I decided to do a part II for my gardening post. I am often asked how we are able to keep the chickens out of our garden. This is will be a follow-up to yesterday’s post.

Near the coop we have two large fenced in areas. The first area is the garden (wood & metal fencing around it). The second area is primarily our compost bins and a couple of trees (wire and metal stakes – temporary fencing). The coop sits in between the two areas and has doors to each area. This means we can control which area the chickens have access to at different times of the year.


During the garden growing season: the chickens stay in the second area (or roam around our yard). They tear up the ground pretty good, so we don’t have to mess with mowing that second area. This is also the season when we have the most compost items. The chickens turn the compost for us, making composting so much easier! In the photo above, all the veggies were gone so we let the chickens hang out in the garden with the flowers.

During the non-growing season: the chickens stay in the garden area. During this time they dig up the dirt, turn the soil and add their own gifts to the dirt (chicken manure is great for your garden). This means when we are ready to start planting in the garden, we have very little work to do to get the ground ready. Again…the chickens are making our job easier.

I did not come up with these genius ideas on my own. When we laid out our coop and garden fencing we used the book Free Range Chicken Gardens. We also use A Chicken In Every Yard for general chicken raising information. If you want a great resource for chickens and a garden working together, I highly recommend Free Range Chicken Gardens.

3.15garden2-06In the picture below, I am standing in the garden area. You can see the gate into the compost area to the right of the coop. The back area still has a temporary fence. Hopefully this fall we can get the permanent fence up that matches the garden area.

3.15garden2-01The gate heading into the second area….and one of our peach trees!3.15garden2-02

This is the back side of the coop. The chickens have access to this area from the doors on top and below. You can barely see the top of our compost bins. When we clean out the coop, everything goes in a wheelbarrow that gets dumped into the compost bins. Right now we keep the back doors to the coop open so the big and little chickens have access to the coop and this part of the yard all day. Every now and then the gate gets left open and we have to chase a chicken out of the garden. It is funny that you really can’t see the chickens in any of these photos. They must have been shy.3.15garden2-03The handsomest chicken farmer there ever was…3.15garden2-04I am not an expert on chickens or gardening or anything for that matter, but I will say this method has worked so well for us. We do have a huge yard and plenty of space, so that is a big factor that won’t apply for everyone. I’m sure you could do something similar on a much smaller scale with fewer chickens too. If you want to see a full tour of our coop before we fenced in the compost area click here.

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  • Stefanie - Gah! It’s gorgeous! We are planting a garden for the very first time this year so I love reading all about your adventures. Please let me know how to get “One Year in Our Garden” when it is available – I would so love to tie gardening in with homeschool in a tangible way <3

  • Susan - Just a teachable moment, it’s wheelbarrow :-)

  • Carol - Sure like your chicken farmer!

  • Holly - This is great! This is the first spring I’ve lived in my house, so I’m attempting to start a flower garden. Definitely going with the over grown cottage garden feel, too! I can’t wait ’til the last frost is over so I can plant!

  • donna - Wow, what a coop, I could live in there. These chickens are Living the good life.

  • christina larsen - some day I hope to have a garden and chickens…*sigh*

  • julie - Wow! I already said that but your chicken coop is just gorgeous! What a palace for these ladies!!They would be proud to live there!And when I think you built this (with your father I guess?)I have no words…

  • Christina - What a beautiful chicken coop! I hope to have chickens someday, but I don’t know whether it will be an option due to my hay fever–do you know whether it is possible to have a chicken coop with no hay? I noticed that you use wood chips and sand for the bottom of the coop, but are there alternatives to hay for the nesting boxes themselves?

  • Natalee Rose - Are you aware of the Avian Bird flu? Its going around right now, and in South east Kansas you can’t take your chickens out of the area due to this flu. I would go look it up.

There is a beautiful cottage garden growing in my head. Everything is a little messy looking – flowers and vegetables growing everywhere. No lines. No perfect symmetry. Just flowering goodness mixed with food to feed my family. I have books. Magazine pages torn out. Pinterest boards. And yet I just can’t seem to get my garden growing. It probably has something to do with growing kids and ridiculous amounts of time spent sweeping my floors and doing laundry. But someday…..

Each spring I get a little discouraged. At this point in the season, my sister and dad are already harvesting things. My grandparents were the same way. I’d ask grandpa, “when can I plant______?” His response was always, “you should have planted that last month.” And, thus is my life as the reject gardener in the family.3.15garden-02

I decided to look back at some old garden pictures. To my surprise, looking back at old pictures reminded me that I actually have made some progress with my garden. How easy it is to forget.

This was 2 years ago.3.15garden-03

And this was a year later (last year). My vegetables may not have been impressive, but those sunflowers sure were!3.15garden-04

So here we are this year. A semi-blank slate. I might be the family reject gardener, but by standards outside of my extended family, I think we might have a pretty great garden this year.3.15garden-05Here are a few of my favorite books related to gardening. Only one is really a ‘gardening’ book. The others we use as part of our homeschool curriculum, but I highly recommend them.

Nature Anatomy ~ The Edible Garden


Our Year in the Garden Journal ~ Farm Anatomy3.15garden-08For years, I asked my grandpa, “When can I plant _______?”

Then, I started asking Lesley (my sister), “When can I plant _______?”

This year my friend Natalie gave me one of her gardening calendars for our region. Natalie, my sister thanks you.


The gardening journal is produced by a local non-profit. They asked for my input on it. It took me about .5 seconds to get super excited about it once I opened the first page. I so wanted to be able to share with you all how to order your own, but it is a small in-house production right now. Hopefully soon they will be ready to take larger orders. It looks like next week I can give you more information on pre-ordering one if you are interested. This will be our ‘science’ book for the rest of spring and summer!3.15garden-12




3.15garden-17As I was writing this post, I noticed his first answer. “What is a garden? Something you plant something in.” He did go into great detail creating a garden sign for us. Each letter is made up of vegetables. I’ll give him some grace on his garden description! Next week we’re going to make his garden sign design come to life!

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  • Jody - You don’t see much maybe but I see a gorgeous coop, lovely vast land , raised flower beds, a lovely full life. Count the blessings. And never stop planting! (Even if it should’ve been done last month).

  • Christi {Jealous Hands} - I feel like I’m always running behind in my garden. I can NEVER catch up with keeping Bermuda grass out of my raised beds. But our boys love being out there and we get vegetables all summer, so I’ll consider it success. Even in August when it looks like a jungle.

    I love how yours in fenced & the coop INSIDE the garden. Can’t wait to see that garden design!

  • Karen Davis - I adore the Nature Anatomy and Farm Anatomy books… we use those alongside our watercolor nature journal!!! PLEASE share details about this Gardening Journal for kids… my daughter would love it… and this homeschooling Mom might just get as excited as you!

  • Nicole - I’m jealous you are able to plant! I still have more than a foot of snow covering my yard and just itching to be outside working on the garden.

  • Jenny B. - The garden journal looks so cute! And I agree that your garden has come a long way. I can barely keep a potted houseplant alive, so I’m in awe. ;) Your garden and coop remind me of the one at the Gaines’s farmhouse on Fixer Upper (love that show). :)

  • Stephanie - I have a science idea to do with your kids in the garden—add about 4-6 inches of compost to one of the raised beds, work it into the soil and then plant your seeds. Then, plant an identical raised bed without the added compost. Throughout the garden season, measure to see if there are differences between the two beds. If you don’t have a compost bin started yet, start one now. There is so much fun science to learn from a working compost pile: mixing browns with greens, keeping it aerated, measuring the internal temperature,etc. A fun picture book I like to share with kids is Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth. I have become a compost nerd and find it as much fun as working out in my garden! Now if I could only remember when to plant vegetable seeds in the Pacific NW!

  • suzy - I love that your garden is part of your curriculum. I also love to see your sons answer! Made me giggle just a bit, since my kids do the same exact thing, and I make them be more descriptive. Thanks for sharing, and I am sure your garden will continue to improve year by year.

  • Jess - Ashley, be nicer to yourself. Start with buying plants, not seeds. It’s so much easier and it still counts for growing your own food. <3

  • AshleyAnn - Jess – thanks! I actually have much better luck with seeds and like the showing the whole process to the kids. I do get a few plants…tomatoes and peppers :)

  • Elissa Roberts - Ashley-
    I love your blog, especially your ideas for out of the box homeschool curriculum. Do I remember reading that you guys do Classical Conversations? This is our first year. Thanks again for all the fun ideas!

  • bethanyblntn - I find this both inspiring and hilarious. you see… my husband and I (and our little man now) have been gardeners since we tied the knot almost five years ago… but we have always lived in apartments, or stayed with family, or in a rental property in the middle of DC. So our gardening has almost always been limited to pots in the window and patios packed FULL of veggies. You said you always asked “when you do plant____” which I thought was so funny because I’m the exact opposite, I tried to learn and plant everything RIGHT on time…. but have no garden space to plant the 70 something seeds I want to :P. I really think the things we choose to plant and how our gardens look really do reflect each of our personalities for sure!

  • Angela - This entire post is drool worthy. Girl, your garden is gorgeous! Currently we have a few raised beds in our (front) yard, but our house is for sale because we want LAND! I can’t wait!!! I totally just pinned your garden to show my husband later. Happy gardening!!! :)

  • N - You would feel REALLY good about your gardening skills if you saw my garden!! It is a pitiful little plot that gets a minimum of sun – but my kids get SOOO excited to see something they planted themselves actually grow. It really is lovely to start the day by seeing what is new in the garden!!

  • Amy - Ooh, I would love to find out how we can order that gardening journal! Also can’t wait to see his garden sign!

  • Jolene - I love this post! Your garden looks wonderful!

  • Lisa - Thank you so much for this post! I was trying to think of something creative for my sister’s birthday gift…I ordered every book you linked and that calendar! So excited!

  • Amy K. - I LOVE that definition of a garden… sometimes the simplest answer is the best!

  • Heather Oakley - LOVED seeing your kids using our Global Gardens journal!! SO fun!! I’m so glad you like it :)

  • Caroline - One of the things I just love about you is that you are teaching your kids REAL skills and info they can use for the rest of their lives to be well-rounded and pretty darn self-sufficient, practically speaking! You make a better case for homeschool than just about anybody I’ve ever seen!

  • Friday Favorites – Makin Me Smile | Jerusalem Greer - […] Spring planting with the family reject gardener […]

  • Erin B - This is awesome! What a great space! We live in the city and our neighbor next door has chickens. I’ll have to pass this idea on to her :) What’s cool is that they have a “chicken cam” set up by the coop so they can watch their chickens from wherever they are (in their house/at the grocery store/away on a trip) on their phones. Have you ever considered a chicken cam?? Kind of a fun idea! Happy Spring to you & your family.

  • jenny - sometimes that is exactly what i have to do to get a little perspective… look back. when i’m feeling like i never get anything done around the house or in the yard… i look back at old posts and pictures… then i am reminded how far i have come. also, you always inspire me. i LOVE that coop and your garden space… and so in love with those sunflowers!!!

Printed cards are one of my favorite surprises in the mail. When Artifact Uprising asked if I wanted to offer a giveaway for a set of their new Everyday Cards Collection – I jumped at the chance. My samples arrived and I might have been a little giddy flipping through them. One of the best features of the card packs is you don’t have to pick one image for the whole pack. You can use a different image on every card!

Here are a few of the cards I ordered. I tried to go with more generic photos, but I added a few family photos in the mix with very specific recipients in mind.

3.15ArtifactUprising-013.15ArtifactUprising-023.15ArtifactUprising-04The cards come as 5×7, 4×4 and 4.9×3.5. There are also several ways to layout the design. Below you can see some of the options using the same photos.3.15ArtifactUprising-05I am trying to be more intentional about sending cards in the mail and I would like to help my kids do the same. For now, our cards are in a little basket that is close on hand. My hope is that by seeing them daily, I’ll be reminded regularly to send them.3.15ArtifactUprising-063.15ArtifactUprising-08This little girl might end up sending the whole basket. One things she loves to do is send mail – to anyone and everyone. She inspires me.3.15ArtifactUprising-09

How about a giveaway for your own set of cards to start this week? You can use the widget below to enter the giveaway. I do want to note that your email address is required and you will get an email from Artifact Uprising (but it is a good email, hint. hint.) Enjoy!

Giveaway Details:

Prize: 1 pack of 20 Everyday Cards from Artifact Uprising

1 winner chosen at random

Giveaway ends Monday, March 30th 11:59pm MST

To enter – submit  your email in the widget below

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  • Tanya - Thanks for sharing and giving the chance to win. Either way, I’ll be ordering!

  • michelle hill - they are gorgeous!! I love receiving cards in the mail, just as much as I love sending them. Please tell your darling daughter she is more than welcome to send one my way :)

  • Natalie @ Being Mrs. Olson - So cute! I love the different layouts. I recently put all of my cards into a picture box and organized by occasion. I love receiving mail so I do my best to send cheer up, congrats, and happy cards to friends and family.

  • Rebecca - I’ve been wanting to order cards from Artifact Uprising for a few months now…so when I saw the heading of your blog title today I had to jump on the chance. Glad to see they are as beautiful and of as nice quality as I was hoping…maybe I will pull the trigger now and just order!

  • Jhoanna - Love the cards!

  • suzy - Lovely cards. I too am trying to send more, especially to the grandparents. Since we live so far away from family, I think it is nice for them to get letters from grandchildren. However, my intentions are always better than my actions!

  • Lori - I’ve ordered photo albums from Artifact Uprising and they’re beautifully simple :]

  • marie - Snail mail is the best…love these little note cards!!

  • Krystle Detwiler - Awesome! :) I’ve been meaning to try AU for some time! :)

  • Linnea - Love these!!

  • Joy Hartman - Is the end date really April 30th? Just thought I would check!

  • Heather - Love the cards! Totally unrelated but I love that full wall bookcase!! We need another house tour!

  • Olli Etheredge - I love snail mail!! My penal and I have been writing each other since the MySpace days and its the biggest thrill to see that package arrive in the mail :) Also, I’d really like to know where you got that butterfly calendar from!

  • Olli Etheredge - **Penpal**

  • AshleyAnn - Joy – Nope, it is March 30th! Thanks for catching that!

  • Sara - These are so cute. AU has so many good products!

  • Courtney - Such a fun giveaway!

  • Carrie - I love these little cards!

  • Cristy - Fun! Those cards are adorable!

  • angie webb - sending cards is my favorite!

  • Sarah - how cool!!!

  • Jude - I have been wanting these SO much!

  • Rachel N. - Your cards look awesome! & mail time is still my favorite time of day :)

  • christina larsen - These are great!

  • Caitlin - How cute!

  • Lindsey - These sound great – love this idea!

  • Katherine - So very sweet! :)

  • Nicole - These are just what I need to send to my niece.

  • Jennyroo - So lovely! Thanks for sharing!

  • Sharla Stockwell - Love these! I follow them on instagram and am always amazed by their photos.

  • Brenda A - these cards look great!

  • Lynae - Love them! Clean, classic, and beautiful! I’d love a chance to win them, but I don’t see the widget… ?

  • Diana G - I love these!

  • Tracie M. - I LOVE sending and receiving cards. How fun to have ones personalized for your family.

  • Lisa McCracken - Thank you, Ashley for offering this amazing giveaway! I follow Artifact Uprising on IG and have been eyeing these cards for some time now. I have just been too lazy to go and actually order them. Now that I’ve seen yours it’s really prompted to get to it! Thanks again!

  • Robin Follette - Wow! I found your website today and am very excited to be able to enter for a set of cards. I am an old fashioned, pen and paper put a stamp on it letter writer.

    I’ll be exploring your website after dinner. I think I need a workshop or two!


  • Bevy @ Treasured Up and Pondered - Wow!! Love these, love this!! Thanks for the chance!

  • Emily - Those look great! Thanks for sharing :-)

  • emily - These are fabulous! I have a feeling your pictures make them much cuter than mine would though!

  • Elisha - Hi there, I was just wondering if there is anyway I can contact you as I can’t see an email address??

  • Ari - I’m in!!
    Thank you for the opportunity

  • Laura | Artifact Uprising - Ashley!

    This is as beautiful as ever. We are always so impressed with how you see the world!

    Appreciate all your support!

    With gratitude,

  • Charity Boehm - What a great giveaway! I love sending and receiving “snail mail”!

  • Ashley E - Would love to have some to send to my friends and family who are way more thoughtful than I am!! Trying to be better and more purposeful in small acts of kindness/thoughtfulness. These would be perfect!

  • amy - these are some CUTE cards!