A New Bed for my Strawberries

Overgrown strawberries reaching to the sun.

When FD and I moved here, I tried to move many of the landscaping plants from our previous home in town.  Months before we made the actual move I was digging up plants and planting them  at my mother-in-law’s place.  Her house sits on this same property so it would be handy to move them when the time came.  When we finally established flower beds all around the house, I threw a few strawberry plants in the front flower bed.  I figured I’d deal with them later but we needed cover at the front where the dirt sifted and swirled all around the entry. Strawberries multiply like crazy, sending runners everywhere once the plant has produced berries for the season.

The irresistible strawberry.

I was pleased the first year when the strawberry plants took off and made a lovely ground cover.  Year two came and the bed was filled plumb full!  Year three I decided to expand the bed, but realized the strawberries didn’t look so good.  Some of them were brown, and spongy.  This year, the 4th, I noticed more of the ill-looking berries and decided to research.  Leather rot.  My berries had a fungus.  Raised bed gardening was suggested.  Ugh.  That meant a lot of work.  I thought about where to put one and finally FD and I decided on a slightly sloped location near the driveway where the landscaping could use a little curve and depth.

Cumulonimbus clouds looming in an afternoon sky.

First we killed the grass in the area we planned to put the bed.   I dug up grass.  My Mom visited last week and she helped.  The mostly clay soil was dense and dry.  I felt like we were getting nowhere fast.  A few days later, we got lucky.  Mother Nature brought 4.9 inches of rain. YAY!

Glorious rain floods the yard!

Sunday, FD laid the terracing stones and I dug up the last of the Bermuda grass. It was dry enough that the ground was perfect for digging.  All of the dead grass was hauled to the slope where we need to fill in uneven spots.  One job always leads to another you know…

Which is why today it was necessary for me to put a layer of chicken poop on the new raised bed and spread it out for fertilizer.  I planned to use last years chicken dirt for my fertilizer.  Last years chicken poop is seasoned for a year before it is ready to use.  I had to dig up the last of that pile (we had already used most of it for our vegetable gardens) so that I could clean out the chicken barn this week, and put the fresh poop in its place for next year’s fertilizer.  See how one project leads to or depends on another?

That’s seasoned chicken poop folks!

I fired up the buggy (ok, it’s electric) and hooked up my little trailer and loaded on the poop.  Now you will note in the last paragraph I called it chicken dirt. My Grandma Mildred did not tolerate ill language in her home.  Chicken shit certainly wasn’t allowed (even though at home that’s what we called it) and chicken poop was still not appropriate, so she had us call it chicken dirt.  Two of my siblings and I usually remembered, and if we didn’t we sure covered up quick with, “I mean DIRT!”.  My youngest sister at that time (another surprise sister came years later) never could get it right.  That stuff was NOT dirt to her, it was shit, just like the chicken shit we had at home!

I worked a couple of hours at this fragrant job.  I have a terrible sense of smell, which I have found to be a blessing.  The other day I had to bury an extremely dead chicken that had gone unnoticed by FD’s mother.  I was thankful the putrid stench wasn’t as bad as I knew it really was!

You’ll notice the blue bucket in the lower right corner of the pic.  That, my friends, is the chicken fiesta snack bucket.  How do you think the chicken poop is broken down into this wonderful, rich fertilizer?  Grubs.  Big, juicy ones.  Let me show you a close up photo!  The girls just loved sinking their beaks into these plump, juicy morsels.  Poor Mildred (named after Grandma of course!) is slow and has bad legs.  She managed to get a grub only to have some young, nimble hen snatch it away from her.  She clucked and growled about that for a while.

I saved these delicacies for the chickens! YUM!

So the next bucket I saved two just for her.  I went inside the chicken yard with a branch and kept the other chickens at bay while Mildred plucked up her grubs, stabbed at them and quickly ingested them.  I also saved one for Uno, the one-eyed chicken.  I look out for my favorites you know.

Back at the raised bed I cranked up the mantis tiller and started working in the chicken poop.  Everything was looking so nice and plowed, when KA-CHUNK… I hit a large rock and it caught in the tines of the tiller.  Dang it!  I tried but it refused to dislodge.  This was a job for FD.  I’ve learned not to mess with repairs.  I have southern mechanic tendencies if you know what I mean!  I got the potato fork out again and methodically dug and turned.  That only lasted about 10 minutes.  The heat was intense and clouds were moving in, creating a very humid atmosphere.

Calling it a day.

Pretty soon I called it quits.  I had already done some limb cutting in the morning and started up the burn pile again.  I was tired but thankful for such a productive day.  I cleaned up my tools and stuck a big “REPAIR” note on the tiller so I didn’t forget to tell FD.  Someday soon I’ll be hauling dirt from various spots to fill in the raised bed.  Since we have no machinery to achieve this task, yours truly gets to be the human tractor.  The work horse… the mule.  That’s why my pants are falling down in all of these pictures.  Every summer I lose weight as the ranch nag.

If the weather allows I may try to tackle the chicken barn tomorrow… or maybe I’ll wait until Wednesday or Thursday.  I think I spent enough time today with mother nature’s fertilizer.  If you think about it hard enough I bet you can almost smell the aroma!

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

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