Friday, April 14, 2006

Pay attention!

The past two days have been happily productive. Yesterday I planted 25 lilies and 10 gladiolas. I'll plant more glads in a couple weeks and more a couple weeks after that, so I'll have fresh flowers in the house for a month or two this summer. I love fresh flowers, and glads make a beautiful bouquet.

Today we started cleaning out the barn -- not just your usual cleaning, but real cleaning. We mucked out two stalls (farm talk for shoveling manure and soiled straw) and dumped it in the front yard. I'd love to be a fly in the car of country neighbors who drive past. I'm sure they're looking at our piles of straw and manure on our front lawn and saying, "Look what those crazy city folks are doing now! Don't they know that's going to kill the grass!" Yes, indeed we do know it's going to kill the grass, and that's the plan.

I spent a portion of the winter looking to the experts for answers. Our gardening has been pretty dismal for the past four years, and last spring we visited a place that has a permaculture system. It looks like the Garden of Eden, but when you get up close, you realize that the vast majority of what you see is actually food! They have garlic, squash, tomotoes and other vegetable plants growing in the shade of trees! You can check out pictures yourself at the Greenhouse Bed and Breakfast. Most of what you see in those pictures is edible!

Anyway, yesterday as I was planting the lilies, I started wondering how I would keep the chickens from digging them up. I was planting the lilies in the shade of a small plum tree. We have been putting barn muckings under our trees for at least three years. It kills the grass and provides time-released fertilizer for the trees. (manure + decomposing straw = compost) It also looks like our trees are mulched.

Then today Margaret said the reason we can't keep the chickens out of the barn is because they have too much fun scratching in the straw. She said that if we get the straw out of there (it's in the aisles and the front storage area), the chickens wouldn't have any motivation to go in there.

Things started to add up in my head, and voila! We dumped large quantities of straw and manure between the apple trees so that the chickens will go there to scratch in the straw. The combination of the straw smothering the grass and the chickens scratching will kill the grass and make a wonderful bed for planting! It's no tilling and no nasty herbicides to turn my front yard into the Garden of Eatin. (And I think it'll keep the chickens from digging up my freshly planted lilies, because they're having so much fun scratching in those piles of straw that we scattered in the yard.)

Now I don't want you to think that experts have no place in my world. Obviously they do, because I read a lot. I just think we sometimes get too dependent upon the experts. Sometimes, when we just pay attention, we can figure things out on our own. Experts can give us ideas, but when it comes to applying them to our own lives, we have to pay attention to our situation. I sat in the house all winter trying to figure out how I was going to create a permaculture system on my homestead, but in the space of a couple of days, it all came together as I was spending time outside and paying attention to my world.

Now for the really fun part of today ... we moved the goslings to their new home outside. They've been inside under a heat lamp since they arrived three weeks ago, but with the incredibly warm weather, we decided to move them to the little chicken coop in our yard. It's a halfway-house for a lot of critters around here ... chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats, rabbits, and now goslings! They seem so hyperactive, running from the waterer to the feeder to the grass and then inside their little house!

The best part however was seeing Lucy's reaction to their arrival. We started with a pair of adult buff geese three years ago, and two years ago, Ricky died. Lucy was so sad, she disappeared for a week, and when she came back, one of her wings was broken. She eventually recovered and decided to live with the ducks on the pond. Today was such a special day for her though. When we put the goslings out in their new yard, they started making gosling noises, and we heard Lucy honking! We looked up to see her bustling towards us at top speed, honking non-stop. She got to the fence of their little yard and stared at them and honked for five minutes! Then she just stood and stared. I looked at Katherine, who has been taking care of the goslings since they arrived, and I said, "Wow! Seeing Lucy so happy makes it worth all that work, doesn't it?" She smiled and agreed.

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