Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Here and There

My favorite days are the ones when I get to work on a variety of projects and chores around the place. Yesterday afternoon was like that- lots of different things to do, and the place to myself for a few hours. As I was getting home from work at 1 PM, Matt was heading out, and the chickens had escaped and were all over the back yard. As they had been four times already that day, and many more times over this past weekend when we weren't here, according to Jessa and Elliot, our chickensitters. It seems like every time we make the chicken run taller or stronger, these birds still manage to find a way over or under. So as soon as I got home, I herded them all into the coop and locked them in (they expressed their displeasure with me very loudly), and then I changed into some work clothes and went scouting in the chicken run. I found a number of places where the hens had excavated deep enough to get under the fence and into the yard, and also several gaps in the wire that had come open, that they might have been flying through. I raked back all of the straw and gravel from the fence, retrieved several spare strips of chicken wire that weren't currently in use, cut myself some wire ties, and got to work.

I attached the strips of wire to the bottom of the fence, creating a wide lip turning into the run. Then I raked all the straw and gravel back over it. This should be effective in keeping the chickens from tunneling their way to freedom again. I also used wire ties to fasten shut all the potentially chicken-sized gaps between the two tiers of fencing, and patched a hole in the back corner. This seems to have done the trick- Matt reported that not one chicken escaped today! (We also clipped all of their wings again, for good measure). Moral of the story: next time we build a chicken run, the fence will be at least six feet high and solid, and buried a foot deep in the ground!

Once the chicken run was fixed, I got into my next chore: tilling up what had been the garlic bed, and getting it ready for some carrots and turnips. We're very much beginners when it comes to crop rotation, but most of the sources I've read say that root crops are a good follow-up to alliums. Which is handy, because it has become clear that all of the carrots that are currently ready for eating will be eaten fresh, with none or few left over to store for late fall and winter. If we plant a load of carrots this weekend, they should be ready just in time to go into cold storage in October.

The garlic bed was very dry and chunky from having not been tilled since last Halloween. I tilled through it once with the turning fork, breaking apart as many of the dry clods as I could. Then I added a bunch of delicious black compost (packed with red worms) from one of the compost heaps.

Check out the passionflower vine all over the fence- and growing up into the cedars! It goes up about twelve feet so far- and it was almost nothing when we moved in, because we got no light. I can't wait for it to flower. 

Mixed into the bed, you can see the remaining bits of the shredded newspaper that was the first layer of mulch on the garlic last fall. 

With the bed tilled up, I opened up the bucket of comfrey tea that I have had stewing for the last couple weeks. We've never used it before, but have a massive comfrey bush in our community garden plot that needs constant cutting back, so we decided to put some of it to use as fertilizer.

I had been warned about the stench, but it still almost knocked me over. Hopefully it will be worth it! I diluted it and watered the garlic/carrot bed with it, as well as all of the cabbage and broccoli plants and a few tomato plants that are looking a bit scrawny. I'll let the freshly tilled bed sit for a few days before I till it again and plant the root crops. 

It was a beautiful day yesterday, and the backyard was bright and happy with the laundry hung out. Matt had hung it up in the morning, and I brought it in at night. 

I did some weeding around the garden, stirred the compost piles, and harvested greens, a sweet pepper, and some peas to go with supper. Inside, I washed the dishes and cut up a rabbit for baking, while listing to This American Life. It feels so good to know that I don't have to go anywhere for several weeks, after lots of weekends away from home.

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