Tons and Tons of Vincent Kiwis!

kiwi fuzzy hardy artic matua tomuri vincent best favorite low chill

Vincent Kiwis heavy on the the trellis and ready to harvest. This is the biggest crop we have had in the 11 years we have had the vines.

Okay, maybe not tons, but at least 50 or 60 lbs. of Kiwis, is my guess at this point.

Although in past years, I have grumbled and griped a lot about the lack of pollination on my Kiwi vines, this year we have a bumper crop, and now that we have had a few cold snaps, it is time to begin harvesting. If I had to guess, I would say there are at least 500 kiwis on the female plant this year. Don’t get me wrong, despite the hundreds of kiwi fruits, I still think the Tomuri, the male fuzzy Kiwi vine, is a poor pollinator for Vincent, my female plant. The blossom timing for Tomuri is a few weeks later than the majority of Vincent flowers, plus, Tomuri only set a few flowers sporadically. Luckily, this year about ten male flowers managed to bloom when all the female flowers opened. After the female was done, another 15 to 20 male flowers bloomed. As you can probably tell by the fruit set, I still got out the paint brush! I can only imagine how much fruit I would have if there were more male blossoms. Since Tomuri flowers so lightly, I still hope to locate a local source for Matua, an earlier male fuzzy kiwi and graft it on the Tomuri plant.

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The vines of the kiwi loaded with ripe fruit.

We started picked the kiwi fruits a week or so ago. They only need to sit on the counter for about two days to be just right for eating, with a taste similar to what most people are used to in a kiwi. If left more than a few days longer than that, the taste is almost too sweet and rich. I plan to use the majority of fruit to make my homemade Strawberry Kiwi Jam.

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Upclose view of kiwis on the vincent kiwi

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Ripe Kiwi fruit cut open to show interior seeds. The sizes of the fruit vary from the about 1 oz to about 3 oz each, with most of them in the 2 oz. range.

Update February 1st, 2014.  We picked many dozens of fruit after I posted this.  Yesterday my hubby and I picked what was left on the vines and weighed yesterday’s bounty.  It totaled up to 74 lbs.  Wow, I have a lot more than I thought.  There is no way I can canned all of this in one day; that is a lot of peeling and I don’t have that much room in the crisper in the fridge. Its too much for keeping it all for our selves.  Some was shared with neighbors and more will be shared with friends.  I might also be making a trip to the food bank tomorrow.  This year’s crop is definitely a year I need to give thanks for.  For those of reading this that are friends, family, and teachers… I sure hope you like Kiwi Jam!

© 2014, .

Easy Homemade Cinnamon Orange Air Freshener


Vintage tile backsplash hand painted green cinnamon orange frugal urban homestead

Only two ingredients, other than water are needed, cinnamon and orange

With the house being closed up so much in the winter months, it can smell stale or sometimes even worse, like our big dog has been in the house all day.  However, I refuse to use chemical aerosol air fresheners. I know too many people that are sensitive to fragrance chemicals, and it may aggravate asthma or migraines. Twenty years ago, my husband showed me a really easy way to freshen the indoor air in the winter and fall.  The secret ingredient is cinnamon. Honestly, I don’t know where he got it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something his mom used to do when he was a kid. All that is needed is a stove, a small pot, cinnamon, an orange or orange peels, and water.  I fill the pot about half full with water and then put in a couple of orange slices or peels and a teaspoon or so of cinnamon.  It is a great way to make use of oranges that have gotten a little shriveled.  Then I turn it on the lowest setting on my stove so it doesn’t quite simmer.  If I want it to last a little longer, I top it off with more water after an hour or so.  Eventually, it releases steam and warm cinnamon fragrance permeates the house.  Do you do this in your house or know of any good frugal variations?

oranges cinnamon vintage retro stove wedgewood

After a half hour or so of steaming…And please excuse the ugly burners that need to be re chromed on my old 1940s stove

© 2014, .


How to Prune Bababerries and other Everbearing Raspberry Plants


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Bababerry plants along the driveway loaded with unripe raspberries. This photo is from a few summers ago, but I added it to show what the little raspberry patch looks like.

The past couple of years I have been received lots of questions via email regarding how to prune Bababerry plants, a variety of everbearing raspberry that grows well in Southern California and other low chill – warm climates.  Managing Baba raspberries is much the same as any other everbearing or fall bearing raspberry variety.  Most folks are able to pick fruit the first year they buy and plant an everbearing raspberry, including Baba. That is not the case on summer bearing raspberry varieties, which only produce on second year or two year old canes.  Since I am in the middle of my winter pruning chores, including pruning out the old wood on the berries, I figured it was a good time to take a short break and post something about it.

A new or first year cane on a raspberry plant is called a primocane.  A second year cane is referred to as a floricane or floracane.  Summer bearing raspberries only produce one harvest each summer and only on their floracanes.  Those two year old canes are then pruned out in late fall or winter, after bearing fruit. Everbearing varieties produce on the top half of primocanes the first fall, and then on the lower half the following Spring.

With all everbearing raspberries, the gardener can choose to have either one or two crops each year, depending on the pruning or management technique the gardener prefers to use.  Here at Hanbury House I often to prune to get two crops a year.  To do this, I prune out all the two year old canes to the ground each winter and just prune the top half of the primo canes from the previous season.  Although it is ideal to prune when they are dormant, if you are unsure what to prune at first, the chore can wait until the first new leaf buds begin break dormancy in early spring.

Usually I can tell which canes are two years old on my Babas just based on how the “skin” of the cane looks. The canes that are grey and/or really flaky looking are usually the old ones that need to be cut to the ground and completely removed. New canes usually emerge nearby. Any canes that are primocanes and produced fruit on the top 1/2 of the cane in the fall, usually look healthy and a medium shade of brown, with the top part being dried looking and sometimes has a few tiny barren side stems where the berries hung last fall.  They will also have new buds along the stem. I prune those canes down only about half way, to the point just below where the last berries grew or above where it looks like there is a live bud still.  Those pruned canes will bare fruit along the rest of the portion of the cane, usually in by mid to late Spring or early Summer.  Then, next winter, I prune the rest of that cane out as mentioned above.

Bababerry, Raspberry, buy bare root plant, baba berry

Bababerry Everbearing Raspberry Primocane needing to be pruned. I will prune right above the bud in the middle of the picture for fruit in the Spring or Summer.

The other method to manage everbearing raspberries is pruning all canes to the ground when the canes are pretty much dormant, typically sometime between the new year to early February, basically in the middle of winter. With this pruning method the gardener only gets one crop later in the summer or early fall, instead of two. This is the easiest method, and many folks prefer it, including my friend across the street that also grows lots of Baba berries. It is much less work, and a bit tidier looking. Either method, new canes usually emerge each spring around the base of the plant.

buy find bababerry baba red raspberry everbearing best favorite review

Floracane at the end of the growning season on Bababerry. Notice how the cane is greyish and a little flaky. Some canes get even flakier. This is about to be pruned to the ground to make room for new primocanes on the raspberry plant.

Once a raspberry patch has been established for many years, the canes will have spread out and multiplied a lot.  Any canes that are outside the designated garden bed can be dug up and and used to start a new raspberry patch or shared with friends. The best time to divide and dig out canes, if you want the canes to survive the transplant, is in the dormant season.  If you are just trying to tidy things up, dig out the stray canes at any time of year. If you are still wondering if your raspberry plants are summer bearing or everbearing, here is short list of commonly grown varieties of each. I put an * next to varieties I have grown or my close friend across the street has grown at some point over the last two decades.

Everbearing raspberry varieties:

  • Anne *
  • Amity
  • Autumn Bliss
  • Autumn Britten *
  • Bababerry *
  • Caroline *
  • Dunkum
  • Heritage
  • Fall Gold
  • Indian Summer *
  • Kiwi Gold *
  • Josephine *
  • Polana
  • Rosanna *
  • Summit

Summer Bearing

  • Boyne
  • Canby
  • Latham
  • Meeker
  • Willamette

Bababerries are my favorite, and in my opinion, the best raspberry, out of the all the red raspberries varieties I have grown in our low chill Mediterranean climate.  I hope this helps those of you searching for tips on how to prune your raspberry plants.   If you still have raspberry questions, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to get back to you.

© 2014, .


Red Reblooming Bearded Iris


Happy New Year!

Living in Southern California, we hardly get a break in the growing season, and Mid Winter often brings out some of first of the cool season blooms to my garden. One of my brand new, planted in September, reblooming irises sent up a spike just before Christmas and bloomed today.  I was so tickled and surprised to have it bloom already that I had to share my delight.  Irises are some of my favorite perennials. This red spotted iris is technically a NOID (no identity) bearded iris, but I am pretty sure it is Pepper Blend, by Moores, 1977. After seeing other similar irises, lots of research based on the history I know about it, and more importantly seeing a recent photo upload to the iris wiki of an iris exactly like mine, taken by iris hybridizer Richard Tasco. Other possibilities I considered were Etched Burgundy, a burgundy red plicata hybridized by Garrison in 1970 or Spiked Punch, hybridized by Moores in 1980, or Cayenne Capers Iris. The colors look different, at different times of the day and lighting. This second photo is more true to the bloom color.

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There is more info on Pepper Blend at reblooming iris at The American Iris Society’s online encyclopedia. And info on Spiked Punch, Etched Burgundy, and Cayenne Capers can be found there as well at this link. We are having a bit of a warm spell, and I plan to enjoy the lovely weather this New Years Day doing one of my favorite things, puttering in the garden.  I hope you also have a Happy New Year!


© 2013 – 2014, .

Wicked Flowers for Halloween



succulent carrion flower attract flies covered in flies

Star shaped flower bud of the Carrion Flower stapelia gigantea with flies buzzing around the newly opened flower.  They love the smell of the rotting meat that the flower emits.

Stapelia gigantea is a bizarre garden surprise every fall.  The succulent plant has balloon shaped flower buds that grow and spill all over the porch every year just as October begins.  Once the flowers begin to slowly unfurl, hairs appear on the star shaped flower’s petals.  The flowers are the size of plate, about 10 inches across and actually pretty cool looking. Right now the first ones are just beginning to open.  So what makes Stapelia gigantea so wicked?  Its common name is the Carrion flower.  As the name implies, it smells just like something dead and the flies love it!  The smell is very much like rotting meat.  It is only noticiable if I am within a foot or two of it.  But once it starts flowering, when my daughter, B, isn’t around, I usually try to scoot it as far from the front door as possible.

flower that attract flies

Hair petals of the Carrion Flower

Years ago B was given the first single branch succulent cutting from an elderly neighbor, to add to her ever growing potted succulent collection.  At the time, we didn’t know the plant’s name or that it would eventually attract flies.  Although the plant is pretty neglected except infrequent watering, the plant manages to thrive.  Stapelia gigantea is definitely one of the those “do nothing” kind of plants here in our zone 10 garden.  Generally, the Carrion Flower plant is ignored most of the time. It has managed to crawl over the edges of its pot and slowly sprawled all over the place.  Despite the awful smell, we have grown to like it.  B likes it so much she now has three of them in different pots.  Her plants get only about 3 hours of sun a day.  A branch broken off can easily root anywhere it is planted.   The Stapelia gigantea is so happy that it has bloomed every autumn since its third year and with perfect timing for Halloween.  The plants that get just a little more sun also get more flowers.

carrion flower sticks of rotting meat to attract flies for pollination

Star shaped petals starting to open. The carrion flower sticks of rotting meat to attract flies for pollination.

stinky succulent flower with flies attracted to it drought tollerant

A fly can be seen in the middle of this star shaped Carrion Flower

What I know about this succulent plant:

  • Botantical name: Stapelia gigantea
  • Common name: Carrion Flower
  • Easy to Grow
  • Drought tolerant
  • Grows about 9-12 inches tall and spreads a few feet at the most.
  • Looks like a cactus, but doesn’t have prickly spines
  • Perennial
  • Grows outdoors in USDA zones 9 -11.
  • Doesn’t mind partial shade
  • Flowers stink like rotting meat
  • Star shaped Flowers attract flies
  • Flies are its pollinator
  • Can be propagated by cuttings
  • Flowers only last a day or two once they are fully opened
Carrion Flower bud attracts flies

Another hairy flower petal


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© 2013 – 2014, .

I have caught the Iris Virus


reblooming irises yellow purple blue red best dependable favorite

‘Ruth’s Love’ historic Yellow Reblooming Iris in the mid ground area of the photo growing in my front yard. This photo was taken in early Spring. Ruth’s Love is a sporatic rebloomer.

* Iris Virus = A burning desire to learn everything there is about growing and caring for iris plants. A person with an iris virus reads tons of iris publications and surfs all of the known iris society web sites. The person with the virus may have just started growing irises, be an avid collector, or be an established grower/ hybridizer of irises.

For me, it all started back in 1995, when a next door neighbor gave me two rhizomes of an old fashion iris, named Alcazar, as a house warming gift. Alcazar is a pretty purple and lavender bearded iris with a distinctive frangrance, of all things, root beer!?  What a cool flower! When we moved from our little duplex to Hanbury House, out of the few plants I made sure bring with me were some rhizomes of Alcazar Iris, and I have since shared it with most of my gardening friends.

Alcazar rootbeer smelling irises old fashion antique historical favorite best

My purple Irises that started my iris obsession, almost two decades ago.

In 2002, while visiting family in the central valley, I attended a Fresno Master Gardeners fundraiser and bought a few different varieties of irises, mainly because that first variety, Alcazar, was so easy for me to grow and it smelled awesome. A red iris I bought, only sulked and didn’t survive the second year in the ground and never flowered for me, but the other iris, a pretty yellow and white one, ‘Ruth’s Love’, took off like crazy.  For the first few years, I thought there was something the matter with it or I was doing something wrong in the care because it bloomed at all sorts of weird times of year, even at Christmas! I was even a little worried it is was a sign of global warming.  I later found out it was doing exactly what it was bred to do because it was a special type of bearded iris called a rebloomer or remondant.

iris name purple pink lilac id

A Pretty lilac pink irises, one of the Spring only bloomers in my yard.

Since then, I have collected many other irises from Armstong Nursery, Long Beach City College, the Green Scene, and traded with other local gardeners.  I have about ten varieties of beautiful irises that bloom only in the spring, but due to ‘Ruth’s Love’ and its surprising bloom times, I prefer to look for varieties reported to be rebloomers in Southern California.  It is hard finding good reblooming varieties that grow well on the coast, especially since most bearded iris are listed as growing only to zone 8b or sometimes zone 9.  Reblooming isn’t as dependable in other parts of the country, even when an iris is bred to rebloom, so for many years, iris hybridizers didn’t usually breed for the remondant trait.

The Big Box Garden Centers don’t usually carry a lot of ideal bulbs for our mild climate, let alone reblooming bearded irises. Instead, each Spring, I check a local iris club’s booth, the O.C. Iris Society, for rhizomes they are selling at the Green Scene at the Fullerton Arboreteum. However, since my passion for edible gardening is far stronger than my interest in irises, I usually don’t make it to the O.C. Iris Society’s booth until after it is picked over.  After spending a half hour or more checking out what interesting new things the California Rare Fruit Growers Booth has, it is usually very crowded at the O.C. Iris booth.  But last year I did buy manage find a couple of the last tiny rebloomer rhizomes they had for sale.  I am almost embarrassed how small they were and that I actually paid $7 each for rhizomes less than two inches long.  One was Bernice’s Legacy, which has grown nicely and now has four fans, and other was Champagne Elegance.  Later in the morning, I lucked out when I stopped by Rio Hondo Horticulture Department’s booth and found a 5 gallon size nursery can of Victoria Falls reblooming Iris.  Even better, it was only $6.

blue iris purple buy favorite best loved recommendation

A bluish purple bearded iris from LBCC Horticulture Department Spring Sale

The reason I say I have the iris virus is because, after a disappointing spring search for rebloomers, this past September, I made sure to be in to the local nurseries as soon as the got their iris bulbs in.  On top of that, I went shopping with my wish list in hand, composed exclusively of rebloomers reported to grow in well in zone 9 and/or  zone 10.  I scored at two local nurseries, and Lowes, of all places.  Maybe retailers have realized their are gardeners interested in rebloomers.  Here are my latest acquisitions:

  • Pagan’s Dance (found H & H nursery,  grower is VanBloem )
  • Hemstiched (found H & H nursery,  grower is VanBloem )
  • Jurassic Park (found at Lowes!)
  • Ziggy (found at Armstrong Garden Center)
  • Immortality (found at Armstrong Garden Center)
  • Orange Harvest (found H & H nursery,  grower is VanBloem )
  • Buckwheat (found at Armstrong Garden Center)
  • Cloud Ballet (found at Armstrong Garden Center)
  • Best Bet (found H & H nursery, grower is VanBloem )
  • Rosalie Figge (found at Armstrong Garden Center)
  • My Friend Jonathan (from Gerie, a fellow iris collector and granddaughter of an iris hybridizer, Bernice Miller)
  • Bernice’s Legacy (2 different rhizomes/ one from Green Scene & one rhizome from Gerie)

And my No Id irises /or not 100% sure of Id, that I recently got

    • a Yellow No Identity that might be Deborah Dances

a No Id Red Speckled Plicata that looks like cayenne capers, Spiked Punch, pepper blend, or Etched Burgundy

rebloomer RE remondant buy ebay iris grower favorite best

A NOID red reblooming bearded iris that looks like My Friend Jonathan iris from

reblooming iris bulbs buy best favorite recommendation shop source ebay

The flowers on the NO ID yellow iris look just like Deborah Dances, another rebloomer that will hopefully do well in zone 10

burgundy red spotted rebloomer iris buy

Another No Id bearded reblooming iris that I recently acquired. It Looks like Cayenne Capers, pepper blend, Etched Burgundy or maybe Spiked Punch iris.

In the Spring I plan to visit a couple of the Southern California growers and see what they have available that I can’t live without. Despite that long list of bearded iris that I have already acquired, I still have more on my wish list, including:

  • Frequent Flyer (white)
  • Witch of Endor (red)
  • Feedback (violet blue)
  • Clarence (violet blue and white bi-color)
  • Blatant (yellow burgundy bi-color)
  • Earl of Essex (white and purple plicata)
  • Peggy Sue (shorter pink and fragrant)

If you are like me and love irises, here a few local sources worth checking out: Bonnies Irises, via Matilija Nursery in Moorpark, Iris Howse and Garden in Bonita, and Stanton Irises in Valley Center.  Sutton’s Irises used to be in Porterville, Ca, but they recently moved to Idaho.

For more information on Iris in general, visit the American Iris Society and for info specifically on reblooming iris, visit the Reblooming Iris Society


© 2013 – 2014, .

Start of the Gardening Season

Yes, you read that right:  October is the start of the gardening season for those of us gardeners that happen to live in Southern California’s year round growing climate.  For me personally, October is probably my busiest month for working in the garden.  The scorching heat of summer and lack of rainfall make August and September the end of our local gardening season, with very few garden chores, other than things like dividing bearded irises.  But by September, the last of the grapes have been harvested, the tomatoes are done, and the fall Baba raspberries have yet to start coming in.  That means it is time to prep for spring and cool season vegetables.

thornless blackberry feeding tortoises turtle desert reptile backyard pet fruit

Here is the one family member that is sad to see the hot days of August and September gone. Tiger Lily, our 9 year old California Desert Tortoise, emerges from the thornless Triple Crown Blackberry plant with blackberry juice covering her mouth. She enjoys much of the abundance of summer fruit in the yard.

I look forward every year to the cooler days of October and the garden chores related to cool season veggies and planning ahead for spring perennial bloom.  This past weekend, I worked on a bunch of long over due yard chores including deadheading the Asters and Gaillardias, pulling weeds, dividing some of the Alstromerias, and potting up some new bearded iris rhizomes I recently acquired.  This time of year is when I do the majority of bulb planting, front flower bed clean up, and dividing and transplanting the drought tolerant perennials around the yard.

I have one clump of pale yellow alstromerias, “Princess Daniela,” that has grown from one little one gallon size clump about 7 years ago to a patch at least 4′ x 4.’ I have moved little sections around the yard before, but it definitely needs a serious dividing this year.  It is one of my favorite Alstromerias because it flowers almost year round, stays under 12 to 14 inches tall, makes a good cut flower for arrangements, doesn’t mind our watering restrictions, and grows in full sun or partial shade. Even now, it still has some blooms, albeit it is not very pretty at the moment.  Unfortunately, it is patented, and I don’t get to share any of the divisions with fellow gardeners for another 6 years, when the patent finally expires.

short light yellow with pink inca peruvian lily alstromeria Princess patented variety favorite best Southern Califoria Orange county

One of the clumps of Princess Daniela Yellow Alstromeria I moved last year in front of the roses. It is sad looking this time of year, but it is still flowering, even after a hot summer with little to no water. I love this plant.

This week, I plan to get the veggie garden ready to make room for some of my favorite veggies: lettuces, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, snap peas, and snow peas.  The best time to start winter veggies from seed in SoCal is August up until early fall.  Unfortunately, I missed the window this year for the broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.  Had I been planning ahead, I could have had some interesting heirloom varieties and saved a little money.  Instead I will settle for common varieties in 6 packs from my favorite local nursery, H & H in Lakewood.  In past years, H & H has actually sold some interesting varieties like Romansco broccoli, Golden and Purple Cauliflower, and Purple Cabbage.  Fortunately, I just got one of my favorite birthday gifts…a gift card to H & H.  Thanks, Mom and Dad! 😉


Sharing this post with Motivation Monday at A Life in Balance.




© 2013, .

Preventing Dog Damage in the Garden


Golden Retriever with a chicken in the backyard chickens cochin hen buff bantam digging

George hanging out in the garden, next to one of the Cochin Bantam Chickens. He really doesn’t do much damage since the yard is dog and chicken friendly these days.

I had already planted the backyard gardens before we got our first dog back in 2000.  Shortly after getting her, she began to drive me nuts with her incessant digging, trampling of tender plants, laying on others, and eating whatever she could reach off the tomatoes, berry bushes, and fruit trees.  We loved that big sweet black Labrador, so of course she wasn’t going anywhere, but I also wanted my garden to thrive.  I was at my wits end.  Something had to change because she was too old to learn to leave the plants alone.  I had to figure out what changes I needed to make to reduce her impact on the yard.

I read everything I could about gardening back in those days, but few books and magazines (pre-internet days, of course,) addressed big dogs in small garden settings.  After a year of frustration with Camellias keeling over and multiple pits dig out of the lawn, the best advice I got was back in 2001, from a really old episode of Victory Garden on PBS.  After watching it, I realized, I had made some big mistakes in designing my ornamental beds.  The yard wasn’t dog friendly.  The expert on the show recommended leaving a path between the plants and fence, around the entire perimeter of the yard, for the dog to patrol, and the bigger the dog, the wider the path needed to be.  More than half of the damage was apparently the result of her just trying to “do her guard dog job.”  I fixed the design as much as could, except for a few of the larger shrubs that were well established.  I created a little more open space and paths so she could get back to the block wall.

What I learned about maintaining a garden with a dog(s):

  • Dogs like to patrol the property line.  Leave space between plants and fence.
  • Most dogs like to dig.  Gardeners shouldn’t hoard all the space for their plants.   It is important to leave open space for the dogs to enjoy being dogs.  (I have since applied this concept to my chickens, too.)  The places she liked to dig were usually soft and cool, especially after rain.  I ended up relinquishing a 8 x 10 area by the front gate that was in the shade in the afternoon.  George also likes the same area, but he only gets half as much since there is a berry patch in there right now, too.
  • Dogs like to see whats going on.  When we built the driveway gate, we made sure to leave gaps so the dog could see out.  Cut outs would have worked too.
  • Expect all dogs to forage on fruit.  Either plant extra to share or fence it off in a separate dog proof area, just like with chickens.
  • Dogs damage things when they are bored, frustrated, or lonely.  They are social and want to be with their pack, which in a pet’s case are their owners.  I only had myself to blame for this one with our lab. After realizing a lot of her digging damage in the yard was due to loneliness, we started trying to have her inside much more often.
  • Cover soil around plants with a plant tray or wire chicken until plants have a chance to grow in.

Eight years later, our current dog rarely is to blame for any garden damage.  He is my constant companion throughout the day.  While outside, he patrols throughout the yard, mainly trying to keep his nemesis, the squirrel from coming into his territory. The chickens seem to like the same open dirt patches that the dog does.  The fence that keeps the dog out of the veggie gardens also keeps the chickens out too, and they too like walking and scratching along the fence line to look for bugs to snack on.

© 2013, .

How To Distinguish Male Chicks From Female Chicks in 1 week old Cochins


sexing bantam chicks at day old  cochin brahma rock chickens chick sort gender rooster hen pullet cockerel male female

Above are my sketches of what I look for to determine pullets or cockerels in bantam cochins. The pullet sample drawing is on the left and the cockerel sample is on the right.  Most Asian, American, English, or other Heavy chicken breeds, as well as bantam versions derived from the same breeds generally follow similar growth patterns.


Now the hard part of raising bantam chicks begins: waiting to see which chicks are pullets and which are cockerels.  With bantam cochins, as well as other bantam chickens, they usually can’t be easily sexed for gender at hatch.  Vent sexing them can seriously injure or worse lead to the death of the tiny bantams, therefore, most hatcheries and breeders won’t do it.  Since I love Cochin bantams, Pekins as they are called in the U.K., I normally have to wait a few weeks to see how many girls or boys I got.  Based on numerous past clutches of bantam cochin chicks that we have raised over the years, I have slowly been getting better at making educated gender guesses fairly early in their development.  The best age to determine gender in my opinion, any earlier than six weeks, is between five days old to 14 days old.  In that age range, with most of the color varieties, it is possible to be accurate in about 80% to 90% of the chicks.

K across the street often asks me to come over and determine gender in her chicks for her too, mainly so she doesn’t get too attached to the boys.  My guesses are based on a combination of temperament, size, head shape, wing growth, tail feather growth, and sometimes slight color or marking variations in the different varieties. Between one day to 4 days old, and then again between two weeks to five weeks, it is much harder to tell, mainly because during that period both sexes look pretty much the same. Around 5 or 6 weeks old, the young roosters start to turn pink or red in the comb, if they haven’t already.  Their comb also changes shape a little, getting a tiny curve or bow to it, and growing slightly.  At the same age, the pullets’ combs remain straight and under developed.  By the time the chicks reach 6 to 8 weeks old, it is pretty clear again what their gender truly is.

If I was asked to guess today on the batch of chicks we have right now, which are 10 days old as I compose this, I would say these are what we have:

  • lavender cochin bantam cockerel
  • white frizzle cochin bantam pullet
  • white frizzle cochin bantam cockerel
  • smooth feather white cochin cockerel
  • smooth feather white cochin pullet
  • buff brahma pullet* (this one ended up being a cockerel)
  • dark brahma pullet*
  • birchen cockerel* (this one ended up being a pullet)
  • birchen pullet*

*Note: I have no prior experience determining gender in Buff or Dark Brahmas and I have only had one male Birchen chick to date.  Those chicks are complete guesses for me at this point, but I am using the sexing same criteria to see if it applies to those chicks as well.

Updated on September, 2013: out of the group of chicks I mentioned above, I was correct on the gender of 7 of 9 the chicks.  Both Birchens turned out to be pullets and the Buff Brahma was a cockerel.

So what exactly am I looking in determining if a chick is a pullet or a cockerel?  In general, it is a combination of traits.  Please note, I do not compare different colors of cochins to one another.  Pullets grow feathers in the primary and secondary wings faster that the males.  The females wings often reach the end of their body by the end of the second week.  See my drawing above for what I am talking about.  Pullets get tail feathers a few days to a week before the males do.  Pullets are often calmer, quieter, and sometimes a little shy. If a pullet is flipped onto its back in the palm of my hand, it will only squirm a tiny bit for a second and then relax.  Pullets are sometimes slightly smaller and usually have more markings like stripes, warpaint, freckles, blemishes, and eyeliner.  Pullets have busier and more clearly defined chipmunk patterns in the laced, penciled, and partridge patterns.

Cockerels generally feather in slower than pullets.  Boys are usually the friendlier or more curious chicks.  If flipped on its back, a male will usually squirm and not want to relax.*  In my daughter’s science project, every chick that squirmed was a male.  However, a few males will also be calm during the flip procedure.  Basically, if you are trying to pick female chick at the feed store and it squirms in your hand, it is probably a male.  Pick a different one and your odds are more likely to be 75% or better to get a girl.  *This squirm test does not work as well on 1 to 3 day old chicks.  I have tried it on the first day or two shortly after they arrive, but I think the chicks are still stressed and tired at that point, and almost all of them will test out as pullets.  When I repeat the flip test on them a few days later, maybe day 4 or 5, it is more accurate.  Cockerels’ wings initially grow in an “L” shape, where just a few primaries stick out, and then little to no secondary feathers growing.  When the secondary feathers do start to slowly grow, the wing shape is more curved like a “C” while the female has a more triangular shape.  Cockerel coloring and patterns are plainer, any lines are a bit fuzzier, or where the female will have three color lines, a male will have just two colors.  Some male chicks’ combs will start to change from yellow to a dark pink color as early as 12 days.  I also look at color of the lines where their wattle will later grow.  If it is dark pink, any earlier than 4 weeks, those chicks are almost always males.

There are exceptions to these things I look for.  I have noticed, in a few of the varieties of cochins, both genders feather in at the same fast rate or both feather in really slow.  Silver Pencilled Cochin and Self Blue/ Lavendar Cochin are really slow to feather in, in both males and females and the pullets could easily fool the novice cochin chicken keeper.  On the other hand, Silver Laced Cochins, Partridge Cochins, and Gold Laced Cochins feather in fast in both genders, and they all look like pullets until about 6 weeks old.  At the six to eight week old point, the males will start to color up on their wattles and combs and/or the combs start to grow.  In addition, the more colorful feathers, like the iridescent greens or burgundy will start to grow out at that age in the males.  Regardless of what my initial guesses are, I don’t count on the fact I have pullets or cockerels any earlier than 6 weeks of any variety, well, unless it crows of course.

© 2013 – 2014, .

Vintage Marmoleum Floors in our Kitchen and Laundry Room


marmoleum retro antique reproduction style inlay inset border trim

The vintage style green Linoleum floor looking from the kitchen out to the laundry room. Both the dog and the cat think it is an ideal surface to nap on.

When we first told family and neighbors we were considering old fashion linoleum flooring for our new kitchen floor, we got all sorts of weird looks and concerned comments from the older generation.  A few of them mentioned how terribly ugly they thought linoleum was.  Really?  Okay, I understand retro, mid century, and vintage decor isn’t for everyone, especially if they already lived with it the first time it came around, but to me, real linoleum has a timeless appeal.  I am not decorating or doing home improvements based on what the next home owner might prefer.  Plus, linoleum has lots of benefits, especially in a home like ours where we strive to incorporate environmentally friendly home improvement products into our home whenever we can afford to.  Now that the new floor has been in a while, I was pleasantly surprised when a couple of those same folks, after seeing the floor installed (but that’s another post,) actually had some really nice things to say about it.

Here are the reasons we put in an old fashion 1940s style Linoleum floor in our kitchen in 2012.

Advantages of Linoleum:

  • Genuine Linoleum, like Marmoleum and Marmorette, provides cushioning for standing on, unlike tile or hardwood. I spend a lot of time every day standing in my kitchen and laundry room, and comfort was high on my priority list in a flooring product.  I actually liked our old vinyl flooring for this very same reason and I was reluctant to switch to a harder surface like tile or wood.  I didn’t want to have to use foam mats in front of the kitchen sink, the stove, and the laundry sink, just to avoid feeling too tired on my feet, so linoleum made sense to us.
  • Linoleum colors and click planks can be mixed and matched to create custom floor designs, similar to the inlaid, striped, and geometric kitchen floors I love from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.
  • Linoleum flooring is more environment-friendly, in comparison to hardwood, laminate flooring, or resilient vinyl flooring because linoleum is made from natural products and is bio-degradable. It also won’t off gas toxic fumes to affect the air quality in our home and it is made from renewable resources. It does have an linseed odor the first few weeks, but it was actually kind of pleasant smelling and it eventually dissipated.
  • Linoleum is durable and has a long life, and can last in good condition for many decades.  There are linoleum floors that were installed a half a century ago, still in use today.  My son’s high school, which was built in 1920, still has a number of areas with the original linoleum floors.
  • One big advantage of linoleum over vinyl is if it gets a tiny gouge or deep scrape from a dropped knife or similar object, it can be sanded and filled in to match the rest of the floor.

Other considerations we had to make prior to choosing to install Linoleum flooring…

Picking a Linoleum Material Manufacturer: Once I decided on the basic colors and design, the next part was which manufacture to go with. I sifted through dozens and dozens of good and bad reviews at mainly at gardenweb, but a few on the manufacturers websites, too. I looked at linoleum hundreds of samples from Armstrong, Forbo, and Johnsonite. I really liked the Johnsonite Linoleum the best, but there weren’t a ton of ratings on their linoleum from homeowners to support my impressions of it. If I recall correctly, Consumer Reports did list Johnsonite the highest overall in their ratings, but Johnsonite didn’t have a pattern that I felt looked 1940s enough. Most of their stuff would work really well for late 50’s to early 1960s floors or later. The Forbo Marmoleum had the most color choices by far, even a few that looked really authentic, but it also seemed to be the thinnest of the three materials I looked at. Consumer Reports also rated it 3rd, behind Amstrong Marmorette.  When I did my real life conditions / abusive “drop a knife tip” test on it, the Marmorette was more forgiving and looked better when I repaired it.  The Forbo Marmoleum was more noticeable that I had repaired it.  I settled on the the Armstrong Marmorette linoleum. To be specific, I pick a soft mottled green color called Home Turf and a black for the border called Obsidian.

Sheet vs. Click: I liked some of the fun patterns made with the click squares and planks, and I had a pattern and color scheme all picked out, but we were a bit concerned with the possibility of water spills or damp towels on the ground around the laundry or the refrigerator door ice dispenser dropping ice chips on the ground. A little too much water left on a click floor for a long time could possibly swell open the seams. Sheet linoleum seemed like it would be a better choice for our home and lifestyle. Unfortunately, only the linoleum click flooring is DIY.  Once we settled on sheet linoleum, it was no longer going to be a DIY project.

Price: Turns out, unlike vinyl, marmoleum was one of the most expensive flooring products we considered. The marmoleum sheet cost per square foot was pretty standard from one retailer/ installation contractor to the next, at approximately $5.30 a square ft. for the materials. Continuing our 3/4 inch x 2 1/4 inch red oak throughout the house was $4.90 a sq ft. Tile would have been a little less than $3 a sq ft., and we could have done it ourselves to save a little money.  Demolition and removal of the old vinyl flooring, new 3/4″ plywood sub-floor, labor to install, and a rubber base molding added even more to the price tag.  Nevertheless, because we had waited fifteen years to get around to this project, we decided to splurge and get a floor that could possible outlast our home ownership.  Hopefully the new floor lasts until new owners way down the road decide to rip it out.

Finding a Marmoleum Flooring Installer in the Greater Long Beach / Los Angeles Area: We were surprised this was actually a big challenge, even though we live in a metropolis. We contacted a dozen different places whose websites listed linoleum. Not every place that said they carried linoleum, carries linoleum.  Some of those only have vinyl mistakenly referred to as linoleum.  A couple flooring installers mentioned how they didn’t care for linoleum and that high end luxury vinyl flooring was a better choice.  We later found out, it is much easier for them to install the luxury vinyl, but not necessarily a better flooring product for us. We ended up getting quotes from four local flooring companies. The quotes were all over the place in terms of price.   Glued down sheet linoleum is a difficult flooring to install, and if done by an inexperienced installer, it is not forgiving.

© 2013, .