Dispersing of the Straw Bale Wind Block

This week I have been busy distributing the chickens straw bale wind block.

Chickens shack, hoops and garen USE

The straw bale wind block that collapsed after the winter snow.

Each fall we set up stacks of square-baled straw around our chicken coop and run with the goal of blocking some of the big winds we get here on the homestead. We live not far from Lake Michigan and we definitely get the results of a lot of lake related winds that we feel on our homestead.

Come spring I use these bales as mulch and distribute the wet straw around many plants and trees in the garden and the landscaped beds including our five-year-old baby pine trees.

Pine and staw in foreground-cart in rear

Baby White Pines replaced those that were cut down.

As organic material straw will eventually rot and turn into soil, amending the existing soil as they rot. The clumps of straw also hold in moisture from the spring rains which will benefit whatever growing things they are spread around.

Straw in the cart

Our garden cart full of straw on its way to be distributed.

This year we were also lucky to be able to be the recipients of three (or possibly four) truckloads of organic materials cut back from our community’s roadside program. These are wood chips, pine needles and other brown and green organic materials.

2016 pine pile USE

The big pile of organic mulch that needs hauling and spreading. 

The stars all alligned this spring. I simple stopped and talked to the guys who were cutting and offered our property as the free place to dump them and requested that they be dumped in our meadow. Because they usually have to pay to dump these materials and often we have to pay to buy them; so this was a win for us both.

It is certainly a blessing to have these organic materials to work with in our garden, yard and landscaping. Both the straw and the green cuttings will save us money, time and vehicle wear and tear. And having the mulch on site will benefit all the growing things from plants to shrubbery that we have work so hard to plant and maintain.

Nothing is wasted here on the homestead!

Small House Homesteader, Donna


Divide,Transplant, Broadcast – a Fall Chore

Fall is busy time here in my SW Michigan garden. This week I started my autumn dividing, transplanting and cutting back chores. From now on until the first snowfall I’ll be out in the garden cleaning up most everyday.

VERT sidewalk-catmints-flagjpge

These catmint are beautiful draping over the sidewalk but not practical for walking to and from our home from our gravel driveway.

I start with cutting back of old seeds heads, leaves and generally anything that is going to die back in the cold. Everything organic is tossed into the compost bin to be turned into “black gold.” Before the snowfall this compost will be placed around my perennials to give them a nutritional boost.

Bins from back open ended

Our compost bin system.

The seed heads of the Brown Eyed Susan’s and Black Eyed Susan’s will be tossed in the ditch and along the woods edge in order to encourage more plants to grow in selected areas. Some plants will be left standing to feed the birds throughout the fall and winter.

Turn around after cut back USE

In the early fall I cut back some of the tall spent perennials cleaning up the beds slightly. This is our turn-round bed which greets our visitors when they pull into our gravel driveway an walk under the lattice trellis and towards our three-season porch entrance. 

One specific chore I tackled this fall was the potting up of black raspberry babies that popped up all over my garden and yard. They will be fertilized, wat ered and nurtured and eventually be replanted back in the areas where I want them or given away to friends.

stone edge-birdbath-sign USE

In early September out comes the fall flags for a touch of autumn color.

To plant the black raspberry canes I recycled black, plastic, nursery pots that I had on hand. My soil mix is a base of well composted horse manure soil with a layer of bark chips on top to hold in the moisture. This is the soil combo that is time-tested to work best for me here in my Zone 5b garden with its lean, sandy oak savannah soil.

Ditch flowers pole barn USE

Brown Eyes Susan’s fill our ditch and meadow area in front of our pole barn. Last fall I just threw a bunch of cut down flowers into the ditch and hoped for the best. This worked even better than I had hope for! 

Some of these plants will end up in the ground before winter but some will be tucked up on the north side of my studio building to overwinter another system I have used previously that works well here. Everything will be well watered-in and will be carefully watched and watered throughout the next couple of months to give them a solid start.

House -ditch Black Eyed Susans

The foreground of this photograph shows the colorful wildflowers that grow along our property line. You can tell I like a loose, country garden style look! Our 60-year-old ranch-style home is in the rear of this photo.

My Strategy This Year:

  1. I dug up and potted black raspberry starts that popped up all over my vegetable garden.
  2. I dug up and replanted about a dozen or so catmint herbs from overgrown catmint plant that got so big that we were no longer able to walk down the sidewalk.
  3. I cut back the seed heads of the Brown Eyed Susan plants and broadcasted them (tossed them into!) our ditches and alongside of the road and the woods edge so the seeds will flowers in the spring. I had great success from this system last year.
  4. I’ll do the same with Black Eyed Susan seeds and the Cup Plants as well.

I get a big kick out of making more plants without spending any money.

Thanks for reading! Donna at The Small House Homestead