Weatherproofing the Chicken Coop

My finished chicken coop looked really nice when painted and set up in the back of my previous garden back in 2010.

In order to save time and paint I only painted the coop on the outside, and left the wood untreated on the inside, which should also provide a more natural environment for the hens.

In the meantime I have moved to a new property twice, stubbornly taking my precious chicken coop project with me. It’s much easier to move when all the plywood sheets are removed. Again, it’s easier to see the raw wood on the inside.

I assumed that the climate inside the coop would be mild enough to keep the untreated wood in good condition, but this was not at all the case. In fact, the frame started to rot, especially around the window.

On top of that I have removed three new wasps’ nests in the making. I think they absolute loved the mild climate and fresh wood inside the chicken coop roof… sigh…

Now that the coop was dismantled anyway due to moving between houses it was easy to go over the frame with rough sandpaper and soak the frame and sheets in primer. Fortunately there was much more paint left in the bucket so after many long nights during the winter the coop is now in great condition on the inside too.

Hopefully the degeneration of the wood has stopped, and the wasps will dislike the paint – it’s not that practical to have a wasp’s nest inside the coop 😉

As a new addition an extra perch was added at the same height as the original one, since the Chicken Department Manager (a.k.a. my girlfriend) is worried that we can’t fit three fat chickens on one perch. The new one is placed over the door so maybe we’ll need an extra tray on the floor for collecting, um, composting materials 😉

It’s still surprisingly cold here so we’re waiting for the soil to defrost in order to build the chicken run. We need to drive several poles into the ground but it’s a bit difficult when it’s all frozen… (something about hot weather in Greenland, greenhouse effect, North Atlantic Oscillation yada yada it’s still frekkin’ cold)

But beautiful it is:

Crop Rotation Plan

This picture was taken a week ago, and everything looks quiet and peaceful in the kitchen garden. Only footprints of wild animals passing by in the snow indicates that there is some activity going on although everything is frozen rock solid.

There is not much to do in the garden at the moment besides cleaning up, if this wasn’t done already before the snow and frost arrived, but don’t be fooled – kitchen gardening activities need to be running full steam indoors when the outdoor activities have ended for the season.

Continuing the work I wrote about in my most recent blog post I’m adding more details to my garden plan and introducing crop rotation. Below is my plan with added colors – brown, red, orange and yellow to symbolize a 4 year crop rotation plan. The purpose of crop rotation is to minimize disease build up in the soil, and to replenish it and keep it healthy. If you grow the same type of vegetable in the same spot year after year, soon the plants will starve since particular nutrients will get used up. Keep the soil healthy and you’ll get healthy plants. It really is that simple.

Blue and purple colors indicate beds that will be left out of the rotation plan. Blue is a bed full of established rhubarbs, that I forgot were in that particular bed, and I want them to stay there. Purple are beds that are a bit cut off from the rest of the garden, and I’ll use them for fruit bushes, like black currant, blueberries, red currant etc.

The total bed size of each crop group is approximately the same, and bed number 13 was added to the yellow group to get a normal sized group, instead of using the bed for fruit bushes like bed number 15 and 16.

Before I group the plants I need to decide what I want to grow. This is the list for 2013, a list that I have made addition to each year since I started kitchen gardening (and I even forgot strawberries 😉 ) :

Index English name Latin name Variety
1 Basil Ocimum basilicum Thai Magic
2 Bean Vicia faba Broad, Hangdown grünkernig
3 Bean Phaseolus vulgaris Bush, Yellow, Helios
4 Bean Phaseolus vulgaris Runner, Neckarkönigin
5 Bean Phaseolus vulgaris Runner, Preisgewinner
6 Beetroot, long Beta vulgaris Forono
7 Beetroot, round Beta vulgaris Ägyptische plattrunde
8 Broccoli Brassica oleracea Calabrese
9 Cabbage Capitata var. alba L. White, Türkis
10 Carrot Daucus carota ssp. sativus Summer, Nantaise 2
11 Carrot Daucus carota ssp. sativus Summer, Nantes 2
12 Carrot Daucus carota ssp. sativus Winter, Rodelika
13 Cauliflower Brassica oleracea White Rock
14 Celery Apium graveolens var. dulce Ortho
15 Chard Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla Green, Glatte Silber, Silverbeet
16 Chard Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla Green, Groene Gewone
17 Chard Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla Red, Rhubarb Chard
18 Chives Allium schoenoprasum Staro
19 Cucumber Cucumis sativus Tanja
20 Kale Brassica oleracea Acephala Westländer Winter
21 Leek Allium porrum Blaugrüner Winter
22 Leek Allium porrum Summer, Hilari
23 Lettuce Lactuca sativa Leaf
24 Lettuce Lactuca sativa Leaf, Till
25 Maize Zea mays subsp. mays L. Golden Bantam
26 Onion Allium cepa Kepa, Sturon
27 Onion Allium cepa Red, Robelja
28 Parsley Petroselinum crispum
29 Parsnip Pastinaca sativa Halblange Weise
30 Pea Pisum sativum Margert
31 Potato Solanum tuberosum Sava
32 Pumpkin Cucurbita maxima Hokaido, orange, Red Kuri
33 Radish Raphanus sativus Cherry Belle
34 Rucola Eruca sativa
35 Salsify Scorzonera hispanica
36 Spinach Spinacia oleracea Butterfly
37 Tomato Solanum lycopersicum Black Cherry
38 Zucchini Cucurbita Pepo

I have cucumbers and tomatoes out in the open this year, as opposed to growing them in self-watering boxes near the house. Well, I might sneak in a comparison experiment to see what works best.

All of the vegetables on the list is then divided into these four groups:

  1. Potatoes
  2. Roots
  3. Miscellaneous
  4. Legumes and brassicas

Wikipedia can be used to find out if a crop is in group 4 or not.

The plan reveals that it’s actually only a few months of the year where your hands are clean and not full of dirt, but this period is used for drooling all over the new seed catalog, if you’re not at the local nursery or DIY store looking at new sweet tools.

Garden Layout Software

Trimble SketchUp (formerly Google SketchUp) is a free software tool, which is great for garden planning. I have some things on my kitchen garden plot, that cannot easily be moved, like old fruit trees, a large concrete bed and a concrete composting tube. If it hadn’t been for these locked objects it would be really simple to create a layout, but with SketchUp you can quickly try out different ideas on how to work around the objects to get the most room for garden beds. For each object you put onto the screen you input the actual 1:1 dimensions, like for instance the base size of your plot and the actual size of each bed. Then you can start filling in beds until you run out of space.

This is how my layout is going to be in 2013:

There are 12 beds, preferably raised beds, a concrete bed, and different fruit trees and bushes. Each bed is 1.00 m wide (3.3 ft).

SketchUp has a cool feature where you can read out every length you need, for example the length of each bed:

I want each bed to be as long as possible to get the largest area for growing as possible but here I’m limited by trees. You can use the Dimensions tool on every length in your layout that you could have an interest in knowing.

I have measured the lengths of all the 12 beds and now I’m ready to create a sowing and crop rotation plan.

The software program is available here: Trimble SketchUp

Composting Scraps From Scratch

I’ve been busy emptying the old composting tube in the corner of the garden. It had been filled up with all sorts of garden waste throughout the years, and the resulting product actually looked like good quality humus. I wouldn’t use it in my vegetable beds though, since I’m rather picky about what goes into my soil and thereby into the vegetables and fruit, and finally into my body. Therefore I just spread the contents of the old concrete composting tube on spaces I plan on using for walking aisles.

I found lots of eggshells in there, and even plastic bags, so I just want to be sure that it’s only healthy stuff that ends up in the compost. Nothing wrong with eggshells though, but generally the challenge with composting is that you have to get a high enough temperature to burn down all the bad stuff, and this takes some knowledge and practice. Looking at the condition of the kitchen garden I do not assume that the previous renters were into gardening and composting, therefore I’m starting a new pile from scratch. Not to say that I know enough about composting to make it work perfectly, but I’m very keen on getting the loads of kitchen scraps out of the expensive household garbage can out front. Besides it should be very healthy to know what goes into your vegetables – that’s one of the big reasons why we wrestle with this gardening thing, right? 😉 (besides getting a good workout and save some sweet moolah $ 😀 )

The trick to composting is to mix three components, namely greens, browns, and manure. If done correctly you can make the worlds best compost in a short amount of time, but it’s hard to do for the average kitchen gardener, since you need large areas and access to all three components all at once in relatively large quantities. If you have that then yes, you can work wonders. If not, you might want to consider getting a compost tumbler.

Photo by James Emery.

When the composting process is working it happens because all three components are in contact with each other. The activity in the pile is at maximum, the materials are broken down, and the temperature is high. Out comes the best compost.

The smart thing about a compost tumbler is that it allows the different materials to come into contact when you turn it, compared to a static pile where you add materials on top, like for instance three layers of grass clippings but no brown leaves in between.

The tumbler has a size limitation though, which makes it difficult to cover an entire self-sufficient kitchen garden with enough compost, or at least very expensive, if you need to go and buy a large number of tumblers to take advantage of all the waste your garden is producing. That’s why I’m building several composting ‘boxes’ and turning them over every now and then in order to mix the materials. Just make sure to cut everything into small pieces before throwing it on the pile, with a maximum length of for example 5 cm (2 inch) so that the turning can be done easily later on.

New 2012 Kitchen Garden Clean Up

Here’s a couple of videos from my 2012 garden makeover. It’s just great to have a patch of soil again, but there’s work to it. These are before-and-after videos – I removed a lot of random bushes and plants to make room for vegetable beds:

Actually, the before-video don’t show the tall grass and snakes which was the original starting point, but compared to this next video you can see that I have been busy:

Now it’s easier to see the new possibilities and get a feel for the best layout. I spent an hour during one of the last summer days to make a sketch of the kitchen garden patch and take measurements of all the settled things, like old tall fruit trees, shed and concrete bed, and where they where located relative to each other. With all these distance measurements on paper I can make a precise layout drawing on my computer and start drawing each future bed.

Easy on the Cherries Blackbird

Photo by Chris. P.

The blackbirds tricked me this year. I had been watching the cherries grow more juicier each day, and after several weeks they looked like something taken right out of a Disney movie. Big, fat, dark red juicy perfect shaped wonders of nature.

Well, I wasn’t the only one who had been watching.

What do blackbirds actually do all day? If they’re not feeding their offspring, what do they do? I’m sure they sit and stare at the fruits in my fruit trees, waiting, perhaps taking a nap for five minutes, stare some more, wait, zzz… I can’t compete with that, I also have to save the world and all that.

It took the blackbirds 1.5 days at most to strip a 3 m (10 feet) high cherry tree completely of all its berries, which is totally ridiculous. The only positive thing about it that I can think of is that the stones are spread to a large area through the birds droppings, but then again, I think that fruit trees are usually grafted onto a robust root that has adapted to local conditions. It means that the small trees that will come from the seeds will not always survive and produce fruit themselves.

The solution to this, if you want to eat your own fruit yourself? Nets. Large nets with small masks, covering the whole tree or shrub. Or cages, with chicken wire mesh mounted on a wooden frame. That will keep the birds out – just remove the cages or nets whenever you are ready to get a healthy shot of vitamins and save money for the next trip to the nursery, by growing your own fruit.

Photo by quisnovus.

Feeding Those in Need – How Do Charities Store And Deliver Food?

In areas of the world which have been affected by natural disasters, extreme poverty, droughts, wars and other circumstances, people are at risk of starvation due to lack of food and water. There are many international charities who strive to bring medical aid, water and food delivery to these struggling communities. With their help, people are able to survive and recover from the disaster.

Photo by isafmedia.

Transporting such an enormous amount of food thousands of miles at merely a moment’s notice, usually into some of the most inhospitable places in the world, is no easy feat. How in the world do these charities do it?

Case Study – The World Food Programme

Photo by IK’s World Trip.

In order to understand how charities get food delivery to people in need, we will look at one particular organisation as an example. Any other food charity will work in a very similar way so this is a helpful way of understanding how the process works.

An example of a charity which gives food to the needy all over the world is the World Food Programme. This is a United Nations frontline agency which has been created to help with the problem of world hunger. One in every seven people on the planet is affected by global hunger and the WFP delivers food to save the victims of natural disasters, war and civil conflict. After the emergency, this organisation comes in to help the community rebuild and recover.

There are many charities similar to this one that also offers food delivery to needy regions of the world in the wake of any catastrophe which threatens the local food supply.

How is the Food Delivered?

So how does the WFP get all of the food to the hungry poor?

The main form of food delivery which WFP uses is ocean transport with 90% of its food is moved by ships.  However this simply gets it to the nearest coastline. Often the communities that need food are thousands of miles inland, so the next step is to develop a line of delivery which makes the most logical route through the deserts, mountains, rivers and other obstacles around the way.

Often charities will have to transport food through areas where there are no roads or bridges and sometimes they build these roads and bridges along the way. They can also bring food delivery by aircraft, arranging air drops in the affected location.

Once there is a clear path to the affected area which the supplies can be carried along, the charity will use any means available to transport the goods. In the past this can included trucks, trains, canoes, planes, helicopters and even more primate forms of transport such as yaks, donkeys and elephants.

The food delivery which is transported into these impoverished regions destroyed by war or natural disaster has to be non-perishable because it will not be refrigerated if it is being carried on the back of a donkey. The typical types of foods that charities send to these locations include grains such as rice, wheat and maize as well as beans, peas, vegetable oil, salt, sugar, cereal, biscuits and bread. These are all carbohydrates which will give people lots of energy and last a long time without refrigeration.

After making it over mountains, rivers, deserts and jungles, the food delivery finally reaches its recipients, saving their lives and giving them the nutrients that they need so that they can recover their community.

This is not the only charity which provides food to people in need. There are many similar relief organisations which deliver food, clothing, medical care and shelter to suffering communities, such as Operation Blessing, the Red Cross and World Vision.

Photo by Dan.

Food delivery is very important in times of crisis and it can make the difference between life and death. The logistics of providing food to remote and poor locations is sometimes an incredible challenge, but these charities make it their job to find a way.

Author Bio

Charlotte Rivington loves blogging about lovely Foods and Drink covering topics from delicious recipes to milk&more grocery. She also loves to shop, keep fit and eating healthily.


Concrete in the Kitchen Garden

I think the use of concrete in the kitchen garden is something that should be considered more often. Concrete is not pretty but since the main purpose of the kitchen garden is to produce edibles the benefits of concrete as a building material should be kept in mind.

The guy who started this garden I have now, back in the 1950s, was certainly very fond of concrete. In my post about soil improvement I mentioned the large 3 x 3 m (10 x 10 ft) concrete bed I found, I’ve talked about the concrete compost tube too, that I think he built too.

I also found an old concrete roller, that was probably used as a lawn-roller, but left behind in an old shed in the back of the garden.

What’s interesting is the age of the concrete roller – it says “1957” on the side of it! Written with a finger in the wet concrete. Now imagine a normal raised bed, perhaps waist high, made from this stuff, lasting 50 years! No need to worry about what type of wood to use, or count your money to make sure you have enough to buy the lasting type.

Concrete can also be used for aisles, as the perfect weed stopper between beds. A more flexible solution would be to pour your own concrete slabs that can be moved around, to be able to modify size and shape of each bed.

Lynn Mentgen-Gillespie talks about using store-bought concrete blocks, namely cinder blocks, in her ebook Cinder Block Gardens.

Be prepared to do some heavy work if you choose to use concrete in your kitchen garden, but at the same time enjoy the benefits of custom made tools and structures, that will last a lifetime.

Soil Improvement

I have really got my hands full with this new garden. It is both awesome and scary at the same time, because I get so many great ideas I want to try out, but the plot is still a wilderness after two months mid-season. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to handle this beast and make it into a neat, food-producing kitchen garden. It’s the perfect way to exercise patience and faith – the carrot seeds took an awful long time to grow into seedlings, and the soil needs nutrients really bad. I’m not sure if soil is the right word. It looks like something you’ll find at the seashore, so I’ll have to have faith in the yearlong composting process, and that I’ll be able to turn my kitchen waste and ornamental garden waste into humus for the vegetable beds.

I’m figuring out a plan for the placement of each bed, and digging away. I discovered what I thought was a discarded concrete building block, but it turned out to be a large 3 x 3 m concrete bed that had been buried in garden waste for many, many years, judging by the height of the pile on top of it (about 1.5 m). Now I just need to find out if it’s some kind of pool (i.e. call in the ducks), or an ordinary bed without a concrete floor in it (i.e. reread the Food4Wealth ebook and use it as a Food4Wealth bed).

No matter what – the potatoes I did manage to plant in the ridiculously sandy soil will soon be ready for harvest, and I’ll appreciate every small bite.

Kitchen Garden Plot Tour 2012

Maybe I put a bit too much energy into this – I wanted more space for my kitchen garden (in fact, I had almost no space at all) and now I have a park on my hands! Well, most of the garden is ornamental, but it still takes time for me to mow the lawn and trim the bushes and hedges. But it’s awesome, I love it!

It took some time to get used to the snakes crawling around in the tall grass, but they’re pretty harmless. These videos below were shot a couple of months ago and now that the grass has been mowed several times I think the snakes left.

The ornamental garden and the kitchen garden are connected through a beautiful old wooden trellis, but the kitchen garden was still a complete wilderness when the videos were shot. It’s okay, I like the challenge!

Half of trees in the far back of the garden are cherry trees, and they’re very tall, maybe 8 meters or so. It’s actually raining cherries down there if you get the timing right.
A couple of big piles of sticks have been left to rot, with God knows what kind of creepy critters living in there (among snakes, yes).

I’m looking forward to harvesting Victoria plums and apples from tall trees planted long time ago in the kitchen garden.

And oh, check out the custom made concrete composting tube, and the concrete drum (whatever that has been used for?) It looks like the garden and the tools and stuff were left behind in a hurry and haven’t been touched since – just like an old town from the gold rush…

The far end has been fenced off against deer, with a tall fence, with a view to the golf course next door; “Clock!” And duck. 😉