Thursday, September 10, 2009

Too Cute


My husband and I rode our bikes through Michigan last week. We started in Lansing, the state capital, at Michigan State University and rode 352 miles until we reached the great Mackinaw Bridge..a very beautiful ride and something we try to do every year. I really do not take many pictures on our trips (strange, isn't it??) but I feel when I try to take pictures I'm always focusing on "getting the picture" as opposed to just enjoying the view and enjoying the moment. Perhaps if I had a better camera??
I do take pictures of gardens however! I like to steal ideas and this one is a definite! A large vegetable and flower garden with these whimsical soft sculpture figures!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Cool Wet Summer


I can see from the window in front of my computer sunflowers swaying in the breeze, dew on the unusually green grass (it's been wet) and a peek of red tomatoes waiting to be picked. I feel very fortunate this morning to have a bit of property on which to indulge myself in various hobbies.
Of all the puttering around my yard this year, I would have to say growing cut flowers has been the most satisfying. Perhaps living in the country and having so many fresh vegetables available to me has me wondering why I put forth the effort with my small kitchen garden. I do so love the social aspect of a farmers market even more than I enjoy the satisfaction of going out to my garden to harvest a green pepper that I myself have grown. Next year, it's all flowers.

Some of the flowers I planted from seed were disappointingly mislabeled. I've found that to be the case several times, especially when I buy my seeds at the big box stores. A Zinnia variety I planted for cutting turned out to be a perfect bedding variety, short and stubby. All the varieties of Sunflowers I have planted have been just a joy, they have a long vase life, stiff stems, and go well with any other flower!

The biggest bang for the buck most certainly comes from the Oriental Lilies I wrote about earlier. I will definitely plant more of them.

Giving a bouquet of fresh, field grown flowers to friends is such a good feeling..next year I'll take better notes and enlarge that garden!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oh Henny!

I'm quite new to the hen business so every new thing is a new experience for me.
I started this spring with six hens of four different breeds of chickens and I must say, my two buff orpingtons are the sweetest of the bunch. They both love to be held, coo sweetly, and are beautiful as well.
Since it does not really matter to me how many eggs I collect every day I pay no attention to who lays what..but I did begin to wonder where, oh where "Henny" my light colored Orpinton was laying her eggs. One morning this past week, while playing in the yardI came across this little stash in my ornamental grass...there they are! They next morning I watched as Henny went to add to the bunch..but, apparently a racoon family found the eggs first and made themselves quite at home. They neatly had cracked the eggs and licked them clean. I certainly would have loved to watch that!

Such a Sweet Smell


Last year about this time I stopped at my favorite nursery to see what was up and I could not resist purchasing the beautiful 'StarGazer' Oriental Lily...the potted plants were blooming so beautifully and the smell was divine. I purchased three of the plants, and this year they came back so nicely I think I will add more to my collection.
Fall is the perfect time to plant these from bulbs and most of the garden catalogs only ship the bulbs in October..this is a much more inexpensive way to go if you love this flower, so I will be placing my order soon.
The neat thing about raising these flowers for cutting is that if you pick them at the right stage they will give you several weeks of enjoyment in the vase. I've read that cutting them while the first two buds are swollen and colored, but not yet open you can enjoy them for a long time.
Oriental lilies usually are either pink or white, and bloom in the late summer, a great thing because when you enjoy the flower you can remind yourself to plant more soon! Asian lilies are more brightly colored, less aromatic, and smaller in size than the Orientals, but both make excellent cut flowers. If you plant both Asian lilies which bloom early in the season, and Oriental lilies which bloom in late summer, you can enjoy these flowers all summer long!

Friday, August 7, 2009

I'm Back!

...and it feels so good!
It's been a busy and exciting few months around here as both my daughters were married. I put much of my life on hold just so I could totally enjoy the time, and it was SUCH a good time! Mike and I now have two wonderful sons and we couldn't be happier.
But now, please indulge me while I go on (and on) about my chickens. They have grown into little women while I was off doing other things, and boy are they beautiful. They are all laying eggs now, and although a chicken farmer would laugh at me, I find it just amazing..and I have a neat little thing going on in my garage now.
Of course, Ellie was first to lay an egg. She did it in my wheelbarrow in the garage while I was working in the garden. Ellie is first at everything. First to get out of her baby chick cage and roam the house, first to dare to peck at my dog Gracie, first to try a green bean.
I was quite excited she wanted to lay an egg right by me, but I didn't want her following me around with my wheelbarrow so I put a big rubbermaid storage box in my garage with some cedar shavings, about one step from my back door, and this is where they are now laying!! Perfect! I have five eggs by 10 am every morning. Henny likes to lay her egg in her little coop like a good chicken.
This is what is looks like in the morning. One laying, one waiting and Cinnamon there for decoration. It's ingenious if I say so myself.

So, Bingo...this is what we get! THREE double yokers...that's a lot of protein! Thanks girls..

Thursday, June 4, 2009

First Harvest



Today I worked most of the afternoon in the garden. The weather was perfect...70 degrees and sunny! For a reward I was able to harvest my first bunch of leaf lettuce...which we will eat for dinner. I think I will grill some steak and slice it thin to serve atop the "red sails" leaf lettuce. I picked some basil and used it in a vinaigrette to be served as a dressing. How satisfying.

As I was working outside I was thinking about a lovely brunch we had with friends this past weekend in Chicago. Barb and Jim served a great meal (with mimosas!!) outside on their pergola covered deck. It was delightful. I didn't look at the yard and garden and think of things that needed to be done. I wish I could just relax enjoy my own yard and garden as much as I enjoy the gardens of others. I think I need to often remind myself that for me gardening is a verb, as opposed to being a noun. Anyone (with more money than me) can hire a garden designer or a gardener and they can have a "garden". I like to garden, as in "work in the garden" so I should be able to relax and enjoy the process which has no end. Instead of always seeing what needs to be done I should remind myself that the process is what I enjoy the most...I don't "have" to do anything if I don't want.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ying and Yang


Beautiful Poppies....so bright orange I don't know where they would fit in my garden so I grow them by the vegetables. So gorgeous, aren't they? This is my ying today!



But alas (and alack) this is my yang. The rabbits ate every leaf off of every little sunflower that I have planted. These were special flowers that I raised from little seeds in my basement. They were bred especially for cut flower bouquets and I am just a little saddened by this. That, and the fact that I have to fence in the whole flower garden now. Yuck.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Weekend = Planting Time!

Oh, a lovely cloudy day today...a perfect time to get the tomatoes in, the flowers I had started in the basement, basil, lavender. It's starting to look like a garden! I need a few more tomato cages, but all looks good.

This weekend I will start to plant seeds directly into the garden...green beans, squash, cucumbers, and eggplant and lots of flower seeds. I'll plant a few annuals as well, thinking ahead to a outdoor get togethers this summer.

I hit paydirt today at a barn sale. I'll post pictures tomorrow! I'm pretty geeked about it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Get to Work Deb!

Uhg, I feel like I am way behind in all my spring planting and such! Weddings, lawn care, weddings, housework and bookkeeping work at Mobile Wrench and weddings. Oh my.

Looks like good weather for the weekend, so I better stay focused!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

R.I.P.


Last Wednesday was processing day for our chickens. This was such a learning experience for me, and although it was hard, I'm going to start over and do it again. The chickens had a good life, were well cared for and happy, and I think that's Gods intentions for them!
First, I loaded them into Mikes pickup...easier than I thought, they were willing to be caught? Dumb Chickens.
I drove them over to Carla's house, as she had 25 chickens to be processed as well. Brian, a 35 year old from Ada (and quite a character) was there with his portable processor. This included cones, a stainless steel table, a feather-getter-offer and a propane fueled barrel of hot water. Carla was well into getting her chickens killed and cleaned.
I did shed a tear when it was my turn, and I felt faint all day, but I am committed to this...I'd much rather eat my happy chickens than those raised in a small cage. I helped as best I could, but I'm sure next time around will be easier? Maybe? Home I went with 22 cleaned and fat chickens and I was quite tickled.
Mike was excited and had Sarah run and get a rotisserie attachment for the grill...it was delicious and tonight we are having soup! I'll do it again.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Are You Ready for some Football??


That's what I think every time I walk out to visit the frankenchickens and I call to them. They charge at me with their fat little bodies waddling, it's hard not to laugh. (Sorry chickens). Since I've put them on a diet two weeks ago they seem much happier...they peck at the ground and wander around like a good chicken should, but, alas, they only have six more days till, you know.
I've learned a lot about raising these meat chickens, and I'm eager to do it again. The biggest lesson is...restrict their diet! I've lost two chickens to heart attacks and one chicken (Hank) lost the use of his legs as they could not support his body. I keep him in the garage in the "infirmagatory"...which is half infirmary and half pergatory.

On another note. I have been thinking about paths in my yard for some time. When I look out my kitchen window I just see grass, grass, and more grass and I feel like it needs to be broken up. With that in mind, here is a before picture and I will post an after picture in, oh, maybe a week?? Hopefully?? I have it all planned out...

And, I took an updated picture of the lovely chicken tractor my hubby built. Now it has wheels, and he put a removeable pipe in the front to move it around. He's pretty clever. I'm decorating it with "fresh egg" signs.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Sweet, Sweet Smell



Last night I had the hardest time getting to sleep. I had spent the evening reading about beekeeping and rabbit keeping and knitting and such and my mind was just racing. It was raining outside, my window was wide open, and I actually didn't want to go to sleep. I was having fun. It just smelt so good in our bedroom...like, oh, wet dirt.
Not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I would really like to be a flower farmer. I'm not sure I would actually want to sell my flowers, maybe I could just give them away until I have gained confidence in my abilities, but at any rate, today I started getting my flower beds ready. That meant double digging and lots of sweat. My plan is to have four 4' x 15' raised beds.
I added the bit of compost I could find, and turned under the leaves I had piled on the garden last fall when... oh, sweet surprise, neighborly neighbor Glenn from next door came over with his tractor and bucket to turn the massive pile of yard waste I had been collecting for 25 years! I knew there was a gold mine in there, but the prospects of digging it out had seemed daunting. In a matter of minutes I was a wealthy woman. Compost as high as a barn!
I finished one bed today, and I was quite tickled with it! Three more to go. Thanks Glenn!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring, maybe??

Today was clean up the yard day. I have kind of a big yard, maybe two acres, and I really don't fuss too much about most of it, except for around the house. There is just nothing like fresh sharp edging and new mulch in the spring. Today I rounded up my daughter to help me throw some bark..we did two yards, which is a good start AND a good feeling. I'm teaching Sarah how to do yard work, since I never really taught her about indoor domesticity.

There is something about some dogs that just make them seem so noble all the time, our old golden retriever is one of those dogs...(not, unfortunately my little Shitzu Gracie). No matter what Cinny does, she looks likes she's posing for a picture. Here she is cooling herself down in the nice pachysandra. Always near!
I used to spend a bit of time chasing her out of there, but in my old age and her old age we've come to an agreement, and the agreement is she can go there whenever she wants. Its just....pachysandra.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Strawberry Toenails


Some interesting things I am learning about chickens! They have so much personality...OK, so I've been feeding the little hens strawberries and grapes throughout the day, you know, just to bond and such. Well, tonight I went out there in my jammies and bare feet and the chickens thought my red toenails were strawberries! They were so excited...tickling my toes with little pecks. Here's a picture of them eating Mikes leftovers...spanish rice, strawberries, and broccoli.
Mike says I shouldn't go out to the chickens in bare feet, but, well, stuff happens..
Here's another interesting thing. My frankenchickens would NOT leave the barn! They just sit there. The weather has been so nice so I put their food outside to lure them and out they went. All day they wandered maybe, oh ten feet or so. I waited for them to go back into the barn at night, to, you know, roost, but they wouldn't. Outside I went (in my jammies ) and had to carry each one of the lazy suckers back into the protection of the barn.
Carla told me when it gets dark the chickens will not move...they just lay there. Tonight I went out there earlier, when it was still light and told them to go into the barn and they just went in!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Owls

This is kind of sad, but I will share it anyway....I have lived in this house for 26 years now and have never noticed the loud owls around here at night. I lay in bed and listen to them talk (hoot, hoot) back and forth and I think they are saying..."I found some dinner here in Burnips!" Of, course, I tuck my chickens safely away at night so there are no worries, just noticing the interaction between animals is quite mindblowing. Especially when you are laying in bed just listening. I just love animals.
I'm sure they have always been there, like the woodpeckers, but since I put my chicks outside and have read articles about owls and their love of chickens I've been hyper aware. It's just sad I never have noticed before.
I need to be more attentive. It's quite a beautiful sound.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Seeds Up!

Oh, finally good weather, sunny day. I have all my seeds planted now indoors and many of them are popping up...I can't tell you how exciting this is. I check two times a day and try not to poke around in the soil looking for them! Lots of flowers for my big empty cutting flower bed. And some veggies cause we like them.

The chickens are all out in their houses now, though that has been hard with the cold weather. Heating lamps have kept them warm, but its been a struggle. On warm days (above 50 degrees) I let them run..so much fun watching the dogs interact with them. Mike built this cool little chicken coop for the hens, I still keep a heat lamp in the coop part, and the coop stays next to the house so I can peak at them all the time.

April is a tricky month around here. On warm days I am ready to get the yard all cleaned up, but then the next day there can be snow. It just feels like I have so much I want to do outside before planting time!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Attempt...

Hey everyone,
This is Debby's daughter Sarah writing. I will try to write something "blog worthy." Since I don't garden it is a little hard to know what to write on this "farm" blog.

Ever since Ellie appeared in my life sustainable living took on a whole new meaning. Walking through the grocery store the most tempting foods are filled with corn syrup, GMO's and other nasty chemicals. Before Ellie I have always knew this things existed. Generally, my family has followed a strict chemical free-ish diet. For me Ellie and the other five girls really mixed things up.

For any new pet one must (hopefully) read up on that particular animal breed. The same with my little Ellie. All the reading has forced me to really think about my food. I mean REALLY think. Like paying closer attention to what is in my food.

I thought it would be fun or not so fun to walk around the grocery store and look at the GMO foods. There are aisles and aisles full of 'um! SICCKK! So that GMO food free diet of mine...includes eating the same thing every day. Mostly because there are/is not a large selection of whole foods. I will note that since the "green living" trend started, the organic line of stuff is getting bigger and better.

I watch the Biggest Loser. One contestant on BL quoted that the foods that are good for you...are expensive. That they are. But to me, and hopefully to you, spending money on whole foods is worth it. I want to see my children grow up. (Providing I have them...in the distant future.)

Another short thing:
The relationship America has with it's food. I am pretty sure America has more fast food places than any other nation...and we're the fattest. Many people argue this is due to being so wealthy. I say we are fat because we get a hamburger, eat it in the car while driving to our destination. Have we ever stopped to think about what we are about to eat? Eating around a table can help with this. We have prepared the food set before us, we chew it slowly, we are having a relaxed meal...and are simulated to think about our food (self consciously)

Ok, this blog entry is waaay off track. It was suppose to be about the fact that I am not going to rely on big box stores to make my clothing. And being all sustainable. And sewing my apron. Sorry! If you take anything away from this entry...it's this: farming maybe not be easy (at first), but the rewards are great. And GMo foods are nasty.

I love my little Ellie!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Planting Time

This week I've been starting some seeds in my basement under lights...it brings out the maternal instinct in me, nurturing those little suckers. Yesterday it was both heirloom tomatoes (brandywine) and hybrid tomatoes (beefsteak).
I've also started some easy perennials, Shasta daisies, small Sunflowers and Rudbeckia, to inexpensively fill in some empty places in my back yard. I put in some Basil to go along with a few other herbs I already have. I think I'll make little herb gardens in pretty pots for both of my daughters.
In the next day or so I should be receiving my order from the seed company. I've picked out some specific flower seeds for a cutting garden suggested in a book I've been reading a book called "The Flower Farmer". The author is quite a successful flower farmer, selling at farmers markets and florists, and luckily she is very free with advice. I think I'd like to start small, just enough flowers for myself and friends...
Anyway...that's what's been happening around here...just waiting for sunshine and warmer weather!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sunny March day, Again.

I'm sure you readers...(mom, dad?) have been saying to yourself, "I wonder what Deb has been up to on this beautiful day?" Well, maybe you haven't thought that, but I'll tell you anyway!
I set my sights low for the day, there was a light dusting of snow, it was a chilly morning. I had hoped to maybe enlarge the broilers brooder, they are getting BIG. I had hoped to maybe plant a few seeds for the growing lights in the basement. Not much else...but by noon it was almost 50 degrees again, so outside I went.
I planted a row of snow peas (Oregon Sugar Pod II) behind the Little Marvels I had planted last week, and I added a few more paths to my garden. Can you see the pea coming up in the picture? I also managed to clean out one of my raised beds. It is kind of hard to get a lot done (when you are me). I walk away to get a tool and end up getting distracted by some other thing in the yard..or I go over to the neighbors to see what they are up to. It's all good though. Nothing is that important that it can't wait til I wander in that direction again.
In the chicken department, I introduced greens which didn't go over well. I tried carrot tops, strawberries and chives. But I see they are just drying up in the chickens little brooder. The hens are growing so tame, if I put my arm in the hen box they run up it to look me in the face. I also gave the hens a little window and put their box up next to the slider so they can look out.
It ended up being a good day, think I'll sit down and read for a while :-)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

And this is what's for dinner


Part of my journey to living a somewhat more sustainable lifestyle has been to join the local West Michigan Coop. I can order grass fed poultry, beef, handmade organic cheese, locally roasted and freetrade coffee and fresh eggs...all raised by local farmers. I order online and then pick up my order on their "pickup day". It's so much fun, popular, and the items I buy are delicious! This is the kind of food my husband grew up on and we can really taste the differance. I also get to pick up my products from the very people who raised and processed the products. It's satisfying, and not that much more expensive.
My girlfriend Carla has taken this one step further. She milks her own cow and drinks raw milk. She raises (and has butchered!) her own broiler chickens and she gets her own fresh eggs from her little hens. This year, I went in with her on an order of hybrid Cornish X meat chickies. Soooo, last week our order came in and I got 25 of them! All is going well, they are growing fast, eating well and seem happy. I had them in the basement for a few days, but they eat so much and poop so much I made a nice brooder in the garage and I think they like it.
Carla says I won't have them long, just a few months until they reach a good size for...you know.
I guess they are bred to grow so fast that sometimes their little legs cannot hold them up! Just like some plants are bred to have such big flowers they flop over on weak stems. Yikes!
Anyway, these are my meat chicks at two days old...still yellow. They are quickly turning white though!

Monday, March 16, 2009


I know the nice weather we've been having (50+ degrees!!) has been teasing me. It's really hard NOT to start all my seeds in the basement yet or I'm going to have some really scraggly plants in April. I did find lots to do outside this weekend, including getting my peas in. Traditionally St Patty's day is a good time to get that done in my zone 5b and I was lucky enough to have some soil thawed out and dry. Almost ready to go in fact! I planted some "Little Marvel" peas which are English peas grown for their mature seed...they need to be shelled, and this week I will plant some snap peas as well. I started cleaning out the rest of my little kitchen garden, working on some paths and such. I worked so hard in fact I could barely dance a jig on Saturday night! (but I did manage)

Whilst ( is that a word?) I was working away on my garden my dear husband, without any nudging from me, decided our little hens needed a more proper living quarters when it's time to send them outside. He designed a nifty tractor/chicken coop and started scrounging around the barn to find wood to make it! I'm pretty excited about that. In a related note, our six little girls have moved into the kitchen area to be nearer their moms (Sarah and me, of course). I could tell they were much happier immediately, the basement was just too lonely. Sarah and I are happier as well. :)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Eating What's in Season - Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

I thought I'd add a few recipes to my blog, primarily using the fruits and veggies and meat we grow, but I found a recipe for Asparagus in my favorite foodie magazine "Eating Well" which I made last night and it was sooo good! We all love asparagus in this house and I usually steam it or roast it, but this was really outstanding.

16 spears asparagus (about one bunch)...I used two!
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
very thin slices of prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise.

1. Preheat grill ( I use a grill pan and I love it)
2. Toss asparagus with oil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Wrap one length of prosciutto around the middle of 4 asparagus spears. Repeat, making lots of bundles. Grill the asparagus bundles, turning once or twice, until the asparagus in tender and charred in spots, about 10 minutes.

SOOO Good. I just left the plate on the counter and all the bundles were gone in minutes!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's what's for breakfast...


Two days ago my daughter Sarah and I went to the local farm store to pick up six little chicks. We envision lovely hens following us around in the yard and sleeping in the little Swiss chalet playhouse that has been sitting empty for years. In 24 weeks we hope to have plenty of fresh organic eggs from our little girls. So far, so good!
Sarahs' little Isa Brown is named Ellie. The breed lays brown eggs and it's supposedly a calm and loving hen which makes a great pet.
I picked out two Buff Orpington chicks.. These little chickies will grow up to be a most beautiful golden color. They should be big girls (8 lbs!!) but they are a calm, docile and friendly breed. They will lay great big pinky brown eggs. They are named Daisy and Violet.
We also brought home two "Easter Eggers". They are a breed that does not have any tail feathers (they are rumpless), but they have tufts of feathers where their ears might be. Their eggs will be pale blue and green! How fun!. These girls are named Betsy and LuLu.
The last little chick we brought home is a Black Australorp named Addie. This chick will grow up to be a beautiful blackish violet hen. The breed is known for its prolific egg laying, and it is a tame, shy bird.
So, that's our new little family of hens! We are loving it already and can see the difference in personalities.


An Easter Egger Baby!

This is just the cutest picture of how these babies sleep! Just like a puppy all stretched out with their head on the ground! I never knew...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dreaming (Again!)



Every year about this time I put away the historical biographies, self help books and interior design magazines that have helped me get through winter and move on to fresh new thoughts about the garden I have created in my head. Usually, after surrounding myself with gardening books, I can keep myself safely engaged on the sofa until any danger of any sort of actual planting is past. By the time I look up from the beautiful pictures and have memorized another list of botanical names it is well into June and too late to get any sort of worthwhile garden planted. Safe again!
This year, however, I aim to act on my dreams...and this blog will help me journal this journey from my head to my actual yard!