Good Bye to Pokeberry Hill...


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Posey for You, Rosemary's Babies, Saving Seeds and Hatching out Eggs..

I've been out in the garden with Mojo, he's still outside. We finished our little round of chores there by picking up some fallen branches for the burn pile. He's busying himself right now 'helping' by finding more and putting them on the porch and then barking to let me know about them. "Look Mom--Sticks!"
OK.. but I wanted them in the burn pile! I'm hoping to do a little bonfire tonight. We burn our cardboard here as part of the recycling system. It cuts down a great deal on what needs to be carted to the recycle and trash depot. The county doesn't take paper or cardboard near us. Anyhow--Mojo always means well doesn't he?

I took the photo of a little pansy while out there. It is one of those that George and Mojo did not manage to dig up last fall. It was hidden away in the leaves. Another surprise I found under the leaves is Rosemary's babies. I've got a rosemary plant I've dragged around for a few moves. She's been in this garden about a year now. She hasn't gotten very big in the past years, probably due to being dug up so much. Things are improving though, I see she has not only made it through the cold spell, when I brushed away a few leaves I saw she's got children--well clones anyhow.

It looks like there was some layering going on down there and some of her lower branches have rooted. I don't recall if I did that, tried to layer the branches, or if they have done it on their own. Either way I have some new rosemary! I'm thrilled. I love the smell of it and every time I'm in the garden I like to run my hands through the rosemary before I go in so I can pick up a nicer scent than say.. compost or fish tea before I go in and wash up.

I've been continuing to clean up my garden from the mess I left in the fall. Shame on me! It is all cluttered up with old pots and leaves and sprouted acorns. I'm doing a bit at a time and although its winter it is looking better. It is also putting me in a very good mood to have a foretaste of spring like this. There is nothing that beats a nice cool blue morning with the sun shining and birds singing while you work in a garden.

I've been learning more about heirloom seeds and about rare breed chickens. The seeds and chickens from the past. These varieties were more popular before the big seed companies like Burpee got going.

Now I personally loved the story of W. Atlee Burpee, I used to have a biography about the man who started the company.Interestingly he began with a little chicken business. It was one of those great American stories. His story reminded me somewhat of great men like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison. Burpee was a big idea man and an entrepreneur who didn't really 'strike it rich' but rather I think innovated and worked until he had built something big. Not an instant millionaire a slow one, the successful man. It also reminds me somewhat of my husband. Gosh--if he'd have been able to-- I mean he tried a few times. He actually had a design for a tablet computer he was trying to find investors for back about 8 years ago. Its not so easy to start a business though or sell an idea, but Hubby, like Burpee is not going to give it up easy, he always has something he's tinkering with, even now.

W. Atlee Burpee specialized in finding and cultivating seeds that had a difference; new cultivars, hybrids in particular. He experimented and he did lots of seed trials and to this day Burpee is all about the newest thing in a seed.

The thing with those hybrid seeds is they are good business. When a customer falls in love with a hybrid they must keep on buying seed. They don't have the key to reproducing them at home--except by cuttings or other types of cloning which most people would not have a clue how to do. The plants will produce seeds but since you don't know which plants were their parents you never know what sort of plant the children will be either. If you want that shade of blue--you need new seeds every year. The customers would need more and more seeds but in exchange they could get some pretty exciting features, more colors, bigger blooms,disease resistance, better taste, etc.

That's basically the picture with hybrids, they offer a nice product and it gives the seller lots of repeat customers. These days there are even designer plants that it is illegal to take cuttings of to sell. I would not expect anyone to come around your house and see if you've done that, or your neighbors if you shared some. What happens is though is greenhouse businesses and nurseries must buy their starts of popular plants, they can't just make them freely. The plants have patents.

All very interesting but I'm looking at the throw backs, the other direction in history, which is becoming more and more popular in niches here and there. The Heirloom Seeds and the Old Chicken Breeds.

Saving seeds of older reliable plants will produce the same quality of plant. There are tricks to it, sometimes it is more difficult--you may have to watch out for cross pollination or you'll end up with your own new hybrid--which may or may not be good. You have to follow certain rules when you save your seeds.

Roma Tomatoes are a well known heirloom. Anyone can grow them, save the seeds quite easily and never have to buy a plant or seed for them again. Still... most folks buy plants or at least buy seeds, so Romas are still good business for seeds men and nurseries.

There are hundreds of different tomatoes however and some come from different parts fo the world and have unique shapes, colors and tastes and qualities for slicing or for canning. Its just fascinating to learn about and to look at photos of some of them. One I plant to try this spring is called 'Ernie's Plump'. I loved the look of this unusual tomato and I have to admit I have a personal attachment to its name as well. My future son-in-law is a skinny as a rail, 6'2+, big-footed, red-headed and sweet as a peach-- 'Ernie'. :) I can't wait to give the newlyweds some home canned 'plump Ernie spaghetti sauce' after they marry in the fall. How fun! And I can save the seeds so if Plump Ernie is yummy we'll have him again next year. ;) I'm sure he will be. I've already been feeding our Ernie whenever he's here and I expect I'll have him plump in no time, he's-a too skinny!

As excited as I am about the heirloom tomatoes and other plants, I'm more so about choosing my chickens. Basically in America now, there are two types of birds that are the most popular. A skinny chicken that does nothing much but lay those white eggs you buy in most stores and a very heavy chicken that is bread to produce a bird for your table in 8 weeks. Neither of this is quite what I have in mind for Pokeberry. I think if I only wanted to slaughter meat in 8 weeks I'd go for the big meat birds, but that's about all they are good for. Neither of these type of chicken has much of a life. They don't wander around, they are either overloaded into big barns or kept in stacked cages. That's where our inexpensive chicken comes from.

I have to admit my old blogger acquaintance at Jewish Simplicity does have a point with some of his food politics--it aint no way to treat a chicken, and I'm sure it can't be that good for us either. Still--on the flip side many people are being fed for less... although I don't know--in some countries they'd just have their own little flocks wouldn't they? We live differently here--most of us live a city lifestyle even if we are in the country.

Well I want to get chickens and now have Hubby's 'go ahead'. I don't want to have caged up super producing birds. I'm looking at the ones that are a little slower growing but have more than one purpose in life. I'm thinking of birds that can wander around our yard and woods and bit, find the bugs and weeds and wander back to the coop by nightfall to be locked away from the scary things in the night that we know are out there. If they can't stay within reasonable distance from the coop we'll have to keep them in a pen--but not an overcrowded one. Because they will be slower growing,they will not need as much of the pricey chicken feed from the store as they will be getting lots of protein and carbs on their own as well as toss outs from the kitchen and garden. They will do a good deal of scratch style cultivating and some very useful fertilizing as well. When they are big enough some will be dinner and some will be egg layers, some will even be able to set on eggs and produce new birds, so I wont' have to be buying new ones if it all works out, we'll have our own babies! Just like saving seeds-except with eggs.

Yup the old fashioned way. I love the independent aspect of it.

So I am looking for duo purpose birds that are able to 'go broody' (care for eggs), that can handle the heat in our area and the cold when it happens,and that have a calm disposition for a small backyard production.

I've enjoyed my research so far. I don't intend to start the birds yet so I have time to think and learn and plan. Its much like ogling seed catalogs except now its for birds instead of just plants. I'm loving it! I still hold out the idea that if I manage my chickens well, perhaps someday Hubby will 'get the idea' of my managing some goats, sheep or rabbits for the fibers/wool. We shall see--we take what we can get right?

Another interesting topic I'm looking into is exercise and gardening. I'll write more about that in the coming days I think, as well as about my heirloom tomato choosing and my getting ready for chickens and picking breeds. Fun to have these adventures to get busy with!

Etsy is also on my mind. I am seeing that most of the sellers there who actually have made lots of sales don't only sell crafts, they sell supplies and other things. There is also a community aspect to it and there is bartering between sellers as well. I find that interesting too. Its as if the internet has become our 'backyard fence' we can visit over it and do all the things people in small communities used to do back in the day when we needed each other more than we need to run to the local strip mall where all the usual suspects are: the Walmart, the Homedepot/Lowes, the Food Lion or other grocer, and etc. Now we have a sort of global small town or village--very interesting.

I smiled when I was packing up my morning glory seeds and Rose of Sharon seeds this morning, I'd picked them yesterday in the garden. I have some Rose of Sharon from 07, 08 and 09 now. The -08's are from the next door neighbor's plants, the -09s are from the plants I grew from his plants. The -07s--I'm thinking came from him too, but they may have been from a different trade. I need to start keeping better records. I do have some other seeds from folks I don't see much anymore and some I've traded for online too. Seeds travel better than plants when you move across the country and from state to state the way I have. They are also very cheap to mail. I've left gardens behind me in 3 different states, this is number 4. Even though I don't have a new neighbor garden buddy yet, perhaps someday... I still have online garden buddies and maybe I will make a few on Etsy when I get there.. we shall see..

I have also learned that small poultry producers can sell eggs and chickens in my state without a permit--they must sell within the state and their is a limit to how many birds they sell-- I think its like 2000--so I'm not very worried. This means if I want to I can trade and sell freely over the internet fence as well, or perhaps at a local market, or a yard sale. ;) I just have to keep the place sanitary and use good practices and keep accurate records.

So many possibilities!

Well I'm looking out over Pokeberry Hill and garden and I can hear the birds and see them. I need to go fill those feeders. I picked up 25# of sunflower yesterday and had #2 Son put it in one of those nice big 6 gallon buckets I got from the guy on Craigslist. I think I'll be filling my jeep with more of those soon. Anyhow he put it out behind the shed/cabin so I can feed the birds from the garden and not have store wild bird seed in the house. I noticed while I was in the garden yesterday that the birds have eaten one suet cake completely and there is just a little left of the other one. I do need to make some suet this week!

Today is going to be an errand day, I need to go mail a box at the post office and 'perhaps' I will find that my sausage casings are finally in stock at the Nichols. No errands til after noon, this morning I will get things started for dinner so I can be running errands and not come home and have nothing ready. I'll also get outside a bit with Mojo the not so helpful garden puppy, and I'll likely do some researching or working on a felted critter. I began one yesterday but am not so sure he's what I want. I want to develop a sort of style that I can make fairly quickly--but also make unique and tweak to create one of a kind things for selling. All of these new ideas have almost made me feel as if it is spring--I know its not--but I am thankful for the sunshine this morning and the hope of it. I see that our pines are getting greener--that's one of those signs, spring will come. :)

1 comment:

  1. I'm way behind in reading all my blogs. lol

    One thing you need to know about free-ranging your chickens around a garden. They WILL peck at the plants - both the leaves and the fruit/veggies that are growing. They will eat the new sprouts. You may want to put up a fence around the garden area - chicken wire is cheap and will keep chickens that are old enough to be turned loose OUT. (You want to pen the baby/teen chickens until they are old enough to have developed some "sense" or the critters will get them - hawks, owls, dogs, cats, snakes, etc.

    The chickens are fun to have around. They will need a pen for the night. I found that hawks, eagles, etc would enter the pen and I was losing my chickens. So I took some spare, cheap yarn and crisscrossed the top of the pen with it. It stopped the flying in and snatching and yet let the hens have an open area to peck. (I didn't let mine free-range - too many predators in north FL, so I had a very large pen that had a lean-to structure for shade/laying/getting out of the elements in part of it, the rest of it was enclosed in said chicken wire.)

    In the spring, look for farmers replacing their fence wire. Then ask them if you may haul away the old wire. The fencing isn't any good for the cattle because after a while their weight will cause the rusty parts to break, but for us it worked well. We had a bunch of stock fencing hubby brought home for free that way. It was good enough to fence in the chickens with a bottom layer of chicken wire around it.