On Valentine’s Day, Damien saw that two Eastern Bluebirds had taken up residence in a birdhouse in our backyard (lovers, definitely). That evening, we heard the frogs singing in the pond. The nearly six-month old hens laid their first egg. The past few mornings have smelled a little like spring: wet grass and rich earth. Damien has planted loads of onions in soil blocks placed under indoor grow lights. Our lettuces, brassicas, and herbs have taken off indoors as well. There is a new crew of baby chicks growing up in our spare room (of course I’d prefer the garage, but nights are still getting below 40F so it’s way too cold for baby chicks out there). And, of course, my allergies are in full-swing: the surest sign of springtime. I have been sick for days, but still having to carry on with chores and work (save a couple of sick days my body forced me to take), and these small signs of spring have brought a feeling of lightness to my world.
There isn’t as much to do in the garden itself during winter, but there is plenty to do elsewhere around the farm. We’ve kept busy with maintaining the compost pile, chicken tending, pond digging, pruning trees and roses, seed starting, gathering firewood, and updating animal enclosures.
Damien loves composting. Not just the idea of composting, he actually enjoys the work of it: taking out the food scraps, adding in whatever is needed, stirring it, watering it, and whatever else he does out there. I, on the other hand, love the idea of composting, I love that it provides us with rich fertilizer free of added chemicals for the garden, and I love that it is a solution for our food waste. I do not enjoy taking out the five gallon bucket from beneath the sink every time I need to put something in there, opening up a deluge of previously contained smells of decomposition. I guess that’s one thing that makes us a good team. In the coming weeks, I’m planning to write about his process and all about composting, so stay tuned for that.
This front flower bed confounds me. First of all, it is home to a massive heating and air unit, which keeps us cool and warm, but is quite the eyesore. When we moved in, this bed was full of bulbs (Lilies, I believe?) but I took those out, planning to grow mint there as it is our most contained bed and mint has a tendency to take over. The folks who lived here before us seem to have grown exclusively non-native plants you can buy at the local hardware store, almost always treated with pesticides (lilies, daffodils, elephant ears, etc.). Our goal is to have only plant species which are native, or at least non-invasive, and if invasive (such as anything in the mint family), at least edible or medicinal, and mostly perennials. However, this is a long process and flower bulbs are notoriously difficult to get rid of. When I “cleared out” the bed last winter, I planted lots of mint seeds hoping they’d take, and that their colonizing nature would outdo the bulbs. What actually happened is that not a single seed took, and the bulbs came back with a vengeance. Like I said, we’re playing the long game here, so I’ll try again this year. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
Damien and I spent this past Saturday building an outdoor enclosure (aka a chicken run) for the birds. Though I wish it were still standing, I’m thankful that we are able to use scrap wood from a collapsed barn on the land, using only a few new 2x4’s for its construction. In an ideal world, I would let them free range every day, but the reality is that there are several dogs that roam around, raccoons, opossums, armadillos, and of course, at least one fox, so we decided to build them a simple little (not so little, actually…) space for them to get fresh air and sunshine each day while staying safe from predators. I plan to let them roam around in the chicken tractor whenever we’re around the house to keep an eye on ‘em. This run is about 12’x11’ and six feet tall. I painted it to help preserve the wood, but I don’t mind that (in my opinion) it makes it a bit nicer to look at.
The most egg-citing news on the farm this week is that our hens laid their first egg! It was Friday and I was at work in town while Damien was home. I got an ambiguous text from him that said “guess what”... my anxiety brain went to worst case scenarios like oh no, one of the chickens or guineas got eaten or we forgot to pay the water bill. But shortly after, I received a photo of his hand holding a little egg. I was so giddy that I squealed while sitting at my desk. I couldn’t stop smiling the rest of the day, and of course I had to exclaim about the harvest to every coworker I encountered after that. I can’t explain egg-sactly why I was so egg-static about the first egg. I know that it is a natural biological function of hens to lay eggs at some point in the first year of their lives, and to keep doing so for several years after. I brought them to our farm for this very purpose, but somehow it was still surprising and thrilling. Mostly I think it was just validating to glean something from all of the financial, emotional, and physical work I have put into keeping these gals. When I got home that afternoon, Damien told me that he had walked by the chickens in the tractor and sternly told them that they had better start laying eggs soon to earn their keep, or else. He went on a walk, and when he came back to the house, he looked into the tractor and said, “Holy shit, you actually did it!” as if he had convinced them. I found another one on Sunday.
On a non farm-related note, on Sunday we visited northwest Arkansas with a good friend to celebrate another friend’s birthday and got to do a bit of city dwelling. We visited a newly opened and locally-owned art supply store where I looked at and touched nearly every object in the store at least once, but left with only one new paintbrush and a bright yellow kneaded eraser. We had delicious Thai food, coffee, and headed back to the farm. When we returned, I checked the coop for a possible afternoon egg, but no luck. Maybe tomorrow; can’t get too greedy too soon I suppose.
On this day I am thankful for our first home grown eggs, simple pleasures in life, and the promise of spring.
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Congrats on your egg! How egg-citing! I'm so jealous that you're outdoors and composting. We can't even see our compost bins - still under 2ft of snow. I can't believe those unwanted bulbs of yours keep coming back after digging them up. Go figure. Maybe plant some garlic bulbs to compete? Good luck.