Archive for September, 2010

An Ode to Old Florida

Posted in Inspiration with tags , , , on September 30, 2010 by PickMeYard

If you want a visual that will make you feel good, then you’ve got to see this.

Click here.

It’s from the incredible perspective of a Florida paleontologist named Mark Renz.

Come grow with us!

Planting Lettuce for the Entire Season

Posted in edible leaves with tags , , on September 29, 2010 by PickMeYard

When I wrote the post on growing lettuce  in pots, I forgot to mention something very important… it can and should be grown in succession.  We made the mistake of not doing this the first time we grew lettuce.  We planted many, many pots of leaf lettuce all at the same time.  Thus, they were ready to be harvested all at the same time.  We quickly realized that we’d made a mistake.

The correct way to cut the leaf lettuce is to cut outer leaves first. We let the kids cut it any way they want... it's lettuce.

So, now we pace ourselves and grow a few big pots of lettuce at a time.  We just toss some seeds in another pot a few weeks after we’ve planted the first ones.  We’ll pull out and re-plant the cut-and-come-again lettuce after it’s been cut a couple of times.  It tends to lose its flavor the more it’s cut.  Don’t be afraid to start cutting on your lettuce when it’s growing.  Baby lettuce is delicious and the seeds are cheap.  

We don’t have an exact planting schedule because we wouldn’t be able to adhere to it.  However, we have decided that we are going to try the Farmer’s Almanac’s suggested planting times  for all our plantings this year. 

For a fantastic post about the different varieties of lettuce and how to grow them, check out Steve’s Garden Blog

 Come grow with us!

Fresh lettuce that melts in your mouth!

Backyard Nigerian Dwarf Goats

Posted in Goats with tags , , , , , , on September 28, 2010 by PickMeYard

Chloe, a Nigerian dwarf goat.

I have a few friends that have goat farms nearby.  I’ve always wanted my own goats… and so did the rest of my family.  My friends and husband would always tell me that if I want a goat, then I should get a goat.  I knew I was capable.  I was raised with horses.  But still, I was apprehensive about goats.  Would it be too much work?  Would I regret it?  

Grayson bottle feeding his Nigerian dwarf goat, Mary Quite Contrary.

We’re absolutely elated to have two little Nigerian dwarf goats.  Not only do we not regret getting them, but now we want a whole herd.  We looove them!  We love taking care of them too and race each other to get to them first with our bottles in hand.   They have such adorable personalities.  Mary is sweet and not contrary at all.  Chloe is feisty but loves to be picked up and hugged.  Actually, they both live to be hugged.  Their size makes it very easy to stay in control of them.

Chloe & Mary.

4-H has started this year and both my children are going to show their goat.  Our club is going to teach the kids all about beekeeping, gardening and goats.  Grayson is so excited to learn everything he can about goat husbandry.  We’ve got some incredible teachers in our group to learn from.  The Nigerian dwarf breed is known to be an excellent dairy goat and we will be milking ours. 

Grayson is milking a friend's goat for a 4-H event.

The goat barn under construction.

Why do these things always get built in the dark?  Because I kept changing the plan, not because my hubby is a ferocious procrastinator.  I’m not complaining… I think he added some really clever details.  He built our little portable barn to keep our goats dry at all times.  Goats do not like to get wet and it can be detrimental to their health.  

Goats doing what goats do.

Our goat shelter has ventilation at the top and can be placed on bricks for more ventilation at the bottom.  We’re going to place it on top of a pallet with some fresh hay for bedding.  Greg made the roof of the barn so that it can easily be taken off  if we need to move it a considerable distance in the yard.  It has poles that go through the entire structure so that two people can carry it with ease. It looks heavy, but it’s not.  We learned our lesson with our chicken tractor.  It ended up being way too heavy to move easily. 

My husband made a little window on each side  for the food and water buckets.  He designed the buckets to be on the inside or the outside.  If the bucket is on the outside, the goat has to reach her head out the window to get to it.  It keeps her from pooping in the water or food.  For now, we keep the buckets inside at night so we can shut the window over the bucket.  It keeps the barn completely secure against predators.  We usually switch the buckets to the outside in the morning.  The inside of the structure is high and we plan to build a platform that is up, off the ground.  The front door locks securely.  Our goal was to provide our goats with a totally secure and completely dry house to sleep in at night (and shelter during the day). 

This is the children's favorite part of every project.

The finished project... a portable barn... for Nigerian dwarf goats.

Mary peeking out from under her playground.

Their entire area is fenced in.  We have another area fenced off as well so we can rotate them.  Goats are extremely prone to parasites and rotating their pastures helps to keep the parasites under control. 

They have a gorgeous playground and fun stuff to jump on.  Goats have invisible wings.  We set up chairs to watch them play because they make us laugh hysterically.  They do actually slide down the slide… over and over.  

Come grow with us!

Mulch or No Mulch?

Posted in Gardening Experiments with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2010 by PickMeYard

To mulch or not to mulch is a question that drives me crazy every gardening season.  I lose the war against the weeds every year in the summertime when it’s hot and rainy.    

Two years ago, we expanded our vegetable gardening area.  We had a friend with a machine that scraped up the sod for us.   I used a newly purchased roto-tiller to till the area.  I mixed up a fabulous COF  (complete organic fertilizer)  fertilizer recipe created by the gardening guru, Steve Solomon.  Then, I planted tons of  black-eyed peas as a cover-crop  for the summer.  They seemed to grow up overnight… and so did the weeds.  It was a nightmare.  I had created a huge garden area that seemed impossible to keep up with.  It quickly turned into a huge patch of weeds to my knees.  The theory that the black-eyed pea plants would shade out the weeds did not work.  I’m sure the snakes were thrilled.  I remember lots of spiders  moved in.  However, we did have several bountiful harvests of black-eyed peas.

The black-eyed peas were young plants in this picture. The weeds had already won.

After a month or so of looking at our forest of weeds, my husband weed-whacked it all down for me.  I roto-tilled it again.  Then, I covered the entire area with a thick layer of newspaper.  I topped the newspaper with a thick layer of chipped-wood mulch.  This mulched area was weed-free for about a month… maximum.  The weeds came back with a vengeance.  That’s when I marched down to my local hardware store and bought the black plastic.  To be honest, it was a life-saver back-saver.  I don’t care what the organic, sustainable gardening police say… this method is what has allowed me to keep my sanity. 

The black-eyed peas after they'd been weed-whacked.

Clear plastic was our choice as a summer time mulch this year.

The problem with the plastic is that it breaks down.  It disintegrates into dust and must be replaced.  Plastic is an inorganic mulch and ends up in a landfill.  It’s definitely not the ideal mulch, but it keeps me from being overburdened and giving up.  It keeps the weeds arrested and detained. 

A mess of black plastic destined for the landfill.

Any mulch you use in your garden, whether organic or inorganic, is a good thing.  It not only keeps weeds at bay, but it conserves water and helps you grow bigger, better crops.  It acts as insulation by keeping the soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  Your garden will survive without mulch, but there is a noticeable difference when it is used.  I mulch my potted plants too.

Sweet potato vine mulched with chipped-wood.

Organic mulch breaks down in your garden soil and helps to provide nutrients.  Some people use grass clippings from their lawn as mulch.  It adds a lot of nitrogen to your garden, but sometimes it’s too much.  I know quite a few people who use pine needles, but it is very acidic.  It can cause an imbalance in your garden soil.  Oak tree leaves can do the same thing.  However, I think it would take an excessive amount for this to happen.

When I used chipped wood in my veggie beds, I found that it didn’t want to break down into the soil easily. It ended up becoming a burden to me because the chips got in the way.  However, the chipped wood did wonders for all my fruit trees and looks beautiful.  

Papaya tree mulched with chipped-wood.

I still love the idea of finding a sustainable, organic mulch that will actually keep the weeds manageable.  But, I also want it to look nice in our yard.  My husband and I keep looking at all the spilled hay that our goats spread around their area.  Goats won’t eat hay once it falls to the ground, so it becomes bedding.  I think we could let a few bales of hay sit outside for a while and weather, then use them as mulch.  I’m going to give this experiment a try on a few of our garden beds for our fall vegetable garden.  I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Gardening is not an exact science and I believe the saying, “different strokes for different folks” definitely holds true when it comes to a family garden.   I prefer the saying, “just do it”. 

Come grow with us!

Growing Lettuce in Pots

Posted in edible leaves with tags , , , , , , , on September 23, 2010 by PickMeYard

When I look through the bagged lettuce at the supermarket, I have a really hard time finding one that looks good enough to eat.  We’ve been spoiled because we know what homegrown lettuce tastes like.  Oh yeah, it’s that different!  Tastes like buttah.  We just go outside to the pot that it’s growing in with our scissors in hand.  Usually it’s at night with a flashlight too.  We cut enough to fit in the bowl that’s brought out  to the garden.  It’s so fresh and wonderful that it’s turned my kids into salad eaters.   This kind of lettuce is called “cut-and-come-again” lettuce.  You cut the outer leaves and it keeps growing so that you can go back for more.  It doesn’t take much of it to fill a huge kitchen bowl.

Flame lettuce growing in a pot. It requires cooler temperatures.

The problem with growing lettuce in Southwest Florida is that it’s too warm for half the year.  Lettuce prefers cooler weather.  So, we’re without fresh, homegrown lettuce from about May through November (depending on the weather).  At the end of September, I have my kids toss a bunch of lettuce seeds in a big pot and some in a garden bed.  It’s usually ready to start cutting around 6 weeks later.  We’re just absolutely desperate for our fresh lettuce by then.  The wait really makes us appreciate it more.

I don't remember what kind of lettuce I was growing here. We always buy many different kinds to try.

We put styrofoam pieces in the bottom of our pots when we’re growing lettuce in them.  This keeps the pot light and allows for good drainage. Lettuce doesn’t have a deep root system.  I use a good potting soil, never soil dug out of the yard.  I have been trying to come up with a clever lettuce growing container to use this year.  They don’t need to be too deep.   The leaf lettuces are so super easy to grow and so rewarding with flavor. 

Merveille des quatre saisons (Marvel of four seasons)... our favorite variety!

There are so many kinds of  lettuces to grow.  We like to grow the leaf lettuce over the head lettuce  because we like the cut-and-come-again thing.  Both are easy and have a short growing period.  I tend to start harvesting mine when it’s really young.  It’s so tender.  The leaf lettuce in the above picture was grown from seed that I bought from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  I bought the seed from them last year and again this year.  I’ve been dreaming about it.  

Lettuce seed packets are easy to find at just about any hardware store though and even some grocery stores.  However, I’ve found that there is a huge array of flavors with all the different lettuce varieties.  Just because one is tough or spicy doesn’t mean they all are.  I don’t really care for the mesclun blends or the baby arugula, but that’s just my preference.  I like my lettuce to be sweet and buttery.  The different varieties can have a big difference in texture and flavor.

A local farmer told me that the red-leafed lettuces are a good choice for Florida because they tend to be somewhat heat tolerant.  Lettuce doesn’t like heat and when it gets too warm… it bolts.  Bolting  is when it sends out a thin shoot from the middle of the plant and it goes to seed.  This makes the lettuce taste bad.  So, when it bolts, it’s time to send it to the compost bin.  Lettuce can be grown in the shade of other plants to help with the heat.  It needs a few hours of morning sun though and should be watered every day.

More leaf lettuce.

A variety of leaf lettuces.

Come grow with us!

Garden of Weeden

Posted in Problems with tags , , , , , , , on September 23, 2010 by PickMeYard

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I refuse to use glyphosate (Roundup) to kill my weeds for many reasons. (That’s a topic for another blog.)   So, I do all my weed-pulling the old-fashioned way… by hand.  It’s an over-whelming task for a Florida gardener in the summertime.  Ideally, I would go outside and  pull weeds everyday to stay on top of the situation, but that just ain’t gonna happen.  The weeds in the above picture took over my garden bed when I blinked.  The seeds on the tops of those weeds will make the problem even worse because they will re-seed all over the place.  It’s not the end of my gardening world though and it doesn’t take me long to pull the weeds out.  They’re going to grow where I don’t want them no matter what I do.  The bright side is that they won’t germinate as much in the winter, so I do get a much-needed break. 

Loring picks the weed "flowers" and makes a bouquet with them.

I just recently put the clear plastic down to help suppress the weeds.  As you can tell by the picture, the weeds laughed at me.  They will grow through a pin prick in the plastic.  The picture is embarrassing to me because it looks so untidy, but it is reality.  I needed a break from the gardening beds during the hot, rainy months so I used the plastic.  Many gardeners are against using plastic in the garden because it isn’t sustainable.  I’ve learned that I have to do what works for us.  I can clean up the garden bed in the above picture in a jiffy.  It looks worse than it is.  You should have seen my kitchen 30 minutes ago. 

My chickens love the weeded garden.

My chickens love to hover underneath me when I’m weeding the garden.  It all looks so tidy for about 5 minutes when I finish, then the girls spread the fresh dirt everywhere.  It’s okay with me… they’re getting the bugs. 

Yikes.

I don’t try to weed the entire garden in one day.  It hurts my hands pretty bad to do that.  Most people use machines to make their lives easier when it comes to these tasks, but I am stubbornly old-fashioned with my garden.  It usually takes me about a week to get the weeds under control again.  I don’t do too much at one time.  

We’re getting our garden ready for our fall season vegetable garden.  Grayson’s really excited to grow purple carrots and purple tomatoes.  The purple tomatoes are from seeds that have been passed down from the Cherokee indians.  We’re making a teepee out of pole beans as well.  The teepee structure is up and we’re just waiting for some bean vines to grow on it.   

We’re growing our lettuce a little different this year.  We always grew it in big pots and it was so wonderful.  We would cut it for the table and it would grow again.   It was not funny at all to find that the chickens had demolished every last scrap of lettuce one afternoon.  They didn’t bother it for 2 months.  Then, all of a sudden…  gone.  We’re growing our lettuce inside the pool cage this year.  I think we may have outsmarted them.  The tomato bed is getting a temporary fence around it this season. 

That's better.

  Come grow with us!

Summer Critters

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2010 by PickMeYard

Gardens sure do attract the critters.  I can go out to my garden armed with my camera (any time of the day or night) and get lots of fun shots.  My kids do love all the wildlife.  They especially love the hunt to find them.  When one is pointed out, they come running.  “Let me see, let me see!”

Our favorite critter books of all time are the Florida’s Fabulous Insects and Florida’s Fabulous SpidersThere’s an entire series of these books (mammals, birds, waterfowl, butterflies, reptiles & amphibians).  They’re loaded with colorful photos and tons of information.  We have the series and they’re used over and over again. 

A giant tiger moth caterpillar.

The caterpillar of the Isabella Tiger Moth is called a woolly bear.  We’ve seen several other moth caterpillars this summer too.  They’re just too cool.  Some of the moths that these caterpillars turn into are gorgeous creatures of the night! 

A tiger moth caterpillar playing dead.

An Io moth caterpillar... don't touch!

The Io moth caterpillar has stinging spines which can cause you pain if you touch them.  We were so enthralled with the one we found.  We are always afraid to touch a spiny caterpillar… so we just don’t.  To see a website with some fantastic photos of moth caterpillars, click here.

This is an adult antlion.

We had no idea what this critter was when we found it.  I took a picture and we looked it up in our Florida’s Fabulous Insects book.  The antlion eats ants and is nocturnal.

The Lubber Grasshopper.

An outgrown suit of armor (exoskeleton) from a singing cicada.

This baby tree frog was the size of my pinky fingernail. That's a stink bug to the left of him.

Beetles eating our sunflower.

A yellow rat snake. They can bite, but they're not venomous.

A bull frog that needs to join a band... somewhere else.

This bull frog has gotten so used to us that he lets me get right in his face with my camera to take his picture.  I think that now he actually poses for the shots.   I’ve taken so many pictures of him, he must think he’s a star.

Come grow with us!

Polish Chickens

Posted in Chickens with tags , , , on September 15, 2010 by PickMeYard

Why did the two polish chickens cross the road?  Well, if they’re our girls… hopefully, they’re going to get their hair done.  Seriously, they can’t see very well and need a trim. 

One of our floofy-headed Polish hens.

We have two Polish hens and they’re almost identical.  But, we know how to tell them apart.  One hen has a slightly different “do”.  My husband says one looks like Phyllis Diller and the other looks like Tina Turner. 

This is the other floofy-headed twin. Can you see the difference?

These two chickens are our all-time favorite birds!  They follow us around talking to us, begging to be picked up.  They live to be cuddled and make cooing noises when you play with their feathered hair.  They are lap birds that could sit in our laps for hours.  Is this normal?  I don’t know. 

They lay beautiful white eggs.  The other chickens tend to push them around a little, so they’re low in the pecking order.  They look like they would be the boss ladies, but the opposite is true.  I’ve read that this is usually the case with the Polish breeds, though our girls hold their own.  

Our Polish twins.

Whenever the chickens hear a door to our house open, they come running!  I had to stop painting my toenails red because they seem to believe they are cherry tomatoes.  I would scream, “stop pecking my toes!”  I suppose I could try another color… or wear shoes, but it is sorta’ the city gal vs. the country gal thing. 

Come grow with us!

Sunny Side Up!

Posted in Quail with tags , , on September 14, 2010 by PickMeYard

We are a homeschooling family.  The best part about it is that we’re on our own schedule.  It’s not all fun and games though, the workload is pretty tough.  Grayson starts his work in the morning and comes out of his “classroom” when he’s ready for breakfast… and then lunch.  This morning he asked for quail eggs sunny side up.  I thought it was blog-worthy.

Those are quail eggs in my hand and quail eggs frying in the pan... in real butter.

Bite-sized little eggs.

I like to fry both sides of my eggs sometimes.  They were prettier before I fried both sides, but they’re too runny for Grayson’s taste.  Tomorrow morning I’ll make eggs in a blanketWe’ll have to try them hard-boiled too.  The kids will have to peel their own.

Breakfast of Champions!

Come grow with us!

Exotic Quail

Posted in Quail with tags , , , , , , on September 13, 2010 by PickMeYard

Our yellow labrador and yellow cat died 3 years ago from old age.  As far as pets go, we were down to one dog.  We felt free, yet it felt like there was a void.  We tried to fight the temptation to fill that void with another pet.  We lost that battle big time and now we have a small hobby farm.  I don’t know what the heck happened, but we’ve never been happier.  Everybody says to us, “isn’t it a ton of work?”  Yes and no.  We have animals because we have kids and we have kids to feed the animals.  Very synergistic.  Grayson loves his animals and gets paid to feed and take care of them.  

The latest addition to our little farm is 12 japanese quail.  They’re called Coturnix  coturnix japonica and we just love them!  I was reading a book called Growing & Using Exotic Foods: Living Off the Land , by Marian Van Atta . The author talks all about growing foods in the subtropics and has great recipes.  Then, out of nowhere, in the back of her book, there’s one page about raising Coturnix japonica.  She clearly loves them and that one page talked me right into going on a hunt to find my own.  I searched Craigslist and ended up finding someone who lives right down the road from us.   We left her their house with 12 beautiful, healthy quail and new friends.  They have a little hobby farm just like ours.  

Click here  for a YouTube video about raising quail. 

Our adorable Japanese quail.

Coturnix coturnix japonica.

These little birds are incredibly easy to take care of.  I think that’s what attracted me to the idea of raising these quail in the first place.  They don’t require a lot of space and they’re not noisy.  They make quiet little “whowie”  noises when they’re happy, such as the food bowl being set down in their cage.  These quail have short life spans (2-3 years).  They start laying eggs at 6 weeks of age and incubate their eggs for only 15 days.  Isn’t that amazing? 

Our quail coop.

They are ground dwellers and like to scratch and forage like chickens.  We don’t let them out of their coop though because they are way too susceptible to predators and I doubt they would last a day on their own.  I give them huge, flat bowls filled with fresh dirt and mulch everyday.  They dive right in and start scratching.  I also put potted fern plants in their coop to make them feel like they have something to hide behind.  They have boxes to nest in. 

Breakfast time.

I feed my quail “Flock Raiser” by Purina Mills.  Game food works for them too, but the Flock Raiser works for our baby chicks as well.  The quail go crazy for it. 

Of course, the best part about these little quail is their eggs!  They’re speckled and tiny, but taste just like chicken eggs.  Japanese quail are prolific egg layers. 

Lots of quail eggs and one white chicken egg.

The little yolks are the quails and the larger yolks are the chickens.

Quail eggs in my hand.

I’ve read many times that when you order quail in a restaurant, you’re probably getting the Japanese quail.  Well, we don’t plan on eating ours.  However, it’s good to know that we have options. 

We are eating the eggs though and they are delicious

Come grow with us!

“Mama Do’s” Yard

Posted in Inspiration with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2010 by PickMeYard

“Mama Do” is my friend’s mom, (it’s pronounced “doe”).  Since we’ve all known each other for so long, she’s known simply as “Mama Do”.  She came over to the United States with her family in 1975 from a small town in South Vietnam called Vinh Long, (off the Mekong River Delta).  They were in a refugee camp that evacuated all the women and children to Thailand the day before the fall of Saigon and the invasion of the Vietcong.   

Their family has such an amazing history.  It’s similar to my family’s history, except that my grandparents came over from Hamburg, Germany post W.W. II on the  S.S. United States, in 1953.  Both of our families were sponsored to come into the U.S. 

Mama Do’s yard showcases her gardening skills.  Everything is thriving and gorgeous. 

Mama Do's yard. It's small (2 lots), but it's bountiful!

Lime tree with coconuts used as mulch. Great idea!

Everybody helped to pick longans. There were thousands hanging from the tree!

Longans in a Southwest Florida yard.

I was totally blown away by her longan tree…  there was so much fruit!  I love longans, but not everyone does.  One of my friends said they leave a strange aftertaste that he cannot describe but does not like.  I don’t notice an aftertaste.  They remind me of lychees, except not as sweet. 

Peeled longans... I love 'em. My friend said they look like eyeballs. Great for a Halloween party!

This is the perfect summer job for kids. She's watering the lemongrass.

Sweet potato vine... the variety is "boniato".

Mama Do boils her young sweet potato leaves in water for about 5 minutes and eats them like spinach.  Sometimes she steams them. 

Bitter melon vine with a flower that will soon turn into a fruit.

Mama Do is growing a larger variety of bitter melon than the wild one that pops up in Florida yards as an invasive weed.  I have a wild one growing on my fence right now and the fruit is quite small.  I need to get rid of this one because I don’t want this variety. I planted some Siamese bitter melon in a big pot with seeds I purchased  from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds .  

Mama Do makes a soup with her bitter melon fruit.  She cuts it in half and takes out the seeds.  She stuffs it with ground pork, garlic, onion, salt & pepper, egg yolk and shrimp.  She boils water with pork bone (and a little fish sauce) and cooks it for about an hour before she adds the stuffed bitter melons.  She drops in the stuffed bitter melons and cooks them on low for about 2 hours.  

Edible ginger. She slices her ginger leaves really thin and adds them to potato soup with shrimp.

Mama Do's sweet sop fruit.

Peeling a sweetsop is super easy.

Peeled sweetsop with seeds

Mama Do picking her sweetsops to sell. She sells them for $3 a pound.

The fruit holder. That's a sweetsop on the left and a pummelo on the right.

Sweetsop  (Annona squamosa) is my absolutely favorite fruit.  I think I say that about a lot of fruits, but truly…  sweetsop is numero uno.  It goes by other common names such as custard apple, guanabanana and sugar apple.  Jamaicans call it sweetsop, so that’s how I’ve always known it.  We planted a small tree in our yard this past summer.  We know it isn’t the slightest bit cold tolerant, so we’re planning to transplant it to a big pot and keep it warm during the winter.  We’re going to string it with white Christmas lights for added warmth.   

Mama Do is in zone 9b and is also growing avocado, mango, sapodilla, pummelo, bananas, papayas, jackfruit, coconuts and much more.  Most of her trees are mature and plentiful, with  blue-ribbon flavored fruit.  She is such an inspiration to us… we just love her.  

... and so does her granddaughter!

Come grow with us!

What the Duck?

Posted in Ducks with tags , , , , , on September 6, 2010 by PickMeYard

Our ducks disappeared this past week… into thin air.  We fretted over what could have happened to them.  There was not a single clue…  not even a single feather.  We really loved our ducks and really miss them.   Our female duck gave us a beautiful egg almost every day.   

Our first duck egg. We were so proud.

Even our neighbors helped us out by going up and down the river looking for them in case they jumped in and couldn’t get back out (high banks).  Our three ducks weren’t interested in going into our river.  They would enjoy the view sometimes, but they would always wander back to the “safe area” where they loved to be.  They had their own dreamy pond.  The three ducks were Indian runners and couldn’t fly (at least, that’s what we thought they were).  Shoot, they were too fat to go far and they just weren’t interested in leaving.  

Our three lovely ducks... R.I.P.

Two of the ducks disappeared at the same time.  The third duck pined endlessly for them.  It was sad.  Then he disappeared about two days later, in the late morning.  He was in front of our glass doors one minute and gone the next. 

Just waddling around and quacking.

Our chickens are all safe, but they’re not talking.  We think we’ve figured out the mystery though.  It seems that a bobcat must have been the culprit.  After talking to lots of people in our area, we’ve found out some pretty interesting things about these wild cats.  They are cats and very stealth hunters.  It would be very easy for a bobcat to scale our fence and snatch the ducks before they even knew what hit them.  People have told us that a bobcat is such an amazing predator that there would be no clues left at all… like they disappeared into thin air.  Bobcats have to eat too and I’m sure our ducks were a very easy catch.  However, we’re not even positive it was a bobcat.  It could have been aliens. 

Our dogs had weaseled their way into our house and had been spending all day and all night inside for several days.  We quickly realized that the dogs being inside allowed a predator into our yard.  They were promptly put back on guard duty.  Lesson learned.  

Falling down on the job. She's an awesome guard dog... when she's not on our couch.

So, the journey with our three ducks has come to an end.  We wanted to rush out and replace them with some new baby ducks, but we couldn’t make ourselves do it.  Grayson and I are thinking about looking for a female African goose to raise.  We’ve heard they make wonderful pets.  

On the bright side, our two baby Nigerian dwarf goats are safe.  They were boarding at a friend’s house.  Since the debacle with our ducks, we’ve built a miniature Fort Knox for our goats.  We are thankful we learned our lesson with the ducks and not the baby goats. 

Mary, one of our Nigerian dwarf goats.

Fun and games with our baby goats.

Our bossy, broody, bantam chicken is still laying on the two duck eggs.  It would be so cool if they actually hatch.  We can see little black feathers through the egg-shell.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see.  Click here to check out a great blog about a hen that successfully hatches some beautiful baby ducks! 

Sweat Pea

Come grow with us!

Sea Grapes: Part II

Posted in Gardening Experiments with tags , , , , , , , on September 1, 2010 by PickMeYard

Sea grape trees give lovely grapes to make jelly with, but they have some other very clever uses.  Our beloved family friend, Dr. Nune, showed us the most ingenious use of the sea grape leaf… plates and bowls!  Her family used to make these in India when she was a child.  We were so intrigued. 

Dr. Nune picked a palm frond to use to sew the plate together.

After she picked the palm frond, she stripped all the leaves off it and used the center strip of the frond.  When the leaves are stripped, it is a long, pliable stick.  She used scissors to cut the long strip into short sticks.  

Dr. Nune stripped the leaves off the frond by pulling them and cutting with scissors.

She used the center palm frond strip sticks to hold the seagrape leaves together.

This is one part of the plate sewn together. We tried staples too, but they didn't work as well.

She connected several leaves together with the palm frond sticks.

Finished seagrape plate.

The leaves are pliable when they’re freshly picked and green.  They could be sewn together and left to dry but they won’t be pliable anymore and crack easily. 

We also made bowls with the leaves.  I imagine these would be a hit at any party and they’re easy to make. 

Grayson making a bowl from a seagrape leaf.

A seagrape leaf bowl sewn with a palm frond center stick.

A seagrape leaf bowl filled with a bite of Tortuga Rum Cake.

Oh yeah, this is the life!

Come grow with us!