Monday, June 11, 2018

Fishtail Cottage Garden Journey from 2006 to 2018

My journey of the garden landscape here at Fishtail Cottage began in 2006 when we built our home here in Bothell Washington. I had to do a lot of forward thinking, as starting with a blank slate can be overwhelming.  I focused on my vision as if every inch of the garden was its own room.  I would stand, and sometimes pull up a chair to plan, scheme and dream about what I someday wanted to see.  I would go to different rooms of the house and stare out the windows so I could see what the view from inside would be  - all the while doing my best to focus on only one area at a time.  

I spent hours searching magazines and even more hours online looking at Pinterest for inspiration.  Writing down names of plants, trees and shrubs in a journal and then taking time to research each plant to decide if and where I would put it.  My three youngest kids were 2, 4 and 6 -  so I'd stay up late at night to do the research and make the most of school hours for time spent in working in the garden.  

I drove around neighborhoods to see what was blooming and took photo's of peoples gardens. This was back before I uploaded photo's digitally, so I would print the photo's and bring them into local nurseries who's staff would help me identify the plants in the pictures. I wasn't very seasoned of knowing plants, flowers etc when I first began this garden, I did have some experience from the garden we had in our previous home, but I really wanted to do this yard entirely my way  - The passion to learn kept me motivated and inspired. Honestly my knowledge of what to plant and taking care of what I plant came from trial and error.  

I found that it was way less expensive and easier for me to purchase online  - however when I ordered online I didn't really understand the size that I was ordering and because I was ordering massive quantities - I went with the least expensive option.  When I would receive my plants I would be disappointed that the photo I saw of this massive mature tree I saw online arrived standing only 6" tall.  My family had to laugh at what started out as a miniature garden, much like the ride at Disneyland. 

Here are few snapshots of what the garden looked like in 2006. The only thing I had help with in the beginning was having dirt brought in and laying sod and bark where I wanted it. We also had to hire someone to pour my cement steps where I wanted them. Now don't laugh that I had pots set out and teeny tiny flowers planted before anyone could say "go". 

Immediately we put up the picket fence and I got to planting.  Within the first week I realized I will never put bark in my gardens - I will only put high quality fertile mulch.  Doing so will save my hands, and knees from multiple splinters and will nourish the dirt we paid to have brought in. We also had to terrace an area of the back yard because of rain run off, which has since become my rose terrace. The gravel path along the side is now my flagstone path.  The side yard where you can see the bunny hutch is now my "Secret Garden". 

I've learned that buying small works out in the end because everything will grow.  I've learned that having a vision and being patient is necessary when you want to see your garden grow into something beautiful. I've learned that my favorite garden plants are Bleeding Hearts, Old Roses, Hostas, Heuchra, Bearded Iris and Boxwood.  I've learned not everything should be rounded in shape (which is what my eye was initially attracted to) and that textures of all different shapes should be welcome.  I learned that Evergreens are just as amazing as deciduous plants. I've learned that every landscape needs "good bones" - arbors, birdbath's large trees for focal points.  Garden art is amazing, but not too much, there is a difference between "focal points" in the landscape and "clutter". I've learned that just like rooms in your home, you grow and mature and it's okay to not keep everything - purging and replacing with something new is acceptable.  

I've also learned that this garden of mine has made me a better person. A better friend, wife and mom.  I am a nurturer, and want to try to please everyone, which I've learned is impossible....just as I can't please every plant I've planted.  The garden is my escape to do what comes naturally to me and care for it unconditionally. I've also learned I still have more dreaming to do.

Here are some updated photo's of the garden landscape to see how far it's come since 2006. 

Thank you for coming over to see this newest blog post about my garden journey.  Happy to answer questions & look forward to reading who came to visit. oxox, tracie 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Upcycling Outdoors Giveaway!

You guys!!!

This is a fantastic book called Upcycling Outdoors by Max McMurdo - this book is about the basics of good outdoor design and where to find interesting scrap items before just using your basic planters and containers.  This book features ways to enhance outdoor structures, lighting, furniture, using unique pieces and step by step instructions in which most of the items can be created in about an hour.

Super cute projects that even you can do!!! Check out a few photo's I snatched out of the book to share with you - 


I know you'd love to order this too - Perhaps a Fathers Day gift for the favorite guy in your life?  Here is a link to order.... or if you want to win this book - head over to my Facebook page to enter!

Best of luck to everyone who enters!  The Giveaway will end 6pm on Friday June 8th. Please share with friends and family! xoxo, tracie

Sunday, May 20, 2018

My Chicken Coop 2018

So, what have I been up to lately? Chickens, chickens and more chickens!  I have really found a passion (alongside gardening) with keeping chickens!  This past spring we expanded and modified the coop and just had the fence painted this past weekend. To most people that probably isn't all that exciting, but to me - it feels so good to finally get everything and everyone in their place. To see older versions of my chicken coop click here and here.

I lost my sweet Josie last year - she was my ten year old black Silkie .  Leaving me with just two chickens ~ Gizzy and Pearl. Feeling sad, I had the idea to add to my flock by hatching my own eggs instead of bringing home baby chicks or pullets.  So my kids and I purchased a dozen eggs from a local farm and after 21 days of anxiously waiting four out of the twelve hatched.  They were a fun project for our family and we really enjoyed the process....two were roosters which were rehomed immediately as I cant keep roosters.  Two were hens, but I realized that they were considered "smooth silkies" and not the fluffy "bearded" and "tufted" ones that I am used to. So I decided to rehome those as well. Over the past several months I've been bringing home dozens of chicks, just a couple at a time and enjoying the baby stages. Growing the Silkie breed out takes months and months to determine if they are either a hen or rooster, most say you don't know until the chicken either lays and egg or crows. I've rehomed several as I keep getting roosters which is disappointing since you get attached to each and everyone of these little chicks.

While growing out my day old chicks indoors - I realized that I can only keep these little darlings in my home for so long.  They do become stinky and dusty - I am at my maximum after about three weeks of keeping them inside our home.  I found a rabbit cage at our local feed store that I can keep the teenagers in awhile longer while they still require a heat lamp until about six weeks of age. All of this hands on experience made me realize my coop needed to be expanded and also required separate compartments while the babies grew out as the different ages require different needs.  Food, vitamins, type of shavings, nesting boxes, etc. all play a roll in growing out baby chicks of any breed.

This photo below are my five current "growouts" all hatched at Easter. 

This group of three are ones that I brought home last November and are definitely hens - still waiting on eggs though.  Silkies can take up to a year to start producing eggs. I know it sounds silly to keep chickens if you aren't getting eggs daily, but these beauties are more for esthetics in my gardens.  Silkies are known to not destroy gardens as most other backyard poultry.

Are you ready to see the final unveiling of what it looks like today? Again if you want to see older versions of my chicken coop click here and here.  The coop sign is from Castle & Cottage. It's one of my favorite things about the coop area. I keep it stored during the winter months and enjoy it during the summer months. 

As you can see from the photo above, the coop now has four doors opening from the front. Each of the four compartments can be sectioned off or opened as one large coop for the girls to roam throughout the entire coup. There is a single ladder to get to the top compartment where the floor is solid, this is the area I am keeping my grow outs.  Each of the other sections have very small wire flooring.  My chickens free range most days, so I have no concerns about the bottoms of their feet as this has worked fine since 2011. The little doors within the coop open and close and lock with a little handle above the opening. Currently I have two sections available to the older hens, the babies/teenagers are on the top with shavings and the newest side is closed off completely.  Each section other than the bottom middle has a bar for my adult hens to roost - my Silkies do roost, some say theirs do not.  

I ordered wooden nesting boxes, but the hens seem to prefer these galvanized bins from Home Depot. I am using these nesting pads from Amazon to cushion the bottom of the bins so the eggs don't break.

Because of the coop modifications that I made cleaning and egg collection needed to be addressed.  My coop is set off the ground on 4x4's that sit directly on 10x10 pavers.  The pavers help prevent rot of the wood legs and also prevents predators from digging into the coop from underneath.  As I stated earlier I have the smallest wire flooring that helps eliminate most predators as well. To collect eggs, I simply open the back door and collect the eggs.  Because this door is somewhat heavy (also a good predator deterrent), a chain has been attached to hold the door while I collect the eggs. To clean I just simply open all of the openings and hose the inside of the chicken coop out, I can reach in either side of the coop to access - after hosing out and allow for complete drying - I splash an entire gallon of Costco vinegar in every single nook and cranny to keep my chickens clean and healthy.

I love to come up and sit with the chickens and watch them roam the garden.  Even thought they have the entire yard to do so, they mainly stay closer to the coop - digging in the gravel rocks keeps them happy for bugs dust baths which is fine with me as they don't do too much damage in the landscape. I even used an old chicken feeder to plant succulents in as one of my planters this year.

I still have most of the main staples of the chicken coop I added years ago. the arbor that separates the patio and the chicken coop is a favorite - still growing the same roses, Blush Noisette and Cottage Rose along with the clematis Terniflora clematis (also known as Sweet Autumn). I've picked up vintage bricks at garage sales and slowly have added them to the arbor area and directly in front of the coop picket fenced gate.

The faux weathervane that I found and painted and assembled to the top of the coop is still in place as is the sweet rustic birdhouses both sitting on 4x4 poles. 

New this year are two galvanized tubs sitting in front of both sides of the picket fence filled with Koko Loko roses which are to bloom any day now. In the back ground are bleeding hearts and around the base is white petunias, alyssum seeds, along with different wildflower seedlings I've saved from past years tossed in the dirt. There is a plant in the very front that I can't identify after I brought it home from the NWFGS earlier this spring. If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear - I was thinking a tuber rose, but can't confirm....

Having these galvanized containers brings more green to the chicken coop area and will share the blooms as they bloom - it also keeps the bunnies and chickens from eating the seedlings I've spread in several parts of the landscape but only seeing them happily grow here.  

Here are a few of my adult hens exploring the landscape.  

...and here is the tiniest two babies I've recently brought home.  

There are so many beautiful colors offered to us in the Silkie breed. Currently I have white, partridge (originally thought to be black), blue, splash, paint, buff, grey, blue cream and porcelain. Some of these are in the growout stage so I don't know what I can keep and what will need to find a good home for.  I truly just enjoy every stage of these chickens. 

Look forward to hearing what you all think (if you are even reading), happy to answer questions as well. Please know you can find me both on Facebook and Instagram if you want to see more garden photo's. 

xoox, tracie