Homestead Diary Week of March 25th, 2016

Saturday was a great start to the homestead week. Despite it being cold (it was snowing lightly the entire time I was working) it was actually quite enjoyable to be outside. My first order of business was getting the compost bin modified. The city required that I put solid sides on three sides of the bin, with some allowance for ventilation.

I ended up cleaning out the entire bin, screening the finished compost, and shredding up some bulky yard debris with the lawnmower before putting it back in the modified bin. Hopefully the shredded material will break down faster. Plus, it’s really hard to fork out tangled tomato vines and cut-down daisies.

My homemade compost screen. 1/4" hardware cloth is a little too fine (1/2" would be ideal) but it works.

My homemade compost screen. 1/4″ hardware cloth is a little too fine (1/2″ would be ideal) but it works. I didn’t want to buy brand-new 1/2″ cloth when I had a scrap piece in the garage that was the perfect size.

I ended up with enough finished compost to fill 2 garden beds.

I ended up with enough finished compost to fill 2 garden beds.

Animals definitely tunneled underneath the bin, but were stymied by the hardware cloth.

Animals definitely tunneled underneath the bin, but were stymied by the hardware cloth.

The finished bin. Not pretty but it will work.

The finished bin. Not pretty but it will work.

I felt a bit vindicated by how the hardware cloth had kept the rodents out from underneath. That said, there was a dead rat I found inside the pile. Yuck. I’m guessing he got in through some loose gaps in the hardware cloth before I thoroughly re-stapled it after this last round of complaints. So maybe my compost was creating part of the problem. So I’m learning. Hopefully it will be resolved now.

After finishing the bin I had time to build a few more garden beds and do more broadforking. The bed where I grew most of the tomatoes last year was super exciting – there were tons of earthworms! Easily 6+ per square foot, which is a huge improvement over last year, and especially impressive considering how cold the ground is. I’m definitely working to regenerate our little piece of ground, despite in past years being the ones to hire professional weed-and-feed service. Very cool to see how things are turning around.

Sunday I stopped at a local feed store to check out the supplies they had while doing other errands. They have a ready-to-assemble chicken coop that looks interesting for a bit over $200. I’m considering it but I will probably still build my own owing to a few design issues I have with it.

Monday, despite being nice weather outside, became a spring cleaning day. The kids room and their play area in the basement were just overrun with clutter. Alpha also has some bites that look suspiciously like bed bugs, so a thorough cleaning, removal (and wash) of fabric items, and purchase of bedbug proof mattress covers was done. I was honestly as knackered after that day as any day in the garden.

Tuesday I wanted to do some homeschool stuff. I also had to be home to receive our compost delivery. It came earlier in the day than I thought so we didn’t get much school done but we were all busy outside. You forget just how big a cubic yard is until you see 12 of them in a pile. I got quite a bit spread before needing to stop and make dinner.

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After dinner I seeded a tray of chives. Depending on germination rates I should have some plants to share with friends and family.

Wednesday I got up early, ate breakfast, and spread compost for a couple hours before coming inside to get the kids some additional food and then start school for the day. While doing school it began to rain but just as we were finishing up there was a break in the rain so I hurried outside. Not long after I got out there the rain resumed, occasionally switching to sleet, but it was never terribly bad considering I had some waterproof gear on.

I’m now 99% done with broadforking for this year – just one small bed I haven’t decided what will get planted in this year. I’ll still have use for it in preparing the ground before sheet mulching for an edible hedge planted next year. What a fantastic tool even with the cost! There’s no way I could have gotten as much done this fast without it. We’ll see if I need to use it on this site going forward since I mulch overwinter, but I’ll be hanging onto it in case I need to break ground on any future offsite gardens – and of course for our future homestead/farm.

There’s still more compost to spread but I was getting to a fatigue point that I felt it was safer to stop. Thursday ended up being quite wet, with some snow, so I had a day to recover.

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Friday morning was sunny with no wind so even with an inch of fresh snow on the ground it felt quite pleasant compared to the rainy days. Nothing was frozen hard, everyone wanted to be outside, so I went to work on getting the rest of the delivered compost out of the street. It was a tiring beast of a job but I finished it.

While working on it I had quite a few conversations with neighbors. Two of my immediate neighbors chatted with me for a while about gardening. A woman introduced me, saying she had always admired my rhubarb. A man stopped on his way to take a bike ride and gave me some Egyptian walking onion bulbs, then ended up chatting with me about all sorts of things.

I am taking a serious look at making a last-minute order of some perennials. I staked out their potential locations and also staked out the corners of the future chicken coop and run to help me visualize how it will all fit together.

I’m hoping I get a delivery of tree chips soon so I can cover up the dirt, but I can’t complain when they are dumped for free. Normally my hookup is able to dump a load within a week or two of my asking.

A wide angle view of the west yard.

A wide angle view of the west yard.

Expanded this bed with compost to fit the additional raspberries on order.

Expanded this bed with compost to fit the additional raspberries on order.

Our strawberry 'nursery'. These will go back in the ground in the next few days. Plenty more have already been transplanted.

Our strawberry ‘nursery’. These will go back in the ground in the next few days. Plenty more have already been transplanted.

A closer view of the main west yard and the updated rabbit fence.

A closer view of the main west yard and the updated rabbit fence.

A shot of the far east yard. The soft-sided bed will be planted in tomatoes. I'll be planting a cherry tree and a Hansen's bush cherry to the right of the bed.

A shot of the far east yard. The soft-sided bed will be planted in tomatoes. I’ll be planting a cherry tree and a Hansen’s bush cherry to the right of the bed.

The remaining compost that has not been spread. Some of this will be used for containers, perennial plantings, and the rest will be used to sheet mulch the hedgerow I will be planting along the property line next year.

The remaining compost that has not been spread. Some of this will be used for containers, perennial plantings, and the rest will be used to sheet mulch the hedgerow I will be planting along the property line next year.

Another bed that will get an apple tree and annuals. The peach tree behind it is pretty much dead. Last year it was trying to sucker from the root stock but animals (I'm guessing rabbits) were eating it down. If it shows signs of life this year I will pot it up and  see if it can be saved in the fenced area.

Another bed that will get an apple tree and annuals. The peach tree behind it is pretty much dead. Last year it was trying to sucker from the root stock but animals (I’m guessing rabbits) were eating it down. If it shows signs of life this year I will pot it up and see if it can be saved in the fenced area.

A soft-sided raised bed. Future home of an apple tree and some other annual plants.

A soft-sided raised bed. Future home of an apple tree and some other annual plants.

A view looking the long way down the house to the east.

A view looking the long way down the house to the east.

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One Comment on “Homestead Diary Week of March 25th, 2016”

  1. Looks awesome!

    My Costco also has chicken coops–I think they were $299. Even if you’re committed to building your own, might be interesting to look to get ideas.


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