It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to write on this here blog. That’s due to some major changes in my life. Primarily, our move last summer to this paradise known as Snoqualmie Valley. I love it here. Really. I LOVE IT! Our new property had a patch of land that was given over to scrub brush and lots of small cottonwood saplings. There was an old brush pile in the center that probably housed many small animals at one time or another. We cut down most of the saplings and hauled those out to be cut into smaller chunks for firewood. In February, our neighbor cleared the patch of land with an excavator. He dug up old stumps, uncovered and moved huge boulders, and scraped all of the sallal and blackberry bushes out of the way. We rototilled the land, pulled up roots, and dug up hundreds of rocks. 20 yards of garden soil was delivered right into the middle of the space. Our neighbor (he’s a GREAT guy) had lots of chain link fencing that he didn’t need or want anymore. We had to dig post holes, pour concrete for the footings and stretch the fencing around the garden space. Oh, I should mention, we have a lot of elk who like to think of our yard as their breakfast and dinner buffets. I don’t want elk in the garden, therefore, the 7 foot chain link fence. After all that back breaking work, we had to shovel the 20 yards of soil into garden beds. We planned the layout and started working. It took a few days, but it was worth it!
I wrote the above paragraph about two months ago. The work has been non-stop for the most part, and much more difficult than I had imagined. That being said, I have loved it!! We learned that the soil we had delivered (touted as Special Garden Soil) was not quite ready for plants to grow in it. It had a lot of things going for it, but lacked microbes and was an even 7 ph. Some plants prefer more acidic soil, or more alkaline soil. We learned that just about a month ago, so we’ve been tweaking things to correct this issue. It wasn’t that our plants were dying. They were hanging on, just not thriving. Tomato plants were only about six inches tall, with about eight leaves, and one small tomato. The broccoli and cauliflower were still alive, but hadn’t grown at all since I transplanted them out. After a conversation with my friend, Annette Cottrell (author of The Urban Farm Handbook), we started spraying with fish fertilizer and kelp fertilizer. We added a complete organic fertilizer around each plant, and worked that into the soil. I also spread compost around the base of each plant, and worked that in too. Things have definitely improved since we made these changes, but we’ve decided to call this year the “Grand Experiment” and use what we learned to have more success next year.
I did harvest a potato today, and I’ve enjoyed a handful of cherry tomatoes right off the vine. There are small little cukes waiting to be turned into pickles. And, I hope we get enough tomatoes to make at least a small batch of pasta sauce. The broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts are starting to show signs of growing and developing. This year hasn’t been a total loss, and we’ll do better next year.
One of the upsides to this project is that my kids have a much clearer understanding of the origins of the food at the grocery store. Next year, we plan to start raising chickens, both for eggs and for meat. Rabbits might be the year after. We will likely buy half a hog this fall and maybe also a share of beef. I like knowing where my dinner was prior to my freezer, whether it’s meat or vegetable.