Friday, September 28, 2012

Flower spider


Flower Spider

aka Crab spider


     This tiny beneficial spider can change colors depending on what flower it is hiding in.  It measures only 1/2" across.  Seen above in green, red, and white to match the raspberry flower.
A Flower Spider eating a Japanese Beetle, the hibiscus seems to have a narcotic effect on the normally fast and strong beetles, making them easy prey.
The tiny spider hangs on by one leg to a Rose of Sharon Hibiscus
I was photographing the beetle and never even noticed the spider, I about jumped out of my skin when I was viewing the pics blown up on my monitor.




 Removes pest insects



Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chicken update 9/15/12

     The chickens are doing really great so far.  I was finally able to get a good count yesterday and confirm that we still have all 26.  So feeling good about that.  They are almost 8 weeks old now, so about 1/2 way to laying.

  We have been letting them out more and more when we are home and can keep an eye on them.  They really enjoy getting out to forage, and they are a joy to watch, especially when they are turning my compost for me and adding to it. 

     A couple of days ago, right after I let the chickens out, a gigantic hawk swooped down out of the neighbor's tree.  My heart was pounding as the roosters sounded the alarm and everyone raced back into the coop.  I stepped out towards the incoming raptor and it veered off away.  I didn't see it again for the rest of the evening and was able to let the flock out again without incident.
This is either a Rode Island Red or a Red Star Pullet, we have 6 of each but I'm not really sure which are which.

One of our Araucanas, we have 13 of them.

This is our free exotic chick, still no idea what kind it is.

We definitely have at least 2 roosters in the flock.  So far that hasn't been much of a problem, but I expect that we will have to cull one of them eventually.  I am glad we have them though, hopefully we can get a broody hen or two and replenish the flock with chicks in the spring.

A drainage solution for concrete

     Our house came with a concrete porch that was poured in sections right up against the original 160 year old rock wall foundation on the south side up against our bedroom.  There is a low spot up against the wall where, in some one's infinite wisdom, there is a 2x? piece of lumber between the house and the slab.  Water puddling on this spot has infiltrated and caused settling issues.

     Mud jacking isn't going to work, as I am worried that the pressure would heave the rock wall foundation next to it.  Replacing the concrete isn't really an option for us right now, so I came up with an alternate solution. 
Using a laser level, I determined that the house side was 3/4" lower than the edge of the concrete.  So I snapped a chalk line to the lowest point, and cut a kerf into the slab.  I used a concrete blade on my circular saw, making a series of full passes towards the house until I achieved a 1" cut on the edge.  Since the blade wears away as I am cutting, the cut tapers up automatically to nothing at the low point that I am trying to drain.

     So far it is working pretty well.  Instead of pooling up near the house, water is drained into the garden bed next to the porch.  I may run into issues with the kerf clogging with debris, or cracking in the winter.  It will be interesting to see how it performs over the long haul.  But for now, at least I have slowed down the erosion and bought us some time without spending a lot of money.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Black Locust

Black Locust

Robinia pseudoacacia


     This deciduous tree of the Legume family is an excellant pioneer plant with many uses.


 Black Locust Bark

Black locust leaves

Sets of 2 thorns can be found on many branches

Seed and Seed pod.  Pods can be 2"-6" long and contain up to 20 seeds.

Black Locust flowering (Mid June in these parts)

The Pea like blossoms grow in clusters.


Tree, upper canopy
Up to 150' tall



Permaculture Uses:

Hard, rot resistant wood.  Great for fence posts, tool handels, and many building applications.
Flowers are excellant for honey production
Flowers are edible
Leaves can be used as animal fodder on limited basis.
Seeds can be eaten by chickens
Improves nitrogen in the soil.
Can be coppiced
Pioneer plant, nitrogen fixer




Seed pods

Monday, September 10, 2012

A little bit about us

      Our relationship began one night in a restaurant with a group of friends back in 2001.  The way I remember it, the conversation turned to plants and we sort of tuned out the rest of our party and focused on each other for the remainder of the evening.  The rest, as they say, is history. 

      Gardening and a love of Nature brought us together and helped our relationship to grow.  We moved into a 400 square foot apartment with no yard and began to scheme that one day we would have our own garden.  Nikki worked as a landscaper, and I a carpenter as we inched toward our dream.  In the Summer of 2008 we married in a wonderful sunrise ceremony on the shores of Lake Michigan.

      For the next 18 Months we conducted an exhausting house search that found us homeless and living separate, with friends and relatives for a while.  We finally found the right combination of cheap with a big yard and a habitable dwelling, and closed the deal in the Winter of 2009.

     Our house was built in 1852, and to be honest, it really wasn't habitable when we bought it.  It had been foreclosed and left to the elements with a leaking roof and broken windows.  Now, I am pretty handy, but I really don't see the light at the end of this project.  So far we have repaired the windows, replaced the roof, the furnace, most of the electrical and all of the plumbing.  Not to mention all the drywall and painting (oh the endless painting).  If the to do list has an end, I'm not seeing it.  It's worth it though.  It came with an acre of land, and a nice garage with an attached pole barn.

     These days Nikki is working as a vet tech, and I do maintenance for a retail center.  We have gotten to a place where the house is comfortable enough for now, so we have been laying off the big remodeling projects and spending more time in the yard.  It is so exciting to finally put into practice some of the things we have studied and discussed for so long.  We don't have a lot of money.  We don't wear fancy clothes or drive fancy cars.  We work hard, and often go without.  But I have a beautiful wife and a loving family.  As we develop the land and the yard begins to look less like lawn and more like Eden; I realize how truly wealthy I am.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Columbine, Alpina Deep Blue

Columbine, Alpina Deep Blue

Aquilegia alpina


     This beautiful spring flower is a native of the French and Swisse Alps.  It blooms in mid Spring to early Summer.


Perennial herbaceous plant 18" to 30" tall.
Sets of 3 palmate leaves



Seeds need cold stratification 3-4 weeks before sewing indoors, or direct seed in Fall.  Spreads fairly easily by seed.
 Hardy in zones 2-9

Permaculture uses:

Beautiful landscape flower
Attracts pollinators


Sunlight/ partial shade



Friday, September 7, 2012



Valeriana officinalis


Perennial herb with white or pink umbrellous flowers.  Blooms in late Spring into early Summer.  Dies back to the ground in hot weather.  Thrives in full sun, rich well drained soil.


up to 6' tall
4' around herbaceous shrub


 Can be cut back several times a year.  This is often done to encourage larger roots.

Seed saving:

Tiny seeds fall when the flowers dry.  Use a fine mesh or paper bag tied over the mature flower to collect them.

Permaculture uses:

Attracts beneficial insects
Herbal medicine, sedative
Understory fruit guild plant
Dynamic accumulator for Silicon




      Chop and drop mulch
      Used as sedative

 Link to Wikipedia- Valerian

Cucumber Beetle, Spotted

Spotted Cucumber Beetle

Diabrotica undecimpunctata

     Shown here along with the damage they do to plants, leaving large ragged holes.  A 1/4 inch beetle having a yellow body with three rows of four black spots and a shiny black head. 

Garden Pest:

Damages leaves by chewing large ragged holes
Can spread bacterial wilt and mosaic diseases

Both Spotted and Striped Cucumber beetles will visit squash and cucumbers to obtain cucurbitacin, the most bitter substance around, to protect themselves from predation.

Permaculture uses:

Chicken food

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hummingbird Moth

Hummingbird Moth

Hemaris thysbe

Garden Pest:  Tomato Hornworm as larvae, eats tomato plants.

Permaculture Uses:

Adult moth is pollinator
Entertaining to watch, adds a bit of magic to the garden

Japanese Beetle

Japanese Beetle

Popillia japonica



     Easy to recognize by it's shiny metallic green and copper color, the Japanese Beetle can be a real pest in the garden.  They are just over 1/2" long and just under 1/2" wide.  It eats leaves and flowers and if left unchecked, can defoliate many species.  Eggs are layed in the soil and hatch into white grubs.  The adult beetles emerge in late Summer and begin feeding.
     Many people trap them with lure traps commonly available in garden centers.  This is not generally advized as the pheremone lures tend to attract many more beetles to the area than can be trapped.

     We have found that our chickens love to eat them, and regularly clean out the garden using a homemade bug trap (basically a funnel on a jar). 



Most flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables

Observation 9/7/12: While collecting Japanese beetles for the chickens today, I noticed that the ones on the Rose of Sharon Hibiscus were very lethargic, I wonder if it has a narcotic effect on them?


Cherry Tomato, Gardeners Delight

Gardener's Delight

Cherry Tomato 

Lycopersicon lycopersicum

65 Days to maturity
A small but sweet heirloom cherry tomato that grows in clusters of 6-12.  Produces round bright red fruit throughout the Summer.
Sew indoors 6-8 weeks before last average frost or when soil is 60°F.  Plant in full sun in rich, well drained soil.

My seed was first purchased in 2011 from Botanical Interests.
2011 grew and saved seed from origional packet.
2012 grew and saved seed from origional packet.

Seeds available for 2013 season.  $3 first packed $2 each additional. paypal  be sure to identify variety in subject line.  or email for more info.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Backyard Chickens

We have had the opportunity to work with poultry numerous times through our Friends and family, but this is the first time we've had a flock of our own.  We got 26 female chicks from Mcmurray hatchery.  They are a mix of 13 Araucanas, 6 Rhode Island Reds, 6 Red Stars and one unknown exotic chick thrown in as a bonus.  Amazingly they all showed up alive, and we have managed to keep them alive for the last  6 weeks.


The Exotic chick started out white, but turned black as is feathers grew in.

We are feeding them medicated chick starter feed to prevent coccidiosis, and added electrolytes to the water for the first two days to help them get over shipping stress.  We started them off in an open bottom brooder pen, and they took to foraging right away. 



They're getting bigger, I guess I'd better finish the bigger pen!


Ahhh.... that's better.  We move the tractor daily.  The front pops up on wheels for easy moving.

In the back we use this trailer dolly I got from my dad, along with the custom hitch he helped me build.  It works really well, Nikki is able to move the pen by herself.

The floating brooder has a lightweight plywood roof and flexible insulation for walls.  There are several perches in the corners.  We have had a lot of trouble with the waterer shown here.  It drains out quickly if not leveled well, yet sometimes the water wont come out at all.  I've come home more than once and found the bottom dry and the top full.



New watering system!  I ordered the Avian aqua mizer, and the hens started using them right away.  It is similar to the nipples that large commercial growers use, but this one is designed to work off a gravity feed instead of a pressurized pipe.  Very easy to install and works well.  I am very happy I decided to try them. 

I made a couple of these bug traps out of a funnel and a plastic jar.  I used zip ties for fasteners.  There is an s hook crimped on the funnel so I can hang it on the pen, and small holes in the bottom for drainage.  I use them to collect pests for chicken food.  It works really well for Japanese Beetles and Asparagus Beetles.  I get the funnel underneath them and brush them in.  They tend to drop straight down to escape so it works great.  The chickens love them, and It turns my garden pest collection into chicken food harvesting.  which is somehow less of a chore and more of a game.

 Check out the comb on that one on the right.  I'm starting to think we got a couple of roosters. 

Update:  I guess we were right with our rooster suspicions, Nikki hear one crow for the first time this morning.  Maybe we will get some babies next year.