Sunday morning we finished our regular chores and had a few minutes to spare before going to see John Carter with the kids at 9:00. Four of us shoveled rabbit manure and bedding out of the greenhouse to finish up the raised bed. The chicks found this activity particularly interesting.
8 Loads later we had 3-4″ of rabbit manure mixed with course sawdust across the entire bed and it was time to wash up and head out.
So, in review, we built a block wall, added in large bark chips and bits of odd firewood, layered course wood chips on top of that, course sawdust on top of that, a layer of composted horse manure, and a thick layer of rabbit manure and bedding. I gave it a good soaking with the hose and it got surprisingly warm.
With the movie behind us, friends visited, chicken feed freshly ground and our Sunday afternoon swimming (cold!) out of the way we came back to work in the garden. We were planting begonias and petunias along with herbs. We spaced the herbs evenly across the bed and fit the flowers in between. I layed out the bed and my daughter knew just what to do.
With that finished we gave everything a good drink, washed our hands and began the next project.
Now, you may think it’s silly to plant flowers so early, especially when my main vegetable garden isn’t in. You may be right, but it was an excuse to work alongside my daughter doing something that helps her feel involved, helps her to make a positive contribution to our family and allows her to express herself. We weren’t just doing chores that dad says need to be done. She wanted to do this. That’s more important than broccoli.
I hauled 500 pounds of manure in eight feed sacks to put in the raised bed. Initially, and before work, I just got four bags. That didn’t go far enough but I was dodging raindrops and short on time.
Again, this is well-rotted horse manure. Since the wife and oldest son are at the homeschooling expo in St. Louis, I took the three remaining kids with me over lunch to grab the rest of the manure. Here they are on the trailer.
I dumped each bag then the oldest daughter spread them out in the bed while telling me how excited she is to get her flowers planted. Yup. It’s worth it.
After work we added a layer of composted leaves, chicken bedding and chicken offal.
Tomorrow we choreograph the pasture ballet and have a few appointments to keep so we won’t make much traction on this project. Sunday when I clean out bedding under the rabbits I’ll add that to the top of the bed. The plan is to have some full-sun annuals planted on Sunday. Hopefully we’ll get a heavy rain in the next 24 hours to wash the nutrients all through the chips below and take some of the nitrogen out of the composted horse manure. If not, I think we’ll be fine. There should be a fair amount of residual warmth coming from the greenhouse and the composting action in the bed so we shouldn’t have problems if we get a light frost. If winter comes for one last hurrah I’ll have to cover the plants.
Georgia was a friend of mine before I married her granddaughter. I helped her build a water garden just outside her door and she kept the door open so she could hear the frogs. Georgia passed recently. She spent years collecting things…lots of things. She had a nice pile of used cinder blocks she had collected from somewhere so I built a retaining wall out of them.
The South face of the greenhouse seems like a nice place for some added beauty and my oldest daughter wants a flower bed. I started by trying to level out some of the ruts and wallows the pigs left behind. Then I put down a row of blocks.
If I was making a taller wall I would need to do some foundation work but with just two blocks I’m not too worried. If it falls over we’ll just stand it back up. I’m not concerned about level since I’m using broken, partial, used blocks from all over the place.
I put in a layer of course wood chips and sticks equal to the height of the first row of bricks. There is also a layer of large chunks of bark and odd firewood scraps in the bottom of the pile. Then I finished stacking the second course of blocks. To be completely honest, my lovely bride of 15 years stacked many of the blocks.
With the wood chips nicely leveled out we added in 3 or so inches of sawdust. This brought our level to the mid-point of the second block. Both boys were busy keeping the wheelbarrow employed while the rest of us leveled, raked, shoveled and lifted. This job took all 12 hands.
We were an hour into the project and it was time for dinner. The wall is not straight, the blocks are not perfectly level, the raised bed barely qualifies as a hugelkultur bed but the flowers should be happy. Tomorrow we’ll add a layer of compost, composted horse manure and who knows what else topped off with a layer of straw. I also have to find a use for a number of half blocks that are still on the trailer.