Tuesday, April 6, 2010

In the beginning there was detritus...

And it was good. Margo and her Mom are in the midst of it.

The past week and a half I have been reminded about the practical advice often given for starting any project: make sure you have read the instructions, and assemble all tools and supplies beforehand.
I usually ignore that advice, often to my own frustration. A project will take twice, maybe three times as long, or maybe not get finished at all.
This time, too, we have failed to heed it, but for different reasons than the usual. First, there are no instructions on how to execute your own unique garden desig
n on a unique piece of land in a unique stage of soil development. And second, some of the tools and supplies have not arrived yet or have not been chosen, and we still haven't figured out what some of them may be and where we will get them.

Let me give you an example of some of the difficulties we face. In order to plant our spring grains, which should go in asap, we need to flat them. But to flat them we need to build flats and make flat soil. But we don't have compost, and we haven't collected much bed soil because normally we'd do that while double digging, which is somewhat further down the list of current priorities. Once flatted they'll need some protection in flat covers or a cage, and a cold frame, which hasn't been built yet. Once they have made it to transplanting size the aforementioned bed preparation must be done, but in order to do that the corn stalks covering the garden must be pulled. Then the exact dimensions of the garden must be determined, calculations made, and beds marked out. But before planting, or very soon after, some kind of fencing needs to be established. Something around 8 feet high for deer and tight at the bottom for rabbits.
Then we'll have it made!

At different points we have looked at each other, with fatigue and stress, and reminded ourselves to have a good time. We are not only founding a garden, but setting the tone for our lifestyles in the coming years. If there is no productive reason to get antsy then we'd rather stay in a joyful and thankful state.

And we have made some great progress.

As of today we have 14 flats and a compost/bed-soil sifter built, we have marked out the bounds of the garden and the beds, and we have staked the fence corners (at right). Margo has planned out the flatting and planting schedule and garden rotation. We have continually been pulling flowering weeds, have pulled almost all of the corn stalks, and have begun a compost pile built of these two ingredients (at left). I would like to note here that the corn stalks are one of the blessings we have encountered. Remnants of the community garden that was cultivated in the same spot last year, they clear one of our big obstacles: what to do about a lack of mature compost material in our first spring.

Also worth noting is my desire to buy as little as possible. Friends have made generous contributions toward our startup costs, and we are interested in using those resources wisely and respectfully. There are things which must be bought, but there are also many things that can be created. Since we have plenty of time and relatively little money we will probably make a number of below-minimum-wage decisions in terms of dollar value per hour. We’ll find out how that goes for us, and put some posts up accordingly :)

Meanwhile, we have at least two other sets of friends creating brand-new gardens, one back in Willits and one on Orcas Island, so I think we're in great company.


  1. (Posting on behalf of Chelsea who keeps getting error messages every time she tries.)

    Margo & Dan!

    HEY, I miss you guyas!

    It's great to see how it's going!

    This is SO exciting!

    Congratulations on baby! - Margo you look so beautiful!

    And on getting the garden makin' progressing!

    I'm anxious to have my garden buddy here (Nikki!) so we can do more planning with our ideas and visions. The spot where we're going to put the garden is kinda lacking topsoil as it seems to have been all pushed up into this berm and grown over, in some spots is pure sand and in some spots it's pure grey clay, all big patchy like! And it's full of scotch broom (thank goodness for week wrenches!), which I thinking (like your corn stalks) is of good fortune, being legume and lots of biomass for making compost!

    I appreciate your reminder to have a good time - as I've gotten frustrated when looking at the whole picture, but it is such an exhilerating experience, these one time beginnings of making it our own!

    I'll be eager to hear how everything evolves!

    Thinking of you over there and sending all my best!

    Love ~Chelsea

  2. (On behalf of herself.)

    Chelsea and I look forward to rowing right alongside you in this new journey as we find ourselves in the same boat. Deer fencing, yes! Flats. Row covers. Rebar. Mini greenhouses. And let’s not forget soil. I can’t think about it all or I get overwhelmed.

    Instead, I think back to a moment I had in February when my mom and I were weeding. As the sun came out I peeled off layer after layer until I was down to my T-shirt and a burst of gratitude and love for life overcame me. This is the good life.

    We are all in great company, indeed.

  3. Margo: you look fantastic my dear!!! Hugs to you both. And I owe you a phone call! I must get on that right away.