Saturday, May 23, 2015

The new Chickens have Arrived - Name that Chicken

New chicks!
Several days ago we received a wonderful gift of 6, 6 week old chickens hand raised by my neighbors. If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you might remember that we fostered 6 chickens for our neighbors when they temporarily relocated to Hawaii for 3 years. We loved our little flock and as the time passed we lost 4 from natural causes.

Moltie from my prior flock, always on the go & into something

When my neighbors returned, we gave them back their 2 remaining White Leghorns. My favorite chicken, Little Moltie, was one of the survivors. When we acquired the chickens they were 3 years old. Now, they are nearly 7. It's amazing to think they have lived this long. Apparently they have decided to kick back in gear and actually lay an egg nearly every day! It's very rare for a chicken to continue laying at this age. They are very happy and free range among lots of trees and leaves. I believe all the nutrients they scavange from nature has helped bring this along.

This is a no kill zone people - says Big Red
On industrial farms chickens are culled at 18 months when they first molt and egg production temporarily stops. It's cheaper to buy another set of pullets (young chickens) than to wait for them to begin laying again. Chickens can lay for many many years if free ranged and allowed to live a life naturally, as intended.

Chicks finally roosting, sleeping soundly.
So what's new on Forsythia Hill... Janie (Dominique), Iris (Welsummer), Cleopatra (Red Dorking), Big Red (Rhode Island Red), Raven (Australorp), plus one unnamed (Buckeye). I really wanted a mix of breeds to see how they differ in laying and in personality. Janie is the leader of the pack, Big Red is the sweetie, Raven is the smartest, Cleopatra is the prettiest, and little Iris is the baby. She is often heard crying if anyone is strays from the flock she SHRIEKS... come back, don't stray, you might not find your way!

Janie, don't mess with me chickens or else!
A small flock requires a secure space for roosting at night and ranging during the day. There are many predators; foxes, hawks, raccoons, opossum, & dogs (to name a few). Chickens are just plain fun but like any pet be prepared for some work and expense to feed and care for them. If you are outside often and can provide an entertaining space for them and socialization you will get the most from your flock (more about how to keep your chickens busy throughout the day in a future blog post).

I need a name please
Name my chicken! One last chicken needs a NAME. She is unusual in that she has 5 toes. Most chicken breeds have 4. She is identical in coloring to Cleopatra but they are different breeds. Please post your suggestion on my blog.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Historic Garden Week in Richmond Virginia 2015

Tuckahoe Plantation, boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson.
Yesterday I spent my birthday among gardeners in Richmond, Virginia surrounded by lovely Spring flowers. This is my second trip to Richmond for the annual Historic Garden Week tour and I have yet to be disappointed. I've always loved Richmond and every time I go I love this stunningly beautiful historic city a little more.

Quote on brick wall at the Bredrup's on Cary Street.
The Cary Town tour featured several gardens designed by famed landscape architect Charles Gillette. Installed on a brick wall in one garden was the sweetest garden plaque that was written by Mr. Gillette's wife. Spring is such a beautiful and delicate season. Spires of blue Delphiniums, cupped colorful Tulips, dangling Deutzia blossoms, and pom pom Viburnum dotted the gardens.

Wilton House Museum in the woods.
Two historic sites were on the tour. The 1750 Wilton House Museum was disassembled, stored, and relocated by the Virginia Dames brick by brick. This amazing plantation mansion is a massive structure overlooking the James River surrounded by quite the collection of boxwood.

Kitty relaxing in Pansies at Tuckahoe Plantation.
Upon arrival to Tuckhoe Plantation, Thomas Jefferson's home place, one is transported centuries back in time to a scenic pastoral setting on the James River. Horses, Guinea Hens, and a sweet kitty complete the charming setting. If you have the chance to visit this designated Historic National Landmark, GO! It's the finest existing early 18th century plantation in America and I would concur!

Pot of Tulips arranged by Garden Club vol.
I'm always so impressed with the kindness of Garden Club volunteers and their personal interest and love of gardening. We chatted with several volunteers along our trip and all were very helpful and fun to talk to. I thank each of them for their time, assistance, and breathtaking arrangements. This is one of my favorite features of the tour each year. Arrangements perfectly captured Spring featuring romantic pinks and blues with touches of Delphinium, Helleborus, variegated Solomon Seal, Tulips, Iris, Peony, and Viburnum.

Garden Angel in Deutzia buds at the Cronley's on Hillcrest.

On Hillcrest Avenue, secret garden pockets among naturalized areas featured lovely statuary, large trees and shrubs, and beautiful perennials. There was quite a crowd in this garden because it was slated as the first to tour. All sites were busy but not uncomfortable. It was fun rubbing elbows with fellow gardeners about plants but the gardens are typically quiet as many are focused on taking in the beauty around them.

Refreshing pool of the Tilghman's on Cary Street.
I also toured Monticello earlier in the week.

Oh next year hurry and arrive --- what a sweet adventure.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Monticello in the Spring during Virginia Garden Week

Monticello April 20, 2015
It's hard to not be blown away by the gardens at Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia. Yesterday as part of Virginia Garden Week I attended a free lecture and tour by Architectural Historian, Gardiner Hallock, on the latest restoration project, The Kitchen Road. It was a blustery beautiful day on the mountaintop. A storm was brewing so the sky was full of white clouds floating among brilliant blue.

Lower section of Mulberry Row up to the Hemings log cabin.
In Thomas Jefferson's day, the Kitchen Road was the work area of "the farm". A bustling hub where food from the garden and deliveries were collected and dispatched up the hillside to the underground kitchen, ice house, and wine cellar. Wagons stocked with household items traveled up the mountain and ended up on the kitchen road to be sorted out by slaves.  Over 20 buildings were along Mulberry Row which connects to the Kitchen Road. Slave homes, an ironworks and weavers shop, and little stable were along this network of short pathways that let up to and serviced Monticello.

Ongoing archaeology survey of the stables.
A lot of work has gone into reconstructing a Hemings slave cabin, and connecting pathways up to the house. Some trees and shrubs have been removed and pathways have been recovered to the original Thomas Jefferson day pattern. Even the privy vent has been restored to the original design which is a much simpler and more natural stone outcropping. Monticello was one of the few homes with indoor bathrooms and was considered to be very modern. If alive, TJ would be fascinated by the new geothermal system that has just been completed at Monticello.

The tulips were in FULL BLOOM up at the main house.
All projects are based on Thomas Jefferson's drawings, historic photos, and archaeology digs. Some of the discoveries are quite interesting. Old cobblestones, paint chip analysis, and plenty of dirt sifting reveals centuries of history. Very few slave gravesites have been found (one is near the visitors center). There have to be more burial sites on the mountaintop but were unmarked and are difficult to find.

Dwarf Tulips that at one time I grew and loved.
Oh but I digress, the grounds were bursting with the most beautiful display of Tulips. The white Dogwood and Purple Redbud speckled throughout the mountaintop forest.

Fothergilla shrub in bloom at the Visitors Center
This is the peak time of year at the Visitors Center to see the native plant landscaping in full bloom.

Crested Iris
I would love to get my little grubby gardening gloves on some Crested Iris. What a lovely ground cover it has made at the Visitors Center underneath the white Fothergilla. I see it every year and dream of having a start and would like to replace my aggressive Vinca Vine with it.

It was a beautiful day and the weather held off this year, last year I was drenched so decided to attempt the same tour again. Thank you Gardiner for an amazing tour!


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