Monday, April 4, 2011


April 4, 2011

As the wind blows heartily outside I think of how our spring has unfolded so far and our plans for the summer ahead.

We are determined to have a large, productive garden this year. Hopefully productive enough to fill our pantries and freezers for at least a year and to share heavily with family members and friends.

It has been slow going so far, but we are determined to do this. Just as the three of us worked so hard together to survive when both men were unemployed we are now working together on our spring and summer projects.

Yes, the “s” is suppose to be on the end of project. Because we have two BIG projects planned. The first is the garden of course. The second is the building of a small home for Sean to live in.

Some of you may remember how hard we worked three years ago clearing the land, putting in a drive way and utilities for a much bigger house than the one he is now planning. Then of course the big layoff and those plans had to be put on hold.

It is now three years later and he is still unemployed after working for a short while in the middle of those three years. Only there is a huge difference. By being VERY careful with his money, a la the Dave Ramsey plan he has paid off all his bills except his student loan, which is mortgage size.

So now he’s going to consider the student loan a mortgage and split his monthly snow ball between his loan payment and building a small house with cash only.

Since both men are excellent drafters and designers they have been designing the “tiny house” as it started out. Basically it will be a 24’ x 24’ two story structure. Quite similar to the portable buildings you see at many home improvement centers. At that size it will be on the upper end of the term “tiny house”, but it was the smallest he could work out and get all his basics in for his needs.

He is also designing it so he can add on to it easily in the future when he has a family.

So that’s our two projects. You can guess what a good lot of my posts will be about as the spring and summer go forward.

In fact here’s the first update on both.


Here at the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch we garden organically via the “Lasagna Gardening” method. (ref: Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens; No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding by Patricia Lanza) and we plant intensively. This year we are planting in rows rather than doing square foot gardening (ref: All New Square Foot Gardening; Grow More in Less Space by Mel Bartholomew.) We also companion plant for natural pest control (ref: Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte.)

Because we didn’t get around to adding the layers to the garden this winter, or building the fourth garden, we are doing so as we go now.

Over the last two weeks we have built from the ground up a new grape and berry garden. This raised bed is three landscape timbers high and 24’ x 2’ in size. We used some old timbers we had on hand for most of the construction, but we did have to purchase spikes and some timbers to do it. It is located in the extra wide walkway we had between the other three gardens.

Once the structure was built we lined the bottom with paper feed sacks to block any possible weed growth. The bottom layer was pine straw/needles, this we topped with a thin layer of peat moss, followed by pond mud, then compost, peat moss, pond mud, poop coop, peat moss, and finally pond mud.

About that pond mud. My mother swore that the best garden soil came from the bottoms of rivers and ponds because all the good top soil washes into these watery holding spots. Our ponds are currently very low. So that’s where we’ve been digging trailer loads of mud from.

Not only do we get that top soil, but we get fish emulsion and we help keep our ponds from filling up with dirt doing this.

We finished up building the new garden and into it we planted the first two Thompson Seedless grape plants. Two Red Flame Grape plants will also be added to it as soon as we find some at a reasonable price. (I paid $2.50 each for the white grapes). We are after all on a budget and have to keep our garden costs down.

Around the base of grapes Sean planted nearly 50 Ozark Everbearing strawberry plants. Later this week we will add spinach and carrots to that bed, along with marigolds to help keep rabbits out of the garden.

Once we put in the grapes and strawberries we moved on to the first row in the 24’ x 24’. Again we built layers in the same method. This row we made four landscape timbers high, and about 12-18 wide and runs the full length of the garden. In this row we planted Laxton green peas, Triumphe de Farce bush green beans, mixed lettuces, Touchon carrots and marigolds. I’ll be adding a photo of the first row to this post shortly.

Next will be a lower walkway lined with paper feed sacks to block weeds. This is where we will start on our next part of the garden. It will be another raised row built in the same method. I’ve not decided what is going in this row yet.

I’ve not seen any asparagus growth in the big garden yet, I’m hoping it’s simply because it’s been too dry, but I think the gophers may have got most if not all of my asparagus crowns over the winter. The garlic bulbs we missed last fall have sprouted wonderfully and there are numerous garlic plants growing well there.

Over in the 24’x 8’ garden Sean discovered we hadn’t dug all of our potatoes properly last year and we have several volunteer potato plants with tops nearly a foot high already. We will probably finish filling this bed with potatoes and things that can be companion planted with it. The horseradish is of course growing well still in that garden.

This last weekend we planted two blueberry plants and two thornless blackberry bushes in huge flower pots as well.


Sean and Gary have worked very hard on the house plans and nearly have them to the point construction could start soon. This weekend we went to the building site to get an idea on where to start construction and how much effort is going to be needed to make sure the house is level.

While we were at the site Gary mowed the area to give us an idea of how big Sean’s house will be. Not huge, but just perfect for a single man. As soon as the plans are firmed up all add floor plans and artist renderings of what the house will look like when completed to the blog as well.

So that’s what is going on in my world right now. Happy Spring everyone.

Jan who thought she was going to blow away in these high winds yesterday in OK

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