When planning out the raised beds for the garden – since the soil is crap and will be for years while I work on it – we decided on 49 to 51 4×4 raised beds. Alone, that would be somewhere north of 800 square feet in planted beds just for things we intend to eat and provide to others.
That, my friends, is a lot of frames.
The frames themselves, though, are not the hard part. The hard part is filling them. Think about this: each frame is made of four foot sections of 1 x 6 x 8 lumber. Those of you who recall your volume measurement formulas can do the math. In our scenario, that equals 4 cu ft of peat moss, 50 pounds of chicken manure, 80 pounds of cow manure, and coarse vermiculite sufficient enough to give us the consistency we’re after – per two frames. That is quite a lot of mixing and more animal poo than most people will handle in their lifetime.
The other day, we went out and filled almost six frames (I say almost, as one of the vermiculite bags was fine rather than coarse, so the levels were a bit off).
A little out of alignment on the left, which will be fixed. The frames get knocked about a bit because of the weight of the dumping process. Which, by the way, means mixing half, dumping, mixing another half, dumping, and on and on. Heavy, sweaty, dirty work that leaves you sore and tired, but in the best possible way because you’ve spent some time working outside in the fresh air.
That streak on my right leg? Chicken poop, from a bag that got wet.
It’s also a lot of each part of the mix, given the rather largescale plans we have. That’s ok, though, because this particular backbreaking part only has to be done once unless we decide to move the frames around. I don’t think that’s in the plans for any time in the foreseeable future.
Last fall, I threw down some seeds from a butterfly/bee mix in an area around one of the hoses, just to have something in the ground when spring came. Winter was so mild, with only a couple of severe freezes, that we’ve had flowers almost all winter.
They’ve been maintenance-free, too, chugging along on their own with nothing special from us.
It had rained – a lot – but we had a break in the weather and it was time to do some layouts and cleanup, as well as check the progress of some of the things growing out in the beds.
Carrot tops are popping up, and the carrots will probably be ready to pull next month.
The garlic continues to look robust, but I’m worried about it rotting in the ground because the rains decide to come in huge storms that dump a couple of inches at a time rather than something a bit more gentle.
We managed to get a small burn pile going even though things were still fairly wet.
Some prep on the ground and the layout of (some) of the frames.
In the foreground by the chair is a frame with snow peas, thyme, rosemary, and catnip, along with another round of carrots. The snow peas are erupting and since we know how quickly they can get out of hand, my goal in the next day or so is to get the trellis in place. Shortly after we wrapped up for the day, the weather turned stormy once more, with another three and a half inches of rain before it subsided. Nice for our water shortage around here, but not so good for the remaining areas on the property that need to be filled and leveled.
Night, actually. I’ve never watched Lost, as I don’t watch a lot of network television and even fewer series shows. I believe the last series I used to watch on even a regular basis was ER, many years ago, and then not as religiously as some people watch “their shows”. I happened to catch pieces of it the other night (time travel? seriously?) because of this crew:
The chickens were sleeping, too, but not on the couch and not particularly interested in waking up every now and again to see what was happening on the show.
Mickey thinks so, anyway.
The thing about chickens is that really (from a pet standpoint), they simply aren’t all that bright. Which is fine, really, when you think about it. They’re not like dogs, who need and crave attention, and not like cats with their “One day we will take over this planet, as soon as we hit our quota of naps.” mentality. No, chickens – or chicks in this case – spend much of their time peeping and cheeping, pecking away at anything that looks like food, sleeping, and pooping. Eventually, they’ll earn their keep by paying for their room and board in eggs. When Heather and Michael brought over our three on Saturday, a small moth got into the house and was flittering around, to and fro. He made the mistake of getting into the box where we’re holding the chicks until they are old enough to go outside. I waved it over toward the watering dish, and when it alit, one of the chicks snatched it and gobbled it down. Nifty. I can’t wait for them to be outside putting a hurt on the grasshopper population. They also got one worm apiece from our composting batch, but that’s it for those worms. Their future treats will be from the bait shop.
And when I said they weren’t particularly bright, I meant it. This, after all, is not what is generally thought of as chicken feed. But I suppose someone has to be the nonconformist.
It isn’t just animals that die, of course. People can (and do) die both suddenly and not so suddenly.
Case in point: one of our customers, who had been with us since almost the very first, died unexpectedly early in February of a heart attack. We did not discover this until late in the month when one of his clients contacted us directly. While it probably will not be the last time we have to do this, it is a bit odd and sad to have to make arrangements for the disposition of his client accounts with us, as the rest of his family knows nothing about what he was doing and has no idea how to provide hosting support to those clients. I’ve been working on notices to those clients, straddling the line between breaking news they may not know and yet being businesslike enough to make sure that they understand what has to be done.
But life carries on, no matter what happens to us. It may be difficult, it may strain the people left behind (one of my chief concerns should anything happen to me), but on it goes.
Another case in point: one of my mom’s old long-term neighbors (Jo, in case those of you reading this knew her) died in February as well, the same week Boots did. She had been receiving treatment for cancer that had invaded her brain, and they found out it had spread to her liver. She’d been in the hospital for a bit, but when there was nothing more they could do, they brought her home with Hospice care. She died that same night, around midnight.
But again, life carries on, and we move on with it.
I knew someone once who was incredibly anguished about all the bad things that happen in life, and dwelt constantly on that aspect: wasn’t it horrible, life is unfair, it all seems such a waste, how can we possibly go through all this, and the same, ad nauseum, with no break of sunshine, ever.
How can we go through all this? How can we not?
Back on the 18th of February, I mentioned that my cat, Boots, was dying. We knew it wasn’t going to be much longer, and so it wasn’t – after all, she was about 18 years old. I had been sleeping on the couch for about a week or so, Boots with me, just to have some time together and to be with her in the event she happened to go overnight. The Wednesday after posting that, I had gone to the NOC to do a few things, and when I got back after midnight, I found her on the floor, back legs splayed out, on the threshold between the dining room and kitchen. She couldn’t stand well and couldn’t walk, and I knew that this was not the way it should be. I scooped her up and laid down on the couch with her. At some point, I drifted off, and when I woke up around 4 AM Thursday morning, found that she had pulled herself out of my lap, to the floor, and over toward the front door. I picked her up again and made her as comfortable as possible until we could call the vet to take her in.
We did, speaking to the very nice folks at a new vet’s office, closer to the house. They told us to go ahead and bring her in. I wrapped her up in a towel and carried her outside to show her the spot we’d picked out for her: the west side of the property, near the very largest tree on the property, with lots of sunshine (because she loved rolling around in the sun and being outside) and a place where I could get some flowers to grow (because she, although the smallest cat, was bold and in another life was probably a jungle cat of some kind). When I took her outside, she turned her face toward the sun and I could see her nose twitching, sniffing the fresh air. There was a bluejay in the big tree, chattering away at us as we looked at the spot.
I started back across the property toward the house and the car, and Boots had her head hanging over my arm, still sniffing the air. As I reached the front porch, I turned her head toward me, and saw that quite clearly, she was, at that moment, dying. We called the vet’s office back and told them we would not need their services for this after all. I sat down on the porch, Boots wrapped up in my arms, the sun on our faces, a slight breeze brushing us, and then she was gone. Peacefully. At home. With her people.
The flower seed we planted that morning over her is already starting to come up.
No doubt that’s one of the things she would dream about when she slept like she did in the picture above, taken a day before the new year arrived.
Rest in peace, old girl.