Sunday, October 30, 2011

Misadventures and Chicken Tractors

Best laid plans of mice and men or so they say. What we plan and what actually happens are often two very different things. When life and people do not work according to plan, plans get seriously messed up! And, so it has been here at the homestead. It seems that each time I adjust the plans for the behaviors and doings of people or conditions, something or someone else comes in and twists it all up yet again. At moments, I want to just give up and go hide in my room. But, I can't do that. I have to keep trying. And, sometimes, better ideas come of it.

The Fall Garden as conceptualized in my head was quite a bit different from what actually happening. The actual Fall planting is a simple garden of mustard greens (smooth leaf, as according to everyone in these parts it's the only type worth growing), kale, spinach, and collards. They went into the ground rather late but I'm hoping we'll enjoy some greens this winter anyway. Hope was that after getting this little bit planted, we'd have time to determine a site for the perennial vegetable beds (asparagus, etc) and get those "beds" heavily mulched and doing their magic for a Spring planting. I also wanted to get some clover planted to cover all the bare soil. Did I mention that nothing is going quite to plan?

I got a call from the Backdoor Neighbor announcing that he was going to be planting 20 blueberry bushes along his border, effectively nixing my garden plans by putting conventionally raised blueberries right at our boundary. While giving me a bit of an upset, a new plan has arisen from it that will be quite beautiful. It will have to wait until the Spring after the Fall Garden is done. Then, we will create a berm-and-swale along the border with ornamental trees, bushes, and grasses along the berm. The swale will serve to hold water after a rain allowing it to be absorbed into the ground rather than run off. The berm and it's plantings will serve as an attractive barrier between his conventional gardening and my organic gardening. It also will give me an area to satisfy Mother's craving for ornamental trees and bushes. Theoretically, this all fits within the principles of Permaculture I talked about previously. Or, so I tell myself so I can feel better about this twisted dizzy road I seem to be on.

Chickens. Chickens were supposed to be here this past Spring. I should have been enjoying their services in the garden for months now. But, for various reasons the coop and the chickens have been delayed. But, that might turn out to not be such a bad thing. Various thoughts and opinions and ideas have been considered and tossed around. Each with their benefits and drawbacks. From the beginning what I really wanted was a chicken tractor -- a portable chicken coop with attached run. But, because Mother was not yet on board with that idea, some form of stationary coop was going to be built. But wasn't. Which turns out to be a good thing as I have since been able to convince Mother that a Chicken Dome is both attractive and has more benefits than drawbacks. Square and rectangle tractors are probably easier to build, perhaps cheaper, but for about $200 we can have a large Dome.

Why a tractor and why a dome? Well, with a chicken tractor, you move the chickens around on a daily or other set schedule so they have fresh graze and leave their fertilizer around instead of all piled up and stinky at the coop. It is better than true free range because the chickens are protected from predators and I get to place them where I want them rather than them just going wherever and possibly eating seedlings they shouldn't be eating. The dome is aesthetically more pleasing and being made from PVC means it is very light and easy to move around.  There is a youtube video of a tractor a man built that has plastic panels enclosing one side forming a shelted roosting area. I like that much better than the tarp-over-the-top idea.

I got the replacement plants from Direct Gardening so we had a lot of holes to dig yesterday. They made a mistake and set me a Hazelnut instead of a lilac but that is fine with me. That got planted up front at a corner of the property. I planted 6 rugosas, two pawpaws, 4 Hansen's bush cherries, and 6 dwarf cherry bushes. The cherry bushes were planted along the back border. The only thing not yet planted was the forsythias. I haven't quite figured out where I want to plant them. I can't plant them where I originally wanted them due to changes in property lines and the new plan for the berm/swale. Need to figure out where to put them and get them planted this week.

We also had a miracle come our way -- or coming our way. A retired Methodist preacher is going to build us a storage shed in exchange for the old camper. I've learned my lesson -- this time, I get the building before I give up the camper! Once burned, twice shy.

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