Friday, June 21, 2013

Every garden needs a truck load of chicken...

*Look for a new posting every Tuesday and Friday*

By now everyone's vegetable garden should be in full swing; tomato plants are all staked up, carrot tops are sprouting, rows of beans are ready to be thinned, and cucumbers are already beginning to bloom.  And of course all of this is taking place in ground that you thoroughly fertilized with lots of chicken s*#%.

Gardening buddies in the 1950's
What!!!  You don't know about working chicken s%*# into your soil?  You obviously didn't have the Gardening Training that my wife Marty received from her father, Harvey Ball.  According to her she had vivid memories of her daddy adding lots of chicken manure to the family garden plot each year before April first.

You can blame today's "lesson plan" and "photo tour" on that stupid basement cleaning project I am in the middle of.  I keep coming across pictures of past events that seem to compel me to share some of the "more colorful" memories of my past.  Pinch your nose closed and join me as I recount our first gardening adventure almost 20 years ago.

James Neville and Jimmy as backyard farmers
Not long after we moved into our first home in Ellenwood,  Marty decided she wanted to relive a bit of her past and plant a garden just like her daddy used to do every year.  I was a willing participate because my daddy also had several vegetable gardens when we were growing up in Tiptonville, Tennessee.

Ruth Ball - A can-can mother in her day
Marty's mother, Ruth, used to do a lot of canning every year once the harvest came in.  Marty was anxious to get our garden off to a good start so she could fill our root cellar with quarts and quarts of all kinds of vegetables.  I tried to explain to Marty that we did not have a root cellar but she was not listening.

The South Forty at Ellenwood
We were fortunate to have a sizable "homestead" and quickly selected the area to be tilled.  Tilling implies the ownership of a tiller.  Not a problem.  We will be saving a fortune by growing our own vegetables so off to the "tiller-store" I went and soon was hard at work with my brand new, rear tine Rototiller.
Now I have to confess that I got a little carried away.  Marty had staked off two medium sized plots each about 12' X 18'.  But I figured I could pay for the Rototiller faster if I dug up four larger plots 15' by 25' each.  The more vegetables I ate, the more money I would save.....  It made sense at the time. 

About the time I finished with the "plowing" Marty remember about Harvey's special ingredient for a truly successful garden: chicken s#%*.  This was the first I had heard about this requirement but I was determined to make my bride happy so I found in the "farming" section of the classified newspapers a chicken farm only 45 minutes away.  And believe it or not, they were willing to sell me a truck load of the stuff for only $75!

That next Saturday Marty and I got in my truck and started out for chicken-country in Fayette County, Georgia.  We followed Farmer Little's directions to the letter, paid him the agreed cash, and were led to a spot near the first 50-yard long chicken house.  

A curious smile was noticed on the farmer's face as he watched us spread a large sheet of plastic over my entire truck.  Marty and I slipped under the plastic and back into the cab just about the time the sky started falling.  Only it was not sky that was falling.

We were parked under a large auger.  You know, like you have seen next to a corn harvester shooting corn into a waiting truck.  But this was not dry corn being "shot" into my truck.  It was not "dry" anything.  WET chicken s&#* was raining down, NO, splatting down into the bed of my truck and splashing all over the plastic covering the cab part of my truck.  

Since Marty and I could not see clearly through the plastic we could not tell if we had a full load or not so we waited patiently.  Farmer Little finally took mercy on us and came over to tell us we had gotten our $75 dollars worth and with a still smiling face wished us a good day. 

I drove forward enough to get out and tuck all the plastic over the bed.  Marty did not assist me with this task.  Neither of us spoke much during the unpleasant trip back to our "vegetable-to-be-farm," although I'm sure Marty was muttering something about her childhood gardening memories.

One can't be too careful when unloading "Stuff"
When we finally got home and unfolded the plastic to inspect our load one of us "chickened" out and told me to call her once I had unloaded and distributed the "nutrient"-rich goods.  I didn't protest, but I really had envisioned when this whole subject came up a few days ago that I would be dealing with something more akin to sand or sawdust as opposed to wet concrete.

I changed into my manure-removal clothing, constructed a homemade manure-removal tool, pulled out all the available garden hoses, donned my methane prevention face mask, and stepped in it.

This job requires special skills and equipment

About two hours later my four garden plots were sufficiently covered in piles of Harvey's magic elixir; another hour and a half to mix the dirt and "stuff" thoroughly (all done by hand and rake since I was not about to use my brand new tiller), one more hour to scrub my truck, and "voila!" we were ready for seeds.  But wait...

Does anyone out there know what happens when "raw", wet, undiluted manure is worked into the soil?  Within about three days enough heat was being generated by our garden area to be felt from 20 feet away.  I'm surprised the neighbors didn't call the fire department after seeing all the smoke rising from our plots.  It was three weeks before we were able to plant even one of the four patches.  And to my best recollection no canning took place that first gardening year.  Thank goodness I had not dug out a "root cellar".

Joe Ashley wanted some fresh beans
My friends wondered where the 
garden was.  All they could see
that first years was very healthy
Bill Jenkins admired our bumper crop

But the NEXT YEAR we could have used a "root basement."
The second year's Garden got the full effect of the Chicken-additive

Garden elves Bethany and Emily

Even the Peach Tree looked better after the "Chicken-Treatment"

The moral to this story is: "If you want to put chicken s*#! on your garden, get your plastic manure suit ready, hold your nose, and make sure you give it at least a year to "cure."


Jimmy LeDuke (I'd love to hear from you...feel free to comment below, or click HERE to send me an e-mail.)


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