Gravel Yard

Sorry we haven’t posted much regarding any actual farming, but the truth is we’re still in the setting-up phase of our new home, and consequently most of what we’ve been doing – and blogging about – has been more along the line of basic new-home stuff. Plus we’ve had some rainy weeks this past month, weather that has pushed our planting date back quite a bit (we’re finally starting this week – more on that later). I mean, there’s no use in sowing all your seeds if the garden is just going to be solid mud for days, is there? As well-tilled as our garden is, we found that repeated rainy days caused the whole thing to look like a scene out of Woodstock ’94. Minus the half-naked, stoned, college kids moshing to Primus, of course…

Ready for planting? Not quite...

Not that we haven’t been busy. There’s mowing the whole property, for example, to be done. That in itself deserves its own blog posting as it involves me, on a tractor, nearly rolling down a hill to my death – but perhaps I’ll write about that another time. Here I think I’ll recount something less edge-of-your-seat, if a little mundane.

When we moved onto the property the house had many of the trappings of your typical rental (which it had been for a couple of years): monochromatic interior painting, wall-to-wall shag carpeting, fist-holes in the dry-wall, the unmistakable smell of urine wafting about the rooms – you know, just like your last rental. Of course, it’s not a rental any more, but with all the things we’ve been doing outside of the house, beautifying the inside hasn’t been a big priority (although we did tear up all that carpet). We were, however, able to devote some time to the back yard. Now, maybe yard isn’t the correct word, since that implies grass; step outside our back door and you’ll find yourself face to face not with the green stuff Walt Whitman used to get so loopy over, but with (again, in accordance with the rules governing rental properties) lots and lots of gravel.

And I hate gravel.

Now admittedly there isn’t a lot of square footage here, but it’s still an area we’d like to utilize. There’s a built-in fire pit at the edge, with plenty of room for a few lawn chairs. We can press our cider there, barbecue with friends, get mauled by bobcats – the possibilities are endless. There’s even a rickety, corrugated awning-thing for shade.

In short, this ugly patch of crud could actually be something. So a couple of weeks ago, while we were waiting for our drip-lines to be installed in the garden-to-be, we had all the gravel shoveled out and dumped in the driveway. Then we hit our local landscape supply store and got to work.

It turns out gravel would be the least of our problems: underneath that was a layer of rust-colored volcanic rock. Of course by that I mean the stuff you can buy at a landscaping store – not, you know, a natural layer of volcanic rock (that probably goes without saying as everyone knows that there is no actual lava along the Central California Coast – just lava lamps). Anyway, we got the volcanic stuff out and underneath that was hard, packed, clay-like dirt. It took a lot of tilling to break that stuff up.

Fortunately Sarah helped out a lot. Why, she, alone, turned this…

Into this:

And it only took her nine straight hours! You can only imagine how long it would have taken her if we had allowed her food and bathroom breaks. Okay – I’m kidding, of course! (It was more like six hours). Anyway…

Once that was done we had to blend in twelve or thirteen cubic feet of topsoil, then set flagstone in sand for a nice path.

We bought a few ferns and several flats of ground cover, and in they went…

I think it looks pretty good now. Once we finish planting the ground cover (there’s still a few flats sitting impatiently by the fire pit) and enough time has passed to allow it all to fill in, it should be a nice little bit of Eden.

That is, if Eden had bobcats…

-Jason

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