Sunday, January 16, 2011

Great Expectations of Spring!

My Freecycled garden table, painted the same cabbage green as my no-tills.

In all this snow and gloom, dreaming of my garden is what keeps me sane.  The thoughts of buying and starting seeds, building new garden beds while protecting the ones I have,  and playing with my most recently purchased gardening toys puts a smile on my face and keeps the winter blahs at bay.

This week, for example, I purchased $100 worth of seeds from Johnny's Seeds, and bought a new Dramm water breaker garden hose nozzle and a nifty looking Touch N Flow Shut off Valve, also by Dramm, both of which look like they're going to make garden watering much easier, especially on the little seedlings.  I hate it when I spend so much time starting seeds only to have them blasted out of their loamy home by water pressure that could blast the paint off a Chevy.  These two little items should prevent any more plant power washing.

First quality, sun bleached Alfalfa Hay, AKA Lucerne hay - used for No-till beds. 

I have two more No-till raised beds planned for Spring. I promise to post blow by blow directions and photos of the construction - which is pretty easy.  In view of my plans, I've been grousing around on craigslist for freebie moldy alfalfa hay and straw.  So far no luck. Horse's can't eat moldy hay but cattle can.  Moldy hay makes horses sick but cattle eat anything, pretty much.  So most folks either throw out  moldy hay - just like I did when I had horses - or feed it to their cattle. Wish I had all that thrown out hay back now.

Building my first No-till bed last spring

The trouble is, with hay prices being what they are -  upwards of $5 a bale in this neck of the woods and as high as $25 a bale in California, most people with horses pull out the moldy parts and feed it anyway - a dangerous practice which I do not advocate. So, without much freebie action on the horizon, I'll probably have to break down and buy first quality hay.  But, with 6 inches of snow on the ground right now, I still have some time. Maybe I'll get hay lucky!

One thing I have purchased and can use straight away is a row cover hoop bender from Lost Creek. I think these are the people who make the row cover hoop benders for Johnny's Seeds but sell them for half the price.  I recommend Lost Creek highly.  They are friendly, have excellent customer service, and ship promptly -- and for half the price!  They also sell larger hoop benders in case you want to put in a green house or big old hoop house. I'd love one of those big mamma jammas but don't have the room. Looks like a pretty painless process - this hoop bending.  I'll keep you posted.

I've been covering my two no-till beds with a huge blue plastic tarp, in hopes of keeping some of my veggies alive over the winter.  The brassicas (cabbage family)  are doing pretty well. Can't say the same about my chards though.  So we're covering the beds with hoop row covers  made from plastic sheeting and silver conduit hoops. At $80 a box, the plastic is a bit pricey but the conduit hoops are cheap.  Each one costs around a buck fifty.  With four to a bed, the price is right for something I can take off and store in the summer, replace in the winter and use year after year.  I'll have to replace the plastic every year so I bought a hundred feet. That should hold me for about 4 years.

Seed saving Top Crop seeds from last year. They are not hybrid so they can be saved from year to year.  I even sent some to my niece in California for her 2011 garden.

My daughter, being the truly thoughtful soul she is, gave me a $40 gift certificate from a local feed and seed garden center.  I love her and I love this place.  It's the lower level of a bank barn, with greenhouses attached.  I stopped in the other day and was informed that this year's batch of seeds should arrive around February 1.  Can't wait to blow through that gift! But my eyes are bigger than my stomach when it comes to seeds. I'm going to inventory what I have, what I saved from last year so as to no dissipate my gift on duplicates. 

My composting operation

And, I'm still composting.  Besides kitchen scraps and dried leaves, we purchased 200 pounds or organic chicken manure the other day. I'm composting it, getting ready for those new beds.  I figure with my composting operation I should have that chicken poo ready to use by spring.

Livestock No 1 - Beau Beau - who in his fashion is a great little tiller. Not in a good fashion, but in his fashion...

I think you've gotta love the little chickies.  Even if you're not a fan of fried chicken (I am and have the waistline to prove it), we get wonderful things from chickens for very little expense.  Things like eggs, manure, and the pleasure of watching them cluck and peck make chicken keeping so worthwhile. I'd keep a few myself but have raised and worried about animals my entire life. I don't want to lie awake at night worrying about who will care for them when I'm on vacation. So I'll just keep Beau Beau and Mr. Spots and not add to my anxiety.
Livestock No. 2 - Mr. Spots, mole and vole killer extraordinaire! And, he's just a sweet old kitty.

My attitude was much different when I was a kid.  I grew up in the country and had two pet game hens that I raised from chicks. Goldilocks and Cleopatra were gifts from my grade school principal, Mr. Garnett.  He was a very kind gentleman farmer who really enjoyed his livestock.  I love livestock too.  My little clucking girls were pure pets and did tricks.  They also gave eggs every single day, providing us with food while living on a few cents worth of cracked corn and all the vegetable scraps from the kitchen, plus whatever juicy bugs and worms they found out in the yard. They were free range beauties and I loved just watching and listening to them.

With all this talk of hay, horses, and chickens, I feel like I'm back in the country.  I have to admit that I'd love to be. But, with no where near as much room,   my little patch of heaven will do. So I'm going to keep looking for that hay.  Maybe I'll try Freecycle® next!

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