February 28, 2010

Plans becoming plants (and chickens)


Today was a 'makin' things happen' day. Erik and I went to our local Agway (more on that in a minute) to get supplies for our chicks, who are coming on Thursday, March 4 or so, and also some extra plant-starting stuff. I'll tell you, one of the challenging things about doing this urban agriculture stuff is that it's so in vogue and in style these days that most of the places that cater to urban gardeners are over-priced, shi-shi boutiqu-ie type places. No joke - I can buy a decent latte at my local garden outlet, but the prices I pay make me feel like a fool. So now that I'm in the market for chicken feed (and organic chicken feed, at that), I have to do some serious pecking here in metro Boston to find a decent and reasonably priced supplier.

Found one!

Agway in Waltham. Annoyingly, though, they have zero online presence. You can't search their stock online or even view a website. All you can find is this google link with an address and phone number. But take it from me - it's a great value, the staff is super friendly and helpful, and you can find anything you need for pretty heavy-duty gardening and basic livestock needs.

So when we get the chickies, they'll need oodles of TLC. They can't regulate their own body temperature for a while, so they have to be raised in a brooder - a small, protected area that can be heated to body temperature (about 100 degrees), protected from drafts and from (most importantly in our household) our cat. A proper reinforced brooder can cost in the hundreds, so Erik took matters into his own hands:

He's constructed a basic brooder that will house our 5 buff orpington pullets (young female chickens) from age 1-day through 5 or so weeks.

Here are his architectural sketches:

He designed it to be tall enough and wide enough to hold five 5-week old pullets (which is about how old they'll be before graduating to their next home). The height is about 20", which is the height the heat lamp needs to be to produce a 100-degree reading at floor level.

This simple brooder is constructed from chicken wire and plain wooden stakes.

Then they'll move up and out into the larger world, and into their henhouse, which I've decided needs to be called the Nunnery.

Meanwhile, I sorted seeds and started the varieties that will need to get an indoor head start.
Started in pots are: tons of basil, marigolds, fennel, kale, tomatoes, ground cherries, all sorts of flowers, chives, cilantro, eggplant, and I forget what else.

Oh, I planted directly into pots that will decompose when planted in the ground. For the last two years, I've struggled with transplant shock - the crashing that happens to my fragile seedling starts when I rip them from their nursery container and plant them naked in the ground. This year, I decided to try this method, which seems to me to be kinder and gentler on developing root systems. Of course, it's alway important to harden off the seedlings (expose them gradually to the elements) before setting them out permanently.

Tomorrow or the next day, I'll direct seed the beets, carrots and spinach in the cold frames.

February 25, 2010

To hell, then heaven and back; now holding a Map. (for the garden)

This has been an interesting, no - *interesting* season for me. I do desire a life experience that touches the full range of human emotions, and well, the Universe listens to earnest requests.

Right after my last post, a horrible earthquake leveled much of Haiti. I traveled there immediately to cover it for the Globe (I was embedded with a disaster response medical team). It was a deep long look straight into Hell. Here are some of my videos I did there. The first one is a recap of my experience there.

And then I came home to my blessed world. Back to my husband, our cat (who eats special canned food!), healthy friends, a house! The stark contrast had me in shock. But I soaked it all back in like a wrung-out sponge and happiness rescued me from the darkness I'd seen. The next video I created was a lark - a personal, silly video valentine for Erik that I'm happy to embarrass myself with here:

Really, you don't have to watch it!

And then something very personal and profound happened in my life that is a bit too raw to share, but it forced me back into the arms of something grounding by its very nature: garden planning. Which is why I write today. I am happily announcing the Citylovescountry Gardens of 2010:

Click on a map to enlarge it if you can't read the type and you're curious.

But anyway, the plan is:

  1. Start inside immediately: kale, tomatoes, pak choi (a Chinese cabbage)
  2. Plant outdoors in early March: arugula, spinach, chard, carrots
  3. Plant outdoors in mid/late March: lettuce, beets, Pak Choi (from transplant), kale (from transplant), cilantro, mint, potatoes, asparagus (from starts)
  4. Start indoors in mid/late March: peppers (all), eggplant, ground cherries, basil
  5. Plant in containers in April: rosemary, oregano
  6. Plant outdoors mid May: tomatoes (from transplant), corn, sunflowers, cucumbers, squash (both), zucchini, strawberries, dill, lima beans, purple pole beans
  7. Plant in late May: peppers and eggplant (both from transplants)
OK, sure, we all expect to see plants and veggies, etc. But I've been teasing you (and myself) about something else for a long time now. Something a bit louder, eggier, with feathers.

Enter, the Buff Orpingtons!!! (that's not mine; I stole the picture fair and square from here).

And here is where they're going to live:

3n53m03o05Od5Tf5P2a2159536052f0351d46.jpgimage 1580412063-1

Mark King of King's Berry Farm in East Brookfield, MA (508-867-9222) is going to build it for us for a very reasonable price. He's even going to customize it to fit between our garage and our fence. He's fantastic!

So we're super psyched and going to get started right away with preparations this weekend.

The chicks are coming! The chicks are coming!!


Details to follow soon . . .