Ma here. I was headed to the house for some ice water and a minute out of the sun. I looked down and saw this message from the farm. Awww, the farm loves us. Listen to the land, the land will tell you what it needs/wants. I have been trying so hard to do just that. We have our visions and plans for the OKA, but I have actually wondered to myself quite often lately whether the land likes the things we are doing to it. On this trip to the house I think I got my answer. Last year, we set up our first real kitchen garden. While we learned a lot, and saw good production, we weren’t entirely happy with the results. We feel like we lost an awful lot of water with our set up. When Pa said he’d like to see me take ownership of the new kitchen garden design and prep work I was all over it. How exciting is that? After spending a few hours of quite literally observing, and listening I came up with my design. A while back, Pa and I played around a bit with finding contour lines with an A-frame level. I know that in the area of our garden spot, our contour lines run in a pretty straight east/west fashion. So I began to move soil to build the base of my beds. I planned to do a layer of soil using a good portion of this pile we got from Honest Mike. I spent a day and a half moving soil. Since our goal is water retention, my thought is to stagger the beds. My hope is that in staging the beds in this fashion I will have provided an avenue for the water to travel. I am thinking this will not only lessen erosion, but also offer many buffers to slow the flow of water and encourage retention in the soil. In other words, I tried to give the water a place to go, instead of flowing straight down the hill and out of the garden. At the end of the garden spot, I wanted to do a small keyhole garden. After deciding there was not enough room, I thought to do a U-shaped bed. I planned to offer one last barrier to cup the water and hold it. I ended up with what I have dubbed the “J bed”. Couldn’t quite get a “U” in there due to the gate. I kind of like the “J” better. I mean, lots of folks have a U-shaped bed, but how many do you know have a J? A backward J no less? If that ain’t off-kilter, I don’t know what is! I started with 4-6 inches of soil, some from holes dug for trees, and a lot from the Honest Mike pile. Pa and Fish Taco helped me fill a few barrows full of trodden on hay and goat poo from their pen and we put a layer of about 3-5 inches on my soil.
They look pretty pitiful at this stage, but no worries, as I still have pretty lofty plans for these beds.
Next I wanted to sheet mulch the beds. Of course, sheet mulching day greeted us with that fine Oklahoma wind you hear them sing of. I was so glad that Pa put himself completely at my disposal to help me with finishing these beds, because I couldn’t do this by myself in the wind. We make sure to wet everything down as we went. Wetting the paper is not only critical for the sheet mulching process, but it also keeps the paper somewhat in place with the wind. Check out my new-to-me toy! I been wanting my very own “Ma size” wheel barrow. Lucky for me we inherited this little gem from Pa’s Great Uncle Thomas. Check out the fancy “Ma size” shovel that Pa surprised me with (he spoils me so.) I’m ready to really move more dirt now. My plan now was to add about 6 inches of soil on top of the sheet mulching on the new beds.
We wanted use a nice rich soil for our planting. We decided to mix soil from our Honest Mike #2 pile with soil from a pile of compost material that Pa brought home from the fair barn last year. We came up with what we think will be a great combination for our beds.
We worked filling our respective wheel barrows with dirt from both piles, mixing as we went. I seemed to be tuckering out quicker than normal (thanks tick borne illness), and was thankful to Fish Taco for runnin the shovel for me for a while.
Rinse and repeat. We continued wetting the area before we added more material. I fell more in love with the beds with each shovel full of dirt I moved. The final step in the bed preparation was adding a nice layer of mulch. I added a good 10-12 inches of straw that we had left over from winter. While I spread straw, Pa ran his handy dandy rice knife and added some greens to the mix. Making these new beds were a lot of hard work. It felt good to be out there together doing something we love. Needless to say, I am quite proud of my plan and design for our beds. Pa truly gave me some great gifts in entrusting the kitchen garden to me. He gave me the confidence to make changes I felt were needed based on my observations. Gave me free reign to bring my ideas into reality. Gave me his time and muscles to help me complete it. I can’t forget lots of laughter, because he knows I only want good juju in our little garden spot. The biggest gift of all was when he said “These are the most bad@$$ garden beds ever, Sweet!” With that, I’m off!