Thursday, August 23, 2012

Making Plans, Homestead Maintenance

The garden just isn’t big enough.  I'd like to grow more okra and tomatoes but don't have the room without losing something else.  There’s no more suitable space for beds in the yard that gets adequate sunlight.  That leaves the area north of the beds that slopes down to the pond.  The builder scraped most of the topsoil off this area to build the pond, and to this day the ground doesn’t have a good stand of vegetation established. 

Is there a place on the downslope to the pond to add more space?  This spring I planted two apple trees north of the beds on the slope toward the pond.  It seemed that a wall on the downslope side could hold back enough soil to make a decent garden bed.  I walked around thinking about the sun angle and settled on a wall line about ten feet northwest of the line between the two apple trees.  Sure the trees will eventually shade out the beds, but that’s a few years away.  

The terrace wall is made from two 16 foot 2x4’s and wood stakes.  I may add another 2x4 to make the wall a little higher.  The center stake was set on the upslope side of the wall to give the terrace a slight bow.  I’ll build a sheet mulch and add in some dirt to build the bed up.  I made a sheet mulch several years ago to build a bed and was amazed at how well it worked.   

I plan to alternate potatoes and winter squash in this bed.  Neither plant needs especially fine soil, and I don’t need to access the plants frequently, just make sure they are healthy until ready to harvest.  Next spring I’ll put potatoes in this bed and squash in the trapezoidal bed, which is too wide to access well.  The following year they can trade places.  Then I can finally plant more tomatoes, okra, brussells sprouts in the space that is freed up.
We finally got enough rain to green up the grass and get it growing again.  This was the first time it was mowed since June.  I had decided earlier to cut the diagonal of the rectangle in the yard, leaving one triangle for the brush cutter and keeping the closer triangle at regular mowing height.  The high cut area can join the buffer area near the woods.  The tall grass is in the shade most of the day and will be a perfect place for rabbits or chickens if I go that route.  In this picture you can see the triangle that was left for the brush cutter. 
Who needs all that lawn?  I’m trying to get away from the suburban mentality of keeping vast expanses of manicured grass.  If the only time I physically place myself on the lawn is when I cut it then it’s nothing more than a vanity piece.  Makes me think of the old joke about suburbia – “big lawns, small minds.” 
The pond has really taken a beating in this drought.  It’s dropped about four feet below the overflow and exposed some large stumps that I’d prefer not to see.  I think it’s about half its normal size.  It’s also exposed hundreds of fish fry near the shore that the larger fish are hunting aggresively, and making a lot of ruckus when they do.
Since the pond is low it was time to cut the willows on the levee.  I wanted to do this last fall but the pond was atypically up to the overflow at that time due to some heavy rains.  Willows grow incredibly fast and some of them were two inches thick and ten feet high.  This was a job for a chain saw.  Down they came, leaving a bare looking levee.  I’m hoping that the cattails will establish themselves on more of the shoreline as the willows are removed.  At least they’re gone for another year. 
I also cut back the blackberry and rose thickets on the other side of the levee.  Now that’s a nasty job.  There was a tulip poplar and an ailanthus sapling on the banks right in the brambles and both had to come down.  I had to first cut through the blackberry canes just to get to them, then found that the ailanthus was trying to fall the wrong way and bring down the blackberry canes over my escape route.  I guess that’s the down side of having a pond – it’s a lot of work.

1 comment:

kitsapFG said...

It really does look good after the rain and some maintenance work on your part. I had to laugh about the lawn though, as my dad used to do that with his property... in fact he kept expanding the area he mowed such that the lawn kept growing each year until it was starting to resemble a golf course around their house! The new retaining wall bed should be a great addition to your growing options. Looking forward to seeing it in production in the years to come.

Post a Comment