Saturday, February 28, 2015

Lawn-to-Pasture and Bush Willow Pruning/Planting

Spring is around the corner and there is a 1001 chores to get done around the homestead. I did a walk about yesterday morning to see the state of the homestead. I already knew I needed to get to the bush willows and get them pruned back before they came out of dormancy. On the walk-about I discovered come pruning work to do on a couple of the mulberry trees as well as the blackberry and rose bushes. I will also be taking some cuttings from the elderberry bushes to propagate new bushes.

I have been contemplating the transformation of the northeaster quarter of the homestead from lawn to pasture. The idea is to have cut-and-carry fresh grass/weeds for the rabbits and also some dried for winter hay. This morning I venture over to Vereens Turf Center in Longs, SC to get some grass and clover seed. After talking with the helpful ladies there, I settled on a pre-mix of Bahia, Burmuda, Rye, and a few other grasses and a side bag of crimson clover. Five pounds of each. I mixed those with rabbit manure and hand tossed it over the lawn area. I think I could have used more, I really wanted a heavier coverage. Next time I am at Tractor Supply I will pick up a bag of "deer plot" seed and toss it out there as well. Lord willing, it will produce a nice source of food for the rabbits.

Next, it was time to get on those willows or I would lose my chance. So, I took pruners to the 58 bush willows that I planted last year. It seems counter-intuitive to cut them back to stumps again but I'm told that this will stimulate strong growth this year. Last year, I had to leave them alone (no cutting forage for the rabbits) but I should be able to cut forage from the willow this year. I sure hope so because the idea is for the willow to provide a good protein source as well as a coccidiostat effect for the rabbits. From the prunings, I planted an additional 49 willows so that next year, I'll have 109 food producing willows. I have plenty more cuttings which are destined to be mailed off to other BYMR Groupies.

Tomorrow, I'll get to the mulberries, blackberries, and roses.

I'm reading a new book, Food Web: Concept which is the first of a series of books on creating food webs on your homestead to maximize food production with less inputs. It is an exceptional book and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get more for less -- more food and more goods to sell for less inputs/costs. The concept is one I've had as a framework for my homestead from the beginning but this book is fleshing out the ideas in ways that have me quite excited with renewed hope that it is really possible.

Now, before I forget: the Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener's Handbook for the week of February 23rd:

* plant potatoes.--Well, I have ordered potato starts but they have not come. Which considering the amount of rain we've had, I don't think I would be able to plant them now anyway. I am planning to try growing the potatoes in tire towers again. My first attempt a few years ago was a dismal failure but I want to give it one more try before giving up on the idea. Besides, I don't have enough prepared bed space this year for potatoes so doing the towers is my best option.
* propagate rosemary by layering -- if I had a rosemary bush, now would be the time to propagate it by layering (sticking a bottom branch into the soil and pinning it in place until it roots). But, this reminds me that it is also a good time to look for a rosemary bush at the garden centers and plant it.
* hardening off cabbage starts--I don't have seedlings (no space) but this is a reminder that I am still behind the 8-ball to get the raised beds up and ready for planting. If I can get them up soon, I could seed them with my brassicas and be ready with row covers for cold nights.

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