Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Beginning of My Life as a Greenhouse Gardener

This weekend, i took a break from unpacking boxes, threw caution to the wind, closed my books, and rolled up my sleeves. I have always been the type of person that "learns more by doing", so why should starting seeds in a greenhouse be any different, eh?

Planted the first seeds while saying a little prayer to St. Fiacre, who incidentally seems like quite a character as it is also noted that he is the Patron Saint of French Cabbies, too. Can you imagine the gardens of the cab drivers in France?? :)

Having read on The Internets that onion seeds start well in Western WA without added light, i started with them first.  I used Botanical Interests "Ringmaster".  I also started some of BI's Buttercruch lettuce to see if it will do well too. 

Here are a few shots from the inside of the greenhouse, before it gets any junkier. :) 

As previously mentioned, this is the greenhouse know as Short.
Very appropriate, considering how short the door is on it.

With that tea mug out there, you'd wonder if anything
was really getting done, eh?

the propane heater

volunteer geranium

We discovered that we have a neighbour who used to be a master gardener and has lived in this area all his life.  He is a nice ol' chap, and visits with regularity.  He was mentioning that the soils here on our property have never been amended, hence why most of our trees and plants are "not happy".

Funny that he mentions that, because walking out in the garden area last week and seeing how much water collects out there...i kind figured we wouldn't doing much but soil or raised bed building out there this year.  Especially when you throw in the need to get our old house and yard ready for sale.  Ei yi ei!

So, i think this year, i will be focusing on planting in the greenhouse known as The Abominable Growman (formerly known as Venti.)  There are quite a few boxes in there, in need of some soil, but hopefully we will at least get some tomatoes, peppers and onions out of the deal this year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Members of the Family

The gloves are off.  :)  Last week, Moose noticed a rats nest in our wood pile, and normally this would not be newsworthy, however there is a really neat program we found here in King County, Seattle area that can help control pests naturally.

While surfing Craigslist for potential mouse patrol recruits, i found a listing by a group called Barn Cats R Us.  It's a non-profit group whose goals are two-fold: to house the numerous feral and semi-feral cats that wind up in the shelter and to get people to try natural pest control rather than endanger their family, livestock, neighbours, and wild animals with rat poisons. 

And you don't need to have a barn!  These cats are availible for adoption for city-dwellers as well!

The process requires an application, interview, and assessment of your humble cat shelter offerings.  In a twist of fate, the contact on the listing we followed up on was an acquaintance of Moose's--they had worked on the flooding impact meetings around our area over the last few years.  So after a brief phone interview, we were "pre-approved". :)   We just had to pick up our cats.

What was the former owners alpaca shed has now become our Feline Security Headquarters.  That's it's official name until we come up with something more creative, anyway. Barn cats need to acclimate to their new home, just like any cat, requiring that you provide an enclosed shelter, food, water, and litter pan.  There is a bale of hay left by the previous owners that we placed a cardboard box and some old bedsheets in.  There is a hay loft and exposed rafters that the cats can hide and climb around in.  Moose also made some perches for them near a window in the shed.

I read somewhere that in order to have a successful team for pest patrol, you needed at least 3 cats.  Too few, and they are susceptible to predators.  We adopted three cats, all sisters.  Hopefully they will have a great time here helping us evict Mickey and Minnie! :)

Here are pictures of two of them.  Cookie Monster wants to name one "Rosie".  :)


On a personal note: 

With all the pros that come with free, environmentally responsible, and humane pest patrol, i have found one thing i extremely disapprove of regarding barn cats.  In reading about these programs, i found most of them tatoo or ear-tip (cutting off a portion of the cats' ear lobe) to identify these cats as "barn" cats.  The idea is that if my barn cat shows up 3 miles down the road with a health issue and the people there take him into the vet for care, the ear-tipping lets the vet know that the animal is to be euthanised, rather than treated.  Which sickens me to know end, because apparently certain cats are "worth more" than others.  Why this surprises me, i have no clue, because you see it everyday in things more horrific--like the squalor-like conditions that "house" human beings from the area of town we just moved from or the Indian Reservation down the road from our new place.

Don't get me started.

With regard to the cats, however, this seems so harsh to me.  Am i just overly sensitive?  Just because the cats are outdoors all the time, doesn't mean i neglect my responsibility to them.  I wish for them to live a long, happy life here, even if they don't trust me.  We are going to work with them as much as we can to try to win them over, however even if they still distrust, they wouldn't become "expendible."

The program is great in that it helps get cats adopted that would normally be euthanised at the shelter, however since they ear-tip, i think next time i would rather find a "free kitties" post and adopt our outdoor pest management recruits that way.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spring's Left Its Calling Card

If only buying Spring were this easy, eh?
It seems as though Spring is edging Winter out around here.  Oh, it's not that Ol' Man Winter isn't putting up a fight.  A couple days ago we had wicked hailstorm.  Yesterday, we had ice in the morning, but Spring won the noontime arm-wrestling match and we had a beautiful sunny afternoon. 

All that sun we've been having is helping the plants wake up from their winter's nap.  I can't wait to identify some of these plants!

Peep came over for a visit too.
He's a riot--he comes over to visit two or three times a day and when the girls see him,
they go running to him.  The chickens are ready for springtime too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Love Story Laced With Practicality

Moving the chickens went a lot smoother than we thought it would. 

After doing some research online, we decided moving our chickens would be better than starting over.  Can you believe some people actually move their chickens 1500 miles?!?  Wow!  And i thought i was being a total city slicker moving my chickens 15 miles away.  Truth being, too, that i think Cookie Monster would have disowned us if we gave away our chickens. :)

This structure on the property is assumed to originally function as an old pump house, back in the well pumping-water hauling days.  The owners over the past few years used it for alpaca rearing. 

Our first afternoon here, Moose fitted the house with a roost and some fresh pine bedding.

An old plastic milk crate is standing in for a nesting box for now. 
The area in the left of the picture seems to be used for a hay loft/feed trough.  Eventually we will clean these spaces and retrofit them as nesting boxes and more roosting space.

Also on the "Someday" list is to build a new door or a little ladder outside that little window behind Moose's head, that the chickens can use to come and go into the pastures to limit their access to our "backyard."  It's a little frustrating stepping off the back steps and tiptoeing around chicken bombs. :)

After all the rigging was done, it was time for a midnight chicken run.  Moving chickens at night is the most humane way to do it.  They are drowsy and won't frighten as much.  We arrived around 9 p.m. and set to work with a head lamp and 3 medium sized cardboard moving boxes.  We lined the boxes with a layer of straw and fit two chickens in there with ease, spacewise.  If you are attempting to move your chickens, this is the part where you have to be super careful!  Even though they are sleeping, they startle and start working each other up.  Keep calm, talk softly around them.  Most importantly, when you pick them up, grab their entire body so their wings won't be outstretched and flapping when you are trying to put them in the box.  You could really damage their wings if you aren't careful.  Also, you should expect egg production to drop with they acclimate.  We've been lucky, as the conditions we moved them to makes them much happier than how they were living.  After a couple days, we were getting 2 - 3 eggs per day consistantly.

We lightly closed the top flaps--no tape needed--and drove cautiously home.  One chicken kept beating its beak against the side of the box.  Moose and i figured she was trying to send an S.O.S. to the other girls, planning a mutiny or something. :)  After arriving to the new home around 10:30 p.m., and setting up the food, we let the girls out to have a little drink and they climbed back up on the roost for the night. 

The next morning they were chomping at the bit to get out and explore

and do all their other chicken-y things. 

Is there a better site than a few chickens enjoying themselves out in yard?

We weren't the only ones enjoying the sight.

Mom and Dad's cat affectionately referred to as The Smiley Faced Killer
You think the story would end there, but there is a slight and rather comical twist.
A whole two days after moving in, Cookie and i returned home from an errand to an unwelcomed sight.

Rooster?!?  We didn't have a rooster before.  What in the world?

He sampled a little of our food, a couple of the girls threw out the "welcome mat" for him (if you get my drift), and he was strutin' around the yard like a king that had just conquered and pillaged his best enemy.  After spotting those enormous spurs on him, i wasn't about to head out to help him hop back over the fence.

I know, I'm such a girl.

As long as he was able to go back to his home by himself, i figured there was nothing i could do to stop his comings and goings.  I didn't really want to figure out whether he was an aggressive beast or not. 

About a week after we moved in, a neighbour from across the street and down the way came calling with her adorable little 8 month old girl.  When i answered the door, she lead with, "I am hoping you aren't going to shoot my rooster and put him in your stew pot."  She went on to let us know he is slightly aggressive, but that she was happy to answer a call if he was ever bothering us. 

You'll never guess this ferocious beast's name.
It's Peep.  :)

He's been visiting a little more each day--twice a day, but now is a little reluctant to jump the fence for some reason. The sight of him trotting across the street is quite hilarious.  I promise i will try to capture a video.

I guess we know the real answer to the age old question now, eh?
Why did the rooster cross the street?
To hang out with the cute chicks on the other side.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Beautiful Sunny Day

Would you like to take a walk with me around the new homestead?

We'll start with the north side of the property, where the magic begins.
 This is where the chickens free range.

This coop was the old pump house.

The pastures were our flock roams.
Next, we'll take a stroll out back.
Most of the property is fenced pens, that were used for alpacas.
There are some neat perks though, like this greenhouse.

The property actually has three greenhouses of various sizes, this one being the industrial one.
We are in negotiations regarding names to distinguish between them. I've submitted that it might be fun to adopt a naming system like Starbucks has for its drinks, i.e. this greenhouse would be known as "Venti".

Behind this greenhouse is a pond, created by the previous owner to drain the property.  The pond feeds into the creek the next lot over and runs into Newalkum Cr.

Doesn't this just scream for ducks??
 The area with the pond is also fenced and along these fencelines are planted blueberries, a plant that loves wet feet, and apple trees.  From the pond is the best view of Rainier, so i was thinking this might be a good place to try to grow a fruit tree arbour like Sharon Lovejoy suggests in one of her garden books.

From pond
 We'll walk back toward the house and see the garden, shed, and the chicken coop beyond.

Boy, the house sure has a great profile from the back!
On to the other two greenhouses

 Short has all the bells and whistles.  He has grow lights and a seed starting bench.  Today we found out he also has an automatic fan that comes on when the indoor temp reaches 95 degrees. :)

To end our tour, here is the shoppe.
This used to be the home of Thunder Mountain Farms, famous for their herbs and starts.

Walking through the gate and down the path

you'll find the shoppe

which we someday hope to use as a farm stand.

This would be my commute.
 Tough one, eh?

In front of these little shoppe is a nicely landscaped area with hazelnut, gingko, and pine trees, witch hazels, and a pond surrounded by alpine strawberries.  Also an arbour supporting kiwis.

Oh look, Moose is back with lunch--burgers from the local pub and grill in honour of our 11th anniversary.

 The timing of this move couldn't be better, as Moose and i really didn't have a clue as to what to get each other for our anniversary this year. :)  Now, he'll say "Happy Anniversary, i bought you a house."  To which i reply, "Oh isn't that funny?!?  I got you the same thing!"  And in a few months, i'll be saying, "Happy Birthday, i bought you a house."  And a couple months after that he'll say the same to me.  And so on.  And so on.  I'm thinking we're good on gifts until at least Christmas 2013.  :)

Enjoying the New Neighbours

My pop and his cat have been taking daily walks around the property since we moved in. Last night, Pop called Cookie Monster out to meet the new neighbours. This is what he discovered.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Out My Window Today

The sun is shining and it's a glorious day in the country.
Hope you have a good day as well!