My Paw Paws Are Both Blooming!

It has been a year and a half since I’ve blogged. Not much to say really. Life goes on, pretty much the same, day by day. We lost some chickens, got some new ones.  Same with plants, never planted the Gogi berries, the asparagus is struggling along and the new raspberry patch is awesome.

One thing this spring is really exciting, at least to me.

Exciting enough to bring me out of blog hybernation and share!



The flowers appear even before the leaves which is why the tree looks scraggly. Later it will have beautifal foliage.

If you have read my past blogs you know of my fascination with these trees, native to North America and difficult to grow and pollinate. Many, including me, have never tasted its rich, custardy, tropical tasting fruit.

Here is the link to my original post on Paw Paws:



There Is A Goji Berry Plant In My Future!

I recently read an article that listed 10 Superfoods and one of them was Gogi berries.

They are full of vitamins and antioxidants.

I have never tasted a Gogi berry but from what I have read,  they are tart-sweet like a cross between a sour cherry and a cranberry.



They can be eaten fresh or dried.


 I LOVE to add dried cranberries or sometimes cherries to oatmeal, quick breads and the trail mix I love to snack on, so Gogi berries would be a great addition to our garden.  If I got enough I bet I could even make jam!


It seems to me I have seen Gogi plants offered from some of the online garden stores I have visited.  Native to China they grow well in my zone and are said to love my high pH soil.



 They can be grown in containers,


as shrubs,


or trained to grow on an arbor or trellis.


Isn’t this an awesome garden?

I think there will be a Gogi plant in my near future.

 I have just the place, over the arbor at the entrance to our asparagus bed.

You can read more about Gogi berries here:

Have you ever tasted a Gogi berry?  Would you consider putting one in your harden?

 I would love your comments.

What I Learned From My Garden This Year:

It was a pretty good year in the garden despite the fact that we went on a couple of trips during the growing season. I as usual, learned from my gardening experience and here are some of the things I will do differently next year:

  • Stick to the basics.  This year I planted Japanese Pickling Melons, Okra and Sesame.  I am embarrassed to say that I never even harvested the sesame seeds (who has time to open all those little pods and toast the seeds?)  I let the most of the Okra get too big and tough to eat, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the melon. Next year I will sample unusual items at restaurants or markets and leave garden space to what I know.
  • Grow what we eat.  We love green beans and could almost eat them every day. They freeze well too. We also love peppers and tomatoes.  On the other hand, I am the only one in the house that eats eggplant or squash. Next year I will concentrate on planting green beans, peppers, and tomatoes and treat myself to eggplant, squash and such from the Farmers’ market when the mood strikes.
  • Don’t waste space on cheap stuff. We love cabbage but it takes up lots of space in the garden and the bugs love it too. It is super cheap to buy so why not use the garden space for sweet bell peppers that I can let ripen to red and not have to pay a premium price for them at the store?!
  • More flowers!  I love flowers and would love to be able to snip weekly bouquets for inside. Next year I plan to surround my veggie garden with flowers. They will be inside the bunny proof fence, beautiful to look at and plentiful enough to get lots of bouquets for ourselves, family and friends. The bees will love them too!
  • Grow herbs closer to the house. It just makes sense to not have to go far to snip herbs when cooking. I may grow my herbs in pots on the deck next year.

I spent much of our lovely November doing a bit of yard clean up, bringing in yard art and house plants, and pretty much enjoying the last nice days of fall. Since we were finished harvesting I left the garden gate open so the girls could free range in there. They were pretty happy to get to scratch around and sample yummies in what was previously ‘off limits’ territory.

I am throwing kitchen scraps as well as raked leaves directly in the garden to decompose.

I decided to use ‘free mulch’ from Mother Nature – aka fallen leaves around trees and shrubs and in the flower beds.  I was hoping for a bit of rain to weigh them down so they wouldn’t blow away and I got it.


 Now the work is done and the days are cold and short. I keep warm and happy planning next year’s garden!

What did you do to put your garden to ‘sleep’ and what are you planning for next year?

New and Improved Asparagus Bed!

After doing more reading I realized the six asparagus crowns I planted would be not much more than an appetizer for our asparagus loving family.  I seriously needed to plant MORE!

But where?

As most good ideas do it came to me in the middle of the night.  (Everyone wakes up at 4 am with gardening on their mind, right?)


Anyway it came to me.


Well not IN the butterfly garden.  I could MOVE the butterfly garden.  I could move it to the back of the garden flower bed.  The one I call my ‘formal’ flower bed.

Formal – poo – I want asparagus!

So I went to work moving the plants in my butterfly garden.  Most were big enough to divide so I did that too.  I tried to place them where I thought the color combinations and heights would look best but to tell you the truth in some cases I did not even know what some of them were because some of my garden markers blew over.   (OK, they didn’t so much blow over as got ‘picked’ by a certain little pint sized garden helper).


It is going to be AWESOME!


I am super excited though because the bed is a lot more densely planted which means fewer weeds and it will be a RIOT of flowers

I am also super excited about the NEW AND IMPROVED ASPARAGUS BED.

 We  prepared the trench, added sand for drainage, compost for nutrients, and bone meal for root growth.


We put in 35 asparagus crowns.  That should keep us in plenty of asparagus for the rest of our lives!  ❤


If you have an unused part of lawn, like maybe over by your fence, and you buy asparagus to eat each spring, you should probably put in an asparagus bed!

Go on, DO IT!

A few other spring updates:

Peas, lettuce, onions, radishes and carrots are up in the garden.My indoor seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, okra, cabbage and marigolds are getting big.


I can’t wait to get these outside!

The honeysuckle vine more than doubled in size before I finally got it planted outside and it is doing well.  All fruit trees including the new and old Paw Paws have leaves.


Leaves on the new PawPaw.

 Best of all – the Wisteria LIVES!


I ❤ Wisteria!

It’s not gardening but I have to brag – this week my granddaughter Haley qualified for the Olympics in Womens’ Freestyle Wrestling!  She is Rio bound!


 How are things in your spring garden?

Spring 2016

A lot is going on which is usual for springtime.

I sure can’t go-go-go like I used to.  I wonder, is it the added years or the added pounds?  Probably both!  I  can’t do anything about the years.  I can, however, try to do something about the pounds.  I am starting the ‘Real Foods’ way of eating as outlined in the book, It Starts With Food’.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Ok, enough of that and back to garden talk.

Stark Bros nursery sent the replacement Apricot and Pawpaw trees and I got those planted in my ‘mini-orchard’ area.  The Apricot we got last year is blooming right now and has been visited by lots of pollinators.  I have seen Painted Lady butterflies and small bees.  Honeybees?


If I would have taken this pic a few days ago it would have been awesome.  Our past couple of windy days have blown apart the blossoms.


I ordered, received and planted a tiny Black Lace Elderberry shrub and put that behind the house  It is about 10 inches high right now!


Don’t worry Carter, it will grow and so will you!


I planted lettuce, carrot, radish, and pea seeds in the garden weeks ago and the lettuce and peas are already poking up.  The perennials in the flowerbeds are up but no sign of my poppies yet or my bunny damaged Wisteria – my big splurge plant of last year.  Sigh.

My potted blueberries look dead – also thanks to the bunnies who nibbled them down to the dirt.

 I moved my two hydrangeas to a spot where I hope they will do better.  They never did well in the flowerbed I first planted them in.

  I also divided my large Autumn Joy Sedum and some tall Day Lilies and replanted in the flower beds. Last year I took notes of what plants I wanted to divide and move this year.

The MOST exciting thing I did was PLANT AN ASPARAGUS BED!

I have only been talking about doing it for years.  We planted one when we lived in Janesville, WI but sold the house and moved before we could harvest it.  (I hope the two sweet ladies who bought our house are enjoying it).

Asparagus takes three years until you can harvest it so you don’t want to procrastinate about planting it for too long or you may never get any!  My main stumbling block was deciding where to put it.  It needs a sunny spot.

  I couldn’t put it too close to the baby trees because one day that area wlll be shady.

I didn’t want it in the veggie garden because the tall asparagus ferns would shade my garden.

Out front would be suitable (and I am always going on about how great front yard gardens are) but I had visions of night-time asparagus-loving marauders taking my harvest while I slept.

My indecisiveness was keeping me from ever ordering any!

  Then last week I was early for meeting friends for lunch so I decided to check out a nice garden center in the area.  Right by the door as I walked in was a large bin of asparagus crowns.  Impuslively I grabbed six and brought them home.


Asparagus probably should not be planted impulsively since the beds need some preparation. Since I went and bought the crowns though, I HAD TO COMMIT!

I decided on a spot. I dug a bed on either side of one of the arbors we placed on each end of the veggie garden.  I amended the soil with compost for nutrients and sand for drainage.


I did it!  I made the commitment!

I can almost taste it – Yum!


 To get your bed established you let it grow undisturbed the first year, harvest just a sample the second year and then by the third year you are good to go – and it keeps on coming back!  If you have a sunny spot that wont be disturbed, I recommend you start an asparagus bed.

 How fantastic to harvest the yummy goodness early in spring when the rest of the garden is doing NOTHING.


Then the rest of the summer you have the lovely asparagus ferns which are attractive.


Here is a link that explains how to plant an asparagus bed.

After reading up I realize I need at least 18 more crowns to keep us supplied with enough!  I had better get to more digging.  I am toying with the idea of one or more raised beds for additional crowns.

Happy gardening!

A REAL Challenge!

A challenge that I have not yet met.

I’m talking about keeping a nice yard with dogs and chickens.

This is especially important in urban areas.

Having separate areas for your pets and chickens that can be landscaped around and ‘hidden’ from view is the best option I have seen.


You almost can’t tell there is a coop in this garden.


A coop and chicken pen blended into a well landscaped yard with shrubs and grasses, works nicely.  I know of people who keep chickens in towns where they are not allowed, and they are tucked in so discretely that no one is even aware.


My dogs have their own fenced off pooping area.

They even have their own back door that leads to it.

 (I have mentioned before, that actually is one reason we bought this house).

Every spring it turns to a muddy mess.  We have taught them to wait and let us go through the tedious job of wiping off their feet before they come in, but that doesn’t change the fact that their area is an eyesore.

Every year we re-seed the grass which my husband then ‘babies’  until it is thick and green.  We forget about the problem until the following spring.

This year we are not forgetting.

We have decided to put gravel down.  I saw it on Pinterest so of course it is a great idea!


Our dog ‘poop’ area will be larger and fenced in but ya get the idea?


Here is a link with instructions in case you would also like to do it:

How to Build an Outdoor Dog Potty Area

All we have to do is dig out the dirt to a depth of about 4 inches, put hardware fabric down and cover with gravel.

Easy-peasy, right?

Since we can’t get a back hoe into the yard, we get the fabulous pleasure of digging out the dirt by hand.

No problem!

It is a good work-out and I have places to put the dug-out dirt:

  •  Some will go next to the new fence fill the gap and keep the neighbors dog from peeking and maybe digging under it.
  • A bit is going into my metal firepit which I have decided to turn into a planter (I have moved the darn thing a zillion times and still can’t find a spot I like.  It is either too close to the house or coop or to the fruit trees)  I promise to post pictures when it is finished.
  •  The majority is going into my veggie garden.  Yes I know it is poopy but it will be mixed in with the other soil and compost and will have a good month or two before anything is growing in it.  I know my dogs are parasite free.

I will be sure to post pics of the finished project – sorry I don’t have ‘before’ pics but just picture a poopy muddy mess.

The chickens also have their own area and to keep it from being an eyesore I planted some ornamental grass around it last year.  I plan to add to it this year.  The plan is to almost completely ‘hide’ the pen.  I don’t care how cute a coop is, the pen will be picked clean of any growing thing and have nothing but dirt and chicken poop.

Not pretty!


Totally unrealistic!  These plants wouldn’t last a day!




THIS is what the floor of a chicken pen actually looks like.

 If you let the chickens free range the entire yard all the time they will eat your plants as they sprout, make a total mess of your mulch, poop on your deck, roost and poop on your patio furniture and dig holes to take dust baths in.

Also not pretty.

Now if YOU don’t mind your yard looking like a barnyard that is fine with ME.

  Most of us DO mind and so do the neighbors.

A compromise is needed.


This book has some great ideas!

 We placed an arbor in front of the entrance to the pen and plan to grow a pretty vine over it this year.

  Hanging planters on the coop or from shepherd’s hooks,  flower boxes or trellises with vines where the chickens can’t reach, are more great options.

  I think sharing your outdoor space with pets and chickens can be done attractively.


I like the look of the vine growing on the coop.  You have to be careful the chooks can’t reach it though or they will eat it ALL!

We shall see!

 How do you keep your yard nice with chickens and/or pets?

Do you ‘hide’ your coop and pen?

What suggestions can you offer?

I Bought Even MORE Seeds!

Because my husband and I love Korean food!

OK, let me explain……

  Sadly, there is no Korean restaurant in Des Moines.

We eat at a great place in Iowa City whenever we are there.


One of our favorites, Bibimbap in a Hot Stone bowl is AMAZING! The hot stone bowl causes the rice on the bottom to get a super delicious nutty brown crust.   The Huffington Post says it is one of 25 foods you must eat before you die!

The rest of the time we try to make our own and hubby is getting pretty good at it.

There is a Korean cooking show on The Cooking Channel called Korean Food Made Simple. We DVR it so we never miss an episode.  We have recently learned of dishes that are wrapped in a Sesame or a Perilla leaf and eaten like a wrap.

Marinated beef wrapped in lettuce and sesame leaf with miso past

 Soooooo – – –  – I had to get seeds and try to grow these plants!

Some interesting info on these leaves:

I found a neat seed company in CA called the Kitazawa Seed Company that carries seeds for many vegetables found in Asian cooking.  I ordered seeds for Sesame, Perrilla, Asian cabbage and Pickling Melons. Yum!


Where I will plant these seeds I do not know.

 With everything I plan on planting this year I really don’t think I will have enough room in the existing garden.

 I thought about planting some veggies in my flower beds but since the bunnies devour everything not fenced in with netting that is not a good option.

I could dig up a bit more lawn and make the garden larger.


Wow! Amazing!

I will have to think this over and see what I can come up with!


Any suggestions/words of encouragement are appreciated!


I really do think  I might need an intervention!

12 step

My (Second) Annual January Trip To Buy Seeds!

A few weeks ago I was sitting around wondering if it was too early to get seeds when a Facebook ‘memory’ popped up informing me I did exactly that one year ago.

So why not make it a January tradition?


I don’t do well in the winter.  Call it SAD, call it cabin fever, call me deranged.  Whatever.  I just get grumpy, sluggish, overly obsessed with the weather and just plain no fun at all.

blog grump

  It begins with daylight savings time and doesn’t go away until I can go outside and dig in the dirt.

blog time

Sure,  I put on a happy face throughout the holidays, I find winter projects and try to exercise, get outside, socialize more (even though I don’t really feel like it) and all the other things the ‘experts’ recommend.  I tell myself that all we really have is the here and now and to live in the moment.  But my garden-dreaming self doesn’t listen.

blog garden

Ahhhhhhhhh…..I’m sooooooooooooo ready!


 It’s insane how happy a seed catalogue or gardening magazine arriving in the mail makes me.


Oh Yay!


I take trips to the Botanical center or garden store just to smell the plants and soil!

I am counting the days ’til spring.

blog cal

So no, I don’t think January is too early to buy seeds.

  Not at all.

  It is better than being a kid in a candy store!

  Rows and rows and rows of vegetable and flower seeds and a dream of sunshine, dirty hands, good muscle aches and bone weariness at the end of the day with a great night’s sleep to follow.  For a gardener, starting a garden in spring is one of the best things to happen all year.

I mean it is really, really good!

Remember my post of last year where I said I might reduce the size of my garden?  It was called “Putting the Yard Back In The Backyard Farm” or some such nonsense.  Well forget it.  I must have temporarily lost my mind.

Here is a link to that silly post in case you missed it:

Now I am trying to think of how I can expand it even more.  Would we miss it if I took just a bit more of my backyard lawn to put in an asparagus bed?  Could I squeeze in a few more fruit trees?  Perhaps it is time to expand to the front yard?  Where will I put some Rhubarb?  Do I have room for Jerusalem artichokes?

I have marked my calendar with the dates I will plant my onions, lettuce, cucumbers, squash  and carrots (yep, I’m trying them again this year) outside,


and start my tomatoes, peppers and okra (first time ever growing okra) inside.


Of course I am doing green beans and cabbage and this year I wont forget to put in a few Brussels sprout plants for fall dinners. (I really missed them last year).  I want tons and tons of sweet peppers this year and some spaghetti squash and zucchini.

I also bought some Morning Glory seeds – wont they look great climbing up the fence?  I wonder if the chickens would leave them alone if I planted them on the fence around their pen?  (What am I thinking, of course they WONT!).

blog mg1

 I read somewhere that you can plant morning glories in hanging baskets and they will trail downward.  I have to give that a try.

blog mg

I also got my Zinnia seeds.  Well ya never know, the store could run out.

Look out bunnies – I am winning the war this year.  You don’t stand a chance!

Blog elmer

I am  excited, happy and hopeful and that’s saying a lot for me in January!

I highly recommend a visit to your local garden store for some seeds.  Get to planning your garden, you wont be sorry!

blog if

Comment and let me know what you plan on growing this year.



Some New Info Related To A Few Of My Posts:

In case you need some interesting reading on a cold winter day, I am posting some links with more information related to some of the things I wrote about in the past year.

Did my post from awhile back stir you interest in Paw Paws?  Here is some news on them:

good paw

One of my Paw Paws did not survive but the nursery is replacing it for me this spring.  The other one grew to about one and a half feet tall and looked very healthy by the end of summer.


I still am a fan of front yard gardens and now so is California!



Yep, I know I said I was cutting down the size of my garden this year.  However,  I have changed my mind (again) and am keeping it as is.  So far I have no plans for veggies out front.  Maybe someday though!

Monarchs are on everyone’s radar it seems!


  Have you planted your Milkweed yet?  If not be sure to order some for spring planting.

I am happy to say that many Home Centers are phasing out neonicotinoids.  It can’t happen fast enough!

On a more personal level, I am thrilled to say that I will have a new grandbaby this summer!

I’m counting the days until spring gardening.  It wont be too long before I am starting tomato and pepper seeds.  I need to decide on a vine to grow on the arbor we put by the coop.  I can’t wait to see what my Wisteria does this year!  Did my poppies survive?  Will my new weeping cherry tree bloom?  Will I get any pears or apricots on the trees this year?  Will the birds leave me any blueberries?  Who will win the bunny wars in ’16?  Can I resist baby chicks this spring?

Hang around, only time will tell!

What are your 2016 gardening plans?

Where In The World Is ‘Ruth’s Chickens’?

I’m still here!

I just haven’t been into writing lately, life gets busy as I’m sure everyone knows.

  It seems summer got of to a slow start and then there were the ‘Bunny Wars’ but then things got busy and continued so thru the fall.

Then of course the holidays came upon us with all the busy-ness of the season!


Winter is a good time to catch your breath, slow down and relax.

Check out this link ^^^^^^^^ to see how I’d like to be feeling about now.

Here is a recap of our 2015:

 Throughout the summer my 2 and a half year olds did not slow down one bit on laying I’m happy to say, with the exception of Martha.  I go months without seeing a blue egg, but then she always was a sporadic layer. Is it an Ameracauna thing?   My friend Tric has a flock of mostly Ameracunas. During the summer I sometimes got more eggs a day from my flock of 9 than she did from over 30!  I wont be adding any more Ameracaunas to my flock.

  Brewster is still as inquisitive and cuddly as ever although she gets broody a lot.  I will use her as an ‘incubator’ if I ever want to hatch eggs. Riot has become more timid, Sally and Martha are still the same well mannered girls.

I am interested in seeing if my egg production slows much next summer as they enter their 3rd year.

My one year olds are almost indistinguishable from each other.  You might remember they are both White Orpingtons.  Only a slight difference in their foot color helps me tell them apart.  Oh, and their personalities – Pearl is a mouthy bossy ‘roo-like’ girl.  She is the new top of the pecking order and she lets everyone know it with her constant ‘bawk,bawk,bawk-ing!   Snowball is more mannerly.

My new girls from this year are wonderful.  Lily, the Leghorn,  lays a white egg EVERY day (I swear one day I got two!)  She has the cutest flop-over comb.

blog lily

 She is petite and not too fluffy. I really worry about her when winter comes.  Not only will she probably lose that comb to frostbite,  she has taken to sleeping all alone on top of the inner door which I keep open on all but the coldest days..  I hope this winter she will snuggle in with the other gals for warmth. (Update:  Ivy has started sleeping up there with her)

sleeping hens

 Florence, the Rhode Island Red,  is also petite but a bit fluffier, such a quiet gal and she follows me everywhere, if I turn around she is there waiting for a cuddle.  What a sweetie!

blog flo.jpg

The biggest surprise of all is IVY.  She was supposed to be an Iowa Blue (hopefully you read my past blog about this breed of chicken) but she never looked like one, even as a chick.


She is HUGE (I nicknamed her Turkey Leg) and she lays the darkest brown eggs of all my gals. At least I think those dark eggs are hers.


 My friend Tric thinks she must be a Maran – lucky me!  I think she is Maran crossed with Jersey Giant!  (only half joking here).

Perhaps you can identify her for me.  Anyway I love her and her amazing eggs.

As soon as the air started getting nippy the gals went through a huge ugly molting process.  Bad timing, huh?  They were so funny looking.  (They made me promise not to post pics).

We did just a tad more work on the coop this year.  We got the galvanized roof panels on and upgraded  the nesting box door.  I put some sealer on the wood to protect it, it will age to a gray, rustic ‘barn board’ color.  We also put an arbor in front of the pen entrance.  It will look great covered in a vine next summer.  Any suggestions on a good one to grow?

We got a ton of green beans and tomatoes and a few peppers and carrots from the garden once we fenced out the bunnies.


Here is Brewster checking out some of the harvest!



Scores, maybe even hundreds of bees and butterflies visited the butterfly garden which made me very happy!

Monarch on zinnia 8 14 15


We even got a tenant in one of the birdhouses!

I am already planning next spring and summer’s garden.  (Of course!)

No new chicks next year,

                                                             not a one,

     absolutely-positively no.

I will NOT enter a feed store next spring AT ALL!

Let me know how your year went.

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