Over the weekend, with Joel's and Mike's help, I tilled most of the back garden, removed a whole lot of rocks, laid out the first beds and started spreading the composted horse manure.
So I'm now committed to the following layout, which you can see schematically represented below. Three sets of 3 pairs of beds. Each bed is 30" by 15', with a 12" path between them. Between each pair and each set is a 36" path. The idea is that 30" is small enough to straddle, and 36" is wide enough for a wheelbarrow. Each bed has a path next to it that is wide enough for a wheelbarrow or wagon and will thus be easily accessible for planting and harvesting.
Total square footage of vegetable planting beds will be a bit over 700, not including the front garden.
I bought and planted four trees at the nursery on Friday. One peach, one apple, and two fruit salad. Oh, but what is a fruit salad tree?
On the left in the first pic, is a peach tree. But look closely at the leaves and you'll see three different types. It is a peach tree trunk, with two different types of peaches and one type of apricot grafted on. It also has a nectarine branch and a plum branch, but they look pretty much dead so I'm not expecting anything from them. So one tree, three different types of fruit.
The fruit salad tree in the second image is the one on the right. Cherries. Three different types that will have consecutive harvests.
Now we just wait two years and we'll be swimming in fruit. In all likelihood, we'll be moving in 2-1/2 years and we won't see these grow to full maturity. Planting these is really for experience and for fun, so when we move into something a bit more permanent I'll have the experience to plant a real orchard.
Major effort on the canning front this weekend. Mostly late at night. Got the recipe from my mom: 1/4 cup sugar, fill with pears, then with water, and put in huge canning pot for 35 minutes. Total haul was 12 quarts, plus a whole bunch of dehydrated pears. Pretty good for the first attempt. (Thanks to Camie for the pic, and big thanks to both Mike and Camie for helping with the work.)
If you look closely in this photo, you will see three different piles. Closest to the camera is the aged horse manure, purchased a couple weeks ago and wheelbarrowed to its current location. Next is THE compost pile. We've been following this one closely. It's still hot - I haven't measured the exact temp recently, but I have felt it with my hand, and it is uncomfortable to touch. The newest one is the farthest away, against the back retaining wall.
This new one was built this past weekend as I leveled the back garden area. I created it out of extra cinder blocks of varying sizes that I found around our lot and in our basement over the past several months. This is going to be a long-term compost pile, probably maturing in a year or more, consisting of yard and garden debris and kitchen scraps. We have only just started implementing a system for getting kitchen scraps out to the compost pile, and that will provide a large part of the fodder for this pile. Yard and garden debris will also be added, but we won't have too much of these until next year.
Please note the rock pile in the corner. It will continue to grow as I double-dig the vegetable beds (more on this later). Also, take a look at the pear tree - the prolific and productive pear tree, now with no pears. Thanks to Mike for harvesting. I'm guessing we have about 50 pounds worth, ready to be canned or dehydrated this week as they ripen. I guess it's time to learn about canning.
This past weekend was my birthday, and my son's. I took two days off of work, and spent the first of those two days finishing the driveway digout. The rest of the weekend was spent playing in the mountains and on the golf course, and working the garden soil. The following two photos were take from roughly the same spot - standing against the back fence and shooting towards the house. This first one was taken after I tore down the shed - a few weeks ago:
And here it is on Sunday night: I started laying out the vegetable beds - a very exciting time. You can see them in the picture above, bordered by some tree branches. Actually, I'm not totally set on my layout, so it will probably change. After fueling up at The Village Inn as a final activity with our family this weekend, I used the cultivator to till the soil. It was all lumpy-bumpy and uneven, so I smoothed it out, making it as level as I could before my arms and daylight wore out.
You may recall from this post that we had plans for a tractor to come last weekend to dig out the driveway. It snowed, and the tractor man did not want to come. So I bought a sledgehammer. This is a picture from about a week ago.
I used that sledgehammer until I couldn't stand straight and my shoulder was in constant pain. Then, with Terry (the homeless man who walked by as I was working and offered his services) I loaded the broken asphalt into my neighbors trailer and hauled it off to the dump. Terry even scored a couple of beat up, broken bikes at the dump for free, and left them on our front porch until they disappeared at some point on Monday. Getting rid of the driveway in this way was definitely cheaper than hiring someone on a tractor to take care of it, but my body has had to pay the price. Here is the "after" shot:
And one more, a close-up of the driveway. The plan is to work this soil a bit, then plant grass over the majority of it.
As mentioned in a previous post, I didn't have much hope for these peas. In fact, I had dismissed them as finished once the snow hit. But they are doing terrific. They are quite short, which I am guessing is a function of the decreased amount of light available at this point in the season. I assumed that once the weather turned, it would kill any blossoms and pods on the vine. I was wrong. There are quite a few pods. My big mistake with these: I planted regular peas - I should have planted snap peas, which, I believe, take less time to mature. I've eaten a few of these pods, and while the taste is quite good, the texture is pretty stringy.
So I'm amending my former statement. I may end up trying fall peas next year, after all.
Last weekend, we had our first spell of snow. Just a few inches over a couple days, and it melted soon after it fell.
I have toyed around with the idea of putting up a shelter over the fall garden, but I just let it be during the storm to see how it would do.
I'm glad to say that it held up quite well. All of the veggies were chosen for the fall garden based on their resilience to cold weather. In fact, they are thriving quite nicely with the nice weather this week. Here are a couple of photos from today. In this next one, you can see the new lettuce plants, directly seeded on September 20.
Finally, here are the newest carrots and onions, also planted on September 20th, about one month ago. They are growing slowly but steadily.
Of course, any of you who would like to join are welcome to, even if you don't live in the Avenues. I'll be making a sign to put out in our front yard, and I'll print some flyers to put out by the sign. I'm even considering going door to door, if necessary.
I tore down the shed yesterday evening, in preparation for tomorrow's activities.
It is now stacked not-so-neatly in our front lawn, waiting until I have the dump trailer tomorrow.
Here is a never-before-seen view of the house and backyard. The shed would have been in the way before. On the agenda for tomorrow: tear up and haul away asphalt driveway, rototill the entire backyard (grass areas included, if possible), spread 8 yards of horse manure compost in the backyard. This is not the compost that I am brewing right now. It's some stuff I'm purchasing from a horse boarding business in Sandy for $65 delivered! It cost me that much for gas and car washing to get the 2 or 3 yards of goat manure last week. Horse manure is a bit of a gamble because it is known to have more grass seed in it (horses don't have 5 stomachs like cows and can't digest as many seeds). This compost, however, has been brewing for about 6 months, and I'm hoping that it got hot enough to kill any of the seeds, or at least most of them.
The weekend could be another major step in getting the backyard done. With the help of neighbor Fred, a man is coming with a tractor to tear up our useless driveway and till the backyard. Depends on the weather. Hopefully it won't snow until later in the day on Saturday, or at least just be a light snow so we can still work. In preparation, I harvested the last of the veggies from the garden planted a week after we moved in.
In case you didn't notice this tiny little eggplant, I took another photo of it: Another shot showing off the different colors of the harvest:
The fall garden will have its first test this weekend, when the temperatures are supposed to dip and snow is in the forecast. Everything is still going strong at this point. The new seeds I planted a few weeks ago germinated quite nicely and are doing well. We've been hitting the kale and swiss chard fairly frequently, and even cooked up some of the broccoli greens when I thinned them out. Here's a shot of the entire bed:
The major question mark in my mind as I planted this bed was how these peas would do. It has been interesting to watch them grow. They didn't climb very high, which I assume is due to the decreased light and temperature as the fall progresses. I have a feeling they are pretty much done at this point. We'll see what happens this weekend. But I am glad to see that there are a few peas: This is the only one I have harvested so far. It was delicious! I'm a bit skeptical that the peas in the fall are worth the extra effort because there are so many other veggies that are hitting their peak at that time. I may try again next year. We'll see.
I don't really have a choice. If I want to do what I'm saying - growing most or all of our produce - I've got to extend the growing season, and I need a place to stage it all. So a greenhouse is a must. I found plans for this one online, and it looks pretty good. I like the design with the clerestory windows up top. And it seems simple enough to build in one day (I know...famous last words.)
At about 80 s.f., this one's pretty small, but should be enough room for what I need. I'll build shelves on the south side to hold trays of seedlings, and will have a bench on the north side as a work area.
I know the three or four of you who read this blog might be getting sick of compost pile posts, but too bad, here's another one. We've had a lot of rain over the past couple days - it basically started right after I turned the pile over on Friday and hasn't stopped since. So I was anxious to see how the pile faired.
It did quite well. The temperature read 125 degrees, but I only measured one spot and it was pretty superficial - so I'm sure it's hotter on the inside. You have to either look really close or imagine it, but there is steam coming out of the disturbed compost:
I also took a few shots of the peppers - it's nice to see something green on the blog again. First up is the habanero. No, I haven't eaten any of these. I did give my neighbor one, and I'll take his word for it that they are very hot. These started turning orange a couple weeks ago:
Yesterday I decided it was time to turn the pile. The temperature was dropping just a bit - average of about 130 degrees over several places in the pile. Plus, I was just anxious to turn it over and see what I would get. Here is a before picture:
A close up after I knocked down one side: After I finished turning the entire pile: And one shot after just beginning the process: Overall I feel pretty encouraged by the process. I think I'll have some pretty nice compost in a couple weeks.
The planning process is ongoing. I'm thinking about building a greenhouse (I don't know how I can avoid it, actually) and I checked out soil block makers online tonight. Lots to think (and write) about.
I know it's the same picture as I posted on Monday, but the pile still looks the same as it did then and I'm too lazy to take and then post a new pic.
But I did measure the internal temperature: 140 degrees! Excellent (try to channel Mr. Burns while you say it in your mind). It should stay that hot for a few more days (I'll be checking it) and as it cools down to about 100 degrees, I'll turn the pile over and repeat the cycle.