The past couple of days have been really great. Lots of busy work, productivity and co-operation going on at Jewel St. Paradise. We’re almost ready for the growing season, even though technically it has already begun.
On Saturday we planned to have a bunch of people over to help tear down an old raised bed, build a new one, reseed our lawn and build a chicken coop. We had more hands than we knew what to do with. My friend Trevor actually seemed a little bummed that we didn’t have anything back-breaking for him to occupy himself with. Sorry, Trev! We could use a man like you up at Newton Farm!
Tim O’Neal from BoroughBees came for the donuts and stayed for the raised bed building. He took the task on of building a shallow bed to replace the random assortment of containers that uglied up the patio. My man Neil helped out by sitting on the boards as Tim cut them. It was a funny process to observe, but it turned out very nicely! Not too shabby for a bed made from scrap wooden planks. It literally cost us nothing. WOO!
While this bed was being built, friends helped saw down the old bed, move the soil into trash bins and transfer the now overflowing compost into all of the beds. For the older beds, we added a 2″ layer of compost to the soil and gently mixed it in with a balanced organic fertilizer and mycorrhizal fungi and bacteria starter. Once the new raised bed was finished, we added a balanced mixture of garden soil and compost with a layer of leaves, sticks and broken terracotta pots at the bottom for drainage. We planted bushbeans, chard and herbs in this bed, radishes, pea shoots, carrots and spinach in the larger beds with the already established raspberries and garlic.
Earlier in the morning I went to the McCarren Park Greenmarket and picked up some seed potatoes to sprout. We’ve got old trash bins that we are going to grow the potatoes this season since they can be re-used and can hold more soil/compost and hopefully more potatoes. Last years potatoes were really tasty, though not especially plentiful so we are hoping for a better yield this time around.
(Clockwise from top: Some Scandanavian potato I forgot the name of already, Peruvian Purple, Adirondack Blue and Yukon Gold)
Once we had the new beds and soil in place, it was time to level the ground and assemble our new chicken coop. We decided to move it from it’s old location in a nook flush against the side of the house to a location within the yard, near our compost pile. Assembly was ridiculously easy, since it was a pre-fab kit. We learned our lesson about making our own. Our old coop is great, don’t get us wrong…we just learned a lot from the experience of building and caring for the chickens so we felt it would be less stressful just to buy something this time around that was made by experienced coop builders.
There are a few flaws with this coop that will be easy to repair though: No door on the coop, a kind of tiny run. We plan on adding a 3-foot extension onto the run this Spring and attaching a door to the coop so that the girls can be closed up safely at night. I think the coop is really cute though, and the neighbors seem to agree. They were getting a little annoyed by the close proximity of the old coop. There were claims that it smelled (which I think is kind of weird since the old coop is right outside of my kitchen window and I cannot smell anything unpleasant) and of noise (which I can understand. Hens can be audibly celebratory during and after egg laying) . Rule #1 of being a successful backyard homesteader is to try to keep the neighbors happy. I think everyone will be happier with their new placement in the yard. The hens have wasted no time breaking in their home.
After the ladies were moved it, we took to breaking up our compacted lawn, mixing in soil and seeding it. I didn’t take any pictures of this process, mostly because it’s sort of boring and not something I’m especially excited about. Having a lawn in this neighborhood is something you feel obligated to do to keep neighbors happy since most people around here take pride in what their backyards look like…even if they barely spend any time back there. With all of the livestock and decomposing compost going on back there, we feel like we should at least attempt to keep it looking spiffy so that there are few complaints. Besides, the chickens really like eating the grass, so it’s not too big a deal. Watering is a drag, but we have a rain barrel I might just set up soaker hoses to so we can keep the lawn hydrated without using up valuable fresh water.
Once everything was in it’s place and dirt was swept up, we grilled and chilled…but not for long. I still had a bunch of cooking to do for BK Swappers the next day…..
(To Be Continued….)