Student for life
Chooks should be high on our agenda for this spring – in fact, we bought the coop kit in January already! But life kept getting in the way, and besides, when the long trip materialised, we realised the chooks would just have to wait until we get back. So now that we’re back and I was forced to sit still for a long while, I started studying Harvey Ussery’s book titled The Small Scale Poultry Flock. My word, I think I’ve learnt a thing or three on every single page. Man, this guy is Ussering in an exciting new phase in our lives! The book is highly recommended – I may even pen down a review sometime when I have a downtime again.
Talking about studying, I am hyper stoked to report that my application for Permaculture Teachers Training has been successful – so I’m looking forward to some learning, sharing and meeting more like-minded people at the Ballarat Permaculture Guild in November.
Yes, you read correctly – veg planner, not veg planter! We have come to the stage where our random vegetable plantings aren’t working that well. Either we end up with total chaos in one bed, or we have half a bed that’s empty because we can’t clear the remainder of it yet. Our crop rotations have also been very hit-and-miss, relying on memory and bed availability. Besides, to keep track between what’s happening in Homeland’s semi-ordered beds vs what is happening in Dreamland’s forest style beds was becoming a nightmare. So we needed to start planning our vegetable planting and rotation schedule a lot more thoroughly.
For this I wanted a large pin-up board, but nothing I could find was big enough to fit however many rows in however beds times 52 weeks a year. Plus we needed some flexibility for changes, new beds and who knows what we dream up down the line. But then I got a brain wave! We have this huge portable dart board “screen” that we wheel out mostly when we have guests around the barbeque. But for the most part, it stands with its ugly backing facing the backyard, right next to a cupboard where a lot of our small implements, boots and hats are kept. So it is huge and pretty central – what more do you want?
So a large part of my downtime was spent drawing lines on large pin-up sheets and cutting and labelling literally hundreds of little colour-coded strips of cardboard. We use different colours to denote different types of vegetables e.g. roots, cover crops, fruits, etc., and different lengths of cardboard proportional to how long it takes that particular plant to maturity. So now we can do proper crop rotation and companion planting planning all together on one large sheet! Besides the planning, it also creates a great project plan to make sure we have continuity in the beds and that we do the proper bed preparations and plantings in time.
Now to go and do the planning according to plants that survived our journey, the seeds we have ordered and the vegetables we want and need in their respective growing seasons. I like!
Provencialise the front lawn
Since I have done the market gardening course, I have been advocating that we should use the largely unused front lawn for vegetable and herb production. And every time my suggestion ran slam bang into a brick wall… the lady loves her space and her vista (despite my arguments that neither of those would disappear.)
But while we were in Provence, my idea finally got its big break! As we were wandering awe-inspired through the vegetable garden at La Mas de la Rose, Patricia dropped the bomb: “Well, if you can make it look like THIS, you can get the front lawn.”
I didn’t need any more inspiration! So to alleviate the boredom of cutting and labelling hundreds of little pieces of cardboard, I came up with a Provencial design for the Homeland front area. Besides enlarging our vegetable production, it would introduce some highly necessary shade and coolness to an otherwise hard sun-baked area. Mind you, Provence has very hot dry summers, so their style of gardening should work well here too.
There is just one little catch. In order to get that Provence look right, you need to get that terracotta edging right. I can still figure out how to do the pergolas and the light beige paths very cost-effectively, but those neat little Provencial edgings may be prohibitively expensive, especially with so many edges involved. What about miniature lavender and rosemary edges? That’s pretty Provencial too! We can actually grow our own cuttings, and it will have a very useful by-product too. Little bags of lavender and rosemary herb mixes anyone? Flowers for the bees? Ha ha, the debate continues…
While working through Harvey Ussery’s book, I stumbled on the idea to build a portable “chicken cruiser” (that’s what he calls it) that we can employ in the Homeland vegetable garden. This is, in addition to the free-range chooks and ducks that we are planning for Dreamland. Harvey’s book contains so many pointers on how to make such a tractor strong enough to keep predators out, but lightweight enough to be able to move it around. He also explains exactly how the employ the chooks for this important job. So I got drawing again! (Sorry the lines are a bit faint, but that’s what they taught us, with some painful physical enforcement, in technical drawings 101 way back in secondary school.)
Building this “mobile working holiday home” for a couple of chooks is actually less demanding work than de-weeding and preparing beds, and I can build it all in the shed – it has to be portable after all. So I may just get this little “high priority interrupt project” off the ground while I’m recovering from the flu. So there will be a new type of label on the veg planner – “chooks” – which will indicate when who will have which timeshare on which bed.
Watch this space for this exciting development!