Working on the old kitchen garden – and a kitten update

There are some things I wanted to try with the old kitchen garden, but kept getting distracted. So today I gave the girls a to-do list for the main garden beds, and got started.

This is the main area that I wanted to make changes to.

The areas surrounded by red lines are where we currently have stepping stones. The long red line on the bottom is the border outside of where my daughter planted her irises. You can see the one walking onion, now laying flat on the ground, that has been coming up every year since we moved here. This year, it actually produced a head that, hopefully, has planted itself now. To the right of the onion is where my daughter’s daffodils are planted. We currently have a couple of boards on the outside of this area, but we’ve had issues with people completely ignoring them and stepping on the onion. So one of the things we want to do is build some kind of low wall along that red line, with openings to the stepping stones, just to keep wayward feet out of there.

Where I wanted to work on today, though, is the area marked in orange. That is where we planted our bread seed poppies, using seed collected from last year. They never got to their full size, and the area was way too full of weeds. There was just no way to pull the weeds without damaging the poppies.

So I decided to make a low raised bed in that spot. The first thing that needed to be done, though, was to get rid of those weeds and their root systems, as best as possible.

That meant breaking out the wheel barrow and soil sifter.

For such a small area, it took a long time to remove the soil and sift out the roots and weeds.

Some of the roots, from the nearby ornamental apple trees, needed loppers to clear them out. I ended up digging out a lot more of the soil than expected.

The tarp has two wheel barrow loads of sifted soil on it. I didn’t want to go too deep, so I loosened the soil on the bottom to try and pull up more roots, but there’s no way to get them all out. At least I got the bulk of them out.

I hope.

While sifting the soil, I pulled most of the roots out and tossed them onto the grass for later clean up, then whatever was left on the screen after sifting got dumped near some trees behind the storage house, where it will be used to fill in and level some low spots.

We’ve been building up the soil in this garden since our first summer here, and it really showed. Unlike other areas, I never hit the sand and gravel that is so close to the surface in our area.

The soil was really, really dry, though, so my first amendment was a layer of wood chips, to act as moisture absorbing sponges as they break down. I’ll be adding other layers of organic material before putting the soil back, but first I wanted to build walls.

My initial thought was to drive strong stakes into the soil, then weave a wattle wall. I need to clear the suckers out from around the maples. Especially where the branch piles used to be. With those piles gone now, I can finally reach them. As I took a closer look at the suckers, though, I realized they were not straight enough, or long enough, to be suitable for weaving around the uprights, even for such a small bed.

There were, however, those lengths of wood that couldn’t be chipped, neatly stacked nearby.

So I went through the pile and chose a whole bunch of the straightest ones and loaded them on the wagon. As I was taking them to the old kitchen garden, I went through where one of the branch piles used to be. It’s just bare ground, which is why I was able to see something reflecting in the sunlight.

Something pointy looking, and very bright.

Oh, the things we find around here!

Why on earth would there be an old steak knife buried in the soil here? It’s been here long enough that most of the wooden handle rotted away and broke off.

I’m glad I spotted that, because just the point was sticking out, and it would have been a pretty nasty thing to step on!

I brought more logs than I thought I would need, including shorter ones for the ends of the bed. When I made our high raised bed, the wood was not debarked, but I have a draw knife now, so I wanted to do that with these.

Isn’t the leather cover my husband made for it awesome? It fits perfectly, and he made sure the stitching is super strong.

I measured the space I’d dug out, and it was almost exactly 2′ x 4′. Conveniently, the tree guys cut these log pieces to a maximum about 4′ in length. I used my baby chainsaw (pruner) to cut pieces to length. I’m glad I got that extra battery, because I went through both of them to get it done! I also used it to remove the nubs of branches on some of them. I’ll let the batteries recharge before I finish that part of the job.

I cut enough to make the bed three logs high. As the soil slopes and is quite a bit lower on the outside, I plan to use the thicker logs on the outside and try and level it off a bit. Or I might have three logs on the outside, and only two on the inside. We’ll see.

It took me almost 3 hours to get to this point, and I was done for the day. Once all that was prepared, I cleaned up the log ends, bark pieces and the roots and weeds. Those went into the burn pile, where we also burn the sawdust from the used stove pellets in the litter boxes (sure beats hauling it all to the dump, like we did with the clay litter!), and our burnable garbage. The garden bed will have to wait until tomorrow to finish. There wasn’t much wind today, so I did a much needed burn.

While I was tending that, the girls headed out to the trellises to start salvaging the netting and bamboo stakes. It took them forever to free up the netting the pole beans were on! Those beans were well wrapped around it. They salvaged the netting and the bamboo stakes that joined the A frame supports across the bottoms. The A frame supports were left for now, as they are currently holding up the trellis frame! Those are going to all come down, eventually, but after it took so long to free up the netting, that got left for another day. Those trellises weren’t built to last more than a year, and we got two years out of them, so I’m impressed that they lasted as long as they did! The next ones we build will be much more permanent.

While they worked on that, and I was tending the fire, I started getting messages from the cat lady. She will be able to book three more spays and neuters for us soon. We pick which ones need to be done first. It’ll be in a town further out, so she will pick up the cats, keep them for their recovery period, then bring them back. There are still problems with too many surrendered cats in the adoption system, and she’s had virtually no progress with adopting any cats out at all, but she is still able to get donated spays and neuters at various vets around the area. Adoption will be easier with cats that are fixed.

We still have Big Rig and Tissue that need to be done, since they got into food while they should have been fasting and their previous appointments had to be cancelled. I was thinking we might want to start doing outside cats, though, as population control, but the kittens we’ve socialized enough may still be too young.

We have made socialization progress, though! Not with the black and white one in the back, looking at the camera. We still can’t touch that one. The three at the peak of the cat shelter roof are the most socialized – they LOVE attention! Those four are siblings from the same litter. The fuzzy grey tabby is a female.

The muted calico on the far left has been allowing us to pet it regularly now, though it’s not quite as socialized as the littler litter. It’s sibling, the brown tabby starting at the camera, is male. The girls have been able to pet him but today, for the first time, I was able to not only pet him, but even pick him up! He wasn’t too comfortable with the picking up thing, but loved the ear skritches, so after I put him down again, he came back for more!

If we are going to get the two indoor females fixed, we can also choose one male from among the outside cats. The girls were thinking one of the smaller ones. The thing is, once we’ve got an outside cat fixed, then being kept indoors with the cat lady during recovery before coming back to us, it’s not going to go back outside. Especially not with the weather changes right now. Plus, once fixed, chances of adoption are higher, and we’d have to made sure we can actually get at it, if a permanent home is found.

If all goes well, though, the cat lady will be able to find homes for several cats over the winter!

One can hope.


The Re-Farmer

2 thoughts on “Working on the old kitchen garden – and a kitten update

  1. Pingback: Progress on the old kitchen garden bed and water bowl shelter | The Re-Farmer

  2. Pingback: Wattle weave bed – it’s finally done! Next! | The Re-Farmer

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