Thursday, February 16, 2017

Leu Garden Visit

Giant Live Oak by the Visitor Center

Yesterday with Kevin being off for his birthday we decided to make a visit to the Harry P. Leu Gardens.  Fortunately, for us the forecasted rain held off until after evening when we were home.
The day was gorgeous and our visit was wonderful.  The grounds of this estate that are now public gardens were inspiring to me an avid gardener.

Our tour began at the visitor center where we received our maps and Hannah and Lauren got the information and scavenger hunt map for the Dinosaur Exhibit that was on display throughout the gardens.  As we headed off toward the garden entrance we passed a gorgeous old oak tree that was enormous and was set off by the lovely lake as a background.

This Oak must be ancient with the size of it.  It is an amazing tree and a beautiful setting.

The garden quickly took on a tropical feel with loads of palms, bamboo, vines, trees and plants that gave a lush feel and lots for us to look at and ooh and ahh over.

Bromeliads in place of old palm fronds

Curly leafed fern

Giant Mountain Fishtail Palm

Painted Feather Bromeliad - love the color and shape

The plantings were quite dense in this area

As we wound through the paths we made a quick turn to head over to the old Leu house for one of the tours that they have every half hour.  It was interesting to hear the history of the 3 families that owned and developed this property and home over the years. With the business man Harry Leu and his wife as the last owners and the real developers of the gardens.  It was they who donated the property with the understanding that this would be open and maintained for public enjoyment.

On leaving the house we went to the vegetable garden and saw some great ideas for planters, planting ideas, trellises and even courtyard materials.

The Vegetable Garden with it's beautiful kale, cabbage, collards and other vegetables

Bean pole and spiral structure for the nasturtium to grow up

Pallet gardening

Raised bed plantings

Blocks for planting

Arbor for Passion Vine to grow on. Love the path materials

Close up of the rocks and brick they've used together to create the courtyard and pathways around the kitchen garden. I love this look and it reminds me of the used cement, stone, brick and free pavers I combined to create my paths at my old home in California. 

We then toured the Florida naturals area, the arid garden and then on to the large assortment of Camellias that were in bloom at this time of year.  Camellias were a favorite of Mrs. Leu so the collection is quite extensive.  Tucked in throughout were the various dinosaurs the girls were on the hunt for.

Nice gazebo among the Camellias

Bananas near the Florida Naturals area

Bananas Violet Flower

Bananas Violet Flower

Lauren and Hannah lounging on the swing seat

Croton and Tabouchina

Sophora Tomentosa - necklacepod

Spanish Shawl Plant
Our group on one of the many pretty paths

After leaving this area we headed in through the bamboo and palms and then past the center area defined with its decorative concrete rails that overlooks the rose garden.  This isn't the right time for the roses to be in bloom, so that's something to look forward to on a future visit.  Apparently roses were Mr. Leu's favorite flowers.


Allausaur among the plantings

Pretty combo of bamboo and tall shrubs

Cuban Petticoat Palm

Crinium Lilly

Our group next to some Giant Yellow Striped bamboo
Cement rail and courtyard with fountain and rose garden in background

After leaving this area we headed down towards the lake and the landscaping they had around a couple of small ponds near this area. The plantings here were a mixture of ones we had seen in other areas of the gardens and then led us back towards the area we entered from.  All in all it was a great time.  I took loads of pictures and made sure to get shots of the name plates they have letting me know what the item I photographed was.  In March the garden will host a plant sale from their greenhouses and from vendors invited to participate.  I definitely plan to attend this event and am already making my list of items I hope to find for my yard.

On path heading back towards lake

Cypress and knees by the water line


Curved sago and pond plants

Small Travelers Palm

Plate Leaf Palm

If you haven't already been here to visit this garden set on their 50 acres I highly recommend it. If it's been awhile since you've been go again, they seem to be very busy recreating areas throughout the gardens.  All in all it was a great day!!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Chicken Tunnels

Some of our "girls" in a section of the tunnel

In an effort to allow our chickens to "free range" yet still provide protection from the many predatory birds we have around here, we've been working to create our chicken tunnels.

These are a series of 5 or 10 foot chicken wire hoops that I can move around the yard and let the girls out to eat the weeds and bugs and work my yard for me while benefiting from the extra nutrition that this foraging gives them.  Currently I have a couple of corner sections to help with changing directions for my tunnels.  The tunnels are heavy wire sections of chicken fencing that we've cut and folded in half to create the hoop.  To secure it we've added wire that we've run through a piece of PVC to keep the chickens from cutting themselves on the wire. I used U shaped wire pieces that  you can buy in packs to hold down weed fabric to hold the sections in place along with some logs or blocks to block any escapes on hills or to be able to move these sections as they move through the tunnels.

The tunnel coming from the door we have on the side of the coop and up the side of  a planting bed to the cage at the end

Another view of the chickens in the tunnel

The tunnel running from the coop up the hill to the new A frame tractor

This was the very first day and short sections we had originally

As time goes on we'll add more corner pieces and hoops of varying lengths to be able to better cover the yard.  Initially I used an empty animal cage to serve as the end of the tunnel. And still will use this as the area I'm covering requires, but thanks to Kevin's re-purposing a couple of old screen doors and creating an A-frame chicken tractor I have another end piece that can hold several hens at once as well as some water cans while they work to clear my yard of weeds.

Kevin's handiwork as he's fit the two screen doors together and needs to add a door to one end and chicken wire to the other end to complete this chicken tractor that can be attached to our tunnels
Getting ready to add a door

We are now down to one rooster.  Our Polish Roo is the last man standing from the 15 roosters we had after originally getting a straight run of 28 chicks and then purchasing 2 more pullets a few months later.  Over the last year we've culled 8, sold 1 other Polish Rooster, re-homed our 3 large Cochin Roosters, our BLR (called Blur) and our Blue Cochin Max (he was called this because his crow sounded like the beginning of the Maxwell Smart theme).  It's A LOT quieter around here now!

One of the large Cochin Roosters

Hannah and I holding the 3 for a quick picture for the people who came to get them. They wanted an idea of their size. These were BIG BOYS, but as is Cochin nature they were sweet and gentle. Just noisy! As a disclaimer for my motley state, I'd been cleaning out the coop and dressed for that, and planned for the girls to hold the roosters while I acted as photographer. Unfortunately their size was too much for the girls so I had to step to the other side of the camera with Lauren handling the picture taking duty.

Saying goodbye as they get ready to leave for the farm the couple from Lakeland, Fl own.

Blur and the reason he had to go to another home- he loved to be heard!

Blur and his "girlfriend" who really misses him. Both are pretty Blue Laced Red Wyandotte's or BLR's for short

Max another really gorgeous Cochin, but sadly loud and who crowed constantly.  Again he and Blur went to a large farm where they will have more space and girls to watch over.

This last Rooster, Fumi - short for Fu-man Roo (Kevin's choice of names) is doing a great job of organizing the girls that are all interacting now that we have the door between the two sections of our large coop open for them to mingle.
Fu-man Roo Posing for his photo op

Oh Yea- he's the man!

Time for my close up "Dawling" - sorry had to have a bit of fun with these. 

The girls are doing a wonderful job on the yard and are LOVING the freedom the tunnels give them and we're enjoying the clearing they are doing in the yard and the reduction in feed because of the extra nutrition they're getting.

Now we just need a few more chicken tractors to add to the two we have to be able to more effectively move the girls around to other areas of the yard. Additionally some more sections of tunnel and we should be set to let our hens and rooster enjoy in safety the free range experience during the day before they are all safely returned and tucked away in the coop at night.

So that's the latest news on our little homestead.