Cute Chicks in Your Neighborhood

First Week of Fluffy!

They are growing so fast! I had meant to start posting once a week again, but the chicks grew way faster than I realized so the first week and a half had a lot of scrambling to keep ahead of their growth and there was no time for anything, much less writing.

Day 1

Day 7

I realize we’re jumping into the middle of a story here so let us back up a bit.

As I wrote in this post back in January 2023 I have been increasingly unhappy with my current full-time job and after much thought have decided to pursue regenerative agriculture as my next career. Work towards that goal has been ongoing as I discussed a bit here, here, and here, but the efforts towards making that dream a reality have increased a lot in the last few months and is one of the many reasons why I haven’t been posting; too many things happening all at once! I will be writing more about all of that in the coming weeks/months but for now lets talk chicks.

It was clear from early research that some form of pastured poultry would be part of our regenerative farm efforts and I have been exploring what that might look like for us. Then one day, after once again not being able to buy my preferred eggs from Lakewinds Food Co-Op because they were out of stock, I decided to contact the farm in question, Acres of Eden, to see if they would be interested in some form of partnership. I was hopeful since they (A) had an amazing product, (B) are a regenerative and organic farm doing the kind of farming I want to be doing, (C) are Minnesota based, and (D) clearly have a strong market since Lakewinds was often sold-out of their eggs.  Joel and I have had a few conversations, and he has come out to our farm to look around and discuss possible partnership options. We are still working out the details of said partnership, the biggest hurdle at the moment has been navigating the organic certification process in some sort of partnership (that will be a whole series of posts on its own). But we both agreed it would be good for me to start with a “tester” batch of chicks to make sure that I did in fact want to work with poultry as my primary, or at least initial primary, focus and to get some of the kinks of raising large a (relatively) large number of birds worked out. It is one thing to read about doing something new and quite another to actually do it. Joel was going to be getting his next batch of chicks on May 9 and he was able to work with his hatchery to send 50 of his chicks my way.

At 7:00 AM on Thursday May 9, fifty ISA Brown chicks arrived for me at the Champlin Post Office.

Mind you my meeting with Joel had been only two weeks before their arrival and for someone like me two weeks isn’t a lot of time to prep and it has been abundantly clear that I was not as ready as I had hoped to be. Not that things are going badly, just that I have been in scramble mode since the end of April and that gets to be exhausting. Part of being behind from the beginning is that I did what I often do and got sucked down various rabbit holes exploring different options and plans for building brooders and I expended way too much time and energy on plans that ultimately didn’t work for me. We did get our brooder mostly built the night before they arrived. I have lots of ideas for how to improve it for the next batch of chicks so I won’t bore you with details on our first draft.

first draft brooder

It isn’t great, but it has done its job and I have learned so very much, which of course was the point of a tester batch of chicks. We got 49 of the 50 chicks through their first week of life, and a 2% mortality rate is pretty good for our first batch of chicks. Lots of sources said to expect a 5-10% mortality rate and that most of the losses would come that first week, so I’m proud of what we’ve done so far.

Here is a video showing their growth over the first week. They were starting to get wing feathers on day 2!

And here are photos from our first week together:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 4:

Day 5:

Day 6:

Day 7:

You’ll notice there are no videos or photos for day 3. This happened to be May 11 and because the universe can be a bit of a **** (swear word of your choice) it had to also be the day the chick died, so it wasn’t a day for photos or videos of cute things. But man, oh, man! are they cute! Or were cute… they have quickly become gangly teenagers and aren’t nearly as adorable, but that first week the amount of cute in our house was almost unbearable. For the next batch of chicks I’m going to try to clear my calendar a bit because I found myself just watching them for waaaaay more time than I had available.

So flipping cute!

As always (though I don’t remember to add this each time) this post was written by a human with no assistance of any kind from AI. All the mess ups are mine, thank you very much!

And We’re Back

never too late to start again

Saturday was Leeloo’s birthday and the one year anniversary of her death. I had intended to write a whole post about her but when I sat down to write it I realized I was not up to it. Maybe next year. I still miss her every day.

Meanwhile life keeps on keeping on. A week went by with either nothing to talk about on this website or no mental/emotional energy to write about it. Then a week turned into two weeks turned into a month turned into two months, and then a whole bunch of stuff happened all of which I want to write about but I had even less mental/emotional energy to do it and not one second of free time. 

But spring semester is officially done – last set of grades were posted at 11:45 PM on Sunday (due date was noon today (Monday) so I still had twelve whole hours to spare!) – and now I have some time and energy to write about things that are way more fun than teaching (though at this point in my teaching career most everything is more fun than teaching, including picking up horse poop).

My goal is to write weekly updates again, for there has indeed been much happening all of which I’d love to talk about. One of which is we got 50 chickens!!

I am OBSESSED – they are so f*ing cute!! I will have a whole post about them coming soon (probably many posts about them), but while you wait you can obsess along with me and watch them grow day by day because I will be posting daily videos on my YouTube channel (I cannot believe I just typed the words “my YouTube channel” but that’s where they’ll be).


So join me once again on this adventure!  

p.s. rest assured that none of this has been written or generated by AI, all writing and content is 100% human or animal generated. Not that the chicks are writing their own posts, but their cuteness is absolutely the core of the content.


not to be confused with the movie


A little additional context to round out the picture. On top of everything happening with Juniper and the new horse I was also working out a bunch of details to get our first ever cover crop planted this fall (there will be a post about that eventually) which involved coordinating with the county, and then another county because the first situation fell through at the last minute, and a neighbor with a tractor, and finding seed (where do you buy enough winter rye seed for 15 acres?!) etc. and I also had a doctors appointment and an MRI scheduled because my doctor and the neurologist she referred me to wanted to rule out MS as a possible cause for some things I have going on. Both of them thought it was pretty unlikely I have MS but both of them also thought it was likely enough that it should be officially checked on. I will also have a post on that, but I will not leave you in suspense on this one, I do not have MS, but at the time this was all happening I did not know that, I only knew that two doctors thought it was unlikely but still possible.

Back to the horse saga. Tuesday morning is lots of frantic phone calls to my normal vet plus my friend Sarah’s vet who has been treating Juniper, my neighbor, and my friend Hilary who was our back-up ride, trying to figure out when and where Juniper can get a dental but still be home when the new horse gets here. Luckily Sarah’s vet is able to squeeze Juniper in Wednesday morning and Hilary, who helped me bring Leeloo and Juniper home the first time, has a flexible day that day so she can go with me to pick up Juniper from Sarah’s house, bring her to the vet for her dental, hang out with us there while Juniper comes to from being sedated, and then bring Juniper back to my house.

It is at this point that I realize we will have to find a way to separate Juniper and Highlight (I still don’t love that name but I haven’t come up with anything else so Highlight she is) since Juniper will need some careful observation so we know exactly how much she is eating and drinking and to make sure her digestive system is operating correctly (i.e. she’s pooping). I also don’t want to put Juniper through the stress of meeting a new horse when she is clearly not feeling well. However, we are not at all set up for separate pastures. We have one shelter in the fenced in area, it has three bays, but it is one structure. We also only have two gates into the entire fenced in area. After some frantic brainstorming we opt to put up a temporary strand of electric fence coming out from one side of the gate and attaching to the wall of one of the shelter bays which is wood and therefore will not conduct the charge to the entire shelter. We’ll also need to block the tiny passage behind the shelter. This way I can use the gate by the shelters to get to Juniper and then I can walk up and around and use the gate by the house to get to Highlight. Except at the last minute it occurs to me to check in with the seller to see if Highlight has been on grass this summer and of course she has not been, so I can’t just let her out on the grass which is finally doing well with all the rain we got this fall. So now I need to block her off from the grass which means blocking her off from the gate. Then Sarah, who has been taking care of Juniper this summer and through her two colics, asks if I’m worried about Highlight bringing any illnesses home with her. I wasn’t, because she is coming from a very small private location and she passed a wellness exam, and every other horse in the trailer will also have passed a wellness exam, but there is still a tiny chance she could catch something and bring it home. If Juniper were healthy I wouldn’t worry at all, but Juniper is far from healthy right now and it’s just not worth the risk. So, we set up a second temporary set of electric fence on the other side of the gate so that there is a ten-foot space between them and they can’t make contact. I have now effectively created two separate paddocks with their own shelters and a 10-foot space between them. Yay. Neither of them has a gate or access point of any kind. Boo.

Doesn’t matter because I have no other choice as it is now 9 pm on Tuesday night and everyone’s coming home tomorrow!

Wednesday morning – arrival day!

Hilary and I drive separately in case the shipper makes better time than expected and/or the vet runs late. For once things go as planned and the vet sees us right on time. Juniper receives one of the quickest floats I’ve ever seen a horse get and he extracts two molars (photos if you’re curious) but we still need to wait for her to wake-up so she can safely handle the trailer ride. Once we feel she’s coherent enough to hold herself up we head for home, Highlight is scheduled to arrive in 45 minutes!

We settle Juniper into her new arrangement and wait for Highlight’s arrival. It is a little delayed but she is there within an hour and a half. It is in getting the two girls into their respective areas that I realize how much of an issue our gateless set-up will be. We set up the fence so there were plastic “grips” on the ends of the hot lines so we could unhook them from the shelter wall to go in and out, the problem is there is no other support structure for the lines so the moment we pull them off the wall they go slack for the entire length of the run and touch the ground, plus there is no place to actually put them so I have to somehow hold the lines in one hand while trying to get myself and various things (water, feed, hay, medicine, pitch-fork) from one side to the other. And of course the moment the lines go slack both girls try to go through to meet each other. This is not a feasible option for doing daily chores. That means I get to very gingerly climb through the fence every time I need to get to the other side and despite my very careful climbing I manage to shock myself at least once every time I do chores. Let me tell you the hot lines hurt, particularly when it’s your inner thigh that makes contact as you attempt to step over it, but the ground line, which under normal circumstances has no charge running through it so you can grab it like normal to hold it out of your way, you know with your entire hand gripping it, that fucking HURTS when you are touching it and then accidently hit a hot line with whatever random other body part you aren’t paying enough attention to (I have been trying to keep the language pg-13 on this blog for reasons I am not clear on, but this situation is without question an F-word situation, but I digress…). So at least once a day, if not multiple times a day, I manage to shock myself while doing chores. “Why don’t you just unplug the fence?” you ask. Well Highlight is a very personable, very sweet, and very smart horse, and she watches you. She watches me climb through the fence every day to feed her and give her hay and pick up poop, and then she tries to do the same thing even with the fence hot. So turning it off seems like a recipe for disaster. And it turns out I’m right, because even with the lines hot Highlight managed to pull one of the hot lines (the one I gingerly step over) off the permanent fence and right across the entrance to her shelter on the night it’s pouring rain. And the way the line fell it is in contact with another hot line so it still has a charge running through it so when I get home from my 12 hour work day and go to give Juniper her PM meds I find a soaking wet, unhappy, and scared Highlight. So I’m standing in the rain on the soaking wet ground pulling a still electrified line of fence out of her paddock muttering expletives with every grab because everything is super conductive in that moment. Then I have to convince Highlight that the shelter will not in fact attack her and she can go in it, and please go in your shelter and get out of the rain. And then, I have to fix it so she doesn’t try that stunt again and get in a worse situation. Did I mention I worked a 12-hour day and it was pouring rain. Good times.

After that I stop going through Highlights fence to feed her and just throw hay over the fence, and push her feed under the bottom line and use a rake to grab it back out. No picking up poop on her side until we work out another option, which is definitely having them together sooner than planned, but this set-up is not sustainable.

And that was our first week.

Barn Building Update 6

Roofed and Ready

Phase one of the barn is almost complete. The first five posts can be found here – update 1, and here – update 2, and here – update 3, and here – update 4 and here – update 5.

Considering how long the earlier stages of the build took the roof and sides went up remarkably fast, like days instead of weeks fast. 

There was a minor issue with the very last roof panel, in that they had it almost in position and then dropped it and it bent. This meant they had to order a replacement piece, but while they waited they got the metal up on all the sides as well.

Just a few more finishing touches: garage doors, electricity, trim, and a little more fill so the barn doesn’t look like it’s wearing floods.

The Mare Search Continues – Part 1


The search for my next mare, the one that will be the cornerstone of my breeding efforts, has been ongoing and frustrating. I have “known” for as long as I can remember that there are a lot of problems within the horse industry, particularly with starting horses too hard, too fast, and too young and breeding horses for the wrong reasons, usually for fancy names on a piece of paper or for fancy color. Sure that stud has terrible conformation and went lame at four and is utterly unrideable, “but he’s a blue roan!” That is literally what one lady said to me when I expressed concern about her choice of stallion.

At first, I thought that this utter dearth of sound horses with good conformation could work in my favor. Purposely and intentionally seeking out healthy, sane, sound, horses with good conformation to breed would inherently improve my odds of having foals that were healthy, sane, sound horses themselves and that would help me stand out in a very crowded market; it would make my horses something special and worth having. The longer I searched though, the more I realized that a large proportion of riders and horse people don’t have a clue what good conformation is and why it matters. They have simply accepted the current reality where horses are lame by twelve and need corrective shoeing, yearly injections, and all sorts of other maintenance just to stay rideable. This has become the new normal and very few people seem to be questioning it.

I put that word “known” in quotes in the first paragraph because in today’s current world lots of people “know” things that are in fact total bullshit and when I first started this search my “knowing” was based on very hazy remembrance of 4-H horse judging practice sessions, various presentations attended at horse expos and clinics, and my own personal experiences. But that knowledge wasn’t based on any source I could point to and as mare after mare fell short of my expectations I started to wonder if my “knowing” was in fact bullshit and if maybe I was the one out of touch with reality. I have thus spent much of the summer seeking out verifiable references and knowledgeable people with true study and experience behind them to ground my knowing in reality. These sources did confirm my knowledge and I am far more confident and comfortable in declaring that I do actually know what good conformation looks like and that it is in fact important! They also confirmed that  yes, the horse world today is filled with crappy conformation; and yes, horses are in fact started way too hard, way too fast, and way too young; and that yes, the combination of these two things is behind many of the lameness issues horses and their people have to contend with. Below is a list of the references I have been consulting.

Horse Conformation References

Where does that leave me, other than being frustrated and still horseless?

Upon completion of The Modern Racehorse, I returned the book to the library by actually walking into the library and handing it to an actual librarian, as a book that age is due. Once in the library I couldn’t just leave without taking a turn through the stacks and while perusing I found The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery. Another truly amazing book which I will talk more about in a future post, but relevant here was a reference to The Livestock Conservancy, an organization dedicated to the conservation of endangered livestock breeds. While checking out their website I noticed there was a horse category, and within the horse category were a number of breeds I had heard of but several I had not and then it hit me. Why waste my time, effort, energy, and money on trying to fix a breed that numbers literally in the millions and that has drifted so far from the breed standard and good conformation that any good I did in my breeding efforts would be but a single drop of rain in the ocean when there are really nice horse breeds out there whose populations are genuinely in jeopardy and for whom my efforts would make a tangible and lasting difference? Most of the horse breeds listed are not suitable for my personal goals being either too small (there are many pony and small horse breeds on the list) or draft horses who are meant to pull things and are not well suited to riding. That left three breeds that are riding horses capable of doing a variety of disciplines and that naturally get up to at least 16 hands tall or taller:


I found this photo on Wikipedia –


I found this photo on the Breyer Horse website as this was the horse they used as their model for the Canadian Breyer horse – 

Cleveland Bay 

I found this photo on the Livestock Conservancy website – 

Next step – a new mare search with a new focus, but which breed should we pursue?

Edible Forest Garden – July Update

surviving this summer

This has not been the greatest summer to start a garden. The almost complete lack of rain through most of the late spring and early summer, record heat, record low dew points, and a severe drought has not made for a nurturing environment; yet all but one of the plants is alive! The one plant that did die had gotten knocked over by something and managed to live on the ground for a few weeks before giving up the ghost, but everything else is alive, and a few of the plants are actually doing pretty well. I don’t know enough to say if any of the plants are thriving but since I have at least four of everything but the plum tree I have some comparisons and some plants are definitely doing better than their friends.

Here is the garden as a whole with my four quadrants labeled.

Quadrants one and two both have a full layer of cardboard within the various layers whereas quadrants three and four have none. Quadrant three, a non-cardboard quadrant is doing the best with the largest, healthiest looking plants. Quadrant one, a full-cardboard quadrant is doing the worst with the one dead plant and everything else being the absolute smallest and least healthy looking. Quadrant three also has some major weed issues whereas quadrant one has almost no weeds.

Here is a close-up of quadrant one, with it’s full cardboard layer, small plants, but almost no weeds:

Here is a closeup of quadrant three, without any cardboard, much bigger plants, but more weeds

If I only had these two examples to go by I would have some serious concerns about the cardboard. Yes, the cardboard clearly seems to be keeping the weeds controlled, which is a good thing, but it also seems to be hindering overall plant health. However, quadrants two and four tell a different story. They seem to be about equally and reasonably healthy with light to moderate weed pressure. Neither of them are as healthy as quadrant three but they are both doing better than quadrant one. The plants in quadrant four (non-cardboard) might be doing a bit better than the plants in quadrant two (full-cardboard) but the quadrant two plants still look relatively healthy and there are less weeds in the cardboard quadrant than the non-cardboard quadrant

Here is a close-up of quadrant two, with it’s full cardboard layer, decent plants, and a few weeds:

Here is a closeup of quadrant four, without any cardboard, decent plants, and some weeds

The growing season isn’t over yet so I am not ready to draw any conclusions, but I am very glad that I unintentionally did this experiment with two quadrants of each option. I did wonder if it had something to do with the order I planted things in but I doubt it. Quadrant four was the first to be planted and quadrant two was the last one planted and they are both my middle of the road beds.

We did finally start to get some rain so it will be interesting to see if that makes any sort of difference, other than helping the weeds in quadrant three. I should probably get on that…

Oh, I almost forgot. We did get our first wild strawberry harvest! Harvest is arguably a strong word for the fifty total strawberries I picked that are tiny. TINY. But they were very tasty.

I didn’t have a banana for scale so I had to use a pen.

Barn Building Update 3

Taking Shape

Work continues on the barn, the first two posts can be found here and here.

They used the super big fork-lift thing (I’m sure it has a real name but super big fork-lift thing will have to do) to get the cement discs into each of the holes and then began setting up the posts. 

It was at this stage that I realized the overhead door on the east side of the barn is not where I had wanted it to be in my original plan. After a really good conversation with the crew I realized I couldn’t have it where I wanted and I will just have to sort it out once we get to stage two and putting the stalls in. The frustrating thing is I could have had it where I wanted it and saved money had someone sat down with me sooner and laid out exactly how the building would actually be built and then we would have opted for a smaller door that could have gone exactly where I wanted it to, and been cheaper. But at this stage the plans have been designed and everything purchased and it would cost money to make such a major change. I’m slightly frustrated because I thought I had worked out all these types of details earlier in the process but lesson learned. Not that I will get to apply that lesson since I will not be building another barn, but perhaps some day you, dear reader, can apply that lesson. They may tell you they can build around any size (and they mostly can) but plan everything out in multiplies of eight and plan on eight-foot centers and everything will go smoother.

After the east side was up they moved on to the west side.

The overhead door on the west side also had to get adjusted a bit but that one doesn’t have any ramifications to the stall area.

After both sides were done they put up the north end-wall. They are leaving the south end-wall for very last so they can continue to bring the super big fork-lift, as well as the various other big equipment, in and out while the put everything up.

If you look in the lower right hand corner of the last picture you can see they are still using their Pythagorean triangle to square the building. I still get happy every time I see it. I may no longer have any desire to teach math but I still love math.

Barn Building Update 2

The Foundation

Work continues on the barn, the start of which is documented in this post.

They had originally been using standard hand-held compactors to compact all the dirt and gravel being laid out as the base, but at a certain point that wasn’t enough and they upgraded to this monster of a roller.

They also started putting in some of the drain tile that will go around the edge of the barn to direct water away from the building. That is that little pile of dirt that seems to be just hanging out in the middle. Still need to work out an overall waterflow and containment strategy for our whole property but drain tile around the barn is a good first step.

After everything was rolled and compacted the equipment people came and picked up the big roller and replaced it with another large machine which they’ve so far been using to unload and move the various materials that have been steadily arriving. From the looks of it I think it will also be the machine that gets the trusses up in the air. They spent the rest of the day measuring and remeasuring and then remeasuring and then just one more time lets remeasure the dimensions of the barn (happy they are being so thorough!) and then made my math heart just sing by using the Pythagorean theorem to square the corners! 

The day after that they went around and measured out the location for every support beam and truss and then two of the crew used an auger attachment to dig holes for each location while the other two painted the bottoms of the posts with white rubber roof coating.

Apparently the first round of holes weren’t deep enough because they dug them even deeper the next day. Not sure if I should be concerned that the holes farthest away from the house have water in them. They also re-marked out the locations of everything and smoothed down the tops of most of the dirt piles.

Then they laid out these short cement discs at each hole location as well as the posts that will go in each hole. I have no idea how they got the cement discs in each hole in such a way that it is sitting level and in the correct location but I’m trusting that they know what they are doing. 

Nate and I spend a lot of time wondering how the heck something is going to work or in some cases what they are doing or why they are doing it. Luckily we have some help supervising the work.

It Begins

We’re Building a Barn!

We’re building a barn y’all! They officially started to build our barn this week. It was a little anticlimactic since we aren’t actually digging anything so there was no official “breaking ground” moment, instead we had a dump truck full of dirt show up very early in the morning; while I was still in the bathroom downstairs, the one without a curtain because we never got around to getting curtains because who’s going to see anything, the corn?  The dump trucks kept on coming for several days with load after load of dirt and then rock.

We have three main workers on the crew who have been spending the week marking out the corners of the barn and getting that dirt and gravel laid out and compacted down, layer after layer.

Not only has it been a bit anticlimactic but it has also been very bittersweet. I have always wanted a barn and more specifically an indoor riding arena because I am an indoor cat with an outdoor hobby. I prefer riding inside even when it’s not dark and snowing because the sun hates me and I hate the bugs. Case in point – Nate and I were out doing some yardwork today for about two hours. We went out at the same time, were working in the same area, and both had sun shirts and jeans on. I also sprayed myself with some bug spray and had my ridiculous “bug jacket” on. When we were done Nate had no bug bites, I had four. wtf? This is why I like being inside. But there are lots of great boarding barns with indoor arenas, and the reality is this whole having our own farm and our own barn thing has been one challenge after another since it all started in 2014. Had I had a different horse, one who did well in a boarding facility, (and there are lots of horses who do great in boarding facilities) I’m not sure I would have kept on fighting for this dream. It would have been much easier to spend the money on a truck and trailer and focus on showing and go on vacations and not work four jobs. But I kept at this dream because Leeloo was not doing well in a boarding facility and I truly felt my only chance of getting her healthy and sound was by bringing her home and having full control of her care, knowing that even then it might not be enough, but knowing that I had to try. So here we are. We’re building our barn, but Leeloo isn’t here to see it and that has made this week very emotional. I am both so very, VERY excited but also so very, very sad. Particularly when some new thing happens and Nate and I find ourselves stopping whatever we’re doing to go look and I have this moment of “I’m sure Leeloo is in her full on watch-horse/nosy-horse mode” and then remember that she’s not here to be nosy with us. But I know she’s being nosy with us wherever she is and because of her I am achieving this lifelong dream.

We’re building a barn!

Edible Forest Garden – Practice Plot – Part 2

Site Preparation

The books – Edible Forest Gardens Volume I and II have lots of suggestions for proper planting site preparation. These suggestions range from things done one or two years in advance to things done immediately prior to planting. I of course did no actual planning, so we didn’t do any site prep. The books also have a variety of methods and suggestions for actual planting. I decided to go with the sheet mulch option which has the following steps/layers:

  • Soil – amended with mineral powders (didn’t do that..) and heavily watered (did that!)
  • Stubble of existing vegetation, mown hard, cut as low as possible (did that)
  • Seedy mulch, hay for example (we have lots of that!)
  • Uncomposted manure, potentially weedy (we have lots of that too!)
  • Sheet layer, cardboard or newspaper with a minimum of 4-6 inches of overlap of seams (I thought we had lots of that)
  • Compost, seed free (didn’t have that)
  • Seed-free mulch (maybe had that…)

We opted for this method because (A) it is the least amount of work and (B) we already had most of the materials on hand so it would minimize cost, and some of these materials needed to be dealt with anyway, like the manure and the crappy hay so it was a win-win.

Looks pretty simple, shouldn’t take long at all, we’ll be done by lunch time!

Step zero – figure out where exactly this tree guild is going to go and get a fence up around it to protect our money and work from the deer and various other herbivores in the area. As soon as we actually stood on the spot I wanted to plant it I realized that my beautifully drawn circle was too wide for the space. We were hemmed in by the buried power line on one side and a planting of baby pine trees and a half-assed flower bed of day lilies on the other. Ultimately I shifted my circle design over and one of the existing baby pine trees is now in the middle of one of the dedicated walking paths (in an effort to minimize soil compaction you are supposed to have dedicated walking areas) and one of the lilies on the edge was ignored; maybe it will grow, maybe I trampled it, time will tell. The baby pine tree will be moved in the next few years, and I still have other paths so hopefully it will be okay.

One upshot was that since we were running into an already fenced in area we could just use that fence and extend it around to enclose the new planting as well. Of course we were short by about four feet of fence. I had purchased some additional fencing, but Fleet Farm didn’t have the same stuff (the previous fencing was purchased at Menards prior to my FF gig) so I decided to try chicken wire which it turns out isn’t nearly as rigid as the other fencing is. We still haven’t really fixed that, but it is secure enough that animals can’t get in. Eventually we’ll get it finished since the entire roll of chicken wire is still sitting up there in our front yard looking tacky.

Step one – the soil and existing vegetation. Since I didn’t really plan anything out and haven’t gotten around to soil testing yet we didn’t lay down mineral powders to improve the soil because I don’t know what it may or may not need. I did, however, water it really well and mow the existing grass down pretty short.

Step two – seedy mulch layer. We have a lot of the crappy, foxtail infested, stemmy, and apparently not very tasty, hay left so we hauled two bales up and laid that around everywhere. I should have done a good job of breaking apart the bales to get everything evenly distributed. I did not. I roughly shook the bales out and kicked it around until it looked good enough and moved on. I did water it down well, as recommended, since once the cardboard layer is put on water will have a harder time getting down to this layer.

Step three – uncomposted manure. Technically, the manure we used is sort of composted, but it wasn’t hot-composted which means it can still be contaminated with seeds of unwanted plants, so it had to go below the cardboard layer. One of the recommendations the book has for long term planning is to think hard about where everything is in relation to each other. For example, it doesn’t make sense to have your compost pile on the other side of your property from your garden because that means more work hauling it between the two locations. I will absolutely be heeding this advice for long term planning because shoveling the poop out of the compost bays and hauling it up to the planting site took way too long and was way too much work. This was also when I remembered the whole – oh yeah, there are supposed to be paths in this thing! – so you’ll notice the seedy hay layer is covering everything but there are paths between the manure. If I’m being totally honest it was mostly because I really didn’t want to have to haul another load of manure up there and realized that if I left it off the paths I could be done. Yay for being done (with that step). I did set up the sprinkler to water this layer really well too.

At this point it was dinnertime and what was supposed to be my superfast and easy morning project wasn’t even half-way done. Time to break for the day. We’ll get it finished tomorrow. Right?