growing good memories

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This blog has certainly gone through an evolution from progress reports on our families transition to rural life, to being an outlet for the community projects and events I am so passionate about creating and promoting. Today I sit in a warm insulated space (for the first time in years) and look out on to our little mountain side farm and take in all of the blood sweat and tears that have got us where we are today…

Our Kootenay adventure started with a lovely piece of land and a gross moldy trailer. We started with gardens and chickens, built woodhenge, and a new road, two yurts, then a lovely outdoor shower house. We added hugelbeds and food forest systems, amazing onsite fertility programs, then came the rabbits and the bees. A cob rocket oven and a cob bench with outdoor kitchen space in the garden even a new green house. Perennial food abounds and now we are surrounded with community fresh water and love.

We couldn’t have done all that we have without the help, and love and support of our families and friends…. and our Interns. ‘Oh our interns…

Two years ago I took the advise of my friend and permaculture teacher Rob, he suggested I forgo the WWOOf’ers I was thinking about adding into the fold and look for folks who share our permaculture ethics and could really embrace and explore the techniques we are playing with here. So in 2011 I offered Permaculture Internships for the 2012 season, and for the past 21 months we have had continuous interns living with us.

Today is the first day Since Feb of 2012 that we are without interns, namely without Jordan. Jordan came here back in April of 2012 bright eyes and eager to live in the mountains and build on the solid permaculture education foundation he had. His 6 week commitment soon passed and we all decided that the energies we had as a team were worth holding on to.  All of our interns came and went for the season and Jordan was integral to their orientation and settling in.  Actually he was integral to just about everything around here, our fertility program was ramped up 10 fold as soon as we teamed up on the pitch forks! Jordan has a great ability to retain just about everything he reads (I am more of a skimmer) so having him drop facts and stats on a whim was always amazing. Jojo made all the crazy permie dreams totally doable, especially when he introduced us to his white board system of tasks and goals.  Every time I dreamed up another event or community project or planting guild idea, Jordan was there to back me up, or take on the challenge  himself and ace it. Not only is he a kind and amazing person we were thrilled to have here, he had also become my personal spell check / proof reader… you all can probably see by now how important that role is to me, as I’m a copy editors worst nightmare!  At the end of the harvest last year we took on a big project, out biggest ever and he was eager to stay through the winter and we were thrilled to have him, he was after all part of our little family by then. Together we starting creating our internship program for the coming season and soon realized, although we were overwhelmed with amazing applications and emails, we were going to build on the family we had made with Jordan. We invited his CSA team from years early to join ours and took on the lofty task of housing 3 full time – 3 season interns.

It was still snowy when Dave arrived from Victoria, and he was keen to chop wood, haul trees, wild craft and hone some carpentry skills. Jordan and Dave were living in the “Murt” together and built a really great loft space. Dave brought us music, and a good dose of laughter. Dr Kombuchy start brewing kombucha for all of us and caring for all the little critters and wee seedlings. We started our (2nd attempt) and breeding rabbits; we had a buck and 3 does and Dave took on that process entirely; from salvaging scraps of everything to assemble their new bunny palace, through the the daily care. Dave was a vegetarian when he arrived, however he was moving toward eating meat from small, local, organic and loving producers which was totally inline with the way we eat… he was in for a big surprise however when our little piggie, Bacon (raised by our friend) was ready for market shortly after Dave’s arrival. Poor guy sat nearby and watched me use every grueling nasty bit of that pig in preparation for Pig-in-a-day. Wow that was a tough 3 days for everyone; Dyl and Jojo did the killing and the skinning and scraping, and face peeling, and I boiled the heads and prepared the organs then created a workshop for 20+ folks to come and learn from our friend Ben the Butcher how to break that beast down.

By the time Isis arrived in the spring there were still remnants of pig… I think she found a hoof buried in the food forest on her first day in the soil! And of course she enjoyed the smoked bacon we were serving. Isis came along to the farm right around the time that Jordan brought home Balou, son of Odin (our golden guard dog) and soon the 3 of them; jordan Isis and Balou were all sleeping outside in the wood shed and Dave had the yurt to himself. Isis was a magic addition to our growing team. Her days were often spent tending to the garden, weeding and planting, and most importantly observing! She is a stellar observer.  Isis and I decided before her arrival that this was the time to finally take on bee keeping.. something we both so wanted to do, so together with the help of some serious queen bee guardians; Elise and Christina, we had the confidence to welcome and care for our new holistically managed bee colony. What a joy. Isis also came to be my number 1 dishwasher (feeding 6 meant for lots of dishes), and wild crafting and harvesting goto. I soon came to know that tone in her voice “…and the cucumbers” this meant I had many a basketful she was hoping to bring in and have me process in short order “the squash, the tomatoes, the grapes, the cabbage (the blue ribbon cabbage that is)…” the list goes on and on. We had our most productive and abundant year ever and this I blame heavily on Isis and her garden fairy magic.

As harvest wound down and the wood supply stacked up it was time for Dave to move on, back to the coast again with a soul-craft stop over. Dave is working with “Farmer Mike” (who I look forward to meeting someday) doing urban farming in Victoria. Maybe Dave’s most important legacy he left in the Kootenays was our daughters new interest and skills in music namely the ukulele and the songs they rocked together at open mike! Dave we raise a cup of turmeric tea to you, and wish you nothing but the best. love + gratitude to you.

Isis and Jordan are back home in the rambling foothills of Alberta now ready for a new page in their adventure together. With a heated home (novel idea) and lots of land to craft and observe, manage and care for. Our community’s loss is Black Diamond’s gain. Those two will do great things together. Jordan, Isis we love you both so much, and can’t wait to see how your future evolves. We wouldn’t be here without everything you have done to help us achieve our dreams. Thank You!

More Slocan Valley Farm Opportunities 2013!

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First Off THANKS for all the great applicants for Internships at out Farm this season… We have not got back to anyone yet, but promise we will soon! Keep your applications coming because we are extending our opportunities both here and at some fabulously diverse surrounding farms. We have a number of friends also interested in hosting Permies who want to learn about farming and implement various techniques on their farms sites. Over the next weeks we will be posting summaries about opportunities nearby and details about the various farms around, from organic market gardens, to all breeds of animal raising and processing, alternative building and many unique niches in between. Best of all they are all right here in the Paradise that is Slocan Valley, in the Kootenay Mountains of BC Canada.

tricycle acres permaculture internship opportunities 2013

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We had such a fabulous internship experience last year that we are happy to announce we are expanding and developing our 2013 program!  We are currently accepting applications for 3-6 week internships for the April-October 2013 season. This is your chance to get your hands dirty implementing permaculture principles in paradise!

We are going into our fourth season of growing food and building here in the Kootenays, and are looking for eager and hardworking interns to help us implement more permaculture techniques, test theories and explore new integrated systems. Essentially we want WWOOFers who want to dig in to permaculture hands on! We have 1/3 of an acre of organic primary gardens, which employ many interesting techniques; guilds, sheet mulch, companion planting, herb spiral, hugelkultur, etc… along with a newly guilded fruit system, the foundation of a food forest, many established fruit trees and vineyards, 2+ year round creeks, and over 6 acres of mossy diverse mushroomy forest.

Here is a video glimpse of our stunning mountainside smallholding, made as part of Verge Permaculture Grad Series:

Our projects this year have been broken down by season (see below) and we have a pretty clear-as-dirt idea of  what we’ll be doing in these time blocks, and encourage applicants to consider activities and timing when applying.

Early Spring:

  • pig-aerator / pork butchery
  • woodworking / carpentry / pole building
  • greywater cell / willow bed implementation
  • firewood / chainsaw skills + chopping, hauling + stacking
  • seed starting / garden planning / transplanting / soil blocking
  • planting expanded perennial food system
  • Valley Permaculture Guild – permablitzing, tour ,learn and implement at other local farms

Early Summer:

  • soil building / compost tea brewing based on Soil Food Web research
  • garden planting / transplanting /guild building
  • woodworking / carpentry / pole building
  • wild crafting
  • foraging / harvesting early berries
  • pond system / rabbit tractors
  • rotational animal fencing systems
  • Valley Permaculture Guild – permablitzing * tour, learn and implement at other local farms

Late Summer / Fall

  • harvest , harvest, harvest! / seed collecting
  • canning / drying / preserving
  • mushroom foraging
  • root cellaring / cellar building
  • woodworking / carpentry / pole building
  • firewood / chainsaw skills + chopping, hauling + stacking
  • Valley Permaculture Guild – permablitzing* tour, learn and implement at other local farms

We currently have 26 laying heritage hens, as well as 2 working dogs who keep the beasties away (bearscoyotes & cougars to name a few). We have a pig who is currently living off site, but will be joining us here in the early spring for some rooting work and then as a key participant in a pig-in-a-day butchery class. We plan to expand our animal systems again this year, including rabbits (round two), as well as ducks and a pond system.

As a tricycle acre intern you will enjoy mainly vegetarian from scratch home cooking but the occasional ethical omnivore meal makes it’s way to the table (unless of course you don’t eat meat then we can easily accommodate this). The  focus of most every meal here is eating seasonal organic and local whole foods. Your host is passionate about food and blogs regularly at eatingwithSOLE .You’ll drink and wash in living mountain fresh creek water from the source, and enjoy a magical forest full of wildlife, wild edibles and medicinal plants, right in the heart of the Kootenays most diverse and wonderful community, with it’s ample art, music, learning living events, Rivers and lakes, beaches and mountains to explore.

Your hosts have a wealth of knowledge to share: Shauna is a Certified Permaculture Designer, and Dylan is a Master Carpenter with skills in fabricating just about anything out of just about anything. Shauna was a successful bakery owner in her city life and is passionate about cooking, baking, canning and food preservation, gardening and fiber arts. Together we have a good amount of alternative building experiences including: undertaking an earthship internship, building with straw bale and cobb, composting toilets, waddle and daubyurt buildinglog building, and of course our favorite building material… GARBAGE! We are a young small family eager and open to constant learning and exploring of new ideas. We also have an extensive permaculture / building / growing / cooking / primitive skills / fiber arts library which can be accessed during your stay. We also have an extra canoe and bicycles interns can use on hot and sunny days off.

In 2012 we hosted 8 interns throughout the season and enjoyed the ups and downs of growing food and building in rain and sunshine, and have more than memories to show for it. Accompanying us throughout the 2013 season will be our farm hand Jordan who came to us as an intern last April and hasn’t left! He brings a solid and broad foundation of both permaculture theory and hands-on implementation experience. Jordan is a Certified Permaculture Designer and has extensive knowledge in soil building and composting, building and site layout, and alternative agricultural and has experience with a wide array of permaculture principles and techniques. He is now heading up our internship program and has become an integral part of the Tricycle Acres team.

Applicants should have reasonable amount of permaculture knowledge, and should be physically able to dig, shovel, lift and haul heavy piles of materials (largely organic inputs). Applicants should also be prepared for near off grid living; no TV, limited internet, limited access to power, be comfortable using a composting toilet outhouse, and a dreamy outdoor shower house. We expect interns to not create or bring unnecessary wastes onto our site. We expect any intern to follow the permaculture ethics, and understand that those are our guiding principles. Interns would work 5 days a week, approx 5 hours a day weather and project permitting. Lunch, dinner and accommodations are provided, but interns will need to prepare and provide their own breakfast and are responsible for all of their own dishes, as well as contributing with cleaning and dishwashing in the kitchen (to keep your cook happy).

Interested in applying? Download the pdf Application Info Sheet to check out the process below…  our deadline is >>> EXTENDED<<< April 1st!

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compost compost compost

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We are pumping out the compost these days! BUILDING SOIL 🙂

Jordan and I have made 2 huge hot “berkley method” piles since May and just started a 3rd with Christina and Sinisha the other day. We have brewed 3 batches of vermi-compost and comfry tea and yesterday we did a extract brew, which was a quick and easy option. The extract yesterday was made using worm casings / compost from the first pile / and some comfry leaves. The whole garden got a good dose of nutrients last night!

I always assumed that compost extracts were not as good as compost teas and so I hadn’t given them much thought, that is until I read Verge Permaculture’s recent article on tea and extract brewing, which inspired me to make an extract. In essence both methods use a constant supply of rapidly moving oxygenated water over a period of time to extract and or grow microbes. The problem that came up with the tea we produce is that you had to use it very quickly… like within hours, or the microbes start to eat away all the oxygen and then rapidly die off. With the extract you have a few days (up to 2 weeks) to get it all on the plants… which is helpful then you are supplying the nutrients by way of a watering can over an 12 000 sq/ft area of food production! The other benefit to producing extract over tea is that the aeration machine only needs to run for 2-3 hours rather than 24 hours… which makes for more quiet time in the mountains, and less energy of course.  This is the way have been brewing tea which is a really super boosted and viable method, and if I had a smaller yard or an easier application method I would use regularly. As it stand I think we will keep on the extract train for a while, and take our time to deliver the nutrients to the crops.

We finally got the worms moved outdoors and into a make shift home inside a tub. The plan is to still utilize a worm condo system and have two double stacks functioning inside a single tub. Right now we are repurposing some plastic food crates which are stackable and ideal. The new vermi-home shares a fence with the rabbit / chicken run and soon will house the rabbits on top. The worms are getting all the rabbit manure + straw bedding, plus all the tea and coffee grounds from the house, along with some misc kitchen scraps that the chooks don’t eat. The rest ends up in the big compost piles.

As for our berkley piles… we have been struggling a little with the nitrogen content of the old winter coop chicken manure muck, as it was intensely caked and somewhat aged yet totally anaerobic, YUCK it is nasty stuff. The first pile we did was way way way to hot, the second pile was made almost entirely of wood chips and manure trying to keep it from over heating, and I think we have finally found the right balance with the newest pile:  Incorporating wood ash, lots of diverse greens / weeds, the nasty old chook shit cakes, along with new poo and straw from the rabbits and the birds, some winter coat fur from Odin, wood chips, grass clippings, mushrooms, and bits from both the old piles and the creek bed for some added microbial excitement!

We have been using a number of different compost calculators online, and I found one that I really liked using here, These calculators are the perfect tool for building the right kind of compost, as the correct carbon to nitrogen ration is key to successful composting!  The calculator the results from our last pile are in the slideshow above, what I like most about this specific calculator tool, is you can use volumes of measure like : a wheelbarrow load (which is the easiest way for us to tally up our inputs) . We ended up with a 34 C:N (carbon to nitrogen) ratio which is ideal. We made the pile Thursday morning, and turned it Sunday morning for the first time, the temperature was sitting at 60 degrees. This soil building stuff is pretty amazing!

mess beautiful mess

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I keep taking pictures and want to share all of the exciting accomplishments we have made around here, but everytime I pull out my camera to compose a picture I think… ‘ew look at thay ugly pile of poo, or those tarps look so messy, or why are all of those materials piled up like that in the way? Maybe it’s the artist designer in my who is always put off by the chaos in a image composition… yet I have no trouble living with the straw piled high in front of my waddle and daub shed and strewn with an ugly blue tarp! I have to admit I don’t share as many images as I would like to because I think the farm looks messy when captured in a single frame… but when your here, living and moving, growing and building the mess is all relevant to the successes we are having!

So messy piles and half finished undertakings aside we have so much to share, where to begin?

The entire “old” garden space got planted, new rock stairways improved access to the Yarn yurt and the new expansion of the garden (to the hugel and giant sheet mulch, and future key holes), we started a swift execution of an outdoor shower that was quickly quelled, and promptly replaced by a stunning pole framed shed roof shower house structure, which decks off from the yarn yurt and houses a new cedar board and baton shower and composting toilet house with stunning open views of the moutains across the valley and the top of Perrys Ridge. The new structure also boasts a lower level garden sink and outdoor kitchen area. OMG it is looking fabulous! with huge overhangs, and beautiful joinery. I was happy with the make shaft early version.. but this my friends is unreal. There is talk of milling a giant cedar slab countertop for the garden sink with part of a massive cedar trunk gifted to us.

We have had some big days in the last week planing cedar boards, pulling new dead standing poles from the back 40 for garden fencing, hauling shit, and building sheet mulch beds, and another HUGE compost pile (decked out in a fancy compostex cover rather than the trouble some tipi’d tarps). The other day I spent most of the day sitting in aged horse shit weeding it for the base of the barley bed. Poor Phil had the unfortunate task of hauling nasty chicken shit straw up to the new compost pile site.While Jordan got his chainsaw skills tuned back in, as he hauled the newly required 14 fence posts for the big expansion. Dyl and his dad plained miles of boards and the reward was warm shower for all Friday morning! What a delight! The space is totally functional yet not at all finished. It’s time for some designer attention. I have some idea to adorn the space with rusty bits and bobs repurposed. YEAH FOR HOT SHOWERS!

But I digress, I skipped the long weekend… Both of Dylan’s folks ended up joining us for what was a drizzly and cold weekend, but we still manged to get many tasks done and feed an army of 8 for days (whew that was a little tiresome but my culinary skills are honing in). It was as always so wonderful to have family out here! It was a real shock for Helen to see what we have done since her visit last summer (new road, 2 yurts, waterlines, and expanded gardens to name a few!)  Jordan slipped back to Alberta for a few days but brought his friend Isis back with him, and I was thrilled to have some amazing estrogen in the dirt with me. Isis and I managed to plant out all the rest of the beds and she did a number on the weeds, cleaning pathways and flower beds, she even improved the esthetics of the man-yurt and painted a lovely mural on the door!

Dyl and I were getting a little burned out and called for an all out NO WORK weekend! For maybe the first time ever! We spent Saturday with Dave driving to Kaslo and touring through Sandon,  it was wonderful to take a much needed day off… as we haven’t done that in months.

Today we heading up valley to help our friend raise the roof of their Conics shelter for their outdoor kitchen. What a wild structure! low cost, no waste, strong and resistant to all sorts of extreme weather. It was so cool seeing it go from a pancake of plywood tiles to a curved self supporting structure of beauty! With very few hitches!

Ah living the good life.

hugelkultur is here!

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I know I have mentioned a few times already that we are hugel-ing a part of the new garden expansion… well the other day we finally got the bed underway!

The hugelkultur bed (mound culture as it translates from German) was pretty simple to assemble:

We started by staking out a contour line, and as we are building it on a hill side, we pounded some pole steaks into the ground to catch the load of the first and largest punky tree trunks, then we neatly stacked more and more woody materials (which we have been hoarding in hugel stacks for months) generally building the stack from biggest pieces to smallest as we went up. The overall shape is a long pie wedge that acts as the boarder from the road way to the new terraces.

The following day we utilized our new gravity spring fed water line and really saturated the mound, which made for a nice refreshing sprinkler cool down as we worked on a small excavation about 12 feet away in the beating heat. Having a hugel dump site directly behind a earthen excavation was peachy! All of the roots and twigs and duff we pulled out easily made there way to the mound.

What a lovely way to use us massive amounts of wood bits and bobs; branches punky stumps, rotten birch branches, roots, twigs, leaves, pine needles, old straw well packed in chicken manure, the contents of many pee buckets, leafy duff, pine shavings, and sandy soil from an excavation… what does this all amount to? A self watering nutrient rich raised bed, that may even ward off the kouch grass for a time!

Check out Paul Wheatons Great hugelkultur Page full of diagrams and pictures of more examples of hugels in action!

Our hugelbed will will planted out with squash and chickpeas, all of which will be heavily mulched of course. As we work on building good soil it will be exciting to watch it grow!

On the topic of mulch; For the last couple years I have used a great amount of straw to mulch all of my beds, but struggle with the fact that it is not even close to local out here, it’s expensive and has been pretty seedy in the past. So what is our local counterpart to straw? Well it’s wood chips my friends! Lucky for us we have a friend who owns a small (this is a relative term) mill just down the road and he is swimming in wood chips and shavings, he gives us the word once he has run pine or fir and we head down the road 5 minutes for truckloads. I like the look of the wood chips in the garden, and on the occasion of a chicken assault on the garden the birds seem less drawn to the wood chips than they are to straw! Best of all it’s free!

We will add more pictures as we get the bed planted and it starts to grow and we get underway the next garden bed projects: sheet mulch key hole beds!

On the topic of sheet mulch: Way way back 3 spring times agao, when all we had here was a waving hillside of kouch grass I eked out one 80 foot long bed using a lasagne or sheet multch technique. I built that bed right ontop of thriving fresh kouch grass, and still to this day it is one of my favorite and most nutrient rich beds in the garden. The grass is managable and not so vigorous and I feel like this is a really viable option for working with weedy long routed grass challenges! There are some things I have learned about that bed and my material selections I am set to improve this go round.

*** I am so stoked to have so much great news to report, having all the extra muscle and brain power around here is fabulous, we are making HUGE steps forward in all manor of food and human systems. Jordan erected a great shower house next to the yarn yurt and we finally got to use the bamboo walls Dayna gifted us last year for the task, The shower has a sturdy peeled pole bench and a pallet deck floor. We will have a double sink next to it for all manor of garden / toiletry / and kitchen camp uses both will be heated with a hot water on demand unit designed for outdoor camps. The open air view from the shower is wonderful and I can’t wait to jump in an enjoy a sunny outdoor shower!

Phil and Jordan hauled no end of big @ss boulders around today, improving access after days of bobcat disruption! We now have a raging water line across the garden and to the yarn yurt, and that was no small feat. Dyl had to learn how to drive a bobcat backhoe to get 140 feet of new water line in place, and that task was an all hands on deck pick axe-shovelling-racking fiasco! I kept singing “laying pipe all day long” and acknowledged that never before have I had 3 men “…working so hard to satisfy this woman”!

Yeah for water, and bobcats, and bamboo showers, and perky plants who loved the vermi-compost tea treatments!!!

brew’n poo’n luvin it

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I am bubbling with excitement to share our latest adventure in composting…

Where to start… Well a few months back I got back on the vermi wagon and welcomed red wigglers back into my house, inspired by our friend Rob’s vermi-pod I created my own as a temporary  house for my magical compost factory. Today I harvested my first casting. But let me go back a little further…

When I was about 8 My grandma has this wonderful invention I adored, it was a home spa, a portable long oval plastic deck you would lay in the bottom of a tub, connected to a really loud motor that for periods of 5-30 minutes at a go you could enjoy the rejuvenating bubbles of a spa right in your own tub! I used to drown myself in bath foam and create epic mountains of bubbles and play for hours in the tub. Eventually I ended up with the home spa, and dragged it from house to house with me never really using it, but always remembering home much I loved it.

After moving to BC, I was taking my PDC at Mountain Waters Retreat in Nelson and we were learning about brewing compost tea commercially! How exciting this was for me, as I had had and loved vermicompost previously and had in my possession a huge oxygenating pad which would so easily act as a brewer. Joyfully I came home only to find out a mere 3 weeks earlier Dyl had finally tipped my home spa in the bin! WHAT.. there goes my dreams of free tea brewing.

About 3 months ago I was scrounging through a second hand store when a small familiar blue and white box caught my eye. low and behold it was a home spa! Just like the one I had lost. I snapped it up for $5, and today it had it’s virgin run.

We had a tragedy occur here at the farm, that is we lost all the tomato plants and the cuc’s in the course of a few days. (more on tabacco related deaths in a future post), but all of the sudden the health and vitality of my smallest tomato and pepper starts was of the up-most importance! The starts needed a major boost of love and care and it was time to bust out the worms and the brewer and get at it!

Here is what we did.

I harvested about 4 cups of casting (and coco-husk bedding, thus the increased amount) and bagged it in a reusable produce bag that essentially acts as a tea bag, we put the tea bag in a 40L rubbermade bin, filled it with water along with 1/2 cup of Mycrobez (a wonderful live enzyme product made in Kaslo, sourced from Bocashi composting), added about 1/2 cup of unsulfured molasses and  immersed the home spa in the bin. Weighted it down with a tree root and a pick axe, that we just happen to have been using all week, used vice grips to over ride the timer function and got the tea a brewing! And boy did it brew!

Any fears about the home spa’s lack of air flow were immediately quelled as it busted out some serious bubbles! As I type the tea is in it’s 4th hour of brewing and by this time tomorrow all of our plants will get a hard earned juice boost from our friends the worms!

And as we are now rabbit farmers too the worms will get there first taste of rabbit droppings and straw bedding tomorrow! Exciting times as the elements all start to come together around here. Stay tuned there is so much on the go, and I have a few more posts to share soon about earthworks, water, rabbits, and how tobacco plants kill tomatoes 😦