Archive for the ‘Chickens’ Category

One of the many joys of gar­den­ing is that you get to exper­i­ment, explore and take risks. Often the cost is no more than a cou­ple of dollars—the price of a pack­age of seeds. This is the fru­gal side of gar­den­ing. (I can also show you the excep­tion­ally non-frugal side of gar­den­ing, but that, my friends, is a story for another blog post.) One of this year’s exper­i­ments in my gar­den was the cup and saucer vine (Cobea scan­dens).

cup and saucer vine Cobea scandens 2

The flow­ers on the cup and saucer vine begin as pale green lanterns and open to ivory or deep pur­ple flowers.

I don’t recall if this is one of the seed pack­ages I pur­chased or if it was included in a free­bie pack­age from Botan­i­cal Inter­ests, one of my favorite seed com­pa­nies. It seems like some­thing I would order because the descrip­tion promised this vine would 1) be a quick grow­ing, 2) grow up to 25 feet in a sin­gle sea­son 3) have flow­ers that open pale green and mature to ivory or deep pur­ple and 4) have a sweet scent.

Appar­ently the only thing this vine doesn’t do is grow hun­dred dol­lar bills on every other vine.

cup and saucer vine Cobea scandens

Before the flow­ers open they resem­ble small, green lanterns.

I like the idea of a quick-growing, dec­o­ra­tive vine as part of cre­at­ing sum­mer shade over the chicken run. The chick­ens have a cov­ered porch that allows them to get out of the rain or to shel­ter from the blaz­ing sun. But in the sum­mer some dap­pled shade over the rest of the run would improve the com­fort fac­tor in the rest of the run as well as shade their water cooler.

So how did the cup and saucer vine perform?

I’m think­ing of start­ing my own rat­ing sys­tem. For now, let’s base the rat­ing sys­tem on stars. I’ll fancy up the idea later.

What should my per­sonal rat­ing sys­tem include? An over­all rat­ing, cer­tainly. Beauty? Yes, I do think beauty is impor­tant. Pest/disease resis­tance in my gar­den? Yes indeed, that seems like a good idea too. I am over hav­ing pow­dery mildew on lilacs and Japan­ese bee­tles on pole beans. Toxicity/safety? This might not be impor­tant to some gar­den­ers, but it is impor­tant to me if I’m going to grow it over the chicken coop. I found a handy list of toxic/non-toxic plants assem­bled by the Cal­i­for­nia Poi­son Con­trol Sys­tem. The cup and saucer vine is, appar­ently, non-toxic—at least to humans. I didn’t find it listed as toxic to chick­ens any­where else on the Inter­net. And in my bold exper­i­ment here it is, appar­ently, non-toxic since the chick­ens have kept the lower parts of the vines pecked clean of leaves and flowers.

What else? Scent? Use­ful­ness? Edi­bil­ity? Okay, we’ll go with that for now.

Chicken coop with cup and saucer vine

The cup and saucer vine cov­ers the left side of the out­door run. The vine on the right climb­ing over the coop roof is a sweet autumn clema­tis, which will be cov­ered in tiny white flow­ers in the fall.

So, here is my rat­ing for the cup and saucer plant on a four-star (for now) rat­ing system.

***    Beauty — The flow­ers cer­tainly are beau­ti­ful, although they are some­what sub­tle. This is not a vine that will draw your eye from a dis­tance as some clema­tis do, for exam­ple.
**** Pest/disease resis­tance — No com­plaints here. The Japan­ese bee­tles are com­pletely unin­ter­ested. The vine doesn’t show any signs of dis­ease or other prob­lems this year.
**** Safety/non-toxicity — Cour­tesy of the Cal­i­for­nia Poi­son Con­trol Sys­tem and my own bold exper­i­ment.
**      Scent — The flow­ers do have a mildly sweet scent, but you need to stick your nose right into it to smell it.
**** Use­ful­ness — This is a work horse-type vine because it grows so quickly, pro­vid­ing a nice screen where needed in the sum­mer heat.
*        Edi­bil­ity — You can’t eat it (I don’t think). Well, you can’t have every­thing.
**** Over­all — A grand four-star rating.

The big­ger ques­tion might be, would I grow the cup and saucer vine again? Yes! And I would also rec­om­mend it to other gar­den­ers. It’s an easy, robust and pleas­ing vine. All for the cost of a pack­age of seeds.



I love my pet chick­ens. I don’t always love what they do to my garden.

If you have vis­ited here before, you may know that I’m in the habit of let­ting the chick­ens go on walk­a­bout for a few hours in the late after­noon and early evening. This is the time of day they have fin­ished their egg lay­ing chores and are ready for a lit­tle bit of exer­cise and fresh air. Gen­er­ally, I’m either out­side nearby or have the win­dows open so that I can hear the dis­tinc­tive alarm that means “Warn­ing! Warning!”

But I can’t always keep an eye on all the hens. They amble here, run there and gen­er­ally take in the whole front and back yard scam­per­ing after bugs, worms, snakes and sala­man­ders. Rarely do they travel in  one large pack. They usu­ally amble around in twosies and three­sies. Tina Turner is usu­ally off in her own la-la land.

The fence around the potager keeps them out of trou­ble there. But they can play heck with the rest of the place with their deter­mined scratch­ing, scratch­ing, scratch­ing for bugs. And the Num­ber One Rule of Chicken For­ag­ing is:  Dig up any­thing Robin just planted.

The last straw was when they absolutely destroyed a beau­ti­ful new Heuchera ‘Mys­te­ria’ . It was a gor­geous bur­gundy and pink in full bloom. They scratched it out of exis­tence. Baaaaad chickens!

So, for one of the Lowe’s Cre­ative Ideas projects I decided to build some cloches to pro­tect the newly planted. Lowe’s pro­vided a $100 gift card and let me loose to make some­thing under the head­ing of “Fur­ni­ture Fun.”

Now, let me state right up front that I have exactly ZERO expe­ri­ence doing wood­work­ing projects. I have no wood­work­ing power tools except for a drill. I had no pat­tern to fol­low. I just had an idea. So, here’s what I came up with.

Don’t laugh too hard. And don’t send me links of your own gor­geous wood­work­ing projects to make me feel even more inept. I don’t think it’s bad at all for some­one who never did her own wood­work­ing project in her life. And it works!

For the project, I used the fol­low­ing mate­ri­als and tools:

- Strips of craft wood
– Chicken wire
– L-brackets of two dif­fer­ent sizes—big and less big (I think those are the tech­ni­cal terms)
– Power sta­pler
– Wire cut­ters
– Screws
– Screw­driver
– Metal joint tacks
– Hand saw
– Ham­mer
– White out­door deck stain
– Paint brush
– Sand­ing pad

I cut strips of the wood and assem­bled them into squares. I used joint tacks to hold them together and then sta­pled squares of the chicken wire. I topped that assem­blage with another assem­bled wood square. I attached the squares together using L-brackets and then painted the whole contraption—I mean cloche.

I will be mak­ing more cloches of dif­fer­ent sizes. For the next cloche I will paint the wood strips before assem­bling the squares so that the naked wood isn’t show­ing between the sandwiched-together squares. It will also help to pro­tect the cloche out in the rain. I think I’ll also inves­ti­gate some of the classes that Lowe’s offers from time to time to see if I can get some real help learn­ing more wood­work­ing skills.

My first Lowe’s Cre­ative Ideas project—a con­crete planter—is here.

Check back here through­out the next few months, because there are more projects, give­aways and other blog­gers’ projects to explore.

Lowe’s has some pretty cool Pin­ter­est boards too. Go check them out.


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Filed in: Chickens, DIY, Gardening

Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.


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