Monday, January 30, 2012

Getting the soil ready for spring !

      So far the winter has been fairly mild and even though we've had our share of frigid nights, the ground is soft and workable. Usually the manure is frozen and rock hard this time of year but not today.I'm trying to get the stalls ready for lambing time (about 6 weeks away) .Today I filled my husband's shiny new pickup truck with 3 loads of  sheep manure and rejected hay .LOTS of hay , those wasteful little buggers! As they feed on their hay, they toss it about,  pee on it, trounce on it then refuse it. But they LOVE their alfalfa.Not too much waste there.It amazes me how deeply packed this stuff gets.As I get to the bottom of the stalls, black mold throws up a dust cloud attacking me with it's bitter taste.Agghhh ! I'll have to keep the animals out of those stalls until I can deal with the floor.So, I spread the manure over the garden which will be plowed into the soil in 2 months.
       There are those that avoid using manures because of "weeds and seeds" that wind up back in the garden.That's OK in my book.It's more like timothy & rye seeds that get expelled ~ hay seed & grasses.I prefer organics.The hay is mulch to soften the clay soil, the molds and manures carry all sorts of wonderful flora that build the soil and my garden has become a kingdom of earthworms because of it.Earthworms do so much more than just aerate the soil." Their casts are 5 times richer in available nitrogen, 7 times richer in available phosphate, and 11 times richer in available potash, than the upper 6 inches of the soil.Some 25 TONS of fresh worm casts are produced EVERY YEAR on each acre of properly farmed land." (Sir Albert Howard, Letter to the London Sunday Times 2/27/1944.) These castings are neutral colloidal humus, the only form immediately available to plants.Earthworms ventilate and drain the land as well as transform trash to balanced plant food.Top soil swarms with insect and rodent life.The richer the topsoil in organic matter,the larger will be its living population (unless it is drugged or killed with chemical fertilizers , poisonous sprays or dusts) and the more friable for production and use. " (Helen & Scott Nearing, THE GOOD LIFE :SIXTY YEARS OF SELF SUFFICIENT LIVING  p.96) 
     And so, on a warm spring day in June, I will be on my knees digging holes to transplant  my young vegetable plants from their starter  flats to the big garden. This is a fisherman's bait paradise. There is rarely a spot that I dig where an earthworm is not exposed. My chickens know this.Later they follow  behind me as I make fresh furrows with the rototiller . It is the Spring Chicken Parade as they pause , scratch and peck, then resume their walk.One finds an exposed cut worm and everybody pounces .One hen emerges from the brawl with a fat worm and runs off with it far from the scuffle.I cover the night crawlers and red trout worms with cool moist soil so the beaks won't find them.These are my garden friends.Cut worms and several bug species are not, so I allow the chickens to scratch and search. Over the course of the winter, the chickens and turkeys will search through the dumped hay and manure and do a better job of spreading it about in an even manner than I have done today.Discarded sheep wool will be worked into the furrows and will hold moisture for young plant roots. ~ I love symbiosis ! (:>

Friday, January 13, 2012

Christmas Traditions

      Under the eaves of the attic rafters lie a treasure of black and yellow/orange boxes of Rail King O~gauge trains .It is a Christmas tradition as exciting as Christmas trees and cookie making and just plain fun.
      When I was very small I remember following my mother up the creaking attic stairs to gather the dark orange Lionel Train boxes stashed away under eaves of our slanting attic roof.My mother's arms were soon loaded with tracks,box cars and of coarse, the black steam engine (which I still have).
 Now my grandsons are traipsing my own creaky attic stairs , rummaging under the cold drafty eaves, searching for their favorite engine and freight cars. They return to the warmth below, arms loaded with a heavy boxed engine ,cars and track. Now begins the frustration of figuring out which track is a dead non-conductor and which track is the wrong size .

"Can we set up the village too, Nana?" . "Sure, help yourself"...In other words, 'Don't bother me, I'm watching my Christmas movies' . An hour goes by with kids racing up and down the stairs carrying 'who knows what'. I'm oblivious as they brush past me.I'm watching Clarence jump in the icy river as Jimmy Stewart is side tracked from his attempt to end it all.The next thing I know,"Hey Nana!!  Come see this!". A commercial comes on and I go into the next room ,kicking empty boxes out of my path."Watch this!",Brandon says. They hooked up the coaling station with the conveyor carrying beans to the top.Upward and downward it went in a circular motion.."And look at this!!"  Doggone!! They have the street lamps hooked up to a second smaller transformer lighting the track pathway. "Wow Brandon! I didn't know you knew how to do that!" . "I didn't,JOEL did",he said. "Joel!! How did you know how to hook them up?", I was shocked. "I don't know,I just do",he said.Typical 7 year old answer.

But where is Bailey ?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Seed Catalogue Time !

    Once again the seed catalogs are arriving in my mailbox. I would  love to have a little greenhouse next to my springhouse to get an early start on veggies & flowers. Hey !!.....a greenhouse next to my springhouse makes a great song or book title !  The lengthy dark hours of winter really get to me. Before I know it, the day is over and outdoor work has to come to a halt. I miss my garden and the warm sunshine on the back of my head and shoulders and the cool moist earth between my toes in freshly plowed soil. So, I'll start redesigning the garden  to section off potatoes, cabbage,string beans, tomatoes, corn,etc. The field we use is dotted with dark mounds of horse & sheep manure which will be spread and plowed into the soil in March or April. I still have to prune the apple trees , rose bushes, raspberry bushes and grapevines. 
    So much to do! Sections of fences need repair.Sheep need to be wormed and feet trimmed.My horse farrier came today to trim the horses' feet and Dolly (my white Q.H.) is losing weight.Beet pulp is now added to their grain and I've added 2 extra bales of hay at night. In the fall I froze 2 bushels of cut up apples in plastic zip lock bags to heat up for them on cold nasty days.I have a 50lb bag of giant carrots on my porch to keep them in fruit & veggies over the winter.The sheep & pheasants have huge cabbage heads to munch on a few times a week.
    God has been good to us all !

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Future Egg Layers.....or nasty roosters.Oh well.

A Peep Is Born

Finally the peepers peck themselves free of their shells.Some are lazy peckers and never make it onto this side of the shell. I have learned to minimize intervening and helping them.If they don't peck themselves free,you cannot release them.They die a day or two later anyway.I have never learned why.The most I do is stimulate them awake and maybe moisten exposed inner shell membranes with a few dabs of warm water to keep it from drying out.The surrounding area looks kind of yucky, but the immediate surroundings were pretty yucky when YOU were born too. The difference is, these little guys will clean themselves up nice from wet yolk matted feathers to clean fluffy puffs in a few hours.They will learn on their own how to eat & drink and hunt by pecking about their surroundings foraging through the hay bed.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Well, here they are~~ the new chicken peepers for July egg layers. It takes 7 months growth for a chick to grow enough to lay an egg.Here's my winter project! (:>