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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Oak Titmouse

There are so many birds in the garden now.  We have five hummingbird feeders, and so we get lots of hummingbirds. We have jays and crows, of course, and some finches and woodpeckers too.  This morning I saw what I later identified as an Oak Titmouse. This small bird has a little topknot making it quite distinctive looking.

I found a website with some excellent photos by Robert Royse of Oak Titmice at various times of the year in California.  Here is the link: Oak Titmouse photos

This titmouse is related to the Tufted Titmouse, however they are found primarily on the East Coast while the Oak Titmouse is found in California and Oregon. What a pleasant little bird.  I'm next going to try to listen to it...

A beginning birder I am...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Morning's harvest

Today, nearing the last day of September, there is still a wonderful harvest from the vegetable garden.  The bean plants are pumping out beans--mostly the thin, French filet-type, Emerite.  The tomato plants are still producing--Pineapple Rainbow and Early Girl and Big Rainbow here. And, for the first time, I have plenty of basil to use in bruschetta and in tomato sauces as well as making our own pesto!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Some Morning Pickings

Here is a photo of some of the morning pickings from the vegetable garden. Some seeds I got in late this year, including the Cocozelle summer squash, a striped Italian variety. This is the first zucchini from that plant. Next to it is a Spacemaker cucumber: we have enjoyed many of these in salads so far this year. There are two varieties of pole beans in the basket: Emerite, a thin filet-type bean, and Trionfo Violetto, a purple Italian variety.  One lonely Early Girl tomato is shown, but some days we harvest 6 or 7 of these. The heirloom tomatoes that were planted are starting to ripen, but we didn't pick any today. Also there is a yellow scallop summer squash in the basket.

I can't wait until the eggplants are ready, and many more of the tomatoes and peppers. I'll have to get plants in earlier next year, although we will probably enjoy good, fresh summer vegetables from our garden into September and October.

Monday, August 01, 2011


It is the blogiversary for my Chickensinthegarden blog! Five years of writing for this blog!  My loyal readers and fans:  thank you for reading.  It has been great fun to post photos of the garden and relate sagas about the chickens and gardening here in our little spot in northern California.

Right now the Pink Pearl apples are falling off of the trees.  The Early Girl tomatoes are producing well, as are some of the summer squash. I got a late start on the pole beans but the vines are growing taller every day. The purple spouting broccoli was planted too close to the other plants, but it is healthy and thriving and we should be able to eat some of the broccoli very soon.

The French prune plums are ripening, and we've started to pick some for drying. The squirrels are eating lots of the plums this year.

Both the Red Russian Kale and the regular green kale are growing well, and the eggplants and pepper plants are very healthy. We've got some chard and red onions too, and we've harvested and are drying the garlic.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pink Pearl Heirloom Apple Tree

Look at all the apples on our Pink Pearl Heirloom Apple Tree. They should be ready to eat in about 3 weeks, if not sooner. I've written about this tree before on my blog--the flesh is pink and you can easily make pink applesauce out of the great apples, without adding any food coloring!

R.I.P. "Big Connie"

Our very old Araucana chicken, "Big Connie" died today and I buried her in the backyard. She had been getting progressively weaker and we had to isolate her from the other hens, for they would attack her rather viciously. She used to be the top on the pecking order, but with her arthritis, deformed foot, and aging, she fell to the bottom of the pecking order.

She used to lay bluish-green eggs, but had not laid many eggs in the past two years. We didn't feel comfortable just killing her off for lack of productivity, so she died comfortably and at a quite advanced age. We weren't sure how old she was when we got her, but we've had her for almost six years. She may have been around four years old when we got her, so she had a long life for a chicken.

Here's a photo:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Jubileum Plum Tree

Our new Jubileum Plum Tree has its first plums this year. They are so very pretty on the tree.

We purchased this tree through Raintree Nursery, a nursery located in Washington state that has many interesting cultivars. I have ordered many of our fruit trees through this nursery.  Jubileum was bred in Sweden and is a pink-purple plum.  Much larger than our French prune plums, this plum looks like it will be great for eating, jam or jelly, and plum tarts!  We dry most of the harvest from our French prune plum trees.  I'm curious to find out what color the flesh is of our Jubileum plum, but we'll have to wait a few more days until they are fully ripe to find out.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Last Saturday I worked the Master Gardener booth at the Healthy Living Fest at Quarry Lakes Regional Park.  The day was cold and very windy, and the skies were overcast until I left after 1 pm. I worked with two other Master Gardeners.  We answered gardening questions and handed out sunflower seeds and pots (with planting instructions) to the kids who visited the booth. We also gave out handouts to gardeners who had questions about pests or diseases, or may have questions in the future.  A great site is the University of California Davis IPM site, where answers can be found to many gardening questions.  Here's the link:  UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program

This is an invaluable resource. Master Gardeners strive to give the least toxic methods to deal with gardening and landscape problems, and refer to this site to help the public.

I was also happy to hear so many people in the process of converting their water-demanding lawns to drought tolerant landscapes.  Alameda County Master Gardeners has a great list on drought tolerant plants that do well in the East Bay.  We are also in the process of creating a demonstration garden at Quarry Lakes Regional Park.   This demonstration garden will allow the user to view drought tolerant plants and learn what will grow well, once established,  in this area with very little water.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Roasted Artichokes, Spring Garlic, and Other Seasonal Delights

Last night I roasted some of our homegrown artichokes in the oven. I halved the artichokes, drizzled a bit of olive oil over them, and sprinkled them with sea salt and pepper. I roasted them until the hearts were done, and maybe even a bit longer than I should have. The edges were quite charred and crisp, but we enjoyed them for dinner dipped into some mayonnaise. It was a new taste for us!

This weekend I harvested our first spring garlic and cooked it in a stir fry with snow peas, onions, and fava beans. Delicious.

The garden has been producing something for most meals--mainly fava beans, even though I planted only one row last winter, but also snow peas and Yugoslavian red lettuce.  Plenty of good spring produce.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Beautiful Spring Weather

Well, Spring has sprung, and we are busy keeping up with the weeds, and transplanting some of the vegetables that I started inside. Also set out a couple of tomato transplants too. The garlic is growing well, and the fava beans seem very happy.  The lettuce has taken off, and we even have six or seven asparagus shoots--they don't seem to get ready at the same time, so sometimes we split one for a side dish at dinner--it's kind of sad that there's just one at a time, but they are tender and oh so fresh.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rain and More Rain

I got caught in the rain earlier today when I had to get my groceries from the store to my car. I shopped at a different grocery store today and parked my car further away. When I was done checking out, I got to the exit door where a line was forming. Outside, it was raining very heavily, but I decided it looked like it would not let up. I rushed with the cart and my groceries towards my car, but by the time I had unloaded everything, my coat and my jeans were soaked through.    I waited a bit before driving off, and when I got home, I ran for the front door, leaving the groceries in the car. I took a warm bath, hung up my soaked rain jacket and my jeans, hoping they would dry as they were just above the small heat register in the bathroom.

I thought Spring was here and we were going to be done with the rains!   But the forecast for northern California shows rain every day on into next weekend.  Of course, that could change, and it is great for the garden, but it makes it impossible to weed and plant in the garden. The grass was just mowed last week and it is already several inches long.  Ah, well.

I started some seeds indoors, and within five days my Cherokee Purple tomatoes and my Rainbow Chard sprouted. Today the Cucumbers also sprouted. Nothing from the pepper seeds yet.  I'll keep watch.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wisteria and More Fruit Tree Pruning

Yesterday we worked more on the pruning.  With 37 fruit trees, there is a lot of pruning required at this time of year.  The apples in front are done, but the two in the back remain.  The large, old wisteria plant received quite a pruning back yesterday. It had become ungainly. For years it was shared with the neighbors, although the plant is rooted on this side.  Then, awhile back, the neighbors decided they did not want it on their side, so we've been trying to train it along the fence, but it just has not been cooperating well. Maybe because it was on the other side (primarily) for so many years.

Jonathan worked at pruning the right side of the wisteria, and then after this rain we will work on the left side.  It would be nice if it still created some privacy along with its beautiful blooms.

Later, Jon worked on the avocado tree. We get lots of Bacon avocados this time of year, but the tree itself has grown far too tall, so he cut it back a little.

During the week I worked on the plum tree in front, the apples, the grapes, and started on the apricot tree. I'm a little insecure about the Blenheim apricot--turns out it is a full sized tree and growing very well, but I think from what I've read that I should prune it back quite a bit. The resource I'm reading says to prune back last year's branches.  How do I figure out which are last year's though. I guess I should tie markers onto the fruiting branches or something this year. It doesn't appear that you can tell anything from the spurs on the branches...