Houdini Hen

As many of you know, I have a “big run” for my girls in addition to the permanent run which is attached to Cluckingham Palace.  It is a movable run and not as safe as the original run.  I added it so they could have access to fresh grass and insects and to have a better place for dust baths.  I had hoped to make it safer and more permanent this year but with Bill’s fractured ankle and all the other gardens, I wasn’t able to.  I ended up putting up basically the same run that they had last summer.IMG_2348I added ropes to keep the netting up so it was easier for me to walk in the run.  There is netting over the rope to keep the chickens in and the hawks out.

IMG_2346 I have earth staples in the bottom every few feet.  This secures the bottom and discourages anyone from digging under.  Since the girls are only in this run during the day and when I am home it feels ok if not perfect.

IMG_2344Close to the coop, where I connect the fence after opening or closing the door I put a log on the bottom of the fence.  There are no gaps….top or bottom.

IMG_2343I even lined up potted plants along the section of the fence closest to the coop…the only section without earth staples.  There is no way in or out without disturbing something.

So you can imagine my surprise last night when I went out to put the girls to bed and found Prudence happily pecking and scratching  OUTSIDE the run!

IMG_2362How did she get out?!

IMG_2351And she had been busy!  Clearing the straw around the zucchini.

IMG_2352Sampling the last head of lettuce..the only one that hadn’t been consumed by the bear, deer or the bunny!  We are not destined to have lettuce this summer!

IMG_2353More signs of Prudence’s adventures.

I caught her easily and put her back in with the others.IMG_2345Much to her dismay.

IMG_2350And they all went into Cluckingham Palace for a little snack before bed.

I checked the entire run, top and bottom.  There is NO WAY she could have gotten out!

 Houdini Hen.

It is a mystery.  I will keep checking to try to figure out her secret.

IMG_2359  And Prudence, no doubt, will continue to forage….on one side of the fence…or the other!


Posted in Gardens, Hens | 6 Comments

An Unexpected Visitor

This morning, after I let the girls out, I wandered through the gardens for a bit.  Everything looks so happy and refreshed in the morning before it all starts to wilt in the heat of the day.IMG_2088

I noticed that the lettuce was looking especially beautiful…salad for dinner tonight..yum.  There were some heads under the cucumber trellis.

IMG_2093And more in the long bed in front of the carrots and celery.  I planned to take a little bit from each of the heads, leaving enough so it would keep growing.  I would harvest it right before dinner.  Or so I had planned.

But things do not always go exactly as planned.  After Fergus and I got home from our walk we went inside.  I chatted with Bill for a bit and as we were talking I looked out the window… and this is what I saw.

IMG_2186Sitting in my garden, munching away on my beautiful lettuce, was a bear!  She looked like she was settled in for a nice, long snack.

IMG_2184Beautiful as she is, this is NOT a good thing.  Bears have long memories.  They will return again to any place where they have found food.   I do not really want her returning to my garden!  I thought the deer were a problem last year, but this is worse.

IMG_2190Despite their cuddly appearance, bears are wild animals.  They are very strong and can move surprisingly fast.  And the bears around here are very used to people….and very bold.  (as you can see here)

IMG_2195Eventually she left.  I was nervous because she was heading up toward Cluckingham Palace and the girls were out.  But she wasn’t interested in them.

IMG_2153Instead she turned toward our hammock.  Was she going to take a nap now?!

No.  She was picking up her three little cubs who were playing there!  Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to get a picture of them in the hammock.


She collected them…and off they went….

And my beautiful lettuce?



I think salad just got taken off the menu for tonight…. 😢

Posted in Gardens, Nature | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Summer Solstice

Today it is official.   Summer has arrived.  It is the longest day…the summer solstice.  And how does it find us?  Well, not quite finished planting but getting there.   There are a few things left to go in the birch bed.

IMG_2074That is the garden I am working on this week end.  It is the last one….the last new one for this year at least.  I have not planted it yet but it is ready.IMG_2071Sadly I had to cut one of the birches so there are only three now.  It had a fungus and was mostly dead.  Since the fungus is catching I decided to cut it and hope the other trees haven’t gotten it yet.  I also discovered  a few gypsy moth caterpillars climbing up the trees.  Not good.   I am hoping all the rich soil in the new garden will fortify the trees and they will be ok.  I planted this tree and the maple when my father died..his favorite trees..so I do not want to lose them.

The maple food forest is done, though it turned out to be foodless.  Well there is a bit of mint.  By the time I got to planting it, it was too late to get my currant bushes and fruit trees.  They will have to wait until next Spring I think.  But I did plant some nitrogen fixers and some  pollinators.  

IMG_2026I had a lot of things I could divide.  There is purple coneflower, daisies, black eyed susans, lupine, hyssop, catmint,  false indigo…and some phlox and iris that were already there.  It will be meadow flowers for now.  And it will NOT need to be mowed!  The birch bed will be similar.

It is good that it is the last bed.  I am out of compost (and leaves for that matter!).IMG_2067The girls did an absolutely WONDERFUL job breaking down the compost.  The bins are empty.  Time to start filling them with new garden waste for next year’s compost.

The greenhouse has also not gone according to plan.  I had thought I would order the greenhouse soon to be installed this summer.  But then I had extra veggie plants from seeds I had started.  I thought about making a new bed for them and then I realized that I was planning to make beds for the greenhouse anyway..so why not put them there?  They might be too hot in the greenhouse….so maybe they should just be beds for now and I will get the greenhouse in the Fall.  I don’t really need it until then.


So the overflow veggies went here.  I used logs to make the beds for now.  Over the summer I will collect rocks to replace the logs.  They will retain heat better in the winter.  But for now the logs will do…and I had them.  

IMG_2077The potato grow bags are doing very well.  They won’t have a green house to protract them from the deer so I hope they will be ok.

IMG_2083The potatoes in the straw are popping up too.  The fence will be installed next week.  I am really hoping for a potato harvest his year!


The raspberries planted last year are doing very well.  I have put some stakes and string up to keep the upright.   I am hoping for lots of raspberries, but they won’t come until the Fall.

Last year’s blueberries were moved to a sunnier location at the end of  the summer and are doing ok.  

IMG_2096We will have a few blueberries this summer.

IMG_2087The deer have not eaten any strawberries yet this year.  That grey thing is supposed to repel deer.  It had dried blood in it and Fergus is VERY interested in it.  Unfortunately…IMG_2009

…someone is nibbling the strawberries.  Just a wee bite here and there…my chipmunk friend?  or possibly the  rabbit (I have named him Peter) who is spending lots of time here nibbling grass…and maybe something else…

 IMG_2094The garlic now have scapes.  I will cut these off so the plant will focus on the bulb.  Last year I composted them but someone told me you can eat them so this year I will sauté them with something.  The garlic should be ready soon! 

In general the gardens are pretty happy.

IMG_2091The tomatoes and basil are getting bigger.

IMG_2092As are the peppers and the eggplant.

IMG_2112And we have peas!!!!

All in all the bounty of summer has begun.  And there is a promise of more still to come.  There are fruits, veggies and herbs growing…bees are busy darting from plant to plant….birds are singing happily…flowers are blooming….the abundance of summer is here and it is most welcome!

IMG_2121Happy Solstice everyone!

Posted in Eating Well, Gardens, Nature, summer | 5 Comments

June? Already?

As a teacher, the phrase, “Is it June yet?” started being heard sometime  around March.    Because June meant the end of the school year and summer vacation, it always seemed that June was very slow to come.  As a gardener in New England, where the last frost date is the end of May (well, I know they changed it with climate change to May 21, but it will always be end of May for me) June has come all too soon!  We had a late and cold Spring this year and I was later still with Bill’s ankle, etc  (not to mention losing my sweet Brianna ) so June’s arrival has been a bit of a shock for me.  Suddenly things need to be in the ground!

So I have been very busy trying to get things planted.  As usual I have more ideas than time but I am getting there.  I am also trying to decrease  lawn and expanding all gardens.  So it has been a bit hectic.

I have again tried planting potatoes in straw.  It worked last year but for the deer.IMG_1936I have planted sprouted potatoes here next to the compost.  I think I will put a fence up to protect the potato plants from the deer.  Fingers crossed for a good harvest.

I have also tried “grow bags” this year.IMG_1966Here they  are in front of the site of the future greenhouse.  I haven’t ordered the greenhouse yet, but my lovely neighbor, Heather, has offered to help me put it together when I do.  I have found one I think will work. It is small, 6′x8′, but that is all I have room for….(and even that is technically illegal under the power lines….but there you are).   So  I planted more sprouted  potatoes in the grow bags.  You  add more soil as the plants grow.  Once the greenhouse is in place I can put them inside at night.  And there will be no potatoes on the deer menu this year.

I made an asparagus bed next to this, though a bit late for asparagus season, so I planted some winter squash in it.


I will add some nasturtiums and some marigolds..and maybe a fence or netting to protect the plants from the deer.

IMG_1987These sunflowers are in the next bed.  I got these at the Farmer’s Market.  I have some I started from seed (late) but the chipmunks discovered them and nibbled a few leaves.

IMG_1953So it might be awhile before they are ready to go in the ground.  

The strawberries I planted last year are very happy.IMG_1940We have berries already.  I got some things to put next to them that are supposed to keep deer out…and I will put some netting over them if that doesn’t work.  Hopefully we will have strawberries all summer.

My tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and basil are small but I have planted them and they seem happy.IMG_1917Peppers.IMG_1918Eggplant.IMG_1921Tomatoes and nasturtiums.IMG_1935Basil.  The huge plants at the Farmer’s Market made me jealous, but mine will grow.  And next year I will have a greenhouse so maybe my plants will be bigger.

I planted green beans at the bottom of these bamboo teepees with zucchini  and nasturtiums.IMG_1990They are in the bed in front of the coop so hopefully the deer will stay out.  Last year they ate the beans in the pumpkin patch and in the original garden , but those beds  are farther away from buildings.  So far they have never eaten anything from this garden.

IMG_1923In another bed, these cucumbers will grow up the trellis and shade the lettuce and beets during the heat of the summer.

IMG_1851A win -win for everyone.

The other project I decided to try this year is a Three Sister’s Bed.  This is a Native American tradition.  You plant corn, and beans which grow up the corn and at their feet you plant squash or pumpkins to keep the moisture in and the weeds down.  I have been interested in it for awhile so I decided to give it a try.  I added new cardboard and leaves to last year’s pumpkin patch (after digging up all the volunteer plants..pumpkins or gourds..there were TONS of them!)IMG_1822I then made rows and mounds and added grass, compost, poopy straw and more compost.  I put straw in the paths.IMG_1916I planted the pumpkin/gourds (no idea yet what they are) in every other mound.  I planted corn seeds in the other mounds.  When the corn is about 6″ tall you plant bean seeds.  Since I am late, I planted Indian Corn for Fall decorations and I will plant Scarlett Runner Beans for color.  Hopefully the gourds/pumpkins will do well.  It will be a Fall Decorations garden.  


Meanwhile the early veggies are all doing well.  We had our first salad last night with creamed spinach and pasta.IMG_1988And the peas are growing taller.  A few flower have appeared.  Soon we will have peas.

IMG_1927The carrots are up and the lettuce and arugula are beautiful.  Celery and parsley complete this bed.  And the other raised beds, are also doing well.  It is hard to believe that just a few months ago there was still snow on the ground and any green shoot was a miracle.   Today we are surrounded by abundance.  


I have also been busy planting annuals in the flower beds.

IMG_1943Here is the expanded bed under the cherry tree.  

IMG_1952And the window boxes are done.      But….

IMG_1949…..there is still a bit more to plant.

 Which is why I find myself saying, “Is it June?  Already?!”

Posted in Gardens, Nature, New England Weather, Spring, summer | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments


ipad pics nov 2 2012 1050Today was a hard day.  Today my beloved Brianna died.  I think she may have been egg bound, though from what I have read online the symptoms of that could be other things as well.  So I am not sure.  She was not at all herself yesterday.  Unfortunately there was no Veterinarian available as it was a holiday.  I did some research online and tried to treat her symptoms,  but she grew worse as the day wore on.  I did not expect her to make it through the night.  Much to my delight she did.  Though she was not eating or drinking so she was weak.  I called my Vet this morning only to find out that the vet who sees chickens was on vacation.  I was directed to a few more vets but they were also on vacation.  Finally I found one who could see her.  I was hopeful that maybe we would get through this.  But then,  just after I put her in the crate to go, she had a seizure and died.  And she was gone.   She had just turned two on Sunday.

Brianna was number one in my little flock and had been from the first day.  She was first to do everything and she was always in charge.  And she was a very good leader.  She was…she was just “cool”.  She was never aggressive or cruel.  She didn’t have to be.  She was a quiet presence who simply went about her business, but if anyone got out of line she was there.  She never let anyone (mostly Prudence) get too pushy or mean (mostly to Beatrix).   She would simply stand between them, fluff herself up and flap her wings a few times and Prudence would get the message.  Brianna also kept watch almost like a rooster and sometimes let the others eat first.  She took care of everyone.  She never really got over Maeve’s death..she was upset every night at bedtime because Maeve was missing.  She was a wonderful girl and she will be missed.

The other girls were all upset and out of sorts today without her.  No one quite knew what to do.  Interestingly, they knew she was in the house and were ok with that,  but the minute she died, they seemed to know.  There was a lot of agitated noise in the coop immediately.  It will be awhile I think before they sort themselves out.  It will be very lonely without Brianna…for everyone.

ipad pics 065

IMG_2711 IMG_3276 IMG_3934 IMG_0321 IMG_1794

Safe journey, Brianna.  

Posted in Hens | 14 Comments

Food Forests

Food forests are one of the things that intrigues me about Permaculture.  Food forests have nothing to do with growing food in a forest.   They are  about growing food the way a forest grows things.  When we think about growing food, we think of  large plots of land with rows of plants.  Often the plants are all the same as in a field of pumpkins or wheat.  They are placed in full sun and watered and fertilized as needed.  But when you think about it, nothing in nature grows this way.  When you look at a forest, you see tall trees, shorter trees, bushes, ground cover and vines growing up where ever they can.  There is a tremendous amount of biodiversity and everything is sort of mushed in together.  It breaks every rule of modern farming and yet it works.  Though much of what grows in a forest is not food.  But could you grow food in this way?  Permaculture does and it is amazingly successful in all sorts of different climates.  Ands it is self sustaining…how amazing!

I won’t go into all the details about tall canopy, lower canopy, nitrogen fixers, etc.  The idea is that the plants work together, sharing the space, some replacing nutrients that others use, some attracting insects for pollination, others repelling insects that would harm the plants.  Fallen leaves and plant matter fertilize the soil.  And you select plants that feed the bees, the birds and yourself.  In that order.  I have been interested in planting food forests at Brookwood Shire for awhile now but I wasn’t sure where.

Until Bill broke his ankle and I became the official lawn mower.  Mowing lawns is a ridiculous task.  Unless you have sheep or goats or something that eats grass, it has no purpose.  I have been putting gardens everywhere but there is still lots of lawn in between.  All we need are paths to get to the gardens.  The rest of it unnecessary.  So as I mow, I have been thinking about how I can expand existing gardens and how I can create food forests around the existing trees…and what I would plant.

IMG_1639The first thing I did was to put down some cardboard around this Spruce tree.  I covered it with straw.  Much less to mow.

IMG_1640This Maple is near the Spruce could easily be part of a food forest.  I have placed a hose around the area I will cover.  I can add a dwarf fruit tree, come currant or boysenberry bushes and maybe strawberries or mint for a ground cover with some meadow flowers to attract bees and some comfry and lupines for nitrogen fixing and soil health.

IMG_1635These birches could be another food forest with similar plants.  These trees are all close together and these forests would leave paths between them..much less to mow.

IMG_1628A path’s width away is this cherry tree.  The bed could be expanded.  I have plants I could divide…I could add a berry bush or mint or herbs.  Again that would mean less to mow!

I am also looking at a spot near the girls’ run.  There are no trees there now, but a few fruit trees underplanted with berry bushes would be nice.  I may not get to all of it this summer.  But I will definitely start getting it ready.  Permaculture uses sheet mulching, so no digging is needed.  Just cover the area with compost, wet cardboard or newspaper and then layers of leaf mulch, grass clippings, compost, animal bedding (thank you girls!), peat moss…whatever you have.  Top it all with straw and let nature do the rest.  You can plant in it right away or you can wait until it has become soil.  

IMG_1695Luckily a friend of mine has a lot of cardboard she didn’t want.

IMG_1694And I got some straw and some more compost (I have used most of mine already) from a local farmer.  I have lots of leaves and LOTS of grass clippings.  So I am good to go.

It will be an ongoing project this summer I think.  I don’t know how far I will get, but I would much prefer to put my energy into creating gardens than into MOWING!

I will keep you posted.





Posted in Gardens, Nature, Permaculture, Sustainability | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The Gardens Come to Life

Things have been a bit hectic at Brookwood Shire over the last few weeks.  Bill has had his surgery and is home…waiting for his ankle to heal.  He still can not bear weight  on that foot..and won’t be able to for another 4-6 weeks.   It is a long process.  But he is pretty comfortable and has his computer for photo editing, playing games and watching You Tube.  So while he is a bit bored, he is making do.  I have been busy walking Fergus, making sure Merlin gets his meals on time (otherwise he chases poor Fergus around the house!) and helping Bill as needed.  The girls, of course, still need their yogurt and their treats as well.  And when all that is done, I have been trying to get into the gardens.

It has been a cool Spring, and things are a bit behind where they were last year at this time. That is fine with me as I am a bit behind as well!

The seeds I started are still quite small….


These are mostly tender veggies so they have a few weeks before they can go  in the ground.

I ended up buying some veggie starts at the Farmer’s Market.   Time was short and I wanted to get things into the garden.  So most of my cool weather plants came from there.


Broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts are planted and seem pretty happy.  Someone did nibble a leaf of the brussels sprouts one night, but they haven’t been back and the leaf has regrown.

IMG_1551 The spinach is also doing well.

 IMG_1545Arugula..not a favorite of mine, but Bill loves it.  Lettuce, swiss chard, kale, onions and parsley have also been planted.

IMG_1518The peas are up at last.

IMG_1547And yesterday the carrots emerged!  

IMG_1555And today I noticed a flower on the strawberries.  

There is still much to do, but it is so nice to see things growing again!

 I have also been tidying the flower gardens.  May is a glorious time of year.  

IMG_1527The phlox is stunning this year.

IMG_1577I love phlox and have it everywhere.




And in the woodland gardens….

IMG_1494St. Francis is now surrounded  by Spring blooms.


This Fern leaf bleeding heart peeks out from between two chairs.

IMG_1526These stand among rocks.


Virginia Bluebells dance among the Woodland Poppies.


Columbine stands in a sea of violets.

IMG_1523The woodland gardens are bursting with life at this time of year!

And I am SO HAPPY to have my gardens again!




Posted in Gardens | 2 Comments