Life With Nine Kids

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Expanding the Strawberries & Getting my Guineas! Spring is in FULL swing...New Garden Space Coming Soon!

 Our currently over crowded strawberry bed is to the right of the boys working below. It's a beautiful thick bed that desperately needs an expansion (at least 200 plants are in it now). It's really a challenge to plow down a spot to garden (without the use of a plow) on our land. The soil is awesome, but we are over run with crappy grasses and stubborn crab grass. After two years of hand weeding and mulching this was the first year that weeding our strawberry patch isn't necessary. I win! I succeeded; the strawberries crowded out the weeds! Strawberries are good at that, but without effort on our end (me and the kids weeding it two years straight) our patch wouldn't look as good and thick as it does now. My husband complimented me about it, too. Actually it was when he did that I realized we need to expand!

After mowing this spot on the lowest setting to get the grass as short as can be we are spreading chicken manure out over it. (I said we... I helped too! :)

Now it's topped with old wet straw I got a deal on; only $2 a bale from craigslist (instead of $5 at the store)

Now a layer of damp cardboard. (I left it out in the rain)

Now some landscaping fabric to hold everything in place. This is an extra expense but I had some in the garage. It is really helpful though but you don't have to have it. If you don't have it then make SURE you keep it wet or you will have cardboard blow away.  

Now we let it "cook."

To help kill weeds/grass I use a method called lasagna gardening. You use layer after layer of material to decompose into the ground, kill weeds, and create a rich yummy environment for planting. People layer leaves, grass clippings, manure, boxes, burlap, newspaper, Etc. Eventually, and pretty quickly, you create a perfect home for huge hungry earthworms. Keep your lasagna garden wet and it will do it's magic. 

I ordered 50 new strawberry plants and I'll transplant some crowded ones over, too. I'm going to have them growing in thick all over again! :) Eventually I bet I turn the left corner of this fence and make more strawberry room right on down the other side. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. ;)

Meanwhile on the Mini Farm
 (I recently read that in my county any land with livestock on it is classified as a farm, so I totally call my place a farm now. And with 41 birds on their way to my house and 29 already here I'm going with that.)

We got our first guineas! (They are keets; that is what baby guineas are called.) They are 2.5 weeks old and wild as heck. You have to hand raise these birds or they will be completely wild and run away and/or roost in your trees. So since they were kept wild in a pen we have a bunch of retraining to do. So far we hold them for a half hour at least three times a day. They shake and are really scared, but we calm them down after about 10 minutes of holding. The kids have managed to have them sit on their laps without having to hold them close and tight the whole time. We are not making much progress yet, but if we really, really work hard they will become pets who come to us and eat millet as a treat from our hands. They will eat bugs from the garden without hurting the plants (most do anyway) and if trained properly they will roost in a house instead of in the trees. I'm thinking about making them a smaller but more secure outdoor version of the brooder house /potters bench we made. If not then we'll just train them to roost with the chickens at night. Hopefully we'll get them trained. 

Love those little stripped heads!

The Pet Chicken
We acquired a pet chicken from our friend Dixie. He's the craziest thing. He's SO tame. The chicken is too young to intermix with our full grown flock so it hangs out with the kids, stays in a separate pen, or hangs out in our house. Yes I said our house (not very often though). However, he sleeps in a cat carrier in the kitchen. It's super tame. lol. This chicken came to us with the name Leo, but everyone in the house calls him something different. I call him Chicken Little for some reason. The past two nights when we went to let Chicken Little out of his pen he had already escaped it. He was waiting in the grass near the back door. We open the porch door and he hops right inside. Very cute. 

In May we welcome new birds to our flock: turkey, geese, some meat birds, and some new chicks to raise for laying hens. Busy, busy spring at our house. In fact Ricky and I agreed that after this weekend no more weekend plans until June; we are just too busy: tilling, planting, building stuff, putting up fence, Etc.
I'm really excited because I've waited a really long time to expand into having turkey, weeder geese, and a real nice permanent garden area with pet guineas and it's all starting to happen! Other things that I've put so much effort and patience into are doing well too. The strawberries for one, but also we have huge thorn-less raspberries and blackberries that are just exploding with booms. I planted them from just little 2-4 inch sticks in the ground two years ago! I think we'll have stuffed bellies full of them! One of our peach trees is doing outstanding and is 15 ft tall, the other is doing great but is smaller. Our pear tree that was lopsided and spindly looks like a real tree this year with a nice shape! Pear trees are not know for nice shapes. Our four apple trees look better than ever (they are still only 3-4 feet tall). We got them on clearance three years ago and they were on clearance because they looked sad and it was August. lol. Our blueberry bushes are not doing well, but they are alive. I'm thinking about buying bigger more established bushes from a organic blueberry farm. Probably not this year though. This year I really feel like so much of my work the past three years is paying off. It's nice. We're on our way to a nice little 1 acre homestead. We'll just keep working towards more and more... I have a lot of patience.

I had this great idea to put up a fence off from our chicken pen with a gate. This way I can let the chickens in  the garden during the spring and fall to eat weeds and seeds before and after the growing season. This will drastically cut down on weeds! Then during the growing season the guineas will have the full duty of weeding and debugging the plants. It's a nifty little system that should work really well. I'm really happy about this plan. This spot here is about 40x40 feet. I also plan on making it awesome with a privacy fence made from lattice and some garden furniture and a shady spot to sit. 
Click any photo to enlarge them

And while on a picture posting rampage I fixed up the hen house (new curtains) and planted some new plants.  Had a duh moment when I added a bench to sit on across from the house and near the chicken pen (not pictured). Ricky and I just stand around over there and watch the chickens. Not anymore! This not pictured bench spot is also a direct view of that future garden plan pictured above. 


Meghan said...

thinking we need a HS field trip to your farm. my boys would love all of those feathered friends!

Mom of a bunch of great kids... said...

That sounds ike a fun idea!