Thursday, April 22, 2010

The First Transplant

As you can imagine, we have been reveling in firsts this Spring. Of course we have the first tick seen, first tick embedded, first chicken trying to eat our seedlings, first dog trampling our newly dug bed, and first blister. But there is the positive, too! First bed marked out and dug, first flatting, first visitors, and first purchase of exciting new tool.

And, certainly, our first transplanting. It has been intriguing to hear folks around here, when we would talk of our late start, say "Oh, yeah, well we don't usually get our garden in until around the end of April or later." In our experience, the garden is always "in". It may not seem as "in" when most everything is dead and the ground is frozen, so our feelings may change on that note. But the fact remains that it is always a garden, and we would have been working in it a month before now had we been here since February instead of off gallivanting on both coasts.
Back to the point: we have been itching to be in the garden, and we figured our most crucially timed crop would be spring grains. In pursuit of that end we flatted them first, along with our solanaceae. I dug while Margo got a start, then we both tucked in to get them done. We are now the proud guardians of 225 sq ft of spring grains: Pika, Musky, and Bamboo Curtain triticale, Schrene barley, and Hard Red Spring wheat. Soon our Kamut wheat will be up (assuming the mice don't get it - flat covers were not the priority they should have been) and heading into the soil.

We broadcast our grains into a flat, wait until they are up and around 2-3 inches tall, then transplant them on 5" centers - all 5 inches apart from their 6 neighbors. 225 sq ft of that is a big job early in the season, so we started at both ends and worked to the middle. That's what we're doing in this picture, Margo 8 months pregnant and baby wiggling all the way!

One of our big challenges right now is water. There is no electricity on site. There is open water a five minute walk away, but we would like something more accessible. Hmm... all of a sudden I feel like a real weenie.

Closer yet, there is an equipment shed with a vast roof and gutters with downspouts, and that is where I have fixed my eyes. We are really excited about a rainwater catchment workshop our local county soil and water conservation district is sponsoring, and we'll come out of that with some barrels and a clue. After that I'd love to figure out some kind of gravity-fed thing...

Today comes another first - potato planting! We got our stock this year from down the road, a huge local nursery operation. While we were tempted to order the organic ones in all manner of variety from Ronniger's in Colorado, we decided that postage would kick our butt. We'll save our own seed for next year.
Here's to months of dirty hands!


  1. I'm a friend of Knoll Bendsen who sent me the link to your site. I'm actually going to buy 8, I hope, barrels for rain collection. I have plans for most of them but may have a couple extra. If you want me to save 2 for you, let me know. They are just the barrels. I'll do the modifications myself.

    Just a thought as I'm kinda hoping to learn a lot from your blog. I've initiated a cooperative of urban growers in my neighborhood and this is my first year gardening. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I don't fail completely.

  2. Ooooo! Yes, I'd love a couple. How much are they? I have yet to tap into the supply here, but I have a lead. There is a Pepsi bottling plant in Dayton, and they get their stuff in the barrels. Once used, they aren't allowed to use them again, so they just put them outside.
    Apparently they won't tell you if you ask, and they won't call you to let you know they have some, but if you drive by and they are out back, they are yours. A little too dicey for me, since I'd imagine there are at least 10 people in the area more persistent than I am.
    But I hope to find a restaurant that I can tap into.
    We're crossing our fingers, too. One important thing I've found, though, is that you can often learn more from failure than success. Assuming you're paying attention, of course :)

  3. You might give this a try, too.

    I am going to see what I can do to find more barrels. I bought this guy out. They are a smallish company, so I don't know how often they will have more but I'm hoping to snag all that I can!

  4. What are you going to do about deer this season?

  5. Hoping they don't know we're there. Partly :)
    That's actually gotten us by as far as birds in our grains. Once they know we are doing it, say in a couple of years, we'll have to have some protection, I think.
    For deer, though, the folks who gardened there last year said they had trouble, so I had already planned on fencing. The short answer is fencing 8 ft tall, a kind of wire-and-stick hybrid. I'm planning a post on it when I get a little further, but now I have about half the fence posts up.
    I have actually considering hunting, though that isn't really a practical solution. Around here you can get out-of-season permits if they are causing you crop damage. But, like I said, to make a real dent you would have to kill a whole bunch of them, and I don't think my karma can take that :)
    Do you have deer on the island?

  6. There are loads of deer on the island. We saw them frolicking around the property during our short stay. I noticed that everyone with even the smallest garden had it fenced. Oh, and Cosmo had ticks on him every day. Arg. Willits revisited! I think we’ll need to do something for our four defenseless beds, but want to do it on the cheap. Too bad a scare crow wouldn’t work.

  7. Ok, I'm not sure what those beds look like or what's growing in them, but you could get some fence and bow it over the top (the wire stuff used for cattle). I have lots of ideas, but you will probably come up with something better for your own situation. But remember to post picture when you do!

  8. This is good. Thanks, Dan.

    (Nothing growing yet - I'll be hurrying to get things in once I arrive. We load the U-Haul today!)