Friday, April 10, 2009

Nothing Much to Say for Myself Lately

It is so obviously springtime here. Even though I've been fairly busy outside, I feel like I have nothing to report. Evidently I'm not alone. Half my blog reading list has gone stealth in the last couple of weeks.

We're still working on hauling away the debris from cutting down three evergreen trees a few weeks ago. Surprising how fast the bed of the beater pickup truck gets full. Plus my husband ripped out a fair sized stand of forsythia to make more room for things that will feed us. All that had to be hauled away as well. Now we're sort of debating which berry to put in that spot. The soil looks none too great.

The comfrey is up and starting to grow rather quickly, and the one I moved under the apple tree last fall seems just fine. The oregano and thyme evidently made it through the winter, because they are putting out tentative green leaves. What's more surprising, and therefore more exciting, is that the ramps we transplanted last year are coming up. We were sure they hadn't made it. The leaves keeled over and apparently died shortly after transplant. Even the even spacing and location of the leaves didn't convince me. I had to break one off and sniff it. No question that stuff is in the garlic-onion family! So now we have a few ramps poking up. I've never eaten them before, and there are only 8 or 9 of them out there. So fill me in, please. Should I let them just do their thing this year so that there will be more to harvest next year?

Our seed potatoes arrived, and I've started them chitting (pre-sprouting) in a dark, moderately warm spot inside. Also our two cherry and two pear trees, along with our asparagus roots. We don't have the raised beds built yet, don't even have the materials for the beds. So typical of us. This was something I had hoped to get to before the plants showed up. The weekend after this one I have to go pick up my four blueberry bushes from the Extension Office sale.

On top of everything else, the weather has been crazy. It snowed on Wednesday this week when it was 42 F outside. I know; I didn't think that was possible either. But it is. I had to look it up, but it can happen, and it did. About 10 days ago we had hail large enough to destroy the glass on my coldframe. The plan was to do some chipping last Saturday, but it was so windy that the chips simply blew away when they came out of the chipper. And then there's been the odd 63 F day sprinkled in there among all the cold and gray ones. The temperature has fallen below freezing overnight a few times, but never on the nights that it was predicted to. I like spring, but the mercurial weather (no pun intended), I could do without. Since we have clay soil, all the rain we've had is making it very difficult to get an opening to plant. Planting trees (or anything really) in clay soil that's wet is a Bad Idea. The soil gets all compacted and loses what little microbial life was in there.

We've been modifying the design of our chicken coop, a project that has been moving at an agonizingly slow pace. Part of this - but only part of this - delay can be chalked up to the weather again. It was either too cold or too rainy for quite a stretch of time to do any priming or painting. The painting is nearly done now, but we have a much more serious design issue to overcome. I plan to blather on about my mobile coop and pen in a lengthy post, TK. In related but sad news, we heard one of our hens died while at winter camp. I was sort of prepared for this, so I'm not too upset. At least we didn't have to kill her, and she wasn't killed by a predator. Just dead one morning. We'll see how the others are doing just as soon as we get our act together with the chicken digs.

We discovered a huge cement slab in the process of extending our garden. What fun! Too big to move, and right where the potatoes were supposed to occupy long, uncrowded rows so different from last year. Nothing to do about it, couldn't find the bottom of the slab even two feet down. It was going nowhere. I attempted to do a little biochar trial by filling the space all around it with twigs and stuff. You know, for carbon sequestration and soil improvement. Bloody weather once again - the wood was all pretty damp. I'm going to file that one under "nice idea if you happen to have a lot of seasoned twigs lying around."

What else? Oh, yes. I bought some durable row cover and have set out some lettuces. As soon as the cover went up about a thousand volunteer seedlings popped up. I would have ripped them out, or some of them anyway, but they were more or less in areas where the ground cherry volunteered last year. In case you're curious, I'm pretty sure we had "clammy" ground cherries, Physalis heterophylla, and no, that doesn't refer to the texture of the fruit. It refers to the slightly sticky stems. I'm about 80% convinced that that's what these are, so I'm leaving them for now. I have a spot in mind for them where they'll be able to grow year after year, under our new fruit trees. Turns out, the plant will form a rhizome and regrow from that. So, a little more time and we'll know for sure whether that's what we've got.

My garden is probably at its ugliest in early spring.

I pushed my luck again today and planted out a few leeks and shallots. I will probably need to cover them. I just couldn't stand looking at a mostly empty garden anymore, plus I'm running out of room inside for seedlings. By this time last year, I had harvested a small pile of baby Tuscan kale leaves. This year, with a cooler spring, the surviving kale plants are just barely starting to green up.

Other than yardwork, I've been spending my time madly researching forest gardening after watching this amazing video. I don't know why permaculture or forest gardening didn't interest me when I first heard about it. But it's got my full attention now. Which means tons of reading and pondering, and inter-library loan requests of course.

I keep hoping that one of these years we're going to have a spring that isn't insanely busy, one where I don't feel like I'm behind schedule all the time. Just once, I'd like that. Next year, if my husband still has a job, I'm going to lobby for two weeks' vacation in April.

That's all I got.


Emily@remodelingthislife said...

Your photos are gorgeous! I love your garden.

I didn't post anything for like 6 days, which for me, is a huge record. I just had nothing to say.

LizBeth said...

I enjoyed your post today. I can sympathize with you over the concrete slab. For us it was a kennel that was built to last. It would have cost too much to get a backhoe in to take up the border they poured under the fence, so we gave up and left it. Filling it with soil for a raised bed and planting alfalfa and soy beans for green matter to compost. We are not blessed with an abundance of trees. What leaves we do have the wind blows away; never quits! Enjoying the video. Oh, new things to learn. Peace, Liz

Garden Pheenix said...

Ooooh Thanks for the link to the video!! I watched one the other day on sustainable farming and forest gardens and was completely entranced. I was going to link you, but they have taken it down apparently.

Quick question. I have clay like soil too at my place and just gave up and made raised beds. When ye turn over the garden in the clay like areas, how did ye improve the soil?


ceridwen said...

Thanks for that video - I'll be watching that for interest. No chance of a food forest here chez ceridwen - with my tiny little yard - but I can dream.

el said...

Goodness, you've sounded awfully busy for someone who says not much has been going on :)

Ramps: I love them. You might want to harvest only 1 or 2 and let the rest do their thing: if I am not mistaken they divide from below a la garlic so next year might be a better year for a harvest. Now that you know what they look like though you can go foraging for them.

And indubitably those are ground cherry seedlings: they and tomatillos are in the category of "plant them once then never again." Glad to hear though that you've got more season extension plans cooking! It only makes sense.

Now, go order that wood for those raised beds! Spring is here.

Kate said...

Thanks, Emily. I just take a lot of photos and hope one or two of them turn out.

LizBeth, thanks. I'm glad you're enjoying the video. It's a lot to digest, isn't it? It took me two days to watch all of it, because I kept pausing it to take notes.

Sav, I'm pretty sure I saw the one you're referring to. A BBC show, yes? As for amending clay soil, I'm looking into that. With trees there seems to be a concern that you not dig too deep a hole in the process of working the soil, lest the tree settle too far below grade. The only thing I can tell is mature compost or well rotted manure, cover crops nearby, and keep adding mulch and organic matter all around over the years. I plan to work the soil gently beyond the holes I dig for the trees with a broadfork. Handy tool that. Are ye a Scottish lassie?

ceridwen, I like your name. Enjoy the video, good manure for your dreams.

El, I never said that not much has been going on! Goodness, no. Only that I haven't had much to say for myself. Thanks so much for the positive id on the ground cherries, and the info on the ramps. I will leave them this year, except maybe for a leaf here and there. The woman who gave them to us last year has offered some more too. So I'll put this year's transplants in another spot. More for the years to come! We may take the plunge and buy that plastic manufactured lumber, which lasts "forever." With a plant like asparagus that's going to live for 20 years or more, I don't know what the alternatives would be. Spendy though.

Jeri said...

How are your worms doing, Kate? I finally got some a couple weeks ago. Talk about slow motion!

We have used the plastic wood on a few projects. It sure is great to build it and forget it.

Kate said...

Jeri, my worms seem to be okay. I don't really know how to tell a happy worm from an indifferent worm. Perhaps there isn't much difference. I started out with a very small number of worms, so I can't feed them too much at one time. It is a slow process, but that's okay with me really. I forget about them for a few days at a time, feel guilty and rush to check on them, and then find that everything seems to be fine as far as I can tell. Maybe as the population grows I'll have to be more on top of things, and feed them more often.

Thanks for the feedback on the plastic lumber. We'll probably buy it today, and I know it's going to be expensive. But as you say - build it and forget about it.