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Blooming-Jan

• African daisies
• California Poppy
• Calla Lily
• Calendula
• Ivy geranium
• Mexican Sage
• Lantana
• Society garlic
• Wild geranium

Harvesting-Jan

• Parsley
• Onion and garlic greens
• Thyme

A Praying Mantis Lives in Our Garden

A praying mantis in a coastal garden.

A praying mantis in a coastal garden.

A praying mantis lives in our central coast garden. I get shivers when I see them. They can be truly scary-looking when they cock their heads and stare you in the eye. But I have to remember that these are the “good guys”. They eat all kinds of insects that destroy our plants. Unfortunately, they are also known for eating each other when hungry. They are really quite harmless to people and can be “pets” if you are so inclined. They can fly some distance when provoked.

Probably the few that inhabit our coastal garden are California mantises, a native to the west coast that is also found in Oregon. But there are over 2,000 species of this charming insect and are now found everywhere in the U.S..

The praying mantis is called this because their front legs fold toward their bodies in a position of prayer. Their legs have sharp spines along their edges for grasping their prey. They are considered ambush predators, meaning they hide and wait for food to come to them. They need plants that are similar to their color for their habitat. California mantises are usually green, looking similar to a leaf.

The mantises in our garden are quite bold. They don’t seem afraid of people though I’m not inclined to pick them up so they have nothing to fear.  When I see one, I stop and thank them for the service in helping keep my garden pest free and let them go about their business undisturbed.

A California praying mantis.

A California praying mantis.

Update on New Hens

Ginger and Penny steal raspberries off the vines.

We’ve had our two new hens, “Ginger” and “Penny” for nearly a week. We’ve kept them in a partitioned area inside the coop and put them in the henhouse at night. They’ve learned a few things in this first week:

  1. Stay out of the way of the old hens, Daisy and Sweetpea. They mean business!
  2. All food is theirs if they want it. Give it too them.
  3. The nest boxes are more comfortable to lay an egg in than sitting on the ground.
  4. The nest boxes are also fun to roost (and poop in).
  5. If we don’t get up on the roost, Don will come out with a flashlight and put us up.
  6. The old girls get to have the prime spot to roost.
  7. Don’t get too close to the old gals or you’ll lose a feather or get pecked on the comb.
  8. Raspberries are TASTY!
  9. When Don or Lee says “chick, chick, chick” you’re going to get a treat so come running!
  10. Don and Lee love the old gals but know that we are sweet and tame too. They think we are beautiful!

 

Tomorrow, Friday, we’re going to see if all four hens can be together all day and have worked out their new “pecking order”. If it becomes too crazy in the coop, we’ll separate them and give it a little more time. I think they are doing pretty well. They are learning “chicken manners”.

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Two New Hens!

Jacob brings Ginger and Penelope to their new home.

I’m happy to announce that we have two new five-month-old pullets (young hens) that joined our tiny flock of two. Sweetpea and Daisy (last ones out of our original flock of six) are now 5 1/2 years old. Sweetpea, the barred rock, still lays 5 eggs a week. Really remarkable for an old hen. Daisy, the Buff Orpington lays 1-2 eggs a week but she pecks their shells and eats the egg inside before we can save it. I know that this “bad hen” habit would be the death of any farm hen, but Daisy is so dear to me……..

We’ve been trying to think of a way to add a couple of hens to our flock this year. As some of you know, I fell in my beloved garden and broke my hip and femur in early March. I’ve been in a wheelchair with “no weight-bearing” orders until surgery in mid August so I didn’t feel that I could raise little chicks as I’d done in the past. Our junior-high neighbor, Jacob, came to the rescue and raised three chicks for a school project. One died but the other two are now of laying age. Breeds: a Buff Orpington and a Barred Rock. “Would I like to have them?” YOU BET!

Daisy and Sweetpea jump on Don’s lap and keep and eye on their new “roommates”.

Of course, I’m worried about the abuse that they will have to endure as a new “pecking order” is established. Sweetpea immediately went on the attack with the little Buff Orpington. She was offended that the hen was impersonating her good friend, “Daisy”. We’ve put in a temporary fence across the coop to give the old hens a chance to adjust to their new “roommates” and give the new girls a chance to adjust to their new surroundings. Don went out after dark and put the new girls on the roost with the old gals, then went out at dawn to put them outside again before they could get picked on.

Jacob had named the barred rock “Penelope”, and the Buff Orpington, “Ginger”. We’ll keep those names. They are already  tame but they will have to learn to tolerate our “sniffing” labradoodles. Our two old girls had their “beaks bent out of shape” over these “intruders” and immediately went to sit on Don’s lap to claim their territory. Watching this transition will be hard for me as I know it is not possible for everyone to get along, especially at the beginning. Adding to an established flock takes adjustment  on everyone’s part.

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A Balancing Act in the Garden

A regular watering program keeps plant happy.

A regular watering program keeps plants happy.

My mind has been working overtime since I broke my hip four months ago and have been confined to a wheelchair. As I wait for my total hip replacement in August at Stanford Hospital, balance is much on my mind. Balance, both in our gardens and in our lives, is a quest. Something to strive for and realistically, something that may never be totally achieved.

Balance for many of us does not come easily;  the happy medium between too much and too little. Plants survive if we are a little off kilter. We can forget to water for a week, and our plants will tolerate it. Or, we can be too early or too late in our planting schedule. We can forget to fertilize on schedule, place plants too close together, or let pruning go for a season. But plants will certainly let us know when we have let our gardens become significantly off-balance. It is always better to prevent it than to remedy the imbalance.

 

1. Balance your garden with a light, regularly scheduled feeding program.

A gardener that is in tune with his/her garden can recognize early signs of imbalance. Nitrogen deficiency can be spotted in its early stage by evidence of yellowing leaves, and generally, the failure of plants to thrive. Chemical fertilizers high in nitrogen can correct this but tend to leach out of the soil quickly and do nothing to improve soil conditions. Organic solutions, like compost and animal fertilizer, must first be broken down and transformed by microbes to become available to plants. Moisture is necessary to provide optimum conditions for utilization by the plant. While I like using organic techniques, this is not to say that a sprinkle of 14-14-14 in the early spring is not helpful. Demand for nitrogen is high as new leaves emerge.

 

2. Don’t over-feed or over-water your plants.

The downside of overfeeding nitrogen is that all this tender new growth may attract sucking bugs like aphids. A gentle, balanced approached to feeding plants over time pays off.A balanced garden results in less time spent on weed control.

 

3. Mulch to reduce weeding and watering.

Weeds take nutrients from the soil creating competition, robbing water and food that your plants need. When barren soil is exposed to the elements, it is creating an imbalance that results in an environment where weeds flourish. Placing plants close together so that the canopy shades the soil between plants, discourages weeds from thriving. A 4-inch layer of mulch also blocks sunshine from weed seeds waiting to germinate and mulching encourages critters that help decomposition, like sowbugs. Because weeds compete with plants for water, food, and sun, weeding will help “tip the balance” in favor of your treasured plantings.

 

The picture above appeared in Organic Gardening Magazine “Water Well“. The article has some excellent information on watering your gardening.

 

 

A Peacock Comes to Visit

Randy flares his beautiful tail to impress us.

Randy flares his beautiful tail to impress us.

 

We have a peacock, named Randy, that wanders through the little village of Cambria. He has been seen walking along Main Street and through various neighborhoods. Originally, Randy lived at Linn’s farmhouse, five miles out on Santa Rosa Creek Road; the place where they sell those wonderful ollaliberry pies. Now he is a wanderer, a vagabond that is probably looking for a mate (called peahen) as he calls out and flares his beautiful tail.

Peacocks, like “Randy”, with the blue heads and necks, were originally from India and Sri Lanka. They adapt well in captivity but are happier if they have a large area to wander.

They’re beautiful creatures. Somewhat noisy, however, so when I tire of him, I hope he will move on. I wonder what attracted him to my garden? Could it be that he thinks he would make a fine rooster for my two old hens and is stopping by for an interview?

 

Randy strolls up the front path.

Randy strolls up the front path.

 

A beautiful display.

A beautiful display.

 

"O.K., that's far enough!"

“O.K., that’s far enough!”

 

 

A New Book for Quick and Easy Gardening

Cover of the New Western Garden 20-Minute Gardener

I can’t resist new gardening books. The title of this one is Sunset Western Garden Book “The 20-Minute Gardener”. I received this paperback when I was in the hospital. Sunset offered to send it to me and I was honored to receive it and to review it.

At the time I received the book, I was reading, Catherine The Great by the great author Robert K. Massie and having a difficult time. It is full of Russian names that I couldn’t keep straight. My mind was scrambled with the constant distractions that occur in hospitals.

Grow a cutting garden, it’s easy-Photo from The 20-Minute Gardener

The 20-Minute Gardener was delightful reading. It was full of colorful pictures and easy to read directions for gardens spaces, easy-to-do projects, and easy-care plants. It covered the west’s climate zones and regional gardening calendars. It was a simplified version of the New Sunset Garden Book, my gardening bible. This little book is one that one can pick up and be realistically inspired.

I loaned it to my hospital roommate to look at and her response was, “I don’t know anything about gardening, but I love this book”. I think it may be the answer for beginning gardeners that are overwhelmed by the “big book” and don’t know where to start. The easy-care plants that have a dedicated page for each one, include large colorful pictures, and are put into sections according to the type of plants: annuals, perennials, grasses, ferns, etc., making it easy to understand.

The book encourages the reader to develop the garden one section at a time and to spend a small amount each day in it’s maintenance. For people like me, this is the only way for busy people to manage the garden themselves so I’m always looking for ideas with this philosophy in mind.

The 20-Minute Gardener would be a great book for a beginner gardener or someone like me who likes simplified, easy-to-read book gardening books that have lots of inspiring pictures and text. It’s worth checking out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photos are from the Sunset Western Garden Book The 20-Minute Gardener.

We’ve had Guests

Sweetpea and Daisy have a blooming rosebush in their outdoor coop.

 

Last week we had a house full of guests. Our youngest son Milo, was married on our deck overlooking the ocean on a sunny afternoon. Guests wandered through the garden and were entertained by Daisy and Sweetpea. The hens love people and several children who were in the wedding party, kept letting them of their outdoor pen. While our garden is fenced, there are a pair of hawks that  keep watch on the hens and when they are not protected, will fly down and sit on the fence, waiting for an opportunity to snag a chicken dinner. After telling the children not to let the hens out again, we put an old padlock on the gate so that we didn’t have to keep watch on the mischievous children. Daisy and Sweetpea had to view the ceremony from “behind bars”.

 

Wedding on garden deck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Wedding in the Garden

Milo and Lea saying their vows in the Cambria sunshine.

My youngest son, Milo, was married in our garden last week to the lovely Lea. She stole his heart a couple of years ago and now they are beginning a new chapter in their lives. The sun came out in time to shine on Lea, as she walked with her parents from the new garden room to the deck. The pair stood before the pastor, to receive blessings and say their vows. Birds were singing and flowers were blooming and it was a joyous day for the couple and their families.

As some of you know, I broke my hip in February, it was a bad break and I will be having more surgery in June. I’m still in a wheelchair. Never the less, I participated in the wedding as much as I was able. Husband Don spent a week before the wedding getting the garden in shape and we hired a couple of laborers to do weeding and trimming. I am a little worried how the garden will survive without my nurturing touch but we can’t always control our lives in the way we’d like. A lesson I’ve had to learn in the last months.

Garden Room May 2013

We incorporated the garden into every aspect of the wedding. A couple of dear friends did all the flower arrangements, as well the bridal bouquet and corsages and Lea’s mother did all the food preparation. The cake was flower studded and quite beautiful.

This most special day was one I’ll remember forever. All three of my sons were together (see picture above). Utilizing the garden as the backdrop saved money and gave the wedding an intimate, personal ambiance, as if all of us were embarking on an adventure together. It gave Don and I great pleasure to share this day with the bride and groom and most welcome guests. Because the ceremony took place overlooking a garden that plays such a large part in our lives made the day even more special to us.

A wedding cake for a garden wedding.

 

Flowers from the garden with roses from the farmers market

A Fall in the Garden

“I didn’t mean to do it!”

I’ve had to put aside my computer for the last month. I took a fall in the garden and have been in the hospital for the last four weeks. Early one beautiful morning in late February, I broke my hip. I’d taken the labradoodle puppy, Marilyn, the one that had been returned for further training, into the garden bed that I’d selected for her to do her “business”. When she’d finished, I turned one way and she turned the other. As I stumbled backward, I stepped into our river rock drainage ditch and just couldn’t stay upright. The tall pine trees and blue sky rose up as I mentally reviewed the list of chores I needed to get done in the following day, week, month etc.. I had plants waiting to go in the ground, was in the middle of pruning the deciduous shrubs and trees, and was preparing for my “youngest offspring’s” garden wedding in late April. On the way down, I knew it would be a bad fall and I was preparing for the worst.

I’ve had my first round of surgery now and am recuperating at a rehab center. I miss my husband, my home, my garden, my dogs, my old hens, crisp winter mornings, green hills, and, of course, people of Cambria. As long as I can keep learning about gardening and sharing it with you, I’ll continue to keep up on my blogs and my garden columns.

 

Labradoodles Meet Hens

“Scooter”, one of our six-week-old Australian labradoodles, meets the hens.

We’ve had the best luck with our two Australian Labradoodles and the two elderly hens Daisy and Sweetpea. Labradoodles are rather high energy dogs and I really thought that we would never be able to let both hens and dogs out in the yard together to free-range. But, they have both learned to tolerate each other quite nicely. The dogs still like to sniff and will follow the hens around until the old girls can’t take it any longer and turn, puff up, and say, “That’s enough!”. The dogs go back to doing what they were doing and the hens go back to digging in the dirt beside me.

I love being outside with my two old hens and my two young dogs. I was unable to be out in my garden as much as I wanted this fall because our “Tillie”, a breeder that we co-own with a professional, was bred in October and produced the sweetest, smartest, puppies for us to raise. Husband Don and I were kept busy inside with the six little furry bundles so it was fun when they were ready to get out and explore. One of our favorite puppies “Scooter” was the only one really interested in chickens. Maybe a little too interested and we had to put the girls in their run when the puppies were out. The puppies have all been sold and are in wonderful homes. None have chickens to play with.

See puppies here.