Wild Surprises!

Something that never ceases to amaze and reassure me about the environment is how very rapidly nature acts to reclaim what is hers. When we cleared part of the field for the vineyard, it was an ugly scar. Now, despite drout and some weed whacking, the ground between the rows of grapes has been claimed by a variety of tenacious little plants and flowers that seem to be thriving in the altered ecosystem. We were out this week and I suddenly was on a 300 Things walk again discovering all manner of wildflowers making their homes amidst the grapevines. Of course, some of them are not desirable additions, but they all hold their own beauty just the same.

I think this is vetch making kind of a nifty ground cover with pretty purple flowers:

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Love these sweet, delicate wild petunias!
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And, a touch of yellow:
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Horse nettles may be sharp and potentially fatally poisonous, but check out their pretty flowers!
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Something else yellow I can’t ID is preparing for its turn to bloom:
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The most pretty and most unfortunately named of my discoveries this gorgeous strand of…
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Yep…Beggar’s Lice. Bummer! It is SO pretty! And yet, so annoying when it turns to burrs. Such an ugly, ugly common name too.

More popped up in the greenhouse too. So sweet and delicate looking!

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We have a helpful watering assistant:
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The boys were excited to show me this row of tiny mushrooms that sprang up after it finally rained this week.

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And, even better was this huge parasol mushroom in the front yard. I think the spirits of lactation are trying to tell me something…

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September 8, 2012 · 1:20 am

Tendrils!

The grapevines are all still doing well. Mark put up stakes by each of them last weekend and it is amazing and cool to see how very quickly the plants put out tendrils and snagged onto to the stakes, quickly anchoring themselves. Magic!

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It is hard to get a good picture of one of the actual rows of plants because of all the other pesky grasses that keep trying to reclaim their former home.

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Small girl picking stuff

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The kids were all working hard digging in this dirt pile left from clearing the vineyard and I thought it was pretty cute!

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Vineyard trellis wires

Yesterday, Mark finished stringing all the trellis wires in the vineyard. It is looking great! He really did it.

Tightening the last wire:

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All finished!

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Half of the vineyard. The plants are all doing really well. We had a problem with deer eating some leaves recently and we manually pick off and squash Japanese beetles twice a day (only about 3 a day now total, rather than three per plant as it was last month. Out of the 50 plants planted only one didn’t grow. Pretty good ratio!
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It looked like it was going to pour down rain, but alas it never did. :(
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Greenhouse Project–First Work Party

I recently uploaded a crazy 115 photos to Facebook documenting our greenhouse project. After I got finished, I felt regretful that I hadn’t just put an album here, where it is more publicly accessible! We are building a greenhouse intended to house an aquaponics system. It is taking longer than we thought to complete and we’d really hoped we have the aquaponics part up and running by the end of the summer. Instead, we’re still finishing the actual building. It is a 20 x 48 post and beam building with metal and clear plastic siding and roofing.

We have a “work party” cooperative with four families who all live within about 20 miles of each other and who share similar goals with regard to sustainability, simple living, and eco-friendly living. We alternate weekends at each other’s houses working on projects. We started this in September of last year and have had approximately 13 work parties since then. I hope to write more about this in the future, because it has been a remarkable and fulfilling experience.

Anyway, here are some pictures from the first work party in which we worked on the greenhouse:

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Chicks!

Can’t resist sharing some other pictures of the chicks at our house:

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This one looks like it has eyeliner!

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Little head peeking out. This mama doesn’t “talk” to her babies the way a normal mother hen does (more about this later). Her first hatchling rejected her because of it and was given to another mother (it is actually the eyeliner chick in the photo above). But, then she hatched another one who seems to like her, and her silent mothering, just fine.

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It is nice to snuggle up to a sibling (even if it is 100 degrees outside!)

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This mother has been our best and most reliable mother hen. She is the first to have taught us that we could trust them to hatch and raise their own babies.

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Trust the Mother!

We have three broody chickens. Two weeks ago, the first one had a failed hatch. Two babies made it out of the shell, but appeared to have died immediately. We theorized it could have been bacteria in the nest box or suffocation. We moved her to the broody coop then with the other two chickens (she is actually in a nest right next to her own mother–the hen who hatched her about two years ago is broody again and sitting on a new batch). We thought about replacing her remaining eggs, but since there were still five or six (rather than only two like we thought), we thought we’d give them a few more days. We’d hesitated to move her prior to hatching because we’ve had mixed success with that (sometimes they just give up sitting if they’re moved too soon). So, on the off-chance that she still had any viable eggs, we moved her and the eggs.

After another week and no sign of life, we concluded they’d rotted/died and so Mark went to throw them out and give her new ones. He’d moved her off the nest and was picking up the eggs to toss when he heard her calling/talking to them the way chicken mamas do when eggs are close to hatching. He then thought maybe some of the eggs had been laid in her nest box after the others and that there was still some hope for the remaining five yet. So, he didn’t toss them and put her back. And…when we went out this morning, look what we found!

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I wrote about our first ever broody chicken experience in an essay for Midwifery Today called Birth Lessons from a Chicken. One of the main messages was to trust the mother. That message was hit home again today. When you listen to mothers, of any species, and give them the space to follow their instincts rather than trying to mold them to your ideas of the “right way,” they often do amazing things.

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Of cabbages and kids…

For the first time in our gardening history, we successfully grew a cabbage. A nice big one too!
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And, yes, I had to get a picture of each kid with the famous cabbage:

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Then, we chopped it up in the food processor and made it into a delicious salad for dinner:

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There is something irreplaceable about eating something for dinner that was moments before a living part of the earth, connected into the ground. This is REAL food!

And, took a picture of the new moon over our field:

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