Bzzzz July 22nd, 2012

I love my pet chickens. I don’t always love what they do to my garden.

If you have visited here before, you may know that I’m in the habit of letting the chickens go on walkabout for a few hours in the late afternoon and early evening. This is the time of day they have finished their egg laying chores and are ready for a little bit of exercise and fresh air. Generally, I’m either outside nearby or have the windows open so that I can hear the distinctive alarm that means “Warning! Warning!”

But I can’t always keep an eye on all the hens. They amble here, run there and generally take in the whole front and back yard scampering after bugs, worms, snakes and salamanders. Rarely do they travel in  one large pack. They usually amble around in twosies and threesies. Tina Turner is usually off in her own la-la land.

The fence around the potager keeps them out of trouble there. But they can play heck with the rest of the place with their determined scratching, scratching, scratching for bugs. And the Number One Rule of Chicken Foraging is:  Dig up anything Robin just planted.

The last straw was when they absolutely destroyed a beautiful new Heuchera ‘Mysteria’ . It was a gorgeous burgundy and pink in full bloom. They scratched it out of existence. Baaaaad chickens!

So, for one of the Lowe’s Creative Ideas projects I decided to build some cloches to protect the newly planted. Lowe’s provided a $100 gift card and let me loose to make something under the heading of “Furniture Fun.”

Now, let me state right up front that I have exactly ZERO experience doing woodworking projects. I have no woodworking power tools except for a drill. I had no pattern to follow. I just had an idea. So, here’s what I came up with.

Don’t laugh too hard. And don’t send me links of your own gorgeous woodworking projects to make me feel even more inept. I don’t think it’s bad at all for someone who never did her own woodworking project in her life. And it works!

For the project, I used the following materials and tools:

– Strips of craft wood – Chicken wire – L-brackets of two different sizes—big and less big (I think those are the technical terms) – Power stapler – Wire cutters – Screws – Screwdriver – Metal joint tacks – Hand saw – Hammer – White outdoor deck stain – Paint brush – Sanding pad

I cut strips of the wood and assembled them into squares. I used joint tacks to hold them together and then stapled squares of the chicken wire. I topped that assemblage with another assembled wood square. I attached the squares together using L-brackets and then painted the whole contraption—I mean cloche.

I will be making more cloches of different sizes. For the next cloche I will paint the wood strips before assembling the squares so that the naked wood isn’t showing between the sandwiched-together squares. It will also help to protect the cloche out in the rain. I think I’ll also investigate some of the classes that Lowe’s offers from time to time to see if I can get some real help learning more woodworking skills.

My first Lowe’s Creative Ideas project—a concrete planter—is here.

Check back here throughout the next few months, because there are more projects, giveaways and other bloggers’ projects to explore.

Lowe’s has some pretty cool Pinterest boards too. Go check them out.


Posted In: Chickens, DIY, Gardening



Bzzzz July 6th, 2012

Remember spring?

April, May and June were so very lovely. Winter departed early giving us a chance to get outdoors, tidy and plant our veggies weeks before we would normally consider emerging from inside. I, for one, was exhilarated by the fireflies in April, the balmy May breezes, the lovely June evenings eating dinner on the patio.

Well, early June that is. It got pretty ugly last week.

Potager in June

Potager in June

The confluence of thunderstorms that I learned is called a derecho (prounounced “deh-REY-cho”) blew through here near midnight on Friday, June 29.  I was sound asleep when I was rudely awakened by howling winds and two terrified Papillons tap dancing on top of me. Yes, our little dogs sleep with us. That’s just the way we roll.

I tucked one little dog under one arm and the other little dog under the other arm and whispered reassurances to them. There was wind blowing. There were crashing sounds. And then…the most terrifying sound of all. Three battery backup systems started beeping. The power had gone out.

Now, if you don’t live in a rural area you may not have the full appreciation for how bad it is when the power goes out. It’s not just that we don’t have lights, air conditioning and internet. We don’t have water. No showers—even cold ones—no toilets to flush, no water for the plants. Nothing. And being at the end of the power grid (or so it seems), we can pretty much count on being low on the priority list when it comes to getting power restored.

Daylilies in June

Daylilies in June

We suffered through Saturday and Sunday with none of the comforts of civilization. It was nearly 100 degrees both days. Despite buying ice and trying to save food, we lost most everything in two refrigerator/freezers.

We were giddy with joy when the power came back on Sunday night. It took hours and hours to cool the house back down and most of Monday to clean up the refrigerator messes. Going to the dump following a power outage is not for the weak. It takes a strong stomach and strong arms to do the dirty task.

june potager2b

You might think my whining is complete. But nay nay!

We may have power, but it’s still miserably hot and our area is in moderate drought conditions. I spend my days working at the desk and taking breaks every half hour or so to dash outside, move hoses and hand water plants. From time to time I put down the hose to pick Japanese beetles from the beans, rhubarb and roses and drop them into a jar of soapy water. If the jar isn’t handy and I see one I just squish it with my bare hands. I am fearless!

Cone flowers

Cone flowers

Things look a bit ratty here and there from the heat, drought and chicken scratchings. July is, so far, the cruelest month. But we’re getting beans, cucumbers, squash, leeks and herbs. The lettuce has turned bitter, but the Swiss chard is in. Tomatoes are growing and so far I see no signs of the fusarium wilt problem we have had the past two summers. Perhaps all that solarizing last summer did the trick?

The gardener’s life is not always easy. But it is quite often rewarding, even during cruel times.

(Click on the photos to embiggen.)



Posted In: Gardening, Gardening Life

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