Monday, June 13, 2011

Getting to Know You

We held our "Hens & Chicks Meet & Greet" over the weekend and I think we've found a way to ease the drama, trauma and pain of small flock integration. 

And what a relief that is, given the trauma endured last August when we integrated two new hens into our flock. It was so bad, we ended up sending two from the original flock (the bad-girl bullies, Henny and Penny) to live with a much bigger flock "on the farm" (can you say chicken-stew?). 

Helen and Madge, our two remaining hens, are fairly low key. Helen is queen of the roost, but she and Madge get along. The chicks are 10 weeks old and are almost as big as the hens (in body size only - the hens outweigh the chicks by several pounds).  

Are you my Mother?

Getting everyone together in a neutral setting was the key to the Meet and Greet's success.  We used a 25' length of plastic garden fencing to create a "playpen" on the lawn. In went the chicks, who were delighted to be out of the coop, although clueless as to what to do. 

Since Helen was busy sitting on the nest, I scooped up Madge and tossed her in the pen. And waited... 

Testing the pecking order.
Ah, youth.  A time to spread your wings. To flap off in the face of authority. To find out just where you stand in the pecking order. A time to discover you're not at the top of the order. 
It didn't take Madge long to put Marigold in her place and let everyone else know that when Helen is away, Madge rules. With nothing more than a glaring look in their direction, the chicks quickly learned that blonde means business. 

Helen meets the chicks

Enter Helen, fresh off the nest, confident in her role as ruler of the roost. Holding my breath, I dropped her in.... I have to admit, I was expecting something more from Helen.  Not that I was disappointed, but she really didn't seem a bit interested in the chicks. In fact she was content to eat grass and peck around; that was until Ms. Marigold decided to test the pecking order again.  Wowee - what a dust-up!  In a quick as lightening flash, Helen delivered a sharp peck to the back of her head and that was enough to put everyone in their places.   

Helen dominating. Note the two chicks on the right - fleeing.

The chicks quickly learned to respect the elders and the elders, beyond a couple more glaring looks or threatening stances, basically ignored the chicks.  

We did a second play date on Sunday with similar drama, trauma or pain.  We'll have a few more of these Meet & Greets over the next few weeks. Call me old-fashioned, but I think it's good to get to know one another before moving in together!

Birds of a feather

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Basil Bust

I love basil.  Its heady, sweet smell is an instant reminder of summer, warm sunshine and tomatoes.  During the winter months I purchase living basil (hydroponic) and come early March, it's the first seeds that I start.

Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, the beautiful flat of basil which I started and nurtured during the cold, wet spring has succumbed to just that -- the cold, wet spring.  Arrrrgh!  You'd think I'd learn after going through this last year.  Basil, of all the herbs, is incredibly delicate and require warm temps to survive. And that just something we just haven't had a lot of here in Coeur d'Alene this spring. 

I'm not alone in this crop failure, as friends have lamented that their tiny basil purchased at Farmer's Markets are also failing.  But, there is good news! It's not too late to start basil from seed outside in pots or in the ground.  In fact, right now is the right time!

About 9 days ago I seeded two pots and tucked seeds in along the edge of the tomato beds. Today I have tiny basil sprouting from pots and the ground. One packet of seeds at $1.99 will yield more than enough basil --and it will be ready just in time for ripening tomatoes in August.

Maybe next year I'll learn my lesson and just sow basil outside in June. Probably not though, I'll take my chances and hope that next spring will be warm and sunny.  The gardener is an eternal optimist! 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Time for the Manito Plant Sale

It's time for the Friends of Manito Spring Plant Sale at the Manito Gardens in Spokane, WA., this Saturday, June 11 from 10 am to 4 pm.   This is a fabulous sale for plants (just download the 19 page list to see everything they're selling!).  It is a fund-raiser for the gardens, so while the plants are not necessarily "bargained-priced," you are going to find a terrific selection of healthy and unusual plants. 

Purple Loosestrife

I went to the fall sale last August (they do two each year - spring and fall) and came home with an assortment of goodies: grasses, cone flowers, purple gooseneck loosestrife, Solomon's seal, sea-hollies and more.  I'm happy to report that everything wintered over and looks great. 

If you are in the Spokane area, don't miss these sales!
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