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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Some good soil -- somewhat rocky

[posted by risa]

Progress by you.

Spreading out -- the fences are done, or at least enough to let the birds into the new pasture. This is a view, from atop the roof, of the twelve main garden beds ( there are seven smaller ones, mostly along the house). Lower right, grapes. Far right, apples, plums, compost barrel. middle distance, haystack. Center, compost bin. Near street, more apples. These, and the haystack, are in the poultry pasture, though it may be hard to tell from the image. Their pasture wraps round the garden on two sides. Extreme left, reaching over the fence, a filbert.

There is a USGS brass cap by the maple stump where the street comes in, upper left. When the General Land Office surveyors, led by George Thurston, walked through here in 1853, they noted: "Some good soil -- somewhat rocky." That's a fair assessment; it's a heavy clay, shot through with round basalt stones that come up after each freeze. It should have been left to the Camas lilies, no doubt. Too late now. You can work with it, but not if you love running a tiller -- it never dries out enough to till, until the day it does -- and by that afternoon, it's too dry and cement-hard. Mulch and compost, compost and mulch, year in and year out, yields better results, it seems to us.

Veggies in this photo: Chard, celery, onions, garlic, rhubarb, beets, spinach, four kinds of lettuce, bok choi, broccoli, nasturtiums (it hasn't been very cold), Jerusalem artichoke (in ground). The broad beans planted a couple of weeks ago are up, as well. The reason some of these crops are clearly not in their beds is that the garden they were in was a circular garden, whose fence has been removed. Next year's beds were laid out right through there, and the plants in the "aisles" will be mostly harvested first.

This garden loves to grow beets. As I was spreading the new hay, I hefted a few leaves and peeked underneath; the roots are as big as softballs. Perhaps we're doing something right.

Next we'll draw an improved schematic of the nineteen beds and plan our campaign: apples, plums, pears, cherries, quince, apricot, peach, mulberries, figs, kiwis, grapes, blueberries, raspberries (the blackberries can jolly well stay where they are), wolfberries, and the like, the remainder of the space being divided among shade-tolerant and shade-intolerant veggies, and some kind of rotation. We may or may not put up permanent tee posts in all the main beds (as previously discussed) this year, or even plant them all, but the layout is done!

We've begun pulling things out of the freezer: tomatoes, peas and greens for soup (with our potatoes and dried beans), applesauce to have with yogurt, and pear sauce to spread on the spelt bread. Also to make room for a few things the kids will require for their Harvest Dinner next week....

A few days ago, as I laid out the new beds at last, I went without the customary string lines and just spread flattened corrugated boxes where the mulch would go. I hoped the lined-up boxes would warn me if I were getting too far left or right. I seem to have wandered about anyway, but after fussing with it a little, pushing and pulling boxes and squinting up toward the house, I gave it up and let the chips fall where they may. As long as we can get down the paths with a wheelbarrow, we're good. And the plants won't care.

One of the many things we found in the blackberry patches, when we got here, is an antique three-tined hay fork, the handle of which had broken off near the end. We sawed off the break, sawed a broken pruner handle down to about five inches long, bored through it, tapped this onto the end of the fork handle and soaked the the fork in the creek for a week or so, eventually remembered we had done that, fished it out, dried the surface, oiled the handle, wire brushed the tines, and put it back into service. It's been the best fork on the place for fifteen years and outlasted two store-bought ones.

I've cut open the remaining round bales of hay and whenever I have time, walk a few forkfuls into the garden and drop them on the beds. We'd like to finish off the haystack, as the chickens love to play "queen of the mountain" there and it could conceivably come into their heads to fly over into the garden. Also, we want their pasture to double as a driveway for getting vehicles up to the barn.

The chickens are all over the place all the time, and love to window-shop whatever I'm doing. The ducks and geese have more of a discernible routine. Three times a day, led by the gander, they troop, as one, down into the haystack area and eat grass, honking and quacking excitedly. Then they waddle, single file, back up the hill, take a bath in their kiddie pools, and retire to a sunny part of the old pasture for a nap. When the nap's over, repeat.

Not such a bad life.
.

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