Chickens make great compost

Yesterday morning, we had two neighbors visit and help with the grass mowing since the belt for the riding mower still hasn’t come in.

Meet Jumper Jr. and her sister “Bad” Penny. They belong to the neighbor to the west and find our spring grass greener than their own every year. The neighbor is a female farmer and she spends too much of her time in the spring trying to outsmart these two with new strands of barbed wire, new posts, new fencing, but Jumper Jr. like her Mom would, will go over the fence. When she makes a hole, she sometimes bring along other visitors.

After preparing and eating lunch, I donned sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat securely tied down, and a long sleeved shirt, gathered some weeding tools and headed out to the garden. It was very, very windy, I think it tried to rip my head off a few times when it grabbed at the hat.

Three of the rebuilt boxes had not been weeded when the boxes were set, so my project was to get the weeds out from inside the boxes and from the paths between boxes. Also it was time to remove the hay from the asparagus bed and in doing so, I broke off the very first spear, white from being covered and about 3 inches long. Not to waste fresh food, it was wiped clean and eaten right in the garden. I didn’t see any more new spears, but the hay is off and they will start emerging now. They are such a delight each spring.

The boxes were cleared, the weeds piled in a tub to dump in the chicken run for them to dig through, eat the leaves, and make more compost. Because of the slope of their run, I try to keep a layer of spoiled hay on the ground, also when I clean the coop, the dirty straw or pine chips go in the run, and all kitchen scraps go to the chickens. They dig through all of that matter, adding chicken fertilizer to it and kicking a good amount of thoroughly broken down material through the fence at the down hill end of the run. This was raked and shoveled into the garden cart and wheeled around the garden. Each of the three boxes weeded today received an entire cart full of rich compost and a few fat earthworms that had taken up residence in it.

Those boxes will be easy to keep weeded now until time to plant beans, cucumbers, and the tomato and pepper starts. There is still a 4 X 8 foot bed that hasn’t been weeded and a new 4 X 4 foot box that needs a load of compost. The corn bed needs to be weeded and the hills dug, but it is still 4 or 5 weeks before it can be planted. See the mint on the center right. I think I am going to sacrifice a dark tarp and hold it down with heavy rocks on the edges, just leave it in place for a year. The sun will kill the mint off. While adding a bit of compost to the raspberry barrels, I spotted a Preying Mantis nest, YAY! It is inside the garden and will hatch in late April or May. Helping keep the pests at bay.

Today and tomorrow are rainy, so no garden work for a couple of days. Today’s high is 40 degrees (f) colder than it was three days ago. Ah, spring fickleness.

Yesterday before gardening, I finished the second skinny scarf for daughter’s wardrobe accent. I love knitting and weaving for family rather than taking the time and effort to spin yarn, knit or weave and then put it in my shop for less than it is worth in time and skill. These two days will be for spinning and knitting.

Oh, and that gorgeous handstitched (not machine stitched) quilt, I won on a $.50 ticket to a raffle about 15 years ago. It is a treasure.

Another rainy day

But at least it isn’t snow. My two year memory for today on Facebook was a good amount of snow and the dogs playing in it.

The grass needs to be mowed, it is emerald green now and growing so fast you can almost watch it change, but it is too wet, way too wet.

The chicken pen was slick as a sloped ice rink when I went over to lock them up at dark last night. I grabbed a few hands full of the moldy spoiled hay from the big bale near their run and laid down a path to the pop door. This morning in the rain, sheets of the bale were put in the pen to keep it from being so muddy and to make going in to let the hens out a bit safer to my old bones. They get free range time for part of each day, but unlike prior flocks, this group has a few that won’t follow me back to the safely of their pen when I shake a cup of scratch, thus making them a target for our Mastiff to try and chase. He couldn’t catch one even when he was young, and running hurts his hips so he become even more lethargic in the house. Usually the hens are released when the dogs are fed in the afternoon and they stay out until dusk when they wander back to the pen and eventually coop up for the night.

As soon as they are let out, they peck around the hay bale for a while then run straight for the gravel under the cars. Eventually out to the front yard and under the cedar trees across the driveway from the forsythia. When the forsythia and lilacs are fully leafed out, they prefer to shelter there and are really difficult to get out of that place.

The half barrel planted with lettuce, radishes, and Chinese cabbage is showing signs of sprouting. When the sprouts are a little larger, the second one will be planted with lettuce, radishes, and Pak Choy. The third one will get some edible flower seed, dill, and basil, but it must get a bit warmer before that one can be planted. The 4th one is undecided, it has a returning perennial of some sort coming up in it. I want to try to sprout some parsley seed. If successful, it may be planted with more herbs for summer cooking to dry or freeze for next winter.

The area inside the wall that gets so overgrown I think will receive a generous handful of mixed sunflower seed and allowed to grow and bloom until it can be cleared of rocks, weed mat or cardboard put down and covered with leaf mulch to plant as the herb, flower, and dye garden. Today’s exercise was moving more rocks and extending the path from the deck to the stone step that was where the old deck ended. That required heavy lifting and some serious weeding. On the step you can see a pigweed root that somehow I managed to lift from the earth whole, it must be 18″ long.

The grill is always in the way when I mow. Eventually it will have a stone pad inside the wall on which to sit. Today, I just moved rocks, weeded a spot and wrestled it to the inside of the wall. It is not a permanent place and I wouldn’t cook on it at that angle, but it is out of the way. The new part of the path starts at the stone step and comes toward the deck. Those six boulders aren’t the only ones I had to move to do that much.

The mower got gassed up and the tire pumped up and it started. It is running a little rough, hopefully once it is out of the garage and can move some, it will be in better shape. The rain stopped in the afternoon, but it is too wet still.

The little potted rose my love gave me for Valentine’s Day was transplanted to a 10″ pot today now that it finished blooming. It is sitting in a sunny spot by the French doors until it is warm enough to put it on the deck. For some foolish reason, I decided last fall to overwinter,indoors, the begonias that were in the front of the house. One begonia and another pot were in the utility room window, two begonias on the floor by the French doors. I decided today that they were going to have to tough it out outdoors and put them out on the deck and front porch. If a frost is threatened, I will cover them, if they give up, I will plant some seeds in those pots.

Right after lunch, I got some bread started. The last loaf in the freezer is almost gone and since we are eating in 100% of the time, more will soon be needed.

Tomorrow is warmer and drier, maybe I can get the lawn part of the farm mowed. Next piece of equipment to fight with is the weed wacker, my least favorite, but necessary to get around the stone wall and the west side of the house. Maybe I can get it started too.

Yesterday repeat

Today was even warmer than yesterday and another beautiful day for a walk. No photos of it today, but we did walk farther.

First thing this morning, the seed starter flat was set up on the warming tray and seeded.

The growlight frame was 3 inches too tall to sit in that position and as there is no other convenient place to put it, out came the jig saw and the frame was knocked apart, the legs shortened by 3 inches. Now we can get plates out of the cabinet above it. I never could understand why it was so tall in the first place. The light will be lowered to within an inch of the dome once seeds sprout, but if anything gets as tall as the light can be raised, they will be leggy and fragile.

After the walk, two more boxes were built from the corners and boards from the deteriorating boxes. There are now 6 in two rows across the top of the garden. The mint box was removed, now to try to rid the garden of all the mint and put some of it where it can grow without over taking the garden. The remaining two deteriorating boxes will be rebuilt into two 4 X 4 foot boxes and any remaining boards will be stored to use for repairs or to build a box where the mint is, if I can get control there.

The center top box with green mesh around it is the asparagus, the one closest to the camera is the garlic and onions.

In the kitchen window is a confused Thanksgiving cactus, thinking it is an Easter cactus. It blooms a few blooms every year around this time.

Tomorrow is still warm, but rain is expected, so the sore back from two days of garden can recover some.

I still need to figure out how to deal with the fencing.