January 29, 2016

Happy Friday From the Flock

Sometimes I wonder what our chickens are thinking and saying to each other...

Princess (left), Duchess (back), Queenie (front)
Princess: Is she taking our picture again?
Duchess: You know she is. I told you to take more time preening this morning.
Queenie: (moving closer to the camera) Well, I just had a dust bath and I'm looking quite lovely, if I do say so myself.

That might not be their thoughts exactly, but I'm sure they would want to wish you a happy Friday...if they could. See you next week.

January 27, 2016

Forgotten Seeds

You know how sometimes you see something so often that you really don't notice it anymore? Well, that's what happened to me the other day. I was putting things away in the pantry after a shopping trip and I discovered a jar of seed packets I had forgotten I had.

They were sitting in plain sight, but I've been overlooking them for a long time. And, then I remembered another stash of seeds I have.

They sit on a shelf above the kitchen sink, but I rarely give them a second thought. I decided to pull out all of the packets to see exactly what I have. With spring just around the corner, we might actually be able to use some of these.

There are quite a few vegetable seeds: purple hull peas, okra (enough to plant a whole field), sweet 100 tomatoes, green beans, butter beans, fordhook limas, squash, and dipper gourds.

The flower seeds include: Texas bluebonnets (I wish I'd remembered I had these in the fall), wildflower mix, butterfly mix, and sunflowers. The zinnia packets are empty!?

And there are others (not pictured) that were collected from our garden: purple coneflower and fragrant blue mist flower (it's unlikely I'll need these).

Fragrant Blue Mistflower took over our garden in 2015.
Most of these seeds are several years old, so I can't be certain they are still viable. I guess there's only one way to find out...

January 25, 2016

Picked for Happiness

Last week the roses in the garden looked so pretty; I picked a few for the house.

I casually arranged them with a few sprigs of 'Mystic Spires Blue' salvia and several snips of rosemary in a vase John made back in his college days.

The soft fragrance of roses and herbs was detectable when sitting nearby. And just a glance in their direction made me feel happy inside. That's the effect flowers have on me and why I want my garden to be filled with them.

Now that they've faded, it's time to replace them—more roses, perhaps. I just checked the garden and they are still looking pretty good.

January 22, 2016

It's a Hen's Life

Three weeks into chicken keeping and all is well.

Poultry Palace Coop

We let the girls out of the palace on a regular basis. 

Our Three Hens: Duchess, Princess, Queenie

For now we supervise their outings. This might not protect them 100% from predators, but it makes us feel better.

The Royal Flock in the Herb Garden

Scratching and pecking goes on for a half hour or so, and then with no prodding from me...

Back to the Coop

the girls return to their living quarters, bellies full of weeds and bugs.

Taking it Easy at Poultry Palace

All that's left to do is preen and rest. Such is a hen's life at Poultry Palace and Gardens.

January 18, 2016

Happiness Is

...spending a sunny afternoon on Matagorda Beach. This was Friday, a glorious day to be outdoors, not a cloud in the sky.

...walking barefoot on the beach in January — a rare and wonderful thing this time of year.

...watching the waves crash on the jetty. Their power and rhythm were mesmerizing.

...returning home to chickens in the backyard. Sometimes you escape to find happiness and sometimes it's just outside your back door.

Wishing you many happy moments this week! Follow my blog with Bloglovin

January 15, 2016

The January Garden

Last year the garden was sadly neglected for the more pressing matters of life. It was rarely weeded, never mulched, not fertilized, and left to do its own thing, which as you can imagine resulted in an overgrown mess. We hope to put things back in order this year.

And yet, despite our neglect, flowers bloomed, hummingbirds congregated, and butterflies abounded. And even in winter there are blossoms to enjoy.

The flowers of the firecracker bush are vibrantly colorful.

The fragrant blue mist flower, is going to seed and putting on new blossoms at the same time.

The shrimp plant, though leggy from having to fight its way through the overgrowth, displays its flowers proudly, only slightly nipped from recent frosty mornings.

And, the roses are actually blooming better in the cooler temperatures than in the heat of the summer.

So grows our southern garden in January—until (or if) we get a freeze.

January 13, 2016

Duchess | The Curious One

Duchess of Yolk is curious about everything. She came right up to me the other day when I was taking her picture. She wanted a treat, but I didn't have one. I picked a nearby weed and she happily ate it from my hand.

The herb bed looked interesting to her. She tasted the oregano and nipped at the rosemary.

I thought I might have to shoo her away to save the herbs, but it was the weeds she liked best.

She called Queenie over with a cluck-cluck, "Come on up. This is where they keep the good stuff."

A weed-eating chicken is a gardener's best friend. Eat up girls, eat up!

January 11, 2016

Indoor Gardening

The paperwhite narcisuss bulb I planted in December is blooming.

I love these tiny blossoms and their sweet fragrance so much that I want buy more bulbs to plant indoors. I had it all planned out—a pretty container crammed with paperwhites—and then I moved this particular plant from the windowsill to the coffee table...and...John began to sneeze.

Hmmm...maybe a container crammed with paperwhites would work better on the back porch.

January 7, 2016

Introducing the Royal Flock

Here they are—our three hens!

Naming the girls turned out to be easy after we decided to call our coop Poultry Palace. It seemed obvious to us that a chicken living in a palace needed to have a royal title. There should be a queen, of course, and how about a princess, and maybe a duchess, too. And then the puns just came without even trying. We couldn't help ourselves. Laugh with us or forgives us, whichever applies.

Now, on to the introductions...

This is her royal highness the Queen of Eggland. We call her Queenie for short. She's a Golden Laced Wyandotte, a brown egg layer. She was my pick for our flock. I think her feather pattern is stunning—so regal. She had to be the queen, though we're not sure she's the one ruling the roost.

Here's a picture of me holding Queenie, so you can get a sense of her size. She and our other two hens are approximately four months old. They still have a lot of growing to do. It will another two months before they start laying eggs.

Our Rhode Island Red is named Princess Lay-a. We hope she lives up to her name and lays lots of beautiful brown eggs. We call her Princess or Prissy. In typical princess fashion, she has a knack of getting her own way and we think she's calling the shots in the palace. John picked her for her beautiful coloring and classic good looks.

And then there's the Duchess of Yolk, the sweetest hen in the flock. We call her Duchess or Duchie. She's a Barred Plymouth Rock and lays brown eggs, too.

This sweet hen has a way of stealing your heart. She is very friendly (or maybe very hungry) and will readily eat out of your hand. She doesn't mind being touched and is the easiest to photograph. I believe Duchess is the one that will become our pet chicken.

And so ends the introductions (if you know what I mean). I'll be back next week with more from Poultry Palace and Gardens.

January 5, 2016

First You Need A Coop

By the time John proposed the idea of keeping chickens, he already had a coop kit picked out. We ordered the Round-Top Starter Chicken Coop, with all the options, from Urban Coop Company.

Our order was shipped in two large boxes. One was so heavy it was impossible to lift. I don't know how the FedEx guy did it, with a dolly, I guess.

Since we were out of town when the boxes arrived, our wonderful neighbors somehow wrangled the boxes into the house for us (without the benefit of a dolly). They certainly deserve some of our first fresh eggs!

Okay, let's see what's in the box. This was our Christmas present to each other. I let John do the unwrapping.

All the pieces for the coop and main run were in the heavy box. The second box contained the optional run extension pieces.

"Thanks, it's just what I wanted!"

It was a cold and wet day, but the sun came out briefly just as John began assembling the first pieces. It was symbolic of the happiness I could tell he was feeling about this project.

My job was to read the instructions, locate the right pieces, and take occasional progress pictures. The instructions were well written, but the part numbers and letters weren't stamped on the pieces, which meant I had to keep referring back to the parts photos. It got a little confusing at times.

"Read that part again. Are we doing this right???"

We did actually assemble the run extension incorrectly (our fault for not reading the instructions all the way through), and had to take those pieces apart and rebuild it. But, in the end it all came together nicely.

On the next day, which was New Year's, we picked up three pretty hens from Blue Star Ranch and got them settled into their new home. The hens deserve their own post, so I'll introduce you to them next time.

For a sneak peek, check out the sidebar.

January 4, 2016

It Was His Idea

It all began back in November with a seemingly innocent comment from my husband, John. It was during breakfast one Sunday morning that he said, "There's only one thing that could make this French toast even better and that's fresh eggs."

Now, this particular French toast had been lovingly prepared by John himself, using thick slices of my home-baked English muffin bread, and pure Irish butter made from grass-fed cows' milk. I agreed with him, because he was right—I never suspected a thing.

By the next week though, I began picking up tell-tale signs that John was in what I call his obsessive research mode. It seemed he was on the computer from the time he got home from work until the time he went to bed.

In our 31 years of marriage I've seen this behavior enough to know something was up, but I didn't know what. He kept it to himself for several days and then...there was more talk of fresh eggs...and I knew!

I knew we would be getting our very own chickens.

And so, a new blog is born to document our adventures in backyard chicken keeping and gardening. Welcome to Poultry Palace and Gardens. This should be fun!