Friday, June 28, 2024

Homestead Happenings


Welcome back to Homestead Happenings.
Summer is here and are we feeling it!
A lot of the country is experiencing record high temperatures
and we actually went into triple digits this week.
Hoping that we don't see that again.
The watermelon is being gobbled up on a daily basis.

How hot is it?
Dang hot!

A couple of weeks ago,
we finally managed to have our bathroom project done.
We had this tub/shower combination that was
original to the house.

We swapped it out for a walk-in shower instead.
The shower head was also changed out,
and it has been a pleasure taking a shower ever since.
The bonus is that we found a plumber who did a great job
and will be used for future projects.

the Cushaw squash is impressing me.
It seems to grow a foot a day,
and so far, has no issues with bugs.

I love the mottled pattern on the ginormous leaves.

The two types of squash (Cushaw and Seminole pumpkin) we are growing intentionally,
are both supposed to be resistant to the infamous squash vine borer.
Time will tell.

native milkweed

canna lily

The garden is doing well,
despite the fact that we haven't had any rain in 3 weeks.
The irrigation has been used,
but does not seem to be doing a thorough job.
I will work on a solution as weather permits,
or wait until autumn.
Until then, I'm hand watering as well.

This year's crop of garlic was cured in the garage,
and then processed for hanging.
The heads are much smaller than I am used to,
but that will be corrected with this year's crop
by being sure to fertilize twice in the 9-month growing season.

The heads were threaded onto stiff wire
and reside near the kitchen.
It's a wonderful feeling knowing that
garlic will not be on our shopping list
for a very long time.

The sweet potato slips were planted,
a little later than usual,
but they should be fine.
Looking forward to using some of the greens
for the chooks to snack on.
I may even keep some for myself.

With the onset of the dreaded heat,
a few new ideas have been tried out 
to keep our girls cooler.
The applesauce jar was filled with water
and frozen overnight.  I then placed it in a plastic pot
(some folks use coolers), and placed it in the run.
This gives the girls a cooling effect just by standing near the pot.
I also used my silicone soup block molds
to freeze larger blocks of ice to give them something super cooling.
A friend gave me a boatload of cucumbers,
so they were sliced in half, frozen and then
added to the runs for the girls to snack on.
It makes me feel better, knowing I can do these little things,
to try to make their lives a bit more comfortable.

The baby girls were integrated this week 
with the older chooks.
I can't say it's going smoothly,
as it seems that the new girls prefer
to sleep on this perch all night,
rather than using the chicken coop.

The older hens are not being as generous as they could be,
but I'm hoping they will get used to each other over time.
It's a time of transition and I'll be glad 
when they are all snuggled up together in the coop at night.
Hopefully, we will get some rain this weekend,
and they will be forced to go inside!
The complicated life of a backyard chook.

As if the joining up of the two separate flocks isn't enough,
we've had a visitor over the last week.
This guinea has been frequenting our run.
I don't mind it hanging around,
as it seems to have lost its flock,
but I don't want it to invite everyone it knows either!
It seems the strays always find us.

What's happening on your homestead this week?

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Hail to the Queen!


This is Queenie.
She came to us via a friend who was moving out west.
Her moniker came with her, and she was aptly named.
Queenie's personality was bigger than life.
She will be sorely missed.
Her sweet spirit floated up to the sky this week,
and I may never be the same.
Absolutely heartbroken.

She was always a leader in the flock,
although she would not use her position to stifle the other hens.
When we got that first group of chooks,
she was Gandalf's favorite girl.
That waned over time, and she took it in stride.

Queenie was the only one of our chooks
who would sit on the front porch 
and watch the world go by.
At least, until she spotted a grasshopper
or other tasty morsel in the grass.
Then she was johnny-on-the-spot
and quick as lightning to gobble it up.
She was a fierce forager.

When she first came to live with us,
she would follow me around quite a bit,
and would even peck me,
as if I were one of her crew.
Over the last year or two,
she was my digging partner.
Whenever there was shoveling to do,
she'd be right there,
just waiting to see what popped up!
That girl was slick!

She and Betty had become best buds.
Due to Betty's balance issues,
she had to be isolated from the other chooks.
(They mercilessly pick on anyone who is not in the best health.)
Betty was initially paired up with Ruby,
one of our comets who was often picked on by the others.
When Ruby passed, I put Queenie in with Betty,
so that she wouldn't be alone.
This worked out great,
because they were both older
and not that happy about Gandalf's still frequent advances.
So, we created an "assisted living" coop and run for them,
and they lived together for the last year or so,
happy as clams.

Here, Queenie is being less than generous,
keeping the new comfy resting spot for herself.
Betty holds no grudges.

So glad these two had some quality time together.
Betty seems to be adjusting,
although I sometimes wonder if she is looking for her buddy.

When the baby chicks were placed outside,
she was the only hen who appeared to be curious about them.
She sat next to their coop for the longest time.
I think she would have made a great momma.

 Queenie, my girl,
you were one in a million!
I hope we meet up again someday.
Rest in peace, little girl.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Going Local-Metrolina Trial Garden Open House

 Last week, the Master Gardeners were invited
to a unique event in a nearby town.
The annual Trial Garden Open House
at Metrolina Greenhouses
allowed us (and hundreds of other folks),
to participate in choosing our favorite plants
from an array of annuals, perennials, hanging baskets
and combination displays.

Metrolina is one of the largest greenhouse and growing
operations with two locations spanning over 1,000 acres of total property.
The company was started in 1972 on an acre of land,
and has grown to become one of the biggest suppliers
to Home Depot, Lowe's and Walmart.
You can find out more here.

Although I've lived in the Piedmont for several years,
this was the first time I had heard about this opportunity.
With over 3 acres of plants to choose from,
it was a challenge to pick out our favorites in 4 categories:
1.  Favorite combination planter
2.  Favorite geranium
3.  Favorite hanging basket
4.  Overall favorite.

Several large demonstration gardens were featured,
like this pollinator bed.
There were separate areas for sun or shade loving plants,
hanging baskets and annuals, perennials and 2nd year perennials.
The displays were wonderful for gathering ideas.

So many gorgeous flowers, yes,
but various textures as well.
There were many plants I could identify,
but others that I had never seen before.
It was a real eye-opener.
This salvia was a bee magnet!

It was a fabulous morning for sister and I 
to spend some quality time together.
Here, she is putting her flag into her 
choice for favorite hanging basket.
Afterwards, we went for lunch AND ice cream!
I can't wait for her to retire!

A gentleman from Proven Winners was in a booth,
showing off one of their latest projects.
This planting pot looks like plastic,
but it is actually plant-based.
The whole kit-and-kaboodle can be planted,
or it can be composted and will decompose on its own.
Everyone who attended was gifted a petunia
planted in one of these pots.

It was a bit of walking, 
but we were able to take our time.
What an enjoyable experience.
One I hope we can repeat annually.

Have you ever been to a trial garden event?

Friday, June 7, 2024

Homestead Happenings


Welcome to Homestead Happenings!
It's been a while, but we are back on track
and have a few updates on what's growing on!

The flower beds are bursting with color!
Even this coneflower in the shade is showing off.

With an abundance of rain throughout spring,
the blooms have needed very little coaxing to shine.
Our two pollinator beds near the driveway are filling in.

With Joe Pye weed, parsley and rue planted here,
we hope to have a steady supply of black swallowtail caterpillars visiting.
It's always mesmerizing to watch them make their transformation.

The front beds have been an ongoing project 
over the past year.
Adding evergreens really helped to anchor the space,
and adding more perennials keeps the color changing.

The chamomile in another pollinator bed
is so cheery.
For the first time, I am growing enough to make tea!

Can I just tell you how much I adore having these hydrangeas?
I could not grow them in Florida,
and always admired them in gardening magazines.
A fellow master gardener needed to make room in her garden
for something new, and she gifted me with these,
just for helping her dig them out!
They now line the area all along our driveway
and back in this corner of our lot.
Hydrangea envy no more!

One of the things I like best about them,
is the four season interest they offer us outside,
and the added bonus of being able to include them in 
flower arrangements all summer long.
They also make lovely wintertime displays after they have dried.

What a blessing to be able to have fresh cut arrangements
once again in the house.
The plan is to provide a Friday bouquet for neighbors
all summer long.
Won't that be fun?

Lest you think only the flowers are getting attention,
rest assured that the veg garden is humming right along.
Beets, kale, leeks, lettuce, onions
and a few new additions are enjoying the consistent watering
and ample sunshine.

Our Birdie beds are working out just fine,
and three more were just delivered this week.
That should be all we need for the foreseeable future,
and we look forward to filling them up with goodies.

I swore off of growing squash a few years ago,
as I didn't want to deal with the vine borers anymore.
Well, this cushaw squash is supposed to be
very hearty and I will say that it has taken off without much assistance.
On the opposite side of this bed,
there is one Seminole Pumpkin that germinated.
This variety is heralded as resistant to the squash vine borers,
so I am hoping for good things.
My farmer friend Lynn used to grow it in Florida,
and swears by its reputation.
Good enough for me.

We have so many volunteer squash
(I think it's squash) plants growing.
In the compost pile,

near the chicken run,
and in several other random areas.

A few Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins
in a raised row were planted intentionally.
These seeds were given to me by a fellow gardener
who had come to pick up chamomile plants.
(I took these photos in the heat of the day,
so they look a bit bedraggled.  They will recover.)

It's time to replant some of this washtub.
The curly lettuce has bolted,
and is too bitter for my liking.
The chooks will enjoy it though,
so nothing goes to waste.

A combination of kale, beet greens and lettuce
fills my daily salad bowl.
Can't get fresher than that!

We have green beans, folks!
I spied these tiny beans the other day,
and it made me smile.
A couple of these plants will feed me well.

The garlic was harvested this week,
the latest I've ever done so.
I kept hoping that it would size up,
but it just never happened.
I need to rethink my fertilizing strategy for next season.
Hopefully, this harvest will last us the year.

It will cure in the garage for a couple of weeks,
then be trimmed for storage.
A hefty bunch will be going to sister's house.
That gal can eat some garlic!
I think I need to plant some in her backyard.

What's happening at your place?