Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Turning of the Heap

"It was a warm, blustery afternoon in late March. The air hummed with the distant drone of four-wheelers and baseball practice. In a backyard, the girl approached the overgrown heap with trepidation and a strange sense of eagerness: would it still be frozen solid? Had all the happy bacteria of the long-lost summer vanished in the wake of bad, slimy nasty bacteria cousins? She reached out with the long-handled fork and poked the seemingly sleeping pile of vegetative remains...."

And out jumped happy compost!

Yes, folks, that's right. My heap survived the winter. The done pile now looks and smells like dirt, which means I don't have to go out and buy a pallet of compost from the local nursery. Finally! My two year project has paid off. And, the working pile is well on it's way. I found my container of compost enhancer (which is a mixture of kelp and dried happy bacteria) under the pile of random gardening implements that I had wedged into a corner of the porch, and sprinkled away on the working side. (It looked a little like micro-grain kitty litter.)

Underneath a layer of winter-dried straw and old plants from last year's garden, the layers of straw, shavings, chicken poo, leaves and pulled weeds are slowly melting down in the working compost heap, into a lovely dark earth. I swear, nothing smells quite so lively as good compost. It fairly screams, "Plant something in me! I am ready to GROOOOOWWW!!! Yeehaw!"

Once I dig out the done pile, I'll start tossing this year's fresh manure and straw/plant wastes into that side of the composting area and in a couple of years, that one will be the "done" pile. I can't wait for next year: The current working pile is chock full of goodies and is HUGE so hopefully, if it doesn't burst into flames in the summer heat or succumb to anaerobic bacteria attacks, next year I will have loads more of happy compost at the end of the winter. A big pile of compost will come in handy, as I always seem to expand the garden each year. My goal is to eventually have no lawn, just the random grass patch in the midst of a lovely, large garden...and so, I need compost! Lucky for me, I seem to have an endless supply of brown and green wastes to put into untidy piles near the garden.

Now all I need is a local supplier of a half ton of bark mulch....

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ducklings: Fuzzy, Irresistable....and someday, Delicious!

So today, after realizing that I was once again out of Layena, I headed over to the feed store to lay in chicken groceries & visit my friend Julie. Walking in, I heard the distinctive peeping of young poultry. Lo and behold, there were ducklings available! I have been thinking for months about growing my own duck. It is such an under-rated meat here in the States, and while the time investment is only slightly longer than that to raise a standard dual-purpose chicken, the idea of buying a whole box of ducks was just...well, intimidating! And here they were, little Buff ducks ready to go home with me. I ended up with three--dubbed Christmas Dinner, Easter Dinner, and Special Occasion. Right now, they are residing in a handy rubbermaid tub under a heat lamp in the crafty/guest room. In a couple of weeks, I plan to set them outside in either a tractor or in the play-pen yard of the established coop. They just need feathers before being chucked out into the elements. And yes, they do like their water!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

And Spring has come....

Today was the second day of Spring. It wasn't the warmest of days, maybe reaching 45 by mid afternoon, but it was lovely--all blue skies, soft breezes, and the scent of warming earth. It inspired me to get out and clean up some of the debris that has been hanging around all winter. You know, the usual frozen-in-the-ground-holiday-decor that finally can be pulled out and tucked away, desicated tomato plants and the twisted, nasty old frames that have outlived their purpose. It felt great to get out in the light and air, and bag up all that stuff. The chickens were happy too--clucking and rumbling and crowing into the sunshine. Neighbors were burning the remains of their garden debris, so the lazy scent of drifting smoke wafted around in tandem with the smell of emerging greens and defrosting compost heaps. Sundays like this one sure are wonderful!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Rain, rain, rain.

It was one of those gray, soggy days that can only be called "smarchy" weather. Foggy and drizzly all the live-long day! It made me wish I felt well enough to go out in a poncho and rainboots and splash in some puddles. As it was, I stayed in out of the damp and played in the dirt. My seed order from Pine Tree Seeds finally arrived, so I happily set about starting a few more future harvest items. Prudens Purple tomato, rainbow cherry tomato, Alma pepper, Calabrese broccolli, Anna Russian tomato, and dill--makes me wish I was a poet and could write a little line about the loveliness of vegetables. My little greenhouse is getting full. None of my peppers have sprouted yet, which is making me a little sad as I worry I have killed them already. There are lots and lots of roma tomatoes & tomatillos popping up though, so I will at least have something to make salsa with. The lake is back in the cornfield across the road. I think some of the teenagers were goofing around last night and pushed each other in which must have been rather cold and unpleasant. The dogs are having a great time eye-balling all the flocking geese and ducks that are taking advantage of the melted area. I'm sure they are finding some weeds left from last fall in the muck and mud. Sometimes I wish the flood lasted through the summer. It would be nice to live near a pond, I think. No peepers in the evening yet, but I bet some show up before the weekend is over. It is supposed to be in the high 40s all weekend! Too bad all I think I will manage to do is a little house cleaning and some napping. I really do have to get motivated to greet Spring properly!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Weekend in Spring

After a ho-hum kind of week, it is always nice to wind up with a pleasant weekend. Of course, if I could shake this cold, things would be perfect. Still have no voice, but I'm hopeful that it will reappear tomorrow morning so I can head off to work as planned! On Saturday, it was a lovely lovely day here--warm, sunshine, blue skies, the works. Everything was melting and muddy, which is so lovely (although a bit hard on the indoor floors!). I found a local farmer with straw to spare, and received a delivery of 25 bales of lovely clean rye straw. As you can see from the photo, it is stacked and waiting in my "car hut". The cats are liking to climb the bale mountain, and I can still fit my SUV in with them. Just think--a few more weeks and I will start all sorts of vegetable projects in them. I have plans to put cucumbers, melons, watermelon, squash and such in little carved out niches at the top of the bales. If it works the way I hope, I will train the vines to grow along trellises made from hog panels bent over the bales. I can't wait! In other garden news, I have sprouts started in my tomatoes and peppers in the mini-greenhouse. It is so exciting!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spring Fever

So I think all the creatures on my little 3/4 acre farm are going crazy. I came home to a kitty on the roof. Seriously, he was on the roof! And stuck to boot! I am not sure how he managed to scramble up there, although I think a neighbor dog may have encouraged him to climb the trellis. Poor Artie was crying for me the moment I pulled in, and it took me a little while to figure out where he was. Eventually, he let me catch hold of him and pull him off the roof--I didn't even get clawed!

The chickens are happy as well. Every morning George crows around 7 or 730 Am, and stops after surveying his domain. The ladies then wander out, cooing and preening--and then shrieks of joy emerge from the coop as eggs are laid in the nest box. I am back up to gathering 4-5 eggs per day. I have yet to hit the 6 eggs tally, but I think one hen may be laying on the floor of the coop, which leads to a broken (and rapidly devoured) egg. This afternoon I cleaned out the finally defrosting poop-cicle that was threatening to take over the coop. Ick, indeed. Unfortunately, my little garden cart is frozen in place so I now have a lovely little mound of straw and chicken poo behind the coop. Oh well. If the warm temperatures keep up, I'll be able to free the cart and haul the "remains" to where I am going to till the new garden bed. I like to think of it as my mini-version of spreading the spring layer of manure on the fields. All I need is a tiny John Deere or Alice Chambers to do my shit haulin' and then I'll be a real farm-girl.