Today was a big day for the three week old chicks! I expanded the brooder enclosure out the garage door, and Ezzie and I babysat the chicks during their first exposure to the big scary outside world. It took about 10 minutes for the bravest chick (Dora) to set foot into the expanded universe, but once the first chick crossed the threshold, everyone turned brave and there was lots of running back and forth. Lemmy took advantage of the patch of gravel to enjoy her first real dust bath:
The chicks will probably remain in the garage brooder for another week or two, with more excursions into the driveway. Having a nice big brooder box means I can delay moving them outside. In the past, when I had much less brooder space, I felt like I had to rush the chicks outside before it was ideal. Of course, moving them into the outside coop is contingent on me actually finishing the construction of the new coop. The process has dragged on for a lot longer than I anticipated due to lots of cool, rainy, windy weather and lots of other demands on my time. Spring is always so hectic. I did manage to get the tomato plants in the ground last week: But I was a few days late getting the garden beds covered with bird netting. Once again, my peas were trimmed significantly:
Fortunately nothing other than aphids seem to find fava foliage tasty: I’ve been managing my fruit crop by thinning the crop of newly formed peaches and pinching off the extra shoots on the grape vines. I pruned the fruit trees and vines back in February – I’m still not super confident in my fruit management techniques, but thanks to the wealth of Extension publications, I feel like I’m slowly learning. I still need to make a second pass at thinning. It’s easier for me to thin twice. It’s hard to have the discipline to remove enough of the fruit the first time around.
Given all the work required to get the edible plants sorted out this time of year, I’m happy that the front yard can cruise along on its own, without much interference from me. Lots of stuff has started to bloom and we’re only a couple of weeks from the full-on riot of spring color:
This time of year, when I need a break from whatever I’m doing, I like to wander around the front yard and peer into cactus flowers. There’s always something happening inside – usually what’s happening is a bee, wallowing. They’re always covered in pollen and look as if they’re drunk on nectar.
It’s that time of year again, when everything is going all out. There are mad dashes of color everywhere:
I’m spending as much time as possible outside to enjoy the display. Soon the crispy days will be here. Everything will go into the second season of dormancy, and I, too, will retreat from the burning orb. By the way, I’m not the only one taking advantage – lots of buzzing activity around here.
Yes, it is that time again. Since the beginning there’s one plant here at Less is More that serves as a touchstone – a reminder of how much growing has happened and an intense eye candy taste of all the good things to come in the way of cactus blooms. Of course it is “carrot top.”
It’s the first cactus to bloom in my yard, by at least a week usually, so it doesn’t have to share the stage with any of it’s equally gaudy neighbors. This year the Echinocereus coccineus started blooming about 6 days ago, and has been really spectacular, particularly when the low evening light hits the blooms.
By the way, there’s another succulent that is looking particularly lovely right now:
The Yucca baccata flowers are so elegant in contrast to the brute force exhibited by the rest of the plant.
Continuing with the bee on flower theme, here are a few more photos. The yard has been thrumming with activity for the past few days. The opuntia are finally starting to bloom – last year they bloomed all at once with a crazy in-your-face full color show, but this year each plant sports only a few open blossoms at once. Anyway, the bees seem to be very thankful that there are finally at least a few blooms.
The Caesalpinia gilliesii (bird of paradise) is also seeing a lot of action, although the bees seem a little unsure of how to deal with those weird flowers.
Finally, I even had a bee in my bee house for a while, although it looks like she decided it didn’t suit her needs as there are no filled holes today. That’s probably for the best. The neighborhood wood peckers have learned all about the bee house and its tidy prepackaged fast food.
This would make it year five that I’ve snapped a pic of “carrot top” in bloom. I’m not sure if I’ve posted a photo here for all 5 of those years, but it sort of amazes me that I could have. It is during this time of year that I most appreciate having this documentary space. Every spring it seems like so little has been done and there is still so much to do. Yet, when I go back to the beginning and peruse my notes and photos to compare then with now, I am amazed by the changes. It’s cool the way, you know, plants grow.
The chicks are now 3 weeks old, which means I’ve graduated them to plenty of fresh air and sunshine. The weather has been quite warm, too warm actually with 91* in the forecast for today, so their cage has been moved to the garden for the morning. They also get some closely supervised un-caged time to scratch, peck, dust bathe and chase insects – big excitement. All the chicks seem to be doing well. As you can see in the photo, the chick with the eye problems is doing much better – both eyes have been clear for the past few days. S/he is also the largest chick, but grew in tails feathers after the other two. . . I can’t help but wonder if we have a little cockerel on our hands. I’m trying to avoid engaging in too much conjecture, since at this age that’s all it is, but. . .
Anyway, we’re having a week of summer interjected in spring (seems like everyone is having an unusually warm spring this year), so I’ve been running around planting squash and bean seeds. I’ve also finally cleaned up the front porch so I can sit there and admire the spring blooming plants. Right now we have Apache plume, claret cup cactus, banana yucca, sulpher buckwheat, blackfoot daisy, basin fleabane and perky sue flowering. It’s quite a nice show.
Non-gardener actually noticed how lush everything looks right now – at four years old, many of the plants have finally started to fill out and look less tenuous. The front yard is almost starting to look like a garden, high desert style.
It’s a crazy week here as I try to catch up from being out of town for a few days, a few days in which the weather swung wildly out of control. I received long distance reports of warm sun, then wind, then snow and frost. . . this is when I realize how fortunate I am to have great neighbors. The pepper seedlings I had left on the porch during my absence to receive the ministrations of a neighbor were rescued from the cold air that blew in with the spring gusts. For the most part, the tender vegetables in the garden fared well during the unexpected cold spell – those crowded beds seemed to help protect everything. All my recently transplanted squash and cucumbers are in perfect health under the blanket of vetch, however, about half of my tomato plants have some to serious frost damage. Interestingly, the only plants that were damaged were those that were under row cover . . . I don’t know what to make of that. I still haven’t decided whether I’ll pull out the damaged plants and replace them with store bought (I gave away my extra starts weeks ago), or whether I’ll leave them in to recover, and replace them, if necessary, with a late planting of new plants that I quickly seeded yesterday, after assessing the damage. While I ponder the options, please enjoy a bit of the spring color that greets me every morning:
Hey, look! My yucca baccata (banana yucca) is sending up a bloom stalk. This yucca has been in the ground here since 2007, but this will be the first time it blooms. I love heading out onto the mesas when all the yucca is bloom – all those incredible stalks of off white blooms, so I’m quite excited that I’ll have this at home this year. Plus, the fruit is supposedly edible. Although the descriptions I’ve read usually say “starchy and bland”, it might be interesting to try it first hand.
Anyway, it was a big weekend in the garden: the official tomato planting weekend. There should be a festival. Everyone I know with a garden here spent the weekend the same way. Also, I accomplished another round of seed starting. This time it was squash and cucumbers. After the Great Curcubit Failure of 2010, I’m really anxious to do whatever I can to ensure the survival of the cucumbers and squashes this year, so I’m trying something new – I’m starting the seeds earlier than usual, inside. The second thing I need to do is figure out how to protect the seedlings when I transplant them in the garden. I’ve used cardboard tubes in the past, with mixed results. I suspect most of the damage is caused by pillbugs . . . I’ll go surfing on the interwebs to see if other folks have figured it out.
On a whim, since I already had my big box of seeds out, I direct sowed some beans in the garden (about 3 weeks earlier than usual) and sowed a few inside in pots to compare the results. I also have a hard time ensuring the survival of my bean seedlings – it is pretty common for me to find out they’ve been beheaded or dug up during the night by birds, or gnawed at the soil line by pillbugs.
As I contemplate my future of summer edibles, I’ll leave you with another shot of a claret cup cactus in bloom. I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s no such thing as too much cactus blooming eye candy: