Baby robin, and chicken manure

I guess I have a strange talent for finding injured creatures, because today, whilst walking the dog in the open space, I came across a baby bird on the ground. Just sitting there, not moving, but bright-eyed and aware. As I approached it, two large robins, I'm assuming mom and dad, gathered in the walnut tree above me and hollered. So I walked away and watched for a bit. Nothing happened. I couldn't just leave the bird there, so I went and made a nest of dead grass in the crook of the tree. Then I lifted the baby robin into the makeshift nest, with mom and dad squawking at me all the while, and walked away again. I waited a minute, then walked back. The bird had stood up and walked to another side of the little crook, so at least I know it could walk.

It was the most adorable little thing, and it killed me to walk away for good, but I did, because mom and dad were there, and interested. I'm never sure how much to intervene. I hope the baby will be ok.

My vegetable beds are full of injured creatures - the plants. I'm really not sure what is happening. I'm talking about the raised beds we just built, which are above the sheet mulch. Everything germinated, and then stopped growing. Just stopped. And then started yellowing. First I thought it was a water issue, so I've been watering every day. Then I wondered if maybe filling the beds with straight compost was a good idea - though I've always done that before - I mean, we have clay dirt here, adding a lot of organic matter has always worked before. Then I began to suspect that the sheet mulching was the problem. Either the roots weren't working their way through the mulch, or the mulch we used was the wrong kind - I just didn't know.

Needing a more experienced opinion, I decided to consult my friend the biologist, who works for the USDA. And he told me the most obvious thing, and I was smacking my head in my hand while we were talking - of course! The nitrogen in the compost is bound up in the process of decomposing the mulch which is underneath it. I knew this! I have always known not to mix mulch into dirt, because it robs the plants of nitrogen. If you just lay it on top of the earth, it's ok. But mixing is bad, at least short term. And here I had put a foot of compost on top of the mulch, expecting the plants to be fine! Argh!

The biologist and I talked about how different composts have different nitrogen levels, which I hadn't realized, but of course it makes sense. So he told me to add a bunch of manure on top of the soil, all around the plants. I researched which kind of manure has the most nitrogen, and everything I read said that chicken poop was the winner, so I bought 8 bags of composted chicken manure and spread it on the garden today.

Believe me when I tell you, I smell bad.

I much prefer cow or horse poop, to be honest.

But if it mends my veg, I'm all in! I'll keep you posted.