Our life living off the land in our log cabin, breathing fresh mountain air, and getting back to basics.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Manure, Muscles & Murphy's

Yesterday, I promised I would tell you about our very meaningful and productive day working with manure.  Not any manure, but composted horse manure from the Paso Fino Elegante farm, where the horses receive only the finest feed, thus producing quality manure.  Some of you may be thinking, come on, sh** is sh**, but really, it's not.  The best part about this particular manure is it won't take any nitrogen from the soil as things grow, because of the particular feed they eat and it is already decomposed, so it's perfect for a vegetable garden.

While at the Paso Fino farm, we visited with the owners Mario & Kathy for a bit, and then filled the trailer with the manure.  I also got a few photos of some pretty wildflowers growing about the edges of their farm...I don't know their names though, if you do, please share:)

I have two of this one because of the different angles...

Once we left there, we went to pick up a large mechanical tiller/cultivator.  Originally, we had decided we were going to apply the "no till" method of gardening that we learned about from Simple Tips for Better Garden Soil and Ruth Stouts System.  However, after some additional discussions with ol' timer's who have gardened this mountain soil for years, and felling those huge trees that landed right on the garden sending monstrous limbs deep into the plot, we decided that tilling the garden this year made the most sense.

Our first step was to spread the manure all over the garden.  Mountain Man stood in the trailer (yes, in the sh**) and shoveled it from there.  I filled the wheelbarrow and brought it to the far end of the plot, spreading it where Johny couldn't reach.
 Once we covered the entire plot...
...it was time to cultivate the land.  We were pleasantly surprised at how quickly we learned to to manage the machine and in no time we had the entire garden tilled.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it was easy...we actually had to hold the tiller in place to get it to churn deep into the ground, or it would just roll right along, gingerly massaging the top of the soil and not digging in.  But overall, it was much more efficient than we had anticipated. 
In fact, because it worked so well, I suggested we go ahead and expand the garden a bit (originally 25'x30' or so).  If we could till a little further on each side of the garden, we'd be adding at least 100' of garden space.  "OK" says Mountain Man with an understanding that this would be a good thing.  Of course, tilling those sections wasn't nearly as easy, because it was full of rocks that had never been removed...so the marvelous machine did a little more skipping/jumping as it ran into the rocks, which required a great deal of muscle to get it back on track.   
But it worked pretty well.  So you guessed it, I suggested we add another whole section (I mean, we had the tiller, and we were already out there, and it had taken much less time than we had expected)...another "OK" but with less enthusiasm...so I said I'd do it.  Unfortunately, it meant we had to move a couple of the logs that were sitting in that particular space, and by now our we were getting tired, so rolling those logs was accompanied by a lot of grunting.  But roll 'em we did, and back to tilling I went.  There were lots of rocks and roots, because we had never done anything at all to this area, but that machine was my hero and made pulp out of the roots and mushed up the earth.  We now have an additional 15'x12' garden space...just beautiful! 
This is now the garden; you can see the tilled area in the middle with the straw churned up, and then darker soil around the entire garden and then in the top center of the picture.

Our plan is to plant the majority of our seeds into the garden area that we have been nurturing with manure, straw and winter rye since last October.  The new areas will be planted by amending the soil with planting mix and Black Kow (a bagged cow manure), and sowing only those seeds that don't require a deep growing medium, and that we have also planted in the nurtured garden area.  This will be a real-life experiment so we can see what, if any, difference the soil types make.  Of course, we will have much more sun this season, which will effect the entire garden, so we will have to keep that in mind as we compare productivity.  

Today, we planted the rest of our seed potatoes (in addition to what we planted in our raised beds in the yard). We planted red, Yukon gold and Murphy's (white) in two rows, some of each in the nurtured plot area and some in the newly tilled area (where we amended with soil and Kow)...another experiment to evaluate the planting medium.  This is the plot...the left is the nurtured row, the right is the newly cultivated and amended row.  The sticks are to help us know where we planted for now; the one laying perpendicular in the middle is the halfway mark where we changed what was planted where.
 And this is the finished planting of potatoes...

Between yesterday and today, I'm pooped (pun intended again, LOL!).  But there is something magnificently gratifying about preparing and planting a garden! 

If you hadn't guessed it yet, today ABCWednesday highlights 'M'...I've had many magical moments because of my participation in ABCWednesday...in particular, my new blog mates:)

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,


Osage Bluff Quilter said...

You may be pooped now, but oh a garden is so rewarding!!!!

Speaking of gardens, ours so far in the past 15 hours has had over 3 inches of rain!

At one point the blacksmith went out to see if it all washed down the hill.

Leslie: said...

OMG! I'm exhausted just reading about what you did! LOL I can remember my Dad doing tilling to make a garden so my Mom could do the canning, freezing, etc. I'm sure it'll all be worth the effort in the long run. Let me know when harvest dinner is on! :D

abcw team

Roger Owen Green said...

Wow - that story told of some good s..., er, manure!

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Chubskulit Rose said...

Lovely blooms! That would make a lot of potatoes soon.

Making catch up with letter M.
Rose, ABC Wednesday Team

Lise said...

I know Patti, nothing better than something fresh out of the garden you grew! I believe the rains you had are heading this way...we purposely decided not to plant seeds before this storm...I hope ended up well with yours!

Leslie, I'm really looking forward to some canning and preserving myself!

LOL Rog...

Thanks Rose, it's a good thing we love potatoes!

Susie Swanson said...

I'm tuckered out just reading about all ya'll have accomplished.. We've worked quite a bit this week , got our potatoes in the ground, did some mulching, cleaning flower beds but nothing like you..

Powell River Books said...

You've really been busy. You garden will be fantastic with all that space and good soil. I used to have a horse that was part Tennessee Walker and had a gait similar to a Paso Fino. A man with a "real one" at the stable next door. They are an amazing horse. I never thought horse manure smelled, in fact it was a welcome reminder of the animals I have always loved. You potato patch made me think it might be a good idea to find some hay to cover the soil up on the hill. It does tend to dry out a lot in the summer. Not sure if the feed store would sell me a partial bale. - Margy

Dad/Pepere said...

Great photos...the 2 purple photos...could they be begonias? Sounds like you had a very good gardening day...looks very good. Just returned from RI...will share details next time we talk. Hugs!

Carver said...

Interesting post. I used to get horse manure from a friend's stable to add to my active compost a long time ago.

Carver, ABC Wed. Team

Unknown said...

A lot of work and the best rewards will come later with your garden.

I never knew there was a differences when it came to manure.

Lise said...

Sounds like you've had a very productive gardening week too Susie!

Margy, if they will sell you a partial bale, be sure you get straw, not hay...hay is full of seed. As for the smell of horse manure, by the end of the day, I didn't smell it anymore, LOL!

Thanks dad, looking forward to hearing about your trip...I'll have to keep investigating the flower types, not too sure about begonia. Hugs back!

Carver, I bet it made for some awesome compost!

I know Rosie, we are really looking forward to reaping what we have sown!