November 2016 garden and chicken update

Take a gander at this nice basket of pumpkins and butternut squash. All but one of them came from my Garden Box of Joyous Anticipation. The seeds sprouted from the compost that I added and I just let them grow. I was rewarded with 10 lbs of winter squash. Amazing.

Because we are probably going to lose our nectarine trees due to shot-hole borers (see last post), I changed the banner shot from a nectarine blossom to this basket of pumpkins. Well, changing the banner from spring to fall seems reasonable anyway.

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My plan is to make pumpkin pie and pumpkin soup, but the weather isn’t cooperating. We have had temperatures in the 90s here in coastal southern California the last few mid-November days. That just ain’t right, folks. Global warming in action.

Normally, my husband and I try to tough it out until at least Thanksgiving before turning on the furnace. Ha. Looks like that will be no problem this year. Why do we do that? Because global warming is caused by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The less fuel we burn, the less we contribute to global warming. So even when we do turn the furnace on, we set the thermostat to 68. One of the reasons why I garden and keep chickens is to reduce the distance that my food has to travel to get to us. Travel takes fuel, and that contributes to even more global warming.

You may have noticed that my blog is called “Lou Murray’s Green World.” That is a play on words. My world is green because of my garden, true. And because it is a certified National Wildlife Federation Wildlife Habitat. But I am also green because I am an environmentalist, a newly retired professional biologist. (I finally retired three months ago from the Orange County Conservation Corps, where I had worked for the past 13 years. I figure that at age 73, and recovering from cancer surgery, it was time to retire. But I digress.)

So how am I green? I garden, I compost, I recycle, I reuse, I collect rainwater, and I conserve. Even my choice of holiday greeting cards is green. This year, I purchased some special cards from the National Wildlife Federation. For each card purchased, they provide trees to non-profits, community groups, and governmental entities. Our Christmas card purchase this year will be planting 60 trees! Each tree soaks up carbon dioxide like a sponge. These cards aren’t cheap, but saving the planet was never going to be easy. We all need to “do our bit,” as the Brits say.

But what you are wondering about is probably the chickens, right? Especially my new girls.

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Ariel (the Ameraucuna) is getting bigger. She is supposed to be about five months old now. But I can tell by her small comb and wattles that she isn’t going to start laying as soon as early December. I am still hoping for eggs by late December.

My two pullets, Princess Aurora and Princess Ariel are getting bigger. They have established their social position in my tiny flock and are holding their own with the two big girls, Chicken Little and Dino-peep. Aurora is fitting in nicely, while pretty little Ariel is at the bottom of the pecking order. The two big girls hang together and the two youngsters hang together, but Aurora is brave enough to hang a bit with Chicken Little. They are the same breed, Black Sex-linked (a cross between a Rhode Island Red and a Barred Rock).

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Aurora’s comb and wattle are also still small, but, like with Ariel, they are a bit larger and much redder than they were a month ago.

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This is what a laying hen’s comb and wattle look like. Is it just me, or does Dino-peep (my Barred Rock) look mean? She is an aggressive hen, and pecks me every chance she gets. She is my only hen laying right now, and one laying hen just isn’t enough. Come on, Ariel and Aurora, grow up.

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Chicken Little is my oldest hen. She only lays a few months of the year now. She is still feathering out from her molt. Her comb and wattle are shrunken and not very red, the sign of a non-laying hen. That will change come January. When the days begin to get longer, the estrogen rises in the hens and laying commences. 

Because my cancer surgery in May and the recovery period sapped my energy and set me back a bit, I only got one of my veggie beds planted this year, plus the Garden Box of Joyous Anticipation. Here is the garden box, that I built from a kit from Gardener’s Supply Company.

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This box has been an absolute delight. We got more basil from it than I have ever grown before, plus all of the arugula that we could want. The summer squash were moderately productive, and we even got surprise pumpkins and a butternut from it. The beets and French Breakfast radishes got crowded out, but now that the green beans and pumpkins are gone, the beets and radishes are thriving. 

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The orange bell pepper plant has three peppers ready to harvest. It has taken until the middle of November for them to ripen, but I didn’t plant this box until July.

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Veggie Bed #2 in the backyard is the only one I got planted this summer. It has been giving us lettuce, kale, and mizuna galore. The cauliflower (in shadow) is beginning to head up. This bed may not look like much, but it is quite productive.

I have been working quite slowly on getting Veggie Bed #1 (behind veggie bed #2 in the picture above) ready for fall/winter planting. It has a huge collard green plant in it, and a couple of struggling bell peppers. If the weather ever cools down enough for me to work outdoors, I will get that bed spaded and planted. Maybe this weekend?

My order of cool season crop seeds has arrived from Territorial Seed Company and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. My order of onion seedlings from Dixondale Farms also has arrived, so I need to get the Garden of Infinite Neglect in the front yard weeded and spaded as well as the two beds in back. Much to do here in coastal southern California in the fall, since we garden year round.

Hey, if you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. Thanks.

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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5 Responses to November 2016 garden and chicken update

  1. Dawn Pope says:

    Hi Lou,
    Great post!
    One of your raised garden box is on my gift list for the holidays! Your successful summer crop has only heightened the anticipation!
    Dawn

  2. linda says:

    I enjoy your postings immensely, we have replaced our back lawn with california native plants, have learned some lessons along the way, I love the garden box.

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