Saturday came with some really nice weather, so we headed out to accomplish some things in the yard. The kids and I shoveled a bunch of manure from the edge of the neighbor's horse corrals and wheelbarrowed it over to the garden beds. If you're going this route, try to get the old stuff that's broken apart. It kind of looks like dirt already. It doesn't look like horse droppings anymore. If it's too fresh, it makes more heat as it breaks down and can burn your plants. Not good.
The neighbors are very kind--they don't mind if we take their horse manure away. In fact, if you know someone with horses, they might not mind you cleaning out stalls either. We'd like to get a tractor actually in their corrals (at the back of the picture) and dump a bunch over the edge so we can work it into the rest of the garden area (to the left of the beds). We'll see what we can do. Nothing like free fertilizer. I also cleaned around, weeded, and fertilized the raspberries, strawberries, and fruit trees.
Sweet husband spent most of the day cleaning out the chicken house, laying new subfloor and putting in linoleum flooring. Now the chickens are uptown with easy clean floor in their house. We got the vinyl as a remnant from a flooring place for about $15.00 last fall. Bargain.
Because the chickens were pushing at the bucket in the doorway to their house trying to get in and flying up to the window that hubby had open for some ventilation as he was working, we had a crazy idea to put them in the yard. We could have just let them out to totally free range, but the garden/shop/driveway portion of our yard is not fenced and the neighbor's dogs cannot be trusted. So we put the chickens in the fenced part of our yard around the house. After getting over their initial confusion, they happily pecked around the rest of the day.
They really liked the pile of snow (yes, still snow) on the north side of the house. I'm feeling like that snow may be there until June.
Our dog was really well behaved with the chickens. She's a crazy bird chaser, but also luckily very obedient and smart, so when she looked at one of the chickens and we told her no, she didn't pay them any more attention. The trouble is, now there's chicken droppings all over the yard. I like to be able to go out barefoot if it's warm enough and even if I have shoes on, I like to think my yard is fairly free from anything that will track into the house. The kids are good about checking their shoes if they go out to the chicken coop, but not if they were just playing in the yard. So this won't be a regular thing--we won't be yard ranging the chickens except as necessary.
Dinner was one of those magical, satisfying meals. I used the crockpot to cook ham/bean soup so I didn't have to cook anything when we were done in the yard. That is magical. And what's very cool is that we used the Calypso beans we grew in last year's garden and the ham was from last fall's pig. Yep, I grew that soup.
Here's the beans before soaking and cooking:
In case you don't know how to make ham/bean soup, here's the quick run down. Soak the beans overnight in a big bowl of water, then drain and rinse them and put them in the slow cooker pot with ham (we used ham hocks, but usually we'll use the scrappy stuff stuck to the bone when you're about done with a ham) and enough water to cover it all by a couple of inches. Then cook all day on low. Or at least 4 hours on high. Or until it's done. I'm not sure how long it actually takes, but if I've got it going before lunch, it's always ready for dinner. I added a little salt and garlic powder at the end, but I really like the flavor of just beans and ham. The beans were really good--smooth and not a strong flavor. The black faded out to a tan in the final product, but these were really tasty and a productive bean variety, so we'll be planting them again this year. Yummy yum yum.