The June Garden

This has been an especially hot early summer. Usually, I don’t do well in the heat, but it’s also been quite rainy, with storms pushing through and leaving sunny and clear, breezy days. Glorious, really. Perfect garden weather. Except for the peas. I ate my first snap peas yesterday. Delicious, but there won’t be many of them. Peas need a cool spring in order to produce.

Lettuce is also a cool-weather crop. This is the last of my spring planting. I’ve sown a variety that is supposed to tolerate summer’s heat. It’s not up yet, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to have lettuce until the first frost. One never knows.

The zucchini love the heat and the rain. I think there will be a bumper crop. I’ll be freezing vegetable stew to eat this winter.

Flowers are in full-bloom. This is the clematis decorating the vegetable garden’s fence.

The hydrangeas have done especially well this year. Although the blue hydrangea’s blooms aren’t as large as usual, it’s making up for it with quantity.

I love the colors of this one. It turns from lime green to pink.

But my favorites are the naturalized oak leaf hydrangeas. They’re the perfect plant for a woodland border.

The goats have been eyeing them. Pip tells me that they need pruning.

I tell him that the hydrangeas are not on his menu, but that he can browse on the black raspberries after the harvest.

I’m hoping he’ll wait.

How I Know What I Know About Chickens

I’ve had chickens for over fifteen years, and yet they still confound me! I think I know what I’m doing, and then I get that one bird, doing that one, odd thing, and I scramble around for answers. Readers of this blog ask me for advice. I know the answers to some, but not all of your queries. When that happens, the first thing that I do is check my shelf of  chicken keeping books, which includes the standard by Gail Damerow, and new references by Christine Heinrichs and others (see my site for more details.) There isn’t one book that covers everything. I have a collection of vintage books, from a time when farmers kept free-range poultry of various breeds, and before the advent of miracle drugs. They often have the best information.

There are two new books on the market with similar titles – Raising Chickens For Dummies by Willis and Ludlow, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Belanger. Belanger has been a self-sufficient farmer from way back. His book reflects his practical, lifelong knowledge. The perspective is from someone who raises chickens with a purpose. There’s an excellent section on culling and butchering. Ludlow’s book reflects the newer crop of chicken keepers. He writes about meat birds, but also about layers and hens as pets. I have some quibbles about the details in his book (for example, the section on lice is incomplete.) Neither address the issues of broodiness that we’ve been discussing on this blog. Neither have comprehensive illustrations. But, both books are useful. Of the two, Belanger’s book is a good starting point for the new chicken keeper.

After looking through my library, I’ll do a web search, with, as with all web searches, a hefty dose of skepticism. There are chicken forums on the web, like BYC. It’s a great community, and there’s some good advice, but there’s also a lot of guess work and erroneous information being dispensed. Some of the state agriculture commissions have useful information. On the other hand, some are geared to commercial farmers, and the advice is wrong for the backyard keeper. I’ve got an annotated list of some good sites on

Ultimately, I take what I’ve gathered and make my own conclusions. I keep chickens for eggs, but also for pets. My hens are individuals to me, and each one is valuable. I’m not breeding for show, and I’m not a farmer worried about one ill animal destroying a flock of 10,000. I don’t eat my birds (but would if I had a rooster to dispense.) In short, I have my own perspective. After years of being around these animals (and, going way back, to getting a BS in animal science from UNH) I have an ability to cut through the masses of information out there and find the bits that work for me and my hens.

I’ve learned so much from my readers! I learn from what you know and what you don’t. Asking me questions gets me to delve deeper into the resources I have, and to find more. It makes me more observant. One of the pleasures of backyard chicken keeping is getting to know the animals in my care. The more you ask, the more I see.

So, what question haven’t I answered yet?

(BTW, I’ve got FAQs here. I need to add to them. Broodiness is next! What else?)

Landscaping for Goats

What I do for my goats. Or, rather, what I pay others to do for my goats. I live in New England. I’ve got some big rocks on my property. Sadly, for the goats, none were in their pasture. So, last week, I had the crew from Rudy’s come and fix that.

It took three guys with a bobcat to get the job done.

The goats immediately tried out the new play space. Doesn’t everyone look happy?

Houdini Goat

Pip and Caper have a sturdy, permanent paddock fence. Beyond that is a small meadow, filled with things that goats love, like brambles and vines, ferns and sprouting acorns. That’s one of the wonderful things about goats – they clear an area of weeds before they touch the “good” grasses. Goats are very effective at keeping the margins of fields mowed down to the stone walls. I use electric poultry netting to keep them in. It’s easy to move, and I change it around frequently so that they can get to the brambles, but not overgraze. The goats quickly learned to respect this fence. They don’t like being zapped. But, they’re not scared of it. They get up quite close in order to nibble their favorite plants.

It’s always a good idea to check your electric fencing to make sure that it’s working. I haven’t done that recently, but, obviously, Pip has. Pip decided that the grass really is greener on the other side. Despite the fact that almost all of his 45 pounds is big belly, he managed to ooze under the fence. All goats have this superpower of being able to warp the rules of physics. I was outside and saw him do it and yet I’m still not sure how he squeezed through. My next goat will be named Quicksilver.

The goats are now in the paddock. The gate to the meadow is closed. The goats are lying next to it, chewing their cuds, looking innocent. But, they’ve never, ever laid there before. I know what they’re doing. They’re contemplating their great escape. I’d bet my money on them.

(PS There’s no photo. I was too busy wrangling goats.)