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, June 24, 2018

Spring is Over and Laying the Groundwork for Next Spring Begins

Spring is officially over as of June 21st. Hello summer. The temperatures have been summer like with the heat indexes being over 100+ degrees with temps lower than 90. While awaiting the harvest later this summer, I'm already planning and laying the groundwork for next year. Too soon? Not really.

Last year's tropical storm Irma, just below a hurricane when it hit us, left a lot of debris which went into the garden. We've had two solid years of amending the garden area. Not much in produce, but we were laying the foundation of an organic garden. Without good soil, not much grows in our heavy clay soil over granite. So we've laid wood chips, rabbit and chicken poop, yard waste, compost, and umpteen dozen bales of hay and straw into the area we wanted for our garden. Now, we actual can't turn a shovel full (18 inches) of this richer soil without digging up worms and it's easier to dig. This is our pay day and what we were striving for. This nutrient rich soil has taken time to get to this point and not  a little bit of hard work.

I can tell I'm still coming off the inactivity of winter and getting older. I am over 60 and living post stroke now. I'll work like gang busters one day and the next, all my body parts start aching and I'm doing less. It takes more than eight hours of sleep to repair my muscles after a workout. But I keep plugging away. So it took a week to spread the moldy straw 6"- 12" thick on the areas not being planted this year. It isn't going to be used for a year. It's all prep work for spring 2019. Right now, before the harvest, I've got nothing but time.

This week, while waiting for the plants to grow, I've been laying more cardboard and straw in the areas that aren't planted. Meanwhile, Mel has been cleaning out the rabbit barn. We've used the deep bedding method for the animal waste for two seasons, about every six months we clear it out and start again. She's actually digging down 3" under the rabbit pens to get the good composted stuff. In the central walkway, she's only raking up all the straw and chicken poop. We are dumping it all into a big compost pile by the peach trees within the garden and letting it finish composting there. We'll move it again to spread it in the garden before we put the garden to bed for the winter. The reason we are composting the manure and straw further is because the chickens have been free ranging in the rabbit barn too. We all know that chickens are not toilet trained. They go where they feel like it.

Mel's got some stubborn weeds on this property. They have broken through in some areas.  You'd think all this stuff on top of them would have snuffed them out, but no. After a good rain shower and a couple days of sunny weather, here they are again. I'm discounting any seeds of fescue and wheat that sprouted from the hay and straw. I'm talking wild plantain, clover, weeds which can be pulled for the rabbits. But the worst, is the invasion of spiny rushes. They defy being uprooted. I've landed on my butt a few times trying to pull clumps up. The only way I've found is digging down with a spade 12" to 24" to loosen the roots enough to get them out of the ground. They are deep rooted suckers.

Speaking of chickens going where they please. We've had to let our hens free range also. All the rain we've had made their run a mucky mess.  The hens' feet stayed muddy and they seemed miserable. It took two compressed bales of straw to not feel the mud underfoot. We've let them free range with the roosters. Two roosters (Houdini and Big Red) have one hen apiece that follows them around. Little Red has won over the rest of the hens. When it comes time to pen up the hens again, Little Red will go with them. He's ever so gentle with the hens too. He's constantly on guard for predators including the other roosters.  If one squawks, he's running to bring the hen back to flock. He's taken to singing to his girls to keep them happy when he's not finding them goodies. Big Red was purchased by a neighbor and will be going to his new home this weekend. He's way too rough with his lady and almost killed her, and has been challenging us. We can't abide that.

As a result of free ranging the hens, Broody, aka Gimpy, has tried to go broody. The only problem is that all the hens only use one out of the two nesting boxes to lay their eggs in. This box is eight eggs deep at the end of the day. They yell and peck at her until she moves. She's been trying to sit on the nest for three days now. We are going to have to partition off an area for just her this week. Now watch her break out of broodiness by the time we complete the fencing off an area and building her a nest box.

We got Broody's area completed a few days later.  As predicted Broody broke out of her broody behavior although she does half --hardheartedly try from time to time.

 I normally use hot chicken, uncomposted, for fertilizing my hot peppers. It makes the peppers hotter. I do use it sparingly. Last year, my cayenne and Korean peppers were so hot that even I could barely eat them. Now that's saying something, because I used to munch on Habanero peppers straight out of the garden (±350,000 SHU). These were close to the same heat, although I didn't have them tested. This year, I'm using the 6 months composted manure. I want the heat, but don't want to pay the hefty price 24 hours later, if you get my meaning.

By planting season next spring, all the cardboard and straw should be composted and I'll have additional growth of the worm population in the garden.Worms are essential to great garden soil. Their waste product fertilizes the soil while their plowing through the soil makes for a rich, aerated planting medium for a healthy root system. Remember, the roots are the brain of the plant. In addition the tree waste should have composted down more.

One patch of chicken planted strawberries
The tree bark mulch we put on our walkways two years ago is no more. It is now all composted into the soil. The worms and beneficial microbes have done their job. In fact, the chicken planted strawberry patch is growing atop weed cloth and a thick layer of this composted mulch. I've got to remove the weed cloth and transplant the berries  to a better spot in a couple of weeks. Or I might just leave it for next year as I previously mentioned.

 I just have to decide where to plant them. The orchard is a logical choice, but where in the orchard? Under the grapes and raspberries, under the blueberries? Or, do I transplant them on a tier to themselves designated for other fruit trees? Decisions, decisions.  Of course, I'll be thinning them out too. As it stands right now, I could transplant a quarter acre in just strawberries if spaced correctly with just the plants I have in the garden area. There's pretty close to a hundred plants and runners in this patch pictured and it's only June. It seems like daily I'm moving or removing runners to keep them out of my green beans and asparagus. The runners I'm removing are being fed to the rabbits.

Since spring, we've transitioned the rabbits off of the winter time ration of commercial pellets in favor of a more nature based, green diet. Did you know that some commercial rabbit pellets contain animal fat? Rabbits are herbivores! Their bodies do not digest or need animal by products. Check the ingredients on all purchased feed. This winter our long eared money makers will be eating our chemical free orchard grass hay and a variety of sprouted wheat, barley and oats harvested from our orchard. Nothing is wasted  on the Cockeyed Homestead even weedy patches are fed to the rabbits and chickens. They love it!

Well, that's it for this week.
Y'all have a blessed day.



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