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Happy February to all! Valentine's day is my personal, over-the-hump marker as I strain my eyes searching for spring. Our fickle, Arkansas weather is such a tease with her wiley ways. She winks here eye and nods in that 'come-hither' way, seductively saying "Hiya,, have some about some forsythias?" followed by a slap and, "Hey! I'm not that kind of girl!", as the temps plunge yet again. But eventually she will come around and grace us all with her warm loveliness soon. Run, Persephone, run!

To update since the last couple of posts, the ginger has begun to sprout, as well as white and sweet potatoes,

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and the lemon grass has found it's way into some potting soil.

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I bought 2 of each Nanking cherry bushes, Goji berry and Gooseberry dry-root plants at Tractor Supply and potted them up in the basement. They have all sprouted leaves and should be ready to go into the ground by May!

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I may buy some grapes soon and get them started too.There are now 27 winter-sowing jugs out in the sandbox.

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So far I have planted 4 kinds of tomatoes, 3 kinds of pepper, lemon, sweet, and cinnamon basil as well as lemon balm, more cassabanana, hibiscus roselle, Chinese white celery, rosemary, lavendar, regular sage as well as blue salvia. Probably in mid-March, I will use this same method to start all my squash, punkins, melons, zinnia's and sunflowers. At that point it can no longer be called winter-sowing, but the method still works in early spring. I promise to do articles when the seeds sprout and how I go about transplanting.

But yesterday, even though it is cold, I was in the mood to get out and do some work. A very good friend of mine supplies me with all the Angus bull compost one could imagine, so I off-loaded that here.

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Thanks James! I feel like a little kid in a dirtbox now! Mud pies anyone? I can start topping off the beds and maybe filling some large containers very soon. I cleaned out the henhouse in August and October and added the dropping to the 6 annual beds at that time. Today, I raked all the dry leaves around the garden and heaped them onto the same beds and turned them under. Then I tossed some leaves onto the garlic, asparagus, herbs and onion patch. Those beds are perennial so I call this the "no-turn zone". After a couple hours, my shoulders told me to stop, so I will add the composted dirt another time. All that to say, nowhere is it written that gardening starts in the spring. I stop between October and January. Our mild, winter temps provide many opportunities for cleaning and prepping. That, my friends, is how I get it all done.

In past articles, I talked about a chickpen that I made out of wire panels and hardware cloth. It is a 4'X4' by 26in high cube-shaped pen that opens on the top. I love using it and it works great! And it's not really that heavy, but it is large and unwieldy. So I built a smaller version, 2'X3' by 20 in high. Here it is with the original chickpen for scale.

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(I still need to cover it with hardware cloth) So now, if a hen decides to sit on eggs, I can move her and her nest into a place to brood. I can also use it to acclimate young, motherless chicks to the rest of the flock, or use it like a kennel to transport. I will keep the original chickpen outside for other purposes, i.e. ducks and turkeys. I'm considering using this one inside the basement to brood my first batch of chicks coming in spring. I want to get them started as soon as possible.

On the lighter side, Petri the duck is still hanging out, content to be a chicken. Loves his thrice daily ice baths and has started to chase around with me again.

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I am excited to get baby ducks soon! I think he will be happy to have some of his own kind around. I have never had ducks before so I'm not sure what to expect, as far as when to put them out with him, will he take to them right away or treat them like intruders as chickens are prone to do with unknown youngsters? I will keep researching and hopefully his natural instincts will take over and he will be a good "dad" to them. Please feel free to email me with any advice if you've had experience with ducks. And since ducks don't scratch up the ground, I might just let him and them spend their days in the garden. Boy won't that tick the chickens off! Lol

Meeka the dog is doing well too.

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She may be having puppies in March and I will share more on that as well. She is a red heeler bred by something that looks like a cross between a golden retriever and chow. They will be free for the taking so shout out to me if you are interested!

In the meantime, I'm resting today to gear up for 2 long days in the dialysis clinic to come. Keep warm everybody and know that better days are to come!

Jill Barlow


Future articles will include information about gardening, meat birds, egg birds, photos and lots of project ideas.

For further information, to ask a questions or to suggest a program topic, contact Jill Barlow at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..