Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dear Chickens...

Here's the deal. 

I don't know what you've heard, but we are not running a chicken sanctuary. 
You serve several purposes on our little suburban homestead. 

1 - weed and bug abatement.

2 - fertilizer factory

3 - EGGS

4 - entertainment

We expect that you will preform all these duties on a regular basis. Failure to preform said duties will be dealt with accordingly.  As you have both been extremely sub-par the last month on the aforementioned third duty please consider this your official notice. 

Should you continue to not produce eggs you will find out for yourself what the inside of a potpie looks like.

No, I don't care how pretty you are. 

Think I am bluffing? ... I already ordered your replacements.

They'll be here at the end of the month. 
You have until they feather out to change your ways. For now you can thank her for your temporary reprieve:

In fact, I recommend you take notes, as Lucky has not missed a single day since she started laying. Perhaps if you ask nicely she'll share her secrets. 

Should you have a valid reason for the recent drop-off in performance you have the same previously mentioned time-frame in which to present your excuse for review and consideration. 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


The Management

Monday, May 2, 2011

Prepping the Garden

It occurs to me that I should mention that we tied the knot. 
We were married on the 5 year anniversary of our first date, in February. Sentimental and one less date for Bri to forget remember - win-win.

And now back to what the title implies this post is about - growing things (or at least endeavors in such):

Fantastic friends of ours were in town visiting family for a week last month. They live on a farm in Maine (yes I'm envious, but that is not the point of this post) so we don't see them often and as soon as we found out they were coming we invited them over for dinner. They said yes, but only if we let them help with something involving dirt. See why we love them? 

When we put in the raised beds we brought in soil - a 50/50 mix of compost and topsoil. It turned out okay, but it is not as rich as we'd like and it is quite sandy, so before planting for spring we decided to amend it. Since we need to amend all of them, and since we've only had the compost bins going just about a year, we bought amendments. 

If you are thinking that my gardening habit is looking expensive, so far you'd be right. Please don't let that dissuade you; it can be really inexpensive. Bri and I are trying to get stuff set up and established ASAP, and are willing to throw some money at it to help us along at this point, while we are both still working. Anywayyyy...

This was the garden pre-workday. 
The borage was out. of. control., the radish, arugula, and cilantro had bolted, and the earwigs had set up house in the lettuce (have I mentioned how much I do NOT love earwigs right now? Yes? Oh, well, just in case it was not clear)..

We have 13 raised beds total. I ended up leaving two mostly alone, since there was still good stuff growing; we'll amend those two when we pull out those crops, so on the work day we did 11 beds.

Left alone bed #1: kale and swiss chard. 
I pulled the cilantro that had bolted (that fluffy looking brownish stuff), but left the rest.

Left alone bed #2: green and purple cabbages. 
I'm really glad I left these in, as they are heading up beautifully despite the slugs and earwigs (have I mentioned how much I do NOT love earwigs right now? Yes? Oh, well, just in case it was not clear).

Amendments staged for use. 
Each bed got one bag each peat moss, steer manure, and chicken manure. 
Confession: we got the peat moss at Walmart (the hippy in me is weeping). It was the only place we could find un-"enriched" peat moss - because no, I do not want miracle grow in the peat moss, thankyouverymuch. Also, we looked for coconut coir, but just could not find it available in quantity at a price that we could justify. I take consolation in that this claims to be sustainably harvested.  

Step 1: Weed the beds and pull out the spend crops. 
This bed has an onion that had sprouted in the compost bin from an end I threw out. Bri found it and I stuck it in the garden to see what would happen a couple months ago. It grew, so we worked around it. In another bed we worked around a row of garlic that had also been transplanted from the compost bins.

Step 2: Add one bag each of the amendments.

Step 3: Manually turn the soil.
We tried just tilling in the amendments, but found the tiller did not get down far enough to incorporate them into the soil sufficiently, so we ended up turning the soil onto the new stuff by hand. Well not by hand, we used shovels of course. It was a good workout.
Steps 4 & 5: Till and rake. 
We borrowed our neighbor's small tiller to do this job. I am learning more and more to appreciate our community resources - something I shall expand on in a future post. 

(Aside: because I am not sure that the steer manure is was fully composted we did this a couple weeks ago and have let them just hang out for a bit while we grow our seedlings. I do have a volunteer squash of some sort that has come up in one, so I'm taking that as a good sign.)

Then we all went inside and had beer and wine and cheese and fruit and homemade pizza. And lemon-ginger pound cake with strawberries for dessert.

Then later I made out with my husband, because I can. 
This whole journey is so much more fun with him.