Monday, June 15, 2009

The garden is in, finally!

Well, it's in for now. I finally got to transplant the basil now that the night temps are out of the low 40s. Let's see, there are about 4 kinds of lettuce, spinach, arugula, mache, swiss chard (2 var.), beets, parsnips, onions (3 var.), leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, savoy cabbage, brussel sprouts, pac choi, bell peppers, slicing canning and cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, fresh and storage carrots, cilantro, parsley and zucchini. And rhubard.

All this is in nine circular keyhole beds about 10 feet in diameter each. Hmm: five squared times pi times nine equals ... (pop), another brain cell explodes. Not too much space, compared to the old rows of plants between great swaths of weed-free dirt.

Oh yeah, there are 2 varieties of strawberries, German chamomile, calendula and teddy bear sunflowers on the slope nearby. And a few culinary and medicinal herbs in a perennial garden. In the words of Dave Mallett, "Someone bless these seeds I sow, till the rain comes tumblin' down."

Monday, June 8, 2009

Summer Rains

The past month seemed drier than usual, but maybe I was just watching it more closely. Now that the May flowers have faded under the growing canopy of maples, the early summer rains are starting. The pond is almost full again after an inch-plus rain in the last 24 hours. The rain barrels that I hooked up at work are full to overflowing. One hundred gallons in the bank!

My rain harvesting plans are starting to flesh out here at Snowy Hollow, after learning how easy it is to hook up a barrel. We have a barrel on the hill above some transplanted raspberries, rigged up to water the bee garden by gravity-fed soaker hose. I put out another barrel today to catch rain pouring off the roof where two pitches come together. For now, that one will just fill watering cans.

The big issue here is most of the useable space is uphill from the house and pole barn. The barn could catch almost 1000 gallons from an inch of rain, but I need to get it up to where the plants would be. Fishing for ideas like battery-powered sump pumps from RVs, bicycle powered pumps, ... anything but buckets! I'm hoping to host a cistern-building workshop someday that will end with a BIG cistern of ferrocement and fieldstone behind the barn. The garden in the front yard will have it easier; it's downhill. That old septic tank will take care of things there. Like I said, everything is an asset!

The difficult thing about harvesting rainwater in Michigan, I'm realizing, is we get plenty in June, but not much in July and part of August. Could we store enough to get though a month or two? That 100 gallons at work will water a small herb garden thoroughly one time. The barrels drain out in under 2 hours. If it doesn't rain every other week, I'll be out there with a hose. I think the best bet is to catch what rainwater we can, but also make use of gray water to get us through the dry months. It's easy to catch water while the shower warms up. It's easy to divert washing machine water, but we'll need to do something about the soap. One doesn't take up homesteading if one doesn't like challenges!