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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Early Summer Heat

Today is hot. At 9:00 am it was already 87 degrees F. Now a mere hour later, it is over 90 with a high of 108 expected. After letting the chickens out earlier, they roamed around their run as usual. But after a short while, they found the cool spot. We left a sprinkler on overnight and it watered the inside edge of the run. The chickens found it an piled up in the moist dirt trying to cool off.

Now, if I could only find a cool patch of dirt of my own...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Introducing Our Peppers

Our Purple Beauty. This is purely a guess based on the purple color of the skin. It was part of a mixed pack of seeds, so I have a 1/5 chance of being correct. Seven of the bell pepper plants survived the rough ride from seedlings to transplants. The other possible varieties that may emerge are Orange Sun, Autumn Bell, Canary Bell, and California Wonder.

This is our Bella Hot pepper. It was also started as a seedling. I am hoping that we like this pepper because we have 8 plants of this variety.

Saving the strangest for last, the wax pepper. I was surprised to find that these peppers grow upward then will fall downward when they get bigger. They have a much different growth habit then the Bella Hots. We only have 4 of this variety (yeah, only 4).

Seeing Orange

It seems too soon for the pumpkins to be turning orange. Just the other day they were a nice spring green, now they are showing signs of orange. I have strong suspicion that I may have started them a tad too early (I was just too eager to get things planted!). Now, instead of Halloween pumpkins, looks like we will have Labor Day pumpkins. I guess I could always plant some more so we will have some for Halloween too! According to Pumpkin Nook (a cool site with lots of info about pumpkins), I have another week to get the miniature pumpkins in the ground for a Fall harvest. Now, I just need to find a place to plant them.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - June 2009

Last month I discovered a site that participated in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. After checking it out, I thought what a lovely idea. Every month on the 15th, capture what is blooming in the garden. Last month, I unknowingly wrote an entry about flowers in the garden. Here is my first official chronicle of the garden.

First up are the Marigolds. This year I planted two different seed mixes: Burpee's Mixed Colors and the Flower Power Mix. Overall they have been performing well, with the exception of a few plants that were attacked by earwigs.

Next up are the Nasturtiums (Cornucopia: Tall Single Mixed Colors, Tropaeolum majus). These little beauties are flourishing. I grew them from seed and transplanted the seedlings as companions. They are blooming all over the garden and are a nice complement to the squash plants.

Speaking of squash plants, they are healthy and strong. The yellow flowers above are from one of our Cornucopia Table Queen plants. The flowers have a ruffle along the edges and are a little fancier then the zucchini flowers. Also in the photo is the lovely California Poppy that just showed up the in garden. The upper right is the fiery red bloom of our Wonderful Pomegranate tree.

I know there are a lot of reds, oranges, and yellows out there. However, there are a few cooler colored flowers. The lavender bloom is from a wild garlic that found a home in the shade of an oak tree. The pink bell shaped flowers are from an unidentified plant that is growing near the wild garlic. If anyone knows what this is, please let me know. Last, is the white bloom from our garlic. I planted garlic and onions in a little patch early this year.

To see other blogger's June Blooms, head over to May Dreams Gardens.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fewer skeletons in the garden

After Friday night's investigation, we went out Saturday to buy some Sluggo Plus. While at the nursery, we asked about the various options. In the end, we decided on the Sluggo Plus because it was certified organic. I applied it to garden that evening. Five days have passed and the amount of earwig damage seems to have subsided. There are still some skeleton leaves from the previous infestation, but not any new ones.

This is a marigold plant. The leaves wrapped around the bottom were a poor attempt of keeping the bugs off. They are sage, which hadn't been touched by the earwigs.

Despite the earwigs attacking the leaves, the zucchini plants are thriving. I picked our first fruit today. It is about 10 inches long and 2 inches in diameter.

I wonder if this will become zucchini soup or zucchini bread. I suspect that I will be able to make both many times over this summer.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bug Hunt

Tonight we went on a bug hunt. Something has been eating the squash and marigold plants in our garden down to bare stems. I was looking earlier this evening and only found the occasional bug. But armed with flashlights, my husband and I went in search of the predator. As soon as we spotlighted the marigolds, it was obvious what had been eating our plants, earwigs! It was like a buffet and the earwigs were gorging themselves.

After seeing the earwigs in action, my husband wondered if it could be earwigs that are munching on our orchards as well. A quick trip confirmed his suspicions. They were feasting on the mandarin trees too!

Searching online for control measures yielded various methods, from small cans with a layer of oil to rolled up newspapers. However, it was the Sluggo Plus product that caught my eye. It is certified organic and seems to be effective at killing earwigs. It also sounds like less of a hassle compared to emptying traps everyday. So tomorrow, it's out to get some Sluggo Plus. I am hopeful it will kill the earwigs fast.

Homemade PVC Chicken Run

The chickens are still growing and it seemed like they needed more space in their run. We already provided them with a 4x8 foot run with their coop, but they looked cramped. I decided to build an addition for the chickens in the form of a PVC run. It could also be described as a chicken play pen because I find that they run around and jump as if they are playing. For a 10x10 foot PVC chicken run, you will need the following materials:

* 11 - 10' PVC pipe (3/4 inch, schedule 40)
* 8 - 3/4" T joints
* 8 - 3/4" elbows with a tee coming out (this is for the corners where 3 pipes meet)
* 8 - Male 1/2" threaded to 3/4" slip adapters (the corner pieces were 3/4" slip x 3/4" slip x 1/2" thread so I needed to convert)
* 2 rolls of 40" x 25' of 1" square plastic fencing
* 22 feet of bird netting (7 feet wide)
* Plastic zip ties

PVC pipe cutter
Scissors or wire cutters

The construction of the run is basically a cube with fencing and netting around it. I made three of the sides the same, with the fourth adjusted to line up with the chicken coop doors.

1. Start by preparing the PVC pipe for the bottom and top frames

For 3 sides (total of 6 pipes): measure 5 feet from an end, mark the center, and cut. Repeat until all 6 pipes are cut.

For the 4th side (2 pipes): measure 4 feet from an end, mark, and cut. This will make 2x 4 foot lengths and 2x 6 foot lengths.

The 4th side is the one that will butt up against the coop. We designed our coop to have access doors that open on both sides. These are in addition to the pop door that enters the existing run. To access the PVC coop, one of the side doors is opened and the chickens can jump out.

2. Assemble the sides of the frames by attaching the pipes to the PVC tees. This will result in 6 sides with this configuration: xxxxx T xxxxx and two sides with this configuration: xxxx T xxxxxx (x denotes length of pipe in feet).

3. It will make it easier later if your install the corner elbows with tees/male adapters to the sides now. Install two corner pieces to a side. Repeat for 4 of the 8 sides.

4. Next comes the supports. The side access doors to our coop are 40 inches from the ground to the top of the door when closed.

For the 4 middle supports: In order to account for the stack up of tee + pipe + tee, the pipe must be cut to a length less that 40 inches. For the side supports, I cut to a length of 37.5 inches.

For the 4 corner supports: I couldn't find elbows with a tee that all had slip connections, so there is an extra male threaded to slip adapter needed. The adds extra height to the tee which means the PVC pipe supports on the corners need to be shorter. For the corner supports, I cut to a length of 35 inches.

5. Assembling the run would have been easier with two people, but can be done alone (I did it). Start by laying the sides for the bottom frame and connect the corner pieces so there is a large rectangle on the ground. Install the middle supports (these are the longer ones) into the 4 tees on the bottom frame. Then install the corner supports.

6. At this point there is a rectangle with pipes sticking out of it. Take one of the side pieces assembled in steps 1-3 above and attach it to the supports on a matching side (remember the one side was different). Repeat with all the sides and connect the pieces as they line up.

7. After the frame is built, install the plastic utility fence around the sides. Since I designed this to butt up against the coop, I left the 4 foot section on one side open. This is where the chickens enter the run. I used plastic zip ties to hang the fence, being careful not to tighten them down too tightly before stretching the fence around all the sides. I used two pieces of fencing (hence the two rolls). They met up at one of the side supports so they both could be attached securely.

8. The last step is to hang the bird netting across the top. The kind we had is pretty flimsy so I had to be really careful not to tear it. It is likely that I will have to replace it at some point. Once the netting is secure, the run is complete.

It does require two people to carry the run. I had my husband help me put it next to the chicken coop. We opened the door and the chickens jumped out (really we had to coax them out because they didn't know what to do). But eventually they learned and are freely moving in and out of the new PVC run as well as the older run under the coop.

Note, I didn't use any glue to attach the PVC together. This was intentional in case we wanted to reuse the pipe at a later time. I found that it also helps with the flexibility of the run. Our property is not flat and finding a 10x10 foot section to place a rigid run would be difficult. There would be gaps along the bottom where the chickens could escape. Not gluing the parts together allows some slight bending at the joints and results in the coop adjusting to the slope of the ground.

Overall the chickens seem happier. Another benefit is that we won't have to move the coop as often because the chickens are spending less time in the space.

Please feel free to post any questions or feedback in the comments section. I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Scrapbook for Dad

Our Dad is retiring after 33 years of teaching. Tomorrow is his last day. In honor of his retirement, my mom, sister, and I put together a scrapbook. My mom brought over all the photos and together, the three of selected the ones to use. After getting copies made, we started assembling the pages. Here is our rough layout:

This was my first experience with scrap booking. My sister has done a little, but she was frequently occupied with this roaring monster who wouldn't take a nap. So, we just made it up as we went along. I found my rotary cutter and cutting mat to be invaluable tools along the way. Additionally, I had purchased a scrapbook kit several years ago (that had yet to be put to use) which made the whole process much easier. A special thank you to my husband for proofreading and checking the layout of the pages before final assembly. Here are a few of the final pages:

Overall, I think scrap booking could be a fun pastime. Although, I don't know where I will find the time with the vegetable garden, chickens, and orchards to tend to.

The Moth Frog

I was watching some television on Tuesday night before bed. On my way from the family room to our bedroom, I glanced out the window and saw a strange looking moth on our bedroom patio door. Once I made it into the bedroom, I decided to peek behind to curtains to see what kind of moth was on the window. It was to my great surprise to look out into the bottom side of a frog instead. Fortunately, the camera was nearby. This frog was hanging out about 5 feet off the ground, stuck to the window. It was just sitting there enjoying the night (or escaping from a predator below), yes, enjoying the night.
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