Getting grounded; wishful thinking or reasonable goals?? Update with our spring plan

So far, the fish tank-green house hasn’t worked out as planned. We added a high-low thermometer on day 3, and the temps have gotten as high as 95°F. At night it looks like it is getting as low as 40, and that was after a light frost we had one morning. But, it is probably too cold outside “green house” or not. It has been 13 days and we should have noticed spouting seeds by now and we got nothing! So the planters have been moved to the garage, where we will give them a couple more days to sprout. If no progress, we will add few more seeds to each container, bring them inside the house, and hope for the best. This has already put us back a couple of weeks with our starts, but it’s SCIENCE! And Carpinito’s has great starts.

Paul and I are planners. We make to do lists and then prioritize the list and do our best to accomplish the tasks. This year, I think we got a bit ahead of ourselves when we made our list. Our first priority was the pallet garden and here is why. Lettuces, peas, and spinaches are cold sturdy and we wanted to get them planted sooner than later to enjoy greens in the spring and allow our girls to forage more. However, our chickens had a different plan. With the days getting longer and nicer, they started to fly over our 6 foot fence and venture to our neighbors and the street to forage for fresh bugs and greens. This, by the way, is the true meaning of free range chickens vs. the free range that we see in the grocery store which means the chickens are not in cages but does not mean they are outside in the pasture.

Here is a good example:

Chickens that are free range/cage free on a farm

26Mar14 freerange

Chickens that lay eggs for the grocery store and are labelled free range/cage free/natural nesting…

26Mar14 cagefree

There is no way that a farm large enough to supply eggs and meat to a large corporation like Costco or even Whole Foods has enough space to allow their birds to roam freely under the blue sky. If you search for the term “cage free farm” online, you will be shocked at what that can truly mean. Cage free does not equal free range, and even then, unless you are buying your eggs from your neighbor, there is no way to tell what conditions the birds that laid those eggs live in. And even if animal welfare is not of your utmost concern, the chickens that live in factories are not getting the quality of nutrition that a free ranger would, and thus are producing less nutritious eggs. And those eggs have to be bleached before sitting in cold storage for weeks or months before going to market, where they can sit for many more days before you buy them. All this means you are getting ripped off buying old, nutritionally inferior, chemically treated “organic” eggs laid by miserable animals, at supermarkets and big box stores, when you could be strengthening your community by supporting a local farmer that has been struggling to compete against those same stores, selling you on a name; Organic. Oh, and they taste better.

Anyway, we did not take into account that our little feathered friends would deplete all of their natural resources in the back yard to such a degree and move to the front yard like they have. The pallet garden that I yearn for so, will have to be placed on hold. If they have no shame and fly over the six foot fence, then the four foot fencing that we bought to protect the pallet garden will certainly not deter them. The same goes for the main garden. We will have to focus on the new chicken coop and run to avoid the girls pestering the neighbors and of course not destroy our efforts in the garden.

So here is our next plan of events; Build a new chicken coop in the front yard. We have made a few mistakes with the original coop and hope to improve the design. Everywhere we read, it said that chickens need about 3 square feet (per bird) on the roost. I honestly don’t know why? We followed the recommendations and made a huge coop but if you were to peek in the coop when the gals are roosting, they utilize half the available space and huddle together. So the new coop will be a bit smaller. They will still have plenty of room to stretch out if they so chose to but definitely not three square feet per chicken. As mentioned in the previous post, we hope to have the chickens help us turn and process the compost piles so the new coop will have access to that along with a run, so they will always be confined to our yard and not get into the neighbors territory. Our neighbors are wonderful people but we don’t want to abuse them either. The one chicken that had the impacted crop was so used to being in the garage, she constantly tries to come back in…even if it’s not our garage or jumps into cars, again, not all ours.

Along with the coop or after the coop, we will also be putting up a fence in our front yard. We will let the girls forage after we pick our crop and during non growing seasons, so it would be nice for them to be kept back in our yard (or so we desperately hope to do). Additional netting might be a necessity or we might try trimming their feathers again.

After the chickens are a bit more contained we will focus on the gardening. The pallets will be finished; still will be netted with chicken wire to keep our four legged family members out. The main garden beds will be dug. Paul has been measuring and planning every chance that he gets and after that, we can do some official planning. We hope to have most of this done by May. Until then, we might resort to container gardening and wishful thinking. If anyone is interested in some good reading about container gardening, check out this book.

It’s a great resource to someone who doesn’t have a lot of space or wants to have a well decorated garden. I highly recommend it.

After all that, we still have one more garden area that needs a lot of work. As many of you know, Paul got certified in Permaculture design. He took a six month course that was taught by Toby Hemenway, the author of

Using his newly certifiable skills (I am having a proud moment here) he will be upgrading our second front yard from a weeded eyesore to a beautifully designed edible garden. There we plan to put in all of our berry bushes (blueberries, raspberries and strawberries for sure) and artichokes, asparagus, goji berry bushes, and a few corn/bean/squash patches. We already have two cherry trees there. The plan for this space is ever evolving.

We hope to have most if not all of this done by the time our son arrives. We might be kidding ourselves but we sure will try. If we can get some stuff into the ground before he comes, I will be super happy. If not, we can always plan on a fall garden. Lately we have come to a conclusion that we can plan all we want but there is only so much we can do while working full time and having young children.

Thanks for reading!


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