Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Long Delayed Chores

My winter garden has been suffering from the effects of heavy marathon training. A long list of tasks piled up while I was throwing myself into the cycle of long tempo runs, tune-up races and interval workouts. But what are taper weeks for? Catching up on those neglected tasks of course! Since the Napa Valley Marathon is a week and a half away, I have been incrementally cutting back to let my body recover and absorb the hard training from the last few months. And cutting back on running means more energy and time to devote to my garden. But I have to not go overboard on the shoveling, digging and bending; otherwise I will be toeing the line at Napa with the back of a 90 year old arthritic.

First up on the list of garden tasks was to mulch the new blueberry and kiwi plants. They arrived a few weeks ago as spindly little bare root twigs from Bay Laurel Nursery. Sean and I planted them in the garden and the weather obliging dumped inches and inches of rain. I am eagerly awaiting the day when I can go into the backyard and pick a basket of fruit. However given my skill at blueberry consumption we should have ordered 400 bushes instead of 4. Apparently blueberry bushes take up to 5 years to mature but once they do, one plant will produce many pints of fruit. I selected a variety of kiwi called "Issai" which is supposedly self fertile and will produce fruit without a male plant. (Kiwis come in female and male plants and usually a male plant is required for pollination in order for fruit to form). I am hoping the vines will like having the wooden backyard staircase for a trellis.

Young kiwi vine next to the stairs
My shallot bed was also suffering from a lack of weeding and it was getting difficult to distinguish the shallot plants from the intruders. I could have saved myself much labor by being more proactive and pulling the weeds when they were tiny but weeding is probably the farthest thing from my mind after a hard run. A particularly stubborn plant had decided to call my raised beds home and it was quite satisfying to grab hold of the stem and pull 8 inches of tap root out of the ground! Now the shallots have plenty of room to grow and no rivals sucking up water and nutrients.

Shallots are happy!
Mulching and weeding are both quite pleasant tasks but the final item on my pre-marathon garden chore list was MUCKING OUT THE CHICKEN RUN. Shoveling out 3 month's worth of leaves, wood shavings and 9 chickens' worth of poop is tiring and, to put it politely, really freaking gross. I suited up: tall rubber boots, work gloves, hat and weather resistant jacket with old fleece underneath. Armed with a big shovel and a bucket, I entered the chicken run and was instantly mobbed by 9 hens expecting food. I threw a handful of sunflower seeds into their coop and they all ran inside to stuff their faces. I shut the chicken door behind them to keep them out of the way while I got to work on the run. After a couple of bouts of rain, the floor of the run had turned into a thick layer of half-composted leaves and droppings. It was a bit smelly because of all the moisture and was definitely ready to be removed to the compost bin and replaced with a fresh layer of leaves. It took me quite a few trips with a 5 gallon bucket to clear out most of the run. I left the last corner for Sean, it was so thick and compacted I couldn't make a dent into it without throwing out my back. I hope the chickens appreciate my efforts and respond with lots of eggs! If not, off with their heads! Even though it's dirty work, I love having our chickens and even their poop. It is so wonderful to get a half dozen fresh eggs every day and all that chicken manure has made my vegetables very very happy.
That's right chickens, you better appreciate it your clean run.

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