Some Days are Diamond, Some Days are Not


In purely visual terms I suppose yesterday, the first day of Spring, could be classed as ‘diamond’, being that for the first half of it everything was coated in a shiny skin of freezing rain, which came after the snow, but before the sleet or the ice pellets; none of which was in any way conducive to Spring-like frolics.

Freezing rain coats window.

Micro greens on the kitchen window sill don’t believe this is the first day of Spring as freezing rain coats the pane… or is that pain


Sylph of Spring

Sylphie Spring takes up her place on the shelf despite the weather!

old man winter

Old man winter was thinking he might stick around

Even so, it was definitely time for Old Man Winter to vacate from his place of honour on the kitchen shelf in favour of the first Sylph of Spring.

The fact is, us gardeners are eternal optimists! How could we believe anything other than that Spring is truly here… well, at least near?

And of course it can’t come soon enough.






I was out on the weekend adding extra mulch to the berry patch and yes, some opportunistic weeds were already showing themselves. These were the ones that  had spent the winter  developing a healthy root system 😦

So yes, definitely time to renew mulch where needed. It’s also a good time to do a bit of pruning.  All my Haskap bushes seem to have fared quite well but there were a few  damaged twigs and branches that needed to go. This is certainly the time to prune Haskaps but never more than twenty-five percent should be cut away.

It’s also more than time to be planting herb seeds (inside) and slow starters such as leeks and hardy greens, such as Tat Soi, kale and arugula. Around here (the east coast of Nova Scotia) it’s virtually impossible to predict when the last frost will come. The weather patterns, especially over the past few years, have become so unpredictable that every year is yet another variance on the norm. So much so that, well, what is the norm?

Our greenhouse was trashed by winter storms and is temporarily out of commission, so I’m planning on setting up some early beds with some ‘in-ground’ heating. Here’s the plan: I have a couple of cold frames and a box-type nursery bed that are empty. I’m going to put a layer of super fresh chicken manure down first, then cover it with a generous layer of mulch, which will probably be leaves because that’s what we have most of right now. It’s important to make sure that no roots can access the manure which will be way too hot and will kill young plants, but will generate enough heat to keep the beds a couple of degrees warmer than the soil outside. The manure and mulch will then be topped with a couple of bags of soil. I won’t need too much soil as the plants I’m starting (early greens) are all fairly shallow rooted.

I’m going to start everything inside in recycled food packaging and in a couple of weeks, when everything has sprouted and presumably things have heated up outside, a least a little bit, I’ll move them out side and set them in the soil in the ‘hot box’. I’ve done this before and had great success. As an added bonus to the early start, the manure and mulch and soil gradually rotted down into a incredibly fertile mix that was perfect for a shoulder season crop in the fall. So fingers crossed! I will post an ongoing progress report.

Sitting with a wet hen

Wrapped in towels and held up close she warms up gradually

The other morning my first job (before my coffee even 😦 was to deal with a hypothermic chicken. She had managed to get left out throughout a night of freezing rain. There’s an expression; ‘Madder than a wet hen’ which can now be expanded to; ‘Sadder than a hypothermic hen!’ Sitting by the woodstove cuddling Henmoine brought back memories of when my kids were babies, except they squirmed more and definitely were more vocal when they weren’t feeling well. It also seemed like this might be the beginning of one weird day, or, just another day, down here at QuackaDoodle.

one dry hen

After a couple of hours in the bathroom Henmoine is happy again but determined never to get left out again.




3 responses »

  1. Pingback: Quackadoodle Farm: Some Days are Diamond, Some Days are Not – Moonshire Meadow

    • Hi Deena, I don’t allow anytime before planting a hot box. Actually I checked one today that I had set up in a well worn tractor tire I salvaged off the beach. I checked the soil temperature and it was TWENTY DEGREES! higher than the surrounding soil. I’m crazy about hot boxes but this even surprised me. I think the black rubber of the tire is contributing to the heat, which was why I thought I’d try it but wasn’t expecting such a radical difference. I have the manure packed in the hollow of the tire casing and then I lined the center space with black plastic before filling it with soil and planting. This was more to keep the manure in place and keep the plants away from the tire. I didn’t bother to line the regular hot box I set up at the same time. The greens I planted have all sprouted and are seeming to be very happy in both boxes.

      As for the hugel, well as you might have gathered from our conversation at Seedy Saturday, I’m a great fan so I would encourage you definitely to set one up. Perhaps you could divide the chicken manure between the two beds. A bale of straw would work well as topping on the branches and perhaps you can gather some seaweed. Now that the weather is making for yard tidying types to put bags of garden waste at the curb you can probably get all the nitrogenous waste you need on the night before green pick-up.

  2. Hi Jenni, I met you at Truro Seedy Saturday (I was at the table next to you) and you were telling me about your experiences with hugelkultur. I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to ask for your advice. I’ve been reading up on it, and since I have some spunky firewood and a huge pile of brush from last year, I’ve decided to start a buried one under one of my garden beds. I really don’t have room to build a mound. I was doing some more research tonight, remembered our conversation and looked up your site.
    My problem is that while I have logs and brush, I don’t really have any greens for nitrogen. I do have lots of chicken-poop and I was thinking I’d use that. I’ve been reading tonight to try to see if I will have to wait to use that garden, because I was told that I should wait two to three months after adding fresh manure to the garden, to kill any pathogens. Google had nothingbfor me on that specific problem, but I came across your hot box idea. Do you give it a certain amount of time before you plant, or is it not a concern because the manure is below root level? I could put it under my tomatoes or my three sisters garden and it would probably be OK timewise, but where I’d really like to put it is under my greens garden, so I want to make sure those aren’t contaminated. It is supposed to go up to 15 here tomorrow, so I’m really looking forward to getting started! Happy Spring!!

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