Monday, March 11, 2013

Getting to Work in the Oregon Springtime!

Spring is a glorious time when you are not pregnant (like I was this time last year...hugely, beluga-whale pregnant).  Instead of "It is beautiful and sunny out, but I feel like laying down and sleeping... who wants to watch Curious George?," this year I can say, "It is beautiful and sunny out - let's go dig in the dirt!"

This is an important difference, since I am coming to realize that Oregonians get very little sunshine from November 'til

Here is what the precipitation looks like at the town nearest us (sorry if you don't think graphs are as fascinating as I do):

You can see that October is when we lose all hope and become depressed after a glorious summer.

So instead of staying inside and, you know, doing dishes and putting away laundry like I should be doing, I keep dragging the kids outside with me to work on stuff.  Just kidding.  They love it.

I am quickly learning that gardening in the Pacific Northwest (especially west of the Cascades) is about as idiot-proof as it gets, and extremely rewarding with very little effort.  Case in point: I accidentally killed a potted primrose when we moved here.  I put it on the back porch, it fell off and out of its pot, I didn't pick it up, and the plant magically came back to life as soon as it started raining.  Here, you have to fight off nature to keep it from growing out of control, as opposed to where we used to be (9000 feet, semi-arid), where you had to nurture growing things, pray, and beg them to survive.

Anyway, here are a few of my projects for this year.  If you think that all my projects look pretty redneck, please keep in mind that my monthly garden budget it $15... so I am doing everything as cheaply as possible.  

Project #1: Grapevines!  I am attempting to propagate some grapevine cuttings to grow along the huge trellis off my back porch.  Somewhere between cutting and planting, I lost track of which ends are the...uh...root ends and which ends are the growing ends, so we will see how this goes.  Note the classy 5 gallon bucket pot (with drainage holes on the husband was thrilled that I ruined his bucket).

 The poor chickens who stand in mud during the rainy season have been getting lots of downed branches in their run.  It helps.  It is still muddy.  They now are allowed out of the run during the day to eat bugs and grass and poop all over our patio.  They are happy, fat, and gloriously healthy.  We are tired of stepping in poop and shooing them out of the house.  We are working on that.

 This is a mini, pathetic version of a sweet idea I saw somewhere, where the bottom of a chicken coop was all mesh, and things were growing underneath for the chickens to eat.  Also, this way the chicken poo just falls down to fertilize the plants beneath.  My version is just some rye seeds under a slightly protective mesh platform out in the chicken run.  We'll see how it goes.  At the very worst, the chickens will eat all the rye seeds and call it a tasty one-time snack, at the best, the seeds will sprout and grow, and the chickens will have something fun to eat in the run if we can't let them out for some reason.

Given the whole low-budget thing, I was super excited the other day when I found out that our Fish and Wildlife Department was giving away free native plants!  There was originally a limit of 3 per person, but we showed up late, and they gave us as many as I could carry without jabbing plants into the face of the squirming baby.  These fortress-fortified plants (chicken and husband-on-lawnmower proof) are mock orange trees and some wild roses.  The mock orange supposedly smells amazing when it blooms.  Right now it looks like a tiny dead stick.  Come on, Oregon climate, work your magic.  My husband thinks I am slightly crazy to be putting fortresses around dead sticks.

More free natives.  The purplish thing in front is a wild Oregon creeping grape, then the twig behind it is a red twig dogwood.  These guys are by the chicken run, and I am hoping when they mature, they will provide some bug habitat and fruit for the chickens (all the stuff I got has fruit or foliage or both that is edible for animals).

This is the last native.  It is a narrow-leaf buckbrush, which apparently thrives even in drought.  So it is way out in the garden where I don't water regularly during no-rain season.  It is a nitrogen-fixer (my permaculture-newbie self got excited about that), and I am excited to plant things around it someday that are cooler than the current dead grass.

 This is the southwest corner of our large, deer-fenced garden area.  It had previously been a bizarre plant cemetery where the people who lived here before us dumped a bunch of perfectly good stuff straight from the nursery and left it to die (I guess they got busy?).  Like hundreds and hundreds of baby plants.  The cheapskate in me was absolutely appalled.  So I dumped all the good dirt out of the pots, am reusing lots of the pots for growing seedlings, and cleared the rest out to make room for a little raised garden bed.  There are a bunch of left over cinder blocks hanging around the property that will become lovely little walls around this mound of dirt. Stylish, I know.  But hey, veggies don't care what their garden bed looks like!  The only thing I don't like about this raised garden plan is that because of its weird placement far from the house (it's the best sunny place that is fenced), I will be lugging bucket loads of water down to it in the summer.  Hopefully the little one will be walking by then?

Here is what is going on with a bunch of those salvaged plant containers.  They are housing seedlings!  Hooray!  And yes, the seedings live on top of the trash can.  That is the only place on the sunny back porch where the chickens can't eat them and the dog can't knock them down with his tail.  We currently have baby tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, and impatiens.  There were nasturtiums, but they were taking over and blocking the sun from the other seedlings.  I killed them.  My 3-year-old cried.

This is the beginning of project number... 3 dozen?  I've lost count.  Leaning against the trunk of the badly-pruned tree are a bunch of branches that I pruned off the apple trees.  They are going to hopefully become a little bean tipi for the kids to play in.  I always knew my tipi building experience at my last job would pay off! And... is tipi building knowledge the kind of thing I can put on a resume someday if I go back to work?

1 comment:

  1. You've been busy! I love your plant fortresses. I'm a bit jealous of your easy-growing climate. And your chickens. :-)


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