Monty Chill Who?

Tuey and I just got back from an adventure to the Washington DC area. Why is it that schools feel the need to force Elementary and Junior High students to go to amazing places that 90% don’t give a shit about? DC was packed with bored students and frustrated Teachers/Chaperones who obviously did not want to be there. Yes there were some that you could tell were truly absorbing the history that surrounded them but they were a very small minority. Enough ranting, On to my post about Karen and I’s awesome herb garden tour at Monticello!

MonticelloWe joined a group of 15 or so mostly local herb enthusiasts for a 2 1/2 hour tour of Thomas Jefferson’s herb garden bright and early Saturday morning. Originally we wanted to do a behind the scenes type tour but it was sold out, I noticed this herb tour on their special events section and Tuey thought we should give it a go. Something different you know. MarshmallowWhile everyone else was taking up close shots of herb specimens and taking detailed notes about what Monticello’s gardeners think he might have used them for I found other things to occupy me. Tuey at MonticelloKaren was obviously intrigued by the garden and watching her intrigued me. LadybugsThis example of insect fornication also intrigued Tuey enough to call me over to get a shot with the I-Phone. Tuey tooIt was truly a beautiful morning and the information was fascinating but it came through fairly quickly that Jefferson was more of an intellectual and a gadget guy and not a man of the land. Earlier in the week we visited Mt. Vernon and there it was obvious that Washington was a man intrigued by agriculture but that wasn’t the case, at least for me, at Monticello.Tormented TueyThis look on Tuey’s face is the result of the lady with the glasses repeatedly asking for the correct spelling of exotic herbs like thyme and rosemary.Swing SetI really liked this setup because it is exactly what I am doing with my tomatoes albeit with an old swing set frame in my case. SalveThe final part of the class was making a salve. Pot MarigoldThis was the main ingredient, pot marigold. While I discovered a lot of ideas in the gardens, it was this part I got the most out of. A couple of the women in the group were amateur herbalists and one was even studying to practice professionally, talking to them I realized that the Korean Natural farming techniques I am doing in my orchard/garden are really just being a herbalist for my plants/soil. While they are much more precise with their methods we found that we were all trying to do the same thing, making chemicals or compounds within plants into a readily available and usable source for the patient. It even turned out that there were two plants/herbs that both Herbalists and practitioners of Korean Natural Farming looked upon as necessities in our herbal toolkit! Stinging Nettles and Comfrey, one Lady even had a jug of Stinging Nettle Tea and they all agreed that all the cautions about Comfrey and liver toxicity is just another example of the FDA performing unrealistic studies. All in all Tuey and I both enjoyed our excursion to Jefferson’s house but I think all of those East Coast Wiccans kinda disturbed my Sweety’s chi. Karen


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Why did the goat climb the tree?

 Why did the goat climb the tree? Because Gooey loves Shanda! That’s why. My sweety, Karen, is so upset because her sweet little baby goat, Gooey, has decided that our Daughter in Law, Shanda, is her momma and will do anything for her. Gooey moved up to The Fruity Chicken a little over a month ago and Shanda jumped in to bottle feed her when Tuey couldn’t make it up the hill. Little by little Gooey started patterning on Shanda and now while she is still excited to see Tuey she goes bonkers when Shanda comes around and follows her everywhere. How much you wanna bet that there’s another goat baby in The Fruity Chickens herd? Our goal is to move up the hill this summer and I can see my Sweety deciding Gooey needs a “friend” soon after that.

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Mulching for Max

Gardening in the harsh desert climate of Las Vegas really brings to the forefront the necessity of utilizing every drop of moisture as efficiently as possible. The Fruity Chicken orchard/garden utilizes several techniques to help maximize this utilization. My baseline moisture is supplied by a sub-surface irrigation system over the entire area whose primary source of water is greywater from laundry. This system does have a supplemental input of fresh water of approximately 35 gallons every other day during the height of the summer which I estimate to be about 1/3 of the total input. This freshwater input tapers down to 35 gallons a week in the fall and 35 gallons a month through the winter months. My orchard/garden area is currently 20′ x 40′, due to the 6″ to 12″ layer of mulch over the general area the soil stays reasonably moist year round. On the the other hand my raised beds are above this moisture source necessitating a drip system to keep seedlings and shallow rooted veggies thriving.

The drip system in my main 4’x12′ beds is 3 laterals running the length of the bed with .9 GPH emitters spaced @ 12″ intervals, this system runs 1 hour a day early in the morning applying roughly 35 gallons a day. Up to this point in the season this system has thoroughly watered those beds and resulted in enough seepage coming out of the downhill end to keep the comfrey planted there to scavenge nutrients flourishing. With the recent increase in heat the moist area has been noticeably receding, rather than increasing the run time on the drip system I have been focusing on mulching to reduce loss through evaporation. In the picture above the green mulch that was planted initially can be seen, this is primarily red wheat which has really exceeded my expectations.

That green mulch gets cut down about every other week and laid between the crop plantings. Now that the heat is coming on that mulch just isn’t enough so I have started supplementing it with straw.

My experience with trying to mulch with straw hasn’t been positive but this time appears to be different. In the past I had done things the traditional way, spreading straw over the whole bed then pulling that mulch aside to do my plantings. This method always resulted in straw blown around everywhere except where it was needed, due to already being used to cutting and placing small amounts of green mulch I just kinda kept up the same process. Rather than throwing down a big ole flake off the bale I have been sitting down next to my beds with a pile of straw, picking up a handful, tearing it in half and then sorta weaving in between the established plants. This method has resulted in the mulch being where it is really needed and staying in place, a side benefit is that I am spending quality time up close and personal with my garden. Pests get spotted sooner and so far have been able to be controlled by manual means rather than using chemicals. Additionally it is right in my face when a plant is struggling a bit allowing me to either adjust my spray mixture or do some spot amendments such as a leaf or two of comfrey smushed up and pushed under the mulch for a bit of boost.

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Narrow Crotches and Slime

My Mulberries are trying to be bushes when they are supposed to be trees, so this week I performed corrective surgery and amputated the extra trunk on each of my two largest trees.Mulberry #1 Mulberry Tree #1

Two different views of the first Mulberry Tree I planted in my orchard last spring. In the lower picture you can clearly see where I cut out the second leader.

Mulberry #2 Mulberry Tree #2

This Mulberry was planted mid-summer of 2012 and has done very well, again in the lower picture you can see where the second leader was removed. All 4 of the Mulberry trees I have are Pakistani Mulberries. I probably harvested 4 quarts of long, dark, very sweet fruit from the trees pictured above. There is still fruit on all 4 of my trees that look like they should be ripening over the next couple of weeks. We are really looking forward to next years production seeing as how even after cutting half of the tree off they are still over double the size they were last fall.

Butter Lettuce Bok Choy

Fodder production has been highly variable lately due to low germination rates and slime. I think the heat is finally interfering with my setup (we officially hit 100 F for the first time this year monday) and I am pretty sure my sweety Karen wouldn’t tolerate my dripping trays inside the house so it’s back to alternative foraging from my favorite oriental restaurant. The manager is super cool and even personally delivered this batch of greens for my gals. Fermenting though is really cooking in this heat, cranking out a good sour-smelling mash in 2 days easy. The flock is swelling again and I really do need to cull but aint quite ready yet…. I’ll get there though. Maybe when it officially hits 110 f for the first time this year?  Nahhhh probably not.


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A Duck!

My sister Lorri probably remembers which uncle it was that always asked this question. All I remember was that according to my Grandmother the answer given by all severely inebriated people was “because one foot is both alike”

Pastries and Other Great Vegetables

Max asked:
Why is a duck?

Max, to be honest, I have no idea what you mean by that question. I’ll give it a shot, though. I practically never walk away from a challenge.

To start with a basic interpretation of your question, I’ll say that a duck is, in most cases, because he is not naught. This, however, is a common answer that even a pre-schooler could provide. Let’s go for a more in-depth analysis of your question. To do so, we shall switch to the plural and refer to our good avian as “ducks.”

Indeed.Therefore, why are ducks? This is a much more complex and is, in fact, an extremely challenging question. Ducks have many purposes, not all of them yet known. At least one of the purposes, as demonstrated by Sir Bedemir and King Arthur, is to use ducks as counter balances on scales (particularly useful when…

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Ajax, the African Sulcata tortoise finally moved up to the Clayton house.

Ajax enjoying some of Gooey's hay

Ajax enjoying some of Gooey’s hay

He dug right in to Gooey’s hay and then started exploring.Ajax

About 30 minutes after being turned loose Ajax had made it to the far side of the property.Ajax

It is amazing how fast these tortoises grow, Ajax is somewhere around 5 years old and is over 50 lbs. already! In the 2 years he had been at our other house he has totally excavated the entire back yard to an average depth of 18″ and dug one tunnel that extends at least 15′.

Gooey's Nest

Originally Gooey fell in love with her igloo dog goat house, but lately she has decided she likes breakfast (and all other meals) in bed. Rather than go the bother of taking hay into her house she just relocated to sleeping in the feed bin.

Bees Nest

I have been wanting bees but not like this! There is a hive inside the blockwall of the Clayton house and apparently they decided to swarm. Their first stop was the oleanders over the fence at The Fruity Chicken. My sweety, Karen, was a bit freaked out that we were all going to be assassinated by “killer” bees. That wasn’t to be though, by monday morning they had moved on for parts unknown.

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Mulch ado about nuffin

Things have progressed in the garden to that slight lull in activity between preparing, planting, and harvesting. There is still plenty to do like my bi-weekly spraying regime and weeding, but luckily it is not as hectic as before. In between setting the tub in the guest bathroom at the Clayton house today I mulched raised bed #2.

Mulch06 Mulch07 Mulch08

Comfrey leaves being laid out

Comfrey leaves being laid out

This bed has a bit of nitrogen deficiency problem

This bed has a bit of nitrogen deficiency problem

Comfrey is high in nitrogen and breaks down rapidly, I am hoping this layer of leaves will help boost the fertility in this bed.

Straw Mulch

Comfrey plants can be seen in the foreground of this picture. They are on the downslope end of this bed in order to scavenge any nutrients that leach down.

Comfrey plants, seen in the foreground of this picture, are on the downslope end of this bed to scavenge any nutrients that leach down.

It hit 101* F today! The straw will help keep the soil temps down a bit along with minimizing evaporation.

Isn't this Tomcot Apricot a beauty?

Isn’t this Tomcot Apricot a beauty?

This is Karen's latest foster baby...Tribeca

This is Karen’s latest foster baby…Tribeca

My sweety Karen’s latest foster baby is Tribeca, a cute little kitten with a severely mangled paw that will necessitate amputation of her leg when she gets a bit older.

YummyCammy & Tribeca

Tribeca is socializing well and has a large following on The Humane Societies FB page already, so finding her a good forever home shouldn’t be a problem .

Gooey's new mineral block

Gooey’s new mineral block

Gooey the Mountain Goat

Goats have special mineral needs and now that Gooey is down to one bottle a day I went out and got her a mineral block. Like everything else in her world though the block is just another obstacle to climb!

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Lessons Learned?

My wife met this really nice guy named Orlando when she was looking for someone to tile our house a couple of years ago. Orlando doesn’t actually do much of the work personally he is more of a facilitator/translator for talented craftsmen in the Mexican-American community here. Everyone he has brought over to do work for us has been in the country legally, highly experienced, and doing side work to keep their family afloat while waiting for “the big jobs” to get going again. Orlando and a nice young guy named Benny had been busting out the floor in the bathrooms at the Clayton Annex when my sweety Karen asked him if he could poor a new porch slab in front of the house at The Fruity Chicken. To look at the job we had to go through the gate I cut in the fence between the two properties and right into my Orchard/Garden/Chicken Yard complex, as soon as Orlando stepped through he placed his hands over his heart and in an emotional voice “This reminds me of home, it is just like Mexico!” Whereas Orlando’s sincerity touched me, My sweety went right on the offensive and hissed in my ear “see I told you that you needed to clean this place up!” That incident made me realize that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, where Orlando saw something that reminded him of his semi agrarian upbringing in Mexico, and I see the miracle of sustainability and productivity in the making, Karen sees the weeds, cardboard, tools, loose straw, wood chips, and various other clutter. All three of us were looking at the same thing but from different perspectives and there was truth in what each of us saw. When my oldest son, Michael, married his beautiful bride, Erin, the officiant was an amazing man who is a Benedictine Monk. The order he belongs to, The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict, preach or maybe more correctly live a philosophy of nonduality. In a nutshell nonduality is the concept that things may seem distinct while not being separate. A small part of my weekend I devoted to embracing this concept I find fascinating and applying it to the differing perspectives Karen and I have of my little piece of Heaven.

My new tomato trellis

My new tomato trellis


The legs were rusted off just enough on one end to make it set level

The legs were rusted off just enough on one end to make it set level

While I’m sure most people will only see a creative use for an old swing set, I see a feature that just might make my one true angel want to spend a little more time in my little piece of Heaven. Karen had stopped us from throwing this out so that we could “do something in the garden” with it. She had even mentioned using it as a trellis, but it wasn’t until I really thought about how she sees our garden that things clicked. No matter what my vision was all Karen was seeing was my mess. I know I refer to The Fruity Chicken possessively but I truly want it to be “our” place and it made me feel good to see the twinkle in Karen’s eye when I showed her the new trellis.


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Fruits of my Labor

Today was a big day, I harvested and consumed the very first fruit ever from my orchard!

Mulberries fresh from the tree!

Mulberries fresh from the tree!

We had a big wind storm last night and this morning I found several ripe mulberries on the ground around my trees. This weekend I had noticed one or two were starting to turn colors but not on the tree I found these under. All total I found a good handful under the 2 trees outside the chicken run. They were very sweet but lacked any sense of tartness. Not exactly what I was expecting but very good for my first mulberries ever.

These were hidden in my #1 raised bed.

These were hidden in my #1 raised bed.

Sunday I had chopped and dropped all the cover crop/weeds in my #1 half-assed hugel bed, under all that muck I discovered 3 strawberry plants doing well with ripe fruit on them. The strawberries were a bit tart but balanced out well with the sweet mulberries.

I think we are up to a dozen now!

I think we are up to a dozen now!

Silkie Chickens

Momma sure makes it hard to get an accurate count.

While they aren’t technically “fruits” and I didn’t experience “labor” in their creation these little puff balls are definitely another milestone for my little endeavor. They are the first chicks produced by my girls without any outside assistance. I love my fluffy butts that are hatched out in my incubator but there is just something magical about these little puff balls.



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Woo-Hoo!!! My Silkies are Broody and My Sweety ain’t!

Nobody likes to brood on things and it sure ain’t pleasant when someone you love gets that way but when it’s your Silkie Hens that are broody it’s GREAT!!

This was a couple weeks ago. They had been laying in the container I put in as windbreak rather than the nest box.

This was a couple of weeks ago. They had been laying in the container I put in as wind break rather than the nest box. You can just see the second hens face peeking out behind the other girl.

This Mornings discovery!
This Mornings discovery!

Broody02 Broody08 Broody07 Broody06 Broody05 Broody04 Broody09 Broody10 Broody Hens

This is my buddy Mark, he is always broody.

This is my buddy Mark, he is always broody.

As of this evening 4 chicks had hatched out, all of them have 5 toes and black skin so they are probably from the pure silkie and not from the mixed hen with the red comb. This is my first batch that have hatched out under a broody hen and it is taking all of my willpower not to scoop them up and put them in the brooder.


Karen was worried that Gooey wasn't eating enough Hay........

Karen was worried that Gooey wasn’t eating enough Hay……..


Easy fix,just put the hay on the other side of the fence!

Easy fix,just put the hay on the other side of the fence!




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