Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Garden update

 36 inches of lovely black dirt next door

First, a rant.  When our neighbor to the east indicated the line for the new retaining wall separating the properties, there was a certain amount of excavation to be done to straighten it.  The fill was dumped on our ¨back 40¨, next to the hill of dirt already waiting to be redistributed.  So far so good.  But when I went out to take a tour of our dominions, I noticed all manner of plastic, metal, and general refuse mixed in with the stones and dirt I was expecting.  I spent a couple of hours filling 3 garbage bags with bailing plastic, plastic bags, rebar, foam insulation, styrofoam, and broken glass.  Some genius had decided they really needed to spread the ¨infill¨ out and then run the tractor back and forth to really, really compact it down.  The deeper I dug, the more garbage was revealed.  Now, I fully expect to have to build some kind of sifters and go through all the stone/gravel/dirt/construction debris that´s accumulated over the last 3 years, cartload by cartload, but I physically can´t get down through this stuff to lever it out of the ground.


So what to do?  Will buried metal mess up a plow/harrow/disc if we have it tilled?  Do we try to scrape it up again and pile it somewhere until we can get to it?  So stupid and unnecessary.

But that will have to go on the list of earth works - along with Mount Doom, now covered with weeds, and the giant pile of old wood scrap that was taken out of the house and barn when we started.  unlikely to have any use now it´s been sitting out in the elements for years.  Probably providing some dandy habitat, though.

General plan, updated to reflect the new house size and boundary.

The pile of rock occupying the parking area is reduced, but by no means gone.  That´s actually good, since I keep coming up with new plans for stone - patios, terraces, steps.


Our new concerns are 1) being overlooked by the neighbors and 2) slope and drainage.


The neighbors are turning out to be quite nice, but still looming.  Their veggie plot overlooks both our bathrooms.  Not much to be done on our part, other than curtains, but we understand they´ll be putting some kind of a fence along the top of the wall.  Maybe I can get them to grow grapes, or roses or something.  We´ve discussed siting the covered wood store, probably made from a few pallets, along the wall to screen our view of their house from what will be the patio/outdoor dining area.

I´ve gone back and forth about what to do along the other section of wall separating their garden from ours.  At first I was all for a line of espaliered fruit trees, pruned high enough to admire the stone and tall enough to provide some screening, but I´m concerned about tree roots pulling down the wall and invading the vegetable beds.  Also, anything tall will cast some shadow on their plot, which seems unneighborly.  Panels or trellises for peas/beans/other climbers? I also thought about a step-over espalier of pears and apples between the beds and the barn.  Might prefer a fence to keep out the chickens. 


And speaking of the potager/kitchen garden, I´m now considering terracing that slope into 3 sections with a 24 - 30 inch drop between sections.  We´ve been told that quite a bit of water washes down, so perhaps I can engineer some kind of swale/berm/hugelculture/terrace combo that will 1) address the slope/slow runoff and 2) use up some of the old wood/infill that needs to go away.  Raised beds will need additional soil as well and those ruts aren´t getting any shallower.

Is it better to try some lasagna layers over the winter to kill the grass and then excavate levels in the spring?  Or just hire/rent a big machine and get it all over with. Can´t really afford that.

Good crop of elder flowers this spring, the apples and pear struggle on, big pruning job there.  No sign of nuts on the walnut, again.  I found what I think is a quince buried under the re-emergent blackberries and grape jungle on the south side of the barn.

Yes, there´s a barn under that

Still mulling where to put the ¨orchard¨ now that I´m reconsidering the separation between us and the neighbors.  On the plan, they´ll get sun until about 6 in the afternoon, but west of them is all heavily wooded, which I adore.  Tempis fugits with trees, though.  They have to go in early as they take so long to produce fruit.

Other things I must have, some roses (alas, the hedge rose cuttings I took in June all died), a mock orange, some roses, peonies, lilacs, Christmas trees and hydrangeas.  Another consideration is a cover for the patio on the south side of the house.  I don´t think we can afford to roof it right away, so should we just settle for a wire structure for the traditional grapes or kiwis, or a pergola.  Neither will do much for rain, but at least a pergola seems like an intermediate step to a covered space.

 Some day

En fin, enough yammering.  There´s lots to be done.


  1. I feel for you and the looming neighbours! I've been living in Galicia for two years now (in Spain 17), but only moved to the countryside in May, so I just discovered the "neighbours issues". Ours are really nice - we're getting a continuous supply of potatoes and eggs, are helpful and so on - but they're also incredibly nosy, showing up at any hour and keeping up with anything that goes on in our lives! Getting used to it :-)

    Anyway, your project looks amazing, all the luck! And if you're ever around Boiro (Ría de Arousa) do come over and say hello!


  2. Thanks, Anna. Your blog looks very inviting - I can fully support Galician cuisine. And the neighbors and spiders all seem familiar too!

    Galician TV had a thing on a lobster festival over by Arousa, I think. Looked delish.

  3. It sounds as though you are finding solutions to your land and how you want it to serve you. I really think that you have to live with the land for some time and as you do, it becomes clearer how it can best serve and become functional. I know you have lived with it throughout the build but now it is nearing completion, it will take on a different meaning to you. Enjoy the process and don't worry too much about the neighbours, we have found them to be interested but not intrusive.