Friends in the garden

A little help in the garden is always a good thing. Sometimes, though, you need helpers who can dig and pull and mow and do other things besides eat bugs and hang out on the bean trellis. Not that such hanging out is not helpful in and of itself: when we first moved in to the property, it was like living in a house on the beach. All the topsoil had been scraped off and sold, there was no sod or attempt to  do anything with the white sandy stuff that was left, but at least they left some of the scrub/water oaks. There were also no critters: no lizards, frogs, dragonflies, spiders, squirrels, snakes, nothing.

To combat this poor ecosystem, the past four years have seen a ton of work go into making the place less like a desert and more like a homestead. Granted, it will be a long, long time before the ground is rehabilitated and amended enough to plant things directly in the ground on a wide basis – hence all the raised beds around here – but if there is one thing gardening on any scale will teach, it is patience. Today, we have all sorts of critters on the grounds, and found a great (albeit sad) result of all the work that went into making the homestead…homey: a giant orb weaver spider  had a dragonfly hung up in her web on the side of the house. And the little guy above, along with a lot of extended family members, hangs out waiting for the next snack.

But as I said, there are times when you need bigger help than this. We decided to redo a few things around the place. The first step was to dig out a four foot circle around both almond trees, about two inches deep, and replace that clay with compost and topsoil, with a layer of a pasture grass mix, alfalfa, and buckwheat. That’s a lot of soil to move (twice). It was a necessary task, though, as nothing is taking hold in the clay around the trees, and without anything in the surrounding area, the trees will not be very productive. Enter James, the grandson of a friend of the family, who wanted and needed to work at something while he attends night school and waits for his temporary IT contract to renew. I was assisting with the digout, but rapidly found after several minutes of banging away on the hard clay that a) that motion was traveling right into my face and making all that dental work from yesterday ache like hell and b) that said motion also made that same dental work start bleeding. So, he dug, I seeded the circles, and we both spread the compost and topsoil. A fair division of labor.

In the meantime, my mom was working along the fence in the front garden, and we joined her in that effort after completing the great dirt haulout. We had decided to revamp the garden areas a bit, because it looked a little unkempt with the grass growing up around the edges of the fence. The plan was to pull up the fence, roll back the edge of the plastic that had been put down as a base to solarize the grass we’d previously got going after moving in (when this garden was still in the back), and mow along the line. With that done, we started laying another line of plastic to extend slightly beyond where the fence will be, so we can mulch and edge that area to make it more presentable. The fence is up, the mowing is done, and half of the plastic is laid in place. That’s where we stopped for the day, after just over four hours of backbreaking work.

Tomorrow, we will pick up where we left off, although I’m hoping to get a bit of the refencing started this evening. The biggest concern I have is the stake hammering triggering another round of bleeding. When you don’t have a lot of spit, it’s difficult to keep your mouth clear. When the front garden is complete, we’ll do the same thing in the back garden. That should be a bit easier than the front, and even if it isn’t easier, it will be shorter work: there are only three sides to redo, as the fourth side butts up against the pool fence.

There are other projects we’ll be having James help with, as well: the house trim needs to be touched up, and I’m hoping to repaint the barn this fall (about three and a half years in the Florida sun takes a toll), among other things. My sister will be lending a hand, too. It’s our own microeconomy here on the ranch.

Work funnies: today, compliments from several of the handful of clients who have contacted us for something: “You’re great, I’m never leaving!”, “Your support is awesome.”, and so on. That makes up for the occasional person who thinks they need to be a complete ass for no particular reason.