Gardens and Seed Flats & Chickens (Oh my)

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The babies have become much more coordinated over the last couple of days, and are beginning to express instinctive behaviors such as scratching and flapping – although they are completely confused by both. One girl, the largest and oddest looking, started standing on large pieces of greens yesterday and scratching with her feet to rip them asunder. She didn’t seem to fully understand what she was doing, though, as she had the most confused look upon her face when her feet demanded she scratch.

Several other girls soon followed suit, looking even more confused. One even tried to do it lying down – she sat on the food and then scratched. It was adorable. They’ve also been running back and forth down the length of the carrier with their wings raised up high and sometimes flapping. The running part seems largely not under their full control yet – they just pick a direction and suddenly Go That Way at top speed until they bump into something or fall down in a heap to take a sudden nap. My little narcoleptic girls!

One has become my favorite – she has little white eyeliner-esque stripes at the back of each eye, and she is fairly mellow. She doesn’t generally mind being handled, especially if I have food for her. I’ve named her Gia. There is another that has little white splotches on each side of her nose that I’m toying with names for, and the big, kind of doofy girl (god I hope she’s a girl) is maybe Pi (as in “CutiePi,” argh.) The remaining two look enough alike they’re hard for me to easily tell apart yet.

My friend Sarah, who recommended the black australorp breed, is coming to meet the girls tonight, and several others have said they would like to, as well, after having watched the chicken cams a bit. The cams are getting more traffic and interest than I would have ever guessed – I wish we had the bandwidth to let one of them stream, rather than updating still images.

I’ve let the dogs meet them a couple of times, and while I’m certain Bell would probably try to eat them if given a serious chance, Sumi would probably let them run all over her and be a good surrogate mom… until she accidentally killed them by licking them to death or lying on them.

Bell, though, quivers when they run and I can feel her wanting to pounce. No alone time with the chickens for the girls! I really do want them to get used to each other, though, so perhaps there will be less charging, chasing and barking once they’re outside in the chicken yard.

Speaking of outside, let’s move there, shall we?

It’s taken three days, but the garden is now finally all rototilled. I spent about 6 hours on it and Mike did about 3, so it was a big chunk of time. The center parts were just easy as could be, but those side bits where the lawn had encroached, oh mercy. I went over those easily several dozen times, and I’m still going to have to spend a lot of time with a rake to get the clumps out, too.

This is the tiller I’ve been using – it’s the same one my dad used when I was a little, little girl. He probably bought it in 1974, but it still works just fine, despite that puny 1-year warranty.

You can see how many grass clumps are left here:

Not quite good enough to plant in, alas. Many hours of work still ahead with the rake, and then I’ll throw down a bunch of compost and till one more time to get it worked in. Good thing I have plenty of time before the last frost date! Today is gorgeous and sunny, but COLD. I’ll soon bundle up and head out, though. My back is not fond of bending and lifting, so I’ll likely have to do this in fits and spurts, alas.

As I was getting thrown around by the tiller, I remembered words I’d read on various homesteading websites regarding using broadforks rather than noisy, smelly, fuel-burning tillers. While that is an awesome and noble idea, it’s not practical for an overgrown garden, alas. I was very grateful to have the tiller, even if it was noisy and smelly and difficult, because doing that much space by hand would have taken weeks and been much more difficult. Perhaps next year, we won’t need to till.

Perhaps next year, I will be an Albanian jet pilot, too.

But a girl can dream.

I tested the soil pH and it came in almost perfectly at 7, perhaps a tenth or two lower (on the acidic side.) I’ll retest again and then mitigate as needed for plants wanting alkaline soils. The dirt is a bit on the sandy side, but far better quality than I had expected. It holds moisture, but doesn’t stay soggy, and with compost added, it should work out really well.

This all seemed so easily doable in the planning stages, like it would all somehow magically unfold itself with just basic skills from me… but wow, I’d forgotten a lot of what needs doing (like the raking, like figuring out how to mark seed locations and differentiate between seedlings and weeds.)

Like not forgetting to water the seedlings, even when fully obsessed with the chicks’ arrival on day one, resulting in massive seedling carnage/wilt:

These little lettuces took the most offense, and, two days later, are still recovering from the wiltage. Hopefully this hasn’t caused permanent damage. One little pepper plant has started to come up, but its brethren remain quiet, their soils undisturbed by sprouts. The celery and parsley finally appeared, though, and everything (except the lettuce) is doing smashingly well. Yesterday I began the ritualistic slaughter of multiple sprouts in pots – selecting the strongest for survival and cutting the others off at the base. It seems so wasteful and Not Very Nice, but is apparently vital to a strong crop. I don’t have the light space to try transplanting the less vigorous plants to their own flats, which is a pity.

The chicks are getting the murdered greens and are figuring out what to do with them (scratch at them and be confused, mostly.) I gave them some tiny bits of banana, apple and apple peel yesterday as well, which were deemed even less palatable than poop. They are enjoying the greens when they remember to eat them, though. A few small bits of gluten-free pumpkin pie bread were extremely well-received.

Alright, I suppose I should stop putting off the inevitable. Time to bundle up and head out into the grassy wilds to remove those clumps. Wheeee…. everything is more fun when you say, “whee,” right?

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