Sunday, July 31, 2016

Gravity Powered Chicken Compost

When I was determining where to put the chickens on our property it was important to me that they be in a place where they could get sun and shade.  It was also quite important that they be put in a place that allowed us to utilize our available space wisely. 

The area that we eventually chose is a steep hill.  I haven't done the math to see how steep it is but I can tell you that it was steep enough to be a pretty big pain in the ass to mow!!  Not only was this part of the yard the perfect place to put the chickens, it was ideal because we would no longer have to mow there! 

About a year into keeping chickens I was reading a blog post on Milkwood that outlined their plan to use a steep chicken run as a gravity compost set up.  I knew immediately that this would work in our run.  I pulled several downed trees from the woods and put them crossways in the coop. 

This photo is taken with me standing at the first row so that one is not shown.

The entire thing has worked great.  When I clean out the coop I leave everything in a pile at the top of the run.  Over time, the chickens scratch through it and during the normal use of the coop, the material slowly makes it's way down the run.
The logs have been in the run for almost 2 years.  Today I went to the very bottom and cleaned out the compost at that level. 
The compost was over 8 inches deep!  Now, that's not to say that it's completely composted, the top 3 inches still had small bits of straw in it.  But, for the most part, it was good to go!
The bottom level is roughly 5 ft by 5 ft.  I took 20, yes TWENTY, buckets of material from it!
This picture shows the space after it was cleared of the compost.  Our ground has a VERY heavy clay can see where I scraped down to it on the lower left hand side.  I probably could have gotten another bucket or two if I had wanted to get really nitpicky about it and scrape the entire area.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

An Unhappy Garden

When you live the majority of your life in one climate and later move to a different one there are many changes to deal with. Aside from culture shock, the most significant thing that I have experienced is a disconnect from what has always been a very intrinsic awareness of seasons. Planning, seed starting, planting, fertilizing, and harvesting all happen at relatively the same time each year.

When you move to a different planting zone, all of those times change.  Over the past 10 years I've learned to compensate for that through trial and very unfortunate error.  However, this year has brought with it a challenge that I haven't faced before and the solution is going to have to be dramatic. 

My raised beds get too much sun!  Crazy talk, right?!  Impossible!'s so true!  Do you see this?  This is a VERY unhappy garden:
When you plant a garden in Zone 4, which is the zone that my people grow in, the season is short and there is a need for as much sun as possible.  When I planned this garden space I reveled in the fact that it would get full sun almost all day long.  I neglected to take into consideration that this is Zone7.  7b in fact.  It's a hot mother out there!  Full sun is not going to cut it when you're on the top of a mountain in the soul crushing heat that is an Arkansas summer!
My poor plants are paying the price for my oversight and I've been making plans to remedy that.  I knew that I'd have to replace the raised beds in the next few years because I made them with repurposed lumber that has definitely seen better days.  I'm still planning on exactly what I'm going to replace them with but I do know that they will be irrigated this time as well as having some pvc hoops that I can put a sun screen on in the hottest part of the year.  That and the addition of some fruit trees should make a huge difference.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


My friend Katie has two amazing kids and I love them like crazy!  I wanted to make them some softies and knew right away that I would do a pink bear for her little girl.  I wanted to do either a lizard or a dragon for her little guy but he couldn't choose between them so we went with both :-)

All patterns are available on Ravelry


Her son did the honors of naming each animal.  The bear is Girl Bear, the dragon is Spikes, and the Chameleon is Corndog LOL!

Girl bear looks different now than pictured because I chickened out about using the plastic eyes for a baby... She's not as cute with the crocheted eyes but definitely safer!