I left off, quite a long time ago, talking about how the soil at my place was close to worthless. Clay and rocks and very acidic. Far from what I will need to be able to grow a years worth of food for a family of four. It is getting to be quite a lot of food these days too, the little ones eat like big ones these days. It would be a quick easy solution to have truck loads of top quality, organic soil brought out and nicely placed into each garden bed. I am quite far from rich so this solution, while it would work, is just not a solution. Next solution, for us less than rich folk, is to make my own compost.
I have quite a few garden beds that need to be prepared. Most of them, as I mentioned before, have rotting logs and sticks already piled up, rotting away. Some of the beds are even nicely lined raised beds, but they are still basically just big sticks that haven’t rotted yet. I need to get the decomposition process to start speeding up or I will never have garden beds. Adding leaves to the beds will help to keep the logs wet and get them to start rotting away, so I spent two whole days collecting leaves from all over the property to start piling up on the beds. Thankfully, the leaves are nice and dry and light right now. We have been in a drought all summer and it has been pretty devastating to many this year, but the leaves were dry and easy to carry. On a more cheerful note, the day after I hauled all the leaves it started raining. And it rained and rained and rained. Perfect timing for my garden beds.
I just want to point out one little thing, maybe flex my muscles just a little bit. I carried each and every leaf across the property to the garden beds by hand. Many of the leaves I was able to wrap up in tarps and throw over my
shoulder, but the good leaf gathering spot wasn’t so simple. The clearest spot to easily rake leaves is at the bottom of the hill in the “driveway” near the road. I rigged up my wagon with some chicken wire and started filling. I then pulled the wagon loads up the hill (with the kids telling me they were helping but I think I was likely dragging them up the hill too) and dumped them into all the beds. I did the most important beds first, but I still have so many more beds I can do…
The beds that are in the process of composting away will take some time to be ready for spring. I am hoping that I started early enough in the fall, and that we got enough rain so that the beds will be looking good by spring. However, I will likely need some topsoil to put in some places in order to get the plants to grow well. I have a large compost pile that I will be using for that. I set up the fence in two pieces so that I can eventually have one side that opens for the finished compost and one side that is
open to add more ingredients. I started with a heaping pile of leaves and added all of our food scraps. This includes tons of eggshells, some coffee grounds, smashed pumpkins, and every bit of scrap we have been dumping in our small compost bin for the past few months. I should mix this pile up once a week or so and continue adding leaves and food scraps until the pile is completely covered in snow. Continuing to mix and add keeps the pile hot (when a pile of scraps compost, they actually do get hot as the decomposition process is working) and it will be much further along in the process come spring. As soon as the thaw comes, I will start mixing it up again. I can’t wait to get out the pitch fork, I’m pretty sure the pitch fork is my favorite tool.
I do my best to keep the kids as involved in my projects as their attention spans allow for. They learned that grass is part of compost by watching “Curious George” and so my poor daughter was quite distraught that we didn’t have any grass to add. We had to go to great lengths to get a handful of grass to add so that the compost would actually be compost. We also found ferns that I explained would work just as well as grass, but we still needed grass. I also find that the occasional shenanigan helps the children, and even the man, get involved in the gardening. Hence the pumpkin smashing.
The only other thing that I really wish I had was some manure for the beds. Or even in the compost pile. Even a little bit. I have a few different places I could potentially get free manure from, I just haven’t figured out how to get it. I have a car trailer that fits on my Outback, but I’m not sure that would be a good idea on these hills around here with a full load. I would need both a clutch and breaks after that project. I keep toying with the idea of filling a few buckets here and there. We are also hoping we can afford an old truck sometime in the near future. I’ll have to keep scheming.