Tag Archives: Permaculture

Spring Again! Already?

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How can a year go by so quickly? My last post was complaining about the snow, on April 3rd. 2017 and guess what, one year and a few days later, that same post still holds true. We had another snow fall the other night! But not to worry, temperatures are rising and it’s definitely time to be planting some seeds! If nothing else, this is one of the best antidotes I know for fending off the April snow-lows.

Snow Mold

While on the topic of snow I want to share some interesting info. I only recently heard about – there’s such a thing as snow mold, and dogs (especially) can develop an allergic reaction to it, given their habit of snuffling along the ground. I met a wheezy dog who told me all about it, as interpreted by his owner, who’d been clued in by a vet. Apparently, spores which have become trapped under the snow are released as the snow melts. Useful to know, especially if Fall allergies seem to have returned with a vengeance.

mache or corn salad

The sweet nutty flavor of mache or ‘corn salad’ is especially welcomed in the spring and these smallish plants are tough, tough, tough! Seeds are usually marketed under the name ‘mache’ but I prefer to use the German name Rapunzel as it relates to the Grimm’s fairy tale.

I am way behind schedule as usual. Could have had first hardy greens out two or three weeks ago but Hey! I do what I do and life is good ūüôā At this time of year, with so much to be done, I do believe it’s very important not to panic or feel overwhelmed. Plants have an endearing habit of catching up and forgiving, even if they would have preferred to be put in the ground a little earlier than they were.

hens in hen poster

Hens hard at work making the Best Compost Ever!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will be spicing my soil up with The Best Ever compost from the hen poster. Constructing a hen poster is much like the first project in rough carpentry 101. Simply nail eight boards into a square, two boards high and add chickens. It’s so totally worth constructing one of these, even if you only have a few chickens. My girls seem to think of it as their special treat spot and they run out each morning to check on the day’s offering of kitchen scraps. As they dig, scratch and rummage – and yes, poop – they produce a soil mix that’s truly magical. And while on the subject of compost, Note to Self – time to start turning the other compost boxes. Self has been slacking on the compost turning and needs to start paying a bit more attention!

a winter's worth of goat bedding gets piled up as the goats watch on

We spun all that straw into manure!

Shoveling seems to be the activity of the month! All the animal sheds need to be cleaned out. Yikes! Where’s a woofer when you need one? On the bright, but still smelly, side, a bit of hot manure added to the compost will spark it up in no time. *My yearly warning to anyone who might just be starting out on their gardening adventure – don’t ever put hot (fresh) chicken manure on your garden beds because it will burn the tender shoots. Chicken manure is brilliant, my fave, but it really does need to age, preferably for a year, and definitely for at least six months.

finer organics such as leaf mold and manure are layer on top of the twigs

Memories of setting up the hugel in the ‘Secret Garden’ We’re still feasting on the squash that grew in it last Fall and presently it is sprouting a goodly crop of garlic!

Dodging in and out between torrential rains and sneaky little snow squalls, I’ve been tidying up my ‘secret garden’ – a smallish space tucked away on the north side of the goat pasture. It has its own little micro-climate and is often ten degrees or so warmer than the rest of the property. It’s not quite wild zone, not quite food forest, but a perfect spot for unobtrusive, single-harvest crops such as berries and garlic. This is where I built my first fedge, which has developed into a robust live-fence and also where I constructed a heart-shaped hugel bed, using all the surrounding deadfall – planted squash and pumpkin in the hugel last year and we are still feasting off them. Seriously! Also put several five-gallon pots with potatoes planted in them, which did remarkably well. It’s amazing how much food came out of this innocuous little space. With that in mind I’ve decided to develop a small lasagna bed here to maximize on this little pocket of higher temperatures.

starting to build a lasagna bed

cardboard first keeps underlying weeds out of the bed.

I’d laid some cardboard down to put the potato pots on last year and it in turn seem to suggest that a small lasagna bed would fit perfectly between the two butternut trees we planted a few years ago. It’s really quite easy to throw together a lasagna type bed for early greens – first, a layer of cardboard to prevent any virulent weeds from forcing their way up from below, then a thin layer of fresh chicken manure – I know, that sounds like a complete reversal of what I said earlier, but not so. If the ‘hot’ manure is buried below the level the delicate roots will reach down to, it will act as a source of heat to warm the soil up and also to aid in the breakdown of the other organic elements layered on to of it. The important thing to remember is to create a generous buffer zone between¬† the hot manure and the roots of the plants by adding sufficient¬† layers of organic material on top of the manure.

collection of organic materials gathered to create a lasagna bed

very fresh (very hot!) chicken manure to left, seaweed to right with barn bedding – not very pretty yet but will make wonderful soil

My layers consist of hay bedding from the goose shed (including one very old goose egg which smelt truly disgusting when it exploded:-(¬† leaves from last year, a bale of moldy hay, seaweed washed ashore in the latest¬† couple of storms, compost from the hen-poster and a couple of barrows of soil, mixed with rabbit poo and a bit of sphagnum. When building soil like this, I’ve found it’s quite feasible to laydown fairly narrow trenches of additional soil, couple of inches deep, where the seeds are to be planted, rather attempt to cover the bed entirely, as this often results in a thin skim of soil, that leaves roots needing more.

farm dog at rest

Being a farm dog is hard!

In closing, a word of warning to any predators who might be skulking around – our trusty farm dog Juno remains vigilant and on guard twenty-four seven!

 

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Best Way Ever to Shovel Out The Goat Shed!

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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.

Bed of Asian Greens

The’ Asian Greens’ bed

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.

close up of Tatsoi and Michihli

Pak Choi snuggles in with the Chop Suey (Shungiku) greens which are towards the top of the image

sorrel

Rumex lettuce, which is a variety of sorrel described as having a raspberry vinegar flavour. It is lovely in a salad.

Young child admires baby chick

Putting the day old chicks under the heat lamp in their ‘nursery’ is always fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‚Äôre into the diminishing returns curve as the amount of weight they gain is less value than the feed you‚Äôre 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

Woman in sun hat sitting with a plate of pancakes on her knee

Best way ever to shovel out a goat shed

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!

Five women and a boy shovel out a goat shed

Wow! Is this what friends are for?

 

The job is done!

Canadian Gothic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me. happy with my new book.

Permaculture For The rest Of Us. Yeah!

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.

Hens in a hen-poster

Happy hens make great compost.

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.

Pink and blue Columbines

Mother Nature rules!

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!