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Archive for May, 2014

A blank canvas

Though a normal-sized lot for our neighborhood (7500 square feet), our yard appears to be huge because the footprint of our house is only 600 square feet. Amazingly, the entire yard was lawn when we moved in- I can’t wrap my head around why someone would have such a huge yard and no garden, but whatevs- just means we have a blank canvas to shape into whatever we desire!

Weeks before we closed on the deal, I had drawn up a garden plan and our first order of business upon moving in was to tear up half the lawn in the back to put in a veggie garden. We cut sod, we brought load after load of sand and compost to fix up the clay-heavy soil, we rototilled (which we won’t do ever again- now that the grass is out and compost is in, we’ll let the soil structure repair itself and switch to no-till gardening), and then raked up raised (but unframed) garden beds. With half the lawn removed, we still have a green space bigger than our whole yard at our old house in Phinney. …and my commute is much longer… oh well.

Initially we piled the sod up on the hill to serve as fill dirt for the fruit tree terraces we’ll build over the summer. However, when my parents came to visit, my dad suggested we use some sod strips to outline where the retaining walls would go- just to see where we’d want them. Somehow that exercise turned into us actually building three whole walls out of sod, behind which fill dirt from the dry well went, and now we have terraces. Just like that. Currently they are gawd-awful ugly, but I sprinkled them with nasturtium and california poppy seed and soon they’ll be draped with yellow and orange. We may put stone walls in front of the sod for aesthetic reasons, but the sod itself is quite strong and has weathered several rainstorms already.

Now to plant seeds, seedlings, shrubs, vines, trees, flowers, cat poop! Wait, is that what happens when you have a giant, uncovered patch of fluffy dirt in your back yard, cat poop? Yes, yes indeedy.

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Amelia survives raccoon attack!

I’ve been lazy lately and don’t always close the coop door at night. This is partly because I forget, and partly because I once forgot to let the ladies out in the morning- they spent the whole day cooped up and I only realized an hour before dark that they hadn’t been out all day!

Anyways- my vigilance has been renewed after this morning’s events. Inka and I awoke to terrified squawking at 3:30am and raced out the back door to chase off the aggressor. In my scramble to grab a flashlight and my glasses, I missed what happened- it appeared that Inka had chased whatever it was off, but whatever it was had dragged Amelia and Agador out of the coop and still had Amelia.

Agador was missing some tail feathers. I put her back in the coop. The run was covered in swaths of Amelia’s grey and white striped feathers, some of them clumped together with what I assume was raccoon slobber. I heard no more clucking, and assuming Amelia was a goner, went back to bed feeling sick to my stomach. Random chicken death (where you find them keeled over in the coop one morning) is one thing, which may or may not be your fault, but terrifying death by sneaky, dexterous paws and sharp little teeth is another thing entirely, and was my fault.

(Conversely, when I did mouse experiments, if a mouse died accidentally I felt terrible, but if I killed it in purpose with good technique, that didn’t feel as bad. But I guess it’s all about suffering: good technique in animal husbandry, slaughter, and animal experiments minimizes suffering, while shitty technique (not locking the coop at night, a poorly aimed bullet, not being able to stick a vein) results in suffering, stress, and nausea for both of you.)

Magically, Amelia reappeared in the morning in the back yard. I was amazed and immediately mixed up some yogurt/cereal/flax seed glop for the ladies for breakfast to celebrate and help them recover from the stress. I didn’t have a clue as to where Amelia spent the rest of the night until I left the house to catch the bus- there were feathers in the front yard, too! She’s missing most of her tail and looks like her head was in someone’s little jaws, but seems ok. I’m hoping she doesn’t die of shock…

Suspected Raccoon: 0
Amelia: 1 (minus lots of feathers)
Sara: Lesson learned.

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Thanks Aaron and Beth for the lovely greenhouse and Nicole and Isaac for the awesome compost tumbler! There ain’t much we love more than free-cycled stuff!

David managed to assemble the greenhouse in less than a day (he did this in the rain) and our newly acquired seedlings from the Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale got to spend the night in the greenhouse instead of the basement. (Usually I like to grow our starts from seed under a grow light, but since we just moved and haven’t set up yet, we decided to take advantage of the plant sale, at which I always spend too much money.)

I’m super excited about the greenhouse. Like, so so so excited. It’s only 6×8 feet, but it has a work bench running the length of each side that triples the grow light space I had in our old basement. There’s plenty of storage room under the benches, or room for drums of water to soak up and moderate heat from the sun. Plus, the greenhouse will allow seedlings to get quite tall before we have to move them outside. I imagine we could keep one or two finicky heirloom tomatoes in there in pots if we can vent it well enough during the heat of the summer, but I’ll mostly use it to start seeds in the winter, spring, and fall.

David and I are both pretty excited about the new composter too- this one is a horizontal rolling barrel that’s both bigger and easier to turn and load/unload than our end-over-end barrel composter. We’ll use this one for chicken manure and bedding, as most of our food scraps already go to the chickens or worm bins.

Whoo hoo!!

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