Sunday, July 31, 2011

Beginning the garden

We finally bought our homestead out in the country. I wanted a main garden before I start tinkering with other areas of the land. I started with one basic 4 ft by 4 ft raised bed. I used some 2x6's that were left over from a decking project for framing the bed.

Before, I filled the bed with soil, I dug a hole 2 1/2 feet under the raised bed. This enabled me to put branches and other rotting wood in the hole. This is a permaculture method known as hugelkultur. The rotting wood absorbs moisture and decays over time. The plants root down to this rotting wood and have nutrients and moisture. This cuts down on the water needed. In fact, I water my garden only one to two times a week.

Next, I threw the grass I had cut out to dig the hole on top of the wood. As the grass decays it will provide more nitrogen, carbon and other nutrients to the plants. Then I piled back in the soil I took out.

Now, that I had my soil setup I put the 4x4 frame on top of the area. Inside the frame I added in compost, peat moss and some vermiculite. On top of this mix, I added some bark mulch to hold in moisture. The end result is a very prosperous garden with cucumber, tomatoes, beans, broccoli, and a green pepper plant that got shaded out. I am having to cut back the tomatoes every day so they don't crowd out the garden.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Building the fence

Since, one of our first goals was to get a dog, we needed to build a fence. Most of the neighbors let their dogs roam, but we bought a rather large dog, a Mastiff. We want to keep him out of fights with the neighborhood dogs and coyotes. His role will be to ward off coyotes, rabbits and big brown rats otherwise known as deer.

I chose to go with field fencing because we are fencing in 3000 sq feet with the first section and want to save some money over wood or chain link. I went with 2x4 no climb field fencing instead of regular field fencing. The thought behind this is the dog won't get caught in the fence and the kids won't try to climb on it. I first bought some cheap 14GA fencing at Lowes. It was sharp and cut me quite a bit. It also felt like it would not hold up. I took it back and switched it out with a 12.5 GA Redbrand fencing that was twice as much. The reason for buying at Lowes was they had fencing a lot cheaper than the local places, plus I had a 10% off movers discount.

This was my first time putting in a fence, so a new adventure on my part. The biggest pain was cutting back the black berries. I don't want to kill them (like that is easy), because they are good to eat. Still, I want to put fence through where they are.

Treated wood 4x4s were cemented 2 feet into the ground at the corners of the fence. I used 6 foot metal stakes every 8 to 10 feet to keep tension on the fence. The field fencing is 4 foot high, so I have another 2 feet on the corner posts. I'm looking to add 2 feet of nylon deer netting or a couple of wires on the top at a later date. Then again if I don't see much of a deer problem, which the dog should be helping with, I will just cut the posts down to 4 feet.

The only other pain I had was stretching out the fence. I bought some rope and a 1 ton wench to help. Using a 4 foot long 2x4, I screwed in five 3/8 inch ring hooks on one side. On the other side I bolted in 1/2 inch thick eye bolts. Then a rope was run down the other side through the eye bolts. The rope is hooked to the wench. Now, I have a fence stretcher, where the open hooks grab the wire fence in five spots.

Another rope was tied to a tree or car and fed through the other end of the wench. This method seemed to work pretty good. The metal wire of the fence bent with the ring hooks when stretched, but that was to be expected. The one frustration is after nailing in the fence with staples is there seemed to be a bit of slack that came back in. I don't mind too much because the dog doesn't really test the fence, but something I would love to learn how to fix with my next fence project.

I've added two Kiwis to vine through the fence. I want to see how well they take before adding more next year. So, far they seem to be struggling. In an attempt to decide if their struggle was too much sun or lack of nutrient, I used fertilizer on them for the last week. They seem to be greening up, so I will need to figure out what the soil is lacking.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Homestead

A few months ago my wife and I purchased our home in the country on 7.5 acres in Washington. Life has finally slowed down since moving in; therefore, I want to take some time to blog about the things we are doing, so I can reflect as time goes by.

There are a lot of little goals to accomplish, but the high level goals are fairly simple. We want to provide for ourselves and remove our dependency on the massively flawed systems that most Americans are dependent on today. We don't necessarily want remove ourselves from these systems, but to choose whether to participate in them. We also want to educate our children on nature, teach them independence and give them a large environment to play in.

What systems are we talking about? These systems are the massive industrial systems that deliver most individuals water, power and food. Food quality in this country is declining while prices are going up. Energy prices in this country are also skyrocketing and show no signs of decreasing. All these systems are very fragile and can fail at any time with a minor or major event.

Our homestead is not in the middle of nowhere. We have high speed Internet and power.