We Have a Garden! (or part of one)

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Today was finally planting day! I put in about fifteen tomatoes (mostly a rainbow selection of heirlooms with a couple of hybrid cherries that were part of a salad seed pack), peppers (again, rainbow heirloom mix with a few Big Berthas), eggplant, winter squash, and cucumbers. There are still some tomatoes to plant in an area out front, and I haven’t put in any of the direct-sow stuff yet. Still, it felt good to get some plants in the ground.

Now, normally I wouldn’t plant upwards of twenty tomatoes, which is what I’ll end up with once they’re all in. But since I started these from seed, I have this irrational fear that half of them will just lay down and die tomorrow. They each have several sets of true leaves and they all look like they’re healthy, but they don’t have the same sturdy look as the ones I’ve always gotten at the garden center. When we have tomatoes coming out our ears in July, I’ll probably wish I hadn’t planted so many. At least the chickens will be happy.

Ah, the chickens. It doesn’t look like I’ll be getting my Partridge Rocks this year. The feed and seed says that the hatchery changed their order, and they’re getting a different variety of the Plymouth Rock instead. I looked into ordering them myself, but most places either have a minimum order much larger than what I need or else their shipping costs are more than the birds themselves. So first thing tomorrow morning I’m going to look at some two-week-old Silver Laced Wyandottes. SLWs are gorgeous dual-purpose birds, and I’ll be happy to add them to the flock.

A neighbor we haven’t had much interaction with saw us outside this morning and gave us a bunch of egg cartons, which we always need. He asked why we don’t ever let our hens out in the yard, and I explained that when I had my egg business in my early teens, we had a bad run-in with one of my parents’ neighbors over the free-range hens who were thoughtfully aerating and fertilizing his landscaping. But it’s nice to know that we have such chicken-tolerant neighbors here.

The idea of free-ranging is tempting. A few weeks ago, a White Leghorn escaped when I was collecting eggs, and it took her all of thirty seconds to circle the run and park herself over a big nest of black ants, where she set to work eating every ant she could find. I figure the hens have been watching those ants through the fence for weeks, just waiting for their chance to make a break for it and have a feast. They’re so much smarter than people think they are.

Our weekend has been great — the birthday party went really well, today (the actual birthday) was fun, and in the next few days we have whirlwind adventures planned to Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia and Happy Cow Creamery in Pelzer. It worked out well for Ben to take a week of vacation time, so as far as The Boy is concerned, his birthday won’t end till at least Thursday. And it will include elephants, penguins, giraffes, and very happy cows.

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