Dual Use For Chunnels
By Susan Berry
For those of you who follow my blog, you know I am still a “young” flock owner and that I spoil my chickens endlessly. You may also remember that I lost three hens while free ranging to poisonous plants, thus my “Chunnels.” I cannot take credit for the invention of the chunnels as I discovered them online. But I made them and created a safe free ranging method for my flock. I use these only when I am in attendance, never letting the Girls out to play while I am away. At those times they have an ample coop and enclosed run area. I also have discovered that though I like the fencing material I used, I will make or cover the panels with hardware cloth, preventing heads getting stuck when poking through the squares to grab a bug that may be strolling by. But the chunnels have been a tremendous addition to their living area and given me a sense of security knowing they only have access to grass and bugs to eat that will not harm them.
Though I am sharing a few photos of my chunnels this blog is about my accidental discovery of a dual purpose for a chunnel section.
The chunnels are made from 4-foot-tall welded wire fencing that is cut into sections and then zip tied together end to end to create a tunnel that goes from the run to nowhere in particular. The entire chunnel is held to the ground with landscape staples. The Girls do not seem to mind the dead end as long as there is grass during the journey.
A couple of weeks ago I was showing a friend my raised bed farm and the chunnel construction process. So I had a section in my hand that I was demonstrating with. When we moved on to something else I laid the chunnel section down and walked off. A few days later while picking up around the farm I picked up the chunnel panel and it slipped out of my hand. It managed to land perfectly over a 2-foot-by-4-foot raised bed. TADAAAA! An instant hot house design was born! It also managed to land over a bed that I had recently sown winter spinach in. Cover with 4-mil clear plastic and WALAAA! an instant hot house.
I am a big advocate of year round growing for our food. And don’t even whine to me about the snow and ice and cold. Do you stop eating salads and greens all winter? Do you only grow your own food two seasons and then revert to supermarket produce in the winter? Come on, if I can garden in the winter you certainly can!
Spinach, lettuces of all kinds, beet greens, turnip greens, collards, herbs, etc….. Can all be grown in these little adorable 2-foot-by-4-foot raised beds. I have a line of five of them this size that I grow all my salad greens and herbs in all Winter. They are situated close enough that I can cover the entire length of them with a long row cover and use a small fan and drop light holding a 6 watt bulb to heat it during the bitter cold nights. During the day the sun does all the work. Or you can use a row cover AND plastic and may not need any additional heat source at all.
MMMMMM! Spinach salad in January with your OWN spinach. Spinach that you know how it was grown and what went into it. So some of our best farm inventions have been discovered by the slip of a hand. When tools are limited, materials scarce and finances even scarcer, sometimes we have to be creative. I encourage folks who come to my raised bed farming classes to look around their farm/yard and be creative. Make do with what we have. Recycle, repurpose and stretch a dollar and your growing season.
Have a wonderful Fall and follow our blog all year for great gardening, homesteading tips. www.itzybitzyfarm.com
Happy Harvest ~ Susan
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