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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Composting in a chicken coop

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Composting in a chicken coop

DSC_8257Guess what I’m all excited about this weekend? No? Compost! Yep…humble old compost…or rather, that amazing thing without which you may as well forget about growing organic, sustainable gardens. My composting chicken coop has been active for about 8 months now, and is finally producing high-nutrient, perfect, wonderful, soft, odorless compost. Yes, this has taken time, dedication, and a lot of biomass – but in the end it’s completely worth it. With sufficient biomass added to the system, this can be a relatively large-scale compost operation, yielding up to 1 cubic yard of finished compost per month. We’re not quite *there* yet, but it’s really exciting to have the first usable amount, and plenty more to dig out when I need it.

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This system takes care of all the household scraps, paper waste, pond waste, garden clippings, trimmings, and rakings, along with absorbing all the nutrient-rich chicken manure. As well as the beautiful compost, it yields a plethora of protein-rich bugs for the chickens to hunt down and consume, providing everyday entertainment and fulfillment for them. Ideally enough organic matter is added so as to maintain 1-2 feet of depth in the coop at all times – I tend to be on the lower side of that, as I’m just one person trying to gather enough material. To harvest the finished compost I merely fork off the top layer – recent addings – into a corner, then shovel small portions of the bottom layer into a 1/4″ mesh cement sieve resting on the wheelbarrow. By sieving the mix I can minimize the number of still-viable saman seeds and large chunks of still-decomposing vegetation that end up in my garden beds, and return any such matter to continue the composting process. I’m left with fine, earthy, ready-to-use compost.SDSC_8268 DSC_8269 DSC_8270 DSC_8271 DSC_8272 DSC_8273 The hens do a great job turning the top layer of compost, and on bug control. In sieving the finished product (with my bare hands in the mix) I found nothing but a few microscopic beetles and a couple of small ants. No roaches, centipedes, spiders, or any other scaries! DSC_8288 DSC_8289 DSC_8295 DSC_8296 DSC_8298 DSC_8299 DSC_8300 DSC_8304

Despite the heat and drought, my densely-planted beds of arugula, kale, and mixed greens are mostly flourishing, topped with tomatillo, ground cherry, peppers, onions, and more, and edged with marigolds (a colourful and edible flower which also serves to keep certain pests away). The water hyacinths are terrifying, and my mint is finally growing into something! The potatoes are hanging in there but are not as happy as I’d like them to be – more experimentation needed – maybe they want compost too.

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Hope you enjoyed the images, and perhaps are inspired to start your own chicken composting system for a healthy, happy flock, delicious eggs, and perfect compost. Feel free to comment with any questions, comments, or suggestions, as always!

Trip and Climb

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The finale to Mother’s Day dinner: lemon swirled chocolate mousse in sour-orange halves.

It has taken some time, but I’m back! The post-vacation vacation is officially over, and it’s back the the grindstone for me. The garden mostly survived my absence, leaving me with lots of arugula and nothing to go with it…the hens are still happily laying, and there still hasn’t been any rain to speak of. I have seeds piling up for planting, but am waiting for rain to minimize watering and wastage. The peppers, tomatillos, and zuchinni are bravely soldiering through the drought – with a good bit of assistance – and are flowering but not yet bearing.

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Loaves of preorderd Nidulari Artisan Bread packed for their trip East for pickup in C’sted and at Cruzan Gardens.

The “big” piece of progress on the Nid this week was a “real” ladder to the loft, a simple wood ladder crafted from 2×4’s with 2×6 steps. A pretty basic carpentry project, made ever-so-easy with a router to cut the joints. Having the rungs set into the uprights removes all stress from the fastenings, creating a sturdy and aesthetically pleasing piece. Beats the aluminium step-ladder of the past year, at any rate!

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Routing out grooves for the steps.

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Stable, comfortable, and relatively space efficient.

The culinary quest of the week was Mofongo, a ridiculously tasty dish commonly found in Puerto Rico; fried (or boiled) plantains mashed with olive oil and raw garlic, filled or topped with roast pork, steak, or baccalou (codfish). Heavy, filling, and delicious. In my first attempt, I definitely over-cooked the plantains, leaving them crisp, dry, and less-than-mashable, so while the flavours were good, there was much to be desired in the textural plain. Great excuse for further experimentation! I do not take photos of the less-than-perfect.

So, Puerto Rico. I was obviously inspired by the food (that’s most of the point of traveling), but also spent a great deal of time completely lost, driving winding mountain roads seemingly to nowhere, and coming upon startlingly gorgeous views with usually no pull-offs. My days spent wandering the streets of Old San Juan were pleasant, though I quickly discovered that once you’ve walked around the entire (tiny) “city” there’s little to do but eat and drink. Come to think of it, I’ve found the same thing in the cities that I’ve lived in…

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Ferns on El Yunque.

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Bromeliads growing on palms in the rainforest.

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The fortifications surrounding Old San Juan.

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Ancient Petroglyphs in the Taino caves on the North shore of Puerto Rico.

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One of the Seven Arches – standing above the Taino Caves.

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