Flowers For A Wedding

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My stepdaughter Eve asked me if I would like to do the flowers for her Vermont wedding last August. Of course I said “Yes!” Then I proceeded to learn a few things about floral arranging.

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Farm table set for wedding guests

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Pot et fleur with lavender

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Lavender with lisianthus, monarda, hydrangea

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Pot et fleur with Iris

I had recently been introduced to the concept of ‘pot et fleur‘ arrangements and thought they would be very pretty for the wedding. A pot et fleur arrangement starts with a living potted plant to which cut flower stems are added. The live plant provides an armature for the cut flowers and it is something guests can take home and plant. I chose some lavender plants for the outdoor wedding because lavender is also a natural insect repellent. I added cut flowers such as monarda, hydrangea, lisianthus and sedum ‘madrona’ from my garden, as well as several plants from my mother’s garden. I also reserved some cut flowers at the local garden center, including dahlias, snapdragons and more lisianthus.
I found other plants as well. One of my favorites was a potted iris to which I added lisianthus, dianthus and little joe pye weed buds from my garden.

I discovered lisianthus, which is an annual, when searching for plants online that would be good cut flowers. I bought a few plants and put them in my garden in the Spring, but when it came time to go to Vermont for the wedding I found that I needed to supplement my homegrown ones. In fact, I learned they can be a little tricky to grow. I recommend lisianthus because it is as delicate as a rose but less formal. Like roses, it has lovely buds that are almost as pretty as the open flower. Lisianthus is also a workhorse of a plant and if conditioned properly will hold up for many many hours.

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Lisianthus at the Wedding

Conditioning extends the life of fresh flower arrangements. It’s especially important with ‘pot et fleur’ arrangements because the cut stem will eventually be put in the soil of the potted plant rather than be submerged in a vase filled with water. (More on Conditioning below) We arrived in Vermont the day before the wedding with a car full of cut flowers in buckets of water. That afternoon I recut all the stems and resubmerged them in buckets of warm water (up to but not exceeding 100 degrees fahrenheit.) I left them in a cool darkish barn off the side of the house overnight. The next morning I started making the arrangements. The wedding was at 4 pm. The flowers held up beautifully, even the bride’s bouquet!

Hydrangea

Hydrangea in a canning jar

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Apothecary jar

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Kalenchoe with ceramic pot

 

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Newlyweds after the ceremony

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Dorian arranging flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conditioning: (Reprinted from The Annual Garden Wheel) As soon as flowers are cut, place them in a deep bucket of lukewarm water, which is easier for the plant to take up than hot or cold water. Do not leave sitting in the sun too long. Most flowers should be cut just before they are fully open. Tight buds may add interest to an arrangement, but they will usually not open after being cut. After bringing flowers indoors, recut the stems at an angle with a sharp knife and put them loosley back into a bucket of warm water submerging about three-fourths length of stem. Allow water to freely circulate around the stems. Cutting stems at an angle allows them to absorb water even when resting on the bottom of a vase. When recutting stems, do it underwater. For some plants this is important as it prevents air bubbles from forming in the stem and hampering water uptake. Use a leaf stripper to strip off any foliage that will fall below the waterline in either the conditioning container or in the vase. Leaves decay rapidly in water, creating a haven for bacteria. Let flowers stand in the water as it cools, preferably in a dark, cool place. If flowers are going to be arranged in a vase with water, then a few hours of conditioning is adequate. If flowers are being inserted in floral form or in a pot et fleur arrangement, let them stand in the water overnight.

Wedding Memento: Use a flower press to keep memories of the flowers at the wedding alive. Afterwards, mount them for framing or decoupage. Order a flower press kit from Womanswork.Flower-Press Flower-PressKit

 

Growing Dahlias with Frances Palmer

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The following excerpts are reprinted from an article by Frances Palmer in the May/June 2014 issue of Connecticut Gardener, with permission.

Planting: I usually plant my tubers in late April, which is considered early. Most instructions advise planting tubers at the same time as tomatoes. Be that as it may, I dig a hole to accommodate the size of the tuber. If I am planting a new tuber, the hole is only a few inches down and the tuber is placed with its eye and/or new shoot pointing up. I then center a large tomato cage over the tuber, sticking the prongs into the ground. I further support the tomato cage with three bamboo stakes about 5 or 6 feet tall.

In some cases, when a dahlia has been saved from year to year, it can have many tubers and be quite large. I will cut a large plant with many sprouts in half or quarters. These separated tubers can be planted as well or given away. After a tuber is placed in the ground with its supporting cage and stakes, I fill in the hole with soil around all parts.

Groundbreak: It takes three to five weeks for the top of the dahlia stem to poke out of the ground after planting. The timing depends on whether the tuber is small, large, new or stored. Resist the urge to move the soil away and check! I have snapped many a new stalk in this manner and the plant is set back for weeks. Sometimes, it never recovers.
Only after the majority of tubers have broken through do I investigate ones that have not appeared. Sometimes the tuber has rotted (especially if it is a wet spring) or for some inexplicable reason, the eye did not sprout. I try to reserve a group of unplanted tubers to fill in when a planted one does not thrive.

Pruning & Thinning: When the first stalk is 8-12 inches high – again, the size of the eventual flower will be a factor in the height – there should be a small bud with two side leaves. Snap off the bud in the center, keeping the leaves. This will encourage the stem to branch out and more flowers will result as the plant matures. Flowers that are blooming in June and July can crowd the dahlias in their early growing stage. It is important to trim back or pull out other flowering plants that will block the sun or steal room from the tubers. I have a hard time editing the volunteer flowers, especially the sunflowers that self sow every year, but if they are not removed they will impact the dahlia height significantly.

Flowering: By late July, the dahlias should begin to flower. Stems generally have three buds together, a main bud with two lateral ones. Gently snap off the two side buds and this will enable the main one to shoot up straight and form beautifully. The reward is an excellent stem for cutting and arranging.FrancesPalmerCeramicsFrancesPalmer1

Storing tubers: People can be intimidated by the prospect of digging and storing tubers. Before explaining how to do this, it must be said that dahlias do not necessarily have to be dug. The tubers are relatively inexpensive and if you don’t have the time or inclination to dig and store, simply leave the tubers in the ground. They will not make it through the Connecticut winter but you can order a fresh supply to plant in spring.

After the first frost, the tubers remain in the ground for about two weeks or until there have been a couple more hard frosts. You have to watch the weather closely, because the plants must be dug before the ground completely hardens.

With clippers, cut off the stalks above ground to about 6-10 inches, depending on the size of the flower. With a shovel or pitch fork, gently work around the perimeter of the plant and try to find how far the tubers are extending under the soil. Carefully bring the plant up out of the ground in one piece. If some tubers fall off, these can be marked and stored as well.

If you have a tag on the hoop identifying the flower, tie this onto the base where the tubers meet the stalk. Place the tubers in a large cardboard box with a layer of peat moss or sawdust on the bottom. Fill the box with tubers and then gently fill the box with additional peat moss or sawdust. Close the box and store in a cool basement – 40 to 50 degrees is ideal.

Note: Frances Palmer lives in a Zone 5 climate. Dahlias are hardy in Zones 8 and up.

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Womanswork Goatskin Gloves

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Living The Dream: Raising Sheep

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SheepFarm4 We interviewed Theresa Ryan about her experience as a sheep owner, one year after she and her husband Richard bought their first sheep. We hope this will be instructive to others thinking about raising sheep.
Womanswork: When did you start thinking about raising sheep?

Theresa: I have been knitting on and off most of my adult life and weaving for about six years. During that time I have purchased great quantities of wool.  When I started networking with other weavers I found that many of them owned their own sheep. That’s when the seed was planted.

Womanswork: What was the thing that inspired you the most about having your own sheep?

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Skywalker

Theresa: I have always loved animals.  When I was growing up, my grandfather had a dairy farm that we visited often, where I had a ‘pet’ chicken and hung out in the barn with the calves and cows.  To my mother’s consternation, I would regularly bring animals home – stray cats, baby squirrels or rabbits, a dog, even a duck.  So the opportunity to have a small menagerie of our own in our semi-retirement is a dream.  We’ve started with sheep and plan to add chickens and pigs to the farm in the spring.

Womanswork: What steps did you take to prepare and over what period of time did you do this?

Theresa: More than a year in advance of actually owning the sheep we visited numerous sheep farms in the area and talked to the shepherdesses/breeders at length.  They were all passionate about their sheep farms and never seemed to tire of our questions.  These women inspired and encouraged us to start our own flock.  We bought stacks of books and visited scads of websites to learn about raising sheep.  We researched sheep breeds, fencing, shelters, feeders, equipment, pasture management, breeding, health, nutrition, sheep anatomy, and what plants are toxic to sheep.

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Sabrina, the matriarch

The following spring, we ‘reserved’ three ewe lambs right after they were born and one experienced two-year old ewe from a breeder in Connecticut with the plan to take delivery of them in the fall.  I was fortunate enough to be present at the birth of one of the lambs, who gave birth to twin lambs of her own on our farm this past summer.

We built a barn, dug a trench from the house to the barn for water and electric, and installed wire perimeter fence.  We purchased tubs, grain, hay, minerals, salt, water buckets, hay nets, lambing equipment, heat lamps, portable electric fence and solar energizers, and a few items for general sheep health.

We read that it’s important to establish a relationship with a veterinarian, so we arranged for a vet experienced with sheep to visit our farm right after the sheep arrived in the fall.  We also got a quick lesson from her on how to trim their feet and give them vaccinations.

Womanswork: What were the expenses involved? Is your goal to make this profitable?

Theresa: The big ticket items were the sheep, the barn, the perimeter fence, and the portable electric fence. There was a modest investment in the equipment and supplies, and there is an ongoing expense for the grain, hay, minerals, salt, and medicine.  The plan is to breed the sheep and sell the offspring, excess fleeces and wool, and fiber products made from the wool to offset the costs of maintaining the breeding ewes. Our plan is to have a maximum of 20 sheep at any given time, and we don’t think making a profit is possible on this scale.

Womanswork: What are some of the things that have surprised you?SheepFarm2

Theresa: We have had so many surprises, sometimes daily.  We’ve discovered that the sheep are funny, affectionate, playful, extremely inquisitive, clever, fast runners, and smarter than they’re often given credit for.

Womanswork: Any disappointments?

One of the ewes had triplets this year, but one of them was stillborn.  That is always going to be hard.

Womanswork: If someone wanted to raise sheep for dairy products, how would that be different?

Theresa: According to some estimates, there are over 1,000 different breeds of sheep.  We decided on Finnsheep (or Finnish Landrace) because it is a multi-purpose sheep.  They have excellent quality meat and wool.  They are also good mothers, have a very sweet nature, and are very prolific.  They have been known to have as many as nine lambs in one litter in Finland (where they hail from), and as many as seven in the US.  Although Finnsheep are considered a reasonable alternative dairy sheep because of their prolificacy, their milk production drops way down after a month or so without human intervention.  There is a small selection of highly productive dairy sheep to choose from in the world.  East Friesian are the best milk production sheep and they are available in the US.  Lambs of dairy sheep are removed from their mothers very early on, to maximize the ewe’s milk production, and are bottle-fed.  Our lambs are allowed to stay with their mothers for several months, and are weaned when the mothers’ milk production is at its lowest, and after the lambs have learned what they need to know from their mothers, such as how to eat, what to eat, and how to respond to their environment.

Womanswork: Is there a rule of thumb about how much land you should have for sheep?

Theresa: There are a lot of variables, such as the type of soil, type of vegetation, the climate, the size and thriftiness of the sheep, etc., but in general one acre of land can support 4 or 5 sheep. There are also a number of variables for determining the area needed for each sheep in a confined structure, but 10 to 20 square feet per sheep is a fair estimate.  The lower number would apply to a weaned lamb, and the latter for a nursing ewe and her lambs.

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Womanswork Original Leather Work Gloves

Womanswork: What do you love the most about your new adventure?

Theresa: We never tire of looking out the window and seeing our flock in our back yard, and I am really looking forward to processing their wool from start (washing, carding, spinning) to finish (knitting or weaving).

We were nervous at first, bringing four animals all at once to our new farm, but now we have fifteen!  They make us smile every day.  What a trip!
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Here are links to some videos Theresa and Richard took in the first year. We’ll post more as they are available.
http://youtu.be/QE5qBa2lb3w
http://youtu.be/6pqbPMBU8o8
http://youtu.be/D78-__oeWq4
http://youtu.be/fMNSqLcfbfI

Thinking About Chickens? Meet 4 Chicken Owners

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We are giving away copies of Ashley English’s book, Keeping Chickens: All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock. Just write in a comment below telling us why you want to win this book, and we will choose our first winner. We have 3 copies to give away throughout the year, thanks to the generosity of Ashley’s publisher Lark Crafts. (To read more about the talented Ashley English visit her website www.smallmeasure.com.)

AshleyEnglish AshleyEnglishBookWe asked Ashley and three other chicken keepers to tell us about their experience and offer some of their wisdom. Here are our exclusive interviews:

Meet Ashley English

Womanswork: What are some of the ways someone can acquire chickens?

Ashley English: With the resurgence of interest in keeping a flock of backyard chickens, it’s now easier to find chickens than ever. I always encourage people to look locally from resources such as feed & seed stores, area farms, and places such as Craigslist or local classified ads. An area veterinarian might also have suggestions for acquiring birds locally. Online hatcheries such as Murray McMurray and My Pet Chicken are places to look if you can’t source nearby or if you are seeking out a specific breed.

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Ashley English wearing Womanswork Goatskin Gloves

Womanswork: How do I choose between different types of chickens?

Ashley English: What type of bird might work best for you might not work best for another. Consider what your needs are (do you want chickens for their eggs, for table purposes (meaning to eat), for both eggs and table, for show) and then go from there. Such individual needs will help you determine if what you’re looking for is a bird known for prolific egg laying, or that’s particularly good to eat, or that has lovely plumage (feathers). From there, decide if you want to get birds as chicks, pullets (females under 1 year of age), hens, or males, as there are pros and cons to each.

Womanswork: Will chickens cause damage in my garden? How can I prevent that?

Ashley English: If you allow your flock to free range, bear in mind they will scratch and mar the landscape in their hunt for bugs (chickens are insectivores primarily, so bugs are what they really want to eat most of all). They’ll also take opportunistic pecks and nibbles of anything that interests them. Should you wish to keep them away from, say, some prize-winning rose bushes or your heirloom tomatoes that are just beginning to ripen, then you’ll need to put up a barricade.

Ashley-retFB Womanswork: Do chickens get rid of ticks?

Ashley English: It’s bugs that chickens truly want to consume. Ticks are part of that category, making a free-ranging flock an ideal low tech means of keeping tick populations in check in your area.

 Womanswork: What can I expect in terms of egg production from my flock?

Ashley English: A pullet will begin laying eggs at some time between 16-18 weeks of age. She’ll be her most prolific in the first two years of her life. After that, egg-laying tapers off, but doesn’t ever cease entirely. You’ll want to keep that in mind as your flock ages, rotating older birds out (if you choose to do so, via culling-you can also simply allow them to age which is what I’ve done, with some members of my flock now 6 years old and still laying, albeit about every other day or so) and younger birds in.

Keep in mind also that chickens may taper off laying during the winter. They get their cue to lay from a signal in their pituitary gland. When there is less then 14 hours of sunlight in a day, the gland sends a message to curtail laying, and conversely to resume production of eggs when there is more than 14 hours of sunlight in a day. Bear in mind also that in late summer/early autumn, chickens will shed their feathers, or “molt.” When this happens, they will not be laying eggs, as the calcium that would otherwise go into shell formation will be re-routed to form the quills for new feathers.

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Ashley English with her son Huxley

Womanswork: How do I keep my chickens safe, while giving them enough freedom?

Ashley English: The predators present in your area will be based on your geographic location. Where I live, which is in a deeply forested mountain cove [in North Carolina], there are aerial threats (from chicken hawks and owls), climbing threats (from raccoons), and “wiggling”, above-ground threats (from snakes and weasels). To keep my flock safe, I have attempted to install predator-proofing lines of defense in numerous ways, from overhead netting to buried fencing to barbed wire atop the fencing. Ask other chicken-keepers in your area what kinds of threats are present and prepare and fortify their housing accordingly.

Meet Shayla Grover

We discovered our second chicken owner through Instagram, where she has a popular page @letsgetsomechickens. After falling in love with her photos of chickens and pigs cohabitating on her Cape May, NJ farm, and the captions that went with them, we asked her to tell us about her experience as a chicken owner.

"Turnip wasn't super impressed with it, but @rwolf4 (my boyfriend) got me this pretty accurate shirt for my birthday"

“Turnip wasn’t super impressed with it, but @rwolf4 (my boyfriend) got me this pretty accurate shirt for my birthday”

Womanswork: What kinds of chickens do you have, and how did you choose them? How many do you have?

Shayla Grover: We have about 450 laying hens right now, and 100 2 week old Ameraucanas in the brooder.  For production purposes, we have a lot of Rhode Island Reds – they make up about 75% of our current flock.  I don’t have anything against Reds personally, but I do find them a tad boring.  Some of my favorite breeds, chosen mostly for their docile and friendly dispositions, are Australian Australorps, Turkens (people tend to either love or hate them, I think they’re cute!) and Ameraucanas.  These three breeds are all great layers as well, plus everyone always loves the green and blue tinted eggs of the Ameraucanas!

This little stinker. I was trying to get a photo of her napping with the hen, but she opened her eyes at the last second.

“This little stinker. I was trying to get a photo of her napping with the hen, but she opened her eyes at the last second.”

Womanswork: How do you keep your chickens safe, while giving them enough freedom?

Shayla Grover: We have been lucky (knock on wood) in that we haven’t had too much of a predation problem.  Our biggest threat is from hawks, during their fall migration.  Cape May is a hot spot from late August through December, when 50,000 hawks of 15 different species pass through.  Sadly, it is just a part of raising chickens that we will lose a few to them.  Our three roosters also do their best to keep an eye out for danger and warn their ladies to take cover.

Chickens instinctively know that when it starts to get dark out, it’s time to go home!  Even our most adventurous free rangers “come home to roost” each night.  They simply need to be closed in at night and let out in the morning! Of course, you want to make sure the coop is predator-proof before locking your girls in there!

Womanswork: Getting eggs. What to expect with that. Do they lay in winter?

Shayla Grover: Even though our ladies are free-rangers, they are mostly good about laying in their nest boxes.  There are a few rogue nests around the farm that I check each day, and I am sure there are more that I will just never find!

Eggs are like people - it's what's on the inside that matters.

“Eggs are like people – it’s what’s on the inside that matters.”

Young hens, called pullets, will start laying eggs at an average of 6 months old, and depending on their breed and living conditions, will lay 200-300 eggs a year for their first couple years.   The older ladies start to take it easy, so it’s a good idea to add new girls to your flock before they stop altogether!

Production absolutely goes down over winter.  Hens need 15 hours of light a day to lay eggs, and you can encourage year round laying by using artificial light inside the coop, but we don’t do that.  I think that our ladies have earned a bit of a vacation, and lucky for us, we live in a very seasonal area, so the demand for our eggs declines just as production does!

Womanswork: How do the pigs relate to the chickens?

Shayla Grover: Well, the chickens and pigs aren’t cohabitating on purpose.  Some of the chickens just seem to like living with the pigs better than they like living with their own kind! I can’t really blame them, it’s always warm and cozy with all that piggy body heat, and the pigs get all the good slop too!  The pigs don’t seem to mind either, since some of the hens lay their eggs in the pig’s bedding, literally “breakfast in bed” for the pigs!  We did hang a few milk crates from the wall of the pig house to try and save some of those eggs from becoming pig snacks, and most of the “pig chickens” use them now.   And, I’m not going to lie – seeing baby piglets cozy up to a hen the same size as they are is pretty darn cute!

Turnip with Shayla Grover

Shayla Grover with Turnip

Growing up, we always had a couple dozen chickens around.  My Mom let each of us help put together the chick order, and it was (and still is) so much fun to pour over the catalog, trying to decide which breeds to select.

I attended college in Philadelphia, and definitely missed having chickens around! I am, admittedly, a “crazy chicken lady,” but I could honestly just watch them interact all day. Chickens are such a quintessential part of life to me, and their cheerful peeps and clucks, and silly mannerisms, absolutely make my day every day!

Meet Eve Winslow

Our daughter Eve Winslow is our third chicken keeper interviewee. Eve lives in a very cold climate, Woodstock, VT, so she brings a little different perspective to the topic.

Eve with Penny Woodstock

Eve Winslow with Penny

Womanswork: What kinds of chickens do you have, and how did you choose them?

Eve Winslow: I became a chicken owner on June 20th, 2013. We got Annie, a Buff Orpington hybrid hen from a friend who needed to find a home for her. Two weeks later we got Merriweather, a Barred Rock hen, and Penny, a Rhode Island Red, from a local person who breeds heritage chickens. I wanted 3 different breeds to learn about their different personalities and different eggs. And they look pretty together. I had planned to add new ones each year, but for now I’m committed to owning a flock of 3.  They produce the perfect amount of eggs for two people, it’s easy to clean their coop, and it’s not as likely that predators will catch their whiff.

Woodstock, VT milkhouse turned chicken coop

Woodstock, VT milkhouse turned chicken coop

Womanswork: How do you keep your chickens safe, while giving them enough freedom?

Eve Winslow: We have a very secure chicken coop behind our house that used to be a milkhouse. That’s where they spend the night and most of the winter. Nate built an outdoor chicken coop on wheels (chicken tractor) that we move around the yard so they always have fresh lawn to scratch for bugs and other things. They stay in the moveable coop part of the day, but they also get to free range for about 3-4 hours each day as long as I am outside with them or in my upstairs studio, which has a view of the backyard.  After Penny was attacked and nearly killed by a fox this summer, I have gotten into the habit of calling out to them from my studio about every 20 minutes (crazy?), just to make sure they’re staying close to home. I’ve started to train them to respond to my call by giving them treats when they come. It works!

Womanswork: In such a cold climate, do your hens lay in winter?

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Feeding Merriweather a warm snack on a cold day

Eve Winslow: During warm months we get about 3 eggs a day, one from each hen.  In the winter we get a little less than that, but their production doesn’t fall off that much. We don’t give them supplemental light, which would increase their production in winter because each hen lays just so many eggs in a lifetime and we have no need to hurry them along. After about 2 years of age their egg laying production will drop off a little, but it can keep going until they’re about 5 years old or even sometimes longer.

But I do open the door to their coop in the winter to let light in during the day. And I also bring them a hot breakfast most mornings made of oatmeal and mashed squash or sweet potato, with a little grit mixed in to aid digestion and crushed oyster shell for calcium. We don’t heat the coop because if we were to lose power the sudden cold could cause them to go into shock.  On a couple of very cold nights we did turn on the heat lamp, but I’m so concerned about fire that I was checking them constantly during the night. Chickens do acclimate to the cold and they huddle together and puff up to stay warm.  Their water bowl is heated but on a very cold night I take that out of the coop because the moisture it produces can cause frostbite.

Womanswork: What has surprised you the most about having chickens?

Eve Winslow: I was not expecting them to be so charming. And they each have a distinct personality like people. Annie is at the top of the pecking order, even though Merriweather is the largest. They have their favorite spots on the roosting bar and I can hear them argue and squabble about who gets to sleep where, but in the end Annie always gets her way.  I know I anthropomorphize them alot, but it’s been so much fun to see their individual personalities take shape. Before I got them I was planning to cull the flock for meat, but that would be impossible for me to do now. As long as they live they have a home here.

Meet Dorian Winslow

Dorian'sChickens

Eudora and Jamaica on the railing of our front porch

I decided to write my own account because I was a chicken owner and my experience may be instructive to others.

Tom and I got our chickens from a friend who ordered them in the mail. Yes, the US Postal Service will mail day old chicks all over the country. Usually when you order by mail you have to meet a minimum of 25 chicks or so. Our friend only wanted about 15 so he was looking for homes for the others. We committed to 3 and then left them with him to incubate in a warm cage until they were about 3 months old. In the meantime we prepared our chicken coop. We converted a small lean to shed on the side of our garage into a coop, then added an 8-foot long chicken wire run on the outside that was connected with a little swinging door built into the side of the coop.

Chicken Coop with Daisy

Chicken Coop with Daisy

We picked up our pullets in May and showed them their new home. They seemed happy, especially because we let them free range all the day long when we were at home. They were Araucana chickens, known for their beautiful plumage and friendly-to-people personalities. I named them after three female literary giants: Eudora [Welty], Jamaica [Kincaid] and Harper [Lee]. In August my husband and I were traveling out of town when we got a phone call from our neighbors: the first egg had been laid. It was a beautiful pale blueish green, which is another hallmark of the Araucana breed of chicken. Click here for a video with me and my chickens.

Our first egg!

Our first egg!

Unfortunately it went downhill from there. We got attached to the chickens and thought of them like pets and they got taken, one by one over the course of the next year, by foxes during broad daylight when everyone was home and even our dog was about.

We have not been able to figure out how to keep our chickens safe while giving them an enjoyable free ranging lifestyle, so for now we are chickenless.  If we figure it out we may try again.

Pruning Shrubs in Fall

The Curious Gardener Newsletter

We consulted with our friend the horticulturist Ruth Rogers Clausen about pruning shrubs in the fall.

There are primarily three reasons to prune a shrub:

  1. To get rid of any dead or diseased wood, or crossing branches
  2. To shape a shrub
  3. To encourage more flowering
Berberis_thunbergii Shaped

Berberis_thunbergii ‘Rosy Glow’ Shaped

Fall is a good time to prune away dead, damaged, diseased or dying branches. It can be done anytime of year but if you do it now you don’t have to worry about damaging new growth that may be emerging on healthy branches in the spring. And at this time of year it’s easier to pick out the dead branches. In the spring you might accidentally prune out a live one.

Shrubs such as boxwood or barberry can be trimmed lightly in the fall. I planted two Berberis thunbergii ‘Rosy Glow’ in my garden this summer. I let them get established through the summer but my plan is to shape them like the one at the NY Botanical Garden shown in the photo. So this weekend I pruned them to begin shaping them. Branches with new growth will have pink tips, and the overall effect is of a ‘rosy glow’ as the name suggests.

Many shrubs should not be pruned in the fall. Many spring flowering shrubs set their buds the previous year, like Viburnum carlesii, which I planted in my garden last spring because of its extraordinary fragrance. If buds are removed now the plant will not be harmed, but there will be no flowers next spring, which would be a big disappointment. Other shrubs that fall into this category are rhododendron and azalea, forsythia, weigela, lilac and other spring bloomers whose flowers grow on ‘old wood’ from the previous year.

Buds appear in summer and fall for the following spring

Buds that appear now on my Viburnum carlesii will bloom next spring

Shrubs that bloom on new shoots that grow in the spring should not be pruned in the fall for different reasons. If you prune now you might weaken or shock the plant, and any new growth that occurs between now and winter could be vulnerable to desiccation from cold winter temperatures and wind. Rose bushes are an example of this. Other shrubs that bloom on ‘new wood’ include Caryopoteris, Spirea, Callicarpa and Holly.

The popular genus of hydrangea has many species, and some bloom on old wood and some on new wood. Click here to read an article from Fine Gardening magazine that will help sort out the different types of hydrangeas and when to prune each. Last fall we had our house painted and we decided to prune back all the foundation plantings to make it easier for the painters to access the house. The result was that many of our hydrangeas had no blooms this year. Next year they’ll be back I’m sure.

When pruning, always remember to use a sharp set of pruning shears or scissors and wear a pair of your favorite Womanswork garden gloves!

Photo Contest: Send Us Your Photos of Roses

Gallery of Roses

Do you like taking pictures of roses? Send us your best photo and you could win a pair of our leather rose gauntlet gloves (shown here).

Womanswork Leather Rose Gauntlet Gloves

Womanswork Leather Rose Gauntlet Gloves

Please submit your photo to Elizabeth Buchtman at elizabeth@womanswork.com and write “Photo Contest” in the subject line. When we see a photo that deserves to win we will announce a winner! We’ll run the contest 3 times over the next year.

Photo taken by Dorian at NY Botanical Garden

Roses photographed by Dorian at NY Botanical Garden

When submitting your photo please include the name of the rose if you know it, the location of the rose and the date the photo was taken. Tell us if you grew the rose yourself or took a picture of someone else’s rose.

Photo taken by Mariel Buchtman

Roses photographed by Mariel Buchtman in Ireland

Elizabeth’s daughter Mariel took some lovely photos of roses on their family trip to Ireland this summer. Join the fun and enter our contest. We will post the winning photos on our blog.

Womanswork Leather Rose Glove

Womanswork Leather Rose Glove

NYBGRose

Rose at NY Botanical Garden

My Potting Bench

MyPotting Bench

I sketched out what I wanted for my carpenter Val, and the next thing I knew I had the most beautiful potting bench for the greenhouse! It has a sunken tub in the middle, drawers, a platform for seedling trays underneath, with grow lights that hang from above.

Here are some of my favorite tools in the drawer of my potting bench.  PottingBench

I always have a seltzer bottle on hand with an Eco Watering Spout attached.

EcoWaterSpout

 

 

Early in the Spring my clivia miniata was blooming brightly alongside geraniums in my greenhouse. Outside the temperature was in the 40′s.PottingBenchwClivia

5 Favorite Tall Woodland Plants

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Goatsbeard

Goatsbeard (Genus: Aruncus)  Goatsbeard is a native perennial that resembles a giant astilbe. Grow it in partial or full shade in organically rich, moist conditions. Will grow 6’ tall and produces cream-colored plumes in summer (as shown). It grows in clumps and can be propagated through division. I found useful information on the Fine Gardening website.

Japanese_Bugbane-Stonecrop

Japanese Bugbane

Japanese Bugbane: (Genus: Cimicifuga or Actaea (both are accepted)) Common names include bugbane, bugwort, cohosh, or snakeroot. They are clump forming with serrated leaflets and may not bloom in the first year or two. They like partial or full shade but do not like dry shade. (I read that they want about an inch of water per week during the growing season, but do not like boggy conditions.) Long stems (up to 7’ long) have bottle shaped white blooms in late summer.  Hardy in Zones 3-7. I found more information on the about.com website.

Rodgersia

Rodgersia

Rodgersia–(Genus: Rodgersia) Native to Southwestern China, this plant likes full sun or part shade, with organically rich moist soil. Thrives in zones 5 to 7. Large showy leaves resemble horse chestnut leaves from a distance, sending up astilbe-like panicles of creamy white to pink blossoms in late Spring or early Summer. The Missouri Botanical Garden website, a great source of plant information, can provide more details about this beautiful plant.

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Meadow Rue

Meadow Rue (Genus: Thalictrum) Native to stream banks and moist meadows across the globe. Delicate flower spikes of creamy white, emerging in early summer, may flop over if not staked. Thrives in full sun or part shade in moist, organically rich soil. Lacy leaves resemble that of aquilegia (columbine). I found useful information on the Fine Gardening website.

Angelica gigas Stonecrop Garden

Angelica gigas

Angelica gigas: (Genus: Angelica) I have not grown this plant, but took this photo at the public garden, Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, NY. Margaret Roach, in her blog A Way To Garden, calls it an ‘oddball’ plant. Here’s what she says, taken directly from her blog, and you can read more here.

“To succeed with Angelica gigas, you need to get it started in a spot that’s at least part shade, and where the soil isn’t too dry. And you need something more: You need two “generations” of genetic material, both a one-year seedling and also a batch of seed.

Since it’s biennial–meaning blooming in its second year, and simply producing foliage its first–you also need to keep a strict eye on the spot where you spread those seeds. They’ll be tiny sprouts at first, if all goes well, easy to overlook and inadvertently rake up during spring cleanup. Mark off the area where you sowed them the previous fall, and let them be.”

All photos taken by Dorian Winslow.

Growing Flowers For A Wedding

The Curious Gardener Newsletter

Growing Flowers For A Wedding–  Our daughter Eve is getting married in August and she asked me if I would bring flowers. She favors yellow and white flowers, so I went to work figuring out the best home grown flowers for an August wedding. First I looked at what Maria Iannotti had to say about her favorite flowers for cutting and generated a list by visiting her About.com Gardening site.  I immediately zeroed in on annuals because they are reliable bloomers. The perennials blooming in my garden right now (Penstemon and Yellow loosestrife shown in the bouquet in this post) will definitely not be blooming in August. I may be able to scoop up some Shasta daisies, Phlox, Achillea at the last minute, but annuals are the only flowers that bloom all season long without fail.

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A practise bouquet in Womanswork’s Instant Vase

I selected white Cleome, Lisianthus (Maria calls it rose-like), Gerber daisies — and Zinnias for a colorful accent. I can pull in white-bordered hosta leaves and ferns at the last minute for texture and background. For an informal outdoor wedding it might be fun to use a vase that takes its shape when filled with water. Check out our Instant Vase with a “Crystal” design that is very pretty in sunlight. (shown holding the bouquet in this post).

Lisianthus

Lisianthus

Designing Eve’s bouquet will require closer consultation with Eve and some advice from floral arrangers on how to keep flowers looking fresh. Conditioning is important and selecting the right flowers is also important. I am finding Lisianthus to be a wonder flower because it stays fresh for so long. And it does possess the delicacy of a rose!

Educating Girls in Afghanistan

The Curious Gardener Newsletter

 

 

 

Educating Girls in Afghanistan– We met Wendy Summer last year at a sale of handcrafted and one of a kind items. She introduced me to her company Zaanha and immediately I was taken in by her exuberance. I pledged Womanswork to participate in her newly formed Zaanha Fund to sponsor the education of a girl in Kabul, Afghanistan named Nilab.

Nilab, Kabul

Nilab in Kabul

Through The Zaanha Fund Nilab went to public school this year instead of spending her days on the streets of Kabul. Wendy is so impressed with Nilab, and her mother, who has four daughters and wants to see them educated (not a widely held attitude there), that she hopes to eventually send Nilab to private school.

Wendy recounts how her business came about:“ In 2003, through the Business Council for Peace, I met and have been mentoring Afghan women entrepreneurs, teaching them to run and grow their businesses. I’ve made multiple visits to Afghanistan and have been privileged to meet the families of these women and learn first hand the fervent desire the parents have to see their children educated.”

Wendy’s work with Afghan artisans led her to offer many beautiful handcrafted items on her website at www.zaanha.com.  A portion of all sales goes to her Zaanha Fund to educate young Afghan girls.

Wendy and girls at a mall in Kabul after purchasing sunglasses.

On her most recent trip to Kabul Wendy took a group of students she sponsors to a mall. They had been admiring her sunglasses so she bought a pair for each of them. Says Wendy,”It was a nice way to reward them for working hard in school.”  Zaanha welcomes all who wish to become involved in its efforts to send Afghan children to school. You can contact Wendy Summer through her website www.zaanha.com.