On pea-planting season

I often feel like a poultry Pied Piper

There is a small window of time between melting snow and garden season when the chickens are allowed to run around unpenned.  They wander fairly widely, mostly in pursuit of the newly-sprouting grass, but mainly they all make a beeline for the gardens.  Deeply mulched beds need to be deeply scratched to find those worms within, you see, and then there’s the magic of The Compost Pile.  Oh the delectable wonders to be found in that monstrous pile of stank (if you’re a chicken, that is).I have set the compost bucket down to open the gate.  They have found it.

And then that window closes.  Slams shut, if you ask them: whaddya mean, we need to stay in here all day?  Their protestations are mighty.   Squabbles break out.  Feathers fly.  They are now confined until Happy Hour, usually around 6pm-dusk.  And they can tell time, so…at 6 you better be prepared to spring them loose.

The reason for their confinement?  The garden has been planted!  Yes, St. Patrick’s day, traditional pea- and potat0-planting day, was wonderfully warm and even sunny, so I locked up the birds and began the season.  These wily critters easily can fly over the 5′ fence encircling the gardens, and once they do, inevitably they will scratch up things that they should not.

Queen Ruby asks “but can’t I stay?  I won’t scratch things as much as the chickens,” to which I reply, no, m’dear.  She loves sprouts even more than worms.  (and notice the greenhouse roll-up side is up!  this is the earliest ever that I have had to do that.)

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16 responses to “On pea-planting season

  1. Excuse me while I just stare at your bare ground..ignore the drool please. My birds just wander around atop the snow still but maybe another week or so and we’ll see something!

  2. Do you know that I am determining what I should be doing in the garden by reading your blog? We’re in Ann Arbor – should I be planting potatoes and peas when I don’t have a row cover or green house? I have started some greens and herbs inside, but am antsy to start planting our outdoor beds as well.

    • Hah! Well goodness I am glad to help, Shannon. It’s too early for me to plant potatoes (I like them to have a bit warmer soil) but peas, fava beans, carrots, parsnips, beets and more can go in the ground. Lettuce, spinach too. Most of these things don’t mind a frost or three. So yeah, all these things are now outside here without cover (except what’s offered by the scratching chickens, digging up adjacent mulch). Have fun! Should be a nice day in AA.

  3. Thanks! As soon as I finish school with our 4 year old we are going to get compost and planting today!

  4. Look at them go at it in the compost pile.

  5. Mine inadvertently got in the fenced garden today–I left the gate open after moving a cold frame off one of my spinach beds to use for seedlings….so of course that’s is now all scratched up, as is part of my garlic bed, but thankfully they are just sprouting so no harm done (well, at least to the garlic).

    Gosh they love this time of year, I had a five-hen pile up/dust bath this afternoon, and I almost joined them 🙂

  6. Ruby looks well!

  7. Who’s the Male Tom putting the moves on your chickens?.

  8. Ah, Randi. It’ll happen, and after the winter you had it *should* happen, you’re due. Aren’t they fun? Having ducks is good too because they will gladly peck through the ice in their water bowl. Chickens, they’re wimps.

    Hope that helped, Shannon. The forecast is for more spring-ish weather until Wed., so you still have some time.

    Meems! Indeed, it’s why I am a Pied Piper. If I only had a couple of birds then they’d turn up their beaks at what’s destined for the compost pile but having more birds mean they get competitive, even for nasty bits covered with coffee grounds. Sillies.

    Sara, I remember really freaking out when I saw my first chicken sun-bathing. I mean, she’d flopped completely down with one wing up, one leg down, I thought she’d been hurt by something. Nope, just absorbing a few rays. But sorry about your spinach bed. Means you’ll have nice orange eggs, I guess!

    WF, your lambs are SO CUTE. Makes me want some! You can keep your peacock, though; Earl is enough of a show-off for us. 🙂

    Oh, that’s Earl, Ruby’s husband, John. He likes to make a show for any and all ladies, even me. Funny guy.

  9. This is the first year that I have a greenhouse, but I don’t know when to roll up the sides. I assume that you are monitoring for if the temperature gets too hot? Do you roll them back down at night?

    • Hi David. Early spring and late fall require the most attention from you, unfortunately, regarding rolling up and rolling down, door-opening and -closing. It’s kind of a balance you need to strike to discourage things from growing too rapidly! Isn’t that ironic? So yeah, I am rolling up and down daily. Haven’t gotten hot enough yet to open/close the doors daily. So I just keep an eye out on the overnight temperature forecast. The last few nights, our lows haven’t been that low (upper 40s) so I left the sides up. But we have snow (!!) forecast for Wed. so it needs to be shut up tight soon.

      I think the easiest thing is to have a vent at the top of the side walls (at the highest point) that you can open and close as needed. That said, I of course haven’t installed any. 😛

      • Great. That helps. But what about getting too hot? Obviously some plants will enjoy hotter temperatures while others will go to seed if you let the sun cook your greenhouse. I have been drooling over some of the automatic vent openers on Amazon, but haven’t thought that it was important enough to purchase. The low-tech option still works to manually open the greenhouse to let the heat out or to keep it in depending on the internal temperature.

        • Exactly, David. Low tech. As long as you’re (or someone’s) around and paying attention to the weather, I figure it’s easier to manually do things than not.

          And as far as “too hot” unfortunately that’s the world where we live. I am not spouting global-warming stuff! Really, if you’re a plant, or frankly any creature on this earth, you’ve got a bubble of happiness in which you function your best. For example, my brassicas are loving the new sustained warmth of the greenhouse, but my mache HATES it and is bolting. So are my arugula, cabbages and kales. What to do! Just recognize the bubble. And when you have a greenhouse, there’s going to be a period of time where the sides and ends will be open all the time…you’re trying to slow things down. Now up here in Michigan we’re not exactly blessed with sun. In Utah, you are. You might need to look into shading systems for the greenhouse if it indeed gets too sunny and boiling. Or not!

          Believe me, it takes time to juggle all of this. But aren’t you glad you are?

  10. I’ve only been following your site for about a month or so, but was wondering…. what did you cross to get the chocolate-colored barred rocks? I thought I’d come up with every color that could be made, but not that one!
    Diane

    • Hi Diane! Well, those are Specked Sussex that you see. The tips of their (dark brown) feathers are tipped in black then white. Their speckles change every year so you need to get to know them by their combs or actions…can’t by their feathers anyway.

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