This week we made the decision to re-home the chooks. I'm very sad, but the poor sleep resulting from worrying about waking up in time to distract them from their morning squawking finally became too much! (Especially since, if they kept getting earlier at the same rate with the light, they'd be starting at 5.30 by midsummer!) To add insult to injury Queenie actually started CROWING at various intervals throughout the morning. Living up to her name and becoming a transgendered chook? ;-) Apparently though, it's not actually uncommon in all-female chook communities for the top chicken to crow, from what I've read.

Sigh. I can deal with the morning-noise of chooks myself, but I just didn't think it was fair on our neighbours, whose in-fill houses are so very close. With only two chooks we didn't even have an egg surplus to bribe them with. :-)

So, what we have learned from our first experiment in urban chook-age? Silver Campines are delightful, alert and curious birds, but very noisy. Queenie basically never shut up. Further reading about the breed has backed this up. Probably a better breed for rural situations. Rhodie was also noisy first thing in the morning, but whether this is a breed characteristic or whether she was competing with Queenie I'm not sure. I don't think those two ever really sorted out their pecking order.

Fortunately a lovely friend with a block of land out of town has agreed to go through the careful process of integrating them in with her flock of chooks. I'm so happy and relieved they've gone to someone we know. I'm missing having them around the place already. We're going to investigate getting Australorps instead - reputed to be very quiet and docile and recommended for urban chook-age. (Also great dual-purpose birds and fantastically prolific layers - all good!) Does anyone know of an Australorp breeder near Christchurch?

Inside, my curcurbit and sunflower seedlings are coming up - they look like little eyeless sea-monsters erupting out of the seed-raising mix. All the tomatoes survived their transplanting - there are 180 in total. (I think anyone looking through my window at this stage would think I had a rather dodgy operation going on...!) I think I'll have to set up a large temporary cold frame outside to start hardening them off though - otherwise they're going to get too leggy and delicate before I give them away. Outside, in my own production engine-rooms, I've planted out more carrots (3rd crop, three varieties), spring onions and beetroot as well as parsnips. The peas are up, and the first crop of carrots are nearly ready to eat. (The second crop are still small but should take off fairly quickly at this time of year.)

What's all this ridiculous seedling production about? After all, I only have a postage-stamp-sized garden. Well, I'm giving away 350 vege seedlings as part of the 350 Aotearoa activities in Victoria Square on Saturday 24 October. Do come along and say hi and pick up a seedling! Read more about the how and why here: http://www.350.org/node/6181

Just starting to read an interesting book called "Voluntary Simplicity: the poetic alternative to consumer culture," edited by Samuel Alexander. It's an anthology which looks at a middle-ground way of living: between complete self-sufficiency and modern consumerism. I haven't got far enough into it yet to form an opinion, but I'm quite excited about it. I think it'll inspire a long-ish blog post sometime soon.

This year I'm going to try to do a "Three Sisters" garden in the whale bed (this garden bed is named for it's shape, in case you're wondering...). This method of space-saving gardening is South American. I've been reading a fair bit about it over the last couple of years, but here's a really good succinct explanation from the Yates site:

"In the 1500s, when they were colonising the Americas, Europeans found that many of the Indian tribes grew three native vegetables – corn, climbing beans and squash – together, and harvested them to provide the basis of a healthy diet. The Indians called these plants the ‘Three Sisters’ and, while there are many Indian legends about the origins of this name, science has shown that these three plants, as well as being nutritious, do help each other to grow.

How? Well, for a start, upright corn stalks provide support for climbing beans. And beans, being legumes, use the bacteria on their roots to convert nitrogen from the atmosphere into plant food, thereby fertilising the hungry corn and the squash. Squash does its part by sprawling over the ground and shading the soil, forming a natural mulch that keeps the roots cool and helps hold moisture in the soil."

Yates of course goes on to recommend all its products for the perfect Three Sisters garden - yeah, whatever. :-)

I had a go at it last year, but unfortunately didn't realise that the corn needs a bit of a head start. So my corn was rapidly overwhelmed by the pumpkins and I ended up with a lovely pumpkin patch. :-) Here's hoping the Mark II version will work a bit better this year! I'm hopeful because the whale bed is a big round bed, and corn does better when it's grown in a nice solid block.

Right, better make use of my morning off and go do something in this garden of mine instead of just blathering on about it!

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Comment by Hester on October 9, 2009 at 8:51pm
I really enjoyed reading all your garden news. I've got lots of seedlings and potted on plants at the moment. Love that abundance in Spring.

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