I got my wood chips on Tuesday and had to work all week and dream about where I was going to put them. I had so many plans I could not wait to get started moving them. I needed a wheelbarrow so did some comparison shopping online at Lowe’s, and decided I liked the Kobalt 6 cubic foot one. I wanted metal and not plastic for hauling… and the idea of puncture resistant tires was also appealing. So on my lunch break Saturday I went to my local Lowe’s and made my purchase. Along with the wheelbarrow I also got a nice solid garden fork.
The weekend finally arrived and I woke up today feeling awful. Had a major headache and my stomach was not really happy. I got everybody fed, the dog outside and fried up one of my eggs and still felt bad. I really wanted to get started on that pile of chips so I decided to just get after it. It did not look all that big and I figured I could have it spread around the place by the end of the day. And I was also hoping I would work out of my not feeling well.
Well.. we did not work out of the headache and that pile is bigger than I thought. The first thing I did was lay down more of the feed bags from the cats, dogs and chickens around the outside of the chicken run. Then I started to dump and spread the wood chips. The chickens were amused and watched me work from their side of the fence. I did spray some Round-Up on the Bermuda grass and Oxalis that was growing in the area before I covered it with the feed bags. That Bermuda is awful.. the runners will run for a long while looking for a place to pop up and grow. So I wanted the stuff to be dying as well as getting squished by the weight of the wood and opted to add a little chemical killing power. It did not take long to do the outside of the chicken run, even though I still had a headache.. we pressed on.
After we did the outside of the run it was time to go inside and rake up leaves. I started with five large black trash bags of leaves and removed about six cat litter boxes of shredded leaves. The chickens did a great job of turning the leaves into smaller pieces that worked nicely into the compost pile. I turned the pile as I added the leaf litter then finished it off with a good soak. The stuff I pulled up from the bottom as I was turning is looking very good. Really need to put some effort into feeding that pile so I can let it sit a bit and cook. We will add a few wood chips to the mix but I need to find other places to get compostable items. With all my gardening projects that pile will go quickly once finished.
When I created the run I was a bit paranoid about something getting up under the pen and into the run. I have a two foot wire “skirt” all the way around the pen, so anything digging hits the wire and goes no further. I also took one of the 2×6 inch boards I had and put it across the door way, inside the run, to make digging under the gate more difficult. That made bringing the wheelbarrow into the run to dump chips impossible. So.. we dropped the chips just on the other side of that board then spread them around the run.
To spread the chips I used a pitchfork upside down like a rake. I got the pitchfork at Tractor Supply and it is useless for anything else. I absolutely hate this thing but at least I got some use out of it dragging chips all over the run today. A large metal rake would have been a much better choice and made quick work of spreading the chips. I only got a few inches down but the run looks nice and smells pretty good too. I will be doing a deep litter method now in the run. Every once in a while I will take my garden fork and just flip the wood chips. Over time I expect this to break down and give me some nice soil I can add to my garden. When the time comes to start removing the decomposed wood as compost I will just add more chips.
After the run was finished, the chickens got busy exploring and scratching around in the wood chips and I got busy putting down some more cardboard where I plan on putting my Comfrey. I have 15 plants so most will go around the driveway. The driveway is defined by railroad ties.. and the Comfrey bed is going to be one railroad tie across the back and two up the side of the drive. I have done just the corner.. the one across the back and only one up the side. I need more cardboard to finish this area. It was starting to get late and I was also starting to get pretty sore so we called it a night here.
Once we got the cardboard down I put some of the shredded leaves from the chicken run over the top. I also had some chicken manure I scattered across the top of the leaves and we finished off by adding several inches of the wood chips. I then put a small sprinkler on top with low pressure and got everything wet. I used chips in this garden area that were in the hottest area of the wood pile. They were already starting to decompose and had that grey fungus starting on them, so figured this would be a better place than the chicken run to use them.
To get this area decomposing I need a good mix of “green” .. high nitrogen items.. in with the wood chips. The wood chips have some green leaves mixed throughout and the chicken manure will also add the needed items with high nitrogen content. When I get a good load of coffee grounds from Starbucks I will scatter those over the top. Rain will carry those little particles high in nitrogen.. down into the wood chips and provide fuel for the organisms breaking the chips down. I expect to have this ready to plant the Comfrey into in just a few months.
When I got the camera out to take some photos I noticed this indention in the pile. You can see it a little more in the second photo as well. The wood pile is steaming all day and night with decomposition. As I scooped the chips and put them in the wheelbarrow you could feel the heat in the pile. Some critter decided to take advantage of that heat with the last few nights down below freezing. A little digging created a very warm place to spend the night. I can see one of the local feral cats having a very toasty warm night in there.
By five o’clock I was amazed at how much of the pile I still had left. It sure did not look very big when I started.. .but at the end of the day, with half of it left, it was definitely a mini mountain. My Fitbit says I took 8,444 steps today with all the back and forth to the pile. I can’t even begin to imagine how many garden forks of chips I moved today. My back is sore and my shoulders are none to happy either. To reward myself for all the hard work today I grilled up one of the mini steaks I have, microwaved a potato to go with it and had two Aleve. I am hoping the Aleve will take the edge of the soreness off so I can move tomorrow. Pretty soon I will take a hot shower and call it a night. I am hoping I am not so sore tomorrow I can’t get out of bed.. lol.. as I still have that other half of the pile to get moved.
Though I am sore now and will probably be sore for the next few days, I am still jazzed with my free wood chips. I admit..though the chips are free they are a lot of work. However.. the weather today was beautiful, I was very comfortable working in a sweatshirt. Eventually the headache did fade, and even with soreness creeping into my body I could enjoy just being outside. Now the chicken pen looks really nice, both inside and out and I have started to improve the soil for the Comfrey garden. Considering I have a desk job I also got some needed exercise. Overall it was an excellent day.. and a few sore muscles are a small price to pay for the days accomplishments and those wood chips.