Garden Tour ~ My Mother’s Garden

I inherited my love of gardening (and porches) from my mother. I recently visited my parents at their home near Livingston, Texas, and my mother’s garden was in full-bloom. I thought you might enjoy a tour, seeing some new plants, and learning a few stories behind her decorations.

This bed at the entrance to their home contains Four O’ Clocks, Salvia, and Spider Wort.
Mama’s Style

My mother describes her garden style as “Southern Victorian Cottage.” She likes cottage gardening because she can buy anything she wants that fits into her garden’s zone 8b climate. Also, any gift or donation fits in, regardless of color or size.

My parents’ home is yellow and white, so my mom repeated those colors in her garden, especially with Shasta Daisies that appear throughout their large yard. Mature trees provide a lot of dappled shade throughout the day.

Shasta Daisies with a large yellow daylily.

When people comment, “It looks like a lot of work,” Mom replies, “not if you love gardening. It’s a challenge, and you share yourself and meet people through it.” She never thought she’d have such an extensive garden, but the space allowed for it, and living in the same place for a longer length of time helped, too.

Vibrant Four O’ Clocks
The Porch

My parents’ home has a wrap-around porch which was a key selling point. They enjoy starting their days with coffee on it. During my visit, I was happy to join them in that ritual. As soon as my eyes opened in the morning, my first thought was, “Coffee on the porch!” We also played a game of Scrabble and got caught up on all of our news while sitting out there. I often caught the peachy scent of Mimosa trees which were flowering nearby. Porch-sitting runs in my family. (Oh, and I also wrote this blog post while sitting there at the table.)

My mother loves ferns and has them hanging all around her porches. She moves them into her garage during the winter months and carefully tends them until she can return them to their home on the porch in spring.

Our favorite corner of the porch.
Garden Tour ~ My Mother's Garden
View of a small pond from the other corner of the porch.

As if the wrap-around porch wasn’t enough, my mother had another little porch added to the back of the garage near her gardening area where she could sit and enjoy the view of the back yard.

Mom on her little porch behind the garage.
Drive-Thru Garden

Mom had a unique idea. She studied their large back yard for over a year and finally had the idea of designing a drive-thru garden. They live in a small neighborhood where many of the neighbors zip around in golf carts and she wanted them to be able to take a drive-thru tour of her garden.

Looking through part of the “Drive-Thru” garden at a sitting area.

She made five flower beds in a circle and then used their golf cart to drive around and around among them to create the paths.

She then started looking for ceramic animals to add, which she tucked in among the plants. She wanted her grandchildren to have fun finding them. As they got older they rearranged them to play hide and seek.

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Mom told me a funny story: Years ago she had left some of the nursery tags on her plants so that she could remember what they were. During one of their visits, the granddaughters collected all of those tags for her. Mom graciously thanked them for their labor of love, and the tags never made it back out to the plants.

Once, after establishing the drive-thru garden, my parents hired a man to mow the yard for them. Afterwards, he said that he didn’t want to come back because she had too many flowers. We laughingly agreed that we didn’t want someone like that in our yards anyway!

Pass-along Plants

Once, many years ago, mom admired a neighbor’s flowers. The neighbor offered to give her some, but mom said she didn’t want to take her plants. The neighbor insisted, saying that her plants did better when she shared them. Mom said that she’s always remembered that and tried to share hers as well.

Mom has received several plants from neighbors. She used to work at a church where they had a tradition of “flowering the cross” where they removed the blossoms of Easter Lilies and attached them to a cross, but then planned to discard the plants. She asked if she might have them and they were given to her so she added them to her garden.

She has some rose bushes that began as a cutting from another gardener. Mom admired her rose bushes so she stopped one day to ask about them. The woman gave her some cuttings and Mom was able to start some plants for her own garden. She said the woman called them “Seven Sisters.”

“Seven Sisters” Rose
Saving Money

In addition to acquiring plants from friends and neighbors, Mom tries to save money by regularly scouring the clearance racks at garden centers for bargains. She’s not afraid to nurse leggy and droopy plants back to health.

The Shasta Daisies multiplied quickly, so she has been able to spread them around her yard by dividing them. Not only did they help to fill her beds, but they gave her garden some continuity. I envied how healthy and beautiful her daisies were. They don’t grow that well for me.

Mom focuses on buying perennials for the long-term so that she doesn’t have to keep rebuying plants, and fills in with bedding plants (annuals) to add some immediate color while the perennials mature.

Like me, Mom likes to repurpose. She found these discarded bi-fold doors and asked my dad to hang them at one end of her porch. She has all sorts of found treasures that she has used to decorate her gardens and porches.

New Discoveries

Mom has a plant addiction. She visits garden centers and nurseries often and just can’t help herself if she finds something new. This yellow Spray of Gold (Galphimia Gracillis) is one example. She came across it one day while shopping and had to add it to her collection. It looks lovely among the daisies, doesn’t it?!

“Spray of Gold” among Shasta Daisies

For years Mom had been pulling up a “weed.” This year she finally decided she liked it and let it stay. After an unusual two-night freeze, it became a filler, filling in while her other plants revived. Dad did some research and found out that it’s called “Jewels of Opar,” is a member of the Purslane family, and that it’s edible. Most of the day it’s closed, but late in the afternoon the flowers open, similar to Four O’Clocks. Here are two photos, showing them closed, and then open. The buds and flowers are so small and dainty that it was challenging to get a good picture of them.

Jewels of Opar, closed
Jewels of Opar, open

She didn’t know what a pretty blue wildflower in her yard was so she took a picture of it and used a garden app to identify it as Spider Wort. She decided she liked it, so she started digging it up and adding it to her flower beds, where it has multiplied.

Roses

Caterpillars decimated Mom’s Knock-out roses earlier this spring. A certified Rosarian from her garden club advised not to cut roses back like a hedge, that it was preferable to remove individual stalks to thin out, and not to cut out more than a third. Mom noted that it took them about six weeks to come back out. They were blooming beautifully when I was there.

A Crepe Myrtle surrounded by Knock Out Roses.

 

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Tips

My mother’s favorite gardening tool, the one that she uses most often, is a weeder hoe. She says that it goes under the weed and cuts it off, and is easy to use.

Mom with her favorite tool, a weeder hoe.

 

Her other favorite tools are Black & Decker power tools – the battery-powered leaf blower and battery-powered trimmer because they’re light-weight.

Mom’s favorite gardening book is Trowel and Error.

Other tips that she shares are:

  • Do a little bit of maintenance every day. Then it’s not so overwhelming.
  • Walk the garden every day and talk to your plants. You’ll see if a squirrel has dug up your newly planted plant. You’ll see something new and different. Carry a pair of scissors or pruners with you to do a little deadheading as you go.
  • Learn when to transplant and share, don’t move plants at the wrong time. For example, if you try to transplant a blooming Shasta Daisy, it’ll be gone from your garden and might not survive the move to the new garden. Wait until it’s done blooming, and transplant young (small) specimens.
  • Know how much water plants need. Soaker and irrigation systems don’t account for different needs. Hand watering allows a closer look at plants.
  • Use “anchor plants” – have shrubs or trees in each bed so that when annuals die or perennials go dormant, you still have something in the bed.
  • Take pictures of your plants so that later on you can remember where they are.
Thank You for Coming!

I hope you enjoyed touring my parents’ yard as much as they enjoyed sharing it. I think it’s fun to talk with other gardeners and learn about their style. Somewhere, I saw gardening referred to as the slowest of the performing arts, and it truly is an art form and a labor of love.

Garden Tour ~ My Mother's Garden
My Mother and I in front of their home.

 

Garden Tour ~ My Mother's Garden

Gardener’s Lament ~ A Poem

Gardener's Lament

The Ups and Downs of Asparagus

I’m far from being an expert on asparagus. In fact, I’ve been a little disappointed in my asparagus harvest, so I decided to do some research to see if there’s something I can do to improve it for next year. I thought I’d share what I’ve learned, along with my experience, the ups and downs of asparagus.

A Favorite Veggie

We love asparagus! It’s so easy to prepare, and even tasty right there in the garden. It’s amazingly sweet and delicious. It’s also a perennial, which means it comes back year after year. It can grow in part-shade which is a bonus to gardeners that don’t have enough full-sun areas, but it’s more productive in full sun. It’s also one of the first harvestable vegetables, coming up in early spring. When you’ve gone through the winter without harvesting anything from the garden, it’s a sight for sore eyes!

The first emerging spear. How exciting!
First Lessons

I don’t remember when I planted my first crowns, I’d guess about five or six years ago. That first batch I planted in one of the raised beds in my veggie garden, along with strawberries. They actually grow very well together, but I found that when it came time to harvest strawberries that it was annoying trying to find and pick them while asparagus ferns were poking me in the eye or getting caught in my hair. Also, when I planted them I really didn’t know how large they would get. With that first bit of experience I decided I wanted to move them out of the raised bed and to somewhere in the ground where they wouldn’t take up that valuable real estate and would have more room to grow. I tried to dig up those crowns to relocate them. A few I wasn’t able to dig up at all, and the ones that I did get out and tried to transplant didn’t make it. Another lesson learned: plan carefully where you want to put your asparagus, it can live twenty years or more and does not like to be moved.

The above picture shows a few of the original crowns sending up some spears earlier this season. You can see the various stages of growth. The very tallest one is starting to make a fern. The next tallest ones are beginning to separate the tips. Then there are a few visible ones that are at the perfect stage for harvest, about 8-12″ with tightly closed tips. (The strawberries relocated themselves to another bed, so those are some older plants, too, but that’s a different story. In the back right corner is some cilantro, and in the background you can see some guineas at work in the yard. In the foreground is a “walking onion.”)

New Experiment

Just about a year ago I decided to plant some new young crowns in my front yard flower garden. I may live to regret it, but I thought I’d try planting some among my flowers.The Ups and Downs of Asparagus The ferns are actually kind of attractive in bouquets, and as a backdrop to the other plants. Some of the crowns have taken off and are doing very well. I think they’re the ones near other plants that draw my attention when watering. Others, in more remote areas of the garden are slower to get going. At the moment, I’m glad I did, because the roses make a pretty backdrop to the asparagus, and the contrast makes it easier to see the fine foliage. The ferns get quite tall, about four feet, and quite often flop over.

The Ups and Downs of Asparagus
Although my camera didn’t focus very well on it, the rosebush behind it makes it easier to see this fern developing. It’s about four feet high.
The Ups and Downs of Asparagus
Close-up of fine foliage.
Genders

Did you know that asparagus has male and female? They’re quite easy to tell apart. In fact, if you tried, you might be able to guess what their differences are.

Female plants send up shoots that are thinner and shorter than males, and they also produce seeds. I didn’t have a photo of the seeds, but they’re just little red balls. I was showing my son the asparagus and telling him about them. I found a few seeds so I gave them to him and he sprouted them, along with his other seeds. Here’s a picture of his seedlings to help you with identification.

The two straight seedlings are those of asparagus. They, too, will form tiny ferns, and that’s the stage I discover them in the garden.
Close-up of asparagus fern

The male spears are thicker (stronger) and taller. Their spears are often as thick as my thumb. If you look back up at the photo from the raised bed, you can see that some of the spears are noticeably thicker and taller than the others.

Easy

I’ve found asparagus to be pretty easy and low-maintenance. They can get pests and diseases, but I really haven’t had a problem with either. They perform best in enriched, well-draining soil, which explains why they liked my raised bed so much.

I’ve been amazed at how easily asparagus self-sows. I find little seedlings quite often in my gardens. If you don’t want that, then you’ll want to collect the seeds. Also, it’s possible to buy only male crowns. Occasionally, I’ll gather seeds and go toss them at the edge of the woods. I don’t know if they’ll grow there, but I thought that would be a fun surprise someday if they did. Can you ever have too much asparagus? I didn’t think so, either. Have you priced it in the stores lately?!

Brushing Up

Okay, now to do a little reading to see what I might be able to improve upon. Here are a few mental notes I made:

  • I read someone suggesting to cover asparagus crowns with leaves for the winter. With my gardening practices that happens on its own. I usually leave some of the dead stems, simply to mark where the growing crowns are so I don’t accidentally damage them before the new spears start to appear again. Asparagus also likes organic material, so that seems to be a good practice.
  • There are some references that describe how to prepare an ideal bed for asparagus. I felt like that was done in the original raised bed, but not so much in the front yard. If you’re getting ready to plant yours, you might want to follow Rodale’s advice.
  • Asparagus, especially young crowns, doesn’t like to compete with other plants. I’ve read to weed around them and heavily mulch them.

I’m thinking that I may just need to keep up what I’ve been doing and be patient. The crowns in the front yard are still very young, and there aren’t very many of the older ones in the garden. I didn’t find anything that I’ve done terribly wrong. Patience may be the key word with asparagus.

Harvesting

When – You want to harvest asparagus when it’s about a foot tall, or so. You want the tip to still be tightly closed. Asparagus grow amazingly fast, so you’ll want to check it often during its growing season. Once it begins to make a fern, it’s too late. You don’t want to harvest all of the spears because the plant needs to store energy through the ferns for the next year, so leave some spears to mature. Later in the season when they’ve yellowed, you can cut them back, or remove them altogether. I like to leave a few “stumps” just to mark where the plants are, for their protection and also so I’ll know where to start watching for spears the next spring. The harvest season varies with the age of the crowns. You don’t want to harvest any for the two years. The third year you can harvest for about four weeks. When they’re four years or older, it’s about 8-12 weeks long.

How – I think the easiest way is just to grasp the spear and snap it off. You can use a knife to cut them off, but you might not get all of the woody part off, or conversely you might cut off some of the tender part. If you’ve already cut them, or bought some from the store, hold the spear with both hands and bend it until it snaps. It will snap in the perfect place! Easy! Fun, even. Show young ‘uns how to do it and let them help. Harvested spears will keep pretty well in the refrigerator for several days. I put a little water in the bottom of a glass, stand the spears upright in it, and put it in the fridge.

Eating

One of my favorite ways of cooking asparagus is amazingly easy. I place the rinsed asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil over it. Roll the asparagus around a little, then sprinkle garlic salt over it. I roast it at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, taking it out halfway to roll them around a little more. If I’m baking fish I’ll sometimes add the asparagus around it.

I also like to chop up fresh asparagus to add to salads, and it’s also awesome to add to creamy pasta dishes!

Preserving

I haven’t had enough asparagus to worry about preserving it. I really don’t like it canned because it’s too mushy. I might try freezing it if it gets to where I have more than we can eat. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful with that.

If you have tips on growing and preserving, please share them. I would love to learn more about one of my favorite vegetables!

This post was shared on the Simple Homestead Blog Hop and the Homesteader Hop.

The Ups and Downs of Asparagus

 

Rainy Days ~ A Simple Pleasure

I love rain. Rainy days make me feel like nesting. Maybe that’s because God is taking care of my watering chores, and when I have seeds sown and new plants getting established, I especially appreciate the help that a good soaking rain gives them. Rainy days give this gardener time to catch up on a little housework. I’ll open a few windows, light a scented candle, and do some chores that have been neglected.

Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures, for me, are things that are readily available to most everyone, for free or close to it. Being able to identify and appreciate simple pleasures goes a long way towards leading a happy life.

Cares Float Away Like Bubbles

When my kids were little, I used to sit on the porch with them and blow bubbles. You’d think they’d pop right away, but the opposite was true. They lasted even longer and we watched them float out into the rain, reflecting opalescent light on their way. We’d see how many bubbles we could get going with all three of us blowing as quickly as we could. It was a relaxing way to enjoy the weather with the kids.

A Spring Break to Remember

Once, when we lived on the coast, my sister came to visit for Spring Break, bringing her young son. I think mine were about six and two, so her’s would’ve been about four. Down there on the coast we occasionally got tropical depressions that would bring 10-11″ of rain in a day, and that happened soon after she arrived. We lived in a small canal house at the time, so we were stuck in the house with three small children all day while the rain poured. At the end of the day the rain let up a little bit and we were able to have a pizza delivered. That was the highlight, I think, of her visit.

Puddle Fun

When heavy rains left puddles, I let our kids go out and run through them. They had fun running, splashing, and laughing. I enjoyed watching them, and I still enjoy those memories.

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For the Love of Porches

I’ve always had to have a porch where I could take a drink (or maybe some bubbles), sit and relax, and listen to the rain’s “music.” I also love the aroma of the air. Being able to open some windows while it’s raining is something else that’s important to me. I’ve kept those things in mind while shopping for new homes. I inherited the love of porches from my mother.

Rainy day from the porch.
When Enough’s Enough

Now I live on a hill in the Ozark “mountains.” I don’t have to worry about flooding at my home, but we have a lot of “low water crossings” that can flood and make it difficult to get around. At times it’s very difficult to get to town.

Road closure due to flooding.

We average such a flood about once or twice per year. When the rain lets up, we usually drive down to the bridges to see how high the water is. During the worst of them, there is often a lot of debris floating down the creek-turned-river. Several years ago, during one such flood, a lot of cattle got swept downstream. We were at the bridge and the water had risen quickly, stranding some motorists on the far side who had to wait for the water to recede. Along with them was a tired cow that had pulled itself from the flood waters.

Black cow and traffic waiting for flood waters to recede.
Flooded Low Water Crossing

When we moved to the Ozarks, “low water crossings” were new to me. I was nervous to cross them when they had a little water over them. Learning to tell how much is too much is an important skill around here. They are the first areas to flood.

Another Flooded Low Water Crossing

The Ozarks have a lot of creeks and springs. The springs become more noticeable after heavy rain.

Gushing Spring

I started writing this post a few days ago during a torrential downpour. At one point we lost our internet due to flooding. That’s where I draw the line. (LOL!) I’d had enough. Luckily, it wasn’t off for too long.

Back to the Porch
April Showers Bring May Flowers

Our ducks and geese seemed to enjoy the rainy day, too. They all waddled happily around the yard.

My preference is to enjoy rain at home, watching it water my gardens. Sometimes I’m even blessed to see a beautiful rainbow, reminding me of God’s promise.

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” Genesis 9:8-16

You can’t have rainbows without rain.

It doesn’t cost a thing to slow down and enjoy a rainy day. It’s another of my simple pleasures.

More Simple Pleasures

Solitude

Open Windows

The Clothesline

Rainy Days ~ A Simple Pleasure

 

On the Hunt for Redbuds and Phlox

Now that spring has arrived, I’ve been really busy. I’ve been gardening like a mad woman. In my flower garden I’ve been weeding and pulling up grass, as well as planting and transplanting. One of the corners of the front yard has been neglected, and while working out there I kept thinking about what it needed. I finally decided that I wanted to plant a Redbud tree there.

Nature Study

Since they grow wild here, I set out to find a baby one that I could dig up and transplant. I knew they had heart-shaped leaves, but they were just starting to open and young trees don’t bloom yet, so I started by finding a mature one to study.

Once I had a better idea of how to spot one, the hunt was on. It wasn’t hard to find them, but I wanted one that was small enough that it wouldn’t be too hard to dig up. I wasn’t successful until the third or fourth one. Their roots go down into the rocks, making it hard to dig down, and also to get enough of the root to hopefully be successful in transplanting. I actually ended up with two. One was about five feet tall. The other one was very small, maybe about two feet. I planted it in another bed near the house.

Why a Redbud?

That corner of our yard needed some height, but I didn’t want anything that was too large and obtrusive. Of course, a Redbud in bloom is very beautiful, but I like them when they aren’t blooming, too. I like their heart-shaped leaves and their open and airy growth habit. I even thought I’d enjoy shaping it over time.

More Free Plants

Down by an old home on our farm, there are daylilies and irises that were planted long ago and have naturalized. I dug up some of those to put around my Redbud tree, as well as elsewhere around the yard. I don’t know what they look like, so that’ll be another surprise someday.

Spring Beauty
A beautiful patch of phlox in the woods. See the creek behind them?

The wild phlox are blooming and they’re so beautiful this year. They seem to be more bountiful. I couldn’t help but take some pictures before digging up a few to bring home. I don’t like to disturb nature too much, so I dug up some that were growing in the middle of the driveway and might be trampled anyway.

Blackberry blooms.

In other nature news, the blackberries and raspberries were already starting to bloom! Before you know it, I’ll be out picking those berries.

Mayapple Blossom

The Mayapples are also blooming. They’re so short, at about 8″, that it’s hard to get low enough to get a picture of the blossom. They have a very strong fragrance that reminds me of honeysuckle with a hint of furniture polish (LOL). I’ve never been fortunate enough to get the ripe fruit. I imagine the critters get to them first.

Back at Home
Surprise! The pink Phlox that suddenly appeared in my garden.

When I returned home I was anxious to get the new plants tucked into the ground as quickly as possible. It was a warm day and they were already wilting.

A few years ago I had tried transplanting some Phlox and thought I was unsuccessful because they never bloomed. All of a sudden, last week, a pink one appeared in my garden. That excited me and made me want to add more. The new ones I dug up were blue.

The Blue Phlox in their new home.
Newly transplanted Redbud with irises and daylilies.

I planted the larger baby Redbud in the corner and added some irises and daylilies around its base. I had read that you should trim the leaves of irises when you transplant them, so I went back later and cut them shorter.

The new Redbud is so spindly that it was hard to get a good picture of it. The mound behind it is oregano. Behind that you can see some newly transplanted plants. We’re finally getting some rain, so now I’ll have to wait and see if it survives. I sure hope so. Hopefully, with a little time, this corner of the yard will soon be prettier.

Close-up of transplanted Redbud.

Spring seems so fleeting. There are already so many flowers that have come and gone. It goes much too quickly for me! I hope you enjoyed our walk in nature. I just love spring (and free plants)! Don’t you?!

On the Hunt for Redbuds and Phlox

A Green Thumb Grows

It was such a beautiful day! All week I had been looking forward to spending it in my front yard flower garden. For a variety of reasons, I hadn’t been able to spend very much time out there lately. It was something I just had to do, for my own well-being as well as for the garden’s. As I was sitting out there pulling up grass and weeds, and enjoying the warmth of the spring sun, I thought about how my green thumb has grown over the years.

Some of my earliest memories involve flowers. I remember my mother growing red tulips when I was very young, maybe four or so. I remember enjoying the scent of peonies when I was about five. My mother loves gardening, so it’s not too surprising that I have grown to love it, too.

I’ve had this angel many years. My mother bought her for me and she has made many moves with us.
Seasons

When my kids were young, I didn’t have very much time to devote to gardening, so what time I had was given mainly to flowers. Even if it was a pot of petunias on the porch, I needed some natural beauty to enjoy.

When we moved out to the country almost ten years ago, our kids were getting older and more independent. We had the space, so my husband built some raised beds and fenced them in. That was the beginning of the vegetable garden. Each year I’ve spent more time in there, broadening the range of herbs and vegetables that I grow. Our kids didn’t show much interest in it, and I didn’t force it on them. It was something that I wanted to enjoy, not spend the time fussing at them. I had come to gardening on my own accord, and I wanted them to have the same choice.

Now that the kids are grown, I’m able to indulge my love of gardening even more. I’ve always admired the pictures of beautiful gardens in magazines, and now on Pinterest, but I had to be content admiring others’ works of art. I’m not sure my gardens will ever look like that, and that’s okay. It’s the journey that I enjoy – learning by doing, being free to experiment and make mistakes, and asking “what if?” Gardening takes a lot of time. Not only the investment of my time now, but seasons for things to mature. Because we’ve moved around a lot in the past, I was never in one place long enough to see that maturity.

Slow Change

The front yard was bare dirt when we first moved here. Our home is on a rocky hilltop with great drainage, so it dries out quickly. It wasn’t until my husband built a fence around the front yard to keep out traffic, both human and animal, that I was able to start working on transforming it. Every year I’ve started new beds, and planted more. The yard is finally starting to get filled in.

I bought this rabbit years ago while shopping with my mother and he has made many moves, too.
The Gardening Bug Bites

A few months ago I wrote a post called Homegrown Salads ~ A Simple Pleasure that included a giveaway for Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. A few weeks afterward, I was shocked to find out that my son had ordered some seeds from them! I was amused by what he chose. I guess, like me, he wanted to try new things. He ordered seeds for yellow and white strawberries. (I’ve never grown strawberries from seed, much less yellow or white ones.) He ordered some eggplant. (That’s one thing I’ve never grown, because I wouldn’t know what to do with it – that’s not something I eat very often.) He has some other things as well, like corn, peppers, tomatillos, and lupines. All of a sudden, my son that had never shown any interest in gardening, was sending me daily texts with pictures of his seedlings. And we’re now having conversations about plants. You just never know when the gardening bug is going to bite!

A text from my son
A Rewarding Hobby

Gardening is a rewarding hobby. When I was younger, I enjoyed arts and crafts, but now gardening has taken over as my art form. I love playing with the colors and textures while at the same time working towards some other objective, such as attracting birds and butterflies, having sweet scents, or food to eat. I can’t imagine ever getting tired of gardening because there will always be new things to try. A green thumb definitely grows on you!

This post has been shared in my favorite blog hops.

A Green Thumb Grows


Poultry for the Homeplace ~ A Practical Primer

Poultry are not paltry on the homeplace. They each serve a purpose and are profitable. Poultry refers to a variety of domesticated birds that are raised for their meat and eggs. It includes chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and guineas.

Plumage

I think of our birds as feathered flowers. They all have different colors and patterns, and are all beautiful in their own way. I marvel at God’s creativity and imagine Him as he created each one, thinking “how can I make this one different?”

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Guineas are downright comical. They’re the clowns of our homestead. Look at that funny “helmet,” their bright red “wattles,” and their polka-dotted feathers.

We’ve raised several different “heritage” breeds of turkeys over the years. I’ve enjoyed the Toms, in particular, as they puff their chest and strut their stuff. They prance in a circle, dragging the tips of their wings and making a drumming sound. They’re persistent in their pursuit of proper admiration!

Geese aren’t as varied in their appearance, but their feathers are wonderful for pillows and bedding. Not that I’ve used them for that, but just wanted to mention it.

Production

Not only do the birds have different colors, but their eggs do, too. I really enjoy having our own fresh eggs, and I also appreciate them for their beauty. The color of eggs varies with the breed. Duck and goose eggs are white, guineas’ are brown-speckled, and chickens come in a rainbow of colors including blue, green, pink(ish), white, and various shades of brown. You can’t buy eggs like these at the grocery store!

Goose and Chicken Eggs

You are probably familiar with chicken eggs, but the eggs of other poultry are edible as well. Duck and goose eggs are richer and great for baking! Guinea eggs are pretty small, so you need more of them, but you can eat them.

Pests

Living in the country, there’s no end to the pests we live among, whether they prey on us and our pets, like ticks, chiggers, fleas and snakes; or our plants, like beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers and bugs. I try to garden organically, and our birds are great partners!

Chickens are omnivorous and if you aren’t already experienced with them then you might be surprised at some of the things they’ll eat. Of course, they eat grain, seeds, plants, fruits and vegetables, but given the opportunity, they’ll eat frogs, small mice and snakes. Turkeys’ diets are similar. They will also eat acorns, which we have an abundance of.

Guineas march around the yard peculiarly, almost in formation, pecking at pests, large and small. They eat many of the same things that chickens do, but they don’t scratch, so they’re gentler around plants. With all of the tick-born diseases, I’m especially grateful for their help with eradicating them. I’ve read accounts of guineas encircling large snakes. Although I haven’t personally witnessed that yet, I do think that they would help by eating them, chasing them off, or alerting us to their presence.

Poultry for the Homeplace
Crested Ducks, Lucille and Lincoln

Ducks eat slugs and snails, as well as insects and grass. They are credited with being lower-maintenance, hardier, and quieter than chickens.

Permaculture

Poultry offer prodigious perks to participants in permaculture. Chickens and guineas will seek out pests that might threaten your home, garden or orchard. As they’re doing that, they’ll periodically pause to poop, thereby naturally fertilizing.

In the orchard they clean up fallen fruit. This helps to lessen disease and insect problems. By scratching around the base of the trees, chickens can pick out grubs that later in the season would emerge and infect the fruit.

Chickens working the compost pile

When I’m working in my garden, I collect weeds and other waste in buckets. When they’re full,  I dump them over the fence into a compost pile in the bird yard. The birds excitedly race over to rummage through it. They eat all the weeds, seeds, and insects. Their scratching also turns and breaks down leaves. Let’s just say they help process the compost more quickly. The variety of things they eat makes for flavorful and nutritious, orange-yolked eggs.

If you have other livestock such as horses, cows, or goats, flies can be a problem. Chickens can help combat the fly problem by scratching through manure and eating fly larvae.

Geese helping with the weeding

We have African Geese and I’m amazed at how they eat grass and weeds. The bird yard is large, and it’s picked clean. My husband made an opening into a small paddock, and so far they’ve kept it under control, too. When I’m working in the yard, I love opening the gate and letting all the birds have access to our whole homestead. I especially appreciate the geese working the fence lines where it’s hard to control the grass and weeds.

Protection

While they may not actually attack anyone, birds can certainly alert you to the presence of people or predators that don’t belong, giving you the opportunity to investigate the situation.

Birds can be pretty intimidating. Have you ever been “goosed?” Recently, we had a delivery and the woman jumped out of her truck to greet our two large, barking, guard dogs. But I had let all of the birds out and when the geese started running towards her, flapping their large wings and honking menacingly, she asked me, panic-stricken and poised to jump back in her truck, if they were attacking. So don’t under-estimate the guard potential of birds.

Guineas are well-known for their prodigious pandemonium. When anything is amiss, or they detect a predator or intruder, they sound the alarm. Here is a little video to give you a peek at their prattle:

Personality

The simple country life is not complete, in my opinion, without the presence of the peculiar personalities of poultry. I’m perpetually pleased by their picking and pecking, plucking and peeping. It’s my idea of paradise.

Post Script

Did you know that poultry were so profitable? They are definitely a valueable resource for the homesteader. If you’re considering adding a new breed to your homeplace, do some research to learn even more about them and make sure that they’re a good fit.

I’ve only covered the poultry that I have personal experience with, but there may be others. Do you have something to add? I invite you to share in the comments.

Please pin this purty picture: