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?


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.


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:


Puppy chickie, Gemma.


Kitty chickie, Oliver.

chickie sett

One of my grandbaby ‘chickies’, Lisette.


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!

New Chickens – 2015!


Ear to ear smiles are going on around here!


We were supposed to get them last week but sadly the bad weather on the east coast left more than 60,000 chicks STRANDED  in Memphis.  Our feed store, along with many others, did not get their shipment.

We were disappointed to say the least.


And so a new countdown began.


The time went fast, mostly because 2 days of it were ‘lost’ to a stomach virus, with supsequent days spent recovering and working.  Yes, I know, it IS hard to do both at the same time.  But ya know how it goes…… gotta buy that chicken feed!

Finally, a work week completed, a three day weekend begun, glorious weather cooperating and the feed store got the chicks!

All is right with the world!


We got our Iowa Blue, our Rhode Island Red, what a cute little orange puff ball she is, and what else???? They have White Leghorns????

They didn’t tell me they were getting White Leghorns!

  I don’t have a White Leghorn.

Aren’t they the ones called egg-laying machines?  It WOULD be nice to have some white eggs mixed in our egg basket.

It’s only one more chick……


Meet Ivy, Florence and Lily:






This is Ivy,







I wrote about the Iowa Blue chicken in my last post.

Rhode Island Reds are very nice chickens too.  In fact the state of Rhode Island thought enough of them that they made them their state bird.  They have good temperaments and are good layers of brown eggs.

White Leghorns are the typical ‘factory farm’ chicken.  They are excellent year round egg layers and take to confinement and smaller spaces well.

The Iowa grandkids have already been over to see them.

carter with chicks

Carter checking out the baby ‘Bawk-bucks’.

The Illinois grandkids have pictures.

There is a whole lot of peeping going on around here!

They are happy and cozy under the new Brinsea EcoGlow radiant warmer for chicks that just happened to arrive Friday,  (as promised 2 day shipping).  After a ‘near miss’ with the heat lamp last year I think it is worth every penny to have peace of mind with the radiant warmer.  (NO, I don’t receive any compensation for plugging it)

chicken butt

What’s up chicken butt?

You can read about why a radiant heater is better than a heat lamp here:



My daughter says I need Chickens Anonymous but I don’t want to be cured!

  I now have a Buff Orpington, 2 White Orpingtons, a Barred Plymouth Rock, an Ameracauna, and a Black Sex Link as well as my new gals, the Iowa Blue, Rhode Island Red and White Leghorn.

I hope these adorable chick pics will inspire even one more person to start a backyard flock.  Chickens deserve to be in happy backyards, not in factory egg farms and YOU deserve to have the freshest and best eggs EVER!

Keeping Chickens Healthy.


Why do factory farms pump chickens full or antibiotics?

Why do people think chickens carry disease?

Why do raw eggs pose a salmonella risk?


Well my guess is it is because ‘factory farms’ are not the healthiest of places with thousands of chickens crowded on top of each other.

I have never smelled a commercial chicken farm but I can just imagine!



It makes sense that ‘ home raised’ chickens, either urban or rural would be healthier just because they are not overcrowded.

Fresh air and sunshine are good for every living thing don’t ya think?

sun air

A small backyard coop is easy to keep clean.

Poop should be removed daily except in winter if you are following the ‘deep litter’ method.  This is when you throw clean shavings on top of the old, allowing poop and old, soiled litter to ‘compost’ on the bottom which creates heat in the coop as well as reduces cleaning time on cold days!

You can read about the deep litter method here:


 Allowing your chickens some outdoor time – a large secure run and/or some free range time each day is very beneficial as it allows them to scratch around and nibble at green plants, roots, pebbles and insects – providing a more natural diet. The exercise also helps them have good muscle tone which prevents things like prolapsed vents and egg binding.


Many people add apple cider vinegar to the drinking water to provide probiotics and lower the ph.  I don’t add ACV but do add a blend of essential oils that I made after researching poultry and natural ways to prevent respiratory issues.  My chickens have never been sick.

(knock on wood)


Twice a year, spring and fall I give the coop a good, thourough cleaning where I remove all the bedding and scrub the walls, floor, nest boxes and roosts with an all natural disinfectant.  I make and use my own  version of the well known ‘Thieves’ blend of essential oils.  After cleaning I open all the windows and doors to let the coop air out all day.  Then I sprinkle food grade DE on the floors of the coop and enclosed run and cover with fresh pine shavings in the sleeping area and sand in the run.  I finish up with some sprigs of fresh if I have them, or dried herbs such as a combination of mint, lavender, oregano, thyme or rosemary.


Although I have never had a sick chicken we keep the former Cluck Inn coop as a quarantine area, and I would not hesitate to bring a sick chick into the house and keep in our chicken ‘pack and play’ while recuperating.

I have also never had an injured or wounded chicken but recommend keeping an antibiotic powder on hand, as well as a super glue product to close wounds,  Neosporin or other antibacterial cream (make sure it does not contain pain relievers), splinting items in case of a broken leg and BluKot to keep the other chicks from pecking at an injury.  A supply of roll gauze or other lightweight ‘wrap’ type bandages could come in handy.   Again I would quarantine an injured chicken in the small coop or in the house depending on the severity and amount of watching they would need.


 Vaseline, Preparation H, vitamin and calcium supplements, Epson salts for soaking as well as bandages, clean washcloths, gloves (for you) and an eye dropper for administering water and/or medications should also be in your coop medicine cabinet

Some people bring random stool samples to their vet once or twice a year to check for worms.  Once worms are visible in their poop they have a pretty severe infestation.

Pumpkin seeds will not get rid of a worm infestation but will help prevent one.  Chickens LOVE pumpkin seeds – buy a pumpkin, cut it in half and let them have at it!


A dust bath in a small kiddy pool filled with sand, ashes, and some DE will be enjoyed by your chickens and also will get rid of mites or lice.  If your chickens continue to pick and scratch you can go to your Farm Supply store or order remedies on line.

dust bath

Remember that some medications given to your hens will require you to discard the eggs for a period of time.

When all is said and done, keeping healthy chickens is no more work that a cat or dog and can even provide entertainment!  Healthy chickens provide healthy eggs so you are rewarded in a very tangible way!


What have you done to nurse a sick or injured chicken and how do you keep your gals healthy?  Comment and share your knowledge!

3 Things That Never Should Happen To A Chicken……

…….and what to do about them.

All 3 of these conditions are medical emergencies that should be handled by a vet but if you are not able to get to one this info may help.

If your chicken is in obvious pain the best thing, although never easy, may be to cull her.  Only you can decide how to handle your particular situation.

1.) An egg bound hen:


This is a rare condition but left untreated can cause death in 24 to 48 hours.

An egg bound chicken literally has an egg ‘stuck’ inside her.  This can happen in very old or obese hens, very young hens that have just started laying, and hens lacking calcium in the diet (calcium helps muscles contract and she needs to contract muscles to push out an egg).

You can tell a hen is egg bound if she sits around with fluffed up feathers and seems to be straining.  Her tail may ‘pump’ up and down.  If she walks, her walk will resemble a penguin. Her droppings may be loose or absent. You may be able to feel the egg in her abdomen.

The first thing to do is to give the hen some liquid calcium.  Crush up a human calcium tablet and mix in water.  Give to your hen in a dropper.

Then take a wash tub or fill the sink with warm water and 1/4 cup of Epson salts if you have them and soak her bottom for about 10-15 minutes.


 Moist heat helps the area to relax which aids in passing the egg.   After her soak wrap her in a dry towel and put her in a box in a quiet, dim place and wait for her to lay the egg.

If she does not pass the egg  you can lubricate her vent area with KY jelly, Vaseline or baby oil and GENTLY try to massage the egg down her abdomen and out.


As a last resort you can try to puncture the egg with a large needle attached to a syringe, aspirate the contents and gently crush the egg and remove  the shell – hopefully still attached to the membrane so it all comes out.  You will need a helper for this.

 2.) Prolapsed vent: 

This is when the lower portion of a hen’s reproductive tract protrudes from the vent.  It happens in very young chickens who may have layed an egg too large to handle, or in old, obese hens, or hens not getting proper nutrition and/or exercise resulting in poor muscle tone.

 You can tell a chicken has this if she is lethargic and ‘fluffed up’  plus you will see the prolapse protruding from her vent.


 Clean her well in a warm bath and then apply some Vetericyn, and some Preparation H (without pain relievers).  Then manually insert the prolapse back inside her.  Keeping her off feed, and in a dark room for a few days to keep her from laying may be helpful. (be sure to give water with a vitamin supplement).  Once a hen has suffered a prolapse she is likely to have it recur so watch her closely.  The biggest danger is from the other members of the flock pecking at it.

3.) Sour or impacted crop: 

The ‘crop’ is part of the chicken’s esophagus where food sits before empting into the stomach.  It looks larger after a chicken has eaten, but in these conditions it will be apple sized.


Both of these conditions can occur when your chickens eat long strands of grass or other hard to digest foods or foreign bodies such as string.

The first thing to do is to wait awhile, perhaps overnight and see if the condition goes away by itself.  If not, withhold water for 12 hours and food for 24 hours.  Massaging the crop with the chicken in a head down position may help her ‘vomit’ the mass out.  If the contents smell bad or ‘sour’ it means the contents have ‘fermented’ and may be growing yeast.  Stop all ACV supplementation if you use it, and feed the chicken yogurt for a few days.  In severe cases the digestive system needs to be ‘washed’ out or surgery performed but these are not home treatments.

Good luck to you, I hope you never have to deal with these issues but if you do I hope this info is helpful.

My next blog will be on keeping chickens healthy and what to keep in your coop’s medicine cabinet.

A Few Goofy Ideas:

It’s winter and there is not much going on.

I am bored and so are the chickens.


 So I made them a ‘treat’ to keep them occupied during these cold damp days when they prefer to stay huddled in the coop.  I used my suet hanger.   I put several slices of a yummy whole grain-cranberry-walnut bread inside and I sandwiched in slices of deli turkey that I had in my fridge.  I think they will like the combination of fruit, nuts, grain and protein.


 I hung it in the coop.  I wonder if they will like it?


We shall see!

 My other hair-brained idea struck the other night.

 Awhile back I was doing some preholiday shopping at Costco with my DIL Sarah when I saw a box of different sized ‘fake’ (flameless) candles at a great price.  I wanted some tea lights for my Christmas decorations and I have also been wanting the pillars but have always found them to be pricey.  Well the price was right and besides tea lights, the box contained 3 pillars.

I LOVE that the pillars work on AA batteries AND have a timer.  The timer is a simple one, you simply turn the pillars on at a certain time and they will stay on for 5 hours and then turn off.  They will relight every day at the same time.

 I set them to go on at sunset and placed one in each dinning room window.

They are so cute.  It’s magical the way they just pop on!

Then I got to thinking…….. (Oh-oh!)


…………….a bit of supplemental light in the coop might mean more eggs.  I read that it doesn’t take much.

I only have one outdoor outlet and it is ‘taken’ by the coop water warmers.  But since the pillars run on battery power……….

AND have a timer……….

Well you get it!


 I set my alarm for 4:15 am so I could set the timers.  Now if you know me you would know I must really love my chickens because I don’t do mornings!



I set the pillars to go on 15 minutes apart starting at 4:15.  They will stay on for 5 hours which will be well past sunrise.

I am thinking that even just the soft glow from the pillars might get me a few more eggs during these short winter days.


I have been averaging 0 to 1 egg a day since mid November.  I wonder if it will work?


We shall see!

What have you been doing to keep from getting bored during the post holiday winter days?

Comment and let me know!

A Fall Update.

The calendar says fall, the air is a bit cooler and the days are noticeably shorter.  But there still is a lot going on in the garden.

A lot is going on in the kitchen as well.  Tomatoes and green beans are prepared for freezing,

002zucchini is turned into delicious spicy bread, and eggs with just harvested potatoes are enjoyed for lunch almost every day!

Some brave flowers continue to bloom and will do so ’til frost.   I am forever grateful for them!


My Milkweed plants were finished blooming so I divided them.  All the rain in our forecast will keep them well watered so hopefully they will ‘take’ and I will have enough of them to become a certified ‘Monarch Way-Station’ next year. (More about that in my next post).

Here is what else is going on:


I scored some windows off the ‘free’ page on Craigslist. Someone had taken them out of their camper and didn’t have any use for them.


They fit like a charm and even still had the hinges on! Now my gals have some fancy windows for these colder nights.


My sedum is starting to bloom. I love this plant.


A gladiola leans against one of my birdhouses – I mean spider house!


Did I complain awhile ago that nothing was blooming?


I love zinnias and so do the butterflies.


I broke my original gazing ball but got this metal one at the thrift store. Next year I will group even more canas around it and put lilies in the foreground.


Another find from the Craigslist free page. She was missing the ball she once held so I gave her a teacup.


I saw this coneflower on sale at Lowes and just fell in love with the color and the fact that it is a shorter, mounding variety.

I must run out and get some tulip and daffodil bulbs to plant.

But first I need to make wine out of the grapes I picked from my friend Robin’s garden.


Also – Note to self:  Plant Brussels Sprouts and winter squash next spring.  (What was I thinking?)


Yard ‘art’ of thrift store glass I glued together.


6 bored girls! “Please Mom, hurry up and finish harvesting so we can get out and free range!”

What is going on in your fall garden and kitchen right now?

Meet Me At The Fair!

The Iowa State Fair that is! 

Oh how I love the Fair!  I love the fair in the morning, I love the fair in the afternoon, I love the fair at night. I love the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the fair!


 I had never been to a state fair before I lived here, not even to a county fair.

We first moved to Iowa in 1994 and stayed until 2002.  I think we went to the Fair every year.  Once I went to my first one I was hooked  To this city-raised gal it was a whole new world.  I loved the animals, the food, the exhibits, the food, the people watching, the food.

  Did I mention the food?

Each year the Fair tries to outdo itself with more outrageous fair food.  There are the old favorites like funnel cakes, turkey legs, corn dogs, ice cream and so on but recent years have seen the addition of the hot beef sundae (my fave) pork chop (and most anything else) on a stick, fried butter (surprisingly good) and chocolate covered bacon!  You wont go home hungry and at Fair time I wish I was like a cow with multiple stomachs!

016 023 025 096

The Fair also books great concerts each year. Some of my best memories are from when our friends from the Chicago area would visit for the Fair and we always attended the Rock and Roll Reunion for a great evening of music, fun and nostalgia followed by one of the best firework shows ever.

There are free shows as well and a huge talent show, pie and ice cream eating contests, cooking contests and so on, even a husband calling contest!

 There is ‘Little Hands on the Farm’ and lots of stuff for kids as well as terrific Midway rides and games, and of course the GIANT SLIDE!


We made it back a few times after we moved away but sadly not as much as I would have liked.  Now that we are back in Iowa I wont be missing any more fairs unless I am in a coma!

I love walking thru the livestock barns looking at all the animals.  My favorites are the goats who always come over to interact with you. They are so cute and friendly and have the most amazing eyes. I enjoyed looking at the chickens this year.  The roos are beautiful – I prefer to enjoy them from afar though!


A Lavender Orpington rooster. I love Orpingtons and want a Lavender Orp hen for my flock.


A beautiful Silver Laced Wyandotte hen. I also want one of these!

032 033

The quilt display is breathtaking.  I admire and envy anyone who can do such beautiful work.

I really loved the display of Fairy Gardens and want to make one.  It will be a nice winter project for when I am missing gardening.

081 082 083

I love the guys who demo the kitchen gadgets – one of the best shows ever was the guy with the ‘Shammy-cloths’ .  We bought a set a few years ago.  How could we resist?!


 The butter cow is an Iowa State Fair annual tradition.


A picture with the Big Boar is MY annual Fair tradition!


Some additional info about the fair:



Next year come to Des Moines in August and MEET ME AT THE FAIR!

 I can’t wait!

Coop Update!

It’s not finished yet but it has come a long way since you last saw it!


  We decided to use old fence boards as siding and I love the rustic look.

I want to put pickets on the bottom to cover the vertical supports.

The corners still need to be trimmed.

We added the nest box (a double seater)  and are anticipating our new gals to start laying this month.


(That’s a fake window over the nest box – I liked the look of a window so I painted a fake one!)

Our ever curious gal, Martha was in the new nest box before it was barely up.  She hopped right in and gave us one of her lovely blue eggs the very first day and every day since.  I guess she decided to take over the new nest box!  That may be because Brewster had gone ‘broody’ and was hogging one stall in the old (also double) nest box.

We still need to finish the roof, I want it to slant downward toward the back with an overhang in the front.

  Eventually I want to have a rain gutter system and a rain barrel to collect the rain water and use it for their drinking water.


This coop picture taken from The Backyard Chickens page is similar to what I would like to do with the roof/gutter system.

I thought about painting the coop but really like the rustic look of the wood and would like to see it age to a worn gray.

I have my flower box!

I added two hooks which I painted pink to match the flower box and hung a lantern I found at the flea market.  The other hook is for a future wind chime.


Of course you MUST have curtains!

At first only Snowball and Pearl slept in the new coop, huddled together on the top perch.  Then I moved Brewster in to break her broodiness (it worked).  I was going to wait until fall to introduce the others but then I said what the heck!  I needed to do it before winter anyway, they will need the warmth from each other to keep warm this winter.

The move went very smoothly.


  So alas, the Cluck Inn is abandoned for now but it will serve as a home for new chicks as we get them.

I have decided to simply call the new coop Kluck Inn Too.

(Spelling it with a ‘K’ is an Iowa ‘thing’)

My hubby painted Brewster’s portrait:


What better place to hang it than inside her home?


Here is a pic that shows the two coops together (taken before the new coop was ‘decorated’):


Do you like it so far?  Tell me about your coop or your ‘dream’ coop!

Introducing the Gals!

I write about them a lot but I don’t think you were ever formally introduced.


Brewster                                                                                                    Brewondeck








Brewster is a Buff Orpington.  She is one of our original 2 chicks and lives up to the Orpigton reputation of being tame and friendly.  She is our friendliest hen and loves to be picked up and held.  She will eat out of your hand but watch out – she will get distracted by your jewelry and peck at it.  When we throw treats into the pen Brewster is first to grab the tastiest morsel and run with it.  I say that she is part Bald Eagle because she has such an ‘Eagle Eye’ for goodies!








We got Riot the same time we got Brewster and she is a Black Sex Link which means any chicks from the hatch that are black are guaranteed female.  She is a cross between a Rhode Island Red and some other breed which I forget.  She was an adorable black chick but grew up to have lovely red feathers on her neck.  If she catches the light just right her black feathers have a green iridescent sheen to them. She is our largest bird and is also very friendly.


Martha                                                                                                      coop 023


Martha is an Ameraucana and I got her because of the blue eggs she lays.

blue egg

She looked like a little chipmunk when she was a chick.  She is curious and flighty and before we clipped her wings she would constantly escape the pen.




coop 025

Sally is a Bared Plymouth Rock and we got her when we got Martha.  When Barred Rocks are chicks they are black with white bottoms – like a little fuzzy diaper!  She is now a beautiful black and white hen, very plump although when young she hardly grew and took forever to get full sized.  We were a bit worried about her at first.  She is our shyest gal and probably the lowest of the ‘pecking’ order of our original 4 gals.  She is making up for it by being bossy to the 2 newest gals.

Snowball and Pearl                                                     1chicks


Snowball and Pearl are our White Orpington girls that we got as day old chicks this year.  They have orange ink on their heads in the pic so we could tell them from other chicks my friend ordered that were in the same shipment.   We thought white chicks would look good in our flock and we liked the Orpington personality.  I can hardly tell the two apart anymore except for the fact that Snowball has yellow feet and Pearl’s feet are bluish white.


I love my flock, they are not just livestock to me, they are pets.  Pets with benefits!

pet chicken

People ask me what I will do when the older girls stop laying.  Will I eat them?  I have no problem with people who put their older non-productive hens in the soup pot.  They have had good lives and it is just being practical.


It is just not something I care to do.  First of all since we live in the city and our yard is open to the neighbors’ view,  there will be no slaughtering done here and it doesn’t seem economical to send them out for ‘processing’.  I know I couldn’t eat one of our gals and  I don’t think my husband could either.

The plan is for them to remain as pets in their ‘golden years’.    Between predators, illness, accidents and who knows what, it may not be in the cards for them to make it to old age.  But if we are lucky enough that our gals live to a nice old chicken age, they will live and die in comfort and LOVED!

chicken love

My total flock size will probably never exceed a dozen because of the size of my yard, my coops  and the amount of chicken poop I can handle for my garden.  My plan is to add about 2 new chicks every other year. This way I hope to always have at least a couple in prime laying age.  (Yep you may have noticed that I already broke this rule by getting chicks this year).

Tell me about your flock.  How many chickens do you have or plan to get?  Are you in the city or country?  I would love to see a pic of your chicks!








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