Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I did dig through the patch of baby weeds and pulled out everything I possibly could - LOTS of roots came out and it looks like the weeds are pretty well destroyed. More plastic is down over more weeds and I'll be going through that whole process again soon. It seems like the part I dug up had something besides clay soil in it, I'm guessing that it's manure from the faint smell. I think I'll leave that part alone but farther down there's obviously only the clay so I'll put some compost on that after digging out the weeds.

I also got the rain barrel set up, but there's been no rain (!) for about 3 weeks now. I'm looking forward to seeing how well it works and how much rain I'll be able to collect. It's set up by the back of the house under the gutter that only drains a small part of the roof so I definitely won't be overwhelmed by too much water.

I seem to be really bad at taking 'before' photos. I'll try to remember that for the next round.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Inching along

Yes, the backyard is still there. It's been pretty cool and rainy lately, right up until last week when we were hit with a scorching heat wave of 85 or so. Needless to say, the weeds are doing fabulously. I just pulled my 5x5 sheet of black plastic off of the place it's been for the last 2 months (maybe more?) and, while most of the area looks pretty dead, there are a few baby weeds already poking their heads up. I plan to single-dig that area and cover it up again by the end of the week. I hate the thought of spending $90-ish dollars on a giant box of black plastic, but that may be the only answer to getting this garden going sooner rather than later.

I do have the glimmerings of a garden plan and if we stay in this house (which we plan to, but there's another story there) I know what is going to go where. Which is major progress. The problem is buying fence material, PVC pipe, greenhouse sheeting, rebar, stepping stones...the funds are really not there right now, so maybe doing this - and paying for it - one step at a time is a good idea in the long run.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The amazing rolling chicken machine

Due to a peculiar series of circumstances starting with me attending a "Chickens 101" class at the local food co-op last Monday and ending with me realizing that the person I was emailing was someone who I already knew from the YMCA, we ended up in the backyard of yet another person's house today, looking at their portable chicken coop. 3 women got together about a year ago and decided to have a chicken share: they built the coop and the pen next to it and designed both of them to be easily moved. The pen breaks down into pieces that will fit into the back of a truck and the coop...rolls. Down the street. Preferably at night when the chickens are asleep and don't know that anything's going on.

Each person gets the coop for a few months at a time and the others come over for eggs and to throw vegetable scraps to the birds. They even have a smaller pen so that neighbors can borrow a chicken or two for garden or yard maintenance now and then. There are 5 regular hens and a game hen that was found running through the neighborhood a few months ago.

The ramp at the left side goes up into the coop.

Nesting boxes are at the bottom front and the panel on the side comes off to make it easy to clean everything out. Sadly, we are about a mile away from this arrangement or I'd be petitioning to let us in on the deal. It's just too far (and across 2 busy streets) to wheel this thing. But...what a great solution!

Sunday, January 17, 2010


This is our damp little backyard, in which one day a garden will reside. I'm planning to start on the left side of the photo along the fence and go from there. I don't actually have measurements yet but I think I can get at least 400 sq. ft. in there if not more. The extent of the gardening depends, of course, on how long we will be in this house; the entire plan involves both the front and back yards and will take at least 5 years. This photo was taken facing south and the tree is a pear tree. (UPDATE: I measured the back yard and I can fit at least five 25 x 4 ft. beds if I'm careful with the spacing.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Biointensive Principles: Seed Propagation

All seeds are started in flats, so that you can choose the strongest seedlings to transplant and so that the crops that are already growing in the beds have a few more weeks to mature before the new seedlings are put in. These are half flats, which are easier to carry that the full flats.

The little tool in Ed's right hand is called a widger: you use it to lever the seedling out of the first flat...

...and then you use it again in the new flat to open up a space in the soil for the seedling. It's not difficult but it does take some practice.

A full flat. These can weigh quite a bit when they're full of wet dirt!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Biointensive Principles: Composting

More Ecology Action workshop photos from the composting class.

Start with about 4 ft. x 4 ft. of soil that has been loosened a bit, down to 12 inches if possible. They also recommend a layer of thicker sticks/branches on the bottom of the pile to help with drainage and air circulation.

A layer of dried, mature (i.e., carbon-rich) material.

Each layer gets watered after it's put down.

A layer of green, immature material.

More water.

And, a layer of soil. Repeat until the pile is about 3 or 4 ft. high, stick a compost thermometer in it, keep it moist but not soggy, and turn it in a few weeks. Then it sits around until it's ready for use. It's a slower, colder method, as opposed to the black plastic compost tumblers that heat everything up quickly and make compost in a month or so, but this way keeps the beneficial soil microbes that thrive at lower temperatures happy and healthy.