By Diane Lockspeiser
The first of the seed catalogs have started coming in the mail, which makes me more excited than any of the holiday celebrations. I love to spend January curled up in a warm chair by the fire, taking stock of what seeds I have, deciding what I need or want and where everything will go in the yard, browsing through the catalogs and then changing my mind several times over before finally ordering seeds and sometimes plants.
As to the biggest decision, however, I have already made up my mind. Since most of the garden areas are pretty well-established and can now be easily supplemented with compost, chicken manure, and foliar sprays, I didn’t know whether I wanted to bother getting any more hay bales. Last year, the farmer who had supplied them in the past didn’t have any available in the Spring because of the exceptionally wet Spring we had. I used to use some bales in the chicken coop, but when I ran out of hay I was able to get them accustomed to using the wood chip flakes from Tractor Supply instead. The chips don’t smell quite as nice as the hay, and I would rather buy from a local farmer than from a chain store, but the flakes work fine and actually make clean up easier. And so I got a bit lazy and didn’t search for other hay bale suppliers.
Then I thought about some of the areas of the main garden that I really would like to expand a bit, and I have found using hay bales to be the easiest way to start new garden areas. During the two or three years that it takes for the whole bale to break down, the grass and other plants usually break down as well, and by the third or fourth year the whole area is easily worked into regular garden soil.
The deciding factor was the fact that I plan to sell my old work van soon. We formerly used to use it to haul 25 to 30 bales at a time, which made it worth the trip to the Walton area where our suppliers were located (the first one had advertised, the second was a referral). If I find someone in or near Andes who can sell me one or two bales at a time, I may resume and continue to get bales for the chicken coop, but I have decided we will definitely get just one last big load for the garden this year while I still have my truck. That should have me sufficiently set for the rest of my years here on my little hillside corner of paradise.~