I’ve come home early from speaking at IACP in New York City….ehh….to be clear, that’s International Assoc of Culinary Professionals…..NOT Intl Assoc of Chief of Police. The week prior was Food Blog Forum Orlando (come see Diane’s post!), so I’ve been a little busy. PLUS the book manuscript is due in a week. So far, I haven’t freaked out in public, but I’m waltzing on what seems like fishing wire – it’s got a little give to it but could snap at any moment.

This morning was the first time in a couple of weeks that I really had a chance to spend some time in the garden. While I was gone, Spring had arrived with some good, hard rain to jumpstart the growing season.

Two weeks ago, the corn and sunflowers were just a couple of inches tall. Now….

In that raised bed above, I’m growing what is called, “The Three Sisters” – Corn, Beans and Squash, along with peas and sunflowers in the back. The sunflower and corn grow tall – giving the peas and beans something to grab onto and climb. The beans provide nitrogen to the soil and also help the corn stalk become a little more stable in the wind. The squash grow at the bottom, its big wide leaves provide shade to the soil preventing weeds and discourage evaporation of moisture in the soil. Everyone is happy. The Three Sisters combo is traditional native American gardening.

The herb garden is happy too – 4 different types of basil, 3 different mints (though if I’m not careful, the mint could overtake the entire bed), green onion, dill, parsley, cilantro, chives, tarragon, thyme and lavender.

More squash:

I had forgotten how fast tomato grows – I had poles set up but hadn’t had time to run the twine around them, so the spindly tomato vines are crazy spilling over the sides of the Earthbox.

A few weeks ago, Scott spent the weekend installing an irrigation system for the Earthboxes as well as the raised beds and chicken coop. We have a well on the property and so he dug dug dug to install PVC pipe to each box. Love that man. He deserves an award!

All morning, I practiced the art of bondage to corral the vines in.

And look! Beans!

A couple of things that help me in the garden: stinky fish fertilizer and food grade diatomaceous earth.

Oooh YIKES! look who I found!

The diatomaceous earth is 100% natural, derived from the fossilized remains of algae shell, and is for the chicken coop – I sprinkle this white powder all over the pine shavings (there’s a good 4 inches of pine shaving here) and it helps the chicken poop dry up and harden fast. Plus, it’s safe, natural and non-toxic (just make sure you buy food grade) and actually good for the chickens as it keeps away mites. You can even sprinkle it in your garden to keep the bugs out.

Oh speaking of chickens, here’s our hens today taking a dust bath! This is one of their favorite things to do. Chickens don’t take baths with water, they take baths with dirt! The dust bath is actually very important – it keeps the mites and lice off of them.

The hens will find a nice shady, dry place, kick up the dirt and shake it through their feathers. Sometimes they’lll roll around in the dirt too. Wanna watch!?

Today’s harvest:

Lots of beans, a yellow pepper and 3 eggs -laid by Frenzy (white egg) Olivia Superstar (green egg) and Fireflapper (brown).

And oops….we’ve walked in on Oreo. Sorry, girl!