Garden View

Garden View
Hello and Welcome! I decided to start this blog for everyone out there who has an interest, or WANTS to be interested, in living a life that is a little more sustainable. I am still learning, and invite you to follow this blog to learn along with me. I will share what I have learned as we go, and hopefully you will pitch in and share what YOU are doing to live a little more off of what you can grow and DO from home. PLEASE BELIEVE ME when I say, if I can learn how to do this on a very small backyard plot in a city, then ANYONE can do this!!

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Win a backyard mini-Composter!

Head over to the Fresh Eggs daily blog to enter to win a very cool mini-composter!

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Meet Bandit the Blue Andalusian

Good Morning!  Meet Bandit.  She is a Blue Andalusian chicken.  And when I say she, I don't use the term lightly.  After I snapped this photo, my husband gasped as he realized his favorite chicken had spurs!

We began the preparations of finding Bandit a new home, much to my husbands dismay as this is his favorite chicken.   We already had to cull one hen-turned-rooster and he was one of dear-ol-husbands favorites too (apparently it doesn't pay to be his favorite chicken). My husband was a bit 'broody' that night and ended up serenading the chickens with this song (lyrics printed for your enjoyment, since it's a little tough to hear.  And sorry for the sideways view-this was very impromptu.  In fact, I was over filling chicken waterers when this happened...).
"I love me some chickens, yes I doooo.  I love me some chickens, yes I dooooo.  I love me some chickens, the ones with big SPIKES.  I love me some big chickens, I hope they're name ain't MIKE.  I love me some chickens yes I dooooo!"
-Truly an original, written and performed by Joe

MAN, if our neighbors didn't think we were hillbillies before....they sure do now!
All serenading aside, me being the information seeker that I am, I searched gobs of photos of Blue Andalusian chickens at 4 months old.  This chicken looked like all of the hen photos to me, as the roosters had a very different look to them, including a collar of black feathers and much larger combs.  I posted some photos of Bandit on the wonderful forums at (a great resource for learning about keeping chickens) and asked if there were any experts that could help me determine if this one was going to crow or lay eggs.  Come to find out, the development of spurs is not a good gender indicator and in certain breeds, especially Mediterranean types, the hens can develop some pretty nasty spurs.  They all said that this was a girl (or pullet in chicken talk).  **Lets all listen as we breathe a sigh of relief on the backyard farm.**
SO, we are anxiously awaiting, again, for Bandit to lay.  She will be our only white egg layer, as all the others lay brown.  Her breed is not supposed to be very winter hardy, but are very dependable and prolific layers.  Bandit has a great personality-she is super sweet and loves to settle into your lap for a nap!  She's also the first hen to bed before dusk-definitely NOT a party-girl!  While she is quite skittish and flighty, this is a great breed with a wonderful personality.  I am so glad she is a SHE and that we can see her lay some eggs soon!!  However, she is quite flighty, as evidenced by the fact that she loves to fly up on the dog run fence and watch whats going on inside.  Sometimes we here a slight knocking on the window....

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

How it all started-the raised vegetable garden

Well, I promised that I would begin to tell you how I came to have a backyard filled with chickens, vegetables, fruit and a rabbit.

Several years ago my husband and I bought our wonderful city home here in Highlands Ranch; a suburb South of Denver Colorado.  We chose this area for the neighborhood, schools and layout of the city, with its endless trails and family atmosphere.  Chickens were never part of the decision to move here.  When discussing plans for the backyard, I announced that I wanted to try a vegetable garden.  I don't think my husband said anything at first, he just gave me 'a look.'  You see, I don't have any live plants in my house, because I kill them.  I think I love them too much.  Maybe underwater, over water, or not enough light.  ANYWAY, green-thumb I am not.  So, I explained that I wanted to try my hand at growing some fresh food, now that I had a place to do it.  And thus began the journey.  My wonderful husband obliged me and built a beautiful fence around a small section on the North side of the patio (and he thought he didn't know what he was doing either).  I had begun researching vegetable gardens and found that I would need an area that would receive mostly sun (4-6+ hrs), or the vegetables would never grow.  I also learned that when planting in raised beds (a decision I made in order to have optimum soil conditions), they need to run in a North-South direction.  So, I used some friends kids, as well as my own, and we got the plot cleared of LOTS of rock.  My husband built me two basic 2.5' x 10' rectangular wooden frames for the raised bed.  Nothing special; we just put brackets on each corner, leveled out the ground and filled it with dirt made for outdoor vegetable gardening.

PLANTING: As the building was progressing, I was researching.  My great grandfather used to garden and my mother handed over a copy of the book titled "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew.  This book takes planting your garden 1 square foot at a time.  With this method, in a 1 square foot area you could plant 16 carrots or 9 spinach.  4 lettuce or 1 eggplant.  1 tomato or 8 pole beans.  In a simple 4' x4' area you could plant all of the following: 2 tomatoes, 4 cucumbers, 9 bush beans, 12 heads of lettuce, 4 swiss chard, 9 chives, 16 carrots, 16 radishes, 16 beets, 16 onions, 4 nasturtium and 4 marigold flowers.  And that's only a 4'x4' area! 
I bought seeds for what I wanted to grow and printed some garden-grid sheets from to draw out my gardening plan prior to planting.  I took string and blocked out my garden beds in 1 foot squares, then got to work!

The square foot gardening method is also less time consuming in the long run, as the compact planting area doesn't allow for much weed growth.  When the lettuce is harvested, then something else can take it's place; more carrots perhaps, and so on.  This method has given me high yields of food in a small space.  We have fresh vegetables weekly during the summer for our meals.  This year I have so many tomatoes ripening, that I will be learning how to can.  Another post, to be sure.  I've already gotten some good tips from a cousin back East who has a homestead of her own (Thanks Meghan)!  Next year we've decided there will be beans, cucumbers, and squash climbing up trellises along the length of the back fence (along with a compost area and some berry bushes somewhere).  Like I said, all I see anymore is wasted space that could be used to grow food!
The re-located spot of my raised vegetable gardens

Anyone interested in growing even a small pot of their own food can do this easily-even on the balcony of an apartment (as long as you have 4-6+ hrs of sun)!  Just pick a good sized pot for what you want to grow, make sure it has good drainage, fill it with some good dirt and plant what you like to eat!  
You will find some new rewards in growing some of your own food, and it will taste better than anything you have ever bought at the store!  

Who knows, maybe you will soon find yourself relaxing on your patio to the sound of soft clucking while watching chickens chase bugs around your yard ;-)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fall Preparations

Anybody else sensing that Fall is on the way?  We just had a 'spitting' of rain and 'the girls' have come back outside to search and scratch for any unsuspecting crawling things that may have surfaced during their short respite inside the coop.
2012-08-22 12.50.16.jpg

I was delighted to feel the crisp morning air yesterday as I took the kids to school.  It inspired an impromptu mountain bike ride after the 'short people' were safely off to another day of learning and expanding their minds.  I have seen a few leaves changing color and my tomatoes must be enjoying the slightly cooler evenings, as they are beginning to change color.  I love this time of year.  Fall is my favorite season, as well as spring.  I love them because they are transition seasons.  We are weary of the summer heat-and God brings us respite just when we need it most in the form of Fall.  Just when we can't stand to see another snowflake fall, or are weary of the drab landscape of winter, God brings forth from the frozen earth, life in the form of crocus and daffodils.

Sometimes I feel that we go through transitional seasons as humans too.  There seem to be seasons that are full of life and we are truly blooming!  Others are more difficult to endure, and we even get to the point where we feel we cannot stand yet another blow.  Take heart-for God is always with you.  God doesn't make mistakes, He orchestrates everything in His perfect timing.  When it doesn't makes sense to us in the human realm, know that God is always in control.  Such is evidenced by the changing of the leaves in the fall, and the seemingly impossible bloom of the crocus through the snowy frozen ground.

Zephaniah 3:17
“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (NIV)
Today, I am doing a bit of preparing in the gardens for planting my second season/fall crops.  I was a bit dismayed yesterday when working with the spotted cucumber plants.  I found that the vines are yellowing as well.  I am going to severely trim it back, and if it's still not looking good I will need to pull them out and make room for something else.  I have grand plans for my second season vegetable of Beans, Jerusalem Artichokes/Sunchokes, more Cucumbers, Okra, Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Spinach and lettuce greens.  I am learning more each year and seem to be getting better at this every year-gathering more food each year.  Many of these crops are new to me, like the Jerusalem Artichokes/Sunchokes.  You buy them as tubers from the garden stores (local or online) and bury them much like potatoes.  They can be planted in the Spring and/or Fall.  As they grow, they develop long stalks and bright sunflower-like blooms!  They look as tho they are simply wildflowers growing amidst your vegetables.

When eaten, some describe the taste as being like that of an artichoke heart or water chestnut.  These can be pickled,cooked like potatoes, or sliced and eaten on salads.  This is a great vegetable for diabetics because when it is consumed, the inulin is converted in the digestive tract to fructose rather than glucose.  This will be my first attempt at growing these, so you will have to stay tuned next spring for the results!
I still have dirt caked under my fingernails from yesterday: wrestling with the moldy cucumber vines, weeding and re-mulching the front yard xeriscape planter.  You know you've got the bug when you look at your dirty nails and rough hands and say, "Eeehhh, I'll just re-soil them tomorrow!"

Psalm 36:5 -7 
Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.
How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
find refuge in the shadow of your wings.” (NIV)

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hot chickEN!

Meet "Red," the Rhode Island Red (very original, I know.  But, people, that is what happens when you let your children name things)!  She's roaming the yard with the others today and it's a little warm.  Anybody else see the irony in the fact that she's hanging out by the barbecue?!

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Todays mission...rid the cucumber plant of its spots!

I found out that the white spots on my cucumber plants are mildew-gross!  By searching agriculture sites found using good-ol-google,  need to remove the affected leaves and spray weekly with a fungicide.  No chemicals for us, so I found this recipe for a natural fungicide spray:

1 tsp baking soda, 1 qt water and a few drops of liquid soap.

Sounds easy enough.  Well, here goes nuthin!

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Hello and Welcome to Fresh From Home: Adventures in Backyard Homesteading!! 
Our family started with a small raised vegetable garden several years ago in our backyard.  That spurred an interest in more sustainable living and eating foods that were Fresh From Home.  NOW, we have chickens, a rabbit, and each year I am using up more space for growing our own food. 
We live on a small residential plot in Highlands Ranch, Co.  I am now seeing empty space in the yard as a waste!  

I decided to start this blog for everyone out there who has an interest, or WANTS to be interested, in living a life that is a little more sustainable.  I am still learning, and invite you to follow this blog to learn along with me.  I will share what I learn as we go, and hopefully you will pitch in and share what YOU are doing to live a little more off what you can grow and DO from home.  

PLEASE BELIEVE ME that when I say, if I can learn how to do this on a very small backyard plot in a city, than ANYONE can do this!!  I want to share the knowledge I have with others to lighten the burden, and hopefully, inspire others to try just one new thing this year!  Stay tuned for the post about how it all began and what we are doing now...

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