Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cuddly Little Killing Machines!

Isn't that raccoon cute? Sure, they're downright adorable . . . until you find one trying to eat your poor chickens in the middle of the night, as one of these little blighters did. At 3:00 a.m. we were woken by the sound of the chickens doing the chicken version of panicked screaming. We ran outside to find a raccoon with a mouthful of feathers. It took off over the fence, leaving us freaking out in our jammies. We thought Lucy had been killed, but it seems like she was just playing dead or in shock (or both). Ethel was shocked, as well, but they both appear to be otherwise unharmed. I can't blame the raccoon; it's just doing what raccoons do. Upsetting for all concerned, to say the least.

I think in addition to running for their lives, the fact that both chickens are moulting--that is, losing all their feathers and growing nice, new ones--saved their lives. Judging by the clumps of feathers all over the yard, every time the raccoon got a hold on one of them, their feathers just came right out, leaving our little thief holding nothing but pillow stuffing. Well timed, my feathered friends, well timed indeed.

Needless to say, we fortified the chicken run and are now locking the girls in at night. They're not thrilled but they're also not straying from the coop as much as they used to. It's always an adventure in the backyard! Luckily, this adventure turned out okay.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Florida's Gardening Quirks

Our backyard Square Foot Gardening experiment is underway! Jeff and I have built six 4'x4' boxes and installed them in the yard area next to the deck that was once home to our rotten, never-used picnic table. So far, we have managed to fill four of the boxes with the custom mix of compost, peat and vermiculite recommended for the SFG method. Here's hoping it helps retain moisture in our killer climate. We're also topping up our original 3'x8' garden box with that mixture. Altogether, these seven boxes will give us 120 planting "squares." Wow, what do with all of that? That's the fun part!

Since many of our family and friends are in more northerly climes, and because most people in Florida don't have a clue about gardening in our climate, I'm including a little chart here that I assembled so we would know what should be planted when for central Florida. It's weird! Our schedule is the complete opposite of everything one might come to expect from a lifetime of PBS gardening shows and illicit book and magazine browsing in the stands of Barnes & Noble. It's strange to be so "off" from the cultural norm, but adventuresome too. In the next ten days, I expect to be putting down our second round of tomatoes (which will hopefully be more productive than the first), cucumbers, eggplant, broccoli, chile peppers and the first bits of lettuce, plus a re-do of our sadly neglected herb pots. Wish us luck!