Friday, May 4, 2012

Double-digging. Double

About six weeks ago I started to put in a new garden. This probably would have been a good project to start a few weeks earlier, when the soil first softened and before the avalanche of To-Do's slid into Spring. Whoops.

I took a month long hiatus when my other commitments demanded priority, but now I'm back to my daily routine of waking, stretching, sipping my tea, and heading down to the garden. I've been double-digging the soil to form the new beds--a time-consuming, slow moving process. The red soil sticks to the tines of the spading fork, as clay-based soil tends to, and I generally hit a rock, or four, every foot. While my shoulders are turning red and tightening, the complexity of the birds' songs expand as different species show up from their winter haunts.  Green is making it's vertical crawl up the mountain as the snow-line recedes at an alarmingly fast pace this year. Blossoms flutter to the ground like snow with the spring winds.

I wish I documented all the tell-tale signs of the season's progression--the budding of the trees, the Mountain Blue Bird's arrival, my already burnt skin...Everything has been so early this year, and my critical mind craves some documented proof. Sounds pretty Jeffersonian..."Dear Diary, Today I saw my first humming bird of the season."

But back to the tedious task of double-digging, a bed preparation technique which I practiced with my homesteading mentors Claire and Tony. Briefly, by preparing my garden beds in this way I loosen the soil to allow plants to penetrate the earth and enable good nutrient absorption. Most vegetable root systems reach at least three-feet into the earth. Carrot and beet root systems stretch at least eight-feet downward! Since I'm working with clay compacted soils I can get further down using this technique then I would with a mechanical tiller and save some fossil fuels in the process.  Also, double-digging advocates argue that this method better maintains healthy soil structure than using a roto-tiller, which inverts organic matter. If you want to learn more about this technique there's a great chapter in John Jeavon's How To Grow More Vegetables... and there's a wealth of information on the internet.

At times I am not sure if I will be able to till the entire garden in this manner. My mind seems to think my body incapable of the task, but a strange resilience rises within me each time I think about quitting. Besides the benefit that the soil reaps from this work and that the root systems of my plants will soak up, I can see the faint glimmer of a silver lining to this arguably barbarous practice.

I've spent hours now in my new little plot and if Frost were to look in on my progress he'd rightly say that I have "miles to go before I sleep." In the process, I'm connecting with this piece of earth and it's magnificent views. And because I'm there so much, neighbors stop by to chat with me and keep me company. Admittedly, there's been a day or two in which I spent more time taking breaks and enjoying conversation then I spent digging. Back when I first started I sat on the porch with Logan who taught me some new tricks on the banjo. I talked books and connected with Lucy, someone I rarely see and who feels best when we find one another spontaneously.

Had I brought a roto-tiller over I would have finished the whole process in two short, noisy hours. Faster, yes. Back saving, yes. But without the pleasure and joy of just being. Without the time to relax into observing the shifting of the seasons and the strengthening of my hungry muscles.

Lucy and Fly. (Thanks for the photo Lucy)

Our show's tour in the big city gave me a chance to catch up with Kati and Lisa. Kati brought Farmers' Market goodies for breakfast!

Farm Fresh everything, except the chocolate. Which I ate. For breakfast.

We learned about baking over a fire in class this week. 

View looking North-West.

.   .   .

Can't get enough of this one...

Tea at the garden.
The Lilacs have arrived. Love me some lilac lemonade.

Morning yoga with Ruda.

1 comment:

  1. I miss helping you with the garden. There are so many impacting events in my life that happened with you and the memories always arise when I'm eating something good for me. Gorgeous blog. As always, I miss you after reading this.