Tag Archives: slug control

The Garden is Exploding!

May is when the garden goes crazy. Green, lush, and – after the long winter – just so suddenly packed full of life. I could easily spend my entire day outdoors working, between the animals and the garden…and often, I do. It’s wonderful.

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Nearly everything is fruiting like crazy, too. I don’t know if it’s because of our unusually snowy winter, but the fruit trees and bushes are packed with blooms. Even the ones that normally don’t do all that well in my garden, like the blueberries. We have apples, currants, gooseberries, peaches and so many others, including figs.

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Cherries:

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And plums. This will be the first year I’ve gotten plums!

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That is, I WILL get plums, if Mama Short-Tail doesn’t get them first.  I couldn’t get her to show off her short docked tail (there has to be a tale of adventure there!) but this particular squirrel nests in the tree right against my fence, and spends a lot of her time in my yard. I saw her with two healthy youngsters just the other day. Sigh.

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There are some ornamental flowers blooming as well. Roses and Lily-of-the-Valley are two my favorites.

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Besides the numerous baby chicks running around, I also have a brand-new batch of baby Rex bunnies. These are about 5 days old.

This one is a blue otter. If she’s a doe, I may keep her.

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The pigeons have a new nest of two babies; I’m guessing it’s another male and female pair since one of the them stands up, puffs out its chest and tries to bite my fingers when I pet them, and the other shrinks down and tries to become invisible. The firstborn pair are fully grown, billing and cooing and falling in love, and trying to find their place in the dovecote. That is Esther with the purple legband, and Mordecai in the green. Watching a bit resentfully (he thinks the kids should fly away and find their own dovecote) is the father, Emerson.

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And they aren’t MY babies, but someone chose to make their nest in this house I put up in the chicken coop rafters. I love hearing the sounds of the babies screaming for their supper!

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I’ve been working on lots of projects. I added another box of commonly-used herbs near the kitchen door – I’ve just started really cooking with fresh herbs, and its unbelievably lovely to just open the door and snip off a few leaves!

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I’ve also been working on the future home of the Muscovy ducks.  It doesn’t look like much yet, but I have a plan! Speaking of the Muscovies, I will hopefully finally get them in about two weeks. It’s been a journey, getting these ducks!

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Mom also finished a project. We have this spot just to the left of our front gate that has always had the ugliest concrete floor. One of us had the idea of just getting cedar boards, cutting them to size, then laying them into the space. It worked, and looks wonderful. And super easy, too.

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I’ve also been sprucing up the garden. First, because a blogger friend of mine wanted to come film my garden and interview me for her channel Making It Home  (I’ll put the finished video she made at the end of this blog, if you’d like to see it) and secondly, because I have several tours I’m giving for various people, plus hosting a family party.

The interview Making It Home did was specifically about the method of gardening I use called Back to Eden, where you keep the soil covered at all times by a thick layer of wood chips. We didn’t get into it because of time constraints, but I really do only a modified version of Back to Eden these days. I have found that while wood chips works fantastically in the perennial beds (and in the chicken run!) it is less successful in the annual vegetable beds. And that is largely because the chips are too large. I scrape them aside to plant seeds, but invariably they fall back in and smother my seedlings – either because of the wind, or rampaging squirrels like Mama Short-Tail. So now I use bunny litter on my vegetable beds. It’s a mixture of wood shavings, plus bunny droppings, and it’s a perfect thing. The shavings are small enough not to smother seedlings, and bunny droppings can be used directly in the garden without composting, because it won’t burn your plants like other manures do. Look at the picture below:

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The left side is wood chips. The right is bunny litter.  I tell ya, I wouldn’t know how to garden if it weren’t for my critters. The bunnies are essential for their manure/mulch, and the chickens have absolutely saved my garden from slugs. I used to come out in the morning and find my lettuce destroyed under a tell-tale trail of slime. In the evenings, you could come out with a flashlight, and see literally dozens of slugs crossing the lawn, heading for the vegetable beds. Ducks are good slug patrol, but honestly, chickens are better. Ducks eat slugs, but chickens eat slug eggs. I let my chickens out free range into my garden for a couple hours a week during the winter and early spring, and they just ninja their way through all the slug egg caviar. Come planting time, there are few slugs left…just a handful of super tiny ones spread out through the whole garden. I see a few nibbles on a leaf here and there, but it’s generally not a problem. I don’t remember the last time I saw a slug larger than half an inch.

I love it when things work together in harmony, the way God intended.

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Gardening with Chickens

Now that the weather is finally Spring-ish (we hit 60+ degrees yesterday!) I’ve been weeding/pruning the garden.  The Girls – my six gorgeous hens – could see me from their coop, and wanted VERY MUCH to come out and help.  They know that my trowel turns up more worms and bugs than their feet can.  Ellie, my Welsummer hen, was particularly demanding because she knows she is “my baby” and she’s spoiled rotten.  She kept running back and forth in front of her door, yelling for me to come and get her.  She’s so spoiled that she knows her name, comes when called, and has a favorite place to sun-bathe – my lap.

So finally, I let her out to garden with me.  I’d tried having all six Girls out in the garden at once last summer, when they were very young hens.  It hadn’t worked out too well, since they promptly scattered in six directions.  This wouldn’t have been a problem, except that I didn’t want them in certain parts of the garden, digging up my more fragile plants, and I can’t watch six hens AND garden at the same time.  Molly (my Rhode Island Red) had a particular knack for going exactly where she shouldn’t be.  But I’d taken one hen out at a time, and that was perfect.  Ellie, Antoinette (my Delaware), and Josie (my Barnevelder) were great at sticking right beside me, and providing conversation and spider control for their arachnophobic owner.

So Ellie was allowed out.  But then, of course, the other Girls could not only see me, but they could see her.  And they didn’t approve of such special treatment.  Sophie (my Silver Cuckoo Maran) was especially vocal, standing high on her perch and delivering a constant stream of arguments for why this wasn’t fair.  So then Sophie was allowed out too, and then Molly, and then Josie (to distract her from being broody), and then….before I knew it, all six were out.

But they were good!  They stayed close to me, working industriously, and it was only after they’d been out several hours that Molly started doing her disappearing act.  When I put them back in their yard (except for Ellie and Antoinette) they were contented.  And Ellie and Antoinette were soon tired too, and mostly wanted to sit on my lap while I weeded.  They love to squeeze in tight against my chest. and reach their heads up under my hair so that their beaks are against my neck.  We call this a “chicken hug”, and sometimes they are so happy while hugging and being petted that they actually purr.  Antoinette has a very growl-y rasping purr – it can be startling when she puts her beak close to my ear and purrs without warning!

One benefit of the chickens helping to garden is that almost all of our slug population seems to have vanished.  My friends who live nearby are complaining about having to put out slug bait, and I’ve barely seen a slug since we got the hens.  For the first time EVER, my violas are blooming without being eaten!  I love my chickens for so many reasons!

Ducklings

While I was looking for a cute chicken video yesterday, I got side-tracked into watching cute duckling videos. It doesn’t take much to distract me with ducklings!  Chicks are sweet, but ducklings make me hurt inside, they’re so adorable.  Seriously, ducks are the things I love most in this world.

So on to the videos!

I miss being followed by ducklings….

I miss watching them play in a tub of water.  When they get overexcited, they jump out of the tub and go racing around in circles, splattering water everywhere!  So funny!

I miss watching them play with my dog.  Her best friend was a tan & white Indian Runner duck….

Most of all, I miss just holding them and watching them trust me enough to fall asleep in my hand.

In case you can’t tell, once the chickens are grown up and settled in, we’re also getting ducks.  Ducks are the greatest slug control a garden could ever have!  I can’t find a video to illustrate it, but my duck Bastien used to take walks with me in my garden.  He’d stroll beside me like the old friend he was, chatting away about the plants and the slugs.  Occasionally, his wife would get jealous of his attention to me, and call him back to her.  He’d wait until she was distracted, then sneak away to finish our garden inspection tour.

And this is just simply awesome: