But the main project this past week was mucking out the backyard chicken coop. It was not bad for around 4-months worth of product. I had been putting all my grass clippings, other garden refuse, vegetable trimmings, melon rinds, etc. in the coop and about 3-weeks ago we had our last good rain. In the process and after the rain, we have had record heat and very high humidity. The remaining product in the coop did not dry out. I realized it was time for a mucking.
I removed everything from the coop I could, water founts, feeders...basically everything. Then I started in the chicken house. I had cypress wood chips in there and over time a good bit of wheat straw had made its way in as well due to feedings and the little pullets pulling it out of the nest boxes. So I got two good size plastic storage totes and proceeded to load them up to haul out. I backed my truck up almost to the coop door in the back yard and placed an old tarp in the bed. When I would fill up both totes I would move them to the coop gate then dump into the truck bed. I repeated this only twice in the house. So it took only 4-buckets of product to remove every thing and get it really cleaned out. Fresh chips were then added, food and water founts and I shooed the flock into the house and they stayed there while I started on the run.
Then I moved to the outside yard part. I started in the furthermost corner and took the flat shovel and started scooping out. I filled up the two totes quickly in this part. I took the product down to the bare ground. Originally, I had put in 6-bags of shredded hardwood mulch as a base and good drainage for the coop. I took all this out along with the other material that had built up along with the manure and other refuse in the coop...all the way to bare ground as originally started. After exactly 16-totes full of product dumped into my truck bed, I raked up with a fine metal lawn rake the remainder of loose manure, straw, mulch and other product that was left. This product was very small, fine particles of good usable material and I added this material straight into the area of this urban farm vegetable patch where I plan to plant a fall bed of greens in about another 10-days or so. I am watering it about every other day to help it burn off some of the nitrogen heat quickly.
After this complete mucking out, I added 6-bags of fresh shredded hardwood mulch back to the coop to start again. I have realized I could have put off mucking at this time if I had not put so much grass clippings in as well as the wheat straw and possible too much organic material. I have since this week put in a controlled amount of fresh organic material, using a garbage can lid with grass clipping in it instead of just dumping 2-plus bags full of clippings all in the coop and letting that build up. I will still give fresh material almost daily but will force more eating of the layer crumbles they are on and offer the green material in a more controlled way and not in bulk as I have been. They are by no means denied anything but given when I want them to have it and not "at will". At least for the time being. Then when I am able to reach my 2-year goal of moving to the mini-farm, I will have them more in a free range type of environment. Or at least some birds free ranging for eating bugs, etc.
My long term goal is to get enough of the breeds that are on the slide or endangered and try to produce enough fertile eggs and chicks to be able to provide them to other collectors and hobbyist and chicken fanciers. That would be my ideal situation. And in the plan I have, I look to become as self sufficient as possible. I was privileged to visit a fellow UT Master Gardener yesterday and her husband about 20-miles east of Jackson down I-40 who live on 15-acres and saw their operation and was very impressed. I was also generously given a pint of their freshly gathered honey from their hives. Did I say I was IMPRESSED? VERY IMPRESSED! I thought I had died and arrived in nirvana it was so wonderful there. There were only 2-miles off the interstate highway but you felt like you were miles from now where really. Lovely area and well hidden from view. Makes me think of my future and where to look for "the farm"! KUDOS to my new friends!
Things continue about the same at the Jackson Community Garden Site #4. I have added some fencing around the tomatoes as the local squirrel population seems to have located the main tomato patch that has been deemed for donation to the local soup kitchen, RIFA, and carry off half eaten green produce all over the garden site, leaving nothing to ripen for donation. Other than that, the rest of the garden is in full tilt and the cantaloupes and watermelons continue to add vines and small melons under the DAILY watchful eye of my only real gardener, "Mrs. G.". She has threatened bodily harm to anyone who touches the melons in the garden she says. I call her the Mayor of N. Fairgrounds & Hatton Street here in Jackson! Of course she gets a kick out of that.
I will leave you today with a few shots of the mucking of the backyard chicken coop and did I mention I put the manure product in the compost bin and will let it cook off a few months and then add it back into the garden for spring planting next year. Two photos of the mucked out product and the refreshed coop in shot #3. Have a good week and stay hydrated as we are still due for more scorching heat, up to 99-degrees here today. Still waiting on that first egg anytime now. And remember our ongoing gardening affirmation: "URBAN FARMING: ONE EGG AT A TIME!"