Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Composting! A Way Of Giving Back

I follow several blogs that deal with gardening and one of the subjects brought up continuously is composting. While no way would I describe myself as being a professional composter, I would say that it is one of my favorite subjects. I have always had a large composting system, staring out with a very large cinder block unit that took up a good portion of the utility section of our landscape here at Menagerie Manor. That system worked well for the years that I actively ran an animal rescue, and our family was larger then as well so there was larger volumes of compostable waist in those years. But now there is just MeMa and myself and I no longer have the number of animals sheltered within so I removed the old system and have installed two commercial units that suffice our needs.

Whilst attending one of our Garden and Patio shows a couple of years ago I purchased a stacking worm farm with the idea of composting some of the kitchen waste whilst benefiting myself with a constant supply of fishing bait and food source for our two resident box turtles that relish a meal of worms.

Back to the compost. I have the two units because I turn the compost regularly to help speed the process so by the following spring the whole thing is ready to use in the garden. So about every three weeks I use a pitch fork and dump everything from one unit into the other leaving one unit empty and continue to add fresh layers to the now full one. Then in three weeks time I flip everything so that any fresh stuff added is now on the bottom of the previously empty one. I should add that during this whole years process that I am removing, for use in the garden, about a wheel barrow or two of nice dark compost each time I flip the compost.

Here is a list of things that I layer into the composting system.

1. Junk mail ( I shred it in our home office shredder)

2. Newspaper (can be shredded or opened single sheets laid out between layers)

3. Tissue ( not toilet tissue)

4. Vacuum cleaner debris ( our vacuum cleaner bags are completely compostable, no metal or rubber fittings.
I do tear open the bags and spread out the contents and bag so it breaks down quicker)

5. Coffee grounds and filters

6. Tea grounds (loose or bagged, I remove the staple)

7. Kitchen waste (any food waste except dairy and meat)

8. Grass clippings ( I usually layer news paper or shredded paper so that the clippings don't mass together thus slowing the break down)

9. Leaves (except rhododendron as they don't compost well and have you ever wondered why nothing
grows under these shrubs)

10. We raise our own chickens for the eggs, so I crush the shells and add them which is a great source of

11. Garden debris, anything that I take out of the planting beds or pruning. (If it is branches or anything hard or rose clippings then it goes into our yard recycle bin to be hauled away every other week).

MeMas ladies get a good portion of the kitchen waste as well. I also add portions of kitchen waste and shredded paper to the worm farm, just in smaller amounts as to not overwhelm the farm. Keep in mind that the worms don't actually eat what you put in, they eat the bacterial organisms that feed off the debris. In the winter months I move my worm farm into the greenhouse so they will stay active all year long. The great thing about these worm farms is there is no odor. And a added bonus is a constant supply of worm farm "tea" that we use as supplementary fertilizer in the greenhouse.

The compost system will slow down in the winter but since mine are covered they continue to heat up somewhat and thus stay active to a point. Another thing to monitor is the moisture in your compost, without it the system will not work. When you dig down it should be moist not dry and not wet. A soggy compost is a smelly compost that will just sit and rot.
So each spring I empty the compost and I usually have two to three trays of soil from the worm farm. This goes directly into the garden. I use raw sawdust in the chicken yard and dig this under every month to help keep flies away. In February I dig about a shovels depth off the top of the chicken yard and add this too the vegetable garden because by that time the sawdust has broken down the chicken poop so it wont burn vegetable crops when planted in the spring. I feed the chickens an complete organic feed with no chemicals added. Looking back on this post it is a bit jumbled, sorry for that but I get so excited about this whole subject so if you have any questions I will try and clarify them for you.

Happy composting!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Nursery Hopping

This Saturday morning found us at the care center visiting MeMa's father GGPa Dale.  Our visit  included a rousing game of Cribbage between father and daughter,  MeMa barely won in the last hand.  GGPa has been under the weather with a cold so he tired and needed to take a nap.  So off we went with our good friends and fellow "Nursery Hoppers" Jan and Brian.  We headed out to Oregon City to visit the Rare Plant Research Nursery that opens its doors to the public once a year.  Not only is it a wonderful nursery for plant geeks but the owners Burl Mostul and his wife have built the most beautiful home modeled after a 12th century Romanesque church surrounded by ponds and gardens.  This was the first visit for our friends but MeMa and I try going at least every other year and because we have quite a few rare plants purchased on previous visits we both said that this visit will be just to be chaperone's for Jan and Brian. In the first half hour of touring the many greenhouses I had my arms full of plant purchases.....I'm weak!

One of the many greenhouses.

There was wine tasting from a local vineyard as well as a selection of food available to hungry shoppers.

Among the oddities there are some more hardy flowering plants available as well

This was the greenhouse that I almost had to be sedated to get me out of. But once removed we walked up the hill to tour the grounds of a very fascinating home.

Everything was built and designed by the owners, including all the columns.

Looking into the walled courtyard that will hold the future "Tropical Garden".

So the tour completed we loaded up and headed home with some happy purchases making yet another stop at a nearby nursery........just to look mind you.....well I said I was weak. I just could not pass up this cool bird house that I will be installing an Eco roof on using miniature sedums and moss. I could have spent $80.00 and purchased one already planted but decided $30.00 was more my cup of tea as I have all the sedums at home.

Plant Purchases

Neoregelia 'Fireball'

MeMa loved this little Sedum called 'Flapjacks'
Banana Canna - Canna musafolia, this will grow to twelve feet but will need to be mulched in the winter.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's a Blooming Tuesday

One of the two old urns that grace the front steps

Rhododendron 'Catabiense album'
This one is well over eight feet tall, I started it as a cutting back in 1975
Rhododendron 'Vulcan'
One of the few nursery bought Rhodie's ( 1995 )

Blooming Viburnum Tomentosum or Doublefile Viburnum
Successfully screens CCL the Crazy Cat Ladies yard from view....Meeeeow!

Clematis Montana 'Marjorie'
A smallish flower but a favorite, planted on the front porch rail.

And some fresh blooms in the greenhouse
Vanda 'Murphy's Gold'

From the greenhouse to the Sunroom, this Epicactus 'Padre'. It has a light fragrance but the flowers are so big.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A flower blooms for Grouchy

 As I promised Grouchy of "Seriously Grouchy,...Seriously" here is the first 2011 bloom from the starts he sent me of 'Francis Dubreuil' and actually since this plant (one of two) is the one I keep in the greenhouse it is also the first rose to bloom at the Manor this year......Enjoy Grouchy!
Bud Shot
I planted the second one in the rose garden and then below in full bloom a few hours later and the greenhouse filled with its perfume.

With warmer nights I was able to bring my Sago Palm out of the greenhouse

Every year our neighborhood has a "Giant Pumpkin Parade" and hopefully this plant will yield my entry

'Billbergia nutans" Queen's Tears
MeMa fell in love with the pretty pastel early spring flowers at a garden show that we attended, it is not winter hardy so I keep it in the greenhouse during the bad weather.

'Viburnam tomentosum'

Well I had so many more picture to share but I am having nothing but problems with Blogger this morning that I am just going to pack it up for the day, hope these make it through. Come on Blogger get it together!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Hope all the Mom's out there have a great weekend.

My Mother and Father and the brood on our move to Sunny Spain

The Lovely MeMa with our son's Nathan and Ian - Then and Now

D.I.L. - Jill holding Taeya
D.I.L. Grace holding Brooklyn

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fresh From The Greenhouse

Oh yes.... the rain has returned and this old gardener has no interest in being cold and wet. So here is whats blooming in the greenhouse ha! Yesterday while the nice weather was still with us I did manage to get all the bubble insulation removed from the greenhouse and stored in the garage attic for next winter. Time to get the shade cloth on, I hope.

Orchid #46
Odontocidium 'Wildcat" a very richly colored flower

Orchid #52
This is one of the many Phalaenopsis that came to me by way of someones neglect, just proves the point that with a little love and tenderness anything can thrive.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Good News At The Manor

With all the terrible things going on in the world I thought I would post some good news. There is a pair of proud parents here at Menagerie Manor.

Baby Budgies
There are actually three and you can just see the head of the third which is unfeathered and quite a bit smaller then the two feathered siblings.

The proud father
 Mum is pure white and very shy so no photo

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Historical Endeavour" Update

I shall update this post occasionally as I promised Matron of "Down on the Allotment" blog. If any of you are interested in growing vegetables Matron is quite the vegetable guru so check it out.

April 30th 2011
Very vigorous starts

April 19, 2011
The arrival of "Mrs. Fortune's climbing beans from "Matron of Down on The Allotment".

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Good Weekend

When we have beautiful weather as we did this last weekend thoughts of moving to Hawaii subside.  Friday we had the "Little Terrorists" spend the night,  first taking them both to McDonald's for an unhealthy dinner and letting them both exhaust themselves playing on the slide and climbing structure until they said they were tired and wanted to go.  I don't know who was more tired, them or my parents who met us there. But it was time to go, and it was off to Menagerie Manor were we let them stay up probably far to late watching a Disney movie.  MeMa and Poppi are such terrible grandparents ;o)  They both slept in, see there was a plan there after all. At around 09:30 we loaded a wagon in the back of Vivian and set out to see the Fifth Annual 82nd Avenue of The Roses Parade, which is a small community Parade sponsored by the Rose Society and the Chinese community.
Chinese Dragon

Rose Society Members March

My heart goes pitter patter when the pipers play.

Local School bands only.

I might take up golf if I could have a cart like this.

The Little Terrorists opted for the healthier snacks packed by MeMa even though they made quite the haul scampering after the candy tossed by the parade participants.

After the parade we made a short stop home before dropping the Little Terrorists off at their homes,  all sugared up for their parents to deal with.....ha ha ha!
Sunday with a promise of glorious weather MeMa and Poppi had no plans other than home time.  Coffee in hand we began our day.........

MeMa and Max shared the morning paper.
On sunny days I don't last long indoors, so it was off to the greenhouse were I transplanted sixty two Bell Peppers into four inch pots.

I sat out thirty five Roma tomato's in order to begin hardening them off for planting.
After some tidying up in the greenhouse I planted my red and Spanish onions,  I mowed, aerated and fertilised the lawn.  Then swept out the chicken house and planted half of my dahlias before running out of the iron posts that I use to mark the tubers so I will stop and purchase more of those before finishing the planting.
All in all it was a very good weekend,  hope you all had the same.