Saturday, April 26, 2014

New arrivals and experiments

 Welcome to the farm, four new rescue chickens!  European law has changed to outlaw battery cages for chickens;  legally they now have a much larger space, meaning these new chickens grew up able to walk around, flap their wings, and even roost--unlike our old chickens who grew up under the old single cage battery regime.  These new chickens came to us much stronger than the original ones were, though they look just as terrible:  bald patches and sorry white skin and combs.  No dedicated names for the newbies, yet, though Franklin randomly calls them Dottie, Scary, and Chicken. 

Since my last post we have lost another of the original chickens:  goodbye to Speckles;  we're glad you came to us, and we'll miss you.  Our chicken cemetary is beginning to get a bit crowded. 
 My tulips are in full force now, like vibrant goblets, and Franklin wants to open them to see what's inside. 
 Incidentally, he's wearing his newest knit pullover.  I've since finished knitting a cardigan for myself, a shawl, and am presently working on a cotton afghan.
 My spring flowers extend to purple honesty and orange calendula,
 and blossoming fruit trees, such as the Sparta apple above, and (not pictured) the Morello cherry and Loxton Fortune apple.  The newly planted fruit trees from this winter--pear, sweet cherry, plum--have put out leaves but no flowers.  I'm happy with that;  they'll establish nicely this year and produce next.  Did I mention I also have a tiny fig cutting growing, and three grape cuttings putting out leaves?
 Another member of the team, hard at work.
 This log with wax drippings has been innoculated with mushroom spores, a new experiment of mine.  It's hawthorn, cut from the overgrown hedge at the back.  There's another similar log and two elder logs with the same treatment, all in a quiet shady place in the back corner.  An innoculated straw bale is also in the works. 
Continuing to harvest purple sprouting broccoli, leeks, and kale.  A few spring cabbages are looking likely, too. 

A couple more cheap acquisitions from the local garden center:  a redcurrant and a ceanothus (not edible, but lovely flowers and nitrogen-fixing).

It's about time to start planting out new seedlings--I have about five trays on my patio and the same amount in the garage.  I sheet mulched one of the the big veg beds--it was full of dandelions and to be honest, I can't be bothered weeding.  I'm over it.  I chopped and dropped some of the dandelion foliage, covered the bed with grass clippings, then covered it all with some big paper feed sacks.  I wet the feed sacks, and threw some weed clippings and sticks on top.  Ideally it should have a couple inches of clippings/mulch on top, but I used what I had at the time.  Partner promised to cover it with the next batch of grass clippings, which ought to do it.  When it's time to plant, I'll move aside a tiny patch of top mulch, puncture a small hole in the paper underneath, fill it with compost and plant a seedling in it.  Or I could sow a seed there.

The paper should smother the weeds, and also break down over the course of the year.  This keeps the soil structure intact, reduces compaction, adds organic matter, feeds my worms and other soil critters--and requires almost no labor from me.  Win-win!