Coastal Gardening: December!

Well, as one can assume, December doesn't usually make one think of gardening, but there are definitely things here on the farm we are working on, both in the dirt and nearby...

One of my favorite surprises in the garden has been the viburnum planted a couple of years ago, which blooms in...November! It's a bit scrawny still but the ducks love this corner where they can hide under this shrub and take their naps :)

The garlic has been planted! After the massive 90-head haul this year, with the majority of the harvest turned into minced garlic, garlic powder, and garlic-balsamic jelly, I picked 8-10 of the best heads and planted oodles more !

We have decided that, after taking 2020 off, we'll be raising our own meat chickens again in the spring! Earlier this year as our 2019 chickens ran out, we were fortunate to score a killer deal on several dozen local birds from a nearby farm that traditionally sold to restaurants but with the pandemic, opened bulk sales to the public. Not as good as ours, but still local and better than any grocery store (even the 'natural' ones). With that, I thought I'd take advantage of an unseasonably warm November day and get the big project done now! After making a quickie lightweight chicken tractor in 2019 from repurposed PVC pipes for the four dozen heirloom meat chooks we raised, one that barely survived the four months of free-ranging in our garden, I decided that for 2021 I was going to make one stronger...but one I could still physically move on my own. (Side note: another neighbor happily took all the old PVC off our hands so it's got a new life down the street, yay!). Using bits of 2x4's our last contractor left behind and old siding trim torn off this summer, along with repurposed 1/4" hardware cloth from the first chicken tractor (that stuff is gold!), I designed and built this new tractor! A bit smaller than the old one, as we don't think we'll raise as many this time around, this one is comes in at about 50 square feet. Scanning Pinterest for a variety of ideas (this one and this one were my biggest inspirations), I not only went from a rickety rectangle to an A-frame style, but also improved the door design, with a long upper rectangular door for feeding and watering (one where, if I forget to move the waterer before moving the tractor, I wouldn't need to crawl in on hands and knees to grab it - stinky lesson learned!), and a triangular end door which will only be used when it's time to move the chooks into the big stall in the barn (where we let them finish the last week or so...and ensures a quicker transition to the cone and work tables). Note to newbies, because these are meat chickens, there's no need for a roosting or nesting area, so it's a lot easier build! Big thanks to my husband for helping me build the triangle door, as my angles were definitely 'free form' when I built the tractor, haha. I used 2 leftover plastic pipe clamps found in the garage for door handles and a leftover So now I've just a few finishing touches left - handles for easy moving and a tarp over the back half (for shade and rain protection). Also, one thing I learned is with wheels, when the chicks are smaller they can sneak out the bottom when moving, and I thought this idea of putting an old pair of skis on the bottom was ingenious! So if I can finagle a donation from a sporting goods shop (word is many have broken ones in back they can't sell) on our next trip into P-town, we'll do this!

Ah yes and slowly but surely, thanks to the sledgehammer that our since-departed neighbor gifted us before they moved, husband is slowly but surely chipping away at this monstrosity behind the garage (click here to see a 'before' shot). Renting a jackhammer is not in our budget and none of our neighbors have machinery to pull this out of the ground, so we're just doing it bit by bit. What is this, you ask? The base for a 1980's satellite dish that someone had here way back when. Oy vey!

And last but not least? We have small things to celebrate on the outskirts of our garden. The one red-twigged dogwood that survived out of five [being here 2 1/2 years now, we're learning there's all kinds of strange stuff in the soil (folks out here used to bury their garbage, so digging anything up usually comes with minor discoveries) that challenge what we plant, even with the best added compost, etc.], and the sections of the monster-sized cardoon we divided up and planted have already started to prove "they're not dead!" Because they grew over 7' tall and overshadwed our fruit trees last year, we thought we'd take advantage of how much they love it out here and both propagate and relocate them to the borders of the garden. Our honeybees will lovvvve this!

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