Monday, May 25, 2015

Bunting, eating greens, too many plants

 In preparation for our Midsummer celebration, I made a length of bunting;  it's of various scraps out of my scrap bag from some old clothing, curtains, and a sheet.  The main pieces of these fabrics have gone into making other things (for instance, the sheet became the backing for a quilt I made), and I save the smallish scraps for projects such as this.  The bunting isn't hemmed or finished in any way;  it's just sewn to a long piece of bias tape (again from my stash).  I have another set of triangles all cut out, ready to be made into another.
 I picked this bouquet of bluebells, honesty, and peony leaves last week.  Time for a new flower arrangement now.
A couple times a week I've been gathering greens from the garden for our dinner;  mainly kale and chard, and a bit of purple sprouting broccoli.  My broccoli is from a two year old plant (planted spring 2013).  It produced florets last year, and then continued to grow after flowering, unlike the rest of its compatriots.  Maybe it'll keep growing this year too. 

The bulk of my greens are from last year's plants, with nearly all of them going to seed now.  I've let the mizuna and chard go to flower, and will collect their seeds;  the rest (kale, broccoli, cabbage, pak choi) will not be allowed to flower, in order to prevent cross-pollination with the mizuna.  However, I've plenty of replacements this year, growing well with only a little slug damage, and not many losses.  Soon I should be able to start harvesting the new kale in earnest.  I'm keeping a record of what I'm harvesting, by weight.  Maybe I should keep records for the chickens too:  eggs produced, and feed given. 

We'll probably integrate the chicks in with adults quite soon.  Yesterday morning I heard a definite attempt at crowing from one of the little cockerels.  He's not loud, but I fear it won't be long before he's in the pot, with the rest soon after.  I was kind of hoping we could hold off till around August--but not if they're crowing!  I think they are about 8 weeks old now, which is the age for slaughter in commercial chickens.  Ours are not as large as our adult hens, but they are pretty big, and should be able to defend themselves (or run away) from bullying when we merge flocks.  Additionally, I'll allow them the entire back garden for a week or two, so there will be plenty of safe spaces.  There will be 18 of them altogether:  8 hens, and 10 adolescents. 

Today I continued planting out the multitude of plant starts I grew from seed;  I sheet mulched another bed, and got a good number of Brussels sprouts and chard into it, with a couple of artichokes, too.  I'm not sure how it happened, but I ended up with about 50 Brussels sprouts starts.  Nearly all of them are planted out now, with only about six or so left to go.  However, I still have quite a lot of other plants remaining:  celeriac, climbing beans, zuccini, lettuce; and various herbs, chard, kale.  So many!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sheet mulch, growing, chicks, composting, musing and planning

Sheet mulching!  It's great, but also not without its flaws:  as in the bed above, I used paper feed sacks as the sheet part of the mulch, and it's not exactly pretty!  But underneath was a bunch of weeds and grass, and this is a much quicker and easier way to get a new garden bed than straight up weeding/digging.  Just slap on some cardboard or thick paper, wet it down, put on some compost/soil/other good growing stuff, and plant away.  I don't pull the weeds first, or even cut them down, and I don't pierce the paper;  I just make sure it stays pretty moist, and the plant roots will pierce it as they grow.  If it's cardboard, it may need a pretty thick layer of soil on top, but with this paper, I only put about 2-3 inches on.  Interplanted with soft pak choi, mizuna, kale, broccoli, lupin, and crimson clover.  We've already had a couple salads from the pak choi and mizuna.

After some good rains, and even more sunshine, the garden is off to a raging start.  I have vegetables all over my new veg patch (already I'm out of room before I'm out of plants!) and elsewhere.  Weeds (a.k.a. chicken food) are big and lush.  Flowers are coming out all over--my two apple trees, pear tree, almond (above), and two cherries are all forming little fruits.  The pear tree seems to have at least one pear, and the oldest cherry--planted December 2011--while still shorter than me, has hundreds. 
Even my tiny fig tree, now planted out, has six figs!  And growing quickly.  The two jugs are a little heat sink for it:  they heat up in the sun during the day, and release the heat slowly overnight.  Another instance of "not pretty" but I'm cool with that.  There are a lot of not pretty things in my garden, and I tend not to show them here.  However, I kind of think that's a bad idea;  misleading people to think my garden (and life) are perfect all the time.  Not the misleading thing exactly, but setting an impossible standard, which I think some bloggers do, intentionally or not--I think that's a bad idea.  I don't really want to be seen as perfect.  I'm normal...  Ok, I'm not normal.  But I'm also not perfect.  I'm not even trying for perfect.
Our chicks are fast growing into chickens.  The white ones are indeed male, and are bigger and more aggressive than the brown females.  They're growing cute little pink combs and wattles, unlike the females who still have smooth lizard heads.  Thankfully the chicks are outside in their new house, and out of mine--they were so noisy and smelly and rowdy;  and they even escaped their hutch twice, leaving little bits of poo all over my kitchen floor.  Outside, they have a small patch of ground and a nice big house with lots of straw.  They're still about half the size of the adult hens, so not quite big enough for integration. 

Catching some rays
We lost two adult hens in the last month to old age, and buried both under the newly reinstated compost bin.  I'd given up on making compost, as the chickens get all  compostable materials now, and turn it into lovely fertilizer the next day.  However, having ten hens in a coop over winter accounted for some serious manure build up, and though I could have spread it around a bit more, I decided to fill up the bin and start making my own potting compost.  I'm tired of buying bags of it every year to start my seedlings.  Along with the manure, there's also soiled straw bedding (the bulk of the compost material), a few kitchen scraps, and some paper scraps.  And one more thing which I first learned of on the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2, a respected daily talk show.  At the time I was shocked and amazed, but I have since been converted:  I've been peeing in a bucket to pour on my compost.  Yes, I pee on my compost.  Even Partner's willing to try it, though he can add it directly from the source.  It adds both moisture and nitrogen.  And luckily there's no smell, probably from all that straw. 

I used to pick vases of flowers from my garden every week.  I slacked on that in recent years.  I'm committed to reviving this tradition.  Speaking of traditions, I want to start a new one, for celebrating Midsummer.  Did I mention this already?  I want it to be a bit like Christmas in summer, but less about the materialism.  Celebrating the longest day, shortest night, with flowers, BBQ, decorations, gifts (handmade).  I'd like to make it a good long celebration;  maybe we can pair it with the 4th of July and make it a long celebration.  I can at least leave the decorations up.  I'm thinking lots of bunting.