This past month we have done a lot of digging and planting. This seems to be a theme of spring for us as every other year here we have planted a lot of trees and this year is no different! Well, I suppose the difference is that this year we also planted our first garden here, thus making this our most digging-est year yet. Yes, our backs are sore but with all of our earth moving behind us, I have to say I am glad that we did it. Our home is feeling more home-like surrounded by cultivated green spaces and not just overgrown fields. And this year will hopefully be the first of many logging hours puttering in the soil around the house.
First things first, we borrowed a friend's rototiller to loosen up the soil in our plowed garden area, and Mike spent one hot and frustrating day pushing it around the garden patch. Once that was done, we set the posts for our perimeter fence (thanks to a work party of folks who helped us dig holes for it!) and stapled up wire fencing, leaving a few openings for gates to go in. Then came the work of actually shaping beds, which we had determined should be "raised" because we are working with such a wet, water-logged site. The advantage to putting in a garden lower down in our creek valley is that the soil in our garden seems really decent: it tends toward clay consistency, but a very dark brown-almost black color and full of earthworms (and now a few half earthworms... sorry guys).
Anyhow, that "raising" of beds took some muscle, for sure, and I especially got rather absorbed in the process of prepping beds and starting seeds in them. Gardening is a whole new frontier for me, despite almost a decade of fumbling attempts at trying to coax life out of containers and occasional small plots. There is such a lot to learn about soil fertility, plant timing, spacing, companion planting, diseases and pests and so on. I have spent much of my spare time in the past month with my nose to my large stack of library gardening books and I can tell this is going to take some time to get the hang of. What is most exciting is knowing that finally we are at a place where we can really invest time in improving our soil and that each year it will get better. That being said--low expectations for this year since this is the no-amendments-made starting point and what we have mostly planted this year are hand-me-down seedlings and starts from our neighbors (on the runty side, the seedlings not the neighbors). On the bright side, we have plenty of mulch material thanks to last year's extra straw, so hopefully that will give us a leg up on the weeds!
Okay, take a breath, because we are not done planting yet! The last frontier here has been the pond. We finally got around to ordering some aquatic plants for the edges of our pond, which will be critical to establishing a pond ecosystem. Our pond is full of water and has been for about a year, so we felt comfortable plugging in things like "sago pond weed" and "sweet flag" around the perimeter, to their preferred depths. They will be able to adjust up or down in the pond as they need with the slowly rising and lowering water level. In another year, once the plants are further established, we can add in small fish that will thrive in the reedy shallows and build up the food chain from there to the fish that hopefully one day we can catch and eat, like large-mouth bass! Until then, the frogs have the reign of the pond, and they are singing its praises every night.
Last but not least, our latest endeavor involved renting a mini-excavator for the day to dig a large pit for our house's water cistern. Mike did an amazing job maneuvering the awkward beast around to dig a cubic hole roughly 15 ft. long, 7 ft. deep and 10 ft. wide (maybe "cubic" is a bit generous for the final shape, but with a little honing, it will get there!) He then used the excavator to spread out and compact the soil to the east of the house, where we have always had a sloped hillside. Now we have something more like a level patio next to the house. He was also able to level out an access route to the house on the hillside behind it, effectively terracing it. With a little filling in of low spots by hand, it should all be ready to get wood chips and a small retaining wall built. Yes, it probably sounds like a lot of work that we are taking on, but with the help of the right machine for the day and a few gallons of gas investment, most of the work is done in short order. Building a cistern out of cinderblocks and concrete is going to be its own project for another day, but a very necessary one for us to have year-round water in our house.
In case you have gotten this far in the post and are wondering what is going on with the actual construction end of things, fear not, we are transitioning to that end of things as I write. I have our orders in for a front door, porch decking wood, and oh, about a thousand bags of cellulose insulation. If all goes well, the coming week will bring all the prep needed for insulation to happen, and then I am hoping that Mike's family and friends who will be visiting in a week will feel up for helping us get fluffy with the cellulose. Oh, and this coming week our piglet is arriving! Lots to stay tune for!