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.

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They can be eaten fresh or dried.

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 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.

 

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 They can be grown in containers,

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as shrubs,

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or trained to grow on an arbor or trellis.

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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:

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-goji-berry-or-wolfberry.html

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?

What’s Been Going On?

A lot has been going on!  This time of year there is so much to do.  Most gardeners probably feel the same way.  Future projects stretch on into infinity – but that is  GOOD thing.

First bit of news is we are in round 3 of the Bunny Wars.  We are now building a permanent – what I hope is indestructible – bunny proof fence around the veggie garden.  The reason for this is because the bunnies discovered they could chew through the plastic netting we had up.  We patched the ‘chew holes’ almost daily with zip ties but it only takes one bunny one night to decimate a row of just starting snap peas.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!  If you calculate the cost of ALL the measures we have taken to get this garden up and running and now bunny proofing, the cost of my home grown produce is astronomical.  (But who’s counting?  Plus it’s so worth it!)

We are going for something similar to this:

garden3

Second bit of news is WE HAVE ASPARAGUS in the ‘New and Improved Asparagus bed’!

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I have counted 5 little sprouts so far which to me is pretty exciting!

The new butterfly garden is fantastic with the iris just about finished blooming, the daisies, wisteria, clematis and peonies about to bloom.

iris

  I am not sure the yarrow is going to bloom this year after being divided and transplanted. It should have buds by now but doesn’t. The Swamp milkweed survived transplanting and I ordered and planted 2 more varieties.  Yes, I HAVE been busy. I planted morning glories to cover the old coop and sunflowers along the fence.  Our canna bulbs went in this week too.

The doggie poop area I wrote about is going GREAT and we landscaped around it with Ninebark shrubs and roses.

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  It looks great.

We need to fill in landscaped areas with mulch but I want to wait until the messy cottonwood tree behind our property is finished dumping it’s white fluff.  Have you ever dealt with that?  Pretty but YUCK!  Once everything is all cleaned up I will post pics.

In the veggie garden lettuce, peas, onions and radishes are up.  Beans are in the ground and tomaotes have been transplanted but we broke 2 of the plants while traipsing around working on the fence.   😦  I might wait to put in the pepper, cabbage, okra and brussel sprout transplants until we are finished working on the fence to avoid more mishaps.

The chickens are laying like crazy, seem happy with the warm weather and love that I toss them buckets of weeds every day.  I have an idea to use the old bunny fence and secure an area in the wooded/weeded lot behind our yard to let them free range a bit.  No one will know/no one will care and the gals will LOVE it!

((((((( Shhhhhhhhh – don’t tell! ))))))))

I haven’t started on my spring sprucing up of the coop yet but will soon.  Fence building has got me a bit behind schedule.  Look for pics of the spruced up coop and new free range area in a future post.

What has been going on in your neck of the woods?

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?)

dream

Anyway it came to me.

  THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN! 

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).

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Leaves on the new PawPaw.

 Best of all – the Wisteria LIVES!

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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!

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 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?

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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!

Elderberry

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.

Asparagus04

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 PLANTED THE ASPARAGUS!

I did it!  I made the commitment!

I can almost taste it – Yum!

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 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.

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

asparagus

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

http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/2564/how-to-grow-asparagus/page/all

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!

No Farm? No Problem!

Or how to keep happy, healthy chickens even with limited space!

We can’t all live on an acreage or farm, but keeping chickens is not difficult and many cities allow chicken keeping.

 If you are an urban farmer like I am you may not want or be able to let you chickens free range all the time or at all.

Some chicken keepers keep their chickens solely in a small coop with a tiny attached run area.

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An adorable coop with run space beneath.

COOP

This coop design is similar to mine but it is painted so cute and I love the screen door.

   If space permits it is best to give your chickens as much run space as possible.  Your goal is to get as close as possible to the happy, healthy life of a free range farm chicken.

A good  solution is to provide a ‘daytime’ pen.  This is simply a fenced in area that they are let out into during the day.  My daytime pen serves to keep them fenced away from my garden and flower beds and is not intended to be predator proof although someday I hope to upgrade it and make it more secure.

SECURE

My ‘daytime’ pen is just made of 5 ft stakes and wire fencing with no roof.  I would love a secure pen like this one,  only larger.  Isn’t it attractive with the vines growing on it?

 Some people have chicken ‘tractors’ which are simply portable coops that can be moved to different spots in the yard where there is fresh grass underneath:

Chicken Tractor

 Another option is the ‘chunnel’:

CHUNNEL

Late summer, fall and winter I open the gate to the daytime pen and let them spend as much time ‘free ranging’ the entire yard as possible.  Sure, they make a mess of my mulch and dig holes to dust bathe in.  But seeing them happily roaming around my yard makes me happy too and is worth the bit of clean up I have to do.

  (I wont mention cleaning chicken poop off my deck).

Brewondeck

My gals are kept penned up in spring and early summer because tender seedlings and shoots would be destroyed by their scratching, digging and nibbling.

Eggs are healthier if a chicken receives their natural diet of greens, bugs, and roots.  However, even if their run starts out with grass and plants growing it wont take long for it to be stripped down to bare earth.

Since I use no weed killers or chemicals in my garden,  I pull weeds by hand and pitch buckets of weeds into the pen almost daily.  The gals eagerly gobble them up. They enjoy scratching around in the piles of weeds and clippings I toss in, searching for favorite tidbits and any insects that may be clinging to the weeds. Brewster always looks for bugs, Riot loves tender grass shoots and Sally loves clover.

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Lily and Ivy picking through a weed pile!

 In the winter, when my weed supply runs out,  I buy them bags of inexpensive greens to supplement their diet.  The few dollars a week I spend is worth it to have healthier gals and therefore healthier eggs. I can pick up a couple large bags of spinach, kale or mustard greens and toss them a few handfuls each day for about $6.00 a week. No need to spend a bundle to get them some fresh greens!

One way to keep them happy while penned up is to give them a shallow container full of sand for taking dust baths.  The sand can be supplemented with cooled ashes from your firepit or fireplace.  Chickens love to take dust baths.  It keeps their feathers clean and bug free and is so much fun to watch!

dust bath

Room for one more?

Another thing mine like is when I put a couple flakes of straw in the run for them to ‘pull apart’.  What fun!  They can turn an entire straw bale into a fluffy shapeless pile of straw in about an hour!  But then they have countless more hours of fun playing in it.

I have read about hanging a cabbage from a rope so they are kept busy pecking at it.

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I have not tried this because my gals are not big fans of cabbage, but I have used the fruit and nut sprigs sold in pet departments for caged birds.  Just hang them up in the coop and the gals will peck at them, I think they enjoy having something ‘different’.

Perches, swings and ladders can also give them something to do to keep boredom from setting in.

SWING

Bored chickens may become irritable and start pecking at each other.

Just popping in for a visit with a treat like dried cranberries, a bit of corn or oats or whatever your gals like, plus some attention or even cuddles, will make their day.

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If the reason your flock must be kept penned up is because you are away all day perhaps you can hire someone to let them out a few hours before dusk and then secure them up again when they return to the coop at sunset.

Or invest in an automatic door for the coop:

http://www.automaticchickencoopdoor.com/shop/product-place-holder-1

Be sure to keep the pen clean.  When the flock is confined the poop will be concentrated in the smaller space, so a daily raking and clean up is a must.

A final caution:  If your situation is such that your chickens must be penned up all the time, be sure to resist chicken math.

DON’T OVERCROWD THEM!

If you are a busy person with limited space I would limit the flock to 3 or 4 hens.  That is enough to keep you well supplied with eggs, keep themselves company and warm on cold nights,  and still have enough room  to move about and not be crowded or wallowing in poop.

I think everyone should be able to have the joy of keeping chickens and the wonderful healthy eggs they provide.    With a little thought and planning,  a small flock can be kept happy and healthy,  even with limited space and time.

chicken love

I never get tired of seeing this!

 

NOW GO ON OUT AND ENJOY SOME CHICKENS!

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.

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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:

http://drbenkim.com/articles/sesame-health-benefits.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perilla

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!

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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.

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Wow! Amazing!

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

 

Any suggestions/words of encouragement are appreciated!

addict

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?

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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.

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

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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.

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Ahhhhhhhhh…..I’m sooooooooooooo ready!

 

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

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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.

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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:

https://ruthschickens.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/i-am-thinking-of-putting-the-yard-back-into-the-backyard-farm/

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,

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

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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!).

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

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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!

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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!

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

 

—-

Maybe this blog should be called Ruth’s Garden!

Or maybe not. 

It seems I write more about my garden and garden related things lately.

I assure you, I still have my chickens and love them as much as ever.

My chickens are an extension of my garden and a progression that comes from loving to plant and grow my own food and flowers.

chickies

I love to be connected to nature.   I would love to have been born on a farm or bought a farm years ago.

I may still do it one day!

In the meantime I will continue to be an Urban Farmer.  My chickens personify this for me and although gardening posts seem to have taken over my blog – my chickens are in the background being a large part of who I am.

I just consider ‘Chickens’ or better yet ‘Chickies’ to be a term of affection for all the things I love.  So here are some pictures of the non-chicken ‘Chickies’ I love:

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Puppy chickie, Gemma.

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Kitty chickie, Oliver.

chickie sett

One of my grandbaby ‘chickies’, Lisette.

chickiegrace

My ‘chickie’ Grace with some of the girls.

chickiemeand kids

Me and chickies Danielle and Patrick.

So the blog name will stay.

coop helper

My coop ‘helper’. Don’t ya just love his outfit?

I hope you enjoy the pics of my ‘Chickies’!  Next post promises to be chicken related!

I Am Thinking of Putting the ‘Yard’ Back Into The Backyard Farm

I would really LOVE to do my yard like THIS: guys:https://www.facebook.com/DavidAvocadoWolfe/videos/10152846555756512/?fref=nf

And I know THIS is true:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/nikki-fotheringham/mowing-the-lawn-is-bad-fo_b_7746088.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

But I also want my butterfly garden, my pretty flower bed, my doggie area, my chicken area AND room for my family to play.

Confession:  I LOVE to sunbathe.

sun

I know how it’s bad and yada,yada,yada.  But a gal needs her Vitamin D and it is sooooooooooooooooooooooo good for my soul.

So I need room for my lounger.

lounger

I also occasionally want to sit with friends and family, just to relax, talk, drink adult beverages, watch the chickens, or WHATEVER.

But most of all I like my grandbabies to have room to play which means we need room for a pool, sandbox, trampoline, corn-hole game (it’s an Iowa thing) or WHATEVER.

cornhole

Corn hole game aka bag toss.

Soooooooo –  I am thinking of putting back more lawn space.

I know, I know, I am the gal who hates lawns.

  But nothing beats a nice lawn for recreation and I like my grandbabies playing HERE!

So I am considering making the vegetable garden smaller.  Perhaps reducing it by half and making it an ‘L’ shape.  That will open up a nice area.

IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE!

Someday in the future, when the grandbabies are off on other pursuits and I am retired and have more time to tend a large garden – we could put it back.

It’s a gardeners prerogative!

gardener

 

I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, words of encouragement (or discouragement).

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