Working Backwards Towards Spring

I know I haven’t been posting very often.  I find small consolation in the fact that no one else seems to be either.  It’s such a busy time of year!  Right now the school year is in full swing, the daylight hours are fewer, and our focus has shifted in two directions: back to our projects for the inside of the house, and starting to take action on our projects to remake our garden.  Remember our late summer garden mantra, “Next Year Will be Different!” ?  Well, next year is right around the corner.

I posted the other day about our decision to bring chickens and ducks to our wee homestead in the spring.  We’re so excited!  I can’t wait!  Well, actually, I can, because here’s the list of things that has to be done before we’re ready for them:

Clean up the corner of the yard where the compost is going to be moved to

Use the current compost housed in the bins at the moment somewhere in the yard

Build new 3-4 bin system (hurray!) and dismantle the old (2-bin) one

Build chicken coop (house and run), which is partly going where the compost bins are now

Over in the orchard-to-be, I am currently digging up creeping buttercup out of wet clay soil.  I will be doing this in half-hour chunks almost every day for the next few weeks!  Missed my chance to do weight training in preparation…

I’m digging up a four-foot wide strip about 20 feet long.  When this is done, I will mulch with manure and other goodies (possibly the unfinished compost above) to start improving the aforementioned wet, clay soil.   Did I mention it was rocky too? This new bed will eventually be outside the fence containing the poultry range/orchard-to-be, and I’m hoping to plant the fence line with more tayberry plants, and in front of those, herbs, flowers, and some large perennial vegetables: artichokes, maybe amaranth, possibly sunchokes, sunflowers, etc…permaculture layering style.

When the soil is prepared, then I can move the rhubarb up to its new home in this bed and divide it.  When the rhubarb is out, I can plant some fall rye over the area it leaves behind.  This needs to happen asap, before it’s too late to plant the rye!

When the bed is dug, I will then start digging up the perennials that we won’t keep from the orchard-to-be.

At the same time, I will be digging up areas that will be becoming flower beds, to where I’ll be moving the perennials from the orchard-to-be that we want to keep.

I will have to pick something to plant in the holes left by the perennials; something the ducks and chickens will like to eat; mostly crimson clover, probably.

When or as the digging is going on, we can also plant some more fruit trees and fence the orchard, and build the duck house and predator-proof pen.

Whew!  That’s the domino effect of the chickens and ducks, but in no way is that the end of the winter garden projects!

The Skipper is currently weatherproofing a small workshop on the property that he wants to be a proper workshop.

I have leaves to shred, compost to build, fall rye to plant in other places, and garden beds to clean up (I’ve been so bad with this!  Next year will be different, because I’ll have my chicken labour to help clear up the last tomatoes, weeds, etc and to till in their freshly dropped manure to prepare the beds for winter 🙂 )

I’m hoping to dig up my blueberry bed, take out enormous mint and lemon balm plants, as well as just about everything else, do a weed-suppressing mulch and soil amendment, separate out the blueberries and possibly plant some more.  Then I’m turning the bed next to them into the herb garden.

Last, but certainly not least, we will be tearing out all of the raised beds that we inherited and were growing in this past year, and rebuilding 12″ high raised beds in a more effective pattern.  We’ve got a growing pile of horse manure out our front window which will be mixed with topsoil to put in the new beds, and I’ll be sifting out (hopefully) all of the perennial weeds that currently inhabit the old ones–mostly field horsetail, but also strawberries!

I have to find a new home for the strawberries!

And all of this we hope to have done by Feb/March, because I want to start planting seedlings in the greenhouse a little earlier this year and see if we can’t be eating our own produce a little earlier than the May that we managed last year…

Luckily we have mild winters, and will likely only not be able to work on these projects mid-December through late January-ish most years.  It’s a rare year that the ground really freezes for any length of time, so working on the raised beds in early February should be pretty straightforward.  In fact, I always remember that the Skipper and I had our first real date around the 20th of February way back when.  I remember the day so clearly, because it was one of those first spring days that was really warm; that first day you really had to get out of your coats and sweaters as you walked in the sun.  Temps much like these days, probably!  By that time of year the buds are out on the trees and it feels like the crops SHOULD be in the ground, even though it’s a long time yet until they are big enough to eat, and there is still a regularly frosty night…But I digress.  Dreaming of spring already?!

Wish us luck!

PS: Thanks to those of you continuing to post comments; I’m sorry not to be responding to each one as I like to.  I am reading and appreciating your thoughts and stories!




3 thoughts on “Working Backwards Towards Spring

  1. All in a day’s work, eh Toni? You certainly have your work cut out for you but it must feel good to get it down into a list like this so you know what needs to be done. How about some before/after photos of some of these things? I’m particularly interested in the compost piles.

    I look at our back yard and think of you. Because it now looks like we will be staying put for a while, we can once again think about transforming the mucky swamp into a vegetable garden. We just need the money to haul in materials to change the ground from wet sponge to well-drained soil… Then I catch up to you in no time. (ha!)

  2. Thanks Deb. We have some nice hoop house-like cold frames built, but when we redo the raised beds, we’ll be looking for new ways configure them. Michaela’s pictures and tutorial are great!

    Yarnsalad, I will definitely try to do some before and afters! I’ve been lazy with the camera lately, but will try and post when we get to each project.

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