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Archive for May, 2009

Garden … Planted!

I finally planted my garden on Saturday, and am feeling entirely inadequate about how late I am. I came across this link to an article in the Charleston Daily Mail about why garden procrastination is superior. It is written by another newish homesteader, except she’s made the move to the country already. Jealous!

Skipper is off taking a sailing course this week, so I am sure much more gardening will be happening in my long quiet evenings this week. However, she also took the camera … which means you have to wait for pictures!

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Green with Envy

These people grow all their food for a family of four in the backyard. With extra to sell to restaurants. I have homesteading envy. I must go home and keep digging.

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My parents bought me an organic gardening book for Christmas, and in it, it says to prepare a new garden, you must “double dig.”

The first thing you have to do is remove the sod. When you guesstimate how long this will take you, multiply your final number by 3. Then square it. That’s probably how many hours you’ll be tossing grass chunks around your yard.

My New Plot, Free of Sod

Once the sod is removed, it’s time to get digging. Mentally square off (or rectangle off) a small portion of your bed, probably only 5 or so sq feet. Then start digging, setting the topsoil aside in a wheel barrow or other out of the way space. You can stop once you’ve reach the second layer of soil, normally a different colour, type, and consistency than the top soil.

Top Soil and Sand Below

When I was a kid on the East Coast, the second layer of soil was clay and often very close to the top. It was very hard to dig through, especially for a little 40 pound weakling. Yet I really loved to “help” my dad turn over the soil in the garden with my kid sized shovel. I loved the treasures I found hiding in the dirt. Like old chicken bones, I remember imagining that were dinosaur fossils.

Someone's Garden Glove

I found this garden glove yesterday, long abandoned and decomposing. See the roots growing out of it? Treasure hunting is still fun as a grown-up.

As I kept digging for what seemed like forever, I couldn’t help but remember wanting so very badly to dig to China as a kid. My parents being the awesome people that they were let me try once. I didn’t get very far at all. I don’t think I cracked the top soil. I do remember coming away with the feeling that if I worked hard enough, I could reach my dreams .. I just hadn’t worked hard enough yet. A good take away lesson, I think. Anyway, it helped me get through the next 2 hours of digging yesterday, until I struck gold.

Sand

Or well, yellow dirt. On the East Coast it was clay, but on the island, not surprisingly, it’s sand.

Sandy Soil

After you’ve reached the end of the top soil, you fill the hole with compost or manure, and use a pitch fork to dig it in a big further. Then fill up the hole again with the dirt you’ve set aside, layer with compost on top as well. And you’re done. With that little section. Many more to go. The good news is that once you do it once, you shouldn’t have to do this again for your garden — as long as you don’t step on your beds and compact the soil.

This is either torture, a chore, or a nice meditation technique. You can take your pick.

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I have to admit when I moved to the West Coast, I readily told people I didn’t believe in recycling. This is like being in South and saying you don’t believe in Creationism. The reactions weren’t good, suffice to say.

When I got my first job, I zipped through cleaning up my inherited office by throwing almost everything right into the trash can. My office mate, also new, dutifully followed behind me like an aftershock, opening shrink-wrapped instruction books to sort into paper and plastic recycling, removing CDs from their paper (recyclable) wrappers, and compacting the little trash he had left into a tidy pile. I thought this was very silly and told him so, but I was in Canada now and people are much too polite to contradict you. They just follow apologetically after you, move things into the blue bin.

I was finally moved to recycle when I was asked to vote for a video by a local elementary school in a Green Competition to win $50K. The school wanted to recycle their soft plastics, since they already recycled or composted everything else, and made a video about their successful efforts.

Picture 1

Soft plastic is probably the majority of what you through away at home — styrofoam, foil-lined wrappers, milk cartons, plastic bags … things like that. And as a new home owner, I my trash habits were not going to be good on the wallet. We are charged $5 per bag over our one tiny trash can per week limit. With 4 adults, 3 chickens, 2 dogs, and 4 cats living in our house … it was time to recycle. Plus, if a place as bureaucratic as a public elementary school can reduce their trash to one bag a week … then my comparably tiny household should be able to do it too.

So I looked up the program that McTavish elementary used, called Pacific Mobile Depot. The come to your community center or school once a month, you give them all your junk, and it doesn’t go into a landfill. Brilliant!

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This is two month’s worth of soft plastic, really compressed. I have a small bin under the sink to collect it as I go, then move it out on to this big bin on the deck.

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The puppies went with me to take it to my community center on my designated weekend. I setup a reminder in google calendar to tell me when its my week again.

Recyling is good

I got there right when it opened, and it was very busy. It’s always busy. For just $2, I get to recycle all this stuff. Cheap and eco-friendly. And even a 5th grader can do it.

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I worked really hard this weekend on the garden, despite the looking gray clouds. It was an epic battle, who would win?

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I tore up some more sod for my veggie patch. This involved some tree chopping down. I hate ornamental trees. I also hate grass. They are slowing disappearing. Garden:0, Me: 1

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I created these incredibly cute min herb pots! Tasty, and cute! Garden:0, Me: 2

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There is STILL sawdust falling out of the front of my chicken coop, despite my extensive modifications to the inside of the coop this weekend. I normally don’t care about things that are ugly as long as they are functional … except for the fact that my precious puppy thinks that this is her personal wood-shavings-and-chicken-poo-buffet.

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Silly puppy. Gravity puts the first point for Mother Nature on the board. Garden: 1, Me: 2

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I did come back with these cute little planters to beautify my coop. Look at me, investing in flowers! Skipper asked me what kind of flowers they were, and why I picked them. I said … they were $1.50 for four? They are supposed to get much bigger. That’s pretty much all I know about them! Garden: 1, Me: 3

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My mother-in-law wanted some berry plants, so we picked up a few raspberry bushes for a few weeks ago. I worrying about what the hell we were going to do with THREE raspberry bushes, until we were out Saturday morning and a very nice sales guy sent us home with TWO more raspberries, TWO tay berries, TWO blueberry bushes, TWO kiwi trees, SIX strawberry plants. It was hard to find enough full sun for them, since our APPLE tree and PEAR tree are starting to leaf out.

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We now have berry alley, in the back of the yard. I envisioning laying in my hammock with a bucket of fruit in my lap, berry juice running down my face … almost eating myself to death with tasty berries. Garden: 1, Me: 4

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Unfortunately, despite my lead, the garden may have the last word. When I went to go stir up my compost pile, I noticed that we had unwelcome visitors. All mixed in with my delicious black gold were the nasty, thick, white roots of Morning Glory. Morning Glory, the most evil plant in all the world. So invasive, the smallest speck of root or stem can cause a brand new infestation wherever it falls. Because of this, it is nearly impossible to dig out.

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There are only really two ways to tame morning glory, though it can rarely be cured. One is to cover the offending area in complete dark for a year. I may have to try that for my compost, as I can’t dump herbicide everywhere in a compost. But in the rest of the yard I can … and I will.

But a blow to the compost pile like that, it’s really disheartening. Someone violated the innermost garden sanctum … the source of nutrients for all your plans. And it’s totally ruined.

So despite a lot of fun and progress in my garden … I am feeling totally dejected. The hours I will spend ripping the tops off of morning glory are stretching ahead of me … the compost I must buy at the store … the plastic compost bin I must buy to protect future compost from infestation … it’s just depressing.

So I will try to cheer myself up…. with a puppy.

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(And that always works :D)

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