Saturday, October 29, 2011

Oh Me, of Little Faith...

Gardeners like to be different. They enjoy pushing zone limits and growing out-of-the-ordinary plants. I'm no different. (How's that for being contradictory?) Each year, I try to grow something that I've never grown before. Rarely do I consciously plan for what that might be. I might be inspired by reading about something that someone else is growing this year and decide I want to try that next year. I might see something in a garden I've visited and be motivated to grow what I've seen.

This year, my inspiration came as it commonly does - through a stroll down the rows of a nursery, where something catches my eye and a little voice shouts, "Buy it!" When I was in Cleveland earlier this year, I made a stop at one of my favorite garden centers, Petitti's at Avon. As long as I live, I will never escape their doors without hauling out a cartload of plants. They foster that kind of thing, and I willingly succumb to their plantly wiles.

Among other things, I purchased some leek starts, which I'm happy to report grew very well and we're harvesting them as needed now. Milder than the onions we grew, I've used them in chili and in salads and they're absolutely delicious and sweet.

I also found some peanut plants and bought three of them. Peanuts! What could be more fun than growing your own peanuts? I had a large clay pot (18" in diameter) which had lost its bottom, so I sank it into the garden a little bit and filled it with soil. I planted all three peanut plants in it and they grew like gangbusters. It didn't take long before I realized that the pot was barely big enough for one plant, let alone three. But vigorous growers will find a way to do their thing.

The long, hot, dry summer wore on and the peanut plants didn't skip a beat. I never saw a droopy leaf and they bloomed with lovely pea-like golden flowers (they're both legumes and in the same family) and I hoped I'd get a few peanuts. But I became doubtful when I finally got around to reading just how a peanut grows.

I knew the peanuts developed underground and I had assumed (wrongly) that they grew the peanuts on their roots. Nope. The plant flowers, then where the flower was, it develops what's commonly called a "peg." This peg finds its way to the soil and buries itself down in. It is from these pegs that the peanuts develop and grow underground.

What this meant was, that my peanut pegs were going to have to somehow manage to travel over the edge and down the side of the pot about a foot to the soil surface. Not likely to happen. So I toyed with the idea of transplanting them from the pot to the ground, but you know how that goes. I just never got around to it and the plants looked so good just growing in that pot and blooming their pretty yellow blooms. I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't get peanuts this year after all. Oh well.

It's autumn now and I've had a few odds and ends to do in the garden to ready it for winter. This includes cleaning out any clay pots that have plants and soil in them and taking them in so they don't crack over winter. Earlier this week, I decided to tear out the peanut plants, disappointed that I hadn't done my homework and had pretty much neglected them.

I pulled out the first plant and whoa! What are those? PEANUTS! I had peanuts on my peanut plants. I'm not kidding. I had peanuts on all three plants! No, there weren't many and some of them developed above the ground (these were tiny), but I grew peanuts. For real.


Each plant had 8-9 peanuts on them, for a total of 26 peanuts in all. I cut them off the plant and rinsed them off. Now I'm going to roast them and eat them.

Someone called me a chicken farmer the other day. Add peanut farmer to that, will you?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Autumn Roses on Parade

Those darn roses. Just when I think I'm not ever going to plant another one and am considering yanking some of them out, they charm their way back into my good graces. Thanks to the cooler fall weather, my roses have managed to make me forget (sort of) the ugliness of black spot that I had to deal with all summer.

We had a very wet May - over 10 inches of rain - which gave black spot the opportunity it needed to get a good start before I realized what was happening. I'd never had a problem with it before.  I ended up with many rose blooms at the top of leafless stems.

But all is forgiven now. Here's why:

'Cinco de Mayo'

Yellow miniature

'Senior Prom'


'Morning Magic'

Miniature red

'Gourmet Popcorn'


'Kordes Perfecta'

'Kordes Perfecta'

'Jubilee Celebration'

'Topsy Turvy'

'Joseph's Coat'

'Glamis Castle'

'Glamis Castle'

'Ebb Tide'

'Diana, Princess of Wales'

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chicken Twins!

And the surprises just keep on coming...

Last week, we had an egg with no shell. It was likely the first egg laid by the second of our eight hens to start laying. She probably just wanted that thing out of there before it had a chance to get its shell. We do now have two hens laying and we've gotten two eggs each day since Sunday.

Yesterday, we got a gigantic egg. As you can see by the photo above, the large egg was quite a bit bigger than the smaller ones we've been getting so far. I don't have an accurate scale to  measure the weight of these eggs, but the large egg weighs about twice as much as the smaller one.

I wondered if the larger egg would have two yolks and today I cracked it open to find out. Sure enough, there were two yolks!

One of the yolks broke when I cracked the egg open, but you can see
there are two yolks!

According to Wikipedia:

Double-yolk eggs occur when ovulation occurs too rapidly, or when one yolk becomes joined with another yolk.  Although heredity causes some hens to have a higher propensity to lay double-yolked eggs, these occur more frequently as occasional abnormalities in young hens beginning to lay.

Usually a double-yolked egg will be longer and thinner than an ordinary single-yolk egg. Double-yolked eggs usually only lead to observed successful hatchlings under human intervention, as the chickens interfere with each other's hatching process and die.

Occasionally, we'd get a double yolker when we'd gather eggs from the neighbor's chickens. I would imagine this isn't our last one either. I think it's pretty cool.

“The Grove” Helps With Tree Planting

When we moved to Our Little Acre, one of the drawing points was the mature trees on the property. There were four huge oaks and one shagbark hickory tree. When I say huge, I mean oak trees that have been estimated to be over 200 years old.

Our property was once native woods and it wasn’t that long ago (1975) that it was cleared a bit to make room for homes to be built. But five trees on an acre aren’t that many, no matter how large they are. We immediately began to plant trees of our own the year after we moved in (1977). We are still planting trees, and we tell people we’re “rewoodsing the woods.”

This Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) always
lights up Max's Garden in the fall.
We now have close to 100 trees on Our Little Acre, including ginkgo, sweet gum, Washington hawthorn, maple, willow, ash, cedar, crabapple, ornamental pear, white pine, larch, buckeye, apple, cherry, spruce, bald cypress, dawn redwood, sumac, dogwood, serviceberry, and more oaks.

Some of the trees have special meaning to us. The buckeye tree was a gift from my parents on the birth of our first child, Kara, in 1980. A white pine was carried home in a suitcase from Maine in 1979 and now towers more than 30 feet over our home. A small oak was harvested from Romie’s parents’ farm. A cornelian cherry is a descendant from one that Indiana author Gene Stratton Porter planted in her own garden in Rome City, IN. A Japanese maple was a gift from my 96-year-old grandmother.

It recently came to my attention that there’s a new organization dedicated to planting more trees - everywhere, but especially in urban areas. Planting trees for the greater good isn’t a new concept, so what’s special about The Grove? They tell us:

The Grove ( is an online community for tree enthusiasts, enabling members to share tree planting experiences and commemorate life moments online with family, friends and their communities. Members can upload pictures, videos and captions of their tree planting experiences, discuss tree-related issues and get updates on local planting events. The Grove also offers a tree match tool to choose the right tree to commemorate a special event, as well as information on planting and care tips.

The Grove is created and funded by the Georgia Urban Forest Council (GUFC), the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) and the USDA Forest Service and was beta tested in the Southeast in 2009 and 2010 before its national launch in March 2011. The community is now expanding to all 50 states along with three U.S. territories, and Ohio is one of the first to be included in the 2011 expansion.”

Ohio’s Grove is sponsored by The Johnny Appleseed Society at Urbana University. They are helping promote tree planting in urban areas to help preserve the urban tree canopy. To join the community in Ohio, visit the Ohio Grove website.

There are currently "groves" in 39 states and the District Of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To find your own state grove, click on the Groups tab at the top of the home page of The Grove. This community can be a great source of information about planting trees, no matter which growing zone you're in.

According to FTC rules, I'm disclosing that I have been compensated for this blog post. However, I only agreed to promote it because I believe in what this organization is doing and am a member myself.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Chicken First, In More Ways Than One!

We've been thrilled that Pippa has been laying eggs for over two weeks now. She's given us an egg for 13 days out of the 16 that she's been laying. Since all our hens are within a week of each other in age, I've begun to wonder when the others will start laying, too. I expect to find two eggs one of these days when I check around mid-day.

Pippa, one of our Silver Laced Wyandottes
I was working outside today near the coop, around 11:30. Pippa hadn't laid her egg for the day yet, which wasn't really unusual, as she varies the time of laying. It's usually by noon, but a few times it's been mid-afternoon. I happened to notice that all the hens were in the run as I walked by and only Pippa was in the coop. I peeked in and I saw her go into one of the nesting boxes, so I figured she was going to lay.

Sure enough, when I checked about 10 minutes later, she'd laid an egg and was out in the run with her coopmates. I love when I can gather that egg and it's still very warm from her body!

The girls are let out for recess!

We've been letting the hens out of the run to free-range for half an hour or so in the last few days. The weather has been glorious and they seemed like they wanted a bit of freedom. We've only done it when we're there to keep an eye on them, although they haven't wandered far from the coop at all. It's fun to see them wander about, scratching and eating grass and bugs and the crab apples that fall from the tree beside their coop.

Lily watches the hens from the upper right and Jack keeps an eye on them
at the lower right.

I put them back in before we left to go to town for a few hours. When we returned, I went out to shut the hatch door to the coop and make sure they had food and water. I opened the large doors at the back of the coop and noticed an egg laying on the floor by the food tray! I filled the tray and picked up the egg...

It didn't feel right. There was no shell! I'd heard about shell-less eggs, in fact, someone had asked me if any of the first eggs that Pippa had laid were missing a shell. (No, none were.) Since Pippa had laid an egg around 11:30 this morning, I figured it wasn't laid by her. Plus, Pippa has laid the last 11 eggs in a nesting box.

So, it would appear that one of the other hens has begun to lay eggs! Apparently, it's not uncommon for this no-shell thing to happen when a hen begins laying. We'll see what the next few days brings. In the meantime, I'll add this to a couple of Pippa's eggs and scramble them for breakfast tomorrow.

Yes, it's safe to eat an egg that is missing the shell, as long as it's eaten soon and the membrane isn't leaking. It's not; in fact, it's a pretty thick membrane. The egg feels like a water balloon!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Colchicums: The "Other" Autumn Crocus

Every season has its stars. While we love the plants that give us blooms and color all summer long, we look forward to those that have their place in the sun (or shade) for a brief time, too. In the fall, we have fall-blooming crocus (Crocus pulchellus and Crocus sativus, among others) , toad lilies (Tricyrtis sp.), and of course, mums and asters.

A couple of years ago, I purchased several corms of Colchicum 'Waterlily' and planted them in four different locations. Often called Autumn Crocus or Meadow Saffron, they rise on naked stems from the soil during the last half of September here in zone 5b.

Growing no taller than 6-8 inches, their giant blooms measure as large as six inches across and my 'Waterlily' blooms have a lavender-pink color that glows in the landscape. The blooms of this heirloom variety (1928) are multi-petaled and heavy and sometimes lay down on the ground because of the weight. They can last over a week in water as a cut flower.

The foliage appears in the spring and gathers energy from the sun and soil to prepare for the fall blooms. After its brief appearance, they go dormant through summer until the blooms emerge in fall.

I planted three corms in each location and in just a couple of years, they have multiplied to form a nice little clump. Next summer, I'll dig them and divide the corms so that I have an even larger clump, which is what I wanted. Colchicums can be rather pricey as bulbs/corms go, so I'm glad they multiply so easily.

Colchicums are best planted in mid-summer, when the corms are dormant, in a well-drained area. They're hardy to zones 5-8.

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