Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tonka Tour

Did you ever have your very own Tonka truck?  I never did.  I was Tonka deprived as a youth, but I'm making up for it now.  I purchased my very own second-hand Tonka truck and for just a few dollars, I made a very cool toy fit for the most discerning gardener.  Here's my Tonka truck garden just after completion.

After constructing Tonka, I thought, what the heck, let's go for a spin.  First stop, the Chick Inn.  Hmmm... I guess the chicks are out gallivanting. 

I kinda see why 5 years boys like these Tonka trucks.  My Tonka is king of it's little garden world.  Let's cross the bridge and go check out the watermelon patch.

My garden pond doubles as a huge lake in Tonka's world.

Driving a Tonka truck around is exhausting.  I  think it's time to find a place to park, after all, I'm not 5 years old anymore.  I thought this spot next to my new Sharkskin Agave and Bronze Dyckia would be good, but it doesn't really show Tonka off to her best advantage.

Ah, this is perfect.  The yellow pansies really bring out the color in her chassis.  

I hope you'll consider having a little fun with your garden containers.  If a yellow Tonka truck isn't really your style.  Consider this adorable plastic pail potted up with purple Angelonia.

Or, grab an old red wagon and use your imagination.  Do you see a moss covered fairy land or a desert oasis full of cactus?  It's all child's play.  Have fun!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bye Bye Birdie

I have been witness to an amazing series of events, beginning with finding some eggs and ending with the new baby birds flying off into the world.  

It all began on March 31, 2012, when I noticed a female cardinal had built a nest and laid some eggs in my greenhouse.  I wrote a blog titled Squatter's Rights detailing the discovery.

On Saturday, April 7th, I came home to discover the eggs had hatched.  The two little hatchlings were pinkish-orange and appeared to look like eggs without shells.  I wondered if something had gone wrong.

On day 2, they didn't look like little shell-less eggs anymore, but if it's possible, they looked more pathetic. The momma bird tweeted and fussed at us, and my husband was convinced she was asking for help with her two deformed youngsters.  I must admit that I also wondered if these were normal little babies.

On day 3, it was clear they were getting some hair/feathers on their little pink bodies.  They looked a little less pathetic and I started to think they were probably going to be okay.

On day 4, I could see feathers and wings.  They were moving around a little more, but their large sightless eyes were a little unnerving.

By day 5, they were all wings and definitely growing fast.

On day 6, they looked at me for the first time.  Suddenly one of the babies jumped up thinking I was delivering a meal.  The effort must have been exhausting, because the little tyke immediately plunged back into the nest and went to sleep.

On Day 7, the babies were just chilling waiting for Dad to bring them something tasty.  Dad was right outside the window waiting for me to vamoose.

On Day 8, the babies were suddenly quite shy as they were becoming more in tune with their surroundings.  "I can see you," baby seems to say "but you can't see me."

By day 9, they had the "I'm invisible" routine down to a science.  If it wasn't for those fluffy feathers, they would almost look like nest material.

On day 10, I found an empty nest.  The babies were gone, but Mom and Dad were making a racket.  Something was wrong.

One of the babies was trapped in the greenhouse.  This was our concern from the beginning.  Mom and Dad came and went via a small window, but I wondered how uncoordinated first time flyers would manage to copy their parents exit routine.

The poor little baby was peeping very loudly.  She repeatedly banged into the wall trying to get out while Mom and Dad squawked in panic outside.  I carefully picked up baby and took her outside where she would be closer to her parents.

The little baby could fly a little and immediately made her way into a tree where she was greeted by Mom and Dad.  And, in case you're wondering about the other little baby, my husband finally found him safe and sound on a tree branch. 

They blend into their surroundings amazingly well.  When we left them for the evening, Mom and Dad were trying to corral their young'uns, no doubt trying to get them to a safe spot for the night.  All's well that ends well.  Bye bye baby, I'll miss you.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bloom Day - All the Colors

All the colors of spring are humming in my garden. It's beautiful, it's vibrant, it's alive! Purples, yellows, pinks and reds, it's all here.
Globe Mallow (orange), Coral Bean (red), Copper Canyon Daily (yellow), Agastache (lt. purple), Cleome (dk. purple)
Texas Senna is just starting to bloom.  This plant is a real show stopper in full bloom.  The cloudless sulfur butterflies love this plant, which is why I added it my garden.

This Coral Bean is finally blooming thanks to it's new location in the sun.  I moved it last spring from a shadier spot where it never bloomed.

I love unusual flowers and this Red Hot Poker is different for sure.  This first lonely bloom should be followed by a few more as spring progresses.

I wish I could say I planned this, but sometimes great combinations just happen.  This Purple Cone Flower with Burgundy Castor Bean as a back drop is winning combination in my opinion.

This Gaura with it's little butterfly like blooms has not always been an easy plant for me to grow.  Sometimes you just need to find the right spot for a plant to thrive.  I guess I finally got it right.

I love this view of my garden looking toward my fountain.  What's amazing is how this view changes throughout the year.  The Larkspur and Tropicana roses blooming now will be replaced by Day Lilies, and then later in the season by Pride of Barbados.

Spring means roses and this floribunda, Gene Boerner, never disappoints.

Would you look at these crazy petunias.  I planted them last spring.  Winter was so mild, I don't think the petunias ever stopped blooming.  Now, apparently, they want to rule the garden.

Speaking of ruling the garden, I hacked this Jerusalem Sage back last year, but it looks completely undeterred.  If you're looking for a drought hardy, reliable spring bloomer.  This is a great plant.

Lastly, this Variegated Purple Heart is a new addition to my garden and look, it's already blooming.

Please check in with May Dreams for other wonderful Bloom Day blogs.  Enjoy the colors of spring!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Chickens Love Treats

What do chickens eat?  I think the bigger question is "what don't chickens eat?".  I once saw a chicken grab an entire hamburger off of my husbands plate.  She and her sisters ate the whole thing from the patty to the bun.  I've never laughed so hard, but it really got me thinking about chickens and their diet.  That was the day I realized chickens are NOT vegetarians, no matter how cute them seem starting out.

Chickens are opportunistic omnivores meaning that they eat just about anything that crosses their paths.  They originated in the jungles of Southeast Asia where they enjoyed a varied diet of vegetation, fruit, seeds, bugs, slugs, worms and even, small animals like frogs, lizards, and mice.  

From an early age, we fed our chickens grub worms and grasshoppers that we came across while out in the garden.  Chickens are naturally curious, but understandably cautious when encountering something new.

Anyone who has ever seen a chicken chow down on a burger can definitely appreciate how a group of chickens could consume a large piece of food.  When chickens encounter a piece of food that is too big to swallow, they play a fun game.  The chicken with the food starts running around.  This tells the other chickens that the game is on.  The object is to rip and pull at whatever food the holding chicken has.  This continues until the food is small enough to eat and everyone gets a little bite of food along the way.  Interestingly, the chicken starting the game seldom ends up with the food in the end.

A balanced diet is important for a chickens health, so I feed my chickens a commercial ration which contains all the nutrition a chicken needs to stay fit and lay lots of eggs.  Commercial rations are available in pellets, crumbles, mashes and organic varieties.  Whatever food you choose, be sure to keep the food clean and dry.  Hanging the ration will keep the chickens from spoiling the food with droppings or knocking it over as chickens will do.

Selecting the appropriate chicken feed can be a little confusing with all the options available, so I've made a chart to help explain the various feed options and their costs.  Two great local stores for purchasing feed are Callahan's General Store (southeast Austin) and Buck Moore Feed Supply (north central Austin).  Both stores have excellent staff which will be happy to assist you with your feed questions.

Food and Supplements
Age to Feed
Amount to Feed*
Cost (Approx.)
Chick Starter Grower
0 – 20 weeks
Combination starter grower feed use for first 4 months
¾ lb. per week
$5.00 per 10 lb. bag
$11.90 per 50 lb. bag
Organic Chick Starter
0 – 6 weeks
Initial food for baby chicks
¾ lb. per week
$16.50 per 20 lb. bag
Organic Pullet Grower
6 – 20 weeks
Growth formula for chicks
¾ lb. per week
$15.50 per 20 lb. bag
Lay Pellets
20 wks & up
Large pelletized food (20% protein) for laying hens.
3 lbs per week
$12.35 per 50 lb. bag
Lay Crumbles
20 wks & up
Broken up pellets (20% protein) for laying hens
3 lbs per week
$12.35 per 50 lb. bag
All Mash Pellets
20 wks & up
Large pelletized food (18% protein) for laying hens.
3 lbs per week
$11.90 per 50 lb. bag
All Mash Crumbles
20 wks & up
Broken up pellets (18% protein) for laying hens
3 lbs per week
$11.90 per 50 lb. bag
Organic Layer
20 wks & up
Served dry or as a mash to laying hens
3 lbs per week
$31.95 per 50 lb. bag
8 wks & up
A treat provided to chickens
Sparingly as a treat or training device
$5.00 per 10 lb. bag
Oyster Shell
20 wks & up
A calcium supplement for shell hardness
Supplement if needed
$1.25 per 5 lb. bag
20 wks & up
Generally not required when using commercially prepared feed
Supplement if needed
$5.00 per 5 lb. bag
Homemade Feed
Recipes vary
Cost Varies
Kitchen Scraps
20 wks & up
Chicken like a variety of food especially seeds and leaves
Vegetable trimmings in good condition.  Never feed a chicken moldy or rotten food.
* Use amounts as a guide.  The recommended feeding method is free-choice where food is always available.

Sure a balanced diet is important, but CHICKENS LOVE TREATS!  Here are some of my chicken's favorite treats:

·         Yogurt
·         Raisins
·         Fruits, especially seeded fruits like tomatoes
·         Black-Oiled Sunflower Seeds
·         Oatmeal
·         Cabbage

Chickens like to have fun with their food.  So, how about a game of chicken tetherball to break up the monotony.  Tie a head of cabbage up where it can swing freely and you'll have hours of fun on your hands.

Interested in more about chickens?  How about coming out for the Funky Chicken Coop Tour this Saturday, April 7, 2012, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  You can tour coops, see some cool chickens and talk to some backyard chicken folks.  Sounds like fun!  I hope to see you out there.