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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Run it through the barn

Straw, at $2.50 a bale, is a bargain, with a thousand uses. It's great for the garden, better than hay in our opinion as it contains less weed seed and more air (hollow stems). But first we run it through the barn.

You're supposed to be able to drive right up to the barn, but at Stony Run this was, for various reasons, just not going to be possible. So we wrangle our bales of straw one by one. Fortunately we don't need a whole lot of them!

A stout hand truck, with pneumatic tires, is great for this; it has a lower center of gravity than the wheelbarrow. With a good hay hook and her hand truck, Risa's ready to face the 150 pound bales without popping a sweat.

The bales can be tipped skinny-side up for those tight squeezes. You can see that daffodil season is full-on here; nectarine trees are blooming and the plums are full of bees.

Using the hay hook and her knees, she can swing the bales relatively easily, and has no trouble stacking three-high. Four-high would be a bit much, though.

She always carries her hay hook with the point held away from her, and turns it around only when it has something to do. A hay hook pulls. But you want to be attentive when pulling.

Time to sweep up. The straw from the truck bed goes straight to the garden, orchard, or compost; the straw that went up to the barn will provide bedding for a couple of dozen chickens, ducks and geese, and then, considerably enriched, will be distributed to the garden, orchard, or compost, as needed. For sanitary reasons, and to reduce the likelihood of "burning" plants, Risa waits ninety days before applying poultry manure directly to the garden.

A crocus opens its eyes. A redwing calls. You love winter, you really do, but this is something quite different. You hear the garden summoning you, and you call back: "Yes, yes, coming!" -- Ruth Stout


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