Frost Warning!

I have said for years that I do not know how anything survives in New England.  After the very hot weather of early May, we had a week or so of somewhat “normal” temperatures…but now tonight there is a frost warning!  I am very glad that I resisted the temptation to go ahead and plant tender plants…I have lived here too long to be tricked by an early heat wave.

My green house is overflowing with plants ready to be planted.

IMG_4057But they will have to wait a bit longer.  It is still too early for tender plants.  Our last frost date is traditionally the end of May.

While most of the plants I have planted are hardy and will be fine tonight, I have planted a few marigolds and nasturtiumso I have covered them.

IMG_4080It looks a bit spooky with the white sheets here and there.

During the week or so of “normal” weather I was able to get a lot of tidying and mulching done.  And Bill and I also built a squash arch.  We had already made this little arch.

IMG_3912This will be for zucchini.  Last year my friend, Peter Rabbit, managed to eat most of our baby zucchinis.  This year I will grow them up..out of his reach.

Then I saw this article online about building a squash arch.  I love arches and this one is tall enough to walk under.  So we decided to try it.

IMG_4046We wove pvc piping through some of the fence we had from the original pumpkin patch.  Bill made two little raised beds to grow the squash in.  The piping goes over rebar which is hammered into the ground.  Pretty simple.  The arch is over an old stump from a maple tree that was cut a few years ago.  I am thinking of stepping stones through the arch…the stump will just be a step.

I painted it black…

IMG_4054..and started filling the raised beds.  Straw and shavings from the coop is the first layer.  I will also add some compost and top it off with some soil.  It will be beautiful with the big orange squash blossoms growing over it…and I will plant a few morning glories as well.  It will be ready by the time it is safe to plant the squash.

Meanwhile, I have gotten flowers for all my window boxes…but as they are mostly tender plants, the frost warning puts planting them on hold as well.  

IMG_4083Some of the flowers are spending the night in the greenhouse.

IMG_4084The rest are tucked into these tents.  Hopefully they will be protected there.

We will have to wait a bit longer for our window boxes I am afraid..

IMG_4075Luckily we have many perennials beginning to bloom!

Posted in Gardens, New England Weather | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Spring to Summer..too fast!

It has been TOO hot this week.  It was 90F today…much too hot for early May.  The cool weather plants are mostly planted and I am busy trying to keep them watered and cool.

IMG_3994The peas are just emerging.  It was such a cold Spring that they got planted late….I hope they are ok..they don’t like heat.

IMG_3993The spinach has just started to grow…but is wilting.  I hope it doesn’t bolt before we get to harvest it.

IMG_3992And the lettuce is struggling. 

IMG_3911Some lettuce is planted under the cucumber trellis for shade..but of course the cucumbers are not there yet….as we are still a few weeks from our last frost date!

IMG_3912More is planted under this Zucchini Arch..our newest addition to the garden…but no shade yet here either.

The cucumber and zucchini plants are waiting to be planted.   They spend the nights in the greenhouse with the other baby plants.

IMG_4040But the greenhouse has been too hot during the day.  They are outside during the day.  Today even the tomatoes and basil were in the shade for part of the day.  It has been a challenge.  It seems impossible but we still could have a frost…so the tender plants are not yet planted.

I have been working on the “pumpkin patch.”  It is not a pumpkin patch this year, that is just what it is called.  It started out in life as a pumpkin patch and then it was a Three Sisters bed.  

IMG_3991

This year it will have the green beans (a favorite of the local deer) cauliflower, carrots and spinach.  There will also be nasturtiums and summer savory..but they are not yet planted.

I have converted the Apple Tree bed to a fruit bed.  It once had two apple trees, but we lost them in freak October snowstorm a few years ago.  It has been a veggie bed for a while, but the blueberries were not happy where they were and the raspberries needed thinning as did the strawberries.

IMG_4002So I put them all in the (apples) Apple Tree bed.  There is garlic in there as well and I added some arugula and collard greens.  It is a very wide bed and hard to get a good picture.  The baby raspberries are between the poles and the strawberries are in front…the blueberries are on the sides.

IMG_3999Here is one of the blueberry bushes.  They seem to be much happier here.

So despite the heat, I have been busy with the veggie gardens.  And while I have been doing that, the woodland gardens have burst into life!  They are very lush this year as everything came at once.  Here are some pictures.

IMG_3977 IMG_3978 IMG_3979 IMG_4036 IMG_4037 IMG_4039

It is so nice to have a few gardens that take care of themselves….and I can just enjoy them!

 

Posted in Gardens, Nature, Spring, summer | 3 Comments

April Showers Bring May Flowers…..

Well, we didn’t actually get that many April showers this year…but the flowers don’t seem to care.  May begins tomorrow….and it will be greeted by many lovely blooms….the gardens are just beginning.

IMG_3888These checkered lilies are in the woodland garden.  Last year I waited and waited for the flowers to come..and then before I could get  picture a little bunny came and nibbled them……

IMG_3890These Bleeding Hearts are in the same garden..

IMG_3924As is this Lamium.  I have them all over but this is always the first to bloom.  It is a beautiful ground cover and meanders all over the woodland floor….

IMG_3925I know some people think of violets as weeds, but I love them.  That is Sweet Woodruff next to the violets.  The Sweet Woodruff will have a lovely white flower in a few weeks.  They are stunning but they will take over if you let them.

IMG_3901

The daffodils have opened and are gorgeous as ever.

IMG_3921And Grape Hyacinth are popping up everywhere.

IMG_3917The forsythia has bloomed at last.  It is a bit late this year…all the more beautiful for the wait.

In addition to the flowers, we have this.

IMG_3920This is the stump of the Corkscrew Willow tree that we lost in the  Thanksgiving snowstorm. It has a baby willow just starting….I had hoped it would. 

More interesting perhaps though is this.

IMG_3923These are logs cut from the Willow.  They are in are woodpile and they have sprouted!  I am wondering how I can nurture them enough for a few cuttings!

Nature is unstoppable and  life is bursting out all over.

IMG_3909The greenhouse is full of baby plants just waiting to be planted….such an exciting time of year.   May will see the gardens planted….

IMG_3898

 

And the woodlands returned to life!

Happy Mayday everyone!

 

Posted in Gardens, Spring | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Back to Gardening !

IMG_3865I am happy to report that Amber proudly laid a beautiful egg yesterday..shell and all!  So that adventure seems to be over for now at least.  So we were all able to get back to gardening.

The girls have been very busy in the compost area.

IMG_3868 IMG_3870It was so cold this winter that the compost just froze.  The girls have been doing their best to break it down.

And while they were doing that I was able to work a bit on the raised beds.  I cleaned out the Coop Under the Stairs (where they spent too much time this winter) and added the poopy shavings to all the beds.  Then I added some compost mixed with soil that I got at the garden center.

IMG_3872The tomatoes, peppers and eggplants will be in these beds this year.  They won’t be planted for awhile but the beds are ready.  The girls should be finished with the compost by then so I will add a bit of that when I plant.

IMG_3877

I did plant peas today though and some spinach.  It is still a bit cold but I think spinach will be alright..and I can easily cover it if I need to.

IMG_3873I also planted some broccoli and some lettuce.  I got these at the garden center when I got the soil….I couldn’t resist.  I have some very small lettuce and broccoli that I started from seed but it is not ready to be planted yet and given how popular my lettuce is with the local wildlife (An Unexpected Visitor) I thought I would plant some extra this year.

IMG_3876I started this kale and chard from seed and it is still a bit small but the greenhouse is getting full and kale and chard are pretty hardy.  I have hoops over everything I planted and will cover them at night for awhile since it is still in the 30s here at night.

The season has begun!  There are a lot of plants still in the greenhouse and more under the grow light inside..the planting has just begun.  It is a wonderful time of year!

Even the primroses that were so cheerful inside all winter have been moved outside…

IMG_3797 IMG_3798 IMG_3801

….where they remain a cheerful sight!

At long last…Spring has sprung!   🌷🌺🌻

Happy gardening everyone!

Posted in Gardens, Hens, Nature, Spring | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Egg with No Shell

One of the joys of raising your own hens is the interesting eggs that you get.  Supermarket eggs tend to be very uniform…same color, same shape…same pale yellow yolk.  But if you raise hens you get many different colors and shapes…and all have that gorgeous almost orange yolk.  I have three hens and I get three distinct eggs.

IMG_3862Amber’s is the biggest, the shiniest and is more pointed on one end.  Beatrix lays the smallest eggs and they are blue.  Prudence’s eggs are darker than Amber’s and less shiny and more oval.  It is easy to tell the eggs apart and that is a good thing because then you know who is laying.  

Of course, because these are not factory hens, they are not always consistent.  Once in awhile  you get an egg that is a bit lumpy.  We have also had a giant egg (https://brookwoodshire.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/the-giant-egg/)      and we have had a tiny egg (https://brookwoodshire.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/ambers-egg/).

Last night we got our first egg without a shell.  It was a bit of a shock.  I went up to the coop to put them to bed and Amber was in the nesting box.  Not the nesting box that they sleep in, but the “perfect nesting box” (https://brookwoodshire.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/the-perfect-nesting-box/) ..the one they lay in.  It was a bit late for her to be laying an egg.  I reached under her to get the egg and all I felt was wet straw!  It was almost dark so I got a flashlight and moved her off the egg.  And there was a lovely orange yolk, surrounded by the white.  It was as if someone had just cracked an egg into the nesting box.  Amber was a bit upset and unsettled so  I put her in the sleeping nesting box with the others. But she was just not herself.  She wasn’t chattering or getting into “her spot.”  She just sat where I put her..and  she seemed uncomfortable.  So I brought her into the house to get a better look at her.  Her comb was red, but she was listless and definitely uncomfortable.  I checked her vent…it was a bit oozy and possibly a bit prolapsed. 

IMG_3820

I hope this isn’t too graphic…but in case someone is reading this because they have a hen in a similar state, I thought it might be useful.  I called my friend Carole, (who is my chicken mentor) and we talked about the situation.  While we were talking the vent corrected itself and Amber perked up a bit.  She managed to eat a grape and some yogurt and then set about exploring the house.  So I decided she was ok and brought her back to the coop to be with her sisters.

I hoped that would be the end of it.  But this morning, when I checked on them, she was still a bit off and all she wanted to do was sit in the nesting box.   She had just laid an egg so I knew she wasn’t going got lay again for awhile, so I shooed her out.   But she was determined and kept getting back in, so I wondered if she might still have something in there.  I had looked up eggs without shells on the internet (what did we do before internet?!)…there are various causes,from lack of calcium to illness to stress.  But most eggs without shells have a membrane at least.  They are soft but egg shaped.  Amber’s egg had no shell at all..not even a membrane.  Where was the membrane?  Was there one?  I decided to give her an epson salt bath to see if that would help.   Amber actually loves baths…she even loves the hairdryer to dry off…but that is another story.

In any case, during the bath I used a warm washcloth to press her vent a bit and noticed it was prolapsed again.  But just as I was starting to get worried I noticed something emerging…I tugged a bit and this came out.

IMG_3825The membrane.  It must have broken as she was laying the egg and got left behind.  It seemed to be complete with no missing pieces.  So hopefully there is nothing left inside her.  She perked up after this, though not as quickly as I thought she would.  I dried her off and returned her to the coop.  She did get back in the nesting box but only for a few minutes.  Then she had a normal day, scratching and pecking and enjoying a dust bath.  She is eating and drinking so I think she is fine.  She was eager as ever to have a few worms this afternoon.

IMG_3853 IMG_3854

IMG_3855And wanted more when they were gone.  So hopefully her adventure is over and tomorrow she will lay a “normal” egg!  

And we can all get back to gardening! 

 

Posted in Hens, Nature | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Spring At Last!!

Today was a glorious day! After a too long and too cold winter, and a March that came in like a lion and went out like one as well, we finally had a “lamb” day.  Today the sun was out, the breeze was warm and gentle and the temperature was in the 50s….maybe even 60.  It felt wonderful!  Most of the snow is gone (though there are still a few shrinking piles in the shady areas) and the gardens have begun to thaw….a few green shoots have emerged..life is returning at long last!

IMG_3742Crocus are the first up.  A bit of color in a still too brown landscape.

IMG_3743A few more on a south facing hill.

IMG_3745And these nearby.  They are such a welcome sight!

IMG_3746The heather has just begun to bloom.  It was buried under so much snow all winter that I wondered if it would survive..but here it is!

IMG_3747I cut back a few broken bits but for the most part it is fine.

IMG_3763The garlic I planted in the Fall is also just coming up.  

IMG_3738I have potted on the seeds I started last month and they have been spending days out in the greenhouse.

IMG_3754The tomatoes seem particularly happy in the warm greenhouse.

IMG_3756As does the basil…..it is growing fast.

IMG_3737More happy plants.  I am hoping that the greenhouse will help make up for the late start of Spring.  

And inside….

IMG_3748The forsythia I brought in a few weeks ago is finally blooming.

IMG_3749And the pussy willows have opened…

It has begun….no matter how hard the Winter, Spring does return and miraculously, life reemerges….

IMG_3752Soon these primroses, which have kept hope alive all winter, and are still cheerfully blooming, will be moved to their new, permanent home…outside!

We have all been inside for far too long this winter!

Posted in Gardens, Spring | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

St. Patrick’s Day

I have always loved St. Patrick’s Day.  Not only because I am Irish, and it is my name day, but because it comes in the middle of March when it is not quite yet Spring but everyone is very tired of Winter.  Despite the promise of Spring in the air, there is still a lot of dirty snow…and things look pretty bedraggled emerging from beneath it.  So it is actually a bit bleak.  What better time for a bit of celebration?  As a kindergarten teacher  we had fun making leprechaun traps and learning about rainbows… and telling a few Irish stories.  Retired, it is a quieter day.

I made some soup.  Spinach, carrots and potatoes…the colors of the Irish flag.

IMG_3703

It will be pureed before eating and be mostly green…but I think it is beautiful with all the colors.

IMG_3704And it will be lovely with this Irish brown bread.

I have pulled out my Irish sweater.

IMG_3718

I made this years ago but it is so warm I don’t often wear it.  It is my official St. Patrick’s Day sweater.

Fergus is dressed for the occasion.

IMG_3720Having a nap while waiting for his walk.  We are so thrilled that he is still with us…last year at this time he was diagnosed with cancer and we were told it wouldn’t be long.  But here he is….Perhaps it is his Irish name that gives him luck! 

Merlin doesn’t have any special outfit to wear today.

IMG_3725So he celebrated with a few extra Greenies.  Purr….crunch..purr..crunch!

The girls got a bit of green in their oatmeal (or should I say porridge) today.

IMG_3721

IMG_3723They seemed to enjoy it.  They are so happy to be back up in Cluckingham Palace again!

We will take Fergus for a long walk this afternoon and enjoy any signs of Spring we might see.  And perhaps later there will be a pint of Guinness to celebrate the day!  

🍀Happy St. Patrick’s Day!🍀

IMG_3711

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fergus, Hens, Merlin, Nature, Spring | 3 Comments