This week has been a relatively busy one, but today I pretty much ran into a brick wall. Let me recap a bit...
- Last Wednesday, I took Ginger for a fairly substantial walk. I already talked about that in my last post, so I won't repeat myself here except to mention it as the beginning of this recent flurry of activity.
- Thursday morning marked the first of ten weekly sessions at the YMCA for myself and the girls. We have a group of homeschooling families that have secured one hour of pool time at the Y. I didn't swim last week but I went with the girls to let them have some fun in the pool. I will be swimming with them tomorrow, though!
- On Friday, we hopped in the car and drove to New Jersey - just over the NY border. We stayed the night in a hotel so we could be up and out to a Renaissance fair on Saturday. After we arrived at our hotel, we unpacked, unwound, and hopped back into the car to head to the Palisades Center Mall. This mall is huge at four stories tall. Normally, we would visit the food court for a meal, but this year we packed food, so this was merely a shopping/walking visit. We spent about 2 hours walking the mall until finally heading back to the hotel.
- Saturday was spent at the NY Renaissance Faire. This meant a lot more walking for me. I fortunately had the insight to buy a pair of gel insoles for my boots! I have a really nice pair of Minnetonka moccasin boots that I wear as part of my ren faire garb. The only down side is that, even though these have a harder sole than your average moccasin, I still feel every little rock that I step on. For my feet with the constant pins and needles I feel, it can be unbearable. The insoles made all the difference!
- Sunday really was a day of rest! I was beat! Even with the insoles, my feet were protesting any sort of real activity. We did, however, go grocery shopping. So I still got some walking in.
- Monday found us with Ginger at the dog park in the neighboring town to let her get some quality, outdoor, off-leash time. The park is set back in the woods. It isn't much of a walk to get to, but it still takes a little effort. There were several dogs and their people at the park and Ginger had a blast! As well, we took a trip to Lyman's Orchards to pick some more apples. We came home with about 10 pounds of apples - gala, empire, and Cortland. We were just going to buy some apples at the grocery store, but would have only gotten about 10 apples for $11.00! We go through at least 12 apples per week, so that wasn't working for us. At Lyman's we saved $0.59 per pound off of the grocery store price and we got to pick them ourselves. On top of that, the individual apples are smaller so portion control is a lot better.
- Tuesday was another relatively uneventful day. Phew!
We have a small garden out back that has been rather unfruitful this year. The soil is just awful - mostly a rocky clay - but we have had varying degrees of success. Tomato plants usually do quite well but even they struggled this year. I was able to harvest my two whole peppers, though, so that's at least something.
My goal for today was to prepare a small, raised bed for next year's planting. I had made three frames a couple of years ago for the same purpose, but we didn't implement it well and decided not to use them this year. As a result, I have been using one of the frames to contain my compost pile - which is doing quite nicely. I read up on using raised beds for vegetable gardens, and I really wanted to give it another shot. So...out I went with shovel and cultivator in hand to prepare a raised bed.
I started loosening up the soil and clearing it of weeds and rocks. Somehow, no matter how well you clear out the rocks, they always seem to work their way back in to the garden! After clearing a sufficient space for the frame - about 2' by 3' - I started to dig down about 6 inches, moving the soil into a pile. I continued to encounter some really big rocks! After placing the frame around my newly dug hole, I needed to level do a little more excavation so that the hole was as big as the frame. I then lined the bottom of the hole with a weed barrier. Raised bed farming is not supposed to require a weed barrier due to the fact that the plants are placed in such a way as to limit weed growth. I figured that it couldn't hurt, though. We had purchased a weed barrier made from recycled materials and is even eco-friendly. Next came the refilling of the hole. Along with the frames, I had also built a sifting frame. This is simply a frame of 2x4's with a screen attached to sift smaller rocks out of the soil. Setting the frame in the hole, I scooped a couple of shovels of dirt into it and sifted the soil right into the hole. This meant a lot of bending and lifting for me and it is where I reached my limit of physical activity. After about 8 or 10 rounds of shoveling and sifting, I was about done. I began feeling a bit dizzy and nauseous after each round - each 'round' consisting of: shoveling dirt into the frame, bending to lift the frame but keeping it close to the ground, shaking the frame to sift the soil, and finally standing and dumping the rocks out. I continued to sift more soil until the weed barrier was completely covered but not even close to filling the hole back up. It didn't matter, though...I had nothing left. One more round of sifting probably would have done me in.
I plan to revisit my currently-sunken raised bed within the next couple of days. I really want to get the dirt that I removed from the hole sifted and returned to it soon. I also need to establish a second compost pile so I can let the current one finish decomposing so that I can add the compost to the planting bed. If I keep adding to it, it will never be ready for use. I will eventually add more soil and compost to fill the hole and the frame thus creating the 'raised' bed. This will result in depth of about 12 inches of sifted soil/compost for the plants to grow in. Hopefully that will give them adequate space for the roots and will result in a much better harvest than we had this year.