This morning, the southern sky looks like a scene out Laputa, and the mountains, when we get peeks of them, are scintillating. I don’t get to use “scintillating” much, but if ever there were a time to pull it out of the word locker and put it on the field, this is it.
Looks like we had a good rain last night, which is much welcomed, as the five of us who live here full-time on the farm spent yesterday gardening.
First off: yes, we all kept our distance. That’s easy to do on 97 acres. And we’ve worked out and are abiding by farm rules for our self-imposed quarantine. But we’d kept talking about the community garden we wanted to plant – potatoes, onions and squash to winter over, and herbs and veggies to grab for day to day meals. And Logan had some trees that really needed to go in the ground soon. So we all penciled in 10 on Sunday morning to gather at the county-side corner and start poking at the ground.
By “poking” I meant giving it a solid twice-over with our trusty little Kioti’s rototiller. Of course, before we could do that, we needed to revive the rototiller. It had been sitting idle so long that it had sprouted its own little garden. But with Brendon taking the lead, we got it re-attached, re-lubed, re-tightened and spinning, making short work of the patch we’d marked out.
Now, Natembea is not founded on thick, loamy bottomland. This place was a cattle ranch for half a century, then spent the last couple of decades just letting the hay come up, cut and sold away. The soil itself has never gotten a lot of love. You can’t till 10 feet without hitting a few rocks the size of a baseball, and could easily fill a truck bed with the smaller shards and pebbles we churned up tilling the patch. Granted, there’s pretty good soil mixed in with those rocks, but it only goes down two feet before you hit concrete-grade hard pan. So it needs some love, but not more than we think we’re prepared to give it (mind you – these other four, plus bonus farmer Julia, have been farming much of their lives. Mostly I’m just tagging along, lifting rocks and putting them down where I’m told).
We’re tarping the biggest part of the patch for the summer, hoping to kill off the tilled grass and reduce competition for when things really get started next year. But we’ve got potatoes, pole beans and a bunch of other immediate gratification crops to put in the ground around the untarped sections to get us going. And Logan has donated seven “B-team” fruit trees (dwarf apple and European pears), to create the start of an outpost orchard.
Oh, and there are raspberries – I forgot to mention the raspberries. I think it was Blaise who donated the shoots. So we dug and planted, watered them in, then laid down cardboard (thanks, IKEA!), mucky goat hay and a deep layer of mulch over them.
We’re still shopping around for fencing – this close to the edge of the woods we’re going to need a perimeter of seven foot woven wire and steel or wood posts to keep out the onslaught of deer – so we’re hoping that the novelty of the tilled area and proximity the new house will keep them wary for just a bit longer. And as things dry out, there’ll be irrigation to set up, and weeds to start pulling. But for now, we’ve got the start of a community garden!