Forest Garden Year 3

Wow, I ended up going the whole summer and deep into winter without updating this blog! Apologies to those who might have been regular readers, or at least as regular as can be given the infrequency with which I check in here. I have, however, been producing my podcast pretty consistently. You can click on the link/banner thingy to the right of this page if you’re interested in listening to that.

We’ve been receiving an extraordinary amount of snow this winter, and being cooped up in the house has had a few effects. First of all, I’m worried about all the damage the snow is doing to my young forest garden. I’ve also started to yearn for warmer days, or at least warm enough to melt the snow and allow me to work on some of the infrastructure projects that I have in mind. Going through my garden pictures from over the summer has really intensified that feeling. But all the idle time means I have finally gotten around to doing a yearly update of garden progress. I’m three years in to my forest garden project now, and a lot of the trees and other plantings are really starting to fill in. Although I always end up finding more plants to cram into the garden, I think at this point that all of my major canopy plantings are in the ground. I’d like to give everything else a year or two to establish itself and then see where I might have room for more. But as I said, that is probably wishful thinking since my eyes always light up when I find something new (or at least heavily discounted) at the home center.

So here are a bunch of pictures in no particular order, with varying degrees of explanation.

Here’s and overview of the garden from my neighbor’s yard.

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In the garden.

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This is the front corner of the garden, where my small pond is located.

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The side yard.

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Echinacea in full bloom.

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Loquat, surround by several colors of yarrow, among other things.

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Bee balm, the coolest looking and best smelling flower in my garden.

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The ‘pond,’ after some rain, which is the only time it has water. The cattails have taken marvelously.

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A beautiful, edible, green mess.

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A guild built around a pear tree. Clover, creeping thyme, bill berry, an assortment of flowers and some other things that I can’t remember at the moment.

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The chickens are all doing well, albeit not getting much free ranging time since we’re buried under several feet of snow. This is from early summer, when they weren’t laying eggs yet. They’re all a bit bigger now, and laying pretty much every day despite the dark winter months.

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I expanded their run back in the fall, and I’m glad I did considering how much time the hens have to spend in there over the winter.

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Fast forward a few months…

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This is the most snow we’ve received in Ishikawa (and the Hokuriku region in general) in about 30 years. It’s beautiful, but causing quite a bit of chaos in my garden and with life in general. We’ve had a bit of thaw, and as the snow melts it’s uncovering a lot of damage to my young trees. I’m trying not to worry about it too much since there’s nothing I can do about it at the moment. Hopefully nothing is beyond repair come springtime.

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As I mentioned, I’ve got a few projects in mind once the snow melts. I need to do some fence repairs, since a section fell down due to rot. I also want to make some proper raised vegetable beds. The driftwood that I originally used is beginning to rot, so I want to use something that will last a bit longer and can be made a bit more chicken proof, since they eat everything green in sight. I’m also thinking of doing something with my lawn around the fire pit — some kind of patio, and possibly replacing the rest of the lawn with a durable ground cover. I’ll write about these projects in more detail once I’m actually doing them.

Until then…stay warm. (And listen to my podcast!)

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Growth

We received the rest of our chickens yesterday — two Okazaki Ouhan chicks that are two days old as I write this. Gisele and Patrice are doing well, and I’ll start gradually introducing them to their sisters in the next week or so.

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Speaking of, the other chickens are getting much bigger and more feathery. They are now just about a month old. With the arrival of the two new babies and the nighttime temperatures gradually increasing, they spent their first night in the coop last night. They’ve been spending the days outside for the last week or so and then coming inside at night, which made them increasingly unhappy in their cramped brooder box. I wasn’t worried about the Boris Browns, since their feathers have come in pretty well. But I had some reservations about putting the Silkie out all night. Her feathers are still a little sparse, and she’s so much smaller than the other two. But they were all in a good mood when I opened the coop this morning to let them into their run, and they all resisted when it was time to lock them down in their coop this evening.

Sparkle and Mia

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Kinu the Silkie, holding her own.

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My garden is also in fine form, looking somewhat foresty from the right angle, and extremely green no matter where you are.

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I planted my summer crops last week, and although it’s been quite rainy it hasn’t been very warm, so everything is in a holding pattern. The perennials, on the other hand, are going crazy.

My Black Locust is flowering for the first time, and oh my, does it smell fantastic. Can you spot the spider legs?

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I hope spring is springing where ever you are. Happy Mother’s Day!

The Naming of the Chicks

I was pleasantly surprised on Friday when the homecenter called to let me know that some of my chickens had arrived a week earlier than expected. Not a problem. I rushed over after work and chose two Boris Browns and 1 Silkie from two different boxes. My chicken-picking skills leave something to desired though. The Silkie I chose refused to eat and just stood unsteadily in one place crying. My zoo-keeping-bird-expert neighbor came over Saturday morning and gave us some pointers on how to try keeping the chick alive, but wasn’t too optimistic. After a call to the homecenter I went in and exchanged the ailing chick for a healthier one.

Getting these chickens a week early is fantastic, but I also learned the other two chickens I ordered, 2 Okazaki Ouhan, will be delayed until the middle of May. That might make things a little tricky raising two sets of chicks that are several weeks apart in age, but I think once they are all adults it should be fine.

I feel like you need to be careful when it comes to naming chickens. There are a lot of big time cliches, and I want to be able to address my chicken with pride. I planned on letting my children come up with names, but then my wife decided she wanted to name one, too. I’m reserving naming rights for at least one of the Okazai Ouhans, focusing on which Boston sports hero is most deserving of being the namesake of my chicken. But that’s conversation for another day. Without further ado, the three chickens, whose names I had nothing to do with.

Boris Brown #1 — ‘Sparkle,’ named by my son Ray.

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Silkie — ‘Kinuko-chan,’ named by my wife, who, in a shocking turn of events, now spends most of the day hovering over the box of baby chickens muttering ‘kawaii.’ Kinu means silk in Japanese. Clever!

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Boris Brown #2 — ‘Mia,’ named by my son Leo, after a Power Ranger.

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So begins life with birds.

Pop

After a few spits and starts, spring is fully underway here and, judging by the weather forecast for the next week, is here to stay. I’d say this is my favorite time of year, but I think I like high summer the best, when things are fully established for the season and growing like mad. The best thing about spring is that it eases all the anticipation that builds up for me waiting for the weather to warm up enough to spur things my garden back to to life. Here’s a load of pictures.

Pear

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Maple, which will turn green once the leaves grow a bit.

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Black Locust, one of my favorite trees in the garden, taking its sweet time.

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Goumi

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Peach

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Comfrey, coming on strong.

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Cattail, dead and alive.

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Wild Strawberries, looking especially genki.

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Today I gave the white clover in my pathways its first haircut of the year.

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I mixed the cut clover into my vegetable beds along with cow manure. I’ll plant veggies in two weeks or so.

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The potatoes I planted a few weeks ago are already popping up.

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Japanese Alder, which is competing with the Black Locust as the fastest growing tree in my yard. It also fixes nitrogen and will eventually provide some nice shade in the summer.

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Side yard looking nice…really need to obscure that cement monstrosity though.

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Spring, baby. Dig it. Off to bed with windows open.

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