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.

A few days ago, I posted about the feeding station for the birds. This morning when I entered the kitchen and looked out, it wasn’t there. Upon closer examination, the pole was pulled over, the feeders emptied and some minor damage. It doesn’t look like the doings of a bear, but probably a raccoon climbed the pole and was too heavy toppling it. All the sunflower seed and the new suet cake were gone, the suet cage bent and the lid ripped off. The pole was stood back up and anchored with rocks as the fork like prongs that stabilize it in the soil are bent, the feeders cleaned up, repaired, and refilled. I guess one of my new evening duties is going to be to go out and gather the feeders and bring them in to the garage for the night from now on.

Yesterday afternoon, I did go out to work on the fencing and realized that it is too much for me to do by myself, so instead, I finished rebuilding the garden boxes. Several years ago, I purchased cedar raised bed boxes from Home Depot. The box assembly as a grooved post and the boards fit in the grooves. That assembly did not hold up well. I have been taking them apart, and using outdoor deck screws, fastening the boards to the outside of the post, making the boxes slightly smaller but sturdier. One box needs leveling before I can finish filling them with compost to planting. If I ever succeed in getting rid of the mint that I foolishly planted in one several years ago, there will be a blank spot in the garden as I removed that box to make mint removal easier. The box failed to contain the mints and mint is in the aisles and beginning to appear in adjacent boxes. Lesson learned.

The area to the right of the lowest box and barrels will be a corn patch. I rarely plant corn unless it is popcorn in a three sisters garden, but decided to try some sweet corn this year.

The peas are coming up nicely, I am happy to see. Still no sign of spinach and the flat started in the house several days ago is also not germinating, it might be a poor batch of seed.

With the warmth comes the Carpenter bees. I had left the traps up overwinter and dumped the contents early this week. They are already filling up. We don’t usually see them until mid May. This is indeed a weird year for the climate.

As the day cooled and the sun was low, I took my walk down our rural road. Nothing new to see, the calves were not where I could see them from the road, but I did find a branch with many shelf fungi on it.

Once dark has fallen, I retire to my easy chair and knit or spin. My current project is a lacy skinny scarf out of hand spun wool and silk for my daughter. It was in my lap along with my needle case and I realized that they nicely coordinated.

I am determined to get at least one run of fence between the chicken pen and the garden stable today so that I can let the hens clean up that side of the garden area. The forecast is for it to get into the 80’s today in March.

UFO’s

In crafting terms, that is unfinished objects. The past week has been finishing those WIP (works in progress), making the UFO’s, finished objects. There was a skinny scarf on the needles for daughter and a hat that I started in mid February. Both were worsted weight hand spun yarn. Both are finished and blocked (though the photo is prior to that occurring). The hat went into the shop. The scarf is sitting here as I try to figure out how to get it to her without contacting her or her kids. It may get mailed.

One of my travel projects became a stay at home project, a narrow triangular scarf, pattern is Easy Goes It by Finicky Creations. The yarn is Lollipop Yarn, Whirling Dervish sock weight that I won as a door prize.

Each block of the blocking mats is 12″, so the scarf is nearly 6′ long and about 16″ deep at the point of the triangle. It was made with unknown plan. I have too many knits in similar colors for my wardrobe, but it is washable, so a potential gift for a family member or an addition to the shop.

Now that all the needles are cleared, another skein or two will be tackled, a hat with a cabled frog in apple green is planned for the shop and a lacy skinny scarf for daughter. She wears lots of black and white and uses the skinny scarves to accent her work outfits without adding too much weight and can help keep the back of her neck warm from air conditioning drafts.

Spinning for an hour or so on the drop spindles to make the fiber last as long as possible is part of the daily activity.

I’m about halfway through reading The Dollmaker. It is a book I have wanted to read for a long time. The copy I am reading is from eldest son’s extensive library and is a paperback that is older than he is, so it is yellowed and fragile, but care is being taken with it and I am thoroughly enjoying it. It will be returned to their library next time we are able to visit.

The seed starts are doing well. I’m awaiting a series of warmer days to sow some lettuce, radishes, and some direct sowed Chinese cabbages. I have three half barrels that held herbs last year that are close to the back deck, they are going to be my salad garden this spring.