Archive for April 2009

April 23rd, 2009

Changing of the Gard’

It was hard, tearing up one of our healthiest patches of lawn, but that’s how it goes when you’re planning a sizeable garden. I’ve wanted to try my hand at gardening for many years now, and this is the first spring that I’ve had my own plot of land on which to do it. The terrain in the backyard is basically ideal. Flat and free of obstacles, with lots of exposure to the sun. There’s only one small, minor attribute our landscape possess that could present a teeny-tiny, miniscule, little problem. This would be a type of soil that isn’t well-suited to growing plants. As is the case with just about every home in central North Carolina, our lot was laid out on top of a giant slab of red clay.

I took this issue to my organic vegetable growing class. Yes, determined to not half-ass this thing, I am taking an organic vegetable growing class through the NC community college system. It’s been a great experience for many reasons. We meet on the instructor’s farm and talk in detail about how he plants and harvests and deals with the weather — I’ve been visiting relatives’ farms all my life yet I had no sense for how one is run until now. We go over the more eco-friendly alternatives to “mainstream” gardening practices like using commercial fertilizer and pesticides. Also I’m taking it with my friends JonScott and Rob, so I get to do some male-bonding with those dudes as we tip-toe into the fields and nurturingly place delicate seedlings in the ground alongside 15 middle-aged women. Oh, and we all get to bring our personal gardening quandaries in and completely derail whatever our lesson for the day was supposed to be by bombarding the teacher with questions.

Asking what one would do about dense, sienna-like substrate was my first step towards soil-improvement. My second step was to follow the teacher’s advice (and test my truck’s suspension) by filling my truckbed with composted horse manure at his farm and carting it home. Thirdly, I spent some time staring at my mound of horse shit and then at the 200-square-foot area in the yard that I figured got the most sun. Finally, I faced-up to what I had to do and started “double-digging.”

I’m not sure that double-digging is a particularly well-known or widely-practiced technique. I don’t know of anyone else who’s tried it and our teacher has yet to mention it in our class. I was slightly nervous about doing it because double-digging takes a significant investment labor-wise and it uses a crap-load of, well, crap. Going through it all and not getting significantly positive results would be, as we say in the gardening world, “super lame.” I took the plunge because, from the moment I discovered this process in a gardening book that JonScott let me borrow, it made too much sense to ignore. Dig trenches a foot down in your garden area, one at a time, loosen the soil at the bottom of the trench another foot down, add a two-to-three inch layer of manure, and cover said trench with the soil you produce upon digging the next trench. You’ve got your adding of organic matter, your softening, and your aerating. Can you look me in the eye and tell me that’s not serious soil-fortification…? Didn’t think so.

So after 14 sweat-drenched hours (spread over two days) and a few helpers popping in and out, my garden was double-dug. I tossed my last shovel-full of clay, which incidentally felt equal in weight to an engine block, onto the last trench late Saturday afternoon.

Kevin — whose contributions to the work-time conversation consisted of “(shovel shovel shovel)…why don’t we just go get the tiller and run it over this?…(pause)…(shovel shovel shovel)…why aren’t we just running the tiller over all this again?…(shovel shovel shovel)” — then had his time to shine as we threw the remainder of the horse manure on top of the disheveled heap and tilled it up. By nightfall I had the five 3×10′ beds I’d been planning.

I wish there were time to get a soil test (which our state’s extension office does for free), but the wait time is several weeks at this point and it’s planting weather right now.

The crops I’ll be growing, any day now will be:

  • Sweet Peppers (transplanted)
  • Hot Peppers (transplanted)
  • Tomatoes (transplanted)
  • Lima Beans (from seed)
  • Pole Beans (from seed)
  • Summer Squash (from seed)
  • Sweet Corn (from seed)
  • Cucumbers (from seed)

Yep, it’s time to get going! Just as soon as I get something to stick in the ground! I bought certified-organic seeds online two weeks ago and just found out that they are all on back-order. I’ve since sucked it up and put in an emergency order with a place that I’ve heard good things about that doesn’t carry organic stuff, thus eliminating what I like to call the “damn hippy dreadlocked Whole Foods people who buy up everything factor.”

First gardening lesson learned the hard way? Reserve those seeds early.

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April 13th, 2009

And the Cat’s in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon….

Lilly turned one-year-old today! Approximately anyway. We got Lilly on June 13th, 2007 2008 and when we took her for a check-up at the vet a few days later they figured she was about two months old.

Here’s a picture of Lilly from just before we took her home:

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And here’s a picture of her today:

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Somebody got a special dallop of peanut butter after this picture was taken!

(It was Steph. That woman loves her treats.)

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April 6th, 2009

Piantastic Voyage

Never mind that I have no idea how to play the piano, beyond banging out chords on it, this weekend we took one off of Craigslist and added it to our household. I feel it really classes up the joint:

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Also, I like that I look like I know what I’m doing in this photo.

Anyway, this brings the list of large miscellaneous items I have hauled home in the truck to a perfectly manageable four (1-used christmas trees, 2-discarded secretary desk, 3-slightly damaged solar panels, 4-Baldwin spinet piano).

And we were worried about me getting what is basically junk storage on wheels!

I, for one, am impressed with my restraint.

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