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Gardener's Grapevine 2013.02.20

on . Posted in Gardener's Grapevine

What a really nice weekend this turned out to be. Our good friends from Kalamazoo came for the weekend to visit and hang out. Their parents live near them and have a farm that consists of a lot of different rescue animals. As our economy tanked so did people’s ability to feed and care for their animals.

When my friend Carol saw my compost bin on the counter she asked me if I had chickens. I had to ask her to repeat the question as I thought I’d heard wrong, but no, she wanted to know if we were raising chickens. I explained that it is not allowed in town and asked why she would ask that. She said because her mom keeps a similar bin and feeds it to the chickens.

It seems that chickens love vegetable  and fruit scraps to eat. I never knew that. I thought chickens strictly ate chicken feed and cracked corn. We do not have chickens, but I wish we did—fresh eggs are the best. I love fresh eggs and I’ve been getting mine from Pam Arquette. She has some really nice, tasty eggs and I like knowing they are free-range chickens. 

Free-range doesn’t necessarily mean chickens running loose; it means they are not in tight cages on top of each other in a barn. They are often in pens with roosts they can use. It is a much more sanitary condition for the chickens and their eggs.

It has become hip to own chickens and a chicken coop. I read a few articles on people who are town people or not farmers, yet buy chickens and coops. Some of these chickens are pretty fancy as are their living quarters. 

In our town it is against the city ordinances to own farm animals. There used to be farm animals in town, though. My grandmother has told me many times about walking past the Wakefield property and seeing their sheep grazing. She is talking about the area known as Wakefield Park now. In her time it was fenced in and had sheep inside the fence. She told me that one winter an ornery boy grabbed her hat and threw it into the sheep pen and she couldn’t get it back. Guess there have always been bullies.

I also remember a house in Morenci that had at least one horse grazing in a small pasture behind it on Whitney Avenue in the east end of town. That would have been in the 1970s. Once the animals are gone the ordinance takes over and you must follow it, so no chickens for our hip little community.

I often talk about composting in passing, but if you are a gardener it is very important. A garden needs a good mixture of ingredients and it always needs worms. Worms make soil loose and easy to manage. Without food worms will move on to better grazing. Worms love egg shells; they have lots of calcium. Bananas  add an abundance of potassium and roses especially love banana peels. I eat one every day for breakfast and deposit the peel in the rose bushes beside our office. I’ve heard people pondering why they bloom so much better on that side of the building. I’m not telling unless I get caught putting my morning deposit in.

Many people think composting smells, but if it’s done right it does not. When you dump your scraps they must not have any meat or dairy in them. Then cover them with a bit of straw or leaves or newspaper. It can be hard to turn the pile in winter, but if it is built properly the snow, ice and rain will start breaking it down and when the weather breaks you can turn it. In the summer, turn it every three to four days. there’s no foul smell, just a little earthy scent. The other upside to composting is less trash for the road. Compost can also be put in flower beds and around shrubs.

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