Homestead Diary March 11th, 2016Posted: March 11, 2016
I started this week by ordering a couple of expensive but hopefully one-time tool purchases. The first is a Meadow Creature broadfork. Broadforks are a manual cultivation tool that loosens and aerates soil for improved tilth without inverting any of the soil layers. It’s recommended by many practicioners and this particular brand of broadfork is the only model I know of that’s strong enough to stand up to clay and hardpan.
I also ordered a spading fork from Lee Valley that should help when harvesting root crops and also for turning compost and cleaning up animal bedding. Lee Valley is a vendor that comes well recommended and has an unconditional guarantee on the tools they sell. The fork was only about $20 more including shipping than big box store forks, and about $50 cheaper than the model Johnny’s Seeds sells, so I’m hoping it indeed works out. I received it on Wednesday and it already proved quite useful for one chore and seems very solidly built.
The weather for much of this week was warm (short sleeves by 9AM!) with some rain. There’s a dead patch of grass on my off-site garden my zucchini shaded out that I seeded last fall but I decided to throw some more seed down for better germination chance. In my own lawn there’s a number of muddy, thin spots that I overseeded with NZ white clover. I haven’t finalized the bed designs yet, so I may have created an inadvertent weed problem for my future self but I didn’t sow clover in any of the spots I knew for sure I was installing a bed.
I picked up another load of lumber over the past weekend. The layout of the main yard has ended up a little different than I’d intended because of how out-of-square the sidewalks are in relation to each other but I like the way it’s coming together. I’ll have to come up with a creative solution for one side that maximizes growing area but still gives me a secure anchor for the rabbit fence. I’m thinking of using corrugated steel roofing panels tucked up against the sidewalk.
I’d estimate I have about half of the beds for this year done at this point. The saver in me is freaking out that I’m over budget for the year already but we have the money. Getting as much of the infrastructure here in order will allow me to then consider searching for a third site next year. The whole point of striving for financial independence is spending on what your true priorities are. The Alchemist and I talked and she’s okay with me going over budget if it makes a difference in the overall function.
Another large expenditure I’m considering is having a sizable amount of aged and screened composted manure delivered. I can get 12 cuyd delivered for ~$350, which is enough to provide a nice 2″ top layer to the beds that need it. This will up our site fertility for the heavy feeder crops growing this season. For next season and beyond, the chickens (and any other future animals we add) should provide enough fertility when combined with their bedding and free deliveries of waste wood chips for mulch.
Overall the kids have been having a lot of fun helping me with everything from handing me screws, filling the wheelbarrow with mulch, transplanting strawberries, and measuring the boards. They are so obsessed with measuring things that I found two spare ‘swag bag’ measuring tapes that I’m letting them
destroy play with in the name of science.
Someone from the city came out and talked about my compost bin. I’m in the middle of resolving a code violation complaint about it. He seems very reasonable (even specifically said “we’re not your enemy”) but I’ll probably end up having to make some modifications to the compost bin. He said he has to think about it and discuss with others within the city government, as I brought up a couple potent objections to the initial case against me that seemed to resonate with him. It pays to do your research, folks!
Today’s task after school time is getting a tray or two of broccoli started and getting the necessary chain and hooks to hang my new grow light. Last year I had a 150W HPS grow light which provided adequate light for two trays at best, and doesn’t have a great light dispersion. That will be my backup. My new primary grow light is an 8 tube 4 foot T5HO grow light that can light either two trays with just the inner tubes on or 4 trays with the whole fixture lit. So now my seedling capacity is 6 trays at once, which should be plenty for this year. Any further expansion of my seedling capacity and I’ll have to add shelving space to house lights and trays.