Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dan the Chicken Man and His Garden

Last weekend I visited gardening friend, Graham Bell (see previous blog, “Graham’s Garden Inspirations”) in Rhode Island. Our primary mission was to assist his friend, Dan, in the task of processing (killing and cleaning) 85 chickens. It’s kind of a communal thing. Dan raises the chickens. Friends pay a share of the feed costs and get a share of the meat in return. Shareholders pitch in on Chicken Day in October when the birds are ready to harvest. Oddballs like me and my wife go just for the fun of it. So, in four hours about ten of us killed, plucked, dressed (gutted) and bagged the birds.

Since this is a gardening blog, I’ll spare you the details of chicken processing. So here is the gardening part. Chicken Man Dan is also a very good gardener. I sensed this as I wheel barrowed chicken feathers and blood soaked leaves (nitrogen rich) to his compost pile. Dan told me that he’ll add a layer of apple pomace from a cider maker and by next spring he’ll have some killer compost. He adds lots of tree leaves as a carbon source. You read about the value of feathers and blood as compost ingredients but rarely see it. Not many folks are killing their own chickens these days.

I took a detour on the way back from dumping blood and feathers to check out Dan’s garden. I saw fall red raspberries, tomato trellis, raised beds, etc. That’s when I saw the large mail box in the middle of his garden and knew I had found the solution to the maddening task of storing garden tools and other stuff in a handy place. Dan’s big old mail box
holds all of those tools you often need but don’t remember to carry…. lettuce harvesting knives, dibbles, tying materials, labels, etc. Next to the mail box was a box of spoons… flattened to make nifty row-markers. More durable than wood…or even plastic..

Once again, great gardening ideas from afar. It pays to get out of your own backyard once in a while.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Dan! I live in Maine and my neighbors and I are planning to do a communal garden/small livestock project in the new year. I've had chickens before and have done some butchering - but look forward to learning much more.
Thanks for your blog!
Kate in Brooklin.

Gwen Eden said...

We just butchered our first chicken and are wondering how to compost the blood. We have it sitting in a bucket right now. Do we just spread it over leaves and mix it into the compost?

Scott Guiser said...

The leaves serve as a carbon rich source and the blood is a nitrogen rich source for the composting process. Blend and add.