It’s done! We finally changed the vegetable growing area. I say “we” because it was with, and thanks to, a tremendous amount of help from Magnus and friends. I don’t think I could have done this alone, it would have taken too long.
There was a lot going on in only ten days but I will try to explain how we went about it. First I started slowly alone, clearing whatever veggies were growing that were worth harvesting, all the while thinking what would be the best way to go about the whole project. We had sweet potatoes and pumpkins growing in one of the two patches and those could benefit from a month more in the ground. The other patch had what I was harvesting. Finally, the “aisle” in between these two was covered with horse manure and had some grasses already trying to grow on it. So the options were: 1) do the whole area (both patches plus aisle) at once in a rough and “tabula rasa” manner rotovating all of it. 2) Harvest what was ready and rake it all by hand or 3) something in between. I thought a bit more and harvested some peanuts, soya, and black beans mainly for seed for next year as well as some swiss chard and rocket salad.
Then we mowed everywhere. Magnus and Per (visiting from Sweden) mowed around the house, Magnus mowed some of the mounds that were crazy covered by weeds and I did all the bigger areas with the tractor. After thinking for a day AND being able to see everything more clearly, we were ready to start. You might wonder why all the thinking. Well, mainly because I do prefer to leave the soil alone as much as possible, but I realized that there was an important trade off if I used the rotovator, at least in some places.
Monday 11/4 Per, Tristán and Timea harvested all the sweet potatoes. In the meantime, I tried to clear the pumpkin plants and the worst of the weed roots while Magnus rotovated. This was for the one patch. The other patch we decided to rake a bit in order to facilitate the marking of contours and try to leave the calendulas, rucula and leeks growing there already. We harvested, cleared, raked and made compost piles of weeds and sweet potato leaves (separate since they are super good mulch material) while Magnus ran the rotovotaor on those areas that were cleared first. By the end of the day some 240 kilos of sweet potato were harvested.
Tuesday continued much the same but then it was only Magnus and me. We cleared all the pumpkin plants and removed the worst of the weeds to make it easier for the rotovator. Magnus run it several times including the aisle which made it rise a lot since it became fluffy very easily due to the newly applied horse manure.
Wednesday I got ill… I am not sure whether it was the sun, the stress or just some stupid bug that I brought with me from school, either way I was pretty useless for three full days plus one to make sure. I was not happy.
This meant Magnus did the contour measurements mostly alone except for some help from Tristan and Per. But, help was on the way! On Friday our super friends Andy and Mauge arrived and started working on rebuilding the mounds in a new direction. Saturday went solely to rebuilding. It was heavy work and the marking sticks were a bit off because the soil was so different at different places, especially where the aisle previously mentioned had been, where the soil was higher than the rest so it gave a “fake” curve on the contour lines all across the middle of the area so there was a bit of tweaking, trial and error involved. I would go there every now and then to inspect and give feedback but stayed mainly away from the sun and made food, cleaned a bit and rested. By Sunday I was all good again. Magnus spent the morning with Per who was leaving for Montevideo in order to start the trip back to Sweden and together with Andres they continued re building the new mounds. Mauge and I did one first round to the horse manure provider and loaded a full trailer plus some 23 grain bags of which we immediately unloaded onto the new mounds where it will now lie and get composted. Magnus and Andres went to take Per to the bus stop and after that did a second manure pick-up. In the meantime Mauge cooked lunch and I started spreading hay on the walkways. By the end of Sunday all mounds were built except for a small area where the flatter part with straight mounds meets a slightly sloped area with more curved mounds. I ended with a triangular area here and I am thinking what to do with it, probably flowers, herbs and perennials. We’ll see.
Pics 1-3: The last mound was straight and easy, as a few of the others following that one. Further up they started to curve.
On Monday Mauge made some killer pasta while Magnus and Andres continued spreading horse manure and I started distributing the compost piles around the fruit trees, taking old zucchinis and green pumpkins to the compost and breaking them apart (otherwise it takes for ever for them to compost), ripe pumpkins to store at T&T’s “tree house” that has become my root cellar and generally tidying up. We had a super nice lunch, everybody drank lots of home brewed beer and we relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. Pity I don’t have a picture of the sorrentinos (pasta dish). They were SO GOOD!
I finally have something that makes much more sense to me and I am really looking forward to planting there. I also got to see how much better the soil is now compared to what it was like when I started 5-6 years ago. Also, I have some freaking amazing friends that busted their asses for several days just to help me. Life is good.