A few days ago I had a phone call from my publisher (I've written three books - two of them with my present publisher at Gem Guides Book Company). He "opened" the door by being "open" to publishing another book by "yours truly"...me.
A few years ago I began this blog as a blueprint for writing a cookbook using fresh, organic, homegrown fruits, veggies, and herbs - a book that also includes tips on elective frugality, abundant and simple living, backyard chickens, and heart-of-the-home values. It looks like that time has arrived.
My blog will be put to sleep for awhile as I begin a new book
This blog will remain alive and accessible on the Internet. However, no new posts will be made for the foreseeable future as I turn my writing efforts toward my new project.
Opportunity has knocked, so for a time I'll close the Cottage's red gate to make time for this new adventure.
Thank you all for following my blog. It's been fun sharing my home and gardens with you!
...then, you'll want to feed your Chicken Girls supplemental calcium so the shells of their eggs aren't thin and easily crushed.
One way to do this is to supply oyster shell sold at feed stores just for this purpose.
Trouble is my Girls won't eat it even when I mix it into their food. I have friends whose chickens won't touch it either.
There are several ways to get chickens to consume extra calcium - free range chickens need less - such as giving them a bit of dairy once in a while. Yogurt and cottage cheese are favorites with my Girls.
Sometimes I'll make a nettle or horsetail tea, cool it, and pour this into their water. Or, I'll dissolve homeopathic silica into their drinking water. Mostly, I let them free range eating bugs, worms, and grass.
This, and high-protein, laying pellets keeps them healthy and happy. Oh, and they get vegetable scraps from the kitchen and garden along with the occasional handful of collard greens.
Another way to get a little extra calcium into their diets is to recycle the Girl's egg shells.
The shells must be cleaned and crushed otherwise a chicken might realize that some pretty tasty stuff comes in her own eggs.
Once a hen makes this connection she's likely to peck and eat the contents of her eggs and those of the other hens.
Once the shells are thoroughly dry, I lay a piece of waxed paper on a cookie sheet and place the egg shells on top.
I use a rolling pin to crush the eggs, then roll over them, back and forth, until they're moderately crushed so the chickens can easily swallow them.
The waxed paper makes it easier to transfer the crushed shells into a jar or tin until you're ready to use them.
Of course, you can pulse the shells in your processor.
Crushing the shells makes them unrecognizable to the chicken. And, it recycles the calcium from the shells back into your chickens for making more eggs!
Some of my Girls will eat the crushed shells as a treat. Generally, I mix the shells in with their food for better results.
Of course, if you don't have chickens, you can recycle crushed eggs shells from the supermarket by tossing them onto your compost pile which is another feature of the Useful Garden.
Egg shells will compost more readily if broken into bits.
Recycling chicken waste (egg shells and manure) is way one way to insure that what is useful won't go to waste.
Nanking cherries are easy care, needing little water once established, and beautiful. These shrubs which can grow to about ten feet tall and nearly as wide and were purchased in bundles of ten bare root plants as part of the USDA's conservation project.
Throughout my "useful" gardens are all types of berries and berry-like fruits. These plants make for attractive, edible landscaping.
Elderberry plants are attractive and useful. Their small black berries are traditionally used to make jelly, a healthful syrup (Sambucus), and a traditional wine. I make a savory elderberry vinegar and use it for Elderberry-Caesar Dressing.
Ahead of elderberries come elderflowers. Lovely and lacy the flowers may be dried for use in cold remedies. Traditionally, they've been used to make a delicate wine.
I also grow a "black" variety of elderberry called, "Black Beauty". Its leaves are dark burgundy and have a lacy look. The flowers are a lovely pink and I use them for elderflower water. The berries are a yucky green color and I don't use them for anything.
I steep fresh elderflowers in distilled water for a couple of weeks to make elderflower water, a traditional skin tonic.
At the corner of my property is a mulberry tree.
Mulberries are ripe when they turn black.They look similar to blackberries and taste like blend of blackberries and blueberries.
Mulberries are great in jam, pie, and fruit smoothies. I always freeze some for Winter use.
Golden currants must be named for their clove-scented, yellow flowers.
When ripe, the fruit of the golden currant is black. This plant shows the varying stages the fruit passes through on the way to being ripe.
I harvest the sweet, black currants for jelly. I also dry the berries and leaves for a fruit-flavored tea. I always freeze several bags of berries for use in Winter smoothies.
Golden currants are native, wild currants. Domestic currants grow more abundant clusters of fruit. However, golden currants are beautiful through all the Seasons.
In Autumn their leaves turn crimson, gold, and burgundy. The bare wood in Winter is interesting for its twisted, gnarled shapes.
My wild currants were acquired through the USDA's soil conservation program.
In flavor they remind me of blueberries and that's just how I use them since blueberries are problematic to grow in my area as they like an acidic soil. Currants, however, thrive in my alkaline soil.
Blackberries are ripe when they turn black. Thorny but worth it, I love them for cobblers, pies, and jam. I always freeze and can some each year. For the faint of heart, there is a variety of thornless blackberry! I get stuck, snagged, poked and scratched each year when I prune mine. Yaargh!
Blackberry-Apple Cake! Made with the fruits of Autumn.
These freshly picked raspberries glow with goodness!
Raspberries are among my favorite berries. I love them in tarts, smoothies, pies, and ice cream. I always freeze and can some for Winter use. Their leaves make a wonderful, healing tea.
Cool and creamy. Ice cream made with freshly picked raspberries!
Gooseberries have leaves similar to golden currants and may be related. However, gooseberry plants are smaller and have thorns.
I grow both the pink and the green varieties of gooseberries. I usually eat them fresh right off the bush...if I can beat the Chicken Girls to them.
I think this year I'm going to try canning some for Winter use. I'm not sure they would freeze well, however.
Strawberries are a must.
Strawberry shortcake, ice cream, pie, smoothies, chocolate dipped, and fresh out of the garden, strawberries literally shout, "Summertime"!
I'm not sure that rose hips, the fruit of the rose, are berries, but they do seem to me to be "berry-like".
I used to gather the hips of the wild roses along the irrigation canals close to my home. I've since planted an Old World apothecary rose which grows lovely red hips that I harvest and dry for tea. Or, I use the fresh hips to make a tasty syrup for ice cream, pancakes and French toast.
Berry plants make a landscape both beautiful and edible. They are a lovely addition to the Useful Garden.
Berries of all types, particularly those colored red, blue, purple, and black are rich sources of important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and anthocyanins - all things that are very good for you!
I think I've covered all the types of berries and berry-like plants I grow in my gardens.
Beauty and food are two important components of my "useful" gardens!
Also, you'll save money growing your own berries.
Did I mention flavor? Homegrown berries are so much more flavorful than those expensive supermarket offerings!
Chickens can be part of the Useful Garden and they're fun to have around! They're the clowns of the garden and I love to watch them scratch at the ground then scoot backward to see what they've uncovered.
When one Girl finds something the rest pursue her to take it away.
Chickens use their beaks to explore their environment and they love shiny things - a ring, bracelet, buckle, a button. A painted toenail! Beware the hard peck of a curious hen!
And they lay incredible, edible eggs. A chicken will lay an egg every day or every other day. I don't eat my Girls. They're pets and provide a sufficient amount of service by remaining alive.
My Girls eat many weeds. They don't eat all types but they do love dandelions, cheat grass, fox tails, and elm seedlings when these first sprout in the Springtime. They also do a lot of weeding by scratching out newly sprouted seedlings.
Chickens are great for pest control. Their scratching disturbs the soil and exposes eggs and small larvae to dehydration or consumption.
Chickens also eat lots of worms and bugs. They love earwigs, box elder bugs, crickets, flies, and more. Sadly, they don't like squash bugs.
I've heard that chicken manure makes very good fertilizer. I think it does. My gardens thrive on this free fertilizer...just don't add it in until it's decomposed a bit or it could burn tender plants.
During Winter when I clean out the coop I dump the poo and straw from the coop onto the soil of my raised veggie bed where it can break down and seep into the soil. In Spring I till it in, then plant.
I also toss the coop gleanings under roses and other plants while they're Winter-dormant. It's a good addition to a compost pile, too.
Chickens are companionable with each other and whoever feeds them. They love treats! The quickest way to make friends with a hen is to hand-feed her tasty tidbits.
I am their rooster! Well, not really. However, from a chicken's world view I perform some (not all) of a rooster's role in the flock.
A rooster will protect his hens. He'll uncover tasty treats for them then stand back and watch the hens eat. He stands guard watching out for attacks from above - hawks or other large birds of prey - and sounds the alarm at which all the hens scurry to hide beneath shrubs.
When I dig in the garden my hens are usually nearby watching to see if I unearth a plump, juicy worm. If I do, I'll call the Girls and whoever gets to me first gets the prize!
Yes, I love chickens!
In the late afternoon I'll let them out of the back garden where they roam during the day into the front gardens which are more manicured. They love to nibble on my organic lawn which - with bugs and worms and good feed - gives their egg yolks a rich orange color and adds to the omega-3 content.
Chickens are diggers and will excavate sizable holes to get at tasty critters to eat. They'll also create holes for dust bathing. They'll make hills and dales of your bark or gravel mulch. And they'll poop on your porches and walk ways (let it dry then sweep it into the garden). These are reasons why I only let them into the front gardens in the late afternoon - less time for destruction, mischief, and pooping on stuff!
In early Spring and late Autumn (after the harvest) I let them into the kitchen garden to eliminate pests. I don't let them in while things are growing and ripening lest they peck at ripe tomatoes and squashes, eat my lettuce, and flatten the arugula!
You can have chickens as part of your Useful Garden. Fences make good controls if there's areas of your gardens you'd like to keep chicken-free.
A three to four-foot fence is usually adequate for fencing chickens out. Some of the smaller, fleeter breeds can fly over low fencing. However, the larger heavier breeds tend not to have much flying capability.
I love chickens! Judicious management of the time allowed in sensitive garden areas and decorative fencing will enable you to have the benefits of chickens in the garden without the drawbacks.
Food, fun, healing, and beauty are the hallmarks of the Useful Garden.
I think a garden should feed our senses and needs on a variety of levels...food, healing, beauty, pleasure!
Many people plant their gardens, or have them landscaped, for beauty and entertaining. Others, plan for easy-care outdoor spaces. Some grow "edible" or water-wise gardens. Most of us like to plan and include a space in our gardens or yards for entertaining friends and family.
Play and relaxation are also "needs" that most of us plan yard space to accommodate.
I like to think of my gardens as "useful" because they feed my need for beauty, my desire to grow organic food, my efforts to have Nature's medicine within picking range, and the fun of cooking with fresh, organic herbs.
I also enjoy just sitting in my gardens reading, journaling, thinking, meditating, listening to the wind, the birds...
To indulge these activities in comfort, I've created sitting places around my property - garden "rooms" and destinations depending upon my mood and time of day.
My gardens are useful. And, I like to think, beautiful.
Much of what I've landscaped with is edible or in some way useful beyond being just pretty.
I'd like to share in upcoming posts just what I mean by a "useful" garden and how you might enjoy incorporating some of these ideas into your own "growing" spaces.
I can't tell you how to plant your own Useful Garden because your needs are likely different than mine. I can, however, share what I've done and why. By sharing, I'm hoping to inspire ideas and possibilities you might want to try in your own outdoor spaces.
Nor do you need acreage to create your own useful garden. A small patio or balcony can incorporate pots for flowers and herbs, have a place to sit and share a cup of tea with a friend.
Small spaces can nourish the senses with lighting, water, windchimes...
The Useful Garden has one or more pleasant spots to spend time, visit, and dine.
The Useful Garden allows for Nature to "plant" some helpful, healing weeds! However, wild transplants may not always be welcome.
Although you may not want to host dandelions as I do (I love dandelions!), a bit of "wild" encourages birds to make your garden their home, too.
Nature, with the help of wind, birds, and pets will sow your garden with unbidden things. Some may be useful and some may not be. The gardener gets to decide what stays and what goes.
I love chickens! Thankfully, I live in a rural, farming community where they're a common sight scratching and pecking around the neighborhoods. Presently, I have a small flock of six hens for eggs, fertilizing, insect and weed control, and for the simple pleasure of their company and their charming mannerisms.
These days even urban areas are allowing people to keep a few hens...though generally not the more vociferous roosters!
Starting with the next post I'll share with you what I've planted and how I use it, the ways I've found to be frugal and recycle as much as I can back into the gardens, how I feed my senses with the garden, and what I'm presently working on.
Presently I'm experiencing some connectivity issues with either my modem or computer making uploading photos nearly impossible.
I'm taking a few days off from the blog to try to figure out why my internet speed is iffy and slow.
I hope to be back blogging soon!
Join me in a reverse journey of the building of my cinder block strawberry bed!
My recently installed cinder block raised bed is alive with strawberry plants. I'm looking forward to the "fruits" of my labors!
Back then...only a couple of months ago...the newly transplanted berry plants hadn't yet emerged above their bed of protective straw.
The completed cinder block bed was prepared for planting.
The nearly completed strawberry bed awaits cutting of the capstones.
These piles of cinder blocks and capstones delivered in late January were for the fulfilling of my dreams of sweet, fresh strawberries!
The entire project took about two months to complete due to snow, cold, and wind which are typical of springtime in Utah.