Mid-October work party as scheduled, in “the dead of night”!

But . . . I have a feeling that is the last work party of the season at 7 p.m. Tuesdays. Especially once DST ends and the dark shifts back even earlier.

Actually, yesterday evening’s work party started out late, but a bit ahead of the 7 p.m. start time and not yet dark. Here’s the compost guys, Dan and Sam, hamming it up before they tackle making yet another compost pile.


They proceeded to show me the VERY active pile with steam coming off it! (the grey ashy looking stuff on top is actually steam!).



Part of the secret of our successful composting is that we are now getting spent grains from a local brewery. Here’s the spent grain pile, which now hosts thousands of maggots . . .



. . . which the two of them decided to pick out and feed to the chickens.



Okay, the evening was wearing on. And one of the scheduled activities was me and Sam teaming up to learn how to set rat traps. Shy shows us how. (I’m going to remove the dead rats; Sam will set the traps.) We’ve decided that unless we can manage to get the rat population way down (they are a problem throughout Bloomington), then the chickens will have to go, since the first one appeared when we started to feed a rabbit outside. We are also spraying with peppermint, planting fritillaria (has a stinky smell that no rodent likes), and will obtain a young rat terrier or jack russell to help Max, our maine coon cat, get rats. Plus the most important: when feeding the chickens, take the food away after a half hour, putting it back in the rat-proof container. Hopefully, these protocols will make the situation manageable.



Okay, now on to the main event: filling the new Garden Towers in the new greenhouse, so that we can grow our winter greens in them. This is a job we can do at night, with suitable lighting.


First, get the straw bales (remember that expedition?) and put them around the greenhouse to help with insulation: We set the three pianists from the new third house at 2616 E. DeKist on that task. And yes, it’s definitely getting dark.




Setting up the lighting for the Garden Tower filling job took probably 15 minutes, as various plugs and extension cords, plus two lamps from my bedroom were all pressed into service. Then, whoopee, we were good to go, with a soil mixer we had rented for 24 hours and a recipe that son Colin (inventor of the Garden Tower) told me we might want to use from local Michael Simmons, who has been experimenting with soil for Garden Towers: So I emailed Michael. And got this response.

Hi Ann,
I use the 3-B mix sold at May’s.  To that mix, which has no soil in it, I add compost (about one-fourth by volume), together with rock phosphate, greensand, and gypsum.  When appropriate, I add Happy Frog fertilizer (Fruit and Flower, Acid-Loving, General Purpose, etc.) in amounts recommended on the package.
Rebecca then got more info from him about proportions of phosphate, greensand, and gypsum — and we were good to go! That was way back in August. Now we were finally ready to fill the Towers.
Here are some photos. The job of mixing the soil, and then filling the four that were not yet in use and moving one that was in use into the greenhouse (that came with a snafu, as documented), took about an hour. Amazing what you can accomplish when you have a big, willing group! Not just a bunch of us villagers, but friends Shy, Payton and Christina were also on hand. A fun time, and very productive!
The scene on the patio, with the pink mixer on hand.
The scene inside the greenhouse, managed by the three pianists, Dario, John and Andreas, plus Sam (also a musician; he had spent the day in Indy, recording songs in a studio).
(Overheard, from Andreas: “Gee! An hour ago I was playing the piano. And now I’ve got my hands in the dirt!” Andreas practices piano six hours per day, will be finished with his doctoral degree next spring.)
The snafu came when we tried to get the fifth Tower, already filled with dirt and plants, into the greenhouse. While crossing the threshold, it fell over, came apart, and it took awhile to right it. Broke a couple of little thingies on it, and some of the plastic ball bearings that allow it to rotate fell out — but it still works, and rotates, though a bit roughly. Live and learn!


Oh, and yes, I’ve been meaning to take a pic of the gorgeous shroom blooming on the old elm tree stump that, years ago, supplied two gigantic hugelkultur beds with its dead trunk.



Here’s one of those hugelkulture beds today, still thrumming with this season’s kale. Rebecca tells me to wait until we’ve had several frosts before final harvest, since kale turns sweeter with the cold. One of millions of facts that she knows and that the rest of us are gradually picking up.




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