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On Corn

In the greenhouse, summer 2012

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A tonka poem has the syllable pattern of 5/7/5/7/7. Here is my tonka for this Tuesday.


Garden planted now

Waiting for seeds to grow well

Water when not raining

Patiently wait for nature’s course

Harvest when time, not before

The Raised Bed

Brassicas close, the lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss chard, parsnips, carrots, and peas.

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This year, the raised bed in my greenhouse had an unwelcome surprise. Clover. I’m not sure how it got there, but I know how to get rid of it. Pull it. I had to be careful to do this on a rainy day. Why? I’m allergic to bees which find clover very attractive.

While pulling, I had to pull some of my intentional plants. These were separated from the clover and replanted immediately. I did lose a parsley plant that was choked out by the clover before I had a chance to pull it. I also lost one garlic plant when the leaves separated from the bulb. It wasn’t a total loss because I used the bulb in supper that evening.

Once the clover was pulled, the raised bed looked much better. It will need to be monitored for clover from now on, and I will be careful to pull it early, before it has a chance to flower.

The appearance of the clover in the raised bed of my greenhouse goes to prove that weeds will show up anywhere, anytime.

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We added two hens to our flock. One was Rhode Island Red; the other, Brahma. They came from my best friend’s son. They started with about fifteen or so Over time, foxes and dogs whittled away at their numbers until only these two remained. They came to our property in a cat carrier that was put into the shop overnight. The next morning, I took the carrier down to the garden where we put our portable chicken coop for the winter. A smaller, even more portable coop was on the upper tier while the larger coop was on the lower. I put the two new chickens in the smaller one which already had food and water for them. All the while, the birds in the established flock were watching my every move, or rather they were watching the new hens. Then I went over to let the flock out into the garden. This allowed them to meet the new hens without actually having contact. The rooster was the first to react to the sounds of the newcomers. One moment, he was busy drinking. The next, he was looking in the direction of the little coop. When he heard them a second time, he left the attached run and went to find them. He got part way, and the chickens stopped talking. He came back to feed. He heard them again and quickly went to find them. He jumped onto the upper tier and cocked his head, listening intently. Then he strutted around to the fencing of the small coop. He moved his head this way and that to get a good look at them. A couple of the hens joined him. He started talking with the new hens. I watched all this while doing my job. Once they were fed, watered, and eggs collected, I walked out of the garden and closed the gate.

When I was about twenty feet away, I turned to watch them. The rooster and hens were still looking at the newcomers. They were communicating in chicken-speak. Then the rooster attempted his mating dance. He started to the side of one of the new hens. Lowered his wingtips, stretched out his neck, and tried to do a semicircle around in front of her only to discover that the coop was in the way. I smiled and chuckled. He tried to dance for her many times in quick succession. Each time, the fence between got in the way. Undeterred, he tried again.

The flock hens came to investigate, too. One by one, they came up to introduce themselves. The new hens reacted to each one with many sounds. One red hen left the garden to inspect the yard for anything new. This was her normal routine. Other hens, one by one followed her. Several remained with the newcomers. I left them to become acquainted.

At lunchtime, I went back out just to have a look. The rooster was still attempting to dance for them. Three hens were there as well. The new hens gave most of their attention to the rooster. I left them alone.

At sundown, the wind started kicking up. I was worried about the two hens in the small coop. They did not have the protection from the weather that the flock had. I let them out of the small coop and herded them to the large one. They reluctantly entered the run where they inspected the food and water. They cleaned their beaks on the ground. They started looking for a place to roost for the night. The red one jumped up on the chain that holds waterer and feeder. It swung back and forth. She used her wings and tail to try to stabilize herself. She fell off with an indignant flapping of wings and clucking. She tried a second time and almost got stabilized. I used the stick to help her off. The white one stepped through the chicken door into the coop. She stood in the doorway, half in, half out. The red one pushed her way past. The rooster and flock talked with her as she did. I gently nudged the white one in and closed the chicken door behind her. It was going to be a cold night. I wanted them safe and warm.

The next morning, I went down with food and water. As soon as the chicken door was opened, the rooster made his appearance. He was followed by many hens. They ate and drank and talked with each other. The rooster did his mating dance. The red hen left the garden for the yard. New chickens and old flock were now one.

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My greenhouse is unheated, and there is an arctic freeze coming.  The forecast calls for twenty-nine tonight, minus four then next night, and nine the night after that.  A very frigid start to the week.  So far my greenhouse is doing well, except for the brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts) that were affected by the last very cold night.  Brassicas are hardy down to zero degrees, if they don’t have a head on them.  The cauliflower and broccoli are not looking too well.  Surprisingly, everything else is looking good, even the plants in pots on the workbench and greenhouse floor.

We have a propane heater that can go into the greenhouse for the next two nights.  I don’t exactly like the idea of the fumes.  The greenhouse is not air tight, so the fumes will be able to escape, which is good since they aren’t exactly healthy for my plants.

Let them freeze, or use a heater that puts out toxic fumes….hmmm, quite the choice.

The heater goes in.  I’ll keep you posted.

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I know I’ve been away for a while.  I apologize for neglecting this blog and everyone who follows it.  As you know, life tends to happen between plans.  Let me update you on the garden and greenhouse.

We have moved the chicken coop completely into the garden.  We close them in at night and let them out into the garden in the morning.  They love the extra space they have and love to walk with me whenever I enter the garden to give them food or water.  The rooster does his mating dance for the hens regularly.  Sometimes they mate with him.  Sometimes they don’t.  All of the brassica plants that I had in the garden have been eaten, of course.  They started with the leaves and quickly moved onto the stems.  Well, so much for early broccoli or cabbage, at least in the garden.

The greenhouse is another matter.  The brassica plants there are doing well.  We also have parsnips, carrots, and peas.  The peas are small and may not do much.  We’ll see soon enough.  The plants in pots on the work bench are overwintering nicely, too.  I have mugwort, evening primrose, garlic, onions, strawberries, brassicas, and sage.  They’ll be good and strong and ready for transplanting in the Spring.  I also have heather and rosemary in pots.  The heather can be transplanted into the garden in the Spring.  The rosemary will have to stay in the pot so I can carry it in and out of the greenhouse.

Trying to water the greenhouse in the winter can be a bit of a challenge.  If the hose is frozen, I have to use the one gallon waterer.  It takes a lot of time to water that way, but it’s doable.

I hope all your gardening endeavors are going well.

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