It’s been seven months since Audley changed career paths and began working remotely which opened a world of possibility for us. It’s been only four months since we got a little wild, bought a house, packed and moved to our sweet, little farmette in North Alabama; settling down after 17 construction job related moves in our almost 27 years of marriage.
Somehow, between two photography trips to Texas, a trip to South Carolina to see grandbaby number one, two visits to Florida (one to spend time with grandbaby number two … I can’t wait to share with you!!!), a weekend in Nashville, driving cross-country from California with our new, honorably discharged Marine, and a week in North Carolina for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, we have managed to unpack, do a little decorating and grow a garden.
Also, during this time, I celebrated my 50th birthday, accepted a job teaching 3rd through 6th grade social studies and language arts at a private school, and now here I am thriving on chaos, loving every minute of it!
To say the last four months have been crazy is an understatement, and school starts in exactly two weeks!
While I would love to share all of our home with you, all of our new home projects have been outdoors as we really wanted to create a garden this year. I mean that was one of the reasons we picked this property to begin with! We also needed to build a chicken coop. We had little chicks living indoors for a lot longer than we anticipated … or maybe they just grow really fast!
I mean who buys chicks and puts them under heat lamps in the garage of your rental property when you haven’t even closed on your new home yet?!
They actually only stayed two weeks before going to my parents screened in porch.
No matter the case we have a lovely garden, and I am collecting fresh eggs daily, even if they are so very small as our hens are still quite young.
Audley was amazing creating our garden space and chicken coop. I’ve collected magazine and Pinterest ideas for absolutely ages so planning everything was fun, even if we had to move fast. I mentioned the chicks growing quickly, but we were also racing against getting seeds in the ground for summer picking.
Our ultimate goal was that our garden, and the coop actually flow together becoming a place we could enjoy as well as reap benefits. Our home does not sit facing the road, which creates a lovely sense of privacy, but it also means we have a huge side yard that is visible to everyone who passes. It was important to us that it look appealing as well as functional.
With the side yard also being our main area for outdoor entertaining, we really wanted it to be pretty. I wanted to put the “garden” into garden party.
We are not totally there yet, as we decided to do things in stages instead of overworking ourselves in the spring, but it’s looking really good.
For our chicken coop I ordered a child’s playhouse from a local manufacturer. They came out and set it up, then Audley painted it red to match the trim on our home and built a run. The playhouse had a ladder and a loft area that added roosting and play space for our sweet birds. It also included windows with screens so we can open them up for airflow and ventilation. This winter we can close them at night to help keep our girls warm.
We built four semi-raised beds for the summer. We didn’t put matting or anything under the beds, so our plants are actually in the ground. I’m a firm believer in creating a manageable garden which is why we chose this method of planting. Our plants are in the ground, but separated and easy to care for.
For our first summer we have grown red and green okra, several varieties of heirloom tomatoes, jalapeno, serrano, and poblano pepper, cucumbers, leeks, carrots, purple hull peas, crookneck squash, mini spaghetti and butternut squash, pumpkins, green, purple and yellow bell pepper, green beans and eggplant. Audley is experimenting with growing potatoes. In two separate spaces on either side of our chicken coop I have herbs growing. We have rosemary, sage, pineapple mint, orange mint, English thyme, Italian oregano (which is a bit milder than the Greek variety), parsley, cilantro, and lemon thyme. Lemon and lime shrubs are in pots in the garden corners.
I also have ginger growing in pots. In the yard we have planted two Southern Belle freestone peach trees, as well as two brown turkey fig bushes. I have six olive trees lining our driveway. These have been raised in pots over the last few years and were excited to have a place for their roots to grow. We will buy heaters to help protect them this winter. I have had success with olives in pots, so I can’t wait to see how they do with space to grow!
While it has been a lot of work battling the extreme heat, crazy pop-up storms, weeds, June bugs, vine borers, and tomato eating chickens, we have enjoyed all of the truly organic, fresh veggies at our fingertips instead of eating imported food from the grocery store. I have even canned a few things including blackberries from the wild vines in the woods beside our house, squash, okra, and pickles. I’ll make salsa in the next week or so, put away green beans, peas, dry herbs and preserve Audley’s potatoes for use this winter as well.
My seeds should arrive this weekend for our fall garden. Audley is planning on adding two more raised beds that will be deeper and possibly building a cold frame for some winter planting. We will build a fence around the garden area so my chickens can free-range and stay out of the tomatoes. Beside the raised beds, I have English roses and blueberries planted in the area. Audley is also wanting to experiment with growing espalier apple trees. President George Washington did this at Mt Vernon, but you can also find examples of this done well at George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate.
Audley is also wanting to add beehives in the spring next year. He is becoming quite the gentleman farmer and we are having so much fun making our dreams a reality!
Til Next Time,