Friday, March 12, 2010

False Starts and Overseeding.


The rain was coming in yesterday, so we switched our schedule to working outside in the morning and doing school in the afternoon.

We were going to dig out this French drain above the pool, but decided to wait until we get some rigid pipe. That will be necessary where the pipe extends into the lawn where we'll have to mow over it.

Instead we decided to overseed some grass into the horse pasture. Last year, with all the change in weather back to a more typical amount of rainfull for this area, our native grasses came back full force. It was thick and lush all summer long. We rejoiced at the carpet of bounty.

It looked like this in the horse pasture all spring and summer,

But by October 21, it had already gone into hibernation.

What we thought was going to be ample feed for the horses all winter turned out to be a greater loss than ever.

So I bought a huge bag of Kentucky 31 grass seed for the horse pasture, hoping to grow feed for the horses. We walked out and realized that there was no way seed would take on that ground, even with rain coming, without somehow scratching it up.

Michael came up with a great idea and began working on it.

He always looks forward to riding his bike around the place, from chore to chore, when the weather warms up.

I captured some shots of late winter flowers in the lawn.

And here is the nearly finished product. A small, simple, home made harrow.

Nails every inch, protruding about 1/2 inch out. And eye hooks for rope attachments.

Running rope through.


Ready to go!

We took off and, though the first few feet worked perfectly...

We soon discovered weaknesses in our plan. In our test area, it tended to rake debris and lift the nails too high, so that no scratching of the surface took place. Also, the rocks bent the little nails.

We decided to finish the testing down in the actual place we'd be using it. It worked better here, but the nails were obviously going to fail very rapidly.

It had already begun to rain and we'd gotten nothing done outside, for all our work and delaying of school.

We decided to at least get some grass in somewhere, until we could decide if we were going to build a harrow that would be much stronger and better suited for the job. So Michael mowed the lawn around the house very closely

while I began spreading seed in the hope of having a thicker, healthier lawn this year.

I've never been enamored with this spreader and, as usual, gave up on it and began spreading seed by hand. In the wind. In the rain. I love a challenge! We got half the lawn done before the rain was so bad we were dripping and seed was sticking to us all over.

This week has been exceptionally busy and we are losing two days at a Hunter Safety course, so we were really hoping to accomplish more by this time.

We did school and took off for Michael's men's group. We ladies stayed at another place and watched The Last Sin Eater, knitted, snacked and chatted. I really needed caffeine as I resembled more of a lump on the sofa than a perky conversationalist. Fell in bed last night after midnight again.




Thursday, March 11, 2010

French Drain, Planting Salad, Jamming.


After getting school work and household chores done yesterday, we went outside to do more work on the French drain we'd begun the other day. Leah had come over and helped us dig a ditch for it. Here we've laid the pipe in to see if we've got a decent slope for correct drainage.

Original French drains did not have pipe. They were simply channels, or ditches, dug out and filled with gravel or rock. Water seeks the lowest point, so you can seriously effect the amount of water in a given area by drawing it into the rock filled ditch that gradually slopes away, and takes the water with it. A pipe is not necessary, but adds length of time before the ditch becomes filled with earth and ineffective, due to erosion. The larger your drain, the longer it will take for it to fill with silt, so balance how much you want to dig out and fill with gravel to how soon you want the ditch to stop working.

Straight PVC pipe would have been better, I discovered after already purchasing and getting this good and dirty. The reason is that should it ever get clogged, a snake, not the animal kind but the drain clearing tool, can be used in a smooth walled pipe, but not in this corrugated pipe. Also, it's a little easier to choose your slope when your pipe holds a shape, rather than conforming to the ground.

Here is how the corrugated pipe fits together. The blue lines help you line them together visually so that the holes are all on the same side. When in the trough you've dug, the holes need to be on the top side.

At this point I got distracted by another chore that had to be done yesterday, as we were expecting rain. Michael went to get some tools and I began working in the herb garden area. I always hope that in winter, no weeds will grow, but I rediscovered that not to be true. The entire beds were covered in weeds. Not for the first time, I marveled at the amount and variety of plant growth that takes place, even in the dead of winter. I again wondered why we don't just eat that instead of purchasing greens in the market.

I know for myself it's that I do not know if it is all safe. Look at a few of these choices. This first one, if I remember correctly, is something I HAVE actually tried, but I'm not sure.

Michael cut back some of the dead growth from last year on the the taller herbs, like the basil and the fennel.

Many of my highly valued plant markers had been heaved out of the ground by the freezing and thawing of the earth all winter.

I found a new lavender plant. I have all sorts of beautiful pictures in my head about these.

Those images have not yet transferred to the actual plant bed, but I have high hopes.

A new rosemary plant.

The beds sure don't look like much right now.

And I could not resist this lemon thyme. You just push your face into the leaves and inhale... aaaaaaahhhhhh. I could not decide where to put it, so I just stuck it at the end of a row, deciding I'll move it later if I want to. I am burying my head in the sand concerning whether or not this is spreading, like regular thyme.... (Fingers in my ears, "la, la, la...")

Then we moved on to a ready made salad garden. I thought about all the effort we put into growing stuff from seed last year that did not amount to much, then I looked at the packs of 9 Red Sails lettuce for $3.50 and decided it was worth it. So we prepped a spot in the herb beds with hand tools, as our vegetable garden area is not ready for planting. We still plan on growing later plants from seed, but this will give us an early crop.

Moss intrigues me. But it was hand dug into the soil.

And we planted them in rows of three, about a foot apart.

And added in some Arugula, flat-leafed parsley, and curly-leafed parsley at the end.

And there is our early salad garden. So cool to have a head start on the weeds!

Back to the French drain. Michael was cleaning out the debris and spider webs from the pipe that had been laying outside since last summer.

We ran some water to check our slope.

It was pretty good, except at the end where I was dreading having a trench running across the entry of the greenhouse. But we had to dig it out. We can fill it will gravel, but this will always be a problem without spending a lot of money. The lesser of two evils if I do not want to struggle with a muddy floor inside the greenhouse during rain.

The landscape fabric we must wrap around the pipe to slow the entry of earth into the holes as it gradually sifts through the gravel over the years. We cut the 50 foot roll in half, long ways, to save money.

And then we had to tie the fabric with twine to hold it around the pipe, as it barely fit at that point. Once the gravel is on top, the decomposition of the twine won't matter.

And that's where we had to leave off and get ready to take Michael in early for worship music practice before our Bible study.

After our study, almost all the young people brought out instruments and jammed for an hour. Some are cut off out of the photo here. This is always fun and great practice.

Today, more French drain work and, I'm hoping, getting some grass seed in the ground.





I finally bit the bullet and am trying blueberries again. Blueberries were the very first crop I put on this land when I bought it 10 years ago. I managed to get 40 plants and nearly broke my back (and my will to live) trying to make them a success.

Five years and countless efforts and methods later, I finally gave up and let the last couple remaining die a slow death. None of them had really ever grown much. They got a few leaves and branches once in a while, then they'd lose more ground each year.

It was truly a horrifying experience, considering everyone I talked to said they were the easiest thing they'd ever grown. You just plop them in any old ground and they take off like a magic beanstalk and give you gallons of tasty blue antioxidants to enjoy for years to come.

They died and the soil mocked me, the foolish Westerner who thought she could grow a precious blueberry bush in the south. HA!

It's taken me this long to try it again. I found some at Lowe's. Pathetic little bare-root cuttings in sawdust for a whopping $6.99 each. It was better than the $10.00 they were asking for potted plants last year, so I got six of them. Three Bluecrop and three Earlyblue.

Do you see them in this photo? No. I didn't think so.

We decided to try a different location. The original place was in full sun and on a southern slope. I know they are best suited to have a little bit of shade in the hottest part of the day, but all the blueberry farms here have them in the sun and they seem to do just fine, so I don't know.

This is in a place that gets fewer hours of sunlight, though during the hottest part of the day it will still shine on them. It is also in a level, more fertile area. Only problem, it's in the horse pasture. That story gets quite complicated so I'll save it for another time.

Big tree that will shade them til about noon.

Dig six nice holes, three times the width of the pots, spaced wide enough apart that we can hopefully mow between them when fully grown.

Black Kow composted manure. Good stuff. I am concerned it might be much for the blueberries, but everything I've ever tried with them has failed before, so why worry about this?

Put some in the wheelbarrow.

Add dirt from the hole to a ration of 1/1.

Give your lats and delts a nice workout while mixing it up.

Looks great!

Grab a suspiciously light-weight container of future delectability.

What? That's all that's in there? Good thing I get a one year guarantee.

Try not to cry. Or laugh. I could see buying plants this small - for a dollar or two. But there are miracles in these roots!

Put the mixed dirt and compost back in.

And tuck that itty bitty little thing right in the center, making sure to give it several flags to signify it's presence in the world.

Repeat until you have to madly clean up, do chores, eat dinner, and run to town for a Constitution class.

A taste of what will be planted the next day.

Muscles pleasantly tired and ready for bed,