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.
It’s hard to believe I’ve had the chickens a year now. They went from tiny balls of fluff to elegant (in some cases) egg-laying machines, with their own quirks and personalities.
They spend a lot of their time foraging in the fallen leaves, trimming the grass, eating what bugs, and even snakes, they find. They get a little cranky on days that I don’t let them out of the garden yard, but since dogs and chickens can’t mix, they have to take turns.
Sadly Osiris, the rooster, became a 4 pound roast around Halloween. He had attacked me a couple of times, sneak attacks when I was checking for eggs, but he was also favoring certain hens and keeping others from the feeder. That’s when I lost patience.
My sweet Willow also died very suddenly, we believe from a hepatic lesion due to her being really too fat. It was just as all the birds were starting to lay eggs, and the extra strain was too much for her. Now I’m down to 12 egg-laying birds which was my plan all along.
Speaking of eggs, the girls are now at full production, roughly 300 eggs a month. I’ve been selling my surplus, which covers their food costs. My grocery bills have gone down a little with this ready source of protein, and they’ve done a bang-up job clearing out the weeds and pest insects from the garden area. All in all they are more than paying their way.
This is what happens when you don’t mow my back yard. You can see the grass is still really short and doesn’t really warrant mowing, but the Golden Crownbeard is out of control.
Mind you, I let it get out of control knowing that, with our extreme drought conditions (upgraded from exceptional), the migrating butterflies would have little to feast on. So I just kept a path clear to my clothesline umbrella, and to the birdbath and let the rest go.
Of course the benefit is that you get lots of lovely butterflies and bees happily ingesting the nectar.
The downside, to not mowing, or weeding, is this. There are gardens somewhere in that mess of grasses. I have not been watering these gardens, which apparently the grasses don’t mind, so the soil is too hard to pull weeds.
On the plus side, it’s providing popular shelter for the birds. I’m constantly flushing sparrows and wrens out of the nearly hip high grasses. I’m almost sorry that I’ll have to eventually pull them. Then I’ll have to deal with all the germinating grass seeds. I would like to eventually walk down my stone path again. It’s there, honest.
When I fenced in the “dog pasture” back in 2008, it took me a while to complete the gates. I had never built, or installed, gates before and, as it turned out, I had made a couple of mistakes. With the round posts it was difficult to install gate stops so the last stopped the gate. The posts, although in concrete could still warp and twist away from the gate. The gate itself, was installed backwards. The diagonal should go from bottom hinge side to top latch side. So when I high wind day finally broke the latch right off the gate, I decided I would rebuild it right this time.
The round posts came out. Not an easy task since they had 50 lbs. of concrete attached to the bottoms of them. Then I set new concrete footings.
On the footings I installed tennoned square posts, with a mortised crossbeam.
Finally, I added the rebuilt gate, with a full length stop block, on both side, and a decorative arch. From start to finish, it was done in a week, and now we have an elegant entry to the yard.