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While I was out tending to things today, I was spellbound by the growth happening in my little garden. I can actually go outside and pick things to eat. There’s not much there yet, I’m still struggling to learn, and I have all but forgotten what I planted in raised bed number one, so I have no idea if I can eat the leaves or wait for the plants to fruit. Here are some pictures of what I’ve achieved so far.

Swiss Chard. Leaf miners got to a good majority of it, but I’ve been cutting the affected leaves off and feeding them to the chickens. Finally, I have some leaves that I can eat, too!

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Crookneck Squash. What amateur gardener doesn’t start with this delicious vegetable?

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Cilantro/Coriander. This particular heirloom variety produced a cilantro infused with a hint of lemon flavor. I let it go to flower in order to collect the seeds and attract beneficial insects.

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Oh My Gosh, I can not wait to eat these! I have since forgotten what variety of heirloom tomatoes I purchased from the guy who sells these out of his home to supplement his income, but I know they will be delicious. They were great last year, whatever they were.

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I can’t believe the strawberries are growing. They got off to a very slow start and then I mulched, which must have made them very happy.

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A random chicken picture. The chickies fashionista definitely rate number one in my garden.

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Phew!

The work has been steady but never monotonous. It seems that once I get an idea regarding what I’d like to see happen in my front and back yards, the weeds chime in and grow, grow grow.  And that’s okay. Even weeds mean growth and growth means fertile soil. For that, I rejoice as I have limited space to put in raised planter beds and have started planting in between the raised beds as well. The onions at our only local grocery store look awful and are $1.99/pound. I won’t spend that much on onions when it’s just as easy and much cheaper to grow them myself. A friend gave me two starts of walking onions at a plant exchange party I recently hosted. These onions grow additional “topsets” on the tops of their stalks, arch over and replant themselves. They are perennials and their new home is the ground between my raised beds.

Another unusual item I have been recently introduced to are ground cherries. These cousins to the tomatillo have never been sold in the Bay Area as far as I know. I have never heard of them, but when another blog mentioned them, I posted that they sound like something I would like to try. A woman from CT offered to send me seeds, and when they arrived, I planted them quickly and now have starts planted in the ground. I hope they taste as good as their description.

Not that everything I plant actually grows. So far, I’ve had very good luck with kale, arugula, cilantro and summer squash. But I also want eggplant, strawberries, cucumber, lettuce, Spring broccoli, and sugar snap peas.

Want pics? I have been using the layered or lasagna method because to me, it seemed to make sense.

Here we go! On to the front yard.

Before:

Before

During, covering the mostly weedy grass with newspaper, then mulch. At this point, the yard looked like it had a bad haircut:

During

After. It is now ready for some topsoil and whatever perennial herbs I choose to plant:

After

The back yard is another story. I won’t bore you with every angle, even though I’ve taken before and after pictures of every angle I’ve got (and boy have I got them).

The back yard before  I got anything planted (late summer 2011):

Back yard just starting out

The back yard one spring later. The raised beds were complete and cover crops had been planted over the rest of the soil to replenish the dirt. The mess of weeds is what I call “flourishment” and most of them are edible:

Weeds gone wild

But here is where we get to the exciting part. The yard is taking shape, a hugelkultur (the mound of dirt at the end) is being built up at the end of the raised beds, and some order is finally taking place. Another raised bed is going in front of the closest bed soon:

After

No huge transformation has taken place, but I have growth, and it’s edible growth. This is more than I could have dreamed of doing on my own. I’ve had help, of course, and I do want my yard to eventually look like a picture out of a Sunset magazine. But, for now, I have food, and eggs and the love of my friends/family.   I feel damned proud of myself.

Getting Dirty

Three weeks ago, I planted seeds in my raised garden beds. The end.

Just kidding. Before I planted the seeds, my neighbor drove me to pick up a yard of dirt from the local organic dirt and mulch supplier. They gave me more than a yard, but it still was not enough to fill three 4’x6′ and 1′ high raised garden beds. In between shoveling the dirt out of the truck and transporting it by the wheelbarrow full into the back yard, I laid chicken wire down in the bottom of each bed to deter any tunneling critters. After planting the seeds, I covered the the beds with deer netting to keep the neighborhood cats, squirrels, possums and raccoons out of my precious beds.

I experimented with the soil composition with what materials I had on hand and now I have some results to post. Raised bed number one is filled with just the topsoil purchased from the dirt yard. Raised bed number two is fill with a mixture of my compost (made from a mix of chicken manure, hay, and whatever greens and scraps the girls didn’t eat) and the topsoil. Raised bed number three is filled halfway with the topsoil (all of the dirt we had left).

Here are my results. This is really interesting, and believe me, the chickens are on the edge of their seats because they will benefit greatly from whatever I manage to grow.

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This is raised bed number one (topsoil only). It may not be very noticeable, but there is a small amount of growth happening here. Some seedlings are sprouting, sparsely.

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This is raised bed number two (topsoil and homebrewed compost mix). I already have to thin the plants growing in there.

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This is raised bed number three (halfway filled with topsoil). Sparse growth, except for the one weed growing at the top.

I realize now that I should have composted each bed, but did not because I had only a limited supply and I did not think it would matter all that much. I have a full load of compost cooking in the composter at the moment and will probably amend the other two beds if I decide I need to start over.

If only I can remember what the heck I planted in each one.

For Whom the Cock Crows

Okay, so here I have been hit with a new situation. And this one is actually not my fault. Not really.

Not too long ago, I woke very early to a crowing rooster.  So, thinking that one of my chickens had morphed into a rooster, I went out to the coop to take a look. Nope, chickens  are still in the coop sleeping (like that damn rooster should have been), and I can hear the rooster crowing from the direction of my Olive tree. I can’t see it  because it’s still dark out (do you hear that, you rooster?), and I had to leave for work soon. Shining a flashlight didn’t help, as that rooster was well hidden. So, ignoring the rooster, I went in the coop to feed the rabbit and all my hens ran out before I had time to shut the door. And here I was thinking that I’d lock them in for the day, until I had time to catch the rooster but no such luck. I was already late for work, it was still dark, and I hate driving to work before the sun comes up, plus I’m grumpy, because that rooster stole my coffee making time.

 “L” notices the rooster is getting onto my back porch, so he takes matters into his own hands. He puts up deer netting to enclose the porch and hangs a sign to warn me, probably so I don’t kill myself trying to walk through the gate. I wonder if it occurred to him to try to catch the rooster?

chicken prison

The sign says,CHICKEN PRISON, ENTER AT OWN RISK!! RENEGADE ROOSTER ON THE LOOSE. REWARD DEAD OR ALIVE. SHOOT ON SITE (AND IF SEEN… SIGHT). EASILY IDENTIFIED BY COCKY STRUT AND BIG COMB. WARDEN CASHIE”

That rooster was not leaving, and besides, I still hadn’t seen what he looks like.

Fast forward a few weeks, after I finally spotted the renegade over the weekend having a good time with my hens– as they were chasing him away from their coop.

Last night I got a note in my mailbox which read, “Hi neighbor, not sure what you can do about your rooster but it now comes in my yard, on my roof and wakes us up. I do know it is against city ordinance to have a rooster… So please keep it in your yard and quiet. Thx much, Neighbor. Ps. Thanks for working on the fence. Looks much better.”

Now it just figures I’d get blamed the first time I was innocent.

I wrote her back, “Hi neighbor, that rooster was abandoned in our neighborhood and probably chose my backyard to stay in due to my attractive hens, the little sluts. He has been waking me up, too. So, my idea is this: I’ll try to catch him– he’s rascally and likes to fly away when I get too close– and if I succeed, I’ll invite you over for roast chicken and we can have a good laugh over the situation. Ps. Can you do me a favor and let the other neighbors know he’s not mine? Thx much. “

It occurred to me that one person’s assessment of the situation might be the entire neighborhood’s, a supposition which might anger some folks. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create a flyer to pass out:

The villain

It reads, “You may have heard… Our neighborhood (or, namely my house) has been terrorized by an abandoned rooster. He seems to have adopted my yard as his place to roam during the day, but I have no idea where he goes at night. It occurs to me that after some neighbors complained about “my” rooster, that this villainous bird might be making me unpopular in the ‘hood.  I’ve tried to catch him but he’s elusive, and besides, he’s gone by the time I usually get home. I’ve named him Joe Cocker.

If this rooster belongs to anyone you know, please let them know he is alive and well. If he doesn’t belong to anyone you know, and you are tired of his raucous and loud behavior, please be my guest and try to catch him. He’s like a guest who won’t leave.

If you’re willing to take this dastardly bird on, please give me a call and I’ll try to help.”

The flyers have been passed out and yet my phone is strangely silent. Maybe they like it when he wakes us up? We may never know.

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