There’s a mostly abandoned property a few doors east of us. The owner moved out many years ago after his wife died, and the property has languished. The grass was mown once or twice in the growing season by a family member and that same person would spend some time there during hunting season going after our numerous neighborhood deer. I’ve been admiring the lovely collection of irises along their driveway for years. Unfortunately, they’d often get mowed down before they even had a chance to bloom. I kept thinking I really should save a few of these varieties, but never worked up the courage. It is stealing after all.
Lately the family seems to have taken an interest in the property again and suddenly there was construction equipment tearing down the old mobile home. The last straw for me was when the giant power shovel drove over the irises. I took a bag, trowel and clippers with me on our morning walk, with a storm threatening, and salvaged 17 plants before the storm broke. This is my contribution to Earth Day: the rescue of irises.
As the second anniversary of my father’s death approaches, I’ve been thinking more and more about him. Today I was building a new gate in the garden fence for the chickens so they didn’t have to walk across the back patio to get to greens. It occurred to me that I was truly blessed by my father who taught me as a teenager how to use power tools safely. I can build a fence with gates, then years later, add a gate wherever I need one, without having to hire anyone to do it. That gives me so much freedom. It took me an afternoon to set the additional post, then about a day to build and install the gate.
The chickens were unfazed in the slightest by all the drilling and hammering I was doing. They knew I was doing something, so there might be food. As a result, they tested the gate numerous times, before, during, and after the installation.
Although we’re still in moderate drought conditions, we’ve entered a rainy period, which has motivated me to get all the gardens refurbished and planted for the first time in three years. Now that the chickens are at work clearing out all the weeds and pest insects, I’ve got a clean slate to work with.
For the most part, the chickens are rather helpful. Some of the garden frames had been partially buried and were riddled with ants and termites. Once exposed, the girls went to town cleaning them up. In other instances, they can be trouble as they love freshly turned dirt. This garden in particular needed to have its weed barrier dug out and reinstalled. As soon as they saw me turn some dirt, the girls came to “help” doing their best to fill my trench back in before I was done.
Once the gardens are refurbished, I spread a fresh layer of compost then add the netting. The netting is crucial because the hens are so curious, and convinced that everything I do will yield food. One evening I tried to weed one of the gardens while the chickens were around and soon found myself accompanied by eight or nine of them who thought the soil needed some extra scratching. Trying to get them out again was like herding cats.
My other garden assistants, the bees are enjoying the first locust flowers. These trees, purchased from the State Forestry Department as tiny saplings, are finally suckering like crazy. This may sound like a bad thing, but Black Locust is a nitrogen fixing tree, and the perfect companion plant for my other fruit trees.
Speaking of fruit trees, this is the first year that my Saturn Peach has a sizable crop. I’m hoping I’ll finally get to taste one this year.