But this post isn't as much of whine-fest as the last "I hate February" post. It's an "I hate February, but..." post.
I hate February, but after February comes March.
Spring starts in March. Even if the snow doesn't melt all the way, the days will get a little warmer and a little longer. And my gardening to do list begins in March. At the very least the grape vine and apple trees need to be pruned in March. Ideally I'll also be able to break up some ground in the garden and get some compost dug in (since I got lazy and didn't do it in the fall), but that all depends on the weather.
Plus I'm going to Oregon in March. Not exactly most people's idea of a relaxing beach vacation, but I'm a fan and I can't wait.
But I'm also feeling better because I had a productive weekend. And it didn't help that we here in Minnesota are in the middle of a warm front- it was in the 30's and 40's all weekend. I spent all morning outside yesterday outside without a coat on (I had long sleeves on) soaking in as much vitamin D as I could, and doing more scoping in my yard.
Back to my productive weekend- most of the weekend I have spent thinking about and researching options for chicken coops. I was not super excited about the amount of money it was beginning to look like I was going to need to spend. I looked at several options- free online plans (but I have NO construction experience), DIY kits, pallet coops (interesting...), and retrofitting a cheap shed from Menards- none of them (except possibly the pallet coop) very cheap.
I was disappointed that none of the existing buildings on our property were going to be much help. Our house wasn't ever (at least not in recent history- there are some old foundations that may have been farm buildings) meant to be a farm. There are only two outbuildings- one an old double garage and the other a generic little shed. I used to have hopes for converting part of the old garage into a chicken coop, but there are some major drawbacks. First of all, the best spot for birds would be in the attic of the garage (it has a good sized walk up attic that I would LOVE to do something with)- the attic contains a pigeon coup that could be easily adapted to chickens. But getting chickens in and out of an attic- too complicated. The main floor has dirt floors and there are way too many holes and openings around the base of the building- it would take a lot of work to predator proof the building. And it is in an area of the yard that almost never gets sun.
And I had initially written off the small shed as a choice. I remembered it being too small. But when I looked at it yesterday morning I realized it was bigger than I remembered. So I had Scott measure it and it's 6x9. Not the ideal size (I wanted 8x12), but being free I'm willing to make it work. It won't house as many chickens as I would like to, but for summer it shouldn't be too hard to come up with some supplemental summer housing (ie not as weather proof). And for winter, once the roosters have been butchered, there will be fewer chickens and the shed should be perfect. Ideally I would like to move the shed down to the garden area, but that may or may not happen. And it needs some work- windows, vents, a chicken door... But that all seems infinitely more doable than building an entire new shed. In fact, if we have another warm weekend like this I could get most some of it done now. I'm excited.
I also started some tomatoes and peppers in a little mini-greenhouse tray... thingie:) Yes, it is entirely too early to start tomatoes and I may end up regretting it, but I only started the seeds I had leftover from last year (my container garden in CA- I obviously didn't start tomatoes from seed when I started my garden here in June). So no big loss if they don't pan out. But giving the peppers this much of a start may turn out to be just what they need to, you know, actually produce. Last year my garden was totally unplanned. We moved in the 28th of May, and I was literally taking breaks from unpacking my house to work in the garden (including working the soil, because it was pretty overgrown). Some stuff did okay- the cucumbers produced prolifically, and the squash, true to form, took over it's section of the garden. The tomatoes and peppers grew, but they didn't do well. The peppers never got very big nor did they produce very many peppers, and the tomatoes very quickly came down with septoria leaf spot, and since it was my first time with tomatoes in the ground I didn't realize this was a serious thing, so I didn't treat it in time.
But it was a great learning experience- I learned that the tomatoes and peppers will definitely benefit from plastic mulch to warm the soil instead of cooling straw. I learned that I will probably need to preventatively treat my tomatoes with a fungicide. And I also learned that peppers are perennials (not from experience, from reading online) and that many people dig up their peppers for the winter and keep them inside. That makes me think that starting them this early, following the warm/cool/warm schedule for starting peppers from seed (as outlined in The Vegetable Gardener's BIBLE), and not planting out until the soil temp is about 65 degrees will give me a lot more success. Because I want a LOT of peppers. Seriously, I just started 16 pepperoncini plants (seeds I was glad to find I had, because I haven't been able to find pepperoncini seeds anywhere... they are NOT the same as banana peppers), and that is a fraction of the peppers I want.
Oh, and I'm pretty proud of my "heated" setup. I set the seed tray on top of the satellite receiver box, which produces enough heat to keep the tray between 79 and 81 degrees. I'm pretty impressed with my ingenuity:)
So here's hoping.
Planting just that little bit, though, gave me a lift. It reminded me that spring is coming soon, and that soon enough I will have more to do than time to do it, and that I need to do every little bit that I can to help myself now. So I spent most of yesterday afternoon (after the planting) making myself little cheat sheets for some of the vegetables I am going to plant- that way I don't, for example, forget to tie up my broccoli before it bolts (I'm not actually growing broccoli this year, it's just an example of something I messed up last year)- it will also keep me on track with these pepper seedlings, which apparently need more attention than Oliver (and for those of you who know Oliver, you know that's a LOT).
How about you- have you started planning out your garden? Have you ordered seeds yet? What gardening phase are you in?