Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spreading The Joy

“Mankind, for all it’s artistic pretensions, owes it’s existence to 6 inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains”

One of the tasks of winter is the cleaning of the animal barns. The composting process grinds to a halt due to the cold weather, but the poo keeps coming. I top up the compost bins just before freezeup and let the freeze thaw cycle continue the work of the hibernating microbes.
Our old barn has a manure pack laid down by various animal residents over the years. The sharp hooves of the sheep shred the surface and they drag their bedding straw around the pen. Every few days, I rake the surface and pile the manure into my cheerfully coloured plastic sleigh. I then haul it to the garden and spread it on the beds. In keeping with organic practices, I can only add this lightly aged manure for a few months in deepest winter. I must stop adding uncomposted manure no later than 90 days before planting my crop. The deadline is 120 days before planting a root crop. I’ve got until about June, so I should get all my beds covered with a layer of black gold.
The henhouse gets refreshed on the warmer days of winter. The poultry litter is too hot to be applied directly to the garden so it is piled over a heap of cornstalks and left to ferment. I also continue to add the contents of my household compost pail, as well as a small amunt of sawdust and wood ash from the stove.
It is pleasant winters work. It gets me outside for a while each day. There is none of the urgency of the other seasons and the reward is measureable.
The thaw and the rains of spring will leach the harshness out of this manure and leave a rich black crumb which will add to the tilth of my little patch of heaven.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My Wintersown Project

On November 3, 2009, I planted a mix of radish (french breakfast), carrot (touchon) and spinach (king of Denmark) seed together. I placed the bin inside my old van. The outside temperature were about 10*C during the day and about 10 degrees higher inside the van. I figured that things would sprout but I wasn't hopeful for a harvest since the amount of daylight is pretty low in November.

We had sprouties by the 20th of Novemeber. Temps stayed about the same with a few cold nights. On December 4th, all was progressing well but the sliding door fell off the van. I moved the project inside to an unheated summer bedroom. Temps varied but did not go beyond 10*. The sprouties had an east facing window which gave them good morning light. They weren't doing alot but they satisfied my need for green.

December 23rd, still hanging on. They have yet to be watered. The radish are the sturdiest of the bunch. The carrots and spinach are still thinking about what they need to do and whether this is the right time of year to do it.

January 5th. The sprouties endured a few days of at freezing temperatures. I finally watered them and they perked up. The room is staying about about 5*C and getting lots of sunlight. The sprouties have been in a state of cold confusion for 2 months but they aren't dead.
To be continued....