Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Straw Bale Gardening Continues

I know, I know. I told you last week that I'd give you an update on our outdoor Cockeyed Critters this week. All I can say is things change. My foot isn't healing as anticipated. In fact, I have two more fractures starting to form. So no updated photos of our bunnies and chickies.

But today, I'm going to give you an update on our straw bale gardening endeavors. As you may have read here, we've expanded our garden spot. As you can imagine with 10 rabbits and a dozen or so chickens, they produce a lot of waste. Their poop does not go to waste. Get it, waste and waste? Two meanings for one word. Oh, never mind.

We placed our straw bales on the new areas of the garden rather than trying to dig through the compacted red clay soil. We have huge granite rocks and thick tree roots under the surface. It was just a labor saving device to build the fertile soil up rather than spend big bucks and years of labor to get the new areas up to speed with the rest of the garden area that we spent years amending to make fertile. It will take two years to completely rejuvenate the new areas rather than the four it took for the rest of the garden and we can grow produce while we do it. Makes sense right?

We started with a layer of wood chips over the entire area. Thanks to Hurricane Irma. But we wanted to hedge our bet for a better gardening season.  We decided to do two growing seasons (2 years) in straw bales as well. One row of straw bales around to new perimeter of the garden. It will serve dual purpose for now. A garden outline and build up the soil.

We've waited all winter long for the rains to fall. We wanted Mother Nature to do the work for us to decompose the straw bales. I added bone and blood meal to the bales last month when we had a couple of rainy days. Now was time for the serious nitrogen boosters, the manure. Chicken manure is very high in nitrogen as well as several pathogens that can be passed on to humans, such as botulism. That's the reason it should be composted for a year. But for our purposes, the three month deep bedding method used for our coop,and then sat undisturbed for three months, and plus being on he straw bales for three months works.

We loaded a couple wheel barrows full of the stuff. Yeah, chickens are messy critters. We also took a couple of wheel barrows of the deep bedding method manure and straw from the rabbit barn too. It does not have to be composted. We mixed it all together. We spread this about six to eight inches thick on top of the bales and growing areas. It will have three months to perform it's magic on the bales and regular garden areas. Meanwhile, Mother Nature complies with heavy rain falls soaking all that nitrogen run off into the bales and ground. Working with nature is the backbone of self sufficiency. It's like that very old television commercial, "It's not nice to fool [with] Mother Nature."

As this one farmer found out.
The warmer temperatures, we've been having will speed the composting process up.  This morning, two weeks ago manure was added, the temperature of the bales was 105 degrees. I added some more rain water to the bales that were this hot. So it's cooking rather nicely since it rained. We will be expecting another drenching down pour next week. But between now and then, we'll be having sporadic showers to cool the bales down some. The danger in straw bale gardening is that they can catch fire without matches. Yes, the decomposing pile can get that hot. So we are watchful. We take the bales' temperature every other day. We'll add more rabbit manure and straw if the temperature falls below 50 degrees to keep it bales cooking. Until we are ready to plant the end of April and the beginning of May. The interiors of the bales should be fertile, compost and more than ready to receive plants.

The plan is that next year, we'll plant directly into whatever is left of this year's straw bales.  We've got two 4 cu ft of peat moss and about two bags of mushroom compost to add to the existing garden too to replenish the soil. They were left over from our raised bed gardening endeavor two seasons ago. Although we have plenty of earth worm working for us in the existing garden as well.

Public Domain
Nothing is fast when dealing with organic gardening on the cheap side. But that's the way nature intended it. We prefer to work with nature here at the Cockeyed Homestead rather than the chemical ladened alternatives. So we have an off season or two as we attempt to become more self-sufficient. In the long run, we'll get there.

In the mean time, the farmers' markets and grocery stores are full of options. We've got time to experiment on what works best for us and our area. To get the best, it takes a lot of practice. We are constantly searching for alternatives to getting back to nature and self sufficiency. Some things work, but others can work better/worse too. You never know until you try. That's why we are the Cockeyed Homestead. We do things a little twisted and corny rather than the normal way to do things. We make you tilt your head to one side and go, "Huh?" followed by an, "Oh, now I get it. How neato!" Interject whatever word you want here, I'm just showing my age. "I never thought about doing it that way!" AND, everything was originally done cockeyed when building this place originally. There isn't a day that I don't cock my head to one side and go, "Huh? Why'd they do that like that?"

Y'all have a blessed day!"

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