February 29, 2016

Who's Responsible for This?

We knew this would happen eventually. We've been waiting now for almost two months, anticipating, watching for signs. Last week we suspected it was close to happening and we were right!

Two little pullet eggs, each weighing 1.3 ounces.
We came home on Saturday evening from a one night stay at the trailer in Matagorda to find two small almost identical eggs in the nesting box. What a beautiful sight! But, who's responsible—one chicken or two?

Princess Lay-a exiting the nest box.
The nest box in the coop has been closed for a time because the chickens were getting in there and making a mess of things, but we opened it last week when we noticed Princess would squat when we approached.

This submissive posture is a signal that a chicken is close to laying. She is the only one in the flock that has displayed this behavior, so we were confident that she was responsible for at least one of the eggs...but both?

Princess Lay-a looking more and more like a full grown hen.
We checked for eggs on Friday at noon before we left for Matagorda and there were none. Since it takes about 24 to 27 hours for a chicken to produce an egg, it's possible she could have laid both eggs in the time we were away if she laid one late in the afternoon on Friday and the other late in the afternoon on Saturday.

So yesterday when we found another egg in the nest late in the afternoon, it confirmed to us that Princess is indeed solely responsible.

Princess Lay-a high stepping and strutting her stuff.
Three eggs in three days! Way to go, Princess Lay-a, you are living up to your name. Queenie and Duchess, you're next.

P.S. The eggs were delicious, by the way. We ate them fried (one for me, one for John) with toasted English muffin bread and bacon.

February 26, 2016

Greetings from the Flock

The royal flock of Poultry Palace...

Queen of Eggland...

Princess Lay-a...

and Duchess of Yolk...

wishes everyone a happy weekend!

February 24, 2016

Vegetable and Herb Garden Boxes

Princess: Hey, Queenie, quit eating weeds and come over here and see what Duchess and I found.

Do you think they planted all this for us?

Me: Well, I don't know how to break it to you, girls, but the answer is NO.

So far we haven't had any trouble with the chickens getting in the garden, but it's only been planted a few days.

Normally we don't put our garden in until mid-March, but since we haven't had a freeze all winter and we've been having springlike weather, we decided to go ahead and risk it. I think this is our earliest garden yet.

In the herb box is oregano, fennel, rosemary, and tarragon (and more). These four herbs are established or have reseeded themselves, though we did have to dig up and transplant the oregano in order to build up the soil that had washed out on that end of the box.

New herb plantings include...


flat leaf Italian parsley (because they say it's the best to cook with),

and curly leaf parsley (because I think I like it better).

Thyme, which is my favorite herb, is planted in a pot on the porch, as are a couple of varieties of mint. You can see dill in center of the vegetable box below.

Planted in the front and sides of the dill are various peppers—some spicy, some not.

Curly kale is planted behind. It won't last long in our climate and will be replaced with hot weather vegetables like okra and purple hull peas. I think John told me he planted carrot seeds in here, too. And he either sowed seeds for squash and zucchini or he's going to buy plants later, I'm not sure.

And then we come to the star of every vegetable garden, in my opinion, the tomato. There's just no way a store bought tomato can ever measure up to a homegrown one. This variety pictured is Celebrity. We also have planted some cherry and grape tomatoes.

Cucumbers will grow on the wooden frame in the front of this box.

By the time the cucumbers and tomatoes grow large enough to fill up the space, the romaine lettuce that is growing between the two will have been picked and eaten.

With God's blessing, we are looking forward to a bountiful harvest.

February 22, 2016

Making the Garden Beautiful Again

We did it! We finally reclaimed our overgrown and weedy flower beds. It took all day Thursday, all day Friday, all day Saturday, and part of the day on Sunday to knock out our to-do list.

Work in progress on Friday.
Weeds were pulled, roses were pruned, dead plants were replaced, bags of soil and mulch were spread, everything was fertilized, a compost bin was built, the lawn was mowed, the vegetable and herb boxes were planted, and there was even some power washing done. And I can't leave out all those trips back and forth to the garden center.

Pretty Knock Out Roses to replace the ones that died.
I took a few before and after photos to share with you. But let me warn you, the before shots are graphic in nature and may make tidy gardeners gasp in horror.

The Rose Garden Before

The Rose Garden After
Such an improvement! Let's look at one more.

The Butterfly Garden Before
The Butterfly Garden After
We showed those weeds who's boss!

It's amazing how quickly things can fall apart in a garden when you aren't able to keep on top of things. 2015 was not our year for gardening, that's for sure. We hope to do better this year.

Now that the tough garden chores are out of the way, the fun of trying out new flowers and plants begins.

Butterfly Blue Pincushion Flower
On one of our many trips to the garden center my eye was drawn to a pretty lavender blue flower called a pincushion flower. Can you see the pins sticking out? I bought three and planted them in the butterfly garden.

I also picked up some coleus to add a pop of color in the shady bed out front. It's tough to grow anything out there, so I hope I have good luck with this plant.

Our garden is starting to look beautiful again and that makes me very happy. However, when next weekend rolls around, I think I'm going to suggest we go fishing

February 19, 2016

Activity in the Garden

Our recent warm weather is stirring up all kinds of activity in Happy Camper Butterfly Garden, our little flower bed at our RV site in Matagorda. 

A faded and tattered monarch butterfly spent hours laying eggs on the milkweed the other day. I couldn't help but wonder if our garden might be the last one she visits in her life. I'll have to check for caterpillars on our next visit.

The bees were busy buzzing from flower to flower. Where is your hive, little bee? Is is a natural hive or one managed by a beekeeper? I wish I knew.

The milkweed is blooming and going to seed at the same time. Seeds on fuzzy parachutes will be carried by the wind near and far.

And very soon the yarrow will burst into bloom. I can already see the color peeking through. 

All this activity makes it seem that spring has arrived in February, but only time will tell if it's going to stick around.

February 17, 2016

The Royal Treatment

I do believe our hens are enjoying their life at Poultry Palace. What's not to like?

Each day there is a fresh supply of food and water in addition to time outside the coop for picking weeds and bugs in the garden. And let's not forget the little treats like dried mealworms and fresh earthworms.

Security at the coop has been increased with the addition of wire attached to the perimeter and buried underground. This should deter predators from digging their way in. We want our girls to be safe.

Now there's bathing inside the coop as well as out in the garden. You know, it's the little luxuries like a bowl of dirt that make a chicken happy.

And when the hot summer weather hits we're prepared with an insulated cooler that we'll keep filled with ice water to keep our hens cool and comfortable.

One day Queenie, Princess, and Duchess will show their appreciation for this royal treatment with a gift of fresh eggs. One day.

February 15, 2016

Biggest and Best

This weekend the weather was just about as perfect as it's ever going to get. We took advantage of this blessing and spent all of Saturday outdoors in Matagorda. There was fishing, of course.

John caught the first fish of the day...and the biggest.

This monster is a 25 pound black drum, also known as a big ugly. I think you can see how it gets that name! Small black drum are tasty, but it's best to throw the big ones back, which we did.

We fished from the riverbank all morning and most of the afternoon, catching lots of little throwbacks with no real hope of catching a keeper, but we persisted just because the weather was so nice.

And eventually it happened. The best fish of the day (and the only keeper), ended up being the one I caught with John's rod while he was putting a new hook on mine.

So, perhaps this nice flounder should have been John's to catch. You can tell I'm feeling bad about it in the picture, right? You can't??? Well, let's just call this one a team effort.

Flounder for supper tonight!

February 11, 2016

Our Little Farm Girl

I was going through our old photo albums the other day and came across this sweet picture of our daughter holding one of our young roosters. It was 1987 (summer by the looks of it) at our home in New Jersey.

We had a large flock of chickens back then that we raised for eggs and meat. At four years old, Robyn probably didn't fully realize that she was holding her future dinner.

When butchering day inevitably came she took it all in stride and even assisted in the process—a regular little farm girl.

February 8, 2016

The February Garden

I should be doing laundry...or cleaning house...or planning meals...or any number of inside chores, but the sunshine is calling me outdoors. I think I'd rather be in the garden today.

The Wendy's Wish salvia is blooming and looking rather good. I think I might be able to clean the weeds out this bed today.

The latest flush of rose blossoms have faded. All that's left are a few hips. I think it's a good time for a little pruning.

Most of the seed pods on the Esperanza have split open. Maybe I should collect the unopened ones. I've never grown Esperanza from seed. Have you?

Another salvia, Mystic Spires Blue, is also blooming. Blue is my favorite color. It makes me happy to see this one doing well.

Fireworks gomphrena has been hanging on all winter. I'm expecting lots of volunteers from this plant when the weather warms up.

And that brings me to the Turk's Cap. It never looks good through the winter, but I don't mind. The fruit the it produces is loved by the birds, as evidenced by the pecked holes on this piece. It's time to whack back the "sticks" and let the new growth at the base shine.

If you need me today, I'll be in the garden.

February 5, 2016

Princess | The Shy One

This is Princess, our Rhode Island Red. She's a beauty.

It's rare that she's out in the open alone where I can photograph her easily. Usually she's in the garden blocked from view by the plants. Of our three hens, I'd say she's the most camera shy.

This day she was so interested in picking bugs from the garden box, that she didn't notice I was taking her picture until I moved in closer.

And then she gave me this look.

Happy Friday!

February 3, 2016

Cheery Arrangement

I spent a little bit of time working in our tiny garden at the trailer in Matagorda on Friday. I was snipping away the dead wood on the Mexican sage when I snipped a fresh sprig by accident.

Well, I wasn't about to throw away those velvety purple blossoms! So, I quickly cut a couple of flowers from the lantana and put them all together in the green beach bottle.

This cheery arrangement is just the sort of thing I like. I hope you enjoy it, too.

February 1, 2016

My Happy Place

Any day that I'm able to wake up to this view is a good day.

For those of you who don't know, John and I have a travel trailer that we keep on the banks of the Colorado River in Matagorda, Texas. This is my happy place!

That's because life here is simple, casual, and relaxed. Sometimes I think we should sell the house and live full time in the trailer.

If we could bring the chickens with us, we might. :)

It's doubtful we will ever make such a drastic lifestyle change...but that view makes me wonder sometimes.