Saturday, December 9, 2017

November/December Garden Updates

This pretty much sums up Bobbie Dylan's personality: perpetually terrified.

A small harvest of chard before the hard frost hit
Between us being gone all summer and the weather now hitting freezing temperatures consistently, it’s not surprising that I’m not growing much in my garden right now. However, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been busy! 

First of all, our chickens are continuing to grow wonderfully! They’ve transitioned from cheeping to soft honks that border on the edge of sounding like clucking (and the occasional bu-KAWK! when I have to catch them to put them back inside). They’re clearly sorting out the pecking order, but so far with minimal violence. (I can’t tell who’s the head chicken, but Bobbie Dylan is definitely at the bottom.) They’ve held up to the cold snaps quite well (although they often resemble balls of feathers more than chickens when it’s chilly out). Their water keeps freezing, but Zach just bought them a heated dog dish, which we’re hoping will work out.

We also made a decision about the chickens’ living quarters. After moving their bulky run a grand total of once, Zach proposed that we park their coop somewhere stationary. I agreed, and we put it against the side of our garage. The most plentiful source of carbon (dry brown material) we had were autumn leaves from my parents’ house, so we laid down a thick layer. Turns out the chickens love it! They scratch and forage through the leaves, dig holes for dust baths, and peep excitedly when they find a bit of grass sticking up through the layer. I still let them out at least once a day to forage through the yard, where they peck at dandelions and clover. While doing that a few days ago, I met the new owners of the house right next to us, and they told me that they love chickens, which was a big relief!

Another project we worked on in November was creating a better compost pile. Our original pile was mostly just a little heap of leaves and straw that I threw food into. We decided that it was time to ramp it up a notch, so we salvaged some pallets, laid down three straw bales (after-Halloween clearance, $2 each), and piled our compost materials on top of it. We now have a steady influx of chicken bedding, too, which adds some great volume and a lot of nutrients. Whenever I turn the compost over to tuck more food scraps inside, it’s so hot that it steams. This makes me ridiculously happy. 

I also put together a cold frame, although you’re really not supposed to try to grow things from seed in winter because of the lack of daylight. Still, I thought it was worth a shot: using four straw bales, some fill dirt, and an old window (but not one with lead paint this time, unlike last year!), I cobbled a cold frame together. I scattered some nearly-expired seeds, watered them heavily, and have pretty much ignored them every since. So far, the spinach has sprouted nicely and I think I even have two cabbages (or possibly kale) coming up! I’m not sure how they’ll continue to grow, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.

When my mom asked me what I was thankful for at Thanksgiving, I responded without hesitation, “My chickens and my compost pile.” They are both big steps on the way toward creating a thriving suburban homestead, and I’m excited to see both of them grow.


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