Ellaberry Gardens
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March 2013

Ellaberry Gardens' March 2013 Newsletter

"I don't see much sense in that," said Rabbit.
"No," said Pooh humbly, "there isn't. But there was going to be when I began it. It's just that something happened to it along the way."
~~~A.A. Milne

March.  Spring.  New beginnings.  New gardening year.  So much excitement and anticipation. But this time of year can also sometimes bring with it a twinge of longing, a smidgen of sadness or even a dash of melancholy. 

Occasionally when a new season hits, we have a hard time focusing on what could be and get stuck instead on what was or what should've been.  We remember the horrible tomato plants from last year or we keep thinking about all those squash bugs.  We remember that our chickens didn't lay as much as we thought.  We might recall the extreme heat and how hard it was to keep our backyard livestock cool enough.  We might even wonder if any of it is even worth it! You can't really blame us.  We all have a little Eeyore inside. 

I hope, if nothing else, I've shared enough with you all that you know I truly believe that anybody can do this that has some desire.  I also believe that even the most successful urban homesteader has setbacks and deep disappointments.  It can be so hard.  But it is still so worth it.  As long as it's still worth it to you, it's worth it.  Ya know?

If you follow me on Facebook, you know my saga with the bunnies.  I haven't shared that we lost an entire litter a couple of weeks ago and it's hard not to feel just horrible.  But instead of completely giving up, I threw myself a wee pity party (so there'd be no unresolved feelings!) and got to making things better. 

There will be times on this journey that you start out with a plan and what you end up with isn't something you ever would have fathomed.  That's ok.  As long as there's still a little oomph in you, it'll all work out.  Hang in there.  Keep growing.  Have a cup of tea.  With a shot of vodka if necessary.  Reassess.  Plant something.  Take a hot bath. Check out another stack of library books.  Laugh at yourself.  Try to remember that the journey is the thing.  And know that more learning comes from doing and redoing than ever will from sitting on the couch wondering what could be.

Thoughts on Gardening with Dogs

I have dogs.  And most of my backyard is turned into food production (see our homestead map.) No, they aren't outside dogs. But, yes, they do go out in the garden to do their business and bask in the sun and gobble up chicken poop (gross! I know!)

Folks are constantly asking me what to do about trying to garden with dogs.  I am not a dog trainer or a dog whisperer by any means.  But I will give you my anecdotal experiences with the dogs I have actively gardened and raised animals with.

The most important thing is to be painfully honest with yourself about what is most important---the dogs or the food production or if they're equally important to you.   I'm not trying to being aloof or cruel.  But be honest with yourself.  If you really want to raise food and you have outside dog(s) in the backyard, I'd seriously consider gardening out front. Or consider not having outside dogs.  Dogs that live inside with their families seem to be way more interested in pleasing their owners.  And they don't get as bored and aren't outside as much so the potential for damage causing behavior goes way down.  Consider it.    

Right now, we have two family dogs, an 11 year old, 20 pound daschund/Yorkie mix and a 6 year old, 80 pound Pyrenees/shepherd mix.  One of my girls has a wee 5 pound chihuahua/poodle cross that only goes out on a leash.  We had a male Yorkie that, as of last week, had to be rehomed.  It about broke my heart to do it. But he needed to be somewhere that his doggyness was waaay more appreciated. I miss him terribly but he's happier. And I'm happier.  And there's no more dog poo on or near the turnips.

In the past, we had a border collie that did great around my raised bed gardens but she had 320 acres to explore.  The raised beds weren't all that interesting in that setting.  But she wasn't to be trusted around chickens.  She was weaning a litter of 8 pups and if their food bowl EVER went empty, she'd kill a chicken, eat the leg and give the rest to her pups.  Fabulous mother.  Bad dog. 

So what do you do if you're determined to grow food but you also want to have your dogs?  

First, if you're installing a new growing area, please, please, please don't put it where your dogs are used to pooping unless you are also willing to fence the dogs out of the area.  Breaking an established habit is ridiculously hard.  And it will stress everyone out.  The dog won't understand why you're all of the sudden angry that it's pooping where it always has.  And you won't understand why this dog won't just pay attention to the garden and poop somewhere else.  Ugh.  So, unless you absolutely have NO other option, don't do it.  Pick another location.

Second, don't leave your dogs outside unattended in or around your gardens or your backyard livestock.  It's that simple.  I know it seems tedious. But it's so worth it.  Go out with the dog and give them lots of positive praise for staying away from the beds and doing what you want them to.  Make sure you tell them "no" firmly every time they try to step up in a growing area or get too close to your livestock.  Don't be afraid to bribe them with treats for doing what you want them to. It'll pay off.  It's helpful to have the dogs outside with you while you're working so you can constantly be reaffirming where is ok and not ok for them to be.  But unattended dogs are typically not advisable in sort of urban farming setting.

Third, if you don't yet have a puppy/dog or a garden, it's a great idea to begin growing them together.  I grew my gardens with the two girls I have now and they have been fabulous at learning where they are and are not wanted. As I'd install a new area and be working it, I'd tell them "no" every time they'd get near it and they got it. We do have a few hiccups every now and then.  But for the most part, I know I could leave them outside all afternoon and not worry too much about them hurting anything.  But I don't.  Because they are still dogs. 
Last, know your dogs.  Really get to know them.  I could trust a half-ounce quail chick with my 80 lb Pyrenees mix, Katie.  If I put it in front of her and told her to keep it safe, she'd probably take you out if you even tried to get near it. Katie firmly believes all the animals (and kids) here are her job.  She's constantly on the look out for all of us. (Which creates its own interesting issues but I have lots of great Katie stories to tell.)  But my terrier mix, Annie?  Yeah.  Not gonna happen.  We have new chicks right now and she literally trembles when she gets close to them and it ain't nervous tremblin'.  And I swear I can hear her licking her lips.  So livestock is strictly forbidden for Annie Lou (aka LouLou.)  I would be a horrible animal owner if I let her get near them.  You have got to know your dogs.  And know them well. BUT no matter how well you know them, never forget that they are dogs.  With dog brains.  And dog appetites.  And dog habits.

Somehow most of us urban homesteaders and gardeners are also dog lovers.  So it's important to find ways to make them mesh.  Be patient.  Be dedicated. I really don't believe we should have to live without gardens, backyard livestock or dogs. I think it can be worked out.  But you have to be willing to put in the work and maybe a little extra cash for fencing.  But you can't put a price on what you get back from happy fur babies or homegrown food.

Right Now in the Garden

Spring is officially upon us.  I know, I know.  Not for three more weeks.  But really, really close.  March is the last chance to plant fruit trees and bushes without worrying about them making it through the heat of the summer.  So if that's on your garden plans for 2013, this is the month to finally get it done.  But if you don't, no worries.  Just wait until this fall. 

So what goes on at Ellaberry in March?  Here's some of my March "To Do" list:
  • Divide perennials (such as hostas, tiger lillies and shasta daisies) right as they're breaking dormancy.
  • Be on the lookout for cabbage moths DAILY! Treat with Bt as needed.
  • Reseed where indoor and outdoor plants did not germinate (when sowed in February.)
  • Plan summer crop rotations.
  • Harden off transplants still growing indoors.
  • Buy brassica transplants if seedlings fail.
  • Begin harvesting spring crops mid-end of the month.
  • Mulch potatoes coming up.
  • Check fruit trees for borers and treat as needed.
  • Begin feeding blueberries (once a month until October.)
  • Check/watch for sales on annuals.
  • On (or about) 3/1, sow outside:
    • carrots
    • endive
    • parsley
    • dill
    • cilantro
    • chives
    • parsnips
    • onions
    • rutabaga
    • sweet peas
    • spinach
    • beets
    • lettuce
    • chard
    • mustard
    • turnips
    • radishes
    • shallots
  • On 3/1, transplant:
    • broccoli
    • celery
    • Brussels sprouts
    • cabbage
    • cauliflower
    • collards
  • On 3/15, sow outside:
    • carrots
    • beets
    • chard
    • chives
    • sweet peas
    • lettuce
    • mustard
    • onions
    • dill
    • spinach
    • turnips
    • parsnips
    • radish
    • endive
    • early corn
  • On 3/15, transplant:
    • broccoli
    • cabbage
    • Brussels sprouts
    • cauliflower
    • celery
    • collards

(Note on plantings: I sow/transplant on an every two-week schedule so I have crops coming ready for harvest at different times.  The dates on my planting charts are approximations.  Adhere to them as best you can but know there's a good 10-15 days of wiggle room to the dates. I don't always plant all of this but I wanted you to know what you could plant right now.)                    


Open Faced Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches

Lots of my recipes come from the sheer necessity to use up leftovers. This one is definitely one of those. Nothing fancy.  But dinners like this are easy and nourishing.  Knowing how to use up leftovers or already cooked meats will save you tons of grocery money. I had cooked three whole chickens to make chicken salad for the February chicken class and had pulled the breast meat off to save to make something for us. Here's what I came up with:

Toast two slices of bread per person (gluten-free or otherwise.)  Slather with mayo.  Slice the chicken breast thinly and reheat (in the oven, the toaster oven or the microwave---whatever you do.)  Place slices of chicken breast across toasted bread.  Top with sliced red onion.  Pour a generous amount of barbecue sauce over.  Serve with corn or a side salad or both. Super easy.  But super yummy.

Our Basic Smoothie Recipe

1 c. orange juice
1 c. frozen berries
1 banana

Put orange juice and berries in blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add banana and blend.  Also makes great popsicles! The kids prefer milk instead of o.j.  Also good (and way less sugar.)  Sometimes they also add in powdered peanut butter, oats or an Emergen-C.   Yum!

Ellaberry and the Community
Folks sometimes ask me to speak for their garden clubs or garden related events. I can speak on many things urban farming related.  If you're intersted, I can send a list of topics that range from 20 minutes to well over an hour and a half in presentation time.

If you're a non-profit, I do my best to show up for free. If you're not, my typical fee is $50 for up to two hours which includes a talk (of your choosing from the list of topics), printed materials and a door prize.

Don't wait until the last minute! Spring is an exceptionally busy time of the year!

Contact me through the website, via email at
ellaberrygardens@yahoo.com, find me on Facebook or just plain ole call at 918-346-1760.

Services Offered by Ellaberry

Aside from our regular monthly
classes, Ellaberry Gardens is available for:
  • consultations on planning your urban homestead (garden beds, small orchards, animal yards, etc.)
  • consultations on helping you with your existing homestead
  • speaking engagements
  • mulch hauling
  • quail enclosure building
  • raised bed building
  • garden clean up

If you are in need of any of these services, please email or call! We'll get to you just as soon as we can!
March Class

March class, "Let's Get Growin'!", is all getting moving as the growing season takes off! It's March 21st at 7pm. Here's the class description:
It’s time to begin again! In the next couple of weeks, our potatoes, peas, lettuces, spring brassicas, onions, leeks, carrots, parsnips, beets and more go into the ground. Learn how to wake that garden up and get it breathing and growing again!

If you're thinking about coming, please RSVP and make your $10 class fee payment just as soon as you can!

Open Garden!!!!!

In an ongoing effort to reach as many folks as I can and encourage people to grow something to eat, I offer up an Open Garden Day one day per month. Last month was the first month and we had a delightful afternoon.  Thanks so much to those who came out.  Hope to see lots more of you this month!

Open Garden Day is the 2nd Sunday of every month from 1-4pm. I'll be out in the garden, the gates will be open and I'll have a big ole pitcher of sweet tea to share. Come see what's growing on around here and ask alllll the questions you'd like to!

This is an Open Garden, not an open house event. I hope you understand. I've got kids and a husband who aren't necessarily involved in everything I do with Ellaberry Gardens. Please be respectful of this. No RSVP required. I just ask that you respect the 1-4pm time frame and the "no open house" rule. This is an ongoing free event but I will joyfully accept donations (gotta fund the sweet tea!) Look for the donation jar!

This month's date is March 10th. Hope to see lots of your smiling faces then!

Ellaberry on Facebook

I hate to presume that you want to see anymore of what's going on around here than you get in the newsletter, but just in case you do, come find Ellaberry Gardens on Facebook! I don't have a blog and I don't forsee one.  An almost daily update on FB is about all I'm willing to fit in.  But I do my best to make it happen.  So come on over there and "like" the Ellaberry Gardens page and stay in closer touch! 

Edible Garden Tour, June 8-9, 2013

Planning for the 2013 tour is underway! Looks like the Strain family, the Sawyer family, the garden behind 306 Pheonix House that Sam and James from Green Country Permaculture work in are pretty close to being for sure.  Fingers crossed on all. I have only a wee list to fill the final two spots.  So if you're interested or know someone who might be, let me know pronto!  I would prefer to firm up our gardens and vendors by the end of this month!

I'm also looking for vendors. Anyone who has a service or product relative to urban homesteading is welcome to inquire. There is no fee but we do ask that you donate 10% of your sales to the benefactor of the tour (yet to be determined.) I also ask that you donate a small gift to the homeowner whose driveway you're set up in. If this appeals to you or know someone it might, please contact me! So far (for sure!) we have Clear Creek Seeds who joined us last year and will be offering wonderful non-GMO heirloom seeds and Duck Creek Farms who will be offering all sorts of interest edible plants and hopefully sweet potato slips!  I need at least two, if not three more!  Contact me!

I heavily rely on volunteers to take tickets and help the homeowners manage the flow of folks.  So if you're interested in volunteering, please leave your calendars open that weekend!

Happy growin'!


    Annie Lou            Katie Bugs
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