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Chicken Poop
By Jane Gilbertsen 

Inside the Deer Fence

This is our farm sign.  Our place is named  after my husband's family's second farm in Westboro, Massachusetts.   The second farm is the oldest family farm in America.  We are some of  the "western cousins".  The second farm property supported the family  for over 300 years.  The first farm is a museum in Salem.  We, of  course, dabble only and are privileged to have the Red Apple/Hanks  available should weird weather take down some of our "crops".

The flower on the left of the photo is trumpet creeper (common name)  or Campis radicans (scientific name).  It is hard to get started as  winter takes it to the ground until a warm winter allows the main vine- trunk to winter over.  When the trunk has a couple years of maturity  it does not readily freeze back to the ground.  Its growth power  resembles the wisteria.  When mature in a warmer climate it could lift  a house.  This is one of the plants that in its native area, the  Southeastern USA, is almost noxious spreader.  It is also called cow- itch because it is supposedly itchy.  I haven't handled mine without  gardening gloves.  In our cold climate it is safe to try it.  I prune  out a few stringers enclosing my greenhouse door but otherwise, all I  do is prune in the fall to keep the vines off the roof for a clear  snow slide and prune again in the spring for good shaping.  I love the  gnarly trunk.

This year I used my chicken poop as fertilizer.  Do you think I used  too much?  This sunflower is behind my 8 foot deer fence.  I planted  seeds from last years flowers.  I managed to keep a few from the  finches and chickadees.  Most years after I harvest a few seeds for  the next year, I take the seed heads off the dilapitated plants and  tuck them into the fence wire so the birds can pick them entirely  clean.  If your birds are voracious you can paper bag the seed heads  to keep some seeds and the heads will ripen without predation.

The third picture shows my tomatoes in the middle, corn and purple  amaranth in the back.  The tomatoes plants have incredible vegetative  growth but hardly any tomatoes.  I know that chicken poop is nitrogen  heavy but so is rain/lightning.  Between the 2 of them and the  wonderful rain something has really got many of my plants going  crazy.  Too much nitrogen feeds the plant at the expense of the  friut.  Of course, given the slow spring I must have been nuts cause I  also planted everything way too too close.  It just seemed like  nothing was happening so I keep adding.  Now I can't possibly get into  this garden to harvest something without stepping on something else.   The growth is so huge at least the weeds are discouraged.  No light to  germinate or grow.  Next year, I will leave decent paths (I say that  every year though and look at the mess I have now).

I was somewhat gratified to learn of others, like Tom Forker, that  have lots of vegetative growth but few tomatoes coming along.  He  didn't use his chicken manure.  Could the atmospheric nitrogen fixed  by our amazing lightning storms really have done this?  Anybody else  out there with similar experiences, particularly with their tomatoes?

Whatever else is going on, the rain has been wonderful for my  berries.  I have worked for years on making my soil more acid for  blueberries.  We love blueberries but unless the native soil is  seriously amended regularily with acidic compost and/or ammonium  sulphate and fertilized regularily with Miracid fertilizer (non- organic but free of contaminates) blueberries are a lost cause.  I  started the beds years ago with gutter cleanings from our Redmond  house.  The gutters were filled with fir and hemlock needles, very  well rotted.  When I "remodeled" the raised beds inside the deer  fence, Bergen Brell and I moved the amended soil as well as the  plants.  Each year I use ammonium sulphate or sulfur to lower the soil  pH.  Ammonium sulphate is a worm killer.  I don't know about just  sulfur but it is a traditional pesticide.  It was called brimstone  historically as in "fire and brimstone".   Just based on its old name  I would say worms don't have a chance.  Miracid is a wonderful fast  acting fertilizer.  It is a foliar feeder which means when it is  dissolved in water and sprinkled on the plant leaves it is instantly  absorbed by the plant leaves so it works pretty much like rain  accompanied by lightning.

The raspberry plants came from the Massachusetts Nourse Farm Nursery.   The family now operates a tissue culture berry nursery.  Cloned  nursery stock is disease free.  They grow out the plants on the best  soil in the country.  The growing fields were originally used for  growing the finest tobacco leaves for cigar wrappers.  They had to be  perfect.  Tobacco is a natural and very toxic pesticide in itself.  I  don't know what is does to soil health but the berries grow  magnificently now.  The mail order raspberry canes came thick and  strong.

The green "fruits" are really Barb and Rich DeLorenzo's Italian  peppers.  They cook them in a hot fry pan.  I can hardly wait to try  them.  The DeLorenzos pick them green to eat but if the peppers are  not harvested they turn red.  In the past, Carolyn Haugen gleaned the  pepper seed and grew them out for the DeLorenzos to replant each  spring.  This year Barb and Rich will do it themselves in memory and  honor of Carolyn. They will need to save a red one as viable seed  comes from the fully ripe fruit  The seed originally came from Rich's  grandfather.  How totally wonderful for their family to have this seed  to pass on.

Aug 12, 2010