Friday, April 29, 2011

Invisible Torment

This darned wind is making me crazy. My nose hurts, my skin hurts, the cats are even sneezing and blinking and have runny eyes.

The wise woman who created HyperboleandaHalf captured this perfectly:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Natural History Illustrators

The search engine Google posted a decorative image today to celebrate the birthday of John James Audubon (1785-1851). Natural history illustration has been on my mind recently because I'm reading a biography of Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717. German illustrator who specialized in the life cycles of insects, and went off to South America at the creaky age of fifty-something to study them.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Annuals and seedlings

The peppers and tomatoes Teresa gave us are looking great. But we're still stalling, owing to the possibility of a last killing frost.

Miss G got herself a fancy Hawes watering can. The nozzle is the magic part of this device... I should try and take a picture of it in action. You tip it over & it produces a gentle shower of water--just perfect for seeds and seedlings.

Baby Steps on the Chicken Fortress

We spent some of our precious weekend doing other much-needed stuff around the yard and garden, so we didn't make as much progress as we could have. But we are slowly moving forward. Discovering that we were short on plywood, we pressed some dumpster-reclaimed shelf boards into service as a roof. ((How many vent holes should we have?! They aren't screwed in yet, so maybe I'll add one more. They are all protected--redundant security systems!--by hardware cloth on top.))

Then we scratched our heads for quite awhile about how to support/ attach the floor. Feel pretty good about the way that ended up. It's not dead level, but probably straight enough that the girls won't notice. The 9 million notches I cut in the floorboard drove me nuts. (Which is to say that I needed to measure more carefully before I fired up the jigsaw?!) After letting it sit for a few days as I gather up a new stash of patience, maybe we will revisit it & see if there is a way to snug it up to the walls a bit better. Don't want to make it too drafty and/ or too hard to clean down the road.

Next, how on earth do we get a workable front on it? We are trying to imagine the 'furniture!' grin. We are also starting to gather "brooder supplies." That's chicken talk for the big box that will go in the bathroom with various heat lamps and miniature sand boxes and mini feed troughs and a water dispenser. The 'training' roost comes a few weeks later. *grin*

Linda and Teresa will get their chicks this week!! Tuesday or Wednesday!!

Signs of Spring at UNM

I don't have any empirical data, but my sense is that the UNM campus is generally about 10 days ahead of our plot of ground in the north valley. By last Friday, [April 15th] the chives around the fountain were starting to bloom! Ours have buds just starting to swell. I admire them for having made it through that intense January cold-spell. What a miracle, really. (While at the fountain, I chased a bee around trying to get a close-up. She wasn't impressed. They are utterly "busy bees.")

The other BIG news is that I saw my first Barn Swallows! I should go back to the Cornell site to remind myself where they go for the winter. (Were my 4 or 6 literal 'early birds' tired?! Our weather has been unseasonably warm, so they arrived to find hoards of bugs to eat, thanks to all the artificial watering!) I have been watching out and missing them, so it was treat to find them perching under the eaves in a nearby building.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chicken Fortress gets a Roof while the wind howls...

Weekend! We spent a lot of time carefully measuring & cutting to build our gussets. On the whole they came out very well (minor trapezoid problems notwithstanding). By late afternoon Saturday, at the point where the wind had whipped us both to the point that we were thoroughly irritable and tired, we had managed to put them up securely.

Sunday, still windy, but not quite as bad. We put up the three roof supports; G cut our roofing sheets. Then she had to rush off to spinning class (the fiber, not cycle variety). She graciously told me I could put up the roofing. It ended up taking me the entire afternoon. I made a mess of it by not snapping a line for my screws (a fair number of exasperating "misses"). And was very glad we upgraded to plastic from the tin since we had some "features" that it gracefully "forgave." So? It's up!! Now to hang the door, build the roosting box with nest boxes, and dig in the hardware cloth perimeter.

New Composter
G whipped up our first batch of materials in the black plastic rotating composter earlier this week. We're very curious to see what it does. (So far it doesn't seem as hot as we had hoped. She added a bit more manure and watered it thoroughly today.)

New Lady Banks, etc...
G got us a red lady banks (climbing rose) several weeks ago. She finally got that planted today. (There's a lot of hope out there). The sweet potato cuttings that over-wintered on the kitchen ledge lost most of their leaves from being transplanted and put on the front stoop. (Probably sun-burn :( ) Think they will make it though--they have new leaves coming. Marigold seeds are up. No sign of the sunflowers yet. Teresa gave us an embarrassing wealth of tomato and pepper babies Friday. We're gradually hardening those off. It may freeze tonight, so we brought them all in. Hope the apple blossoms don't freeze. :(

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Local inspiration, a fancy compost bin & lashing winds

What a lovely day spent with Bob and Linda Morgan. We took the audio recorder, video cam & regular cameras over to visit a delightful pair of school teachers (we met the husband in compost class). They gave us a 4 hour tour of their amazing yard. (They have enough lettuce at the moment--they could do salad for 40.) They have solar panels and water harvesting barrels (industrial-sized), 23 raised beds (because the wife developed hip problems... so they have adapted their system for her--everything up 2' off the ground. Quite nice) He has 3 bee hives with special watering stations set out for them. And a chicken coop to die for... 4 extremely happy chickens with their own big raised bed full of greens. (Who knew that chickens really liked kale?!) OMG it was such fun. Oh, and worm bins. They have about 3 times our number of trays just teaming with happy worms. After that & a stop at Trader Joe's for groceries, we were absolutely whipped!

The New Compost Bin:
During the last week of the master composter's class, on the enthusiastic recommendation of one of our new friends, we bought a fancy black plastic rotating compost bin. Unfortunately, it came in a big box in pieces. We've been so busy we haven't had time to put it together until this morning, so we pitched in with the usual pile of tools & a certain amount of swearing and head scratching. By the time the wind came up in the early afternoon, it was ready for action! Stay tuned.

Spring winds:
Terrible wind this afternoon. G looked at the weather history: we haven't had any appreciable rain in the last 60 days. The air was so thick with dust that when we went out ~5, you couldn't see the mountains. And of course, the Elms time this whole thing perfectly--the seeds came down thick as snow. :(

Worm bin:
I built them a new food level today (i.e. added a tray with goodies in it), and fluffed both existing trays. Probably annoyed the heck out of them, poor things. *sorry* And then I added insult to injury with a jarring late-evening vibration session, i.e. vacuuming the rug by the front door and on into Austin's room, which was knee-deep in kitty litter. Poor worms. >But the house looks better.

Lilacs are blooming. >When the wind isn't battering us to bits, the air around the front of the house is very sweet. Dandelions popping up. The last of our daffodils have opened, while the first group wither. It has actually been a little warm for the pansies, but they are brave and hardy--a burst of color in a couple pots on the front stoop. We couldn't resist buying a few more at Costco this afternoon. An 8-pack/ 4" mixed. Some orange yellows with burgundy centers. Velvety and stunning.

I transplanted the sweet potato vines we clipped last fall and propped in water on the kitchen window all winter. Hope they make it (of course, it's all a big experiment, right?!) Gloria went crazy at the seed wall in the lobby of Alameda nursery recently. She bought us 5 varieties of sunflowers (the 5-6' sort). I scrupulously labeled and planted 4 types. She also put in full-sized Marigolds the end of last week. Oh, and one of the dogs decided to plant one of their bones in the Pea bed yesterday evening. !! G. spent awhile this morning putting up a fence to protect our little bits of green gold. And then watered everything (we have great hopes for the asparagus.)