My Edible Garden

I've been gardening for most of my life and have been a devoted fan of organic gardening the whole time. It just makes so much more sense to work in harmony with Mother Nature than to fight her. Besides which it is better for the planet and better for our bodies. Here you can see what I'm planting and harvesting, with gardening hints and resources thrown in for good measure.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Giotto Update: Good Boy!

Oh, were you talking to ME?
Giotto is getting soooo big! I don't know for sure how much he weighs but I cannot pick him up at all. He is probably in the range of 80-100 pounds. He could easily knock you down if he hit you full force.

There are times when he is exasperating, like last week. He seems to have decided he owns my whole canyon and snuck off while I was inside the chicken coop feeding & collecting eggs. (He will collect eggs for himself, so he's not allowed inside). He was half way to the highway when I found him. Since then I've been having to keep him either inside the fence or on his leash. If I'm going inside a coop he's tied to it so he can't sneak off. Can't have him winding up down on the highway or in the pound.

This week his guarding instinct is really showing itself tho. The other day I had finished chores and untied him "Lets go to the house" and let him run dragging his leash. He was almost to the house and I was about 50 feet behind him when a coyote started yipping up the canyon. I stopped and looked at Giotto and he was looking at me. I turned to look up the canyon, trying to see where the coyote was at. Giotto ran past me at top speed, ran into the chicken yard to the back side, barking up the canyon. He stood and barked as long as the coyote was yipping. It was a ways off, on the back ridge. Once it seemed to have moved on Giotto was quiet. Of course I made a big deal of him, Good Boy!

Today was even more impressive. I was doing chores and Giotto was tied to the end of the run of coops. I was almost done, just one more set of birds to do when he started barking. Giotto does not bark in the day time without a reason. I came out and looked, expecting him to be barking towards the house; I was thinking someone had come to visit. When he saw me he stopped barking. I didn't see anything so started to go back in and finish what I was doing. Giotto started barking again, this time across the canyon. I started looking in that direction and there was a huge hawk sitting in a bush over there scoping things out. Good Boy Giotto! I untied him so he could move around in case the hawk decided to take a chance. The chickens were in their fenced area and not free ranging down in the creek bottom. Giotto patrolled back and forth a bit and I did some extra work and chores that needed doing to keep an eye on things. After a bit Giotto was more interested in playing with the kittens or getting petted than the hawk though. But he is still a pup and I can't expect him to have a really long attention span with a predator that just sits there and doesn't make a move. I do think he was sort of keeping tabs on it tho, because when I said "what's that?" he turned right away and barked in it's direction. After about 20 minutes the hawk flew away.

Just love this guy, even when he is being stubborn and not listening! I think getting him was one of the best things I've done for my chickens in a long time!


Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Little Catching Up

New Paint
I have been tired of the junk accumulating around the front door so last weekend I did something about it and cleaned things up. The pink hulk is actually two old pieces that were laying around rotting. The base was a potting bench my son built for me when he was a teenager. I cut off the rotten parts of the legs and replaced the top boards.

The back part was an old waterbed head board. I cut off the termite eaten bottom boards and set it up on shelf brackets attached to the back of the base. The pink paint was a mistint exterior paint for half price.

A couple of old wooden chairs were accumulating piles of stuff in the house. I washed them up, the white one is as I found it. The yellow one I sprayed with some outdoor spray paint. I love the bright sunny yellow color. The little table is actually plastic. It used to roll around on wheels but they have rusted up. The green paint on the top had begun to weather so I gave it a shot of purple in honor of my friend that gave it me, purple is her favorite color.

Thing 2

Two black kittens have been added to the menagerie, Thing 1 and Thing 2. They are so funny running and playing. At first Giotto barked at them all the time because they would run away, climb up the shade clothe and run along the tops of the kennels. They are both sweeties and fun. I hope they will start taking care of the rodent problem when they get a bit older.

Giotto


I had to replace my swamp cooler awhile back and of course my constant companion Giotto had to be right in the middle of everything, including the new cooler.

Giotto in the new cooler











The garden has grown some very pretty sunflowers but that is about it. Between rats, squirrels, chipmunks & moles there isn't much food to be had out there. Ah well, there's always next year, eh?






Monday, June 2, 2014

More Progress

The girls admiring the new ramp into the coop
I had some extra days off and got a fair bit accomplished. I finished the second half of the hoop coop and moved some more rowdy boys in there. I just forgot to take a picture of them.

After I had finished the apron around the hoop coop I decided to build a ramp into the big chicken house as there is  fair step up at the door. I'll also be working on an apron all around the building to help prevent rats and other varmints from digging in.


Giotto signed the concrete
Of course Giotto had to be playing around and track up the fresh concrete.


 He has discovered that it is best to not even look at mamma silkie when she is out with the chicks tho. She has boxed his ears for him more than once.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ready for Occupancy

cement apron around coop

Well after making a cement apron around the coop to prevent predators from digging under it and hauling many buckets of sand and rocks to fill in the low spot, one half of the new coop is ready for occupants.

inside the new coop













Fresh straw, a small roost, a feed trough made of half a piece of PVC pipe and a hanging water bucket complete the amenities.



These young cockerels are not quite sure what to make of all this extra space and new scenery.

In the meantime back to hauling more rocks and sand for the other half of the coop.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Major Coop Progress

Giotto
Before I show you the major progress that happened on the coop today, I'll show you some pics I forgot to put in my last post. Of course my constant companion, Giotto, now 12 weeks old. He is a good boy, although a baby yet. He is learning when I say NO! I really mean it.

He has begun to sort of "bounce" at the chickens, especially the Silkies. It's like he's bouncing on his front feet. I don't know if he thinks it's funny to scare them and watch them scatter or if he's trying to get them to play with him. He usually stops with a stern NO! and so far there haven't been any real issues.

He is also learning to sit still for brushing. He is shedding his baby coat and it is matting up, especially on his hindquarters. I had to get an undercoat rake to help get it out. But he is an energetic, wiggly, bouncy puppy and he just can't sit still for very long  at a time. So I try to work on it a few minutes in the morning and again in the evening.

 

I have some wall pots by the front door of the house. I fell in love with the idea when I went to Italy. There all the little alleys are lined with them. Most have geraniums but I also saw some with basil and different flowers. They are hard to come by here. I got some plastic ones from Amazon and found another at a thrift store. The beautiful ceramic ones I bought at a nursery.  These are planted with lobelia and sweet alyssum.

Almost finished!

I was up early and worked most of the day on the new coop.

Here's the northwest end. This end needs some trim is fill a gap on one side of the door and some sort of latch. I need to put up fence wire on the opening on the left  and fill some gaps under the bottom frame.






The inside partition is finished except for a latch on the door and filling the gap underneath the bottom board.







And here is the southeast end of the coop. It also needs the openings wired up.









mummified frog
Giotto hung out with me all day, mostly snoozing in the shade. But he did go off adventuring this evening while I finished up the painting. He brought back a mummified frog and appeared to be intent on eating it. I didn't think that was such a great idea so took it from him. He didn't object really but he did give 'that' look.





I'm not talking to you....

Happenings

Well it's been a busy week around here. Last Monday I came home from work to discover that the wind had shoved the new coop over about 18 inches, and knocked it down off the bricks.

My friend Katie and her grandson Gage came by and lent a hand shoving it back in place and hauling some rocks to fill in under it.

I pounded a piece of rebar down in the bricks and the next day added some cement. I also pounded an old piece of water pipe into the ground about two feet and wired the other side of the coop to it. I don't think it will move now. Funny, the first hoop coop I made, with a lighter weight wood frame and PVC ribs has never moved an in.

inside the coop



I worked some on the inside of the coop, framing up for the center divider.








creekside garden

While the back yard garden isn't fareing too well with the pigs, the pup and some loose chickens, the garden along the creek is doing pretty good. The only bad thing is I have been invaded by chipmunks and they are eating the bean and sunflower plants.






green tomato
marigolds

Royalty purple bean flowers

Monday, May 19, 2014

Coop Progress!

I had some time one day this week when the wind wasn't blowing so I tried to hang the doors on the coop. The first door I had trimmed, when I went to put it in, as I was putting in the first screw a puff of wind came along and twisted it.

As you can see it broke the door. This was an interior hollow core door and instead of having a solid wood frame it only had a thin fiber board frame.

I found another door that would fit the opening and finally got it hung, along with one for the other end of the coop.

I thought I took a picture of the frame after I painted it, but if I really did I can't find it.



I added chicken wire over the fence panels along each side. I still need to put wire on the end openings and trim around the doors a bit.

I put on the tarp I bought for it and a piece of shade cloth along the west side. I still need to paint the doors. I also need to fill in under the corner of the frame and level up the ground on the inside.

Then I need to make a divider wall in the center. Just never enough hours in a day.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

New Pup & Chicken Coop

Add caption
Last weekend I had a couple of days off. On Saturday I picked up the new pup and on Sunday I tried to work on the new coop. But the wind was blowing really crazy hard.

Carrying a hollow core door up there I nearly flew away with it!






trimming a hollow core door
I know the hollow core won't last as long outside as it would in a building, but hopefully with several coats of exterior paint will last a few years. Besides it was free and on it's way to the dump otherwise; my friend diverted this one and several others to me.  Because this coop is just over 6' at the top I had to trim quite a bit off the door; did you know that these doors have mostly cardboard supports in the center? With some solid wood on each side and just press board at the top and bottom. After trimming I cut a piece of solid wood to fill in the space at the bottom of the door. But it was so windy I could not hang the door or get any painting done.

Instead I decided I would board up the bottom of the end frames. This will help cut the wind and give it more stability.

yes that left hand side is leaning a lot; I just can't seem to get it up straight. Ah well it is what it is and it is good enough for chickens.





Since I usually work by myself I have discovered that my clamps come in handy as third hands when working on projects like this.









Giotto

I have named the new pup Giotto (pronounced jotto). He is very smart but already I see the stubborn streak coming. This is in all the information I have read about Livestock Guardian Dogs in general and Maremmas specifically. When it is something especially enticing, like digging in the wet flower pot or trying to play with eggs in the gathering basket it he will test me several times until he gets a thump on the nose. Even then he will continue to test if I really meant "no", but will stop it as soon as I call his name.

Yesterday we went to Tractor Supply Company. This was our second time there. The first time Giotto was scared and I had to put him in the cart. This time he walked on the leash. Afterwards we walked all the way around the shopping center, practicing "heel", "sit" and "leave it". Like I said he is very smart and he did very well for what amounted to his first time out for a real walk.

He still gets nervous and cries in the car so I will continue to take him for short trips so he can get over that. We have settled into as much of a routine as we can with my crazy job schedule. In general if I have a day shift I  go open the kennel and feed him breakfast while I feed the chickens, then he can run and play until I have to get ready for work. He really does not like it when it's time to kennel again. Sometimes I end up carrying him because he doesn't want to go. He makes me feel guilty looking at me with those sad puppy eyes like he has done something wrong.

In the afternoon he is out loose until dark, then back to the kennel. I don't want him to think he's a house dog, although he has free rein to come and go in the house, just not overnight. If I don't have to work he is out with me all day. Most of the time he lays by my chair when I'm on the computer or follows me around while I work outside.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What is a Maremma

Maremma pup about 12 weeks old

I got to pick up my Maremma pup today. He doesn't have a name yet but he does answer to "Boy".

Maremma's are Livestock Guardian Dogs and they are also known as Italian Sheepdogs. They have been bred in Italy for centuries, living with and guarding the flocks of sheep. They look similar to a Great Pyrenees but to me look taller and longer bodied. They also seem to have a shorter coat.

As far as I know there is only one breeder of Maremma's in the state of Arizona, although I have seen advertisements for some crossbreeds. I am on the look out for an unrelated female to keep him company.

 He cried a bit in the car at first, but quieted down after I patted his head a bit. He slept part of the 2 hr drive home and when he woke up he discovered if he stood up he could see out the window.







check out those feet!

After we got home, went to the bathroom and got a drink, he went with me to feed the chickens. The chickens are not impressed with their new protector. However I am very impressed, even in the baby pen when all the birds were running, flapping, squawking and generally going nuts because something strange was in there with them, the pup did not even try to chase them. In fact he just sat there watching them a minute and then decided that chicken feed and chicken poop were more interesting.

So I am really impressed; any other breed of dog I have ever seen would have been trying to chase the birds. He was totally calm. When I held a baby for him to sniff and it pecked his nose he just walked away. Can't wait for him to grow into those feet tho!

The guarding instinct is bred into them so no training is really needed in that area. But we will be working on socialization and on walking on a leash, learning to heel, sit, stay and lay down. Just basic commands that every dog should know. We will also be walking the perimeter of the area he will be guarding, so he gets to know where he should go and where he shouldn't.

After we fed and watered all the birds and he got a look around, he ate a snack and took a nap; all wore out.

If you would like to learn more about the Maremma you can check out the Maremma Club's website http://www.maremmaclub.com/faq.html

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

mmmm What's New?

4 cattle panels
MMMMmmm what's the crazy chicken lady doing with cattle panels?????



Stay tuned to see the latest project!

Edited to add, see the new project on my new page about how to build a hoop coop from cattle panels!