Tuesday, December 20, 2011


[I want to preface this post by saying there are two pictures attached that are fairly gross for the faint of heart. I include them to be used as a tool to help others who may experience something like this in their flock. Feel free to skip this post if you aren't a fan of blood...]

Three months ago I went out to the coop following what I thought was a bit of excessive ruckus over a hen laying an egg. At the time I always headed to the coop with a bit of trepidation, as one or two of our black sex-links seemed to have it out for sweet Dove, and were always nipping at her. Nothing excessive, but it was constant. We kept hoping they would get over it as she grew larger. That did not happen. Even before I got into the coop I was already scanning the run for Dove to make sure she was OK. I could not find her. I checked the sleeping quarters, but she was not there. I finally made it over to an old small recycling bin filled with sand that the hens use to dust bathe in. It was there between the bin and the fence that I found her.

With a huge, bloody, gaping hole in her neck about the size of a quarter, and one bird running over to me trying to get more shots at her, I scooped Dove up and quickly took her into the house. I was quite upset to say the least. After getting a good look at her wound I figured she had a 25/75 chance of survival, with the odds against her.

This had never happened to us before, as our hens always got along great. For some reason though, Dove brought out the worst in a few of our BS-Ls (jealousy?) and they were determined to make her pay. We had never had any medical issues among our birds; and with such a deep wound, we had no idea what to do. We decided to stick to the basics, because as much as we enjoyed Dove, we are not ones to take our chickens to the vet.

In the picture there is a lighter section running from closer to her head straight down towards her back in the very center of the wound. I am not positive, but I believe that to be her spinal cord. One more peck and it would have been severed.

After gently and carefully trying to clean off some of the dirt with a damp rag, Jason poured Hydrogen Peroxide all over the wound. This was followed by a thick coating of Neosporin. Into a storage tub she went to wait out the next critical hours in our living room. She would not eat, but did drink a bit. I think she was probably exhausted from the stress of it all. She slept through the night, but by morning she was extremely antsy, and we made the decision to put her back in the coop in a completely separated area with her best bud, Leopard. I really worried that Leopard would see the wound and pick at it herself, as I've read that is fairly common. Plus I didn't want Dove in the coop getting dirt all in the wound. The nursing student in me wanted to keep it as sterile as possible. But she was so upset being separated from Leopard we figured she'd have a heart attack from being stressed and lonely, so we made the move back to outside.

Our friends Tracy and Sebastian over at Little Farm in the Big D gave us some Blu-Kote spray to apply to the wound. It is an iodine based solution. I figured it couldn't hurt. So about every other day for a week or so I would try to clean off the dirt and grime from the wound, spray it with Blu-Kote, and then cover it in more Neosporin. Thankfully Leopard never gave it a second glance.

Slowly but surely the skin began to heal. I assumed Dove would never be able to grow feathers there again, but within 5 weeks she was mostly feathered out at the site. Three months later, except for a few purple feathers around her neck (Blu-Kote stains everything - so be careful!), you would never know anything had happened to her. We have found chickens to be a mix of strength and resiliency coupled with fragility. Fortunately for us, Dove fell on the side of strength. We ended up selling the main bird that had it out for Dove. We are now finally down to a happy mix of 14 hens of varying ages and varieties, and they all get along great. More details on that in a few days! -Carrie

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Green (-ish/Blue) Eggs and Chicken(s)

It's been THIRTY-ONE WEEKS in the making, but our two remaining Ameraucanas (we sold the other two) have finally begun to lay the beautiful bluish-green eggs we've been waiting so patiently to see. Leopard's first came on December 9th, and Dove's first came this past Saturday. I never thought it would take them this long to lay, but it has been worth the wait. I was surprised that they are exactly the same color. I figured there would be some distinguishing features between the two, seeing as Dove is pure white and Leopard looks, well, like a leopard. The eggs are breathtaking, though. And even better, both birds are sweet as pie, though Dove still holds a special place in our hearts. I swear if I was more country and knew how to make chicken diapers, she'd be a house chicken!

Another bonus, at least as far as Leopard is concerned, is that she's laying like a chicken-star. She's laid 8 eggs in the last 10 days. In our experience it usually takes a few weeks before production gets up to this point with new layers. Not only that but her eggs are as large (longer actually, but skinnier) as the year-old Black Sex Links, even from day one. We couldn't be more satisfied. Dove's production rate is yet to be seen. But I venture to say that even if this is the only egg Dove ever lays, she's with us for the long haul. She's too awesome, and we've been through too much with her to give up that easily (more on that in a few days - stay tuned)! -Carrie

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Repurpose It! Acorns and Cheese Packaging

It's been a while since I got my craft on.  I have been so busy with school for the past year that I haven't had the time to channel my crafty side.  And while I've previously extolled the virtues of living in a small house, one thing that has suffered is my access (or lack there of) to a crafting corner.  My yarn, cloth, paints, rick-rack and baubles are inconveniently stuffed in various out-of-the-way corners in my bedroom, making it very hard to find what I need when I need it.

This morning it hit me that I was short two kids for the day, my youngest was off playing by himself no less, and I had no school work (thank God for Christmas break)!  I made a mad dash to gather supplies, amazingly was able to find what I needed, and set to work!

First up: a large, fuzzy Burr Oak acorn found during a family walk about a month ago.  This one ended up on my desk. Unfortunately its sisters place in a bag and stored at the top of my closet ended up getting a bit of mold on them and had to be trashed.  Next year I will be sure to let them dry completely before putting them in storage.  I believe these were collected the day after a rain, hence the ensuing mold.

The second I saw these they screamed "Santa!" to me.  So I set about putting a face to my idea.  The finished product is nothing spectacular, but it was fun to work on a quick little re-purposing project.  Next time I'll drill a hole in the top and put a string in it for a cute little ornament.

And second: Brie holder-cum-Christmas gift packaging.  As I was searching the fridge for breakfast this morning, it hit me that this would make a cute box of sorts to hold a small gift for my daughter.  I painted it, glued to the top an ornament I made last year out of old holiday cards and glitter, and used the shiny gold outer lining of the Brie packaging to wrap around the gift inside!  I think it turned out pretty cute.

It felt great to be crafting something home-made again.  Now I just need to buy Christmas gifts to fill the box!  Way behind on that.  Only a few days left - wish me luck! -Carrie

Friday, September 23, 2011

Getting Healthy - For Realz This Time!

In early September 2010 I wrote my heart out on this blog, and it basically boiled down to the fact that I was overweight (obese if you want to be technical!) and sick of it - ready to do all it took to change my ways. You can read the whole (though brief) series here. In eight weeks I lost 8 pounds. Slow but steady. Then came week 9 - and the aftermath of Halloween - i.e. - CANDY. I lost all self control and within about a month I gained back all of the weight. Craziness.

Fastforward to mid-March 2011. My 5'3" frame was hauling around 182 pounds. 13 pounds into the obese category if computing BMI. Not good. I couldn't take it anymore. Beyond sick of myself was putting it lightly. So this time I got serious. No-excuses-take-no-prisoners-serious. It's been 6 months now and I haven't looked back. I honestly think Jason is sometimes taken aback - seriously amazed and bewildered - that I haven't dropped the ball on this for the umpteenth time. In the last 180 days I have lost 23 pounds. I'm now down to 159 pounds. Just about one pound/week. Occasionally I am bummed because it seems like the weight is coming off S.O. S.L.O.W. But then I snap out of it and think of how far I've come. I still have about 20 pounds to lose, and that will just put me into the high end of normal on the BMI scale.

The keys to my weight loss? Very basic stuff everyone already knows but often just doesn't have the willpower to put it into place. There's a saying that goes something like this, "People won't change until the pain of not changing is worse than the change itself." This is so true. Here's a few things I've done that helped me lessen the pain...
  • Exercise, Exercise, Exercise. This can not be overstated. I exercise 6 days a week - 7 if I can find the time. And on the days I don't - Jason will attest to this - I'm not the nicest person ever. I have seriously trained my body to crave it. Even if it is something as simple as taking a brisk 2 mile walk, it helps me stay on track.
  • Don't Over-Eat; But Do Eat More, Smaller Meals Per Day. OK, this is like Losing Weight 101. But it is so true. I just don't pig out anymore. If I want crackers, I don't open a box and sit on the couch and chow down. Now I open the box, pull out 4 crackers, and put the box away immediately. It really seems to help me. I also usually eat about 4-5 smaller meals (or even large snacks) per day instead of 3 larger meals. This means I get to plan my next meal only 2 or 3 hours out instead of 5 or 6! That's exciting stuff! Especially for someone who likes to think about food.
  • I've eaten the same breakfast 99% of the last 180 days, and I eat a salad about 6 days a week. My delectable breakfast bowl consists of (from the bottom up) mixed fruit (think pears and bananas, or a variety of berries); plain low-fat yogurt; dry oatmeal or a high fiber, low sugar cereal; raisins or dried cranberries; almonds; and cinnamon. I have yet to tire of this. It is that good. And lunch or dinner (but not both) is a dark green (almost always spinach) salad. But with loads of other goodness added on top: whole wheat pasta, tomatoes, black beans, sauteed onions & walnuts, cucumbers, feta, low-fat dressing, etc., etc. Jason partakes of these salads as well, and again - we have yet to tire of them. Not even close.
The payoff for all of this "work?" As if the 23 pounds aren't enough? I'll let the labs speak for themselves:
  • Cholesterol: 8/05/2010 - 198; 9/19/2011 - 164
  • Triglycerides: 2010 - 110; 2011 - 62
  • HDL: 2010 - 51; 2011 - 50
  • LDL: 2010 - 125; 2011 - 101
  • Risk Ratio: 2010 - 2.45; 2011 - 2.03
My heart was literally jumping for joy when I read these numbers. A 34 point drop in my total cholesterol?!?! An almost 50 point drop in my triglycerides?!?! This less eating, more exercise thing really DOES work! Go figure! Here's to staying the course. I have no intention of dropping the ball this time. My health is too precious. -Carrie

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Heritage Harvest Festival Follow-Up

Last year I pined over my inability to attend the Heritage Harvest Festival held at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello near Charlottesville, VA. Well this year I am happy to report that numerous members of my family made the trek, and my brother just wrote a post about it over at Point 09 Acres. Take a gander at his post - lots of great pictures of Jefferson's gardens.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More Chicken Porn

If you're a long time reader of ours, you might have caught on to Carrie's obsession with fluffy chicken butts. Read How Not to Name a Chicken for more proof. But I didn't realize how much my flock of girls had in common with adult entertainment until I installed an internet filter on my computer. Now I get gigged for the silliest of typos.

Take for instance a Facebook page I visit called Chicken Chat. Seemingly innocent enough until someone on the page starts talking about naked neck chickens. Yes. Naked necks. Not only is my filter unbiased towards species, but evidently it's Muslim too. Geez. This thing doesn't know me at all... I'm a thigh lover.

That got me thinking of other incidents gone awry... like a month ago when we needed a logo for the Oak Cliff Coop Snoop tour. I entered the first thing that came to mind in the search engine to kick off the design process: Chicks. Snap! I didn't mean that, I meant cocks. Dang it! Forget it. I'll go look at an archaic encyclopedia. Who knew making chicken tour logos was such risque business?

A few days ago were were looking for pictures of small chickens to identify what breeds we got with our mystery batch three weeks ago. Did you know that typing in Production Red Chicks will give you a picture of a Production (Lady of the Night) Chick on a Red couch? Oops. Let's try white chicks. Shoot! Dare we go for any other color of our innocent chicks? I think not. 

We here at Pigs believe that our blog is more than just a journal. We believe that we should contribute to the well being of our subscribers, so as a public service to my readers, I've made a list of items you should avoid to keep your filter happy. If you want to find out what chickens give the most eggs, don't type in "Easy Layers"; and if you want to know if anything about "sex-links", just trust me, they're an awesome breed. Don't enter "How to properly sex a chicken" when you get that batch of fluff balls... just wait. Finally, when the temperature gets up to 108, it's in your best interest to put a fan on them with a block of ice instead of googling "How to cool off your hot chicks."   -Jason

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Double Bubble: Yang Laid a Double-Yolker!

A few nights ago, as I checked the nest box one last time, I was elated to actually witness the 'birthing' of a freakishly huge egg. By far the biggest we've ever experienced here at Pigs. As Yang (one of our two biggest hens) popped it out - I knew we were in for something special.

I grabbed the still-glistening orb and ran to the front of the house yelling Jason's name all of the way. He was already in the car, about to head to a baseball game. I think he thought I'd lost my mind. But this was the proverbial golden egg, more than worthy of some fanfare.

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves....

Note I couldn't even close the carton!

The first double-yolker Jason's ever seen, and only my second -
but my last one was 22 years ago!!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

One Store's Trash is Another Man's Treasure

Just ask. It doesn't hurt and the worse thing that can happen is you get a no. Tonight I went to the store for some tomatoes, cilantro, and some fruit. As usual, the produce clerks were working the racks and in this instance pulling off tomatoes that had gone bad.

The clerk was a nice young man who evidently was making attempts to learn the English language but hadn't made it to fluent. He was making more progress than I because the only word I knew in Spanish was El Pollo... Chicken. After several seconds of hand gestures, his broken english, and my one word, I was able to communicate to him what I wanted. I've asked clerks in the past for their rotting produce and gotten the standard no and go away, but this guy was especially helpful and pleaded my case before the manager on the next isle. The answer was yes!  Total booty- 15 lbs of ripe tomatoes.

I threw some in to the coop tonight as soon as I got home, about 7:45 at night. You'd better believe that one of the few things that will pull a chicken out of the coop after she's gone in is a beautiful red ripe tomato. They were in heaven, the landfill's slightly less full, my wallet has a few extra bucks in it, and I'm sure I'll get red eggs from my girls tomorrow. Everyone wins! -Jason

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chillin With my Ladies: How we're blowing away the heatwave.

It's no secret we are in the midst of a major heatwave here in Dallas. Temperatures today topped just over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, with indexes in the high teens. To top things off, we've had one small rain event in the past two months. My home is conditioned at a frigid 82 degrees and I say frigid because it feels like a meat locker when I come in from the outside.

There's no escape for our flock though. The heat keeps coming and thankfully we haven't lost a single chicken yet. I've recently got some advice from Dun Hagan Gardening that the secret to keep Chickens alive in a heat wave is a three part recipe.

1. Shade, shade, and more shade. That's one thing we're at no loss for. The aviary is under a big Pecan tree and it's covered again by a shade tarp to keep out hawks.

2. Clean, fresh, cool water. Check. We got that too. We even put ice cubes in it. We stop short at the frozen margaritas, though. (We don't want to spoil them.)

3. Air circulation. No check. The shade tarp does a good job of fending off wind. There's little to no circulation in the aviary.

I decided that when the temps outside are 110, that we're gambling with their lives. I'll spare you all of the details, but suffice it to say that Wal-Mart is not my favorite place to purchase things. Two fans later, we now have circulation in our coop. A large fan was purchased, and works beautifully to keep the big chicks chilled a little. They even stopped panting!

A large box fan for the large chickens...

...and a small fan for the small chickens.

I decided to get a little fancier with the small birds. I built a small cage and placed in it a frozen 2 litter bottle of water in front of a small fan as an impromptu a/c unit. The jury is still out on that one, but at a minimum, they do have air circulating in their pens. -Jason

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chicken Scrum and Heat Mitigation

We've been worried about the extreme heat here in Texas over the past weeks and its effect on our chickens. Unfortunately it is expected to get worse - if that's even possible. This entire week is supposed to be between 106-108 degrees with the heat index around 115! Horrendous, depressing, draining - every bad adjective and verb you can imagine! We've been adding ice to their water 3 times per day, and between 12pm and 8pm, every hour, we hose the chickens down with cold water. It does seem to help a bit - but they continue to pant as if their lives depended on it - and, sadly, they do!

So you can imagine my surprise when I went out there a few days ago and found all of the "babies" huddled as close as they could possibly get to one another - a veritable chicken scrum! Except instead of chasing a rugby ball they were each determined to find the deepest, coolest section of dirt they could lay their feathers on. I guess they're not too bad off if they must lay as close as they possibly can to one another.  These girls never cease to entertain! -Carrie

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pears for Dessert!

A few weeks ago Jason wrote about the pear harvest we gleaned from a neighbor's tree (detailed here). Tonight I had the pleasure (truly!) of using some of the Seckels in a scrumptious Pear-Cranberry-Almond-Phyllo pastry. These things are to die for! All I did was google "Pears and Phyllo Dough" and those ingredients in the fourth result caught my eye immediately. The directions are slightly lengthy, but these are very easy to make. Unfortunately they were gobbled up so fast I wasn't able to get a picture. I will definitely be making them again in the very near future. -Carrie

Click here for the recipe!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Update on our May chicks

I figured it was time to do a quick update on the "surprise" chicks I got while Jason was out of town in May (detailed here). They are now 12 weeks old. All 7 are healthy and seemingly happy. Our initial plan to keep just three has now ballooned into keeping 6. In early August we were going to give some good friends 3 of the birds. However, they have decided to wait until mid-Fall to build a coop, get chickens, etc. So, we will keep the three Cuckoo Marans and three of what were supposedly Araucanas, but what I think are in fact Ameraucanas or Easter Eggers (because they have tails and true Araucanas don't - and ours definitely have tails).

The three Marans are carbon copies of each other physically, though there is always one that is much more trusting of us and more pet-ish than the other two. Of the Ameraucanas, we're keeping the white one (the "Blonde Snuggler" Jason referred to in his earlier post), the one that has kind of leopard-like markings (just because she's really pretty), and a more plain orange one. It was a toss up between the two orange-colored ones because personality-wise there is nothing that distinguishes one from the other. I'm choosing to go with the plain one because the other has markings similar to the "leopard" one, and I want the three Ameraucanas we're keeping to be completely different.

The leopard-print one we're keeping

We're keeping the more plain orange one in the back right of this picture

As for the white one - I think we're going to call her Dove. She is still just as sweet as pie. I told Jason today that if I were a European queen from the 1700s, I wouldn't have a lap dog - I'd have a lap chicken! And Dove would be the lucky hen. I'd go down in the history books as that crazy chicken-loving queen. It seems that at this rate I'm heading in that direction anyway. Not the queen direction - the crazy chicken lover direction! A friend on Facebook recently called me a Chick-onista for figuring out that one of her hens was a certain rare breed. I could get used to that name! -Carrie

Sweet Dove - what more can I say?

Friday, July 29, 2011

What's Another 35 Chickens?- Why we do what we do

In the words of Mr. Potato Head in the movie Toy Story, "HE'S AT IT AGAIN!!!!" You may remember an article I posted a few months ago in the dead of winter, Moving Chickens- A tale from Tuscany, where we describe the nuances of moving chickens around in the winter to keep them safe and sound. The other day I had a flashback to that day and the one that followed, Loco Diablo el Pollo, and told myself that I really didn't want to do that again. (The headache stemmed from trying to manage baby chicks through the cold of winter.)

Another dynamic that developed over the past few weeks as some of our Black Sexlink clutch started laying was really trying to figure out who is laying and who is not. As it stands now, two or three could stop laying altogether and we would never know it. Some level of knowledge was desired. We decided that if we wanted 12 layers for ourselves, then what we needed were 3 white layers, 3 tinted layers, 3 light brown layers, and 3 dark brown layers.

The suggestion was made to Carrie that if we were going to raise another clutch of chicks, this was the time to do it, as it's a bazillion degrees out, which little chicks like, and they would be hardy enough for winter when it got here.

So the wheels got turning and we discussed this decision with the kids in case they wanted to put an order in for a particular pet chicken that they wanted. Kristen took us up on the deal, Will decided to pass. One of the kids, and I don't remember who, asked why we're doing this again. We already had more than enough chickens. Why order 35 more?

In short the answer is this... This has turned into a hobby of sorts for us. We've gotten so much pleasure out of watching our chickens grow and watching their antics. There are days when it's been a headache, sure, but the joy outweighs the pain by ten fold. Additionally, there's a good feeling when I open my fridge and see food in it which traveled 50 ft. total to be there. We believe in the local food/clean food movement. By raising chickens and selling them to others, we enable them to participate in this movement and we've made some friends with like minded beliefs along the way. I'll take a friend like that any day! -Jason

FYI - The chicks should arrive next Thursday - 8/04. Will post soon thereafter with some pictures!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Compost Update (Way-Belated!)

While I've written about the compost efforts on our property before, I wanted to give you a belated update on our most recent (i.e. May) batch of chicken-run compost. Now, keep in mind this beautiful compost started out as free hardwood rough-cut mulch from our local tree trimmer. We also added a slight sprinkling of free straw now and again for kicks. Unfortunately I don't have a before picture, but the after pictures are a testament to the power of deep littering your chickens. This large compost pile is the result of our chickens pooping, dust-bathing, scratching, and just doing their inherent chicken-things in and amongst the mulch for about 6 months. This is what it looked like the day we took it out of the coop! The ultimate amendment for the gardens. -Carrie

Isn't she the cutest chicken-poop compost model you've ever seen???

Hats off to .o9 Acres!

Please enjoy this article from the Newport News Daily Press on one of our favorite bloggers from .09 Acres, Dave Krop. -Jason

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I Could Pearly Believe it: Gleaning from a neighbors fruit tree

Last year while biking with my son, we passed by a house I had passed a thousand times before. This time, however, I noticed a hundred little green and red orbs attached to the limbs of a tree on the side of this house. Pears! I love this fruit like a squirrel loves nuts. I found one that had fallen from the tree already and took it home to identify the variety. Turns out, it's a Seckel. From what I read, these small fruits pack a lot of flavor and are said to be one of the sweeter pears.

I approached the home owner and obtained his permission to pick the tree. He didn't want them and as a matter of fact, they were creating a mess for him. Alas, it was not meant to be last year, as we waited too long to harvest and only took home seven, which had a poor texture. This year I was on my game and we got to the harvest on July 13th. Seckels have an early harvest compared to other pears, and I was pleased to find all pears passing the pick test: Lift and turn slightly, if it comes off, keep it. Twelve pounds was the final total... FREE! Into the fridge they went, save one or two for testing.

The question kept looming in our heads though, how are they going to taste? Will they be as good as everyone says? They come off the tree hard as rocks, will they ripen like we want them to? The taste may develop, but how will the texture be? Did we pick too early or too late? I swear, we were like expecting parents. I know,you're right.... I was like an expecting parent.

One week later Carrie handed me one of the test pears, and the firmness had declined. It was a bit softer. But how would it taste? AWESOME! Perfect texture and truly amazing flavor. My only regret is that we had just a small one to share between Carrie, myself, and our youngest son. Since we can't share with you the taste, I'll leave you with a picture of testament to the flavor. You can see Carrie above attacking the carcass of the pear like a Cajun on a turkey leg at the state fair. It doesn't get much better than that! -Jason

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Drought Tolerant: 20 Days of Hell

I have a confession. Yes, another, and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with that missing bag of Oreos….

I like to torture plants. I moonlight as a executioner of little perennials who have done bad things against society. I like to watch them wilt in the hot sun, begging for drops of water to quench their bone dry roots. I’ve had much pleasure lately. Much pleasure.

It’s been three weeks since the last rain event where we received just .3” of rain on May 24th. To top that, our average high in that three week period is a blistering 95.1, with two days topping out at 100. I can hear hydrangeas gulping water by the gallon. I can see the grass drying out faster than a steak on my brother’s grill. I’m in utter glee… until I come home. Uh, wait… that didn’t come out like I wanted it to.

My landscape was designed and planted with two words in mind. Water Conservation! Two days ago, 5/15/11, was the first time I saw any sort of sign of serious distress from my garden and that was coming from the Mealy Blue Sage I installed earlier this year. The Loropetalums were looking a little parched, but could have gone another week or so before meeting their demise. All in all, not bad.

For those who are wondering, here’s a list of what I have in my garden and a few pictures to show how they look before I watered them. Please excuse the exposure levels. I had to wait until the sun went down somewhat so I wouldn’t wilt!- Jason

Plant List
Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus' (Zebra Grass)
Aquilegia chrysantha 'Hinkleyana' (Texas Gold Columbine)
Heuchera micrantha Bressingham Hybrids (Coral Bells)
Liriope Muscari (Lily Turf)
Iris brevicaulis (Louisiana Iris)
Loropetalum chinese 'Plum Delight' (Chinese Fringe Flower)
Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon Holly)
Salvia greggii (Autumn Sage/Red Salvia)
Salvia guarinitica (Blue Anise Sage)
Lavandula stoechaspedunculata (Spanish Lavender)
Agave sp. (Century Plant (Agave))
Wedelia hispida (Zexmenia)
Stachys bizantina (Lamb's Ear)
Lagerstormia indica x fauriei 'Natchez' (Crape Myrtle 'Nachez')
Rosemarinus officinalis 'Arp' (Upright Rosemary)
Hesperaloe parvifolia (Red Yucca)
Tulbaghia violacea (Society Garlic)
Salvia leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage)
Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)

Showing the plants is a matter of documentation and sharing knowledge.

Zebra Grass

Autumn Sage


Yaupon Holly



Blue Anise Sage

Russian Sage

Blue Glow Agave


Crepe Myrtle

Lamb's Ear

Red Yucca

Society Garlic

Mexican Feather Grass

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Blonde Snuggler

I have a loving wife who wants nothing but the best for her man. So when she told me that seven more chicks were coming to live with us, I was all on board (I heard one was a good snuggler). I objected at first! No, absolutely not! No way could you get me to even think about... One's a snuggler? What's that? The blonde is the snuggler? Well, let's not be too hasty...

Yes that's right, I came home from my maymester trip to Seattle to a new batch of chicks living in my garage. (3 Araucanas, 3 Marans, and a little blonde one we think is another Araucana). This in addition to the 18 we already have out in the coup... Why? Two reasons: 1. They were on special, take as many as you want for free so she paid him $5!... 2. Because if it's living she was made to love it, if it's not, she'll dust it off and sell it. She's crazy about those chickens!

Baby chicks at four weeks old

While we originally wanted our flock to be comprised solely of black sex links, we've now decided we'd like a bit more variety. The plan is to sell up to 5 of the black sex links, keep 3 or 4 of these babies (at least 1 Maran, 1 Araucana, and definitely blondy - she seriously is a snuggler) and give the other 3 or 4 to some good friends who plan on starting a flock in about 3 months. -Jason

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Landscape Design 101: Avoiding 10 Common Beginner's Mistakes

Designing a landscape can be a daunting task. In my previous article, Texas Natives and East Coast Transplants, I gave my readers several plants I love working with in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. I want to talk a little bit now about how to design with those plants and address common rookie mistakes so you can make your landscapes picture perfect. Here's ten tips to get you on your way:

1. Form follows function- This mantra of the design world simply means that the landscape must achieve its function or it won’t get used no matter how beautiful it is. Know the function first.
a. Do you want to entertain in your landscape? (How many do you need to plan for?)
b. Do you want something pretty to look at from your bedroom window? (You don’t need a large sitting area in this space!)
c. Is the primary function of the landscape to garden and get exercise? (Make it comfortable to work in!)
d. Do you NEED grass? If not, plan for a different ground cover that isn't so water needy.
2. Design in concept first, then move progressively towards details- Get to know your site first. Look at it with new eyes and ask yourself, "What's going on here?" Architecture is the thoughtful making of space. Look at your site and determine what you need before you ever start considering plant selection. Say things to yourself and record them on paper like, “I need a shade tree right here, a sitting area for this many people, a focal point there” and then refine those decisions. During the next step, you should ask yourself, “What are the shade trees which do well in this area (Red Oak or Pecan), what kind of sitting area fits into my budget (Concrete or Flagstone on concrete base), what do I want to express with this focal point (Sculpture or Specimen plant)?"

3. When everything’s important, nothing is important- When I tell people I design drought tolerant landscapes, people really do think that I plant cactus all over the place. There’s a place for these guys and I’m not against them, but they’re really bold and draw a lot of attention and focus. Use focal points sparingly.

4. Maximize interest with the use of contrast- Use contrast wisely. Placing a Lamb’s Ear next to a Rosemary creates a contrast in texture for instance. You may want to develop a contrast in color by placing yellow Zexmenia next to a more blue Russian Sage (complimentary colors). You can surround a focal point with a benign plant or place a tall shrub every ten feet of a low and level hedge. Contrast brings interest. The more contrast, the more interest.

5. Plan the hardscapes first and plants last- Know where you're going to place your paths, patios, and water features first. Only then can you know how much room you have for the plants. Know the full size of the adult plant and stick to it, even if it means having a sparse looking garden at first. It’s going to look empty at first. Expect it.
6. Design to the next level up and down- Simply put, before you select a plant, know what kind of a landscape you have. Before you select a landscape, know what kind of a house you have. Do you have a Spanish style home? Use plants that look like they're from the Mediterranean. Make sure that what you’re doing LOOKS appropriate for the space and neighborhood.
7. Take a good hard look at design principles- Knowing your design rules will help you develop the concept design from my second point above. Every form of art from dance to music to landscape architecture applies the same rules of scale, rhythm, contrast, series, hierarchy, focal point, texture, form, etc… (See how many you can spot in the building below.)

8. Don’t be afraid to fail- Thomas Edison said he didn’t fail a thousand times at making a light bulb, he just discovered how not to do it a thousand times. Don't be paralyzed by the fear of messing up. Plan as best you can, then go for it!
9. Not everything needs to be symmetrical- As we say in Texas, "Nuf said."
10. Don’t just plan what you can see- Take time to research the things you can’t see. How do you make a good patio? How far down does a footing need to go for a retaining wall? What kind of dirt do I have and what will grow here? Ask yourself these kind of questions and you may be surprised at what you answer.

One last bonus tip... Don't be afraid to call in the professionals when you're in over your head OR make up your plan and submit it to an experienced designer for review. For a small fee, you may be able to avoid big pitfalls.

Finis origine pende- The beginning determines the end! Plan well and you shall reap well. -Jason