I like to find lady bugs in the garden. They are promoted as being good insect predators, but unfortunately they only eat soft bodied bugs, like aphids, so they aren't helping much with the hard bodied flea beetles that are taking bites from my potatoes.
I don't have to worry so much about chickens taking bites of my future garden plants now that Brandon and my dad have finished building a chicken proof fence around the rest of the garden. A few years ago we built a fence around my parents garden, and we learned from that one that the fence material needs to have very small holes, like chicken wire, so it can keep out rabbits, groundhogs, and little chickens.
Metal posts were driven into the ground with a heavy fence post driver, in a big rectangle around the area where Jamie and I rolled out old carpet last summer. The carpet has smothered all the vegetation, and underneath is bare soil waiting to be planted. We're late putting in the garden this year because it doesn't do much good to plant seeds if the chickens can spend their free time digging them back up! Now that we have a chicken wire fence, it's time to plant some seeds!
Fence building day wasn't all work and no play. The zip-line is visible from the garden area, so we could see my nieces zipping along the line when Uncle Jamie would give them a big push.
Before we built the fence, I screwed up my courage, and broke into the oldest compost pile to see if it was ready to be deployed in the garden. This is compost made from the woodchips from our composting toilet. It's been outside, exposed to the elements since the winter, and is the oldest off the compost collection. Over time, the pile shrank to about half it's starting size, and the grass downhill of the pile is the greenest and lushest grass in the entire yard.
I used a pitchfork to move it into the wheel barrel. The chickens have been denied access to this compost, so they were extra excited when I removed the ring of chicken wire and began to fork it up. I'm happy to report that nothing was gross. No toilet paper or anything that didn't just look like decomposing wood chips - and I looked very closely, since I'm still learning about this. It smelled fine, and was absolutely full of earthworms and sow bugs. My plan is to only use it for chicken food crops right now, just for my own peace of mind. I have black oil sunflowers, livestock field peas, and grain sorghum seeds to plant, with the hope of growing some of my own chicken food.
At some point last winter I covered the compost heap with straw, and these yellow mushrooms were growing out of the straw.
They were fragile, but pretty. I don't know what they are, but there's got to a be good joke about mushrooms growing on humanure, right?
Tamara, do you know what these are?
I pulled back some of the carpet and spread the compost and let the chickens enjoy themselves searching out the earthworms. This area has peas planted in it now, and the chickens didn't manage to eat all of the seeds before the fence went up, so I have a smattering of pea plants that are about four inches tall. I'm not sure how peas will do in the heat of the summer - I guess I'll find out soon!