Monthly Archives: January 2016

Big Spring Project

I always seem to make my plans for the year, and then something comes up, and we make a huge change of plans. This year, instead of building new animals housing, we’re making some structural changes to the circle garden. This is mainly roses, clematis, and other flowering plants.  Two years ago, I ripped out a middle section to put in a quail coop. Since then, I’ve been meaning to get around to revamping things, but I never have.

The wood sides are over ten years old, and are in pretty poor shape. After going over a number of different options, I decided to go with the most labor-intensive. Sigh. Instead of replacing the wood sides, we’re tearing the wood out, digging out the plants, carting away the extra dirt, and making the circle garden into a flat, rather than raised, bed.

Yesterday, it was raining pretty hard. We worked anyway. We got the largest clematis and one rose moved, and I hope the clematis will survive. I’ve never moved a clematis before, but the internet says it can be done. So we’ll see.

Today, it was sunny and actually warm! It was much more pleasant being outside, but it is still back breaking work – especially since our backs were already pretty much pre-broken from yesterday.

One half of the circle is done, however, and I have the largest rose moved from the other half.

The ducks were very interested in the whole process.

What ARE you doing down there?

Are you looking for slugs? Your method seems a bit…destructive…

Dexter the corgi wanted to help, but I felt he’d be more of a hindrance, so he had to satisfy himself with being on duck watch. From his patio position, he warned us whenever the ducks were sneaking up behind us. Beware! Feral garden ducks!

It was a good birthday.

New Edible Trees for 2016

I wasn’t going to add more trees this year, because I was going to get into meat rabbits/ducks. But it looks like we may be delaying getting into the meat animals until Fall, or even next year, so I’m going ahead and bringing in more fruit.

Four more apples.

Granny Smith, for my mother who likes her apples tart.

granny-smithAshmead’s Kernel, for me, who likes the very old heirlooms. This one sounds interesting, as it’s a dessert apple that tastes like a pear!


Greensleeves. This isn’t an old variety, but it’s a British apple, and it sounds perfect for what I want.


And a crab apple, Dolgo.


In addition, I added two more plums.

Shiro, a Japanese variety.

shiro plum

And something really interesting, Nadia, a plum x cherry hybrid that’s getting some rave reviews. Supposedly, it’s like a huge juicy cherry!


Plus I bought six more raspberry plants. “Meeker”.

AND some Black Caps. (Basically black raspberries. We can’t have too many raspberries!)

From Baker Creek ( I found a variety of strawberry I’ve never heard of before. From their website:

This is a cold hardy old variety from Denmark; it was found growing in an ancient, viking village site. Plants are low growing which makes them harder to spot by birds and also protects the delicate fruits from frost. These are a medium sized June bearer with a great flavor; fruit sets early. Very rare and hard to find.

How could I resist that? Viking strawberries!

Although it’s not quite spring here, spring is definitely on the way. These last couple of weeks, it’s been nice enough to get out and start doing some prep work in the outside garden, and I got a few hardy seeds (spinach and lettuce) planted in the cold greenhouse.

The birds also feel spring. The quail are laying again, and the males are amorous, so I’ve started saving eggs to hatch. Probably by Monday or Tuesday, I’ll have enough to fill the incubator.  These will be the first quail hatched from non-shipped eggs, so I’m excited to see how that works out.

Also laying eggs are the baby chicks from last year, now fully grown.  My new favorite breed is the Buckeye. If Charlotte is any example, they are placid hens that don’t get up to mischief or bullying, but also stand up for themselves, so they don’t get bullied themselves. She’s fit right in with the old girls. She’s a great forager, too.  I don’t have a recent picture of her; I’ll have take some soon. She’s a very pretty red, like a fancy Rhode Island.

The Americauna, Freddie, had a name change. It just didn’t suit her crazy temperament. She’s now Boadica, the British Queen who took on the Roman invaders. For a long time, she was simply known as ‘that crazy hen’. She’s calming down now, though – less crazy, more eggs!  She lays these pretty green eggs – kind of an olive green.

And the odd thing is, she never bothered to lay those tiny pullet “starter eggs”. She went straight to full-sized. And she’s the smallest hen I have. Ouch. No wonder she’s a bit crazy.

Year in Review – Including Best Books of 2015

2015 was incredible. In the garden, we took down two old rotten sheds, paved a long section of pathway through the garden, and built a duck coop for our new animal additions, and built a greenhouse.

Outside of the garden, I took the trip I’ve been dreaming of for half my life to Iceland, Great Britain, and Venice.

I would have also published my first book, but I decided to delay it until I finished all three in the trilogy, and release them at the same time. So basically, I wrote three books in 2015. A little more tweaking, and they’ll be ready to go out in Spring, I think.

Additionally, this was the year of me being the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything, according to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Seriously, I loved being 42.

And of course, I read a ton of books in 2015. I made my yearly goal of 150, just barely – hey, I didn’t read at all during my month abroad! I ended up with a total of 152.

Out of those, here are my favorites, beginning with nonfiction.

1: Real Food for Rabbits, by Laura Wheeler

rabbitsI talked about this one in my last post. But basically, it’s a fabulous book for people with either pet or meat rabbits, who want to feed their animals with natural food, not commercial pellets.

2: Book Cover Design Secrets, by Derek Murphy


Sometimes a particular book comes to you at the exact moment you need it. This is one of those books. It’s absolutely brilliant – Derek tells it like it is, often going against the commonly believed and published “truth” about cover design. If you’re an Indie writer, this book MUST be on your bookshelf. I borrowed it through Kindle Unlimited, and then immediately went and purchased a copy – it’s that good!

3: The Compassionate Carnivore, by Catherine Friend


Really good explanation of what I’m trying to do on my little farm, and why I’m doing it.

4: The Nourishing Homestead, by Ben Hewitt


Yes. Just read this. He has a few things wrong (I disagree completely with his views on wheat, for instance) but the majority is so, so right.

5: My Garden, the City, and Me, by Helen Babbs


Wonderfully written, interesting little book about gardening on a rooftop in London.

6: Grow a Little Fruit Tree, by Ann Ralph


This book should be required reading for any backyard gardener with an interest in fruit trees. Wow – so much helpful info! Everything you think you know about planting, pruning, and growing fruit trees is wrong…read this book and find out why. It will completely change your gardening game plan.

7: Adventures in Yarn Farming, by Barbara Perry


I admit it; I’m fascinated by sheep and shepherds. I would love to own sheep, but I can’t quite figure out how to fit them in my backyard farm…plus they are just ever so slightly illegal where I live. So I read these books and dream of the day I can move to the country and have my own flock. Icelandic sheep, definitely, after experiencing the wonder of those sheep in their home country!

I’ve been reading far more non-fiction than I used to, and it’s heavily weighted in favor of practical books relating to homesteading, gardening, or animals. But I also still read tons of fiction.

8: Fool’s Quest, by Robin Hobb


So good. I can’t even…it’s just so good. I love how Hobb ties everything together in this one, all of her various series just fitting together seamlessly. Book one of this particular series made my Best Books list last year, and I expect she’ll make the list next year, too.  My favorite series of hers, although to really get the most pleasure out of it, you really should read her others, first.

9: Kat, Incorrigible, by Stephanie Burgis


So charming and fun. It was a delight to read, and after I finished, I immediately downloaded the rest of the series. There were equally good.

10: The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, by Catherynne Valente


Valente’s writing is SO yummy. It’s old-fashioned and modern and hip and nostalgic and you can’t skip even a single word. No one writes like Valente; she’s just incredible.

11: The Hollow Boy, by Jonathan Stroud


This book deserves way more than five stars. Take all the stars! Honestly I am just blown away by how good this series is, and this book in particular. Every one I know needs to read this book right now!

12: Uprooted, by Naomi Novik


I’ve been a fan of Novik’s dragon series for a long time now, so when I first heard this was coming out, I was a tad disappointed. What, no dragons? No Napoleonic War? No men who (a tad disconcertingly) call their dragon ‘dear’?  But yowza. I was blown away by this. It’s head and shoulders above her dragon series. It’s truly the best fantasy I’ve read for ages.


Okay, it was super hard this year to pick an over-all favorite, because numbers 11 and 12 were SO incredible.  But I’m going to give the title to:

13: Miss Buncle’s Book, by D.E. Stevenson


This isn’t the most amazing, life-changing book in my list. It’s not even the best written. But it is a book that I hugged to my chest when I was done reading, because I grew so intensely fond of it. It made me happy, and once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. I stayed up way too late, and skipped watching two of my favorite tv shows for this book. And the sequels are great, too – I think I may even like the second book a triffle more.

And there you have it: 2015 was a year of glory. But I have a feeling 2016 is going to be pretty spectacular too….