Spring was so slow coming this year that it sometimes seemed that exuberant growth might never happen, but of course it did. More recently, as much of the country suffers terrible droughts we’ve been having way more than our fair share of rain, torrential downpours in fact, that just keep on coming, along with lower than average temperatures, except, that is, for a long dry spell middle of June through to middle of July, during which nothing grew. Weather patterns are most definitely becoming more extreme! While some crops must surely be set back, much of the garden seems to be flourishing in the present cool, moist conditions.
The ‘Asian greens bed’, as we identify it, is especially happy. It contains Gai Lan, (also called Chinese Broccoli), Mache, Tat soi, Chop Suey greens (which are actually an edible chrysanthemum) Pak Choy, Rumex lettuce (sorrel) and Michihli (Chinese cabbage) all of which are delicious. I would highly recommend trying any or all of these as they’re all uber delicious. They’re also all early season plants, in that they prefer cooler conditions so the plan is to re-seed for a second, late season crop around the end of August.
We had hoped to raise a different type of meat chicken this year called Sasso, simply because the Meat Kings we usually get seem unnatural. Unfortunately the source we were depending on for the Sassos didn’t come through so we’re back to Meat Kings again this year. They grow so big, so quickly, not because they’re genetically modified in any way but simply because the cross breed of specific strains of male Cornish and female White Rocks creates a bird that is nothing more than an eating machine. For anyone growing these birds for the first time, here are a few things to be aware of. Time of harvest is quite crucial and it goes as follows: 6 weeks for your standard KFC / Swiss Chalet broiler; 10-12 weeks is what we usually aim for (net out at 7 to 8.5 lbs) After 10 weeks, you’re into the diminishing returns curve as the amount of weight they gain is less value than the feed you’re giving them. Feed needs to be regulate around 3-4 weeks or the muscles and ligaments won’t be able to support the excessive weight and after ten weeks heart attacks and strokes become a very real issue, just as with obese humans. These birds are the ultimate gluttons!
Beyond that, the sky’s the limit, assuming they survive much beyond 20 weeks, at which point if managed well, they will dress out at the 13 to 16 lbs range, too big for all but large family special occasions. We don’t like to grow them this big as they start to look engorged and really uncomfortable. On the bright side, as day old chicks they’re awful darn cute.
Community is, shamefully, the aspect of Permaculture that I focus on least, or at least it used to be that way until a
Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago when several of my neighbours arrived, armed with forks and shovels, prepared to clean out the goat shed. I was awaiting hip surgery at that time and shovelling was out of the question. Even walking was getting to be a bit of a challenge. Chores were certainly starting to get backed up around here. To my neighbours a bit (no, let’s make that a lot) of shovelling, was fair return for the fresh greens and stuff that we have an overabundance of, and love to share; to me it was the most amazingly beautiful gesture of friendship and generosity. They even brought me breakfast of pancakes with strawberries and maple syrup and one dear child who couldn’t come to the shovelathon sent along a batch of fudge he’d made, just for me. How sweet is that! I still get quite emotional, thinking of that morning and I realize that for me it was quite a learning curve. I love giving but I’m not that good at receiving, and in truth I suck at asking for help. That wonderful morning really underlined that truly everything, as in Permaculture, is about connectivity and that the value of community cannot be understimated. See below the best ever way to shovel out a shed!
My other big news, other than the fact that my hip is fixed and I’m feeling fine, is that my latest book, Permaculture For The Rest of Us – Abundant Living on Less Than an Acre is at the proofing stage and I’ve even had an advanced reading copy in my hand. The cover design incorporates a section of a painting I did based on the QuackaDoodle Farm layout, so that’s kind of cool. It’s being published by New Society Publishers and will be available October first. Exciting!
A COUPLE OF QUICK TIPS
If you happen to see a broken down pleather couch, or chair, out for curbside pick up, stop and take a couple of the cushions. They make the best kneeling pads ever and they don’t get super soggy after a rain so can be left out permanently. The two I have also add a bit of comfort to the rustic wooden chairs at the fire pit. Multi-functional and re-purposed, a perfect Permaculture solution.
A hen-poster is a must, if you have chickens. (And why not have chickens?) We emptied ours (the henposter not the chickens) this spring and it was full of the best ever compost. Chickens love digging and scratching through the garden waste and kitchen scraps, so they’re continually aerating and manuring any organic matter that’s made available to them. Having it corralled by a simple ‘fence’ prevents it from being spread all over the place, and allows it to accumulate some mass which in turn facilitates the heating up process. Also makes it much easy to shovel out come the Spring.
I’m leaving the final word to Mother Nature.
There’s a patch of ground close up to the foundation of the house that is solid clay, backfill from the excavation. It’s totally shadowed by the back deck and gets virtually no sunlight at all. I’d spread it with some gravel topped with beach rocks, planning to park my kayak there but Mother N had other ideas. She filled the gaps between the rocks with Columbines. I have no idea where the first plants came from but every year they proliferate and diversify and have created a magical little garden where I thought nothing could possibly grow. It’s amazing to see these fragile, beautiful plants thriving in such an inhospitable environment. Just another proof that it is so much better to let nature rule. Just one of the things that makes Permaculture so cool!