Experiment in Hugelkultur, Humanure, and Biochar

Decided to take the day off from projects and just play while I got the laundry on the line. So what do I decide to do? Play in the dirt of course! When Alex first arrived this summer he dug a sleeping trench but never finished it. I needed to fill it back in but thought since the dirt had been dug might as well use the hole. My plan was to just throw some chips in the bottom for a hugelkulter experiment which was implanted in my brain when I moved a bale of moldy hay the other day and found the bottom was still wet AND when I moved the branches I cut up with the DR, they were still wet at the bottom of the pile despite 2 months of high temperature and no rain. Well, as I was gathering up the wood chips my mind started playing and here is what happened.

Apparently my way of filling in a trench is to dig it to twice its width and twice its original depth which leads to a hole about 6 feet by 3 feet and 18 inches deep. The bottom of which I loosened with my garden fork another 6 inches.

Next I add a barrow full of humanure from my curing pile. This excited the chickens to no end because they finally got a chance at the kagillion earth worms that make the pile their home. Those birds gorged themselves!

Next I added three barrows full of wood/bark chips from the area where we pile and split our wood. This will become the sponge that will hold and retain water during the long summer months from which the plants can delicately sip with their roots. I put the layer of compost below it to encourage the roots further down past the water level.

Next I layered two more cart loads of compost/humanure with the dirt from the hole making up the body of the bed.

Then I topped the bed off with one more cart load of humanure which I let the chickens work down into the soil. Little rototilling monsters! Might as well put them to work.

While I was in the shower getting cleaned up, I thought about how I should water the bed to activate the microorganism in the soil which made me think “Damn! I forgot the biochar!” My source is the charcoal left over from the twigs I burn in the rocket stove. They have no nutritional value but the micro-holes gather and store microorganisms that do increase the fertility of the soil. I mixed it in with my weird two pronged fishing gaff. I don’t know if it is a fishing gaff, or a potato digger or an instrument for a torture chamber but it works well for tons of things around this place like pulling over piles of branches and stripping composite roofing off roofs…..

So here is where I left it. A little muddy because I watered it thoroughly…..with buckets of water that I hauled over by the way adding even more to my daily mileage count….I will let this soak in over night then add some more. I am thinking that I will make a fence around it then cover it in straw. Next spring I will plant it with the three sisters and see what happens.

Dad’s Birthday Present

For the past three mornings I have been working on my present for my dad’s birthday.  Through a confluence of events–little shit teenagers taking it upon themselves to tear out all signs in their vicinity, and a three day delay in getting those signs replaced–the county trucks came by and sprayed poison along our road front killing all the bushes and trees in a 6 foot by 100 yard swath in front of our home.  Mom and Dad were furious.  They have spent 30 years developing the hedge along the road to  add beauty and to reduce the dust that flows from the gravel road into the yard.  This 30 year effort, killed in a matter of minutes because of a few missing “owner will maintain” signs.  Beautiful lilacs, roses, oregon grapes and choke cherries reduced to dead stems and brown dead leaves.

Fortunately the hedge is wider then 6 feet so all is not lost, but the gross evidendence of man’s ignorant use of poison to try to control the environment was a slap in my dad’s face every time he walked by with Kodi Dog, which is every day.  I can go on about human stupidity and point out that one could cure many of the cancers we are afflicted with by merely closing down the poison plants and outlawing the use of toxic chemicals and herbicides on our food supply and roadsides but that isn’t what this article is about.  It is about one step into the home base economy.

Dad’s birthday is coming up.  In a work base economy I would earn money, take the money to the store, then buy dad something like a tie or a pair of socks.  In a home based economy instead of devoting my time to standing behind a counter smiling at people and taking their money for my boss, I spent 6+ hours working on cutting down dead bushes that continued to upset my dad and created anger in a portion of each of his days.  The time spent at my job would have provided me with $54 which could have bought a couple of dozen socks and a coffee.  Instead, I spent the time removing an eyesore and making my dad’s morning walks more pleasant which improves his life in a small but significant way which puts the value on the activity much higher then the money I would have earned in the same amount of time at my job.  This is something I feel rather good about.

New Neighbors

I have new neighbors.  What is more then that, I have added an apartment onto my cabin.  It is a small apartment but the family moving in understand that space is limited.  Mr. and Mrs. Hatch were bound and determined to join me in my adventure.  It didn’t matter that I turned them away twice, they tenaciously kept at me until I capitulated.  I have been listening to the knocking and banging of them building their little addition for the last week.  Listened to their talking back and forth, excited about the new digs and their new life together.  After awhile, I began to feel an attachment to them and am glad that they have moved in.

They ran into a bit of trouble today, however.  They were rudely made aware that the dimensions they thought the cabin was, is not in fact what it is.  I had to lend them a hand.  Pictures say more then words, so I will now introduce, Nutty and Meg through photo.

I am not entirely sure if this is Nutty or Meg. You know how married couples sometimes start to look alike. This was never truer then in these two.

 

After hanging the laundry, I went inside to get a drink of water. I found my Moo Kitty sitting on the bed, at full attention staring up at the wall where the Hatches could be heard working. The cats have been ignoring all the pounding, banging and rustling up to this point. I looked up and discovered why Moo was so interested. She was watching Meg or Nutty working!

 

I could see right away that the situation was way out of their league so I lent a hand. An O organics yogurt container, a cereal box, duct tape and a few nails worked perfectly. The Hatches don’t seem to mind the slap dash method, they are just happy to have their home done! Now they get to start furnishing it. 🙂