Category Archives: Garden

3 Unexpected Benefits to Owning Chickens

3 unexpected benefits to owning chickens

 

We love our girls. Betsy. Mabel. Night-Time.

Their soft clucking. Their scratching. Their endless activity.

We love what they bring to our yard and our home. And I’m not just talking about eggs. Although free-range eggs fresh from the backyard are pretty awesome.

The responsibility and compassion the kids learn from helping to care for the girls is priceless. As is the fact they grow up understanding that food doesn’t actually come from the supermarket. That there is often poop on eggs. And that’s OK.

Truth be told, I expected these benefits. But I have been so happy to discover they are not the only ones.

There are three unexpected ways that owning the girls has impacted our lives, for the better:

 

1. Waste Reduction

It’s no secret that chickens will eat most table scraps.

But they also love grass clippings, weeds and spent vegetables that have been pulled from the garden.

Fruit and vegies that have past their prime? Chooks love ‘em.

Cheese gone hard? Chooks love it.

Stale bread? Chooks.

All this food and garden waste that would otherwise be tossed in the bin, going directly to landfill to slowly release methane gas into the atmosphere, is instead used to feed our girls. And as a thank you? They give us delicious eggs every day.

Talk about a good deal!

 

2. Living Composters

This is a tip I learnt direct from Don Burke (’cause we’re tight) and it is such a good one:

Toss weeds, grass clippings, the chickens bedding straw, prunings and regular tables scraps into the pen, as described above. But then watch as the chooks (AKA the living composters) turn that waste into the richest of black gold over the following months.

They aerate the soil, scratch it over, add manure and help break the waste down much quicker than simply tossing it all in a compost bin.

Every 3-6 months, shovel out the top few inches of soil in the chook pen and use it in the garden as a top-notch compost and soil conditioner:

  • you can put it directly into the beds (particularly new ones) and fork it through the soil
  • add it to the compost bins to break down over time into a less rich (but still amazing) compost that can then be used anywhere

 

3. Peace and Happiness

There is something meditative about watching the girls cluck and scratch and work. Something wholesome. Earthy. Beautiful.

I have spent many a spare minute just watching the girls go about their business. Figuring out their personalities. Establishing the pecking order. (Betsy is The Queen.) It’s so easy to lose yourself for that moment, escape from your own head for a while.

And it simply adds another dimension to our home. Which is what this Slow Home journey is all about. Making room and time for the things that matter.

 

Do you own chickens? Or other livestock?

I dream of a day when we move to a small-holding in the Byron Hinterland. Goats, chooks, a horse or two. Vegetable garden and an orchard. (Thankfully, dreams are free!)

 

 

We are not stupid. We know things are out of control, we are worn out, over-committed, under pressure. But how to change? How to start living a slower, simpler life?
Join the Slow Home BootCamp – a free 20-part email course – that will kickstart your Slow Home journey. Learn more and sign up right here.

In the Garden: How to Make Leaf Mould

While it is actually the first month of winter (boo!) the majority of deciduous trees around us have still yet to lose all their leaves, which means two things: Mess and the opportunity to make leaf mould.

Sounds Gross. What is Leaf Mould?

It’s basically the term used for rotted down autumn leaves.

The gardening nerd in me knows that this stuff is beeeyootiful for your garden – it can be used as a soil conditioner (to improve the overall health of your soil) or as a gentle, rich mulch to help retain water and keep weeds at bay, and gardeners often refer to it as “black gold”.

It’s perfect for ferns and rainforest plants in particular, but will help enrich any soil in your garden by improving the water retention and overall health of the garden.

How do I Make Leaf Mould?

Super simple.

Just rake up all your fallen leaves and give them a spray with the garden hose. You want them to be fairly wet, to help speed up the decomposition. Then fill some heavy-duty black plastic bin bags with your leaves, adding a handful of blood and bone every 30cm or so (this appears to be optional, but I trust the word of Gardening Australia!) Close your bags up, poke some holes in it with a garden fork and leave in a sheltered place, preferably on soil/grass, for at least a year.

So, this isn’t an activity for those who are after instant gratification, but it is worthwhile. If nothing else, it gets you outside in the chilly winter air for a while, and gives you something for your garden for basically no cost.

How do I Know When it’s Ready?

It will be crumbly and sweet-smelling, and resemble the look of regular compost. (Just a side note: you can’t add many autumn leaves to your regular compost bin, as they don’t easily break down in those conditions. Too many and it will slow your bin down.)

Sounds Good. Any Tips?

If you want the process to go a little quicker, try dumping all your leaves on the lawn and mowing over them. This will break them up, meaning they’ll break down quicker. Also, there are special leaf mould compost bins available, which compress the leaves, apparently speeding the process up some more, so perhaps try keeping a weight of some sort on top of your pile. Maybe some timber or corrugated iron would do the trick.

Have you made leaf mould before? I’ve just applied last year’s haul to our garden and could not believe how many worms were in the bags when I broke it open. Such rich, crumbly stuff!

 

Reaping What You Sow. Eventually.

Sunday morning, 7am:

Scene 1: At the breakfast table.

Brooke is eating a cheese and tomato omelette. She is enjoying every delicious morsel. She interrupts her breakfast to change a nappy, break up an argument and pour the coffee. She returns to her breakfast and finishes her omelette.

You may imagine this (boring, suburban) scene is not extraordinary in any way. But, I’m here to tell you that it is extraordinary, in two ways:

  1. I have sworn, for years, that I hate omelettes. It makes me feel sick in the stomach to even think about eating them.
  2. The eggs and tomatoes in said omelette have been produced/grown in our own backyard.

Can you see how exciting that is? (Especially #2. Obviously. Because who else cares about #1?)

If it wasn’t for us feeding and caring for our chooks, the eggs wouldn’t exist. If it wasn’t for the time we put into watering and fertilising our tomato plants, that delicious, red deliciousness wouldn’t exist. At all.

Point being, it took months for our chickens to start laying. And months for our seedlings to grow, flower, set fruit and ripen. Those months saw us putting in lots of effort for seemingly no reward.

Except – and here’s the funny thing – I feel like I benefited a lot before we saw a single egg or even one red tomato. The work that goes in – the everyday, easy to forget, doesn’t feel significant work is where the joy is. The payoff is wonderful, of course, but finding the joy in the work is exhilarating.

I’m coming to discover that life’s a lot like that.

If we can find the joy in the work, the everyday, the seemingly mundane, then the journey is actually as good as the destination.

Cliched, yes. But true? Also yes.

This passage appeared in the most recent post from Courtney Carver, and it didn’t just resonate. It rang the bell next to my head.

One of my favorite yoga teachers told me it took him years of yoga practice to touch his toes and when he finally did, his life wasn’t any better or worse than it was before. The joy isn’t always at the finish line. Beauty is not always found in completion.

Sure, the omelette was delicious (and I now have a standing order every Sunday morning from Sparky’s Kitchen) but the real joy came in the work beforehand.

Tell me, what work do you find the joy in? Do you think you can enjoy the journey as much as the destination?

Meet the Girls!

So, if you’re looking for sage words of wisdom today, the only ones I have to offer you are these:

 

Do. Not. Have. A. Garage. Sale. In. The. Pouring. Rain.

 

10 little words. So much rain. So little benefit. Boo.

We did, however, make enough money to finally buy our first three chickens! So we can still notch the weekend up as a win.

We welcomed three lovely chicks yesterday afternoon, and, being absolute novices, have spent the past 24 hours checking on them, making sure they’re comfortable, helping them to settle in. I’m fairly sure they’re keen for us to just leave them alone, actually!

We’re only just getting acquainted ourselves, but let me introduce Gertie (black Australorp) Mabel (Rhode Island Red) and Betsy (Isa Brown).

Already, I find watching them, just hanging out with them, to be an absolute pleasure. There’s something inherently calming and Zen about them. Plus I love their smell! Weird.

It should be anywhere from 3-6 weeks til they start laying and, can I tell you, I’m ridiculously excited at the prospect! Imagine: Sunday morning, pop outside, collect some fresh eggs, cut some chives from the garden and make ourselves scrambled eggs for brekkie. Pair it with the rocket and tomatoes we’re now growing, and I think I just died and went to edible gardener heaven!!

But in the meantime, the kids and I will continue to hang out with the girls, getting to know them and just relishing in the spark they bring to the yard. I am a woman enamoured.

 

Other simple pleasures of the weekend:

I hope yours was fabulous!

Tell me, do you have chooks? Do you have any tips for our girls? An amateur would love to know! xx

Strawberries in the Garden and Why They Suck.

I was watching Gardening Australia on Saturday night (because I’m rock and roll like that) and came across the most exciting thing I’ve heard for quite some time. (Again – rock and roll – that’s me).

Planting geraniums near your vege garden helps to deter possums.

Who knew?!

See, gardening and living a slower, simpler life go hand-in-hand. They’re a match made in heaven. Red wine and chocolate. Peas and carrots…

For me, gardening is therapy and exercise rolled into one earthy-smelly parcel of joy. I get so inspired when I’m outdoors, digging in the dirt, and would find nothing more satisfying than growing our own food.

But since our renovations, we’ve basically just focused on building the gardens again, getting some plants in, fixing the fences etc. There’s been no time for growing our own food.

Slowly, slowly, though, I’ve been introducing some edibles. Some herbs, tomatoes, salad greens and citrus in particular. A few weeks ago I planted my first ever strawberry plants and have delighted in watching the flowers emerge, followed by the tiny little green berries, which slowly, slowly grow and turn pink. When they are just off being ripe, tempting me and Isla with promises of their juicy flavour  –BAM!– possum stealth attack in the dead of night.

The little buggers have gotten every. single. berry.

So you’ll understand why this geranium news got me so excited. This weekend, when I’m doing the obligatory hardware/nursery trip, I’m going to pick up some geraniums and see if we can’t deter us some possums, without resorting to chemical sprays and the like. Because that would defeat the purpose of growing your own, don’t you think?

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