When we finished Chareva’s big spring project a couple of years ago, we had two chicken yards and two areas for gardens, all within a big square surrounded by fences. In addition to being talented egg-makers, chickens do a bang-up job of fertilizing the ground. So part of the plan was to eventually rotate the chicken yards and the gardens.

Most of our weekend and evening time lately has been dedicated to the book and the companion film, which is why I’ve only been posting once per week or so. But on Super Bowl Sunday, Chareva asked if I’d mind spending some time before the big game working outdoors, preparing the chicken yards for the big rotation.

“If we’re going to rotate the chickens and the gardens later this year, we really need to break up the ground in those chicken yards so I can plant my vegetables. I know we have a tiller, but it’s just too much of a bucking bronco for a little ol’ gal like me to handle. I need a big, handsome, masculine male to rescue me from this awful situation and tame that beast of a machine. Would you be willing to step into that heroic role for me, my dear, wonderful, impressively strong husband? I’d be ever so grateful.”

That’s not exactly what she said, but it’s what I heard.

So even though the Guinness Extra Stout was already cold and the pre-game shows were already mildly interesting, I replied, “Well now, don’t you worry your pretty head, little lady. I’ll slide on my boots and tame that beast for you.”

That’s not exactly what I said, but it’s what I heard.

The tiller is heavy and doesn’t roll especially well, so I’d already gotten a leg workout by the time I finished dragging it up the steep hill to the chicken yards. The nets I put up over the chicken yards have sagged (raising them will be another weekend project), which means I often had to duck as I took the bucking, jumping tiller for a first pass around one of the chicken yards. As usual when tilling ground in our part of Tennessee, I turned over more rocks than soil.

I was stuffed up from my first real head cold in a couple of years, so I took a break after the first pass to catch my breath. I told Chareva that with the hard ground broken up, I’d take the tiller around a second time. Then I’d do the same for the other chicken yard. Then I’d call it a day and get back to Super Bowl festivities.

“Actually, I only used that story about needing a big, strong man to do the tilling to lure you out here in your work clothes. We’ve had hay piling up in the chicken coops for two years, and now it’s thoroughly mixed with with chicken $@#% and urine. That’s perfect fertilizer for the gardens. So even though you have a runny nose and sound a bit like a deep-voiced Elmer Fudd with your cold and all, I want you to stop the relatively pleasant job of tilling the ground and spend a couple of hours in the chicken coops — stooping of course, since you can’t possibly stand up in there — and use a pitch fork to dig up all that $@#%-soaked hay and toss it outside so I can start spreading it on the ground.”

That’s not exactly what she said, but it’s what I heard.

“Are you @#$%ing kidding me?”

That’s exactly what I said.

She explained that it had just occurred to her that yes, we should till the chicken yards, but we should get the large loads of chicken-generated fertilizer out of the coops first.  That way we could till it into the soil.  I tried to think of a reason her explanation didn’t make perfect sense, but couldn’t.  After all, our old chicken yard in the front pasture became a jungle once we moved the chickens out back. That’s how fertile the ground is now, thanks to all the chicken droppings.

So I grabbed a pitch fork and squeezed myself into the first chicken coop, then began excavating layers and layers of old hay. I banged my head and elbows a few times in the tight quarters, which gave me the opportunity to hear what a deep-voiced Elmer Fudd sounds like when saying words the Warner Brothers censors would have never allowed in a cartoon.

The chickens were delighted by the whole process and jumped on each new pile of hay I tossed out the doors, looking for (and apparently finding) yummy grubs and bugs to eat. They also began spreading the hay around for us by kicking and scratching at it.

Meanwhile, Chareva took some of the hay and spread it over what will be her spring gardens. The current chicken yards will become summer gardens, and we’ll build new coops and hang new nets before moving the chickens up the hill.

I finally finished pitch-forking and shoveling the old hay out of the coops sometime in the mid-afternoon. By the time I sat down in front of the TV with my first cold Guinness, I was pretty sure I’d earned it.

Sometimes farm work is chicken-$@#% work. But that goes with the territory. I’m pretty sure the fresh vegetables will be worth it.

22 Responses to “The Farm Report: Sometimes It’s Chicken-$@#% Work”
  1. Ula says:

    I love chickens, Meat, egg and fertilizer producers all in one. Do you know it is possible to grow vegetables without tilling? You could just put your hay and your old woodchips on top of the soil. I’ve been doing it for several years and it works great.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Chareva uses a mix of soil and wood chips. One of the local tree-cutting services brings her a load of wood chips now and then because they know she uses them.

  2. Jeanne says:

    Being a city girl living in a condo with a tiny deck, I really enjoy your accounts of country gardening and animal husbandry, too.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I was a city boy living in a studio apartment in Chicago for 15 years. I liked the lifestyle. But after living on the little farm, you couldn’t drag me off that land.

  3. Orvan Taurus says:

    While probably still not nearly what you said, WB did have a couple things that weren’t in the usual cartoons… in the Private Snafu cartoons they made that were not for general release.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      When I was a programmer at Disney, someone showed me outtakes from an animated film. The animators went ahead and animated the characters cussing up a blue streak when the actors blew a line. Pretty danged funny.

  4. Glenn says:

    Hey Tom, sorry to hear about the cold. Hope you’re feeling better. What is it with the cold viruses this year? With plenty of sunshine in the summers, D3 supplementation in the winters, and eating real foods, I haven’t had a cold in 6 or 8 years. When I was eating “right” I’d get a couple a year. This year i got a mild one around the first of the year. It was almost gone and, WHAM! I got hit with one that developed into a sinus infection that’s killing me. I’ve never had a sinus infection in my life. I’ve refused to see a doctor, since they just throw crap at you, and it’s finally starting to clear up. *sigh* I read your farm reports with a bit of nostalgia. I grew up on a small farm and greatly miss it. We do a garden every summer, and have fruit trees, but it’s not quite the same…

  5. I love that you’re homesteading. I remember when I was living in the city in Portland, Oregon, I eventually got sick of mowing the lawn, since it never gives anything back, and I buried the whole lawn in two feet of wood chips, and in a year, I had all kinda of amazing stuff growing in it, and many things I never had to water, and I had ground worms just packing the place out. And weeding? I never had to dig anything out. The dogs even loved playing in it. Any time I had to put compost in one of my raised beds, I just picked it up off the yard. That stuff was amazing! Thanks for changing my life, and now reminding me of home. I live in the desert now, and wood chips just start fires around here. Have a great greeting card company day! Hahaha

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Wood chips are quite amazing for growing stuff. I believe Chareva first became aware of them in video titled “Back to Eden” or something like that.

  6. Sally says:

    Very cool, Tom! You got a workout, followed by a reward, and your family gets some awesomely fertilized ground for future plantings. Bravo!

  7. Dianne says:

    This is off topic, but I am beginning to think that you, your fellow Tennessean Butter Bob Briggs, and far-sighted medical professionals like Dr. Fung and Dr. Bernstein are doing TOO GOOD a job of getting the word out about LCHF. Lately when I go to the market I either can’t find heavy whipping cream or the two remaining cartons are so far back on the top shelf of the dairy cabinet that I’d need to grow six inches to reach them. Then I go to buy some full fat plain Greek yogurt, and all that’s left is low-fat or — yech — fat free, sitting next to a big empty space where the full-fat should be. Sometimes my local market is even really low on butter and eggs — or out of the ones I like! Mind you, I’m really grateful for all the good information y’all have provided, and for the positive changes I’m seeing in my life as a result, and I really don’t want to be selfish and keep all this good news to myself and just my current fellow low-carbers forever, but do you and Butter Bob and the good doctors think you could tone it down for a bit, just until the dairy and egg producers catch up with the demand for full-fat foods? Thanks much.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I had the same thought when I went to Kroger yesterday and they were out of riced cauliflower. Dang that wisdom of crowds! But I suspect producers and grocers will adjust to the shifting demand.

  8. Um, won’t the tiller “self-propel” itself if it’s in gear and you just keep a bit of pressure on the handles so it pulls itself along instead of digging in? Beats having to muscle it out to the garden.

    How I know that — The Wife and kids once got a full morning’s entertainment watching a tiller drag me around a garden plot before I figured out that trying to “help” it by pulling up on the handles only gave it plenty of traction to motivate rather than aerate.


    • Tom Naughton says:

      Unfortunately, this model only propels itself when it’s digging into the ground. I don’t want to till the hill … at least not yet.

  9. Elenor says:

    “That’s not exactly what she said, but it’s what I heard.”

    BRAVO! It’s also what she MEANT!

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