17 March 2007

Oh, and of course the goats help too...

Lazy Woman's Leaf Shredder

I mentioned shredding leaves in a previous post and indeed, I have a huge red funnel shaped leaf shredder parked in the workshop. I've used it once -- it's like an upsidedown weedeater head deep inside the funnel -- and it produces such finely chopped leaves they turn to soil in the garden nearly instantly. And that's pretty impressive with the tough oak leaves we have around here. It'll chop straw and pine needles too. 

But it's loud, very loud. And creates a big cloud of leaf dust.

Back in North Carolina I had a dozen hens who lived in a chicken house with a fenced and covered outdoor run, which was of course picked bare within minutes of everything green. Since I couldn't leave them unattended with the garden -- I use a deep mulch system that represents heaven to a chicken, but isn't "deep mulch" once they are done with it -- I brought the yard and garden to them. Clumps of pulled weeds, old broccoli leaves and stalks, grass clippings, raked leaves, old hay...anything I could went into the chicken pen that had become a chicken powered composter!

It was great. They shredded everything to bits, stirred and aerated, picked out bugs and seeds. And of course added some chicken poop. Every few weeks I'd rake it all out, put it in a big wire compost bin and water well. Bingo: the easiet, quickest compost ever. 

So here a Larrapin, the chickens have three huge pens to roam around in, the there's little grass left between them and the goats. So I've put them to work as leaf shredders again. We rake all the oak leaves that have mellowed over the winter into the first pen. Every day I toss their scratch corn into the leaves. They never stop turning, scratching, breaking the tough leaves up.  And after several weeks, I can go rake up finely shredded forest duff-like leaf remains. It works great  as a soil-building deep mulch that draws earthworms by the herds. Or if I layer it with the shed hay from the goat stalls into a big compost pile, it breaks down in record time. 

This is how you too can put your chickens to work, without even building a chicken tractor! What's a chicken tractor. More later. 

Mid-March Daffodils

After a week of balmy springtime, it's cloudy and cool today. This photo is from a week or so ago, when new daffodils I planted last fall were beginning to bloom. I found a big bag a hundred bulbs at a local store for $14 and decided to plant them as a surprise for Mendy. That new, very bare tree in the photo is the Golden Locust I gave her in November 2005. I'll post pictures of the amazing green-gold leaves as soon as the tree has some this year! The bluish cast on the foreground are tiny blue wildflowers whose name I don't know yet...

Now that the daffodils have started, I hope to plant a hundred every autumn, all down the gentle slope that is the backyard. That's the view out the kitchen window while washing dishes -- one of the most important vistas of the garden design in our opinions.

Digging a little hole even big enough for a daffodil is a challenge in this incredibly rocky soil. I cheated on these and used the soft dirt around the new tree, which I busted up already. Under the sycamore there are huge roots -- real danger for the riding mower, so I cheated by planting the bulb nearly on top of the ground, then covered with a few inches of top soil from my dwinding pile (purchased from a "dirt farm" in Prairie Grove, AR) then topped it all off with shredded leaves for the winter. Judging from the results, this works! More on my favorite leaf shredders in the next post!