Primavera at Hunny-Bunny
Recovering from a three week bout of illness I lost much time during the busy season of spring garden preparation. However, being on the mend I’m quickly catching up with chores that need to be done. Fortunately, March, 2018 was more like April and vice versa, so the head start I had only meant that all is still on schedule.
Arguably spring is my favorite time of the year, although in autumn I feel it is my favorite time. Nevertheless, spring is in full swing now and the snows of winter are a distant memory. It seems this spring many of the flowers are overlapping in their blooming and forsythias are now blooming with the fruit orchard. The pastels of spring abound… along with wafting and alternating sweet scents of apricot, peach, hyacinths, and many other seasonal and sensual sights, sounds and fragrances that delight the eyes, nose and ears. My honeybees are buzzing about me collecting the pollen and nectar to make it into summer and expand their colonies. I will inspect them during the upcoming week to determine their status.
Meantime, beyond the weekly cleaning and dumping, I’ve still to perform a grand spring cleaning of the rabbitry and aviary this week and replace rusted parts and cages, as well as implement a thorough cleaning and disinfecting of the shed. This is an undertaking in itself and will require several days. Though the plastic shed for the rabbitry / aviary was an excellent concept the main drawback is that the steel cages are more prone to rusting then in a wooden shed or barn. It seem that the constant humidity given off by the animal’s respiration, in all seasons, builds up rapidly and has a detrimental effect on the cages. Ah! Well there are advantages and disadvantages to all things.
In the main garden there is still much time for preparation since the last frost date is May 31, for this Western New England area. This coming week I will turn the garden and plant some of the cooler crops such as spinach, broccoli, etc. these will join the already planted peas which have broken ground and are beginning their climb up the fencing. To these I will add the potatoes and the garlic which, being root crops will not be affected by any light frost still to come. Once these plants are added I can then apply the compost that was begun last spring of 2017. It is ready now for application and I’ve already started a new compost to be applied in 2019.
Speaking of compost, my compost bins which are going on 8 years old are a little worse for wear and need replacing. The long time readers of Catholic Rural Solutions may recall these compost bins consist of used pallets available everywhere for free. I set up three bins in succession and starting in spring I load the first with trimmings, cutting, leaves and droppings from the critters. These droppings are high nitrogen and are considered the green matter necessary for making good and fast compost. The brown material such as leaves are the second half of the formula and in combination provide everything needed for good compost. As the season progresses I flip the first bin into the empty second bin and start the process over in the first: finally in late summer I once again flip the piles into the successive bins completing the cycle. Generally, I combine all the piles together into the 3rd and final bin in late September or October and let it sit for winter in anticipation of the upcoming garden season. This has been my method for many decades and works well with the addition of some other nutrients and micro nutrients also spread on the garden in spring. These are things such as greensand, lime, and other essential nutrients. My garden is generally a bounty of production and the only problem is finding time for harvesting and processing.
In the herb garden, I’ve time to give it a good weeding before setting out the more tender herb plants in June. That said, however, the weeds are growing, well… like weeds and will soon take over the herb beds, but this is a later priority at the moment. All things in their own time.
One final item to discuss is while I try to be as organic as possible in everything I do from critter feeds to garden components there are things that prevent this. Therefore, to my mind this is an ideal and not an absolute. For instance, organic feeds are very expensive and can double costs at times and this is prohibitive. In addition, since organic feeds are so-called natural they are subject to things that other feeds are not. As an example I recently came across a sale on organic layer feed for my hens. I started to feed it to them but they refused to eat it. I thought it was because they were used to the ordinary feed, but this was not the problem. It seems this organic product had no preservatives so the chickens could sense that the feed was fermenting long before I could. Eventually, as a wine and beer maker I began to smell the familiar odor of fermentation within the organic feed container and realized it was no longer fit for feed. I ended by adding this now wasted feed to my compost where it immediately heated the pile to 130º F. So I’m back to my usual layer pellets and the hens are happily munching away. Sometimes practicality comes before organics and that is simply the way it is. In hindsight, I could have used the organic feed in order to make sour mash but that would entail distilling which, of course, is illegal. Be that as it may, I used the organic feed to the best available use considering the circumstances.
So there you have it, folks. Another week at Hunny-Bunny Farm.
Richard of Danbury, D.S.G.