Well its been fits and starts around here. My ingenious plan for sheet mulching the entire 70 x 80 ft. garden space, upon doing the proper math of how much composted manure I would need delivered for it, proved too costly to do in one year’s time, even with the great rate of just $100 bucks per truck load of delivery.
So plan B has become doing 4 quadrants in the middle of the garden space with proper sheet mulching, and then I’ll till around the perimeter and plant the hardier things like beans and greens in that space. Then, each year, I can expand outward with the sheet mulching until the entire garden has been turned over and then we can more effectively work on being a true no-till operation.
Now, you may find yourself wondering, “why no tilling? Isn’t it easier to till? What’s wrong with tilling?” and the fact of the matter is that even a small, personal rototiller can be as bad for your soil as industrial agriculture sized tractor tilling of large acreage. The act of tilling, chopping as the blades do, actually hurts the soil’s microbiome. It disturbs the nutrient density that is already starting to form as nature intends for it to via worms and beetles and mycorrhiza of fungus etc… Disturbing the soil not only hurts the beneficial insect and bacterium population, it also creates a situation where soil is more apt to erode, dry out and blow away, contributing to topsoil loss (which is quickly becoming a global crisis). I could do a less invasive “till” method using a hand tool known as a Broad Fork, sometimes called a Potato Fork – it is on my list of must-have tools to acquire. However, when I actually go stand at the corner of the garden and see the entire space before me, and think of the clock ticking away, I surmise I would be a little too ambitious to assume we would be getting the space completely hand turned over in a timely fashion.
As it is, when I had the deliveryman come with the compost, I contacted my curmudgeon neighbor to ask permission to use the side gate entrance into our pasture that happens to come off of his driveway. He sounded like part of himself really wished to be a helpful neighbor and say yes, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to give a straight answer. It was instead a lot of excuses, all culminating over the concern he has for mud or dirt getting tracked onto his driveway. I planned the delivery dump to be on a dry day so it would likely not be an issue of mud, but the neighbor said “well that small patch of dirt between where the gate is and where my driveway begins, when his truck tires hit that, he may pick up some dirt right there and smear it on the driveway.” Clearly I wasn’t getting anywhere with the matter, so the delivery man tried to drive up the hill to the pasture right behind our house instead. His truck was too wide and his back tires spun out on all of the pine straw. I had no choice but have him just dump the whole load at our house’s level, in our parking pad space. Now James and I have to shovel it into rubbermaid totes, load it into our CRV, drive that up the hill, offload and dump the totes, and repeat – until the whole pile is gone. Its slow going to work up the motivation for that, especially after a busy work day or week. So when it comes time to get round 2 of the manure delivered I will offer to pay my neighbor, or offer to hose off his precious driveway, or whatever it takes to get the delivery through that side gate and up to the garden level for delivery!
I was going to follow the permaculture student’s design plan they made for us for the 4 quadrant mandala garden, but it wont work exactly as planned since I cant do the entire garden space the same way this year. It will be a modified system until at which point all of the garden bed space’s soil is equally amended and can better operate together into one unified design.
The area that will be tilled at least did have the cover crop of rye and wheat sewn, which is coming up nicely now that we’re steadily warming up outside. Plus wild radishes and creasy greens/wintercress are all over the garden, so tilling all of that into the soil will help it be a bit more nutrient dense. I still intend to lay as much cardboard and mulch down to create pathway areas for smothering out more weeds as much as possible.
Here’s is some amazing news… I applied for a simple, small grant back in January via an organization called A Well Fed World. I found out about them and their grant program via a woman I know who locally runs a non-profit farm animal rescue sanctuary. She said this particular grant did not require one to be an already established organization in order to be awarded the funds. I had applied but then had forgotten about it. Then I come home one day last week to find a check in the mail for us! Our first grant! I feel so official now. How amazing it was to open and envelope and see that! The only trouble now is, they made it out to Middle Way Forest Farm, and since we are not registered by that name in any way yet, we cannot cash or deposit the check until we go register a small business and open an account for it. It shouldnt take much to do so, and we’d need to do it at some point anyway, now its just a matter of having the time to run to our county’s offices to take care of all of that. Hopefully will be done within the next week or so, and then we’ll have funds to put up a small greenhouse with a water catchment system right next to the garden.
I must solve the watering woes of last year a.s.a.p. no later than May as far as I’m concerned. No more hauling buckets up hill.
My budding permaculturist friends and coworkers, Julienne and Jennifer, are going to be investing in helping me build some simple terraced beds near the house in order to plant some medicinal herbs come May or so. Specifically so we can get a side project up and going of utilizing said herbs to make herbal medicine, body care, incense and other such items that may help to be value-added product off the property, as well as get all of us working together on something we collectively love.
I feel like spring is happening faster this year. We had already been settling into our new home for a month by this time last year and it still seemed like we had just barely crawled out from under ice and snow. This past winter was considerably more mild, consequently the frogs, birds, crickets, and flowers are going crazy. Its like someone flipped a switch and they all popped out at once, flashy and loud, and wonderful. We will probably have more bug issues this year because of it, but maybe, hopefully, a longer and rainier growing season as well.