffy. She seems to be lacking in the number of outer feathers and it causes the down to stick through everywhere and makes her look fairly sad. She has a wonky tail feather that grew out of her back side instead of her tail. It has since broken in half and doesn't look so bad. I wonder if it will grow in the same way after her molt.  Yeah, that little white spike in the pic is what is left of it. Funny little thing.



Oh... as for the eggs...
The babies have been champs since they started and have laid all through the winter! Eagle and Fluffy tie for avg. 6 per week. Tully averages 4 a week and Hawk about 5 a week. Red has been her usual till the molt of course.