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The calendar says we are still weeks away from spring, but our cats assure us that spring is most assuredly here. They beg by the back door to be let out into the warm air, rotate from window to window in search of warming sunshine, and stare in fascination at the growing flock of birds that frequent our feeders outside our front window. This morning the three of us – Cattigan, Olivia, and I – ventured out into the unusual warmth to do a little spring tidying out back.
We mulched many of our potted plants with leaves and sheltered them by the house from the worst of the cold winds this winter (and even then, we didn’t have many). This fall, my husband raked a bunch of our oak tree leaves into a DIY cage up-cycled from some old fencing wire so we can always have mulch at our disposal – we fell in love with using grass clippings on our garden beds to add nitrogen and this summer we might mix in some leaves as well. We tend to get very hot and dry in August and September, and our poor cucumbers can use all the help they can get to shelter their roots from the heat.
I spent some time raking out the leaves from the woodpile and straightening up the logs, while the cats lounged and explored. Olivia has a new favorite task – she loves patrolling the neighboring fences and rolling in any dirt patches she can find. The cats only go out under our watchful gaze – we don’t need any “presents” or complaints from the neighbors about digging into garden beds, plus it’s bad for the bird population to allow the cats to kill for pleasure rather than need. (Trust me, they’re well-fed.) Here, on the outskirts of town, we get the occasional coyote visitor and birds of prey, and while I don’t worry about my hefty Cattigan I do worry about how petite Olivia will fare against a hawk.
Tomorrow, our task will be to sort and turn our compost pile. We take any organic matter from our kitchen – egg shells, onion peels, wilted spinach, juicing remains, coffee grounds, tea leaves, you name it – and deposit it into this giant compost pile. If you haven’t invested in a compost bin, I cannot recommend it enough; we store all of our kitchen scraps (no meat) in a sealable container in the kitchen, and when it gets full we take it out to the yard and dump it in this bin. Every few months you should turn the pile and make sure that it stays moist so the decomposition process can move speedily along. Adding compost to your garden is one of the best fertilizers you can give it, and it’s absolutely free. It gives new purpose to your kitchen scraps, and the chopped up taco topping leftovers that you left in the fridge for too long no longer stare guiltily up at you from the bottom of your trashcan – they return back to the earth they came from and give your plants new life.
This bin is one of the cheapest I’ve found in the process of looking at building or buying our own – when we purchased it, it cost $30 on Amazon. “Geobin” is made of 50% recycled plastic and comes as a roll of mesh that you open to your desired width and hold together with plastic keys on one side. Unless you’re sticking your nose over the top of the pile, there is absolutely no smell with this open air compost – I can be standing right next to it and not notice it is there. It’s a big capacity bin, holding up to 216 gallons and measuring 4 feet in diameter, as you can see with Cattigan as a size comparison in the picture above. I highly recommend checking this one out! We purchased our Geobin from Amazon here.
Cattigan and I checked on our crop of garlic from last October – we planted some hard neck garlic and let it overwinter, and these last few weeks of warm temperatures have made them thrive. Their bright green stalks shot through the leaves and they basked in the sunlight after I fertilized them with some of our smelly fish fertilizer. (The cats always sniff the bottle very curiously when it comes out of the cabinet!)
When our garden is full to bursting, we’ll find the cats navigating the maze of tomato plants and investigating the strange smells of peppers and bean flowers. They love to lounge on our warm patio stones and sniff the breeze – we can’t wait for more warm days that we can spend outside as a family to relax and explore what we’ve grown and cared after.
But now, for a nap.
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