Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gulland and his Broadfork Blog

After yesterday's post I got a comment from Gulland offering to send me a gardening tool that he makes. He didn't mention what it was so I went looking at his blog and found that it is called the broadfork. I've heard of this tool but never used one. From what I read it is used to replace the tiller and is kinda like a very wide pitchfork to loosen/till the soil. I don't generally till as I prefer disturbing the soil as little as possible leaving the soil community intact but I do use a sorta modified double dig method on my beds when I first set them up which lossens the soil 1-2 feet down resulting in a raised bed of loose soil 2-3 feet in depth. It seems this is the perfect tool for that as well as for loosening the soil every couple of years. Not only does it not use oil but I'd guess that it is a much more gentle process in terms of disrupting the layers of the soil. I think it aerates the soil without turning the layers, thus adding oxygen and improving the soil structure without destroying the soil community. That it is human powered is very important given our current climate, peak oil situation. Here's Gulland's blog post reply to a gardener named Tom and I thought I'd post it here as it addresses the issue perfectly:

Broadfork Blog:

Tom told me that he never even cranked his rototiller this year; he did it all with the broadfork he got last year. He also said that he would never have to use the rototiller in any of those beds again.

That's heavy stuff to me; I have created a business that provides an implement that allows people to step back from the use of fossil fuels to do the 'heavy lifting' in their gardens. Because of my broadfork, there is one less rototiller running in California this year!

Tom, I have to say that your email and photos have made me know that I am doing the right thing. Thank you for turning the lights on for me.

I am an Alabama native, and lived my first 42 years there. The Gulf of Mexico was in my backyard, and I loved visiting that coast.

The point of this blog was to inform people about the utility of the broadfork and give some insight into the man that makes them. I never wanted to be political, or controversial. I must say, however, that the disaster that has occurred with the deep water drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico has made me feel that any time I can steer someone away from the use of fossil fuels to good old fashioned hand labor, I have done a good thing. The reason you are reading this is that you believe the same thing that I do.

We need to lessen our need to use petroleum products. The low hanging fruit has all been picked, and the rest of the crude oil that is available is in the inhospitable places where it is probably best to just leave it alone.

When I've had a chance to try it out I'll be sure to post a review. If only I'd had a tool like this over the past decade or two I might have fewer back problems!! A big thanks to Gulland for getting in touch and for his generous offer.

Opps, edit. I did some more reading and wow. Gulland is not only building a great tool but the way he does it is a fantastic example of building the local economy. In these times of rising unemployment and a job market dominated by meaningless jobs at Wal-Mart and McDonalds, Gulland is creating a useful tool from scratch! Read more in this post on his blog.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Finally, some cool

What a summer it has been. Hot, hot, hot. I just adore climate change. Yes, yes, I know we cannot attribute the heat of any one particular summer to climate change but I mean, really. Records have been broken all over the planet. You can believe what you want, for me, I'll attribute it to climate change. But really, this post was not to be about that.

Hi. How's it going? I've not posted in a month. I've struggled a bit this summer, much more than the first two summers here at the homestead. Not sure if it has been the heat or just my attitude but I've just not been able to be my normal fairly happy, content and appreciative self. Who knows? The human mind is a strange thing, I do know that.

But tonight and these past few nights (and days) of the first real cool wave in awhile, I'm happy and will enjoy it and try to extend it. Got the grass cut today and started chopping the winter wood from the aging pile. In theory it would be best to get it chopped, stacked and covered in the spring. In reality by spring I'm tired of chopping wood all winter and have so much spring time garden work to do I don't do the chopping. I found last year that the wood I have is old enough that If I can get it chopped and drying by mid September it will dry out pretty well by my first fires, usually in November. It is mostly wood that has been down now for 3-5 years and so it dries out pretty fast. I'll have to get that pile burned this year if it is to be burned because some of it has started to rot and by next winter will be too far gone.

Which brings me to my next subject. Huegelkultur. Yeah, hows that for a word?? Yeah, yeah, take that. Huegelkultur is apparently something that has been used in parts of Europe for a long time and really, sounds great. Basically, you take tree logs and stumps and bury them with soil, straw, wood chips or whatever you have on hand. The idea is that these are raised beds for gardening and can be anywhere from a foot to several feet high. The benefit is that the logs absorb winter and spring rainfall and then hold that into the summer keeping the beds moist. They also, of course, slowly decompose thus as long term compost will increase the soil structure and fertility of the beds. The downside is that they will tend to rob nitrogen from the soil but I'll make up for that with lots of chicken poop and pee.

I've determined that next year's garden is going to be MUCH smaller. In fact, I may do nothing at all in the old garden and will likely focus my food production on the area around my cabin, say 100 feet out in any direction, zone 1 in permie terms. The big kitchen garden I'll likely cover with straw and cardboard and just let it be for the forseeable future. I probably will plant some flowers in there and may even work on making it a flower/herb garden for the next two years. Then perhaps when the hornworms have lost the scent and when I've got gobs of established strong smelling herbs and bright flowers I'll try slipping in a few tomatoes and other veg. But really, for my personal food I think I'll have much greater success and a much happier summer if I just focus on a smaller area and do it well.

Most everything in the way of berry bushes and fruit trees survived the hot dry summer. We've got a few apple trees that are overcome with cedar rust and need to come out. I've no interest in fighting that every year and would rather just put in those that are resistant. We lost one plum this spring and one peach tree that came back from the ground after dying up top. Looks pretty good actually. The kiwi vines are looking fantastic and growing very well. The potted eggplant produced but have struggled with the heat. Next year I'll pot them up again but will transplant when they reach a foot high. The flea beetles that seem to devastate them the first year seem to have been much less of a problem this year due to the pots and/or the location over here by the cabin.

Biggest lesson learned this year is the garden is too big and way too much work when it is hot and dry. Yup. More to come, hopefully in an update before another month has passed. I've got a bit of news about projects I've been working on in town.