2 simple lessons learned – garlic and the chicken coop

I first planted garlic in fall 2010 – 4 varieties 1) organic California Early White – softneck ($4.99 lb); 2) Elephant garlic – very mild like a leek ($4.99 lb);  3) organic Music Garlic – hardneck  ($12,99 lb.) – the only reason I bought this more expensive variety is because my family is into music; 4) organic Dujansky  – hardneck ($9.99 lb).   They grew well, I harvested them and each fall I planted out the cloves for the next year’s harvest.  In fall 2014 I must have planted out >200 cloves and they are all doing well.  But most of the cloves were small.  And then it occurred to me, a sudden insight, that I had been selecting down.  During my meal gathering forays I always picked the best looking garlic plants and after the harvest when they were strung up to dry, my better part/chef always picked the biggest garlic because they were “less labor intensive”.  This human selection process inevitably resulted in the smallest, least desirable garlic surviving into the fall and becoming the forbears of the next year’s crop.  This was real dumbing down.

So this spring I made a change.  With surveyor’s bright colored tape I made gentle nooses around the best looking biggest garlic.  These will not be picked for eating and will be separately stored for next fall planting.  Additionally I will intentionally first pick for eating the garlic plants closest to the selected few so they will have access to more light and nutrients and grow even better.

one of the 20 garlic selected for special attention
one of 20 garlic selected for special attention

My other lesson pertained to the chicken coop I built in October 2011.  If you follow the link and look at the photos of the interior you will see that the wooden walls rested on cinder blocks and to cover the hollow centers I ran wood boards over the exposed blocks with part of the board extending over the dirt floor.  My logic at the time was I didn’t want poop falling into the hollow centers or onto any dirt and rocks used to fill the centers.  Pity.

Fast forward a few years and the coop is home not only to a happy rooster and his 10 consorts but to numerous rats which hide under the boards and have built tunnels and chambers under the dirt floor.  Initially I tried filling the chambers with stones but these were excavated by the following morning.  The only solution I learned was to add concrete mix and then water into the chambers and this solidified mass defied the rats best efforts.  And the boards.  I decided they had to go.  So I unscrewed them, filled the hollow centers with stones and dirt and then applied a thick layer of concrete troweled smooth to enable easy removal of chicken poop.  Here is Onyx, a Black Jersey giant  and behind her you can see the concrete application.  Still a bit rough but as I worked my way round the perimeter I became more adept and the concrete finish on later stages looks almost professional.  Another mistake identified, corrected and lesson learned.

a concreted corner inspected by Onyx
a concreted corner inspected by Onyx

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