The Dashwoods are apparently the talk of the neighborhood and everyone loves the green roof on the coop. When we are outside, people stop to chat and ask about the chickens and the green roof and what is planted in it. A couple neighbors riding by on their bikes this afternoon said they thought it was a nice addition to the block. That felt pretty good.

Today Bookman and I worked at cleaning up the chicken garden and making sure the whole area was fenced so we could let the Dashwoods out of the run. All week they have tried a number of times to follow us out the run door so we figured we had best get our act together on that. Once everything was secure, we opened the run door and they did not hesitate to come out:

The black one with the white speckles is Mrs. Dashwood, the one with the white head is Marianne, the red-brown one is Elinor and the solid black one is Margaret.

They wandered around for a few minutes and then went back inside the run to sit in the shade under the coop. After a little while they wandered back out and have been wandering in and out all afternoon.

Mrs. Dashwood is definitely top chicken. She doesn’t peck at the others she just has a quiet authority. She calls the others to come to her and they do. We tacked up some leftover wire on the side of the shed and planted scarlet runner beans to climb up it. Mrs. Dashwood had to come inspect the work as it was being done. We edged out a couple beds in the garden and planted a couple varieties of cow peas and Mrs. Dashwood had to come inspect that too. And yes, I know once sprouts come up we will have to protect them from the chickens. I watched them gleefully decimate a dandelion growing in the cracks on the retaining wall.

Future runner bean wall

Future runner bean wall

They enjoy being out of the run and scratching around in the dirt and wood chips. They are great fun to watch. They only get to be outside the run when we are around. I don’t feel comfortable leaving them out to wander while we are at work all day.

Today we also finally got a chance to plant out tomatoes and peppers. In addition we planted zucchini seeds, pumpkins and yellow wax beans. I had been planning on seeding arugula and chard since they ended up doing so well last year, but it turns out I don’t have to. We let them go to seed last year and they have planted themselves all over the place. Of course they have not planted themselves in the place I planned on seeding them, but I’m just going with their choice of growing location and will work around them.

The potatoes are doing really well. They have grown so tall already that we have run out of straw for mounding and will have to get more by next weekend. I hope that also means we will get lots of potatoes! It will be a couple months before we find out though.

The black raspberry that had two small canes last year has turned into a huge thicket that is invading the rest of the garden. I need to thin it but it is currently thick with what will be raspberries in a a month or so and I don’t have the heart to thin it right now. It is a messy jungle but there is nothing for it at the moment. Of course when those berries get ripe, getting in among the spines to pick them will not be fun, but the reward will be totally worth it.

The Dashwoods helped me out earlier in the week with a bug problem. The thornless gooseberry we planted was chewed almost leafless by an invasion of little green caterpillars. I removed about two dozen of the little monsters into a dish and then dumped them in the run and the chickens gobbled them down in a few minutes. The Dashwoods are also managing to catch their own bugs too. Anything that makes it into the run is in mortal danger. They have slurped down some large carpenter ants and Bookman saw a big black beetle become a tasty snack the other day. Good girls!

This coming Saturday Astrid and I are having a big adventure. We are riding in a 100-mile/161 km gravel race. The weather forecast is currently saying very hot. I hope that changes. There is a checkpoint about halfway where people can have additional water and food waiting for them. Bookman, the best support crew ever, is going to be there with food and ice cold water refills for me. I was expecting to be about 7 hours but if it does end up being really hot, I might end up closer to 8. But who knows? I have not done this before so it will be a big adventure! As long as I don’t crash or get a flat tire, I will be pleased.