Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Experiment updates

Garden- I’m not sure how to put it all to bed. I’ve sheet mulched in between the arms I cleared when I pulled out the black plastic. (I say “I”, but I had many people helping me.) I’m looking at my curved lines and thinking that I’ll try straight rows and beds next summer. So, for now, I’m either sheet mulching three-foot wide beds or turning some compost into three-foot wide beds. Then, I’m using clothing as sheet mulch in the places I intend for rows.

And what about all that sheet mulch? Well, I can really tell where there was mulch and where there was just some compost. The soil where there was sheet mulch is darker and full of worms. Things decomposed very thoroughly; I have found strands of thread attached to pockets. These would be all that’s left of pants and jeans I put in the garden. I guess those cotton pants have polyester thread and pockets. I will also say that I did not have to weed much in sheet mulched areas. I’ve been doing a final weeding as I clean out the beds, and the grass that spreads persistently under anything and everywhere has made an occasional foray into the garden, but it has not been able to establish itself and is easy to remove.

We have decided to have just one big garden next year, and that will be in the space to the north of the house. We’ll focus most of our gardening effort there and see what comes of it.

Even as I type that paragraph, I’m smiling. The thing is we should have a greenhouse ready for planting by the time we get the chickens out of it. And that will certainly be more garden space. And there is also the bed by the front door that did very well this year, and will most certainly be used again next year. I am thinking of making that more of a perennial bed, just as I plan to do in the bed behind the house. I keep thinking about grapes and whether we might be able to trellis them in such a way that they would shade the back of the house throughout the summer but let in light for the winter.

Maybe my perennial efforts should be on trees ad berries next year.

Speaking of berries, I really put the blueberries in a horrible place this year. It was the only place that had lush grass, so I thought they would like it. Well, guess what! Grass likes alkaline soil and blueberries have to have acidic soil. It must be the only alkaline soil on the place. So, come spring, I’ll be moving the surviving blueberries twenty to thirty feet east.

Hair washing and lotion- I think once a week is fine for hair washing if you plan on staying home, but if you want to wear your hair down or go to town, twice is a better choice. The soap is still working just fine. I’m pretty pleased with this experiment. Also, I’m the only one having any hair trouble; even the girls’ hair looks fine with less washing and no shampoo.

The humanure compost pile is not shrinking as fast as my reading suggested it would. That’s the thing about reading versus experience. I am making sure to get more nitrogen into the pile and that seems to be helping, but I’m not seeing how one pile could last a whole year. I’m either still getting the mix wrong or the writer I’ve trusted was overly optimistic. I will say there is no odor, so the mix can’t be too far off.

The pasture- We’ve moved our cow very persistently and we moved the chickens closely after her for most of the summer. Then we got tired and quit moving the chickens as much. We also realized that the chickens really do not like being moved. Our plan for next year is to have two groups of chickens, one behind the house and one up by the barn. The pasture already looks better in some places. In the really bad places, we’re waiting to see what spring brings. We still have the cow on pasture, but she is mostly eating hay. We might be able to move her through the pasture one more time before the snow prohibits it. The thing is that even though she’s not grazing, her poop is going where we need it. So, we distribute grass seed by haying her out in the field, and she deposits the fertilizer. Then, ideally, the chickens spread the fertilizer in their hunt for bug larvae.

Now to button up for winter.

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