Gardening

Dad and I bought a contractor’s underlayment day before yesterday. 20’x100′ of black plastic, 6 mil thick. That was the foundation of my garden. Today I unrolled the plastic, realizing in the process that before today I had no concept of how long 100′ really is. I used the area the pigs have been “tractoring” as it’s $70 to rent a rototiller for the day and $350 to buy a used one. No budget for that, and I had this nicely turned and fertilized ground! Once I’d rolled out the full length of the plastic I cut 7 1/2′ off one long edge for Dad to use to line the troughs in the greenhouse. That leaves me with 12′ x 100′, approximately. I had gone beyond where the pigs were, so I cut about 20′ off the end, which I will put off to one side tomorrow, if I have enough soaker hose.

The intial roll-out and you can see where the pigs have been that I will cover in plastic for the garden.

The next step was to find, fix, and wrestle into place 250′ of soaker hose under the plastic. I’d had to stretch the plastic out to measure and cut it, but this step would have been a lot easier if I’d been able to do it before that. Between the plastic and the soaker, I will have to do minimal watering and weeding. The soaker hose is easy to cut with a shovel, and ours have been mended many times. I fixed one cut and mended a complete break in the hose with a connector.

Anchoring the edges was the hardest task. I couldn’t find enough large rocks to do the edges, which Dad thought I would. Kinda cool, actually, considering how much rock we have in places. Means this garden area will be easy to work. So to hold down the plastic I shoveled around the edge, putting a continuous layer of dirt on about 8” of the plastic. I did this for about 50’, using the rocks I had for the remaining 30’. This wasn’t easy…

Not much to show for all that work - it'll look different in a month or two!

I stopped and took a break a couple times while I was working, and drank liquid. I rarely sweat like that – dripping – but today I was a bit wobbly in the knees when done. I turned on the soaker hose and let it start while I went back to the house for the three sisters seeds.

I planted the north edge of the garden with Mammoth Sunflowers, pole beans, and sweet corn. I did drop in a few pumpkins, which I will have to watch since I don’t want them taking over the garden. The south edge, also where I had trenched to weight the edge of the plastic, I planted to shorter cutting sunflowers and bush beans (which are really old seed, 1996, it’ll be a miracle if any sprout). I plan to plant at least another 20×20 plot not under plastic to three sisters as well. Some of the seeds are really old, so I am heavily sowing. Corn will do all right, I think. Stored dry it will germinate after years. The beans, I don’t know, and the pumpkins that are more than about 3 years won’t germinate, I know from experience.

All that was from 6:00 am to 11:00 am. I can’t work in the heat, it makes me sick. So now I can get dinner in the crockpot (venison stew) and get ready for working at the library. Quiet time! Tonight when it’s cool again I will start setting out some of the starts from the greenhouse into the plastic. Not sure where I’m going to put carrots, that soil is pretty heavy.

Mica thought my bat girl belt was funny.

The little chokecherry tree just to the south of the garden is in full bloom - jelly later.

Planting trees

This week I have been planting a lot of things. Yesterday it was raining and I was hurting, so I didn’t do much. Dad and Uncle Mike came down and walked around the garden and farm with Mica and I. Uncle Mike hasn’t seen it in years, as he lives in Wisconsin and visits rarely. Dad had been gone a week, which seems like forever. He was moving a little slowly, but true to form, he wanted to open the beehives and check to see if the queens had gotten out. When you receive a shipment of bees, the queen is kept separately in a tiny cage plugged with candy. Normally it takes 3-4 days for the workers to release her. One of our hives hadn’t gotten the queen out, and it’s been a week. So Dad pried the mesh off one side of her prison and let her free. Now, I had gotten him his veil, but when he started moving beehives I jumped in to help, as he’s not supposed to lift. I got stung right on the upper lip, which made my eyes start to water up a storm. I retreated and got a veil. Bees don’t like being disturbed in the rain, even a light rain!

Christmases yet to come. Planted in an area tilled by the pigs.

I wanted to put some pictures up I took earlier this week, of the trees we were planting. It is soul satisfying to plant trees. They look like sticks now, but I can’t help picturing them when I’m an old lady, tall and stately. I may not be here in NH then, but they will be. The sugar maples won’t be tappable for 20-25 years. Johann will be all grown up and maybe with kids of his own when he taps them some spring. The Christmas trees will see us through all the kids growing up. We got 15 Balsam Fir, and plan to put in another 5 every year to keep our house and a few others in trees each holiday season.

Baby tree... All those rocks came out of the hole I dug for this tree.

The roots of the sugar maples were much bigger than the twigs on top. Pippa had fun helping water the trees and herself!

The pig tractor experiment has been working beautifully. We move the pigs every other day, and in 48 hours, they leave behind lovely turned ground we can plant in. We’ve been using field peas for cover crop and nitrogen fixer. I need to go buy some more seed, actually. The pigs get so excited when we move them they will leap about and frolic, which is funny to see. I don’t know what they are finding under the grass, but I know when we move them to a spot where there’s a rotted piece of wood or log that’s the first thing they go for, crunching it up with those strong jaws to get the grubs that live in the wood. We all like to lean on the fence and watch them work.

Happy pigs in new grass.

Pig Tractor

We have about an acre of land we’d like to regain from having gone fallow for almost ten years. And, this being New Hampshire, we have rocks. Lots of big, hidden rocks. So hiring a guy to come on in and till isn’t really an option. That, and we are veering toward a no-till, low-till version of farming as we gain a better understanding of the workings of the bacteria and fungus that inhabit our soil and promote healthy, strong crops. So to that end, we are using a pig tractor.

What’s a pig tractor? you ask. Well, it’s a portable pen that our three pigs are slowly moving about over that acre of ground in. As they are moved, a day or two at a time in place, they tear up the ground. We encourage them to root up bushes that have sprung up by hiding a little corn or peanuts in the ground around them. Pigs have amazing snouts, and they can tear up almost anything once they get going on it.

As they move, we are planting field peas as a cover crop, and once the pigs are done, we will turn under the peas and use them as compost to be able to plant our goal crop, a field full of barley. Dad wants to grow his own beer…

Pigs will follow their food anywhere!

The Pig Tractor results after only one day

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