Tuesday, May 31, 2011

ghetto aqua globes

Backstory for this post:
Last year I had an herb garden with a tomato plant in a raised bed in our backyard.  My eldest son, Josiah despises tomatoes and so, as soon as he saw the little green tomatoes, he promptly picked them all and threw them over the fence.  I think I ended up with 3 tomatoes off that plant.

Fast forward to this year.  Most of the garden is over at the Thornquests (and is looking very good, I might add) but I still wanted some tomato plants and herbs in my yard. Given the miserable tomato harvest of 2010, I thought I'd try planting tomatoes in hanging baskets on the back porch.  There were several benefits to this plan in my mind:
1. They would get enough sun
2. They would be out of reach of my boys
3. I would pay attention to them because they're right out my back door and I have to look at them every morning.

One and two are working smashingly.  Three, not so much.  I'm a notorious underwaterer (is that a word?), and this is compounded by the soil in the planters that is more like a sieve than anything.

So, a few days ago I was over at Jen T.'s and saw these ingenious devices:

Hmm...maybe that would help my tomatoes.

The next morning, I walked outside to feed the chickens and noticed that the tomatoes were on the verge of dying from thirst (isn't it ironic that my last name is Gardner?). I remembered the aqua globes but, as I was trapped at home alone with my three small boys and a shopping trip was out of the question, I realized desperate times call for desperate measures and went and grabbed some empty beer bottles out of the trash.

They don't look quite as nice, but they do the trick.

I'm thinking about patenting this...

jen g.

and then there were five

So, right on the heels of the infamous rabbit incident, one of our chickens somehow got out of the coop and was eaten by our golden retriever while Kevin and I were out of town.

Yes, I cried.  Like a baby.

The chicken we lost was one of the two I could identify...the one with the white feathers.

Rest in peace little chicken.

I'm seriously considering eating the dog.

jen g.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

the chickens

We (the Gardners) got our six little chickies the day after Easter when they were just a few days old.  They were just teeny-tiny and oh-so-fluffy. We got them through our friends who gave us the rabbit (he is an Ag teacher in a local high school and the students were selling them). I believe they are Rhode Island Reds (a breed that is primarily used for laying), crossed with another breed to make them more cold-hardy.

These photos were taken 3 days after we got them and was their first venture out into the great big backyard.

This is three days later...when they were about a week and a half old.  It's rather scary how fast they grow.  And yes, that is a beer cap in the first picture.  Only the best for our chicks.

Time lapse. Chicks at just over 2 weeks old.

 Scary big and kind of scraggly...is that a word?

As far as we know, they are all females.  I hope so, for their sakes.  No roosters allowed around here, you know...corrupting the sisterhood and all.

I'm contemplating names for them.  So far I am only able to identify two of them.  One because she has more white feathers than the others, and the other because she's so dang fast I can barely catch her!  The latter has been christened Nellie (as in Nervous Nellie).  I'm thinking about prefacing all their names with "Sister" as we are kind of running a chicken nunnery.  

My husband says I'm turning into a weird chicken lady.  I think I am too.

jen g.

Friday, May 20, 2011

rabbit fail {or} what to do when your food has a face

I couldn't decide on a title for this post because it's very complex...so I gave it two.

It is also NOT for the faint of heart.

We have some friends who raise rabbits to sell and eat and, about a month ago, they were kind enough to gift us a pregnant doe. Our intent is to practice sustainability by raising rabbits as a food source. This was primarily Kevin's idea, and really a good one, at that. But, I must admit I have mixed feelings about this, as I have never raised anything for the sole purpose of eating it. This is very strange, because I have eaten meat my whole life.  It is a curious thing that, in a society where meat is literally at the center of every meal, there is such a disconnect between meat and the animals it comes from.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Last Saturday, the doe began "nesting". She pulled a ridiculous amount of her fur out and lined the nesting box Dan made for her a few weeks ago.  I recognized this behavior from some articles I had read online about rabbits giving birth (which is called kindling...betcha didn't know that).

Sure enough, Sunday morning before church I went out to check on her and she had given birth to 9 babies (kits).

Now,  I must tell you that this particular doe is quite young (5 months) and had already given birth to one litter that did not survive, so I was quite concerned about these little ones.

Because someday I'll eat them.

Do you see how weird this is?

Anyway, as the day went on, I discovered, to my dismay, that the doe did not seem to be spending any time in the box with her kits, and was concerned that she may not be feeding them. So I called our friends up and asked them if this was normal, and they said yes, it is very normal.  Rabbits, it turns out, are not very nurturing mothers.  They feed their kits and then they get as far away from them as possible... I guess I can empathize. Nevertheless, I told that mama doe she'd better take care of her babies, or I would eat her.

It seemed that we had an understanding.

Alas, Tuesday night I came home from work, to find 9 dead kits strewn about the rabbit hutch.  The doe had dumped over the nesting box and killed them all. I will not attempt to tell you how horrified I was.  Every maternal instinct in me revolted at the thought that a mother would do this to her offspring, even if she was just an animal.

Apparently this is a very common thing for rabbits to do, and no one knows exactly why they do it.  There are many theories, and the conclusion is that the doe does it to somehow protect her young, either from predators, or from starvation if she feels there is not enough food to sustain them.

It doesn't make it any easier.

The next morning, having deemed the doe unfit for breeding, Kevin and our friend Joe, butchered her and fried her up for lunch.  As disgusted as I was with her postpartum massacre (and despite my promise to eat her if her kits died), I was still very reticent to partake in the meal.  But I tried a few bites...in the hope that I'll get used to it.

She tasted just like chicken.

jen g.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

small beginnings

This is a story about two families, who lived next to each other on 5th Avenue for several years as casual acquaintances, and then, over the course of a few short months in the late summer of 2010 really began getting involved in each other's lives. Words like community, sustainable living, and organic gardening began flying...and the rest is history.

Meet the Gardners (Kevin and Jen, Josiah, Elijah, and Noah) and the Thornquests (Daniel and Jen, Skye, Jordan, Mariah, and Mady).

Yes, you have to have someone named Jen in your family to join the community ;)

Together we are embarking on a journey of sustainability, right in our own backyards.

As of today, most of the action has been at the Thornquests, because Mr. Gardner (Kevin) is just finishing up nursing school and has had no time for anything extracurricular.  This month begins our joint foray into making our ideas come to life.  Several projects are slated, including starting our first community garden (at the Thornquests due to the destructive nature of the 3 small boys in the Gardner home), designing and building a couple chicken coops (a.k.a. chick chalets), the birth of some baby bunnies, and preserving and canning the bounty of the garden.

The two Jens have committed to chronicle our adventures on this blog.

So, let the journey begin!

jen g.