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Turning my lawn into food because I hate mowing it.  RSS feed

 
Posts: 19
Location: Greene County, NY Zone 5b
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Hi all,

Been a lurker here for a while now and figured I should start sharing some of my own projects at our “homestead.” Last July my wife, baby daughter and I bought the house I grew up in from my parents located in Greene County NY. My Parents bought a log cabin right down the street so now we’re neighbors, which is great. Our house is on a little more than 2 acres which is lightly wooded with mostly Eastern Red Cedars and Pear trees. Our soil is clay and rocks, haha. The most of the yard gently slopes facing the south.

Of course I have grand plans for this place and want to do all of the Permie things. Swales, Hugelbeets, ponds, Rocket Mass Heaters, all of the animals, etc. But my wife and I still do the 9 to 5 thing, so we’re mostly weekend warriors when it comes to getting them done. At this time we’re trying to grow as much as we can. We have a garden bed that provides a good amount of veggies already. Around March we picked up some chicks and a few are just starting to lay. I rotate them around with a poultry net and after their last move, I planted the bare spot with a mix like I've seen Sepp Holzer do. So flowers, herbs, veggies, etc. Though the chickens have been getting out and scratching that spot up again so there isn’t a whole lot of growth, haha. I am also experimenting with a mangel beet patch, and I’m pretty sure I planted them too deep. I’ve only seen a tiny amount of what looks like beet leaves poking out of the ground. But any of the ones that grow I’m going to try and save for chicken food in the winter to supplement the outside food I’d have to buy.

By the end of August I should have some Hugelbeets in and planted with cover crop plus whatever else I might have on hand that is good for Fall planting. The Hugelbeets will actually circle around the former site of our above-ground pool which we tore down in June. We found a bunch of holes in the walls and figured that it wasn’t worth the money for a new one, or to maintain one in the first place. Soon it’ll be a kid’s play area surrounded by our current vegetable garden and some Hugelbeets. When I get started on that I’ll create a new thread and try to take some good pictures.

After that we’re going to convert an old canvas shed into a greenhouse for the chickens to use as a coop during the winter. Another sort of experiment I started was letting a pretty big chunk of my yard just grow as tall as it wanted to. Mostly because I hate mowing the lawn. But I’m starting to pick at it with a scythe and I think the grass I’m gathering would work great for the chicken bedding in the greenhouse. Or else it’ll be great mulch. I’m thinking of doing a deep litter system in the greenhouse coop with the hay, but I’ve been hearing some not that great experiences so maybe I won’t?

All the while I’ll be saving seeds and hopefully developing some sort of landrace. I’ve been saving just about every seed from most fruit that I’ve been eating. Many are in the fridge and hopefully sprouting soon. Some have already and are in pots. I also got some Pawpaw seeds from Baker Creek and those are all in pots hopefully growing. I know fruit trees planted directly is usually best, but I don't know where I'll be putting them, so they'll be in pots. I’m also going to be trying to grow more food for the chickens besides the beets.

Like I said I have a whole bunch of plans for this land but time is the big limiting factor. I might be able to get a start on some of the Earthwork ideas I have, but I think I’ll be plenty busy with the plans I have now plus all of the normal house and kid stuff that comes up. I hope to share my progress with everyone here, this forum has been a massive source of knowledge.


I tried to get a photo that shows most of my backyard. To the left you can see part of our veggie garden, along where the pool used to be, where we will move the swing set to and surround it with Hugelbeets. Also all the wood and stuff laying around is from the old pool deck, I cleaned it up after this photo was taken I swear, haha. Beyond that is the field I let grow tall, which has fallen over from the heavy rains we’ve been getting. The canvas shed I’m going to try and turn into a greenhouse coop is out there too. To the right you can see the electric poultry net I keep my chickens in, and a bit of the pyramid hay rack I built using the photos from One Scythe Revolution. It seems like it’ll hold a lot. As I get more done I’ll post better photos. Also if it ever stops raining haha.

Thanks,
Jeff



 
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Jeffrey Carlson wrote: I’m thinking of doing a deep litter system in the greenhouse coop with the hay, but I’ve been hearing some not that great experiences so maybe I won’t?


Hi Jeffrey, great first post and welcome to Permies!  I tried a not-quite-deep litter system out with our new chickens last year.  I used pine planer shavings and had an inch on the floor last summer (coop is off the ground with linoleum floor for easy cleaning).  By late winter it was 4-5 inches deep.  I figured I'd clean it out before the turds in the litter thawed out but I never got around to it.  It's still nice litter and it's about 6-7" deep now.  I swear I'll clean it out before this coming winter...

So it works splendidly for me but it is not composting in place since it's quite dry.  When I clean it out I'll put it in the garden compost bin and soak it down well.  I think it will heat up in a jiffy and cook for a few months.

It's not what you are proposing (hay) but I figured it could be helpful.  Keep us posted on your projects and welcome
 
pollinator
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Could you do composting with the chickens instead of deep litter?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHc1sADcXtg
 
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(coop is off the ground with linoleum floor for easy cleaning)

  I thought I would add a comment on linoleum (which was traditionally made with lin or flax oil), which has a vinyl counterpart nowadays and people might make the mistake of putting the vinyl stuff in their projects as it is widely available and often confused with linoleum.  "Linoleum’s use as an inexpensive floor covering material in homes and businesses was replaced in the 1950s by polyvinyl chloride, known as vinyl. Recently, however, linoleum’s ecological, non-allergenic and anti-microbial qualities have allowed it to make a comeback. Commonly found under a classic geometric design on vintage 1950s linoleums trademark name Marmoleum® and manufactured by Forbo Flooring, linoleum is commonly installed in green homes and germ-sensitive environments, such as hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
Vinyl is more common in newer homes, and while it has similar durability and flexibility compared with linoleum (and is even colloquially referred to as linoleum), this synthetic product made from chlorinated petrochemicals is wholly different from its natural predecessor. Vinyl is generally considered brighter, more translucent and easier to maintain, but it’s considered less eco-friendly; phthalates and heavy metals leak from the roughly 1.5 million tons of vinyl discarded annually in the U.S., and it releases harmful dioxins when burned"   I've read that formaldehyde off gasses from the vinyl version when it is moistened with water.

"Differentiating between the two materials can be challenging, but InterNACHI inspectors and homeowners can use the following clues:
    Linoleum’s patterns and colors extend down to its jute canvas backing, while vinyl patterns are stamped over a blank vinyl sheet. If years of foot traffic have worn away the surface pattern, it is not linoleum. A small razor slice can also reveal the pattern’s depth and help in identification.
    Original flooring in buildings constructed before World War II cannot be vinyl, as linoleum dominated the residential flooring market before then and for some time afterward. Vinyl is more common in newer houses, especially those built in the early '70s and later.
    A canvas backing will be present in linoleum, but not vinyl. You may look for a canvas backing in flooring that has been damaged, or carefully peel back a corner of the flooring in an inconspicuous area."



This info comes from the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors website

 
 
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beautifully property i think its good to start small the first year that when you make all the mistakes lol at least for me
 
Jeffrey Carlson
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Thanks a lot Mike, did you produce those shavings yourself or do your get them from a sawmill or woodwork? I do a little bit of woodworking, but I produce a tiny bit of shavings/dust. Though I bet the shavings do a lot better at "absorbing" the chicken poop than the hay will. So maybe I'll try to get some from somebody looking to get rid of it. I could always buy some from the local Tractor Supply, but that wouldn't be as fun. It's good to know that it works well even thought it's "not-quite-deep" haha.

Thanks for that video Tyler, that's actually what I was thinking a Deep Litter System was. Though the way he has it, it's a lot deeper than I thought, and he's more involved in really turning the litter than I originally thought as well. So that video was really helpful, thanks.

Thanks for that comment Robert, I didn't know the "lin" in linoleum was from lin seed oil.

And thanks Scott, that's what I was thinking. I have no idea what I'm doing, so best to not do too much at first.
 
Tyler Ludens
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As I've always understood it, deep litter keeps the bedding dry, so it doesn't actually decay much.  In composting, the material is kept moist enough to heat up and the chickens and chicken-keeper make sure it is aerated, so it is really composting.  When I rebuild my chicken system I intend to make at least part of it a composting system.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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As I've always understood it, deep litter keeps the bedding dry, so it doesn't actually decay much.  In composting, the material is kept moist enough to heat up and the chickens and chicken-keeper make sure it is aerated, so it is really composting.  When I rebuild my chicken system I intend to make at least part of it a composting system. 

  I don't have chickens yet, but they do indeed love both deep bedding and compost from my experience of looking after chickens on other people's farms.  I'm trying to figure out a coop that has a compost bin and vermicompost basically as the floor (but the contents can be removed) with deep bedding over top of most of it, so that they can work that too.  This would help the compost be more active, during our cold winters.
 
pollinator
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Jeffrey, welcome to Permies.

If you ask local arborists, you should be able to get loads of chips. The ones in the summer and spring I use for deep mulch in the tree plantings and Back to Eden garden, the ones in the winter have less nitrogen and would be suitable for chicken bedding, since they are adding the nitrogen and the chips will neutralize the ammonia.
 
Jeffrey Carlson
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As I've always understood it, deep litter keeps the bedding dry, so it doesn't actually decay much.  In composting, the material is kept moist enough to heat up and the chickens and chicken-keeper make sure it is aerated, so it is really composting



Thanks Tyler, that makes sense. I guess then I'll be doing the compost system instead.


And thanks for the tip TJ, I'll try some of them.
 
Mike Jay
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Hi Jeffrey, I make my own shavings with a jointer or planer as we're doing projects.  Most of it is pallet wood (heat treated) that we shave down on the planer for paneling.  Once I was in a pinch for shavings and I took a pine board 12" by 12' and made a ton of shavings by planing it down to 1/4".  This summer I have to plane down 1000 board feet of pine for a project so I'll have a decade's worth of shavings.

I wouldn't use sawdust because it's so...  dusty.  My planer tends to keep the pieces pretty shavey and not sawdusty.

When I realized how much it cost to buy shavings I was really glad I knew how to make my own.  Now I just need to figure out how to bale it and sell it.....
 
pollinator
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Im also removing as much of the grass area from my yard as possible.  With no space for a ruminant to mow it, all mowing is done here with a hand tool called a "slasher".  Not fun.  Not particularly safe either.

I keep my chickens in a chicken-tractor-composter.  Nothing complicated, i throw all my weeds, leaf litter, grass cuttings, food scraps, and organic refuse into the chicken tractor, alternating front and back.  The back is enclosed and would stay dry except there is often liquid in my food scrap bucket.  Like old black tea, or the water i used to soak the ugali pan...plus the juicy stuff from fruits and veggies.  I dont turn it.  It has no smell.  It does get hot on the bottom.  After 6 weeks I rake out the compost.  The first couple inches is raw and unfinished.  The bottom is usually 4 to 6 inches of black gold.  I harvest that, slide the tractor over to the next section of grass, and throw the raw stuff back in.  They have effectively removed and or smothered the previous patch of lawn.  I have to do a bit of digging to take out invasive root systems...we have nasty grass that might be Bermuda or Kikuyu grass.  Then I seed the naked spot with a poly culture of vegetable seeds.  Thus my chickens are happily removing the lawn one six week section at a time, and manufacturing beautiful compost in the process.  But you have a lot more lawn to deal with than I do.
 
Jeffrey Carlson
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Thanks Mike, selling those shavings would be a neat little side gig. I think I've seen photos on here of a hand baler from straw, maybe a modified version of that could work?

And thanks a lot Maureen, that sounds like a sweet set up. Nice and simple too. 
 
pollinator
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I have no idea what I'm doing 



I disagree. The title alone clearly indicates you are on the right track. You've obviously done some research & seem dedicated to accomplishing your goal. Permies is a great place to learn more details about many things. Just go for it. Welcome, & good luck!
 
Jeffrey Carlson
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Thanks a lot Mike, appreciate it.
 
Jeffrey Carlson
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A little update from the weekend.

Ended up being pretty busy with stuff away from the house, but I got some scything done and tried out the hay rack. It seems like it works really well and can hold a lot. I built it with lumber taken from the pool deck we tore down. I went off photos from this site: https://onescytherevolution.com/1/post/2010/02/haystacks.html


I got some metal t-posts to replace the fiberglass corner posts for the poultry net, which weren't doing a good jump keeping the fence from touching the ground. That tightened up the fence really well so it's a lot hotter. Though, there are still some chickens that just jump over the fence whenever they want. Which is funny because on Premier 1's site (where I got the net fence) they actually recommended the shorter fence for Wyandottes, which is most of my flock. They're supposed to be too heavy to like flying around. I see them do it all time. If I leave the coop too close to a tree, they hop on the coop and fly into the tree, haha. Pretty sure it's the same ones each time getting over the fence (it's always 7 of them). If I can catch them, I'm clipping their wings.

This week/weekend I probably won't be getting a lot done around here because I will be helping my Parents get their place ready for our big family reunion this weekend. Plus it's going to be really hot and muggy out this week, so working outside wouldn't be too fun anyway.

Here's some photos of the hay rack. The small patch of lawn I let grow out will provide more hay than I thought. Whats on the rack now is only from a tiny amount of it.




Thanks a lot
 
Jeffrey Carlson
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So last week was pretty busy for my family, we had a large reunion over the weekend so most of my time not at work was helping that get set up. It also has been raining just about everyday for the past 3-4 weeks. This coming week has a bit of rain too. I never used to pay attention to the weather, but I'm fairly certain this is abnormal for us to be getting this much rain. It has been either light drizzles or down pours of an inch an hour it seems.

I did manage to do a few things out in the garden. First, My wife spotted what we assume to be corn growing in the lawn, probably from the chicken's feed (though it could be sorghum). There were also a few sunflowers and what I think is rye. We'd thought it would be neat to try and transplant them to a garden bed I've been calling the "Random Plot." That's where I had the chickens "till" the area and then seeded it with a wildflower mix, cover crop mix, herbs and food crops about a month ago. The next day after doing that seeding, the chickens got out of their pen and ate a lot of the seeds. So there's a lot of grass that's grown back. From what I can see, there is a lot of radish that made it, a few watermelons, some flowers and what looks like squash or pumpkin. So I transplanted the corn in the areas where there was little grown of what I seeded. It was mostly concentrated to one area. I assume it's too late in the year for corn, and it's probably a "feed" variety so it might not taste too well, but I thought it would be fun to try. I wasn't actually able to plant all of the transplants, but got maybe 3/4 of the way through. And actually, the ones left over have been sitting in a tub of water and haven't seemed to be wilting or looking bad. I might be able to get them in the ground this week. Not too concerned over it though.

Here's the Corn and/or Sorghum in the Lawn


Here's the "Random plot", most of what was able to grow is at the far end of it


And here is what I was able to transplant until my 16m old got too cranky



I was also able to get some hay stacking done.



This week, between the rain, I hope to set up the area where we want to build some hugelbeets. It'll be where we tore down our above ground pool. I don't have any photos, so this might not make sense without them, but after the pool was taken down we are left with the sand foundation. It's about 28' round (I assume, because the pool was 24', and the sand stuck out about 2' on each side). Around that sand foundation we'll put the hugels in a "C" or "U" sort of shape. I'm planning on them being 6-7' high, but I'm unsure of how much material I'll have to build them with. I’m thinking I might short on soil to cover it with, I should have enough dead trees/brush to work with. In the middle of all that, we’ll move the swing set. So it’ll be a kid’s area surrounded by hugels and our current veggie garden.

Thanks for reading.
 
Jeffrey Carlson
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Hey Everyone,

This past month was pretty unproductive. Mostly because the whole house got sick with some sort of cold-like thing. And it's only been unproductive in that I haven't been able to do much with the big project I want to get done, some Hugel beds. On Labor Day weekend, we harvested the last of the veggies we wanted from the garden before moving the chickens to it. We're going to keep them there until it's sufficiently scratched up and then cover crop it for the winter. Then on Labor Day we got word from a friend of a friend that she needed to re-home all of her chickens. We went from 19 to 38, doubling our flock. So now we have a nice mix of different breeds and more eggs.

One thing I'm pretty excited about is the "Random Plot" where I just broadcasted a mix of seeds on a plot after I moved the chickens from it. Initial signs didn't look too good, but there's a lot of growth now. Mostly flowers and turnips/radishes. There is a lot of squash vine growth but 1 fruit so far. I did plant it sort of late, so I didn't expect much in that respect. But I'm just happy this worked out well. There is some crowding but I guess the idea is (as I saw in a sepp holzer video) is that you continuously harvest from it, to make more room for the other plants. I'm going to be doing a lot of this next growing season.

Here's some photos of the random plot from the other day




 
Mike Barkley
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If those are Seminole pumpkins you just might harvest a couple before winter arrives. Maybe. They can also be picked when young (baseball to softball sized) & boiled like potatoes. Not sure if that works with regular pumpkins but I suspect it does. There's always squash blossom soup or fried squash blossoms. All very tasty.
 
Jeffrey Carlson
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Thanks Mike, these are some sort of pie pumpkins. I'll have to try boiling little ones if we get any. My wife made some stuffed blossoms the other day which were great, I'll look into the soups. There are a lot of blossoms.
 
Jeffrey Carlson
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I greatly overestimated the amount of free time I'd have to do the larger projects. And underestimated how long they would take. That's alright, it gives me a better idea of how to plan stuff later on. I planned on having the Hugel beds done and cover cropped by now. I have them like 60% done. I need to set those aside and work on a different thing before it starts getting too cold out. I'd like to set up a greenhouse for our chickens over the winter. I would be converting a canvas shed for it. And if my progress on the Hugel beds is any indication of how much time I can devote to things, I probably should have started a few weeks ago, haha. I also have some garlic to plant.

Other than slow progress, everything else has been great. I have some cover crop on our main vegetable garden for the winter.  A mix of Peas, oats, radish and turnips. I think something ate a lot of the oats. So the peas might not have much to climb up on. I ran out in the last little bit of it so I used some left over kale mix I had. I also tried some faro, which I bought from the grocery store as food, not seeds. They didn't germinate, soaking them probably would have helped.

In the past few nights, we had some frost so the Random Plot is all done for the year. Before that I pulled some of the bigger root vegetables to save in a pail of sand over the winter, and hopefully I can replant them next season for seed. This site has gotten me hooked on trying to save seeds and developing a landrace.  I am very excited for next year, doing more Random Plots, growing more of the things we, and starting a breeding program for our chickens. Hopefully developing a landrace with them as well. My head is brimming with ideas and I've been ogling seed catalogs, haha.

Almost forgot to mention we ordered some trees & seeds from Twisted Tree Farm. Chestnuts, Hazelnuts, Walnuts, & elderberry bareroot plants & cuttings. Along with some sunroot tubers, & juneberry seeds. Very excited about this stuff, they start shipping in November. And from watching their videos, along with Edible Acres, I started some nursery beds with peaches, plums, cherries, chokecherries, apples, pears and some grapes. They all have garlic interplanted with them. All the seeds are from store bought or the pear & chokecherry plants I have on my property. I forgot to take pictures of those.

Random Plot before the frost, it was raining. Just beyond it is some sorghum the chickens planted and beyond that the chickens themselves


These cosmos got just about as tall a me. Hopefully the seeds are ok after the frost. I'm going to wait until they dry out more until I grab some


Some of the seeds I've saved so far. Mostly squash and tomatoes. Still have some squash to taste and save the seeds.

 
This is my favorite show. And this is my favorite tiny ad:
Intrinsic: An Agriculture of Altered Chaos
https://permies.com/t/95922/Intrinsic-Agriculture-Altered-Chaos
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