April Overexertion

Goodness, it is easy to bite off more than you can chew in April! This Sunday reached 80 degrees for the first time, and all of a sudden we remembered why we love summer so much.

My first task Sunday morning was the yearly chicken coop deep-clean.

We purchased a much needed wheelbarrow, which made the job possible. I have a "poop board" under where the girls sleep that catches most of the manure.... that gets scraped off and put in the composter once a week. The bedding in the coop was relatively clean of manure, but there was plenty of it, and plenty of feed that the girls insist on kicking out of their feeder. I like a nice thick layer of bedding in the winter to help insulate the concrete floor.... but it's warm enough now that they don't really need it.

I schlept about 8 wheelbarrows full of old bedding from the indoor coop and deposited it in the run. I don't know if this was the best idea, but I didn't want to put it directly on the garden beds since there is some "hot" chicken manure in it, and there was definitely no room for it in the composter. The floor of the run tends to get muddy, and I figured the extra wood chips would help alleviate that, and also help raise the level of the run up a little and make it harder for any sort of digging predator to get in. The hens loved it - suddenly the old bedding they had been living with all winter was new and exciting.

Meanwhile, Stanley was hard at work on the ongoing project of digging up our side yard. We marked off the shape with logs... it's going to be really nice! The plan is to divide it up into beds. Our ultimate goal is to make raised beds with cedar boards, but we have other financial priorities this year, and cedar isn't cheap, so this year they will be beds that aren't significantly raised. The soil that we're turning up is quite nice, so I'm not too bummed to have non-raised beds.

Needless to say, digging out all the sod by hand is quite a chore. I'm so glad I have such a wonderful man to share the work with!

We also worked on finishing up the strawberry bed yesterday. I edged it with extra patio bricks to give it at least a little "curb appeal." I swept and tidied up the patio, and dumped in all of the half decayed leaves that I collected. Stanley dumped what was left of last years ashes from the grill on top. This should make for some very nice soil in this brand new bed.

From there I headed over to the Main Street Garden to drop off some seeds for Mom to plant.

I was greeted by the stench of Dave's composting brewer's grains. He's an avid home brewer of beer, and also an avid composter, and those two hobbies resulted in this huge pile of stinky half rotten grain... he was turning it and putting it in a black Earth Machine composter to finish up doing its thing. I'm sure it will make beautiful compost, but right now it's pretty darn gross.

I put this picture in for all of the Madison beer lovers out there. This is Moon Man, the huge cat who lives across the street from our Main Street garden and who lends his name to a popular brew from New Glarus Brewing Co. He is a great hunter, and does his part to keep rodents away from the garden. Sometimes I think he knows that he's famous....

It's hard to believe that this barren garden will soon be a veritable jungle of vegetables.....

The garlic I planted last fall is up! It seems to have survived really well over the winter.

Mom happily planting peas. She put in some salad mix seed too.... so good to finally get our hards in the dirt again!

The day ended with a lovely dinner with Stanley, Mom, and Bruce in the patio. How nice to eat outdoors again!

Stanley slathered this chicken from our meat CSA with his signature "New Bay" (like Old Bay, but different) spice rub and grilled it nice and slow. Yum.

I made the first potato salad of the season - old crop local potatoes, fresh hard boiled eggs from my girls, asparagus and snap peas (no, these aren't local, but they fit the spring theme).

For desert I combined last years frozen cherries and some frozen peaches from the Main Street garden into a simple fruit crisp.

Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up to horrible pain coming from my left shoulder blade. I don't know if it was the chicken coop cleaning, or any of the other garden work I did, but man do I hurt today.

Nevertheless, I had strawberry planting plans for the day that I didn't want to wimp out, so I doped myself up with ibuprofin and did the best I could. Hopefully I don't regret it tomorrow!

Stanley and I headed to the garden center to buy the strawberry plants.....

I couldn't decide between varieties, so I ended up getting two: Wendy (an early season variety) and Jewel (a late season variety). It's hard to see the tiny little plants in this photo, but they are there - 26 in all. We won't get berries until next year, but at least they're started now.

Of course we couldn't go to that garden center and only get what we had planned on getting... while looking for the strawberries, we ran into the bare root apple trees, and decided that we had to get one.

We had a huge box elder taken down from our patio last fall, and we are planning to put landscaping in it's place this year. When we saw the dwarf apple trees on display we both new we had to have one for this space. We chose a dwarf honeycrisp that will only get 6-10' tall.

When we talked with the saleswoman at the nursery, she reminded us that you need two apple trees in order to adequately pollinate and get fruit. So, we got two. Since there isn't room for two trees in the patio we settled on a semi-dwarf Liberty that we plan to put in the side yard.

With a little bare root tree waiting to be planted, suddenly prepping the soil int he patio became more important. Stanley did all the shoveling, and that was a good thing because my back wouldn't have let me do it. It was harder than we thought... he removed 6 or 7 wheelbarrows full of wood chips from the tree stump that was removed last year, and about the same amount of fill gravel that was used in the construction of the patio. Whew! We were left with a large crater that now needs to be filled before we can plant anything.

I told you it's easy to bite off more than you can chew.

This is where the Liberty apple tree will go - at the end of the garden across from the chicken coop. It will be lovely!

Whew! What a weekend.

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