April 17, 2010

Time for tea

Random personal fact: I'm on day 6 of "no sugar, no coffee, no alcohol" and it's an interesting experience. All of those things have been replaced with tea, so as you can imagine, it's always time for tea. Like now.

This cup is rooibos, which according to a two-minute web search cures or prevents every disease known to man. That's good, because the last cup was rooibos, too, and so was the one before it.

So during this 45th cup of tea of the day, I decided to take the the blogosphere to share a garden update with y'all. Here it is:

Everything is growing well! The end.

See? That's sort of boring to read. Though it's true - garlic is good. Chard is good (and yummy). Lettuce is coming along well. Kale, herbs, strawberries, yadda yadda yadda. But the asparagus is still hiding and all I see is unbroken dirt. I got a little impatient today and poked around in the dirt to look for growth, but I didn't find anything. I think one of the potatoes is throwing up a sprout, which rocks. And soon it will be time to do some more planting out.

Meanwhile, the chickens are little ladies. They're about the size and heft of a standard-issue football, but with more feathers. And tonight for the first time, they managed to put themselves to sleep in their little house! Most nights, Erik and I trekk outside lighting our way by headlamp and scoop up the comatose pullets and carry them to their little brooder box. But tonight they were big girls and figured it out. The 37-degree weather helped a bit, I think.

Here's a happy picture Erik took of me and the girls a few days ago.

Tea time over. Next cup in five minutes.

April 5, 2010

Live blogging the NCAA Championship

Well, sort of.

See, there are two parts to married life. The first is proximity. Example: after dinner, Erik and I are sitting on the couch together. The second is compromise. Example two: 'we' are watching basketball. But not just any game -- a 'very important' game, I am reminded.

So I'm going to live blog about what I'm thinking about, which is about how I just planted a crazy amount of asparagus, or what the seed company promises will someday be asparagus.

Because right now, it looks like a 3-day dead squid:

Ah, this just in: "Butler knocking down threes like crazy from way outside the line to go up one."

I have no idea what that means.

Back to asparagus.

So it arrived in a box today with the strawberries we ordered. Our plan was to plant 4 little squares of asparagus, and allow that to become the permanent asparagus stand. But as you can see, we had quite a few of these little roots (or 'crowns' as they're called).

Game time interruption: something just happened in slow motion involving an orange ball and about 4 armpits.

So instead of 4 squares, we cleared 6 and decided to plant the rest in the back garden.

Time out; Duke. 2:40 to go in the half.

We dug down about 6-8 inches and placed the crowns kinda far apart (but not as far as the direction sheet recommended), and fanned the roots out.

Interruption: apparently, there's a button on our remote control that freezes the image on the TV. Amazing.

Then we covered them up with dirt. Yay.

Going to the half - a one point game. Many cheerleaders.

I scooped up the rest of the crowns and assessed the back garden.

In my digging, I encountered what could only be buried treasure simply because it was too big for me to dig out myself. Intrigued, Erik came along with his shovel to help.

We figured out what it was: a concrete footer for an old fence. But it left an astounding hole, perfect for me to sit in.

(That's my impression of a spring bulb. A 'tulip,' to be exact.)

And the sun went down, so I worked fast. Here they are - planted.

Apparently, it's still halftime, so they keep showing spirited and informative segments about how fabulous these teams are. And still more slow motion and color commentary. Lots of mentioning about how "hard these guys work."

Strawberries have to wait until tomorrow, I'm afraid. I leave you with some pretty tidbits to give you a sense of how the garden grows.

Chard (overwintered):

Lettuces (various types):

Kale (Lacinato):


And my perennial favorite:

Game's tied. Wait, no, now 36-38. Wait, no - tied again.

I'm going to bed. Y'all are just going to have to watch the game yourselves.

April 3, 2010

We put the chickens outside!

This weekend was a big first for everyone in the CitylovesCountry household: friends, family, felines and fowl. On April 1, we kicked the chickies out of the house and showed them their new (outdoor) digs.

Here's a video of this momentous day!

They're a little over 4 weeks old, so for the first few nights we brought them back in at dusk. But tonight they're outside all night (with the heat lamp, of course) like big girls.

March 26, 2010

The second child

I am a first-born. My arrival on the scene, though not entirely planned, was a serious game-changer in the lives of all involved (not least, of mine). And for a number of years, give or take some rough patches along the way, I enjoyed the full focus of the sun, so to speak, on my little life.

And then my brother was born on April 11, 1985. Cue the thunder clouds.

Of course, in the end, the world is better place for his existence. And had I been the one making those decisions that no one actually makes, I would choose for him to be born. But there's something back-seat-y about the arrival of a sibling, something like the Spears-cum-Aguilera-cum-Simpson phenomenon: In with the sparkly new pop diva, out with yesterday's.

Parents don't apologize for this natural order of family events, and goodness knows the public is so unforgiving as to support an entire industry that mocks yesterday's pop divas (thank you, US Weekly). But I believe that I have pranced a few steps in this little dance recently, and I am going to hold myself to a different standard:

I'm sorry, my little potatoes.

And I'm sorry, all you pretty seedlings, so patiently lined up on the dining room table. I'm sorry, Arugula, for not trumpeting your first sprout yesterday. And I should be ashamed, Chard, for not shouting from the rooftops that Erik and I ate half of one dinner this week courtesy of your hard work throughout the winter.

I am a jerk: I got chickens and ignored my garden because it doesn't squawk and do uber-entertaining dumb things with ping-pong-balls.

So for the record, today I planted two varieties of heirloom potatoes (all-blue and French fingerling). Some of the spinach didn't take, so I replanted a bunch of that last week. Lettuces are poking out of the dirt like algae on a pond, and not much of anything is happening with my carrots (what is new...).

The container garden on the porch is swinging into gear, though I may have been a bit impulsive (who, me?) and planted several herbs too early, as there's a frost tonight. And some of my young plants may have bit the dust due to my aggressive "hardening off" schedule.

So yeah, we have chickens, and they're fascinating and have sucked all the oxygen out of this once-garden-centered blog, but soon the oxytocin is bound to wear off and I will seek my jollies from the green grow-y things again.

I love all my children the same. Honest.

I just wish my plants would grow as fast as the chicks.

And chirp.

March 17, 2010

Chicken Olympics

Inspiration hit me last night like a fat lady with a fly swatter. I was seized with a sense of purpose and genius. The moment had come to bring our 6 little chicks to the next level of existence.

It was time for . . . chicken tetherball.

Here's the video: (If you can't see it on facebook, go to www.citylovescountry.com to see it on my blog)

March 14, 2010

Hen House is Here!

There's a short version and a long version to this story.

Short: the henhouse arrived on Saturday morning and we put it in place. It is awesome.

Though satisfying in that we now have a henhouse, the story of its arrival and installation, which involves the murder of a rhododendron, sleep deprivation and brownies, deserves to be told in long form. So here I go with the long version:

"He's one mile away."

These are unwelcome words at 7 am on Saturday morning, no matter who the "he" in question is, but Erik repeated himself sufficiently to rouse me from bed.

Mark King was minutes from our house with the chicken coop perhaps a 'tad' earlier than we expected, but it wasn't going to install itself.

I stumbled around looking for warm clothes and caught a glimpse out of our third-floor window of a minivan pulling what looked like a small house down our sleepy neighborhood streets. I ran outside with my camera.

We guided it into our driveway, and then had a "now what?" moment once we realized that it weighs 500 pounds (true fact). Erik helped the guys unload it from the trailer, and I helped by taking pictures.

We rolled/heaved/shoved/hauled it closer to its intended home behind the shed and to the foundation that Erik and I had built for it last weekend:

(this foundation)

. . . but we encountered a problem. Four problems stood resolutely in the way, in fact: two 50-foot tall Douglas fir trees, a 6-foot tall chain-link fence, and one very unhappy and very doomed rhododendron bush.

Now I can rest easy knowing that all worked out in the end, but in that moment, I was anguished by the thought that we'd just paid for this gorgeous coop and had planned for its arrival for months only to realize that there was no way to get the damn thing behind the garage. So I took charge and decided to make things better . . .

. . . by running away to fetch brownies and coffee for the folks who, I was sure, would figure things out just fine without me.

Viola! I returned 10 minutes later with steaming coffee and a plate full of brownies to find three men scratching their heads, staring at a very stuck chicken coop.

Should we tip it on it's side? (uh, it weighs 500 pounds, so, no.)
Should we try taking it around the other side of the garage? (yeah, not going to happen either.)

The fence had to go. And the rhododendron had to die.

At this point I put down my camera (hence, no pictures) and actually helped, but eventually, we squeezed the hen house into a very tiny space.

It was like giving birth, but backwards. With a 500-pound chicken coop.

(I'll post a video clip of the final seconds of this battle soon. Can't now because my computer and I are arguing.)

So that's the long version of the story. Erik has more cuts and bruises from the whole ordeal than I do, but I have more pictures. And now our chickies have some serious real estate.

So back to my original question:

What color should we paint it?

March 13, 2010

Coop Dreams

It feels like Christmas Eve at the Citylovescountry household! Tomorrow morning, our chicken coop arrives! Mark King, the man who is building the coop for us, just e-mailed us these images of the finished structure. It's gorgeous:

The girls won't move in until next month, but tomorrow morning, we'll place it on the foundation that Erik and I built last weekend. Stay tuned!!

PS: what color should we paint it?
PPS: Mark is at King's Berry Farm 508-867-9222. He builds and delivers and is awesome.