Sunday, 22 May 2016

Sunshine after the rain

I woke up feeling fabulous today, six hours of good quality sleep has given me the boost that I needed to tackle today with smiley face and a happy heart. Added to the good night of sleep, the sun was shining, which after a day of non-stop rain yesterday, was very welcome.

Although yesterday was a wash out in the garden, Mr J and I busied ourselves in the house. I did a big cook up, so that we have several meals ready-prepared in the freezer which we can grab at the end of a busy day or when I'm not feeling up to cooking a meal from scratch. I also carried on knitting a second cardigan for Grandson no.2 while I watched some 'how to' videos.

Mid afternoon we drove to a farm shop near Raglan to buy some more bales of straw. Our neighbours had mentioned that they'd like a couple of bales and we had a project in mind, so we packed eight bales into the van and drove back home, dropped two bales with our neighbours and unloaded the other six bales. So here's the project...
When spring arrived, we moved the chickens' houses outside which gives us the opportunity to continue mucking out the stable. The previous owners used a deep bedding system for their alapacas and pony, so there is about six to eight inches of sawdust that is urine and manure soaked and starting to rot down nicely.
I have already removed about one third of the deep bedding, taking the stable floor back to the soil base in those areas, but now we can complete the job. It's a smelly, dusty and unpleasant job which requires thick gloves and face masks to reduce the risk of breathing in dangerous microbes.

The bedding that I had removed during the winter was piled up near the first couple of compost bins that we created and over the last few months the chickens have scratched through it, fluffing it up, adding their droppings to it and making it a light, useable compost. Actually what they did was toss it all over the place making an almighty mess, but clearing it up is hardly an arduous task.

Anyway, now we have more of an idea of the layout of the kitchen garden within the paddock, we have moved the compost bin area to the other side of the garden. I have been using the compost from those first bins and the deep bedding that's been prepared by the chickens for filling the raised beds and the compost bins are almost empty (and being dismantled) and most of the deep bedding pile has been moved too.
This means that we can give the chickens the next batch of deep bedding from the stable to scratch through and turn into lovely compost. But, it makes no sense to put it where it was before as it's about as far away from the vegetable beds as it can get within the paddock. It would make much more sense to put the next pile nearer the vegetable beds and to try to contain it in an area. So this is where the straw comes in.

I placed the straw bales in a horseshoe shape, not too close to the chicken netting fence (so that the birds can't use it as a stepping stone to hop over the fence) and we can then fill it with the deep bedding that we take out of the stable. I fed the chickens some peelings soup (a boiled up mixture of water, vegetable peelings, meat off-cuts, a couple of eggs, garlic cloves and apple cider vinegar) in the centre of the bales and after eating it, they quickly started to explore their new 'entertainment centre'.

The area that had the last heap of deep bedding is now almost flat and is about fifteen feet by ten feet. You can see the paving slabs that will be the base of the chicken shed when we get a few dry days for us to put it together.
It seems a waste to leave the area that they have prepared so nicely to go back to grass and weeds (which would be very well fed from the compost) so I plan to put up a temporary fence around the area and grow some potatoes and kale in it for this year and once they are grown and potatoes lifted, the chickens can have access to the kale and we can let it grow to grass once again.

This morning I had intended to let the birds out and then have breakfast, but it was so nice outside that I forgot about making a cuppa or breakfast and pottered outside for a couple of hours.

After measuring out where the next couple of raised beds will be and I placed cardboard boxes where I want to grow some beans and inserted canes to secure the boxes in place until we fill them later on. At this point I realised that I really wanted the first cuppa of the day.

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