Monday, January 14, 2013

Pickin' Chickens

It’s good to have goals, right? It makes sense to begin each year with some objectives in mind for the coming growing season. As usual, 2012 left us with plenty of room for improvement but also lots of enthusiasm for the future. Here’s the short list for 2013:

Chickens! This is the big one, and we just placed our order for chicks this week. They’re scheduled to arrive at the end of February. Mark has already done a lot of prep in anticipation of these little dynamos’ arrival--they have a coop that we hope is secure, their own little nesting boxes. We’re hoping the birds will improve the health of our soil through tilling, manure, and composting. Chickens do a lot of scratching and rooting around, which happens to mimic exactly what we’d do to prepare a garden bed for growing. They’ll generate manure that will enrich that same soil, and they also process a lot of waste biomass into compost while they search for food. And then, you know: EGGS. Kate is already entertaining fantasies of the kids collecting dozens of eggs in old-fashioned wire baskets every morning and not breaking a single one. The key word here being fantasy.

One of the coolest parts of this process was using Mother Earth News’s Pickin’ Chicken app to choose the chickens based on their characteristics. That was pretty fun. We chose Dominique and Wyandotte breeds because they’re known for having decent foraging abilities, being well suited to our climate, laying well, and having a peaceable temperament that’s resistant to curious children. Unlike some people who choose their chickens because they look like they’re wearing pants--you know who you are. But big questions remain: Should we name all of them? And if so, what? Should we have a theme? Please weigh in on the comments.

Next up: perennial vegetables. Mark expanded the size of the hugelkultur mounds in autumn with the hopes of adding some more perennial vegetables this spring. Reading Eric Tonsmeier’s book Perennial Vegetables and attending one of his lectures has inspired him to rely more on perennial gardening for diversity and time savings. We’ll be adding exciting and obscure veggies like sea kale, turkish rocket, sorrel, and even some more rhubarb to the hugelkultur, filling in the gaps with a range of perennial flowers to keep the beneficial insects happy.

Finally, we’re going to focus more on keeping the plants content, which is code for MORE WEEDING. There are bound to be disappointments every year, of course, but I think we missed out on some of our favorites like beans, potatoes, and basil last year because we fell behind in keeping the weeds at bay as the end of summer came and got overwhelmed with harvesting and preserving.

Right now we're keeping warm by perusing seed catalog porn, and next up will be the big compendium of all the varieties of vegetables, flowers, and herbs we'll be planting this year. Planning the garden is like a slow IV drip sustaining us until we see some green again--besides last year's Asian mustard greens still alive under the snow. Kate is already asking how soon till we start the first seedlings. Answer: Not soon enough.

1 comment:

Michaela said...

There is nothing wrong with chickens that wear pants.

OK, let me rephrase that: Except for the fact that they've laid zero eggs.