Monthly Archives: February 2012

Heat, internet, and chickens all in one day!

We decided to take down the large fence that separates the house from OKY. Opening up the space brings the farm into view from the house. The old saying, out of sight out of mind, runs true for gardening. Bringing the garden into view allows easy access from the house and improves the flow of the Kibbutz.

This week we continued to mulch the forest garden section of the Gan. Benny came over and helped spread a layer of compost over the mule manure, it was a huge help! Once we ran out of cardboard from the last retreat group we had to look elsewhere for a cardboard carbon source. After being rejected from Home Depot, a nice guy named Joe, who works at the Lucky’s next door, helped load enough cardboard to fill up the trunk of the suburu. When that ran out Big Lots came to the rescue with huge sheets cardboard…and we still need more! One more trunk-load should finish up the job. After we finish the cardboard layer we need to add more straw mixed with manure and then the final layer of wood chip paths. It is a lot of work up front, but the results will be amazing! If we continue mulching like this for the next few years you will want to sleep in the garden beds they will be so fluffy.




We’ve also been doing a lot of clean up and tidying around outside. We’ve taken down unnecessary fencing and tarp, organized the scarp yard, cleared wood scraps, and moved the OKY sign (thank you Randy and Mike :D). 


The Chickens had their first day being free range after one week of getting to know the coop:

Our good friend Angelo came over and helped us begin installing the rainwater catchment system. A small rain barrel will collect water from the roof of the house and feed it to a larger barrel via a hose and the help of gravity. The larger barrel also connects to a hose and can be used to water the south gan. Angelo began building a foundation for the barrel with gravel and large stones he found on site.

Finally, a cowboy named Adam who lives at the horse ranch down the road came by with a truckload of free horse manure! Yahoo! Horse manure has a near perfect Carbon to Nitrogen ration. The manure will be used to mulch the South Gan. Thank you Adam!

The greens in the greenhouse look great and we’ll put them in the ground this coming week:

In addition to preparing the soil in the food forest there is a lot of planning involved right now. We are still researching what plants will work best in the forest garden. We are also planning for goats and have made a connection with a great farm in the county. It is also getting closer to the growing season, which means lots of planning for planting. Soon we must order seeds and have a clear idea of how we want to rotate the fruits and veggies grown in the gan.

We visited the folks over at Urban Adamah for their Tu B’shvat sedar. They are running a beautiful urban jewish farm in berkeley. If you haven’t been there before go check it out, they are doing great stuff. L’chaim!

Blessings and thanks to everyone who helped out this week!


Dr. Greg Kruszewski arrives for a visit and brings his permaculture knowledge and muscle-power to the land.  It was a treat for us to work alongside a teacher for 10 days.

Greg arrived after a heavy rain.  We observed that the holes dug by Avodahniks (which we wanted to plant the fruit trees in) were filled with water and not draining.  Though we heavily mulched the site with compost, cardboard, mule manure, and leftover straw, the site will not be suitable for fruit trees, which require excellent drainage for their survival.  In permaculture, we see obstacle as opportunities, and we will still plant the chicken yard with hardier perennials that can tolerate the poor drainage.  And hopefully, over time, the drainage in this area wont be such a problem because the soil structure will be vastly improved (by the mulching, the plants, and the chicken ****) ! 🙂

A better idea evolved! We decided to expand the fence — changing it from a cramped, small, rectangle into a much more open oval shape.  We will plant the fruit trees on the newly-fenced garden slope because that side has better drainage, has access to the current irrigation system, and will create a beautiful perennial border on the north side of the garden where it will not shade the summer annuals.   Opening the fence is a process which includes: Removing ties and clipping fence off of posts, pulling out posts that are stuck deep in the ground, measuring out new perimeter, obtaining more fence and more posts, using a post driver to pound metal posts into their new location, each post approx ten feet apart, pulling fence taught and tying it to the post in several places, obtaining chicken wire to attach to part of fence that is still too short (fence needs to be at least 6 feet high to keep out deer).  Doing this work, it’s really amazing to see all of the steps behind something as simple as putting up a fence.  Makes you appreciate anything built by anyone.

The second major project of the last ten days was cleaning out and renovating the chicken coop, making a safe home that any chicken would love to inhabit.  The first step was to shovel out the old crusty chicken manure that caked the coop’s floor and wheelbarrowing it over to what we call the “goat pasture”… just to spread some nutrient love.  We want our chickens to be free-range and happy!  They will sleep in their roost at night but come out into the chicken yard during the day.  Then, we removed some of the exterior fencing on the old coop to create more space.  The new space is where food scraps (that come from main camp) can be dumped, fed to the chickens, who will transform the food waste into compost.  Chickens are the best composters!  We added layers of manure, ready compost, and straw to the area outside and inside of the coop (heavy straw for bedding) and took down the old roost, cleaned it up, and redesigned it (see pictures, much minutia to describe).  We scanned the fencing and patched up areas that remained open to protect the chix.

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We are off to go get little chicken pullets now – we hope they like their new home, and pray that they stay safe and warm!

Other tasks of the last week and half:
-Visited Temple Emanu-El in SF and talked to the kids about Camp Newman/Kibbutz Yarok/Lotan and the Kibbutz movement
-Used old, moldy strawbales from ’09 as mulch (cleaned up space by tefilla site)
-Spread mule manure in expanded fence
-Brought in two truckloads of woodchips with Benny
-Began making safe pen for goats
-Mapped and marked contour line at top of north-facing garden slope as an observational point for better understanding of how to use space
-Picked up six trees from Harmony nursery and planted three.  We are saving three to plant with Sholom!
-Raised water pipe into coop, learned how to fix pipes from Mike and Melicio
-Learned that nearly all of OKY’s oak trees are covered in Mistletoe — a deadly parasite that slowly kills oaks.  We need to begin a removal operation!

Shavuah tov everyone!