By Diane Lockspeiser
As I mentioned last month, when the garden beds were still covered in snow and I needed to start cleaning up the chicken coop, I piled the soiled wood chips next to the coop. What I hadn’t mentioned was that I had piled it on top of snow.
During the days of very warm weather we’ve had this April, I’ve continued removing more poopy mixture out of the coop to spread under the fruit trees in my garden. I have two Cortland Apple, two Bartlett Pear, and three Dwarf Cherry trees. They are all still rather young but have been producing fruit for a couple of years now, which is very exciting for me. I’ve always wanted fruit trees but never before had enough sunny space for even one, never mind seven.
Next I decided to prepare my little corn field. There is a 5’x5′ square raised bed in my yard that I’ve been using to grow corn in. I fence it off during the growing season to keep the chickens from possibly damaging the plants and from definitely eating the corn. It seems like most animals go crazy for corn, so the fence helps keep them away also. During the rest of the year I leave part of the fencing open so that my ladies can work their magic on the soil. Way before it’s time to plant the seed, I add a thick layer of soiled chicken bedding onto the mini cornfield. The chickens are quickly at work on it, not just spreading it as they search for bugs, but working it into the soil as well. Cheap labor! Or is it “cheep” labor?
I decided to finally remove the pile of woodchips next to the coop to use for this purpose. As I dug into the pile, I was surprised to hit into snow—perfectly preserved snow, even after days of summer-like temperatures!
I immediately realized that I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, I’ve been on the tour of Hanford Mills Museum in East Meredith twice, hearing how they pack sawdust around the blocks of ice in order to preserve them in the ice house after cutting them from the pond in winter. I’ve even been to the Ice Festival and seen it done. One day I will make it to the Fourth of July festivities, when they make ice cream using the stored ice for the freezing process.
Even having already learned about the insulating power of wood particles and also knowing how a thick layer of mulch helps to moderate soil temperatures, it was still pretty amazing to see the snowy results of my inadvertent experiment in my garden laboratory!~