Watch a garden grow:

I hope you will watch as the garden grows...I will focus on native plantings, working with "nature" instead of against it, all of which add up to low maintenance plantings! (I Hope) I am a naturalist by heart, and to be quite honest a lazy gardener! so.....Please enjoy watching our mini backyard farm grow from concept to reality as we give birth to the Rabbit Hutch and colony, and continue to grow the Chicken Coop....All in all I will enjoy journaling here myself and watching as my family changes the little piece of Earth that God has loaned to us!

Oct 8, 2012

Welcome...Our New Rooster...BILL!

      Scored some laying hens and a New "NICE" Rooster on craigslist yesterday!  We have had quite a few different hens through the years. We started with a pair of Old English Mille Fleur for my son to show
at 4-H.

      That was fun so we quickly added a few Standard Cochins, Rhode Island Reds, and Barred Rocks...Our first batch of clucking hens in the garden! I loved hearing them....All great hens, and lil Roosty the Old English kept them all in check and was sooo sweet!....but as things go, we lost Roosty after a good 4 years and replacing him hasn't been so easy! We tried another Old English soon after, but he was..well....just Vicious, naaa just plain ferocious really!!!!!! Wow the damage that lil Cock could do to a leg in just a few minutes! He didn't last long around the homestead as he took the husband on straight away, bad choice on his part :(
Most of my beloved birds were not caught on film, but a few were inspirational to me in my art...here are a some of those pieces.

Chicken Little
a friends "roosty"
the original Roosty!
The inspiration was the different shades of eggs, brown, white and green!
My first pencil drawing!
The evil Rooster!
a study of white eggs....


.....Soon our first set of Mail Order chicks were purchased :) Amercaunas....25 five beauties! the post office called at 6am one morning..they were ready for pick up....how funny is that...going to the post office before dawn to pick up 25 chirping chicks! They were adorable! Raised um up and sold half off, not sure much of a profit was made...WOW they eat alot!

The Americuanas! Easter Eggs Chickens!







     At that point we had a variety of birds, some born here,  some bantams, some very tame, and some strictly for eggs, but all loved and enjoyed. Then the heart breaking day......I let them out to free range one Sunday and while we were at church our neighbors Dogs got in the fence and took out the majority.....it was devastating.....the next thing you knew...the chickens coops became our dog kennels instead and it stayed that way for a few years....until just this past spring, when we got the itch again for fresh eggs.
Stitch and her babies! Our only hatchlings!
     This spring we got our hands on our very first Sex Link Hens...and Can they ever lay some jumbo eggs! We purchased 2 hens and a rooster...but he was a large aggressive rooster, he did his job well, but neither me or the kiddos could walk by without him flying at us spurs in spearing mode...the only thing that saved us was the chain link coop/kennel....but retrieving eggs and feeding was quite a chore and no one but the husband cared to do it!

     So yesterday when I read the free listing for "Bill" and his girls...I was intrigued! Bill, you could tell by the posting must be a sweet Rooster, the favorite bird in the bunch really....Finally another Nice Rooster and a few already laying hens...what could be better than that! And we needed a few more layers, since our Sunday after Church breakfasts are growing around here!....And did I mention they were FREE and can you believe SEX LINKS! YEAH!!! just what we wanted! (JUMBO EGGS) OH and the great parents sent FREE food with them too! It was a great day in the Clark hen house! Well except for that aggressive rooster, he is now safely at freezer camp. Our very first home grown meal...well other than veggies and fruits!



BILL!

      Bill is taking to all the other ladies just fine....and just as he was described is is very sweet! I look forward to having a long future with Bill in charge out there! And the new girls...well they each laid an egg today! So the move didn't even stress them out! and they are fitting in beautifully! Thanks to the great couple who let us adopt their Bill and his girls...they are a great addition to our garden!


Psalm 91:4  
He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings shall you trust: his trust shall be your shield and buckler

A friend once explained this scripture like this.....when a mama hen takes her chicks out for their first walks...they wonder all around the yard. When she feels danger is near...she clucks a cluck that only her babies know...they hear her voice and run crazy to hide under the refuge of her wings.....so it is with us and Jesus....the trick is to not be the lil chick that wonders away the furthest...as he has a harder path to safety and is at the most risk of predators....

                                    So as I always say.......Spread some seed! I just did!


In memory of lil Roo.....who passed last year 


Aug 3, 2012

Behind the scenes......It's a Jungle out there

     It's summer in Florida! I have been watching the weather around the country...and I know we don't have it as hard as most....so I am thankful for the beautiful sunshine and plentiful rain...but as it pertains to gardening...well things just get a little out of hand around here when the heat and the tropical rains start. You can go away for a long weekend and find yourself literally in a jungle when you return home. Plants grow inches during the night, and vines like Passion Flower seem to grow feet and find themselves all over places they are not suppose to be! 
The Passion Vine scrambling over the Crape Myrtle

      We always take such pretty pictures of the nice areas of the garden...Today I wanted to share the behind the scenes looks...The things I see "EVERYTIME" I enter the garden. 


A pile of overgrown Vines that need to be cleaned up


 Look at the pile of Oak limbs that have been stacked in the fire pit!
What a mess!



And would you look at all these pavers.....will we ever get them out of there
so I can turn this area into a potting shed?
Not to mention the old truck back there:(

      These are all the flaws, that make the garden...just never close to done and ALWAYS in need of work. These areas just remind me to keep at it.  One small area at a time.....


     After all...with many small areas to maintain....one day a beautiful garden will present itself!
The main thing I want to share today is this......a garden is hard work ...and just because yours may not "appear" to look as great and inviting as some of those around the internet or the gardening magazines...rest assured...all things are not always as they appear......don't get discouraged.....every gardener sees her own garden, not through rose colored glasses but with a magnifying glass,.... it's true you can walk around the garden and take some beautiful photo shots of groupings that will encourage and inspire...but as the lazy gardener I am...at this time of the year...with the rains, the heat and humidity, along with the weeds, the children, and the desire to just play....things in the garden do get away from me, I admit it.....and my naturalistic garden becomes literally a jungle mid summer! 
This is the Pond filter area...still awaiting a deck over the barrels


      There are some areas of this garden at this very moment that even I get a bit nervous walking through....(that one included) I know we entice the wildlife in...and though I love how prolific this garden can be....sometimes the quick scurry of a snake will scare the dickens out of me!  


 This time of year is magical though....it seems everything is having babies! Enjoy a few pics of all the babies.... of late 
The Koi population has Doubled in the past two months.....

The Molly pond is at an over abundance!

My Two Grey Baby Cockatiels......another Mama is sitting on a clutch now!
These two have just recently fledged!



Even the hibiscus acetosella  is having babies

Unfortunately I missed the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers fledge...but I watched the tireless parents for a month as they kept up with the never ending feedings....Maybe I'll get a pic of one on a visit to the feeders...

So that is how summer goes in my garden...It's a mess and beautiful...all at the same time....It is frustrating and inspiring....but most of all it's mine...and I just love sitting out there with all that life going on!  So please...if it's not too hot...get out there and sow some seed!


Genesis 1:28
Then God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground."



Jun 21, 2012

The Koi Pond turned Green!

Oh my....the fight to keep the new pond clear! Well I can honestly say I am losing this battle, but very intrigued by what I am learning in the process! Let's begin with a little lesson in pond ecology :) To start with your  pond needs two kinds of filtration, the first is mechanical, that would be the removal of large and small solids from the water column, the second and most important in terms of a healthy pond is Bio filtration, which is a set up that allows the nitrification process to take hold and thrive creating a happy and SAFE home for our most beloved koi or goldfish friends...well any fish for that matter really,  from the aquarium in our home to the most vast of lakes in nature...a nitrification process is in use if the body of water is the home of life and is healthy!  The nitrification process is the natural biological cycle of breaking down waste in the water, such as plant debris and fish poo! It begins as soon as you add fish to your pond. The fish will eat and then they will poo ALOT! The waste from the fish quickly will start the rise of ammonia in your pond....Which is toxic to our fish! The Aerobic, nitrifying bacteria called Nitromonas will start the first half of the process of your bio-filter by converting the ammonia to Nitrites, which by the way: "ALSO TOXIC" to our fish :(   Thank goodness for the aerobic, nitrifying bacteria called Nitrobactor which will then gobble the Nitrites up and convert them into Nitrates, which in simplicity is just fertilizer! (talk about this later) Then the whole crazy process continues to repeat itself! WA-LA "the nitrifying process"




When I upgraded to the larger pond, I already had an established filter to aid in the conversion so my process was quite painless...but many Koi have been lost due to an un-informed well meaning fish parent! This process can takes 4-6 weeks to settle in, and testing should be done daily during this process to stay on top of harmful levels... Should harmful levels arise to unsafe conditions, there are products out there to aid in binding ammonia and salting can help reduce stress of fish from high Nitrites in pond, along with water changes and perseverance you can establish a healthy system in your pond. My Bio filters are 2, 55 gallon strapping barrels, each barrel holds approximately 7,000 feet of strapping material with lots of surface area to grow all those little bugs that I so desperately need in my pond! Note that I mentioned "Aerobic" bacteria earlier on! Yes they thrive in oxygenated water, so both of my barrels are fed air also to keep my bugs alive and well and thriving! I also have a bead filter which aids in both bio and mechanical filtration....So then why with such a healthy pond atmosphere would it be green with Algae...You see...the water is healthy, it's just green with free swimming algae, you see my UV light broke when I did the new plumbing, and brilliant me thought I could survive in Florida without one...Ha!...As soon as the water warmed up and the sunlight penetrated that water I had a beautiful Algae bloom......yep...all my fish disappeared into pea soup! I quickly out witted the algae, or so I thought.....remember I said the Nitrates were fertilizer...well the algae is a plant....so how do you kill a plant? Starve it!

Water changes were made and Canna Lilies were added in large tubs to the edge of the pond to consume more Nitrates that the algae....and between the algae and the plants, my levels quickly dropped...starving off the Algae and my water started to clear right up! SWEET! I was so happy to too see my babies once again....even though I believe they enjoy the green water better!  Alas....It was short lived, once the water cleared somewhat, the Nitrates built back up and the sunlight penetrated the  water again, the process started all over again! This pond cycles this way about every 4 weeks now....I give in. I am now in search of replacement parts for my UV light to kill the free swimming algae altogether, I would rather not add any more plants. Plants can help balance the process if plated heavily enough to consume your Nitrates altogether and floaters to shade the water, but in a Koi Pond, the injuries of the "xtras" in the pond to the Koi are just not worth the risk. So I will choose mechanics in this case and buy the UV light.  This is just not the vision I had of my pond.....
I want my gin clear water back I did find it so interesting to watch this process continue to repeat itself though! Life is teaching me new things everyday! Got to love it! Well that's my lesson on getting your pond established and understanding the Nitrifying process in a Pond, because truly the most effective way of having a healthy and clear pond is to understand the process, then work with it, not battle it! Nature is wondrous that way! It has a glorious maker that has engineered all this stuff  "perfectly"


John 1:3. Through him all things were made: without him nothing was made 
that has been made.


.....Enjoy some shots of the garden from a beautiful Summer Evening in Florida! and for goodness sake...sow some seed!   -janine
Hibiscus acetosella

Twilight purple Crape Myrtles

I love the woodland look of wedelia!

   My dumpster dive find : a rescued (upcycled) vintage kitchen chair  


The bird garden

Love the warm patina from the newly mopped with "ironite" patio!

A nice coffee spot in the morning shade, chickens cluckin in the background

Native Canna in beautiful bloom!

The Caladium path....



May 8, 2012

Can I feed that Weed to my Rabbit?

     I have found myself quite torn this week between researching what fresh picked weeds to feed my rabbits and researching what snorkeling masks will be good for our summer vacation! The masks can be rather expensive, so I got discouraged...the Weeds win! Mostly because they are free, and I have a surplus! And well...the garden needs weeding :) I do like instant gratification!
 
   I have found a great rabbit forum online, if you are a rabbit enthusiast I highly recommend checking them out! Great people with lots of friendly advise and information. Please see links at the bottom of the page! When I dive into a project I try my best to read everything I can about the subject...but I have to admit the best available information seems to come from the hands on experience of real live people, not just the experts! I have found so much shared knowledge in Forum Users!  I am part of a few forums really, that I use fairly regularly....koiphen.com (for the koi ponders out there), Rabbittalk for the rabbitries out there, and talkbudgies/talkcockatiels, for all your pet bird needs. When using a forum you will find people from all over the world from the simple novice to an expert, all walks of life...all sharing there advise with you...and with such pleasure! I just love forums for learning....so if you haven't tried registering with a forum in your area of interest or hobby, I really wish you'd give it a shot...there is so much to learn out there! And share!!!!  You may be surprised how much you enjoy it! 
Florida betony
   
     So back to the weeds! I was reading about natural feeding and foraging for the rabbits....here in Central Florida, the one thing we are NOT lacking in, is a healthy variety of lawn weeds! So out came my camera and a quick trip was taken around the yard for weeds that grew in plentiful that could become a supplement staple in the diet of my bunnies! I found a quick dozen I needed to check out!

    I know some may not seem like weeds, like the passion flower and the wedelia, but if the conditions are right these are two of those plants that, by mid summer you are swearing at and condemning to a good dose of round up...not that I ever would.....use the round up that is :) But none the less I have such a surplus of some particular plants...that it would be fabulous to be able to share my xtra's with the bunnies....After all...who doesn't love work with a purpose...I'd be killing two birds with one stone...(did I just say that?) What a horrible expression...when you think about it.... Okay, two jobs would be getting accomplished, my yard would probably be the most weed free it has ever been and the rabbits would be getting fed, and I would be saving money on rabbit food....it's a win, win, win!!!!! Here are the main staples in my own yard that I hoped were safe for my bunnies to eat: I have successfully fed the following items to my rabbits without ill effects or have researched to there safety or not. By far the greatest treat to date has been the Mulberry leaves! SAFE!

 We started with feeding the fruits, which they loved, then once I researched some more, I learned the twigs are a great treat as well for gnawing on, and they happily strip the bark off as many as they can as quickly as they can! All prunings are now kept...After confirmation from a the great Rabbittalk forum, I tried the Mulberry leaves...they were a hit also! Especially right now, as they have huge new-growth leaves....the buns come a runnin'.  Another crazy weed in my yard that I'd love to knock down a bit is the Spanish needle, Bidens bipinnata. SAFE!

 I have a tender place in my heart for it, since the butterflies seem to swarm it in the summer....I leave a little area growing that forms a large mat, not only do most use it as nectar food, but it a a host plant for the Dainty Sulphur butterfly and at night I think they gather under it for protection too! So it STAYS...but it readily escapes this secluded area and pops up EVERYWHERE!  After reading more about it, I found that we can also benefit from it ourselves! I cooked us up a batch...hmmm, "like spinach" they said...I think "not". The husband says I just don't know how to cook it. LOL, he is "the cook" in our house (thank goodness).....next time he will try cooking it like greens with bacon fat! How fun is that! The third weed/plant that has become quite a nuisance since planting is... Wedelia, wedelia tribobata.  SAFE


 I do love the way it jumps, runs, and blooms throughout the shady areas, making for a wonderful woodland setting...but it can get way out of bounds once the Florida summer rains start...so this will be a huge staple for rabbits. It took a little research on this one, but I found some research that had been done on food supplements for rabbits that included this plant. I have posted a link: http://www.mekarn.org/prohan/kdong2.htm. Though it appears the nutritional value is not high, it will still give my weeded Wedelia purpose! I just hate pulling out such huge clumps of a vibrantly living plant....even if it is a nuisance, so being able to use it for a fiber source for the buns will make it worth it! The fourth plant on my ...please please let my rabbits be able to eat it list is the passion vine!  I will never live without one, but the runners are poppin' up everywhere...and though the Gulf Fritillaries and Zebra Longwing can keep it somewhat in check, sometimes through the summer, huge amounts of vines have to be pulled out of the crape myrtles before they suffocate! Some vines just get away from us Southern Gardeners that way :) The passion flower I have is the native passiflora incarnata. NOT determined SAFE

 I have frequently shared the flowers with my Koi....and they love them, and I have read that the fruit and flowers are safe, but as of this writing I have been unable to confirm that the rabbits would be safe to eat the foliage! I have read conflicting reports...so the jury is still out. To error on the side of caution I will hold off until I can confirm if they are safe or not.....Maybe one of you have some personal experience with this one! Leave a comment and let me know! The last flowering weed I have allowed to grow in the garden, and is getting out of hand quickly is Florida Betony, Stachys Floridana SAFE (picture above) This is a nice easily pulled weed I often shared with the chickens to....Nice to know a few animals will benefit from it now!

       There are still quite a few others I need to confirm before trying, but given the list of safe plants for the rabbits and the few I researched on my own, my buns should have more than a dozen foraging items available just from our backyard. Please do..share with me the common weeds or plants you supplement with for your rabbits!
   
       On a side page is a great compilation LIST OF SAFE plants from a great gal , Maggie, from Rabbittalk: http://rabbittalk.com/. (Did I already mention what a great forum that is)  LOL....Some are from her personal experience, having fed her own rabbits and the rest are known to be safe, but with anything...please don't take our word on it, do some research of your own, make sure you identify your weeds correctly and above all..know your bunnies and study their behaviors. Now when you rabbit lovers take a walk around the yard and pull a few weeds...don't forget that one person's weed is ...well....another rabbit's dinner!  They will thank you for it! Thanks for stopping by my page...please leave me a message so I know you passed through! And if you haven't already....don't forget to spread some seed!       - janine


Isaiah 40 6-8:
"All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it;  surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever".

Apr 21, 2012

The Flycatcher comes home




An Earlier writing from a few years back....



      
JUNE 2009:   OMGosh what a glorious day in our garden. This season in our backyard we have had the privilege of watching a pair of Bluebirds return to their shanty and raise two clutches, another pair of bluebirds moved into a new box (or the 1st pair upgraded finally), and they are in the midst of raising a family right nowJ  and as I write you can hear our red bellied woodpecker baby chirping away each time mom and dad come back with a tasty morsel for it. 
"The Red Bellied Woodpecker"

    The wrens also have returned to the posts of the above ground pool, and the mockingbirds are forever swooping down on us and the dogs, protecting whichever of the nests it finally managed to start a family in. But to my surprise we managed to entice a titmouse to move into a house, I was very excited until I realized unfortunately it was, at the expense of the flycatcher that visits our backyard each year, actually…the very first bird to take up residence here. It was my first homemade birdhouse. It was designed for a woodpecker or an owl, but I was just as happy to see that unfamiliar bird sitting high on a perch on the tallest thing in our backyard 6 years ago.  She came back year after year, even when Hurricane Charlie took out our pine tree pole, and we used a shorter 4x4 for replacement, she still nested there. 
"My Fly Catcher"

     Last year I got worried because the perch had fallen off, and I kept forgetting to find a new one. Upon her return though, under a watchful eye I quickly hot glued a new one in place. Yet again she moved right in, to raise her babies.  She faithfully returned each and every year...and I faithfully looked forward to it.....

    So you can imagine how crushed I was the day she returned and I witnessed the titmouse that had already started a clutch of her own, swoop at her repeatedly to chase her away, with every attempt she made to move in.  It made my heart just ache.

     I quickly got to work and constructed a new house the exact dimensions of the last, and raised it high in the air, to the original 15 feet it was, souring above everything surrounding it. It took me just a few days, but that was not fast enough, and my sweet Flycatcher was not seen again. (That was April)……until this Sunday, that is, way up on the highest branch of the maple tree, looking guard, was no other than my sweet Flycatcher, the same treetop she has used for the last 6 years. The titmouse family have moved out, and I can only hope that she is giving her old home another chance, but whether or not she moves in this season remains to be seen. What I do know is this….she remembers…..and I feel pretty confident she will return again next year, to our yard looking for a home to raise her babies, now hopefully she’ll have a few to choose from! 


"The bluebirds"
   TODAY:  That was three long years ago.....and my sweet flycatcher did not nest that year, nor the season of 2010, or 2011....I watched and was disappointed every season....but this week as I sat out back watching all the songbirds crisscross across the yard in the new bird garden....there she was.....sitting high on the perch of "that" birdhouse, and she was going in! She was making it home!....It's been a very busy birdhouse over the past few years, it raises a few clutches each year, usually Bluebirds and Titmouse.....A young family of Bluebirds  just fledged  a few weeks ago and my daughter and I got to watch as the mom and dad coaxed their two babies into flying! Our first witness of an actual fledging...eeeeek 15 feet is a long way down for a bitty bird that can't yet fly!    













    As I sat outside this morning in awe of ALL the birds this yard attracts....I watched the wren making her second nest of the season on the patio, this time in the mushroom birdhouse the cuban tree frog was living in, and another pair of bluebirds are just finishing raising their first clutch out behind bunnyville, it's been a great season.....we also had our first flock of ceder waxwings visiting the mulberry bush, they stayed all month, along with plenty of catbirds who visit when the mulberries are ripe ..but nothing has made me smile as much as  knowing that our flycatcher is finally back home to raise another family.....She sits high on the tallest Sycamore branch and looks out over the entire yard now as I write.....She started coming here when we offered very little, her house at 15 feet was the tallest thing in the yard, now with all the trees and bushes grown well beyond that height, well....now she sits up there like she is Queen of the garden.........and righfully so....once again!


I hope the Spring Birds have returned to your yard...with a little food and shelter you may be surprised what will move right in! So don't forget....Spread some seed.....janine

Matthew 8:20
And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head