Hugelculture

It’s a funny word – I like to say it. Hoo-Gull-culture. And I love the concept even more. Hugelculture is the concept of using wood, particularly decaying wood, in the garden to boost productivity and reduce the need for irrigation. Well, here on Stonycroft the one thing we have lots of is rotting wood (and rocks, of course). I have a couple of stacks of rotting firewood at my easy disposal, and much more down in the woods if I had mechanical help getting it up here. I decided to try it on a small scale first, though, with two container gardens. I’d bought two “muck buckets” intended for children to keep toys in. They are about 3 feet tall and the same diameter. I picked out bright colors, to add a playful accent to the farmstand parking lot where I placed them. I had originally planned to drill holes in the bottom and fill them about half way with styrofoam peanuts, then with ProMix and compost, but couldn’t find peanuts, so I had the brilliant idea of the wood. I also opted not to drill holes in the bottom of them. I thought if the wood is to act as a sponge, they won’t need drainage. The roots of the plants will probably not go all the way to the bottoms of these tall planters. The wood I used is, I believe, apple wood that was stacked years ago next to the garage and never used. At this point it is spongy, some of it was coming apart in my hands as I moved it. And yes, it was wet. So an auspicious beginning for my low-irrgation planters. I planted one with annual flowers, and the other with herbs and edible flowers. I did water once so far, as the surface layer looked dry, and they will not have developed deep root systems yet. You can find out even more about it at Paul Wheaton’s site (http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/). He has as much fun with the word as I do. The concept seems to have originated with Sepp Holzer, a very interesting fellow who deserves a post all his own, some other day.

 

One of the planters half full of rotted wood.

 

Tagetes marigolds, lavender, basil and nasturtiums.

 

Fully planted and ready to grow.

Advertisements

Fast Food and Hard Labor

It’s been a busy day. I’d intended to make dinner and put it in the crockpot this morning and slept in instead, so I left for work without doing it. And then I found a craigslist offer of free railroad ties and set it up to pick them up after work. And finally, my other job asked me to come in this afternoon. So I left work in Concord at 1 pm, headed for the ties. Got there and someone else had beat me to them. Mumble, grumble, smile politely at the nice people and chat about the garden they are building. They tell me that they won’t take all of the ties, yay! After they leave I back in the truck (which I hate doing. I’ve only been driving for a year and backing up scares me silly) and pick the first one up. OOF… they must weigh about 120 pounds each. Getting myself and my work clothes (I had dressed casually, but not in grubbies) absolutely filthy and sweaty, I loaded a round dozen of the ties. My arms gave out then, and the poor truck had developed a definite down tilt to the back. I’m not sure what it is rated for, but I’m pretty sure I had a half a ton of timbers in there today. It’s almost 2 pm now. I hit the house at 2, I have to be at the library at 2:30. Wash hands, prep dinner. Fast food indeed – I have 20 minutes to execute dinner, wash, and complete a wardrobe change!

Venison Stew

1 1/2 lbs venison, cut into thumb sized cubes

3 tbsp fat

approx. 1 cup flour

2 large onions, rough chopped

4 carrots, rough chopped

8 oz sliced mushrooms (these were pre-sliced, and I would have added more if I’d had them in the frig)

2 tbsp chopped garlic (yes, pre-chopped thank goodness!)

7 potatoes cut into “spoon size” pieces. I determine how many potatoes by one for each person eating that night, plus one for the pot. I used Yukon Golds, as they were what I had on hand.

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper

1 1/2 cups red wine

6 cups water

salt and pepper

I browned the venison, once I’d cut it, in about 3 tbsp mixed butter and bacon grease (I didn’t have enough butter to hand, so I grabbed my container of bacon grease I always save and tossed that in, too.) I used more grease for this than I usually would because venison is so lean it would have scorched without it. As it was browning I threw in the one onion I’d chopped first, and then a scoop of flour, about a cup. While this was going on, I was chopping the vegies and throwing them with the wine and water into the crockpot, set on High (if you are going to cook this all day, set it on low). It was time to leave, so I scraped the meat, onions, and crispy goodness stuck to the bottom of the 14″ cast iron skillet I was using into the crockpot. I stirred, lidded, and ran for the door. Usually if you are cooking on High, this will take about 4-5 hours to finish. I’d managed it pulled together in 15 minutes. If I had had parsnips, and possibly fresh beets, I would have thrown them in there, too. I did toss in a couple of little tomatoes that were getting squishy in the vegie drawer.

After my work at the library was done – it’s not a long job, fortunately – I headed back to the house. Dinner already smelled divine. I grabbed the shovel and headed out with the bag of Bayberries in hand to plant. Decided I would use them to guild a couple more rocks in the pasture that hadn’t been marked with blueberries. After that, I planted the little figs, which are only a couple of inches tall. They went in a front flower bed for now. It’s on the south facing side of the house, which has a nice micro-climate. It warms up in the spring a good week early. While I was doing that I dressed the bed with mulch and built a brick border. Backed the truck (argh!) into the side yard to off load the timbers, which weighed even more the second time around. But I have enough for a nice start to my kitchen and herb garden now, and all it cost me was some hard labor.

Happenings on and Off the Farm

It’s been a while since I updated, because my attention was elsewhere. Life here goes on, chores have to be done and spring sweeps onward too quickly. But my father, the Farmer, went in to have a kidney removed this last week, and that held my attention much more than the farm. He won’t be home to the Farm for a while, he’s going to convalesce at his parent’s house, but in the meantime, life at the farm must go on. Yesterday I picked up the plants Dad and I had ordered a couple months ago, long before his diagnosis. We’d projected having the two of us to get them in the ground, so we got a little carried away. I planted eight fruit trees, peaches, apricots, and apples and one cherry yesterday as soon as I got home from the sale. They came bare-root and I knew those roots would dry out in the heat of a beautiful day like it was yesterday. Then Johann and I took the fifteen elderberry “twigs” out to the wettest swale in the pasture and put them in around the rocks down there. Dad and I plan to “Guild” the big rocks in our pasture (there are a lot of them – this is New Hampshire!) by planting berries on the south side and fruit or nut trees to the north side. This guild system will mark the rocks, and in a few years, produce useful results. But this swale is so wet that I can’t think of a tree that will be happy down there. We may just let it become a thicket of Elderberries.

Johann's sitting on one of the rocks we are marking.

Also that evening I planted the five lilacs and five rugosa roses up on the area around the house. They will fill in an area nicely behind one of my flowerbeds. I still have a couple hundred plants to put in, though! Sugar Maples, Balsam Fir, Bayberries, Blueberries, Strawberries, Figs, and Asparagus. It’ll be a busy week for all of us. I want to get a bunch of mulch, too, to keep my new babies from being overgrown.

The remainder of the plants waiting for homes.

Worms are our friends on the Farm!

While we were digging holes we found a lot of worms. Here on the farm, we love our worms. They are good to have in the soil, and Johann collects them and adds them to the greenhouse whenever he can. He used to put them in a bucket and called it his worm house, but his Grandpa persuaded him that the greenhouse could be his gigantic worm house, so now the little guy does some of Grandpa’s work for him by bringing them in it!

%d bloggers like this: