Veg Garden Cleanup Timing

Are you a gardener that ekes the last bean out of your vegetable patch before tidying up for winter? Do you put row covers down and nurture spinach through the winter?

Not me!

As much as I enjoy growing things (and then eating them) and being in the garden, I’m looking forward to the end of the season. I’m tired of kale and watering and picking worms off of cabbage. This was a strange year for my garden. It was beautiful but not productive. Now in mid-September, there are a few green beans left on the vines, but mostly it’s leaves. Tomatoes looked good all summer;  even now there’s no blossom rot or fungus, but tomatoes were never abundant, and I expect to harvest only a final bowlful before the plants are bare.

In a perverse way, this is my favorite time to garden. I like to rip it all up.

garden cleanup

It’s my animals’ favorite part of the gardening season, too.

The goats don’t get any grain. Those bellies? They’re helping me to compost the garden waste.

goats await greens


Some see the end of the summer season with sadness. But, my gardening companions greet it with glee,

Pip eating


and gusto.

Caper eats a leaf


The chickens get their share. They find bugs on the plants, they eat the leaves, and they shred the stems. This all stays tidily in their own compost pile, which will be a soft and interesting place to scratch even as the temperature drops and the ground freezes.

greens for chickens


Sweet Phoebe fills up on the end-of-summer bounty. I leave a few green beans in her pile because she loves to munch them.

Phoebe eats


I still have lettuce, bell peppers (although they never did turn sweet and red), Brussel sprouts and carrots in the ground. Once those are gone, I’ll let the hens into the vegetable garden to turn over the raised beds and dig up grubs. That might be sooner rather than later. It was 37 degrees this morning (for those of you who go by Celsius, it’s 3°.) I’ve a hunch that the first frost will come early this year.

Some of you don’t have this obvious ending (and relief that the work is over) to your gardening cycle. Do you take a break anyway, or are you planting your winter crops?

Kale Appreciation

At this time of year I am oh, so tired of kale. My dinosaur kale pushed up leaves in early spring, and has been producing ever since.



It no longer looks appetizing to me. But, the bugs say that it is perfectly edible.

kale holes


As a gardener, this time of year, I really appreciate having hens. Instead of feeling guilty for tossing vegetables into the compost pile, I have a ravenous flock that says that I’m the best farmer, ever.




Never mind that they don’t have good manners, and gulp down big pieces.

hen eating kale


And eat with their elbows on the table.

kale hens


They sure know how to say thank you.

flock eating kale

What are you pulling from the garden and feeding to your hens?

What Falls First

This is my front yard. The greens have changed to their late summer hues.

front lawn


One branch on one maple tree is always the first to let me know that fall is here.

maple leaf


Temperatures at night have been in the low 50s. Days have been warm. If this keeps up, it’s going to be a gloriously colored autumn.

The leaves aren’t falling yet, but feathers are. Like the trees, there’s always one that goes first.

Jasper has lost her tail.

tailess jasper


This isn’t a case of feather picking. This is how she greets the change in the seasons. I’ve collected all of her lovely Welsummer feathers from the floor of the coop.

tail feathers


They’re exactly what I need for my school visits, and I’ll use them when I talk about the differences between feathers and fur, and to teach the children how one should pet a bird. Jasper’s loss is my gain. She’ll have feathers again by winter – a full tail of them! – but the trees will be bare until spring.

Misty, Wild Jungle Fowl

After a few hours of free-ranging, I call the hens back home. Everyone comes quickly. They know that this is the only time that they get scratch grains. When they are back in the run, I count. There should be eleven chickens.

in pen

I count ten. Misty is missing.

She has dreams of being a wild jungle fowl, that elusive Indonesian bird that our domestic chickens are descended from. Or, maybe, she imagines that she is her late, late, late ancestor, a dinosaur. Whatever. I have to find her. I look in the tall grasses of the meadow, where she sometimes builds a nest. She isn’t there. I check the overgrown raspberry patch.

hunting for fowl


She’s there, well-hidden, but I see movement.



Misty, the carnivore, is busy looking for crawling and wiggling things to eat. She cares not a whit that her flock mates have all hurried home to grain and safety. She is a wild jungle fowl!

in woods


I manage to get her back onto the lawn.  I shake the can of corn and she remembers about the easy pleasures of domesticity.

coming for corn


Misty comes running.

running chicken


It’s not difficult to tame the wild jungle fowl.

Do you have one in your flock?

The Cochin Molts

Feathers are strewn on the ground, and are piling up in corners and caught against the fence.


Is this the result of a fox attack? Carnage?


It’s all from one molting cochin hen.


feathers akimbo

Look at her. She wouldn’t even make a proper feather duster.

She doesn’t look good from any angle.

Certainly not from the rear.

rear view


Nor from above.

top view


Those bumps on her bare back are the new feathers coming in. They’re call pin feathers. Ouch. No wonder she looks to be in a bad mood.

pin feathers


I estimate that Pearl has lost about two-thousand feathers so far. Only seven-thousand more to go.