Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

I hope you have a wonderful Easter celebration with your family.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Our Baby Chicks Are Three Weeks Old!

In the bird world, lots of changes take place in three weeks. Those darling fluffy baby chicks are now bigger with new feathers and just a touch of the baby down left here and there.They are eating like crazy and starting to fly.

Here is a French Marans at 3 weeks...gangly and growing...

 Compare with the three day old chicks below...

As my cousin Nancy says,
May you find all your eggs...
Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blast Off!

Blast Off!! That was the call of our 3 year old friend, Rogan, when he was on the big tree swing in our front yard. He loved to be pushed so high that his little shoes could touch branches on another tree. At one point he fell, and through tears and shaky voice told his Mom that he wanted to get back on the swing.

We had the privilege of hosting friends from Pasadena, California. Juliet and I worked together in Burbank for many years. For Juliet and her husband Kevin, both pretty much 'city kids', our little ranch was the deepest country they had ever experienced. We're ten miles off the paved highway in the lightly populated state of Nebraska.

Kevin, Juliet, Bree and Rogan

Rogan's adorable little sis, Bree, at 10 months just smiled and contentedly was part of all the activity. Her main activities were eating and sleeping! But she spent alot of time pulling herself up and getting steady on her feet. Any day now and Juliet and Kevin will have two little tornado's in their home.

When planning this visit, we had hoped that Rogan could experience running free in all this open space in the country. Well, the best laid plans. They arrived on Wednesday evening, and the rain and fierce winds started on Thursday and kept up all day followed by rain, sleet and snow on Friday! There was a break in the weather on Thursday so Rogan got to swing on the big tree swing; and they got to hold a baby chick, pet the baby horses, and check out the garden.

Juliet, Bree, Rogan and me - Finally a beautiful day!
Rogan riding with Mark in the arena
We went to the County Fair Grounds Arena to watch Mark work with the teens learning the fine points of cattle cutting for competition in the High School Rodeo Association. This was a totally new experience for the family and Rogan got to ride with Mark around the Arena. Such a fun day - in spite of the weather.

Friday during the winter storm, our little cottage seemed to shrink with a 3 year old filled with pent up energy.

They departed for home on Saturday morning which dawned with calm winds, blue sky and warmer weather so Rogan got to feed the chickens, pet a hen and check out the garter snake that Mom was brave enough to hold--- and have one more 'Blast Off' on the swing.

Juliet was brave enough to pick up
the garter snake for Rogan to see
up close
Baby chick & Rogan

Rogan almost lost in the tall grass
Blast Off!!!!!
We had a wonderful time showing our city friends life in the country...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Seeds & Soil In Spring Equal Magic

"In his garden every man may be his own artist without apology or explanation."  Louise Beebe Wilder

Here in the northern Great Plains, spring is slowly beginning to unfold. Last weekend we had high winds, rain, sleet, and snow. But after all that, the grass is greener, leaves are coming out on trees, the perennial beds are bursting with new growth and the optimists among us can feel spring in the air!

During a lovely light rain, I managed to do the second planting of early vegetables more beets, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, peas and carrots went into the garden tanks.

The first planting has emerged from the soil. This is what I have been waiting for since the seeds arrived. Even experienced gardeners feel a thrill when the first seeds come up.
I used a sharp, clean knife to slice the larger seed potatoes into smaller pieces each with 1 to 2 eyes or buds. The smaller potatoes will be planted whole. As soon as they form a thick callous over the cuts which will help prevent it from rotting, I will plant in one of the garden tanks. This year I will plant some in the ground and some on top of the ground ala Ruth Stout as I did last year. These potatoes are certified organic and DELICIOUS as we know from last years experience.

On the left are German Butterball heirloom potatoes from Seed Savers Exchange. First place winner in Rodale's Organic Gardening "Taste Off". The buttery yellow flesh is especially great for mashed potatoes but also a good choice for roasting or frying.

On the right are Purple Viking also from Seed Savers Exchange. This is a great tasting, slightly sweet, general purpose potato. It has a snow-white flesh and excellent storage qualities.

I started several seeds indoors yesterday. Since I have egg cartons galore, I used the Styrofoam ones for the seed planters.

I planted tomatoes, peppers and eggplant all from last summers saved seeds; along with yellow onions and hollyhocks. After planting and watering, I covered with plastic wrap to form a warm moist environment. I will be picking up grow lights today to ensure they have a constant temperature and the correct light for 14 hours per day.
Asparagus are coming up - I can see just a couple spears right now but soon we'll be indulging in my favorite spring vegetable.

A friend gave us several rhubarb plants and they are doing so well in our garden. I planted two rhubarb plants last year and they have come up too. I can't wait until I can begin to cut it for rhubarb delights.

The lilacs are forming the flowers so it won't be long.

One lone daffodil is blooming but all the bulbs are filling their buds so a sunny day should open them all. We live in the hills so we're just enough higher in elevation that our spring blooms are later than many areas.

Enjoy nature's gifts of spring.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Some April Delights

"April has put the spirit of youth in everything"
- William Shakespeare

The baby chicks are growing so quickly with first feathers appearing. We've moved them out of the laundry room nursery into a larger nursery in the barn.
The picture is red due to the red shaded heat lamp
that is keeping the chicks warm in the barn.

This is the new nursery in the barn. You can see
the red light and we have the nursery covered
with chicken wire and a rug to keep them safe
and free from drafts.

Apricot blossoms are sooo fragrant & full of bees
The tulips are close to opening

This is rhubarb pushing up through the mulch -
think pie!!

French radishes are up

These are peony shoots coming up in my peony
bed - oh my, I can hardly wait for these luscious
floozy flowers, they are my most favorite. I plan to
have bouquets all around the cottage.
The garter snakes came out of their den under the Norway spruce tree this week when the temperature hit 80 degrees!
Check out the garter snakes - I didn't notice
the one in the tree until I printed the picture -
Yikes!!!!! If you enlarge the picture you'll see
these lovely creatures more clearly.

Baby calves are romping in the pastures but it's too early for our baby horses to be born.

Birds are beginning to build nests in the birdhouses.

Wish you were here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I'm A New "Master Gardener"

I have just become a Master Gardener as part of the Master Gardener Volunteer program. I completed the coursework the end of March and now am required to volunteer 40 hours to meet my MG requirements. I loved the classes sponsored by the Extension Office in Hall County. Our instructors were impressive including horticulture educators from the University of Nebraska Lincoln, Nebraska Forest Service, and County Extension offices.

Our role is to support the University of Nebraska - Lincoln in meeting the needs of our State in the area of consumer horticulture by assisting with educational programs, diagnosing plant problems and making cultural and pest management recommendations.

I'm so new that the general description seems somewhat intimitating but through the volunteer work, I will become more comfortable with my knowledge and the resources available to help me.

We had so much information presented to us in two weeks but it was all fascinating especially since much was relevant to my own yard. Trees were my favorite topic.

When Mark and I lived in California, we lived in a 3 story apartment building. Our apartment was on the second floor with our master bedroom on the 3rd. It felt like a treehouse to me because outside our living room with patio was a 40' pine tree that gave us dappled shade and a beautiful green view all year as well as being a freeway for the neighborhood squirrels.

Outside our dining room window was a glorious crepe myrtle which shaded the room from the south sun and you can imagine it in full bloom. It looked much like the picture above. I could reach out the window and clip crepe myrtle blossoms. One Saturday morning before going to the Farmers Market, I opened the blinds and to my horror there was no crepe myrtle tree. I looked out the window to see that it had actually been "topped". I rushed outside to try to stop the gardeners from further massacre and asked them why they topped the tree. Their answer was so it would grow more & blossom better. OMG!  It already was as high as our second floor window and in full bloom; what-were-they-thinking?!

This is what our crepe myrtle looked like on that Saturday morning! It made me cry.

Please please if anyone suggests that you top your trees, run away from them. Topping induces heavy, rapid production of poorly attached suckers or 'water spouts' which weakens the tree. The stubs allow woody rot fungi and decay to enter the tree and it looks UGLY. You will end up losing the tree which is sad because it can be prevented.

Remember the more canopy, the healthier the tree. Ideally 66% of the tree is canopy and 33% is trunk. That proportion should be maintained throughout the trees lifetime. We have been carefully pruning our trees according to techniques learned in class. Our next big project is putting in a new front lawn.

I will share things I learned as we move through the seasons. Hopefully you will find the information useful.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Ground Is Awakening

It's spring! Birds are beginning to check out the birdhouses, tulips are poking through the ground and setting buds, the grass is greening, and I'm in the garden planting the first seeds. This is heaven!

Carrots, spinach and swiss chard in perfect soil
Chioggia and Bull's Blood beets & French Breakfast radishes
with Alaska & Little Marvel green peas in another tank

I planted early lettuce in this tank alongside the green which
are spinach plants that were in the cold frame. The cold
frame wasn't a success so I'll have to make adjustments for next

This tank is full of winter onions and garlic; you
can never have enough!

Well, the chicken wire on the beds helped keep the chickens from scratching during the fall and winter when there wasn't snow but now I can barely keep up widening the holes for the bulbs---so I need to rethink this solution!

Unfortunately Lacey has been trying to help me plant and that doesn't work! As you can see, she's really grown alot. I have to admit I will be very happy when she has grown out of her puppy stage. She is into everything and she does damage at times. She decided to play with the trunk wrap of one of the flowering crabapple trees and in the process broke off the tree. I think my lesson is patience; and it's a huge lesson right now.

Watch Baby Eagles Being Hatched --- LIVE

A group in Decorah, Iowa set up a camera in an eagles nest which has three eggs. The eagles are sitting on the eggs which they say are about to hatch. You can watch the nest live at: