The Grovestead

Farm, Family, Fun.

Month: June 2014 (page 1 of 6)

Training the strawberries

Strawberry runners growing after the fruiting stage

This year is our second attempt at growing strawberries and we’ve made some modifications. We planted  them into a raised bed with fresh compost, mulched heavily with wood chips, and the piece de resistance: a plastic owl to scare off hungry birds.

And I must say, our improvements have worked! Last year I hardly tasted a single strawberry due to birds and slugs. The weeds completely took over, stunting the meager growth. This year, we’ve enjoyed strawberries every day since mid-June. I don’t think a single berry has been lost to pests. And the weeds are practically non-existent. The ones that do spring up are easy to pull.

Now the plants are finishing their fruiting stage and have started sending out runners. Runners are how strawberries propagate themselves. It’s pretty fascinating to see how prolific these little plants are. Its not unusual to see five or more runners growing out of each plant. And these things grow like crazy — up to 5 inches per day!

Strawberry runners grow at an amazing pace

Because of the wood mulch its important to help the runners get established in good soil. These will be the fruit-bearing plants for next year. So for the past few weeks I’ve been pulling back the mulch in strategic places and pinning down the runners into the soil.

Strawberry runners planted into good soil

Within a few days the roots have set and leaves begin forming. The strawberries will continue to spread this way, year after year.

Planted strawberry runner taking root


Cleaning out the coop

Our chicken coop, ready for cleaning

One of the steps in making my no-till garden plot earlier this Spring called for organic fertilizer over fresh compost. So I found myself in the fertilizer aisle of the garden center comparing options …. fish emulsion, kelp, buffalo loam. One option looked like an incredible value: only $8 for a 25 lb bag. And then I caught a whiff and I knew why it was “priced to move”. Chickety Doo Doo, it was called. If the name left any doubt, the smell certainly didn’t. Oh, I know that smell! I’ve got plenty of this at home.

So I headed home to clean out the chicken coop and harvest all the free fertilizer I could. I built a little contraption to separate the wood shavings from the good stuff (funny how farming changes your perspective about what constitutes “good stuff”).

Cleaning out the coop

It’s usually at this point of retelling a story of what I’m up to on the farm to her friends that Becca will get the question: “And what does Rory do?” I do in fact, have a job. I just have the luxury of working from home with very flexible hours so I can do things like clean a chicken coop at 2pm on a Tuesday.

Taking a business call

I still answer the phone when a client calls, though it can be a bit awkward when a rooster crows in the background.

Our rooster keeps an eye on things

Chicken coop is all clean with fresh bedding.

After I rake out the old wood chips, I spray down the insides with a disinfectant. Then I put down clean pine shavings and refill the nest boxes for the hens.

Laying hen settling in to a clean nest box

Chickens are truly one of the easiest animals to care for. I tell people they’re easier than goldfish. I only clean the coop two or three times a year and refill their feeder every few days. We give them all our left over food scraps which they recycle into delicious eggs. For that minimal input we get 4-5 eggs per day, free fertilizer for our garden, and daily entertainment.


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