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…the world isn’t going to be saved by technology, I kept working on a couple more low-tech projects this week.
For some strange reason we hardly used the balcony for growing anything last year, which meant we had to go across the village every time we wanted a lettuce. Towards the end of the season someone I met on a permaculture course sent me a link to a pallet garden and I decided this was the answer to our narrow balcony. I scrounged a pallet from some people doing a house renovation, painted it liberally with wood preserver, and put this together.
The cardboard is to hold the soil back: the original plan says you should plant the pallet lying on the ground and then lift it up when the plants had grown a bit but I didn’t have space or patience for this. I’ll cut holes in the cardboard and push seedlings in as I go along.
The tomato plants were not part of the original plan, but you can never have too many tomatoes.
And while weeding the veg beds I found this mystery tree which I’m embarrassed to say I can’t identify. Does anyone know what it is?
This is the bottom end of the Very Smallholding, after I attacked it with a scythe. If you look very, very carefully (or click on the picture for a bigger version) you can see the effects of the scything to the left hand side. When my arms can lift the scythe again I’ll try and hack a way to the base of those trees up the hill: letting all that fruit go to rot is just silly.
Because of all the trees this part of the garden is far more pleasant than the terrace on hot days, so this year I’d like to cover the cleared area so the brambles don’t get out again, so the space down here remains open and usable as a picnic area or something.
It would be even better if we could clear just a few of those brambles off the hill, and make raked seating and a small performance space, using the area I’ve already cleared as a stage.
Of course for that to happen I really need to put steps on the hill, unless I want guests to slide down it, and I should probably get myself into gear making a decent on-site privvy.
Still, it’s a nice idea.
On the top of the hill, the vegetable garden is growing : the early potatoes have taken over the middle bed and the main crop has broken through the leaf mulch.
(see previous post to compare this to last month)
The pumpkins are beginning to grow. Slowly. Perhaps they need some coffee. Slug trap in the background.
On the main bed the seeds are growing well, if anonymously. (When labelling plants, use a waterproof pen). Notice highly artistic arangements of seed rows.
That’s definitely a bramble which I’m pretty sure wasn’t here yesterday. At least it’s the weekend, so I’ve lots of time to hoe the beds and work through the never ending jobs list.
Or maybe sit in the shade dreaming of Amphitheatres.
It’s the slug hunting season, which means that I’m cycling over to the Very Smallholding every evening. This is fine when the sun is shining and the birds are singing but I’m less enthusiastic about it when the rain is coming down at a rate that would have put Noah off, as it was last week.
Last year the slugs found our tiny veg patch and demolished the only three Kohl-Rabi which managed to survive my ham-fisted gardening. On the first night of this season we lost three pumpkins in the Cow Poo beds (I offer no prizes for guessing why they are thus named). We tried putting cylinders of plastic around the plants but these were Special Ops slugs: they bypassed our defences by going under mulch and following the stems up above ground.
We fed the slug remains to the slow worms in the garden and for a couple of weeks an uneasy peace reigned with a couple of slugs a night falling into the traps, only one courgette getting chomped and a yeasty smell pervading the garden, but last night I discovered a skeletal potato plant far from the original incursions, and three very fat slugs, still on the leaves. These were quickly ejected and emergency extra slug traps laid. I’m taking salt tonight…
Any other ideas for repelling slugs?
The last few weeks we’ve had some fairly exciting storms with features like thunder, hail and horizontal snow. Sometimes at the same time. The wind kept us awake one night by rattling the watering can the length of the balcony until it clunked into the wooden railing, waiting until we’d gone to sleep, then rattling it back again. Most of the planters on the balcony seemed to survive but I knew the garden would be a different matter, so after
avoiding it for a few days waiting for the weather to improve I went to see what havoc had been wrought.
There was less than I thought: it turns out that stacking very, very long pieces of wood against a rickety privvy isn’t a great idea in high winds, and that weighing cardboard mulch at the corners because I was too lazy to move the rest of the cow poo down just means that the rain soaks it then the wind shreds it and deposits it in the next garden, and large empty compost bins are surprisingly good at catching wind, but apart from that -and some wretched cat thinking that our garden is its personal toilet- all was well. As an extra bonus the rain had washed the vegetation from the path I cleared in summer leaving what looks like pure clay, which is good news for the cob building workshops, even if it does mean crampons are required to get to the bottom of the hill…
I stacked the wood again and put bricks on anything that might move in high winds, although as we’d had storms off and on for a week it was a bit late, but never mind: gardening is a learning process and I’ve now learned that ‘severe weather warning’ means what it says, and that anything loose should be weighted down straight away and not at some theoretical future date.
Still doesn’t deal with the cat problem though. I’ll experiment with bramble branches to deter them (at lest I have plenty of bramble branches to spare, do you think there’s a market for them?) If that doesn’t work, maybe I could borrow the neighbours Doberman…
Yesterday afternoon I was helping Eldest Son with his homework, when I was reminded that I had an important appointment, as in: now. As this was the culmination of several weeks telephoning people, emailing, and chasing up contacts, I wasn’t about to let it slip by so after five frantic minutes finding gardening (ie: ‘filthy’) clothes, work boots and gloves I legged it out to my friend who was waiting in his 4×4 with trailer.
The reason for all this activity?
Such is the way my life has turned out.
With seventy cows the local farm wasn’t about to suddenly experience a Bovine Excrement Deficit, but it seemed polite to go and check before reversing a trailer up to the pile and loading up. Ringing the bell at the farmhouse got the expected lack of response, but after wandering about for a bit I met an elderly family member. Unfortunately he spoke a very strong version of the local dialect, and was was deaf so we spent several minutes failing to communicate while the farm geese tried to provide translation and encouragement by honking.
I gave up and wandered around to the farm yard where I discovered it had all been unnecessary as there was a queue. A spotless Volkswagen was standing by the muck, and the owner was delicately scooping winter compost into the tiny trailer. As the pile was bigger than the car we figured there was no rush.
When Clean Volkwagen Driver left, we filled the bottom of our trailer with sawdust and then covered this with as much cow produce as we could, which proved surprisingly difficult, cow manure seems to achieve great density when dropped from a crane. We wiggled our way through the lanes to the Very Smallholding, and I offloaded the trailer while my friend drove to the end of the track and made a 37 point turn to get back. On arrival he remarked that the trailer load of manure didn’t look that much now it was on the ground, and I jokingly asked if he wanted to go again. His response of ”Well, we’ve got more sawdust and the trailer needs cleaning anyway” elevated him to a Hero of the Very Smallholding, and we went and got another load.
I now have a parking space full of very smelly stuff, which is possibly the best anti parking deterrent known to man, and now all I have to do is shift the whole lot down the steps and over the the future vegetable beds, in buckets.
And to think some people go out at weekends.
Autumn turned up last week: one weekend I was in a T-shirt and sweating profusely when I cut a couple of planks for steps, and suddenly all the trees are dropping leaves and its time to turn off the water supply in the Garden (Any ideas how to keep the water on over winter without the pipes freezing?)
And then there were the monsters:
Something has been investigating my veg beds. If it was a mouse they’re getting ambitious, and there aren’t many rabbits in this area, so my money is on a Fox. This will be a challenge if chicken-keeping plans come to fruition, but there’s no fox scat or anything about, so it remains a mystery.
On the other side of the beds I found more monsters in the form of wild mushrooms which I’d pick but I have no idea what they are and I don’t want to spend the next week talking to pink Llamas*. If anyone can identify them please let me know.
The Brambles are still intent on world domination. Unfortunately yours truly neglected two important parts of Operation Bramble Elimination which was to dig the tap roots up first, and put soil over the cardboard so it lies flat instead of dropping strategic bricks and hoping for the best.
I’ve decided the reason Tap Roots are called this is because they’re the same diameter as a water main and almost as deep. I gained several several monsters like these, but they were hideous and wouldn’t fit on the paving slab for a photo so I threw them on the fire before they could fight back. And then, not wanting to share the darkening garden with unknown digging creatures and out sized mutant bramble roots, I went home quickly making sure I locked the gate behind me.
*Although if this drivel is even more incoherent in future entries, you’ll know why.
When we took over the garden I was already muttering about running workshops there, partly to help pay for what we wanted to do, partly to get to know people within the local networks. This wasn’t possible at first because when we moved in the place was full of asbestos, and it doesn’t look good if you hold a workshop in a garden littered with a health hazard, so first that had to go, and then the shed had to be cleared so that we could do useful things. Like get inside.
Now the shed is cleared, and most of the Asbestos at ground level is gone. There is the small matter of the shed roof but that’s keeping the shed and its contents mostly dry so it’s geting a reprieve. We are also lacking important items like a loo, but I’m almost ready with that and to get me to move a bit faster we’ve decided to organise a cob building workshop as the 28th to the 30th of May 2012.
We’ll be hosting a workshop in cob building by Bernhard Gruber from Austria, who taught on my Permaculture Design Course, and we’ll be trying to build a cob oven as our first project. This is a simple oven that reuses the heat from one fire up to three times: first you put the fire in the oven and heat it up, then you use the heat in the clay to make things like Pizza, then you can put normal bread in to heat slowly, and finally you can use the residual heat to dry out fruit.
The goal is that everyone who comes is able to go home knowing how to build with cob, and able to make their own cob oven at home. If we get enough people on the workshop, we may go wild and try a rocket stove, but we have other pressing needs as well, so it would depend on the size of the group.
On the off chance that someone wants to come and join in, the boring but important details are:
Cost: €60 a day for tuition. (€180 total, 10% discount if you book and pay by Dec 31st)
This doesn’t include food or somewhere to stay: we’ll provide food and ask for what it costs us, and we are working on a place for people to unroll sleeping bags if you can’t find somewhere else to stay.
Course length: 3 days (From 10:00 on Monday the 29th to about 16:00 on Wednesday the 30th.) There will hopefully be an extra evening event with information on permaculture or Bernhards work in Tanzania on Tuesday.
Other details on request, but I don’t want to bore everyone more than I usually do. Please contact me through the form in the sidebar.
More of the usual entries next week, probably involing me panicking that I’ve got too much to do before the workshop begins.
BTW If any German speakers want to come, and would like a discount, I could do with some help making translations…
Für alle, die das Bauen eines eigenen Brotbackofens interessiert und die es selbst zu Hause ausprobieren wollen.
Seit Urzeiten versucht der Mensch sich das Feuer nutzbar zu machen, es geht primär nicht nur darum die Wärmequelle zu entfachen, sondern auch Energie zu sparen und zu speichern. Dieses System versuchen wir mit einem einfachen und sehr praktischen Brotbackofen aus Lehm zu veranschaulichen. Der Ofen kann mehrfach verwendet werden, mit der kurz anhaltenden Hitze am Anfang kann man Pizzen backen, anschließend schiebt man Brot ein, welches eine lang anhaltende, kontinuierliche Wärme braucht. Die Restwärme nützt man noch zum Trocknen von Früchten. Einen solchen Brotbackofen kann man verschieden bauen, mit einem Geflecht aus Weiden, das mit einem Lehm-Sand-Stroh-Gemisch überzogen wird. Einfacher hingegen ist es, eine Form aus feinem Sand zu bilden und diese mit dem Lehm-Sand-Stroh-Gemisch zu überziehen, wobei der Sand nach Fertigstellung (Trocknung des Ofens)heraus geräumt wird. Je nach Gruppengröße kann neben dem Brotbackofen noch ein so genannter „Rocketstove“, zum Kochen mit dünnem Astwerk errichtet werden.
Bernhard Gruber lebt in Neuhofen an der Krems, ist aufgewachsen auf einer Kleinstlandwirtschaft in Wels, welche seit Anfang der 90er Jahre nach den Prinzipien der Permakultur bewirtschaftet wird: Er erhielt im Juli 2005 das internationale Permakultur-Zertifikat am Ökozentrum von Klosterneustift, Vahrn / Südtirol
Bernhard Gruber unterstützt beratend und planend Schulprojekte, Interkulturelle Gärten, Gemeinschaftsgärten, Hausgärten, Biolandbau, Projekte im Bereich der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit, Talente-Tauschkreise und Projekte um Frithjof Bergmanns „Neue Arbeit“.
€ 60,00 pro tag ungefördert (€180 für alle drei tagen, und einen 10% Frühbucher rabatt wann sie bis Dezember 31ste voll bezahlen)
Termine und Ort:
Montag 28.05.2012- Mittwoch 30.05.2012
genauer Kursort wird bekannt gegeben
Spätestens 14 Tage vor dem jeweiligen Kursbeginn
Maximale TeilnehmerInnenzahl: 20
Kontakt durch der kommentare oder korschtal[@]gmail.com
So now I had a load of pallets in the garden, I could build the compost bin, except that the space for the compost bin had vanished.
I’d cleared a way through this thicket in summer and even excavated a compost bin sized shelf in the depths. With my usual brilliance I did this just before going to Japan for five weeks of prime bramble growing season.
By the time I got back, it was Brambles: 1, Guy with sycthe: 0
So last week the war on brambles was resumed with a vengeance. Now we have a way to the compost bin site, and after some digging about in the depths of the jungle, I even found some paving slabs to make it marginally less treacherous and discourage the brambles a bit.
At some point when I’ve finished the first compost bin, and I’ve got the vegetable beds prepared for next year, and built the privvy, I’ll make the ground under the slabs flat so they don’t wobble, and maybe even cut some steps.
There are a couple of other exciting developments coming along that may result in a lot more progress, and a lot of extra visitors. I’ll say more when things are a bit more certain…