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Fall Projects

October 3, 2008

Everywhere you turn, there are lists of fall chores for the garden. That’s great and all, and once the yard is more than a hostel for plants en route to customers’ yards I’ll have plenty of chores. For now, I’m all about the projects- I’m ready to build some cool stuff!

First is the compost bin. If you dig through old posts, you’ll see that it was a spring project. Well, good intentions and all that… it’s getting done this fall. MJ and I have an agreement that no other projects start until the compost bins are done. Fair enough; I’ll knock the bins out so I can move on to other cool stuff. Stuff like…

Rain barrels! I’ve been working on a local source for oak barrels for a while now, and finally got confirmation. Where better to put the prototype than on the back of my house?  If you’re interested in oak rain barrels of your own, by the way, let me know. I’ll have pricing nailed down by the end of next week.

What has me the most excited is building an earth oven. I’ll post the concept sketch after the weekend. What is an earth oven, you ask? It’s a wood-fired baking oven, but what makes it so cool is that it’s constructed using mostly materials found on site. For once, the nasty clay subsoil in my backyard will be an asset! The technique involves mixing native clay with sand, which is then pressed into position around a sand form. Depending on size, insulation, and a few other factors these ovens take 1-3 hours to come up to temperature, but then hold baking temp for quite a while (if you have enough thermal mass).

It’s not all construction. I’m also bringing in 10-15 yards of fill to deal with some grading issues around the foundation. While I’m playing with the skidsteer, I’ll move the shed and clean up some of the problem areas in the yard. Then it’s on to sheet mulching where next spring’s food crops are going. If you’re not familiar with sheet mulching, it’s a great way to quickly (and inexpensively) boost the fertility of your soil. First you put down a layer of cardboard or newspaper, then 4-6″ of organic matter- I’m planning on several trailers of manure from farms in the area- and topping it off with wood chips. By spring the earthworms and microbes will have done their thing and created a rich, friable planting bed. With one exception we’ve never used synthetic fertilizers here at our house, and the vegetable garden is the LAST place I want to start.

Anyhow, I’ll be posting updates on these and other projects. It’s been a phemonenally busy fall, so I think I’ll be more than happy to spend a few cold months getting the garden going- and baking lots of bread in my new oven!

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