Hurray the work weeks over! Now let’s get to work.


 

The soil at my Orchard site is terrible, rocky, alkaline, and mostly clay. A big part of my efforts are towards soil improvement, from the mulch bed covering the entire area to the sub-surface greywater system that keeps the soil/mulch interface moist. Thinking about it almost all of my current efforts are going towards that goal. Reading the-real-bounty-of-the-coop on the excellent blog Northwest Edible Life made me realize how valuable that messy chicken run is. I practice the deep litter method in my 8′x10′ chicken coop, hold on a sec, doesn’t “deep litter method” sound awfully snooty? You can read all 33 pages of that article I linked to on BYC but in reality the “method” is all about lazy, but it works! If you keep a 6″ + deep bed of wood chips, pine shavings, or what have you in your coop it absorbs the moisture from the poop and helps keep the smell down. In addition it starts breaking down and really fires off when put in a compost pile. My coop sits up on 4×4 skids and the chickens slowly kick the shredded tree service mulch out under the walls, so about once a month I rake all of the stuff up outta the run area, toss it in my composter, and liberally wet it all down with duck pond water. Tomorrow is time to haul one bin’s worth out of the run and pile it up to mellow for a bit in the orchard area, turn the other bin into the now empty bin, then refill that bin with the scmutz from the run. I was thinking of using that batch of compost for my other task on schedule for tomorrow but I think I’m going to save it for my new half-assed hugelkulure bed that will be on the work ticket in a month or so.

Comfrey…..that is the focus of this weekends second project. Simpleunhookedliving along with Milkwood have both recently had excellent blog posts about Comfrey that are well worth the read.

This is one of the 4 plants my Sweety, Karen, got me from the Korean nursery in Pomona. I have no idea what variety they are but I do know that they are growing like mad and my chickens love the leaves. I searched all over the web for more and finally found some being sold by a true believer at Coes Comfrey. Coes site is a wealth of information and the owner, Tom, is an incredibly interesting guy to talk to. Tom prefers doing business by phone 828-321-4913 which is kinda ironic because his website is really well done. I ended up ordering 10 one year old plants that should be here saturday or monday at the latest. Thats where the work comes in, Tom recommends planting Comfrey in “fertile holes”, basically a 2′ diameter hole as deep as you can dig it, he even suggested using a post hole digger to let the tap root get off to a good start. I got too many rocks to get to deep but I am going to do my best and backfill the holes with steer manure and chicken poop. Everything I have read says that Comfrey can handle very potent fertilizer without burning, this includes fresh chicken manure and straight urine and I’m gonna find out. I have been “watering” my other Comfrey plants whenever the need arises and they are doing great.

What’s all this Comfrey for?

  • Chicken Feed: This stuff is very high in protein and my girls love it
  • Compost: It is also very high in nitrogen and low in fiber and is supposed to make a great activator for your pile
  • Mulch: Comfrey is a bio-accumulator and through it’s tap root mines nutrients and minerals from down deep
  • Fertilizer: When packed in 5 gallon buckets and allowed to break down for a month or so crates a nasty goo that when cut with water is supposed to be a great organic fertilizer

So hopefully with the help of my nephew Steven I’ll get a lot accomplished and have some nice pictures to post on here Sunday!

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8 thoughts on “Hurray the work weeks over! Now let’s get to work.

  1. It sounds like such a fantastic plant – too bad you can’t make a nice meal out of it. I’m a bit limited for space so I ruthlessly reject any plant I can’t eat – even if my chickens love it!

  2. Lizzie says:

    Not quite a meal… but it is an incredibly useful herb medicinally. http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/learn/comfrey_leaf.php “One of the most common uses of comfrey leaf is in an ointment or a poultice applied to sprains, broken bones and other wounds, where it promotes rapid healing of both skin lesions and bone breaks.”

    I can vouch for that myself: I always keep it in my “herbal medicine” collection. I make a salve we call Green Goop using equal parts comfrey, plantain and echinacea leaves steeped in Olive Oil, with Beeswax added for a thickener. It heals everything. Bug bites, scrapes, bruises, diaper rash. Very useful stuff. Of course, I had no idea comfrey was so good for other things. Now I’ll have to try and get some to grow. :)

    • Max says:

      I have been surprised at how well it grows even in our desert environment. I knew it was a staple of the Permaculture crowd in the Northwest and Montana and had been told by the gardening crowd here in Vegas not to bother. A lot of reading on the net and mostly info on Coes site convinced me to give it a try and so far I am impressed.

  3. Chrystal says:

    Good post. I don’t have chickens*, but I found the description of your compost process interesting. How long does it take to go from raw material to finished ready-to-put-in-your-garden compost?
    Chrystal

    (*full disclosure: I am afraid of chickens!)

    • Max says:

      This is my first year in this more organized fashion. It is about 2 months in the bins inside the coop area. I have been hauling out a bin full about once a month since May. The quality isn’t refined but it works great for topping off my half-assed Hugel beds.

      • Chrystal says:

        As we say in our Country: Mon dieu! My compost cycle is two years, and that is just with organic vegetative matter. Must be the heat….

      • Max says:

        Chicken manure is very high in nitrogen and really accelerates the decomposition. Very similar but more sustained as the effect of putting fresh grass clippings in the pile. After two months which includes at least 2 and usually 3 or 4 turnings it comes out ready to be screened where i would lose about 40%. The stuff screened out is mostly partially broken down wood chips and the like. It goes back into the bin. The chickens are also my turning secret, I just pull the bins off the piles and let the chickens go crazy for a week then shovel it all back in.

  4. twintoefarm says:

    You are turning me towards the comfrey. I like that I can feed it to my chickens. Maybe I will plant some. Nice post.

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