We’ve just come in from spending the afternoon outside.
What started out as checking on the hens in the Back Orchard when they were sounding their loud clucking alarm call ended in us coming in at 6pm. The days surely are becoming lighter for longer.
Such a good way to clear our thoughts, we have been indoors for the majority of the week, only doing outside jobs like feeding the animals in small pockets of time in between the rain and it blowing a gale. Feeling those waves of grief that come after saying goodbye to a dear friend, I knew I was becoming very depressed about it all. What would my friend have done I asked myself, of course he would be outside in the garden catching up on Winter jobs and getting ready for Spring. So outside we stayed. It really has done us all the world of good.
Before Michael came home Lil and I where in the big Hen House yard. We started pruning the summer/autumn growth that has been protecting the new growth coming through from frost and also acting as a protective canopy for the little hens to fossick around under, protecting them from over head predators. It is just that time of year when it all needs to be cleaned up, most gardeners do this task at the end of Autumn.
In our garden we have found the plants benefit from the delayed pruning, they survive the winter weather better, they are more robust & the little birds feed on the insects that gather around the seed heads.
Into the Back Orchard we all went when Michael came home. Lil and I pulled out some self seeded Kangaroo Apple saplings that would have grown to smother the fruit trees. We all took in turns of raking a little, collecting enough on the ground to make a new compost pile. Our compost piles are hay bales placed in a rectangle.
Our property is on the side of a hill so there is a natural slope to the lay of the land. We look where the ground has become more uneven in the orchard, maybe where the chooks have dug away too much, or where rain water is pooling or the ground is very soft compared to other areas of the orchard and this is where we place the compost pile. By this time next year the hay bales will have broken down and the compost will have as well. We will take the strings off the hay bales and let the hens pick through the decomposing hay bale scattering it in the immediate vicinity. A no dig, no fuss way of building and improving the soil in the Back Orchard.
Seeing the above picture this morning confirmed that I wasn’t imagining a time when the orchard was lush & green in late March (February & early March are our hottest weeks). There hasn’t been much grass in the Back Orchard for about the last 18 months, I’m putting it down to the hot dry summer, lack of rainfall the previous Autumn and Winter plus the orchard becoming home to 10 Australorp chicks (8 cockerels & 2 hens) hatched in the incubator they grew fast and were heavy on the ground and did I already mention that they ate everything in sight, even the leaves on the lower branches of the fruit trees. So that was a total of 18 birds, the orchard size is approximately 20m x 30m. I broke my own rule of not over stocking, thinking the growth on the ground would recover quickly even after holding onto the birds that bit longer while trying to re home them.
The Back Orchard Hen House Michael and Lil made me for my 50th birthday is now a year old and I am so pleased with the design. Just knowing that our hens are snug and cosy on these cold winter nights is heart warming to say the least. The Hen House is water proof, cool on hot days and warm on cold days. I wrote an article about the Hen House’s design in the last issue of Australasian Poultry.
Over the next couple of days we’ll rake the other side of the orchard and set up another compost heap with hay bales there too. Raking removes any fuel on the ground and after the bush fires last year and being on ember attack watch for weeks we are even more diligent than ever.
There are a few self seeded berry canes to take out and then finish off the fruit tree pruning.
It is rewarding work, the gentle hum of Spring is growing louder with the promise of all that is to come. So exciting.
Light & Love,
The Back Orchard
August 22, 2019