Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chicken Mama

The new batch of chicks should arrive tomorrow. (We won't get into last year when they didn't arrive on Monday, or Tuesday... or Wednesday..... or Thursday..... and my mind just kept seeing them thirsty and starving to death in some Postal Warehouse. They finally had to send another batch.)
This time, instead of getting just one variety, as I did two years ago, or two varieties, as I did last year, I chose a flock of four different breeds: Buff Orpingtons, Araucanas, Barred Rocks, and New Hampshire Reds.
Yesterday I cleaned and disinfected the trough that they spend their first weeks in, tested the heat lamp, filled the trough with wood chips for bedding, and covered the chips with a piece of weed mat to allow them time to figure out that the wood chips are not food. (I'll remove the week mat in a day or two, once they all seem to be eating properly.)
Next I'll fill the two feeders with chick mash and the waterer with a mixture of 1 gallon of water and 3/4 cup of table sugar to give them extra energy to recuperate from their trip across the country in a box. Then I'll wait for the call from my post office.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Eat Your Yard"

One of the websites that I follow had, as a title to a post, "Eat Your Yard." I didn't read the post, but the idea intrigued me. I would guess that most of you have a larger-than-postage-stamp sized yard, which consists mostly of a high maintenance crop, namely, "grass." (And not the kind you can smoke.)

There have been some highly-publicized cases recently, of folks who were persecuted, if not prosecuted, for growing veggies in their front yards. I would also guess that most of you reading this don't live in a community whose homeowners' association is so rigid as to determine that vegetables don't belong in the front of the house. (If you do, good luck. Quit reading now, before you become frustrated.)

Unless you have one of those spouses who just can't wait until it's time to mow the grass again (and I know that there are some of you out there...) why not reduce the mowing burden by planting up some of the yard (front or back) to vegetables and fruits? If the mowing spouse throws a conniption fit when the need arises to mow in a curve instead of a straight line, then make sure the veggie/fruit area is a definite rectangle in shape. But the space that is wasted (sorry-- my opinion there...) by growing grass could be helping you to reduce your grocery costs, improve your health, and educate your children to the fact that food does not originate in the grocery store. It really isn't that hard. And the rewards far outweigh the effort.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fresh asparagus? You Can Grow That!

Right about now your local grocery stores will begin having asparagus at a pretty decent price, since asparagus is what they call "in season." (To us in northern areas of the country this means that growers in warmer zones south of us are beginning to harvest asparagus.) But you could be looking forward to harvesting your own uber-local asparagus from your back yard in a year or two if you plant some asparagus crowns this spring.
Start with healthy crowns, purchased from your locally-owned independent garden center. Find a sunny part of the garden that is well-drained and won't be disturbed each year, and till the soil deeply. If drainage is poor, build a raised bed. Soil preparation is VERY important for perennial crops like asparagus, even more so than for annual crops that you harvest and replace each year.
Add compost or composted manure to add organic matter to the soil. Then dig a trench 8 to 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide. If you plan more than one row, space the rows 3 to 4 feet apart. Sprinkle in a complete fertilizer, mix with the loose soil in the bottom of the trench, then make a low mound of soil in the bottom of the trench with the enriched soil.
Space the crowns 15 inches apart on the mound, spreading the roots over the sides of the mound. Cover the crowns with loose soil about 2 inches deep. Water in well. As the shoots emerge, fill in around the shoots, but don't cover the growing tips. The trenches should end up filled to the soil level or just above if you don't have raised beds.
Don't cut any spears the first year. Keep the bed well-watered the first year, and mulch to keep the soil moist and the weeds down. Harvest lightly the second year, and as desired after that. Your own, fresh asparagus patch.