Today was more productive than it had any right to be, and the feeling is superb! After a week of school delays and snow cancellations, biting temperatures down to 6 degrees, and gusting winds up to 23 mph, today was down right balmy! It was 50 degrees outside, no wind, and brilliantly sunny! Girlchild asked if she could run through the sprinkler on the way home from church. I understood how she felt, all I wanted to do today was garden, but it was still February, and more snow was expected next week. This delicious weather wasn’t going to last. But it felt so good, I SKIPPED MY SUNDAY NAP and headed out to the backyard to get a jump start on prepping for planting.
All the snow had melted in the gooey, slushy mud that squished up 3 inches when you stepped on it. The perfect thing for the chicken to complain about when I set them free to range the yard so I could exercise a pair of rabbits in their run.
Poor Squeaker, that yard is a sloppy mess! See my bridge from 2 weeks ago when I had to wheelbarrow mulch over a small muddy patch.
While one pair of rabbits ran laps in the chicken run, I set another pair in a large temporary exercise pen on the ground, and watched them start digging with glee. I began cleaning rabbit hutches, using the manure from one hutch to set up my planter bags for starting seeds in 2 weeks.
See, with an urban microfarm overflowing with rabbits and chickens, plus a dog and cat, I have empty feed sacks piled up to my eye balls. EVERYTHING comes in 50lb sacks that are incredibly durable and hard to tear. It would be wasteful to throw them away, so I usually give some to a neighbor to collect yard debris in, and use others to transport manure for other people’s gardens. But I saw online that someone had used them as planters, and since I had just planned out my entire 2019 vegetable line up last night, I knew I’d need at least 6, maybe 10 “pots”.
So I set to work cutting the top 2/3 of the bag off, and punching holes in the bottom for drainage. I mixed the rabbit manure and bedding from the newly cleaned hutches in with potting soil, and made 7 planters from one 40lb bag of soil.
So now I was done making planters, but what do I do with all these bag tops? The kids were given a gift of seeds for Christmas from some neighborfriends, and that was going to require a new garden. I had already made 2 large, no till gardens last Fall, but had space for one more. I started with a layer of cardboard to prevent weeds, add soil and compost, then top with mulch. Come spring, they would be ready for planting.
So, I started another garden using the feed sacks. I cut them open so they would lay flat and placed them in the area I wanted the grass to die and my garden to grow. I substituted the feed sacks for the cardboard to prevent weeds, which then created the perfect space to dump all the old bedding and manure from my largest rabbit hutch. Scraps of wood will help hold the plastic in place as I continue to add compost and future litter/manure to the garden. I think I have just enough mulch left in last years pile to cover the top of this and hold moisture in while veggies grow. I also took one whole feed sack, cleaned out the chicken coop, and filled the bag about a foot deep with the droppings. Adding another 8 inches of potting soil, I set the whole thing aside to decompose for a few months. Then I would mix it all together and plant carrots in it. Poof, instant grow bag for root veggies! I’m not the creator, it’s another internet hack from some homesteading website. But it’s a good one so feel free to copy. Just know that rabbit manure can be added to plants straight away, but chicken poop must be composted first or it will burn the plants. That is literally my only fertilization fact. It’s all I know about the subject – but it’s grown some pretty epic plants so far!
So now the rabbits have clean pens, the chickens have a clean coop, and everybody is happy to have had cage-free time out in the sunshine. They each went back to their pens, until I noticed Honey, my newest New Zealand doe whom I suspected to be pregnant, had begun to make a nest. That meant she was ready to have babies soon, and needed to be placed in her own space away from her bunny husband, Midnight. Not that he would hurt the babies, but he could get her pregnant minutes after delivery. No one wants that, especially not Honey.
I set Honey up in a private cage, gave her some fresh hay to throw around, and knowing that she liked nesting with bits of paper, collected the scraps from the kids Valentine’s Day decorations out of the recycling bin. I ripped the construction paper scraps into little pieces for her and sprinkled them in her cage. She immediately grabbed one in her mouth and set to work. That doe is going to be a great new mama.
Speaking of Valentines day and babies, my own children had gone crazy decorating our home for the holiday. It doesn’t hurt that Girlchild was born on V-day, and has thus claimed it has her personal day. While cleaning out the barn on Saturday (I am buying 16 baby meat buns from an Amish boy in Bird in Hand, PA next week) and setting it up to hold a new herd of babies, I heard the kids singing Bare Necessities from Jungle Book through the closed doors and across the yard. That made me curious, they rarely perform without an audience to applaud them. 🙂
I popped into the house to get some cardboard to cover the floor of my bunny pen, and found newly made Valentines Day decorations EVERYWHERE! It was fantastic! Largely because I didn’t have to do it, but it also gave our humble home a holiday spark that is always so needed at this dreary time of year. I struggle each year with the end of January. Too much cold and dark, too long til chick season. I don’t know how they do it in Alaska.
But this helped!
Now it’s just two weeks until I can start planting the first round of indoor seeds in my new sack planters. My 25 rare breed white egg layer chicks arrive in April, and I can not wait! My goal is to be able to grow and share more food from my little quarter acre homestead this year than last. It’s probably a good thing most of my yard is shady, or my kids would have no place left to play after I finish planting the desires of my heart.
So if you need a dozen fresh eggs, or some snuggle time with soft baby bunnies, come on over! I’ve got a hot cup of coffee with your name on it, and there’s always plenty to share here on the farm.