Concentration 2

A classic example of concentration this morning: Walked down to the Lost Dog for coffee a little later than usual, and as I made my way down the Washington Street alley, a man was putting out half a dozen huge plastic bags of leaves he’d raked up. All I have to do is get back down there before tomorrow morning and they are mine!  We have plenty of kitchen scraps (a regular form of the gooey "N" for compost) and planning to buy some hay (@ $7.00 a bale, planning but not buying) to use for our dry "C" source (4-5 parts dry C to 1 part gooey N is a good ratio) and now I don’t need to! This …

ShepherdConcentration 2

Concentrate! (Huxley’s Bird)

Concentrate! Concentrate! I mentioned some time ago that I consider most all gardening “un-natural” in the sense we are not “letting nature take its course,” but altering that course (the image that comes to mind is a young boy altering the course of rainwater in a suburban gutter). It doesn’t matter whether that influence is as subtle as favoring one plant over another (weeding and mulching would be two examples) or as brash as modern industrial farming; they are only two ends on a continuum of control. One of the systematic methods that spans the whole continuum (which the greenest back to the lander, and California’s Imperial Valley mega-farmer share) is the concentration of resources. Those of you who have …

ShepherdConcentrate! (Huxley’s Bird)

Protection, Control 1

I need to hold off on finishing the beds in the garden for a few days – and rain was forecast overnight –  so we covered the compost pile (bought in since this is a start-from-scratch operation) and the whole future garden area in black plastic to protect it. Not the most aesthetic thing in the world, but a real help in putting a rough area into garden. For one thing, this is a clay soil, and if it gets rained on it is going to be hard to dig out the paths (more on that process later). For another, the black-cap will warm the soil beneath and make whatever seeds or plant parts that remain sprout; without access to …

ShepherdProtection, Control 1

Greenhouse Gases

One of the principles of Gardening by Ear is relativism – Oh, God….here we go down the slippery slope – and that was first made clear to me through my pocket book (more properly my checkbook, but then that is one of the many ways we have changed since the times when most everybody was organic by default. Relativism in this sense means that operative reality is situational. (Those of you who have known me a long time know how I love philoso-babble the way that new-agers love psycho-babble!) The specific here that drives the general is the cost of heating a greenhouse…something that is going to be more and more obvious as these next few years and decades unfold. …

ShepherdGreenhouse Gases

Gardening By Ear 1

One of the most interesting aspects of gardening to me is how solutions to problems suggest themselves in the course of actually building the garden. Today was a classic example and will show, I expect, how finesse is probably the best verb to describe how a gardener, especially an organic gardener, one who “gardens by ear” (and eye and nose and hand!), coaxes a harvest from the ground he tends. Mike is coming tomorrow with the tractor, so I spent a couple of hours this afternoon on step one of the master plan: cutting the existing trees to waist height. I cut the trunks into chunks for this fall’s kindling (most are only 4-6 inches in diameter) and tossed them …

ShepherdGardening By Ear 1

Borrowing From The Past

The two main options I saw for myself in getting the garden ready to plant both involved something a little more substantial than a tiller or a Graveley: a tractor with bucket loader, brush hog, and tiller, given the plan and the schedule – spring waits for no man, at least not one with a plant to start providing year round food for the table by May 1st! Option one was to ask my friend (and CSA operator) Alan Balliet to rent his equipment. I knew it would be appropriate, since I sold it to him four years ago when I went out of the market gardening business and took my first day job in 20 years. It is a …

ShepherdBorrowing From The Past

The Plan(ting)

Knowing what I face in terms of the established plants, I’ve developed a plan to clear the space and get the beds ready for planting: Cut off the Ailanthus (and other trees) at waist height Bring in the tractor and loader, wrap a chain around the tree trunks and yank them out Roll off any downed obstructions (larger trunks from fallen trees) Brush hog the ivy and wineberries close to the ground Rototill the area Form the paths and planting beds Put up the fence After the roto-tilling it’s going to be hand work, including setting the fence posts. First I’ll shape the paths and planting beds, though, so I can work without the constriction of the fence. Then, the …

ShepherdThe Plan(ting)

Options Graveley Considered

The question of equipment. Oh, gaaawd…the question of equipment! <G> Anyone who has read my books will know I am prejudiced against infernal combustion in anything less than a commercial garden (and used whatever was necessary when I had to, though without enthusiasm). I was at an auction last Saturday (classic, cold and rainy event) and bought some hose, a digging bar, a metal cabinet…real regular down to earth stuff. They were also selling a fully rigged up John Deere mid-size with turf tires and the $5000 leaf vacuum attachment on the back, some weed whackers, hedge trimmers, blowers, and such. They also had an old fashioned, belt driven front tine roto-tiller, and a classic Graveley two wheel tractor with …

ShepherdOptions Graveley Considered