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Garden Blogging: Weeding Party and Chicken School

by: Jill Richardson

Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 17:01:37 PM PDT

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A certain type of "weed" is very popular in California, but not the nasty bermudagrass growing in my yard! My new garden is so full of weeds, it needs more than one person on the job. A few weeks ago, I decided to have a weeding party. I sent out invites and told friends and local gardeners that I'd provide food - including dishes made with edible weeds - and we'd have a seed exchange. I also promised to provide education on local weeds and their uses. After all, I figured, people should get a pretty good deal if they were going to show up and weed my garden for me.

The day before the party, I got started on my new flock of chickens - a few black Polish hens who are about 7 mos old. If you don't know what Polish chickens look like, Google it. They are really funny looking. Even for chickens, these guys are DUMB.

Jill Richardson :: Garden Blogging: Weeding Party and Chicken School
The party was yesterday. The only weed growing this time of year - besides nutsedge and bermudagrass, which are useless in my book - is dandelion. I gathered dandelions in my yard as well as basil from the garden and made dandelion pesto as follows:

1 c. basil
1 c. dandelion greens
2/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. walnuts or pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
Salt to taste

Blend all of the above ingredients together. You can refrigerate or freeze the pesto until you wish to use it, but cook it before serving it to mellow out the garlic's flavor. I served it up with slices of a seedy baguette from a local bakery.

A friend offered up her purslane and when I went to her house, she also showed me an enormous dandelion growing - big enough that it could be a salad all by itself. What she didn't tell me is that nobody in her house would pick it because it was growing next to their beehive. So - without noticing the bees - I picked it. (What a great friend!)

The dandelion greens were bitter, and the purslane had mostly gone to seed. I washed and chopped the dandelion greens, then added the leaves of the purslane (and spread the seeds in my own garden - yay!). I also mixed in some mint leaves from my garden. To cover up the bitterness, I decided a strong tasting dressing was in order. So I mixed up stoneground mustard, white wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, honey, and minced herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme) as a dressing. The dressing was a BIG hit with my guests.

I also like eating purslane and stinging nettles in pasta, and I found a recipe for a stinging nettle pizza. Boil the greens ahead of time to get them soft and make them stop stinging. Then spread them on the pizza under the layer of cheese. Keep the water you boil the nettles in and use it for something - tea, soup, in your compost pile or garden - because it's full of nutrients. Alas, we don't have any nettles this time of year. They show up along with most other weeds, as soon as it rains. (It did rain a bit the other day but not the nice big thunderstorm we were promised!)

I had a few guests show up to weed, eat, exchange seeds, and leave. Others showed up to eat and hang around with no intention of weeding. It worked out great since all of my food got eaten, a large raised bed in the garden got weeded, I got to see a bunch of friends, and I had company to hang out with until about 10pm when we all got sleepy and everyone went home. My god, I am getting old!

The other news from my garden involves my new chickens. They don't have names yet (any ideas?). I looked all over the web for some chickens who were the right breed, age, and price. These guys were the right age and price. As for the breed, well... they aren't what I wanted, but they'll do. And in the spring they can hatch us some chicks of breeds we prefer like Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, and Australorp.

The day I brought them home, my new roommate's 15 year old cocker spaniel Chloe came out to meet them and... oh boy! She'd never seen a chicken before and she was SO EXCITED! She was running around, circling the enclosure we made for them. After the chickens "flew the coop" several times, we tied the top shut so they couldn't get out. Not that they stopped trying. Whenever the dog was outside, she was obsessed with them, and whenever that happens, the chickens went nuts squawking and trying to escape.

We put the dog inside for the rest of the day and the chickens quieted down. But they were afraid of people and they weren't really eating much or doing any other chicken things like dustbathing or searching for grubs to eat. As the sun went down, they started squawking again. This time, they were afraid of the cat, who wasn't really bothering them. We put a blanket over the chickens for the night and that shut them up.

The next day they were more mellow and so was the dog. But neither was entirely calm. And the chickens were still afraid of the cats, who don't really care much about the chickens and won't hurt them. One of the hens laid an egg, so that was good.

Then the next door neighbor asked if he could shoot them with his BB gun if they make too much noise. I thought to myself "Does that mean I should shoot your dog when she yaps all the time?" but instead I let my roommate respond. She laughed as if he was really funny and said, "I can tell you've got a great sense of humor!" (That's a line I'll have to remember and use.)

Today's Day 3 for the chickens in our yard. We don't have a coop built yet (soon though) so they are fenced in around our Meyer lemon tree. I decided it was time for Chicken School. Chickens, I've found, will do what they see other chickens do. At my old place, I started off with four really friendly chickens, so whenever new hens were introduced, they could just follow the other chickens' example. But these two are the first and only chickens here.

I just borrowed my friend Rachel's 2 Easter Eggers, who are pretty friendly as far as chickens go. They are with my chickens now, teaching them basic chicken lessons such as:

  • Don't worry about the cat
  • People are nice and bring you food
  • Usually whatever people stick in your coop is edible and tasty
  • It's OK to eat out of a person's hand
  • If you scratch the ground, you can find grubs to eat
  • This green stuff growing out of the ground is edible, and

I'm stopping by their little enclosure every few minutes with bits of bread that I'm hand-feeding Rachel's chickens as my own two birdbrains look on. I tossed a few crumbs on the ground so that my two could figure out that it's tasty stuff they are missing out on. But they are so damn dumb (or just freaked out) they didn't even eat it while I was out there. But it seems like being with Rachel's very chill, unafraid chickens is having a good effect on them. Let's hope anyway...

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The chickens might get the names (4.00 / 1)
Lucy and Ethel. And my Chicken School idea worked. The 2 new girls really mellowed out when I brought over Rachel's 2 hens, and one even ate bread out of my hand. Progress!

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

Partnering a newby with an experienced animal is always a good way to start them out right (4.00 / 2)
I do that with new chicks if I can. I'll hold back a few of the older chicks and put them in with the new ones to teach the new birds to eat and drink from the feeder/water trays. It's so much easier than having to dip each chick's beak in the water. Especially when you have 100 to do.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

[ Parent ]
Good call to that (4.00 / 1)
Although I always figured you don't have to dip everyone's beak in water - just one. Because chickens do whatever they see other chickens doing. If one's drinking, the others do too.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
could you take pictures of the weeds? (4.00 / 2)
I'm almost done with my hill project. It was originally grass but grass never grew much there. Then it was turned into a perennial bed and not much with successful except lots of weeds. The REALLY invasive types like the false grapes. Oh and a HUGE yucca plant which I hate but almost impossible to get rid of. So I am pulling out the weeds leaving the yucca there and covering with recycled lawn fabric. I am experimenting with recycled rubber mulch to see if it holds over the winter If it works ( the rubber mulch) I will cover entire area and put in some big rocks.

[ Parent ]
I posted a diary a few days ago (4.00 / 1)
about the weeds. Check that out bc it has links to pics and descriptions.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Garden blogging? I can do that (4.00 / 2)
Last week in  New York's best kept secret.

Summer's Last Stand

Click on any photo for a larger view.

stunning eddie (4.00 / 2)
you should really think about blowing these up, framing them, and doing an art show. at least see if you can display them in a local coffee shop or something. they are fantastic.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Here's a garden shot for you (4.00 / 2)

One of Manolo Vald├ęs Monumental Sculptures at the New York Botanical Garden.  

[ Parent ]
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