Tag Archives: Homestead

Going green

In more ways than one. Followers of this homesteading saga probably recall that our soil, such as it is, mostly contains clay and on this lot in particular, sand. The sand is predominantly the result of this house being built after others were built; it was used as a dump site for fill dirt, excavated sand, and it’s rather remarkable the trash that continues to wash up as we receive rain here and there.

The problem with this of course is that beyond the scrub, the hardier weeds, and saw palmettos, which seem to thrive no matter what, it’s difficult to coax anything else from the ground. The guajillos loved it, the thyme I’d probably only be able to kill by setting it afire given its hardy nature, and the cowpeas (black eyed peas to those of you not from around here) were fine as well. The tomatoes couldn’t do much of anything, the bell peppers tried valiantly but only mustered two, and most of the seedlings just couldn’t hack it.

Getting grass to grow also proved to be a huge challenge: with nothing nutritious in the sand and the hardpack of the clay/sand combination making it virtually impossible for grass seed to take hold, it almost seemed that it would take many, many loads of topsoil for us to do anything with the barren front of the property. I’d rather spend the money for the topsoil to be put in the areas where we’ll be growing more productive things, really: four of the five loads we had trucked in went to the back, not only to give us something more to work with, but also, like the one load that went up front, to level out some of the hollow areas in order to give us better drainage.

That left us – or, rather, me – with the problem of the front of the property and getting grass in. It isn’t primarily to have a nice lawn. After all, if I thought no one would object too terribly much, I’d just as soon plant vegetables and fruit trees all around the front of the property. No, the primary reason to get something down out front is erosion. The wind here blows mainly from the plain…I mean, from the east to the west, and there is rarely a day with no wind. This results in the sandy part of the soil mix flying off, leaving only the hardpack. This further results in flooding, as the hardpack of course does not drain particularly well, as the older photos from our rain and tropical storms show. What is an aspiring farmer to do?

Lots of backbreaking breakup of the hardpack. Lots of organic additive to get something nutritious into the soil. Lots of grass mixes (fescues, perrenial ryes, bahia). And lots of hay, spread by hand after getting the seed down. This what it looks like on November 16. Some small patches of grass are there from the first attempt to just see what would grow with with seed put down and no other real work done beyond the addition of a bit of topsoil (not much).

Grass beginning

With a lot of other work, on December 2, it looked like this.

Grass, finally

And this is today.

More grass.

The edges of the area are places where no work has been done on getting grass down, as other work needs to be done first. The far area in the above image has a giant mass of blackberry bushes that need to be dug up and burned so they don’t reroot and come back. The pile near the left of the picture behind the tree is the debris, including saw palmettos, that Wade the tractor guy cleared out from these trees so we didn’t have to spend the time digging them out by hand. There is something to be said for doing that sort of work by hand, but there are also limits to the amount of time available when there is also a huge list of other property-related work that also needs to be done (and that is also much more fun, even if it is still hard work).

Planning for the harvest

“Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

We don’t have any chickens around here (yet), and wouldn’t be hatching any babies anyway, since we’re only interested in fresh eggs, so I suppose it would be better as “Don’t count your vegetables before they’re grown” for me.

Despite the rather horrible output of the garden in the sand that is the lot – the most prolific things were the guajillo pepper, putting out a bucket of peppers, the thyme and catnip, that survived floods then baking heat, and wonder of wonder, the onions, which thrived and even crowded one another – hope springs eternal. With that and some frames to create some raised beds where you can mix a good soil instead of trying to do anything with a sandlot, you can actually grow some things.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been trying to get outside to get some soil mixed for a frame to hold my garlic. Tomorrow – or today, as the case may be – will be the day, assuming that I manage to get any sleep at all this morning.

Heading into winter is also the time to be looking at seed catalogs, for spring planting. The way winter is going around here, it will be a little springlike for quite some time, but even if it isn’t, I have a plan. You’ll have to wait a day or so for details on that. In the interim, I’d like to blame, I mean thank, Steven for causing me to go to Seeds from Italy. Thanks to him, I now have all sorts of seeds ordered, some of which I plan to foist off on Stacy, as I can’t use five grams of carrot seed in this lifetime. I think. Unless I get a wild hair and decide to try and sell some of it. Those items will be in addition to all the things I’d like to get growing next season after this season’s stuff is harvested.