Hugelkultur

September Garden Photo Tour

Time for a garden update!  I’ve had a particularly good year in the garden this year.  It’s not been without failures, but overall, I’m pretty happy.

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I really feel like the new bed layout has done wonders for our little crops.  They’ve gotten more sun, the drip system has given them more consistent water and, as you can see by the GIANT tomatoes, they are loving it.

We’ve pulled the beets, garlic, and a few other crops, spread some finished compost and have room to start more crops.  Rotation plans are in the works for next spring.

I even peeped over the neighbor’s fence (the other neighbors).  They moved in this spring, in the rental tri-plex unit next-door.  And two of the households worked together to plant a huge garden in a tiny strip of dirt.  I’ve been so impressed with their hard work!

Want to show off your homestead?  Denver Botanic Gardens is still looking for entries for the upcoming 2012 Urban Homestead Tour on Saturday, September 22 from 10am to 4pm.  Click here for an entry form.

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Categories: Food, Garden, Hugelkultur, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

What we are planting in 2012

A few of you were curious about what we are planting this year in the garden.  SO, here is the plan for 2012…

In the four main garden beds we are planting seeds of both grey and yellow zucchini, Mexican Sour Gherkins and Long Anglais cucumbers, pole beans (purple ones), Australian brown onions, golden beets, red Russian kale, and arugula.  I’m hoping the kolhrabi that we have been trying to overwinter are still going strong, so we can possibly get seeds from them this year.  We will buy started tomato plants as well; not sure what varieties until we see what they have at our garden center.

The boys will have some Cosmic Purple carrots in their hugelkultur as well as some cherry tomato plants and possibly a bean or pumpkin teepee for fun (stay tuned).

We have a couple of other planting areas around the yard, and in those areas we are going to put some lettuces, some lemon yellow Habanero peppers, and lots and lots of spinach.   Plus I’ve planned a couple of giant variety sunflowers to screen out some neighbors and later feed to the chickens.

In the neighbor’s yard, we’ll do potatoes again, and his corn.  Plus he’s made room for watermelons and the giant pumpkin.  We can’t wait!

Any locals have tips on herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro…)?  I’ve had mixed success with them, but want to add more, inter-spaced in the flower beds out front.

What are you planting this year?  Also, did I miss anything in last week’s veggie garden basics that you were hoping for?

Categories: Food, Garden, Hugelkultur | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Virtual Homestead Tour

Welcome to the Schell Urban Homestead’s end of July virtual garden tour!  I was really excited when Erica at Northwest Edible Life invited me to participate in letting all you Nosy Neighbors peek over our garden fence!

Here’s how the Lazy Homesteader does the Nosy Neighbor Virtual Homestead & Garden Tour:

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The first part of this tour that makes me really excited is that I’m actually documenting what the whole garden is doing at a given point in the summer.  I never remember when we get the first tomato (this week!  A Silver Fir Tree Russian heirloom).  The kohlrabi is a giant variety that Rick’s grandpa brought us from Slovakia.  It will get to be over 8 pounds and will not be woody.  It also keeps great all winter, and it’s starting to bulb up to about baseball size in the last few days of July.  Rick’s parents shared cucumbers with us last week and the week before, but ours have only just begun to flower.

The unexpected thing that I am loving about this tour is the truth of it.  In the pictures of the onions and watermelons, you can see both the weeds I’ve neglected to pull, and the light-colored, hard clay that we grow in here in Colorado.  Normally, I’d make an effort to hide both the weeds and the soil, because the shiny-happy blogger in me wants you to think that my garden is perfectly groomed and full of rich, dark, beautiful loamy soil.  In fact, some people do think that.  Rick’s grandparents even commented this week on how they couldn’t grow something that we could because their soil (about 25 miles from us) is hard clay.  Rick and I burst out laughing.  So here’s the proof.  We don’t have perfect soil.  This is how it looks after eight years of work amending it.  And I’m glad I let it show.

Some of my other favorite highlights from the slideshow (the shiny-happy stuff):

Corn from our neighbor’s garden, actually.  His corn is peeking over our front yard fence.  Well, not peeking, so much as towering.  We are actually sharing our harvests this year, so that is how I’m justifying including crops that belong to someone else in my garden tour.  ;)

The hundreds of tiny cherry tomatoes on H’s plants make me giddy.  And I can’t believe how big those two plants are.  Over six feet high!

The garlic I harvested in the week before C was born is drying in the garage, and the beets I pulled a few days ago are beautiful, although we might have pulled them about a week earlier if we weren’t in new baby mode.

We’re still waiting on the first eggs from the pullets, but we are getting two or three a day still from the older hens.

I was really hoping to include a picture of our raspberries this year, but they suddenly quit producing just last week.  Luckily I found something in the strawberry bed to show you instead!

Be sure to check out the other homesteads and gardens in Erica’s Nosy Neighbor Tour.  Thanks for stopping by!

Categories: Beekeeping, Chickens, Community, Food, Garden, Hugelkultur, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

What We’ve Been Up To…

Sorry for the lack of posts lately.  We’ve been up to a lot.  We spent some time pulling weeds, trimming hedges, cleaning up the flower beds and mowing this weekend too, but I didn’t get a picture.  This is very sad, because it was the first time Rick used the new push mower!   Other garden news – the sunflowers and okra I planted are up and should make a nice screen soon.  But between all the projects, I’ve been pretty exhausted and have had weird hip-nerve-fire-stabbing pain going on my right side.  Because of that, I’ve been spending the boys’ nap time (my usual blog writing time) napping myself.  38 weeks pregnant and counting.  Here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to over the last couple weeks.  As always, click to view larger.

The tree stump came out:

 

The garden is growing:

 

The rest of the basement got “finished”:

The nursery got a few more touches:

 

 

Baby’s ETA is any time now.  I was 12 days early with E, and although I know I can’t count on a repeat of that goodness, I can still hope.  You can bet there will be pictures.  ;)

Categories: DIY, Garden, Hugelkultur, Simple Living | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

End of May Homestead Photo Tour

I thought I’d share what’s going on at the homestead right now.  I was going to do a video tour, but being nearly 32 weeks pregnant with a baby pushing on my lungs, every video take was nothing but me breathing heavy as I walked through the yard.  So it’s a photo tour instead.

Starting just outside our back door with the boys’ hugelkultur.  I didn’t do a close up, but the watermelon sprouts are up.  Next is the chicken yard, then the side yard along our driveway where the volunteer spinach lives, as well as the grapes, garlic and strawberries.  Next come my flower gardens that are slowly getting edibles mixed in.  And the neighbor’s garden that we’ve been helping with.  Then is our main garden and the beehive, which is to receive a new roof this weekend.  Not shown are the tiny leek and kohlrabi sprouts.  :)  Eggplant and carrots are planted too, but not up yet.  Enjoy!

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Categories: Garden, Hugelkultur, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Independence Update and A Weekend Off

So as tough as it was for me, I took a weekend off from garden and household projects.  It was good timing, since there was a lot of rain this weekend and we had some family obligations on Saturday.  But normally that would have been no obstacle and we would have squeezed out the time for another project or two anyway.

But really.  I needed rest.  And I think Rick did too.  We didn’t do any work on Sunday.  We had a lazy morning and then went to the museum to see the Pirate exhibit.  We ordered a pizza on Friday night, ate out for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Saturday (whoa!!!) and had left-overs Sunday.  That. Never. Happens.

The rest was good.  I know I needed it.  My back has been hurting more the last few weeks, and I feel surprised by it.  I never had any back pain with my other two pregnancies, and although Rick says it’s because I’m doing more, I’m not convinced.  I mean I was a month ahead of this with E and working on the farm. ??  Well, who knows?

Things have been going well with the big unplugging of the fridge.  Actually it doesn’t really seem that big at this point.  It’s been a fun topic of conversation though, and I’m keeping track of the lessons we’re learning in these weeks to share with you all.

I’ve also been thinking about some little changes on the blog.  Nothing major, but I added a “recipes” category and tried to find all my old posts with recipes to put in it.  It needs a better name though… not something that boring.  I’m thinking “Homegrown Grub” or “Fresh to the Feedbag” or some other thing that’s witty, but to the point. Any suggestions??

I know it’s also been a few weeks since I wrote up an Independence Days update.  Here’s the latest, and it covers the last few weeks, so it’s not really as big as it seems.  :)

Plant something – leeks, onions, beets, kohlrabi, carrots, watermelon, corn, eggplant, basil, tomatoes, peppers, kale, chard, peas, cucumbers… can you tell the danger of frost finally passed here?  ;)

Harvest something –  eggs and spinach galore, mint, radishes, lettuce, asparagus.

Preserve something – chicken soup, broth too, asparagus, quiche.

Waste Not – compost, scraps to chickens, recycling, still planning meals (18 weeks in a row!), used wood chips to mulch garden, built the hugelkultur, made some calls about getting the tree trunk milled into lumber when it comes down.  Realized the changing table has seen better days (after the known 4 kids it’s been through, plus some??), so I let it stay in the spare room as a shelf.  Will find a substitute to use for changing table.  Used up half a gallon of left over paint (an old living room wall color) on a wall in the spare room.  Donated a carload of stuff to the Goodwill, took a box of the boys’ clothes to be sold.

Want Not – tried to make yogurt.  It tasted good but was thin.  Going to keep trying though – it’s so easy and even the “mistake” was tasty – H loved it.  Got new shoes for both boys and new underwear for H – they are growing like weeds already.

Build Community Food Systems – some of that planting was in the neighbor’s garden.  Also helped a friend start their first garden.

Eat the Food – Well.  Lots.  We’re getting to the end of the stuff we saved over the winter.  It hurts buying some things, like tomatoes (canned) and onions.  We will definitely be working to save a lot more this year, if we can.

Categories: Hugelkultur, Independence Days | 3 Comments

Mother’s Day Big Brag

Wow!  Happy belated Mother’s Day!  Here’s my official brag about how great my family is and what a great weekend we had on the homestead.  This weekend I had requested to get the garden planted.  The plan was for me to spend Saturday with my mom and sister while Rick and the boys went with his mom to the botanic gardens, and for us to plant the garden on Friday after Rick was home from work and on Sunday.

On Friday, we planted corn, onions, and carrots with the neighbor and put in our tomatoes.  But Friday night, we got a call that our friend, Chris, had caught a swarm of bees for us, and another call that the CSA asparagus was ready to pick.

Some things just don’t wait.  So on Saturday morning, while the guys were at the botanic gardens with Grandma, my mom and sister came over here for bunch, and Chris brought us the swarm.

The bees we had last year left in the fall, we’re not sure why.  We think either the queen died or left since there were bees milling around aimlessly for a week or two before they were all gone.  There were no dead bees, just gone.  Last year’s swarm was also much smaller and our friend caught it later in the season while we were out of town.  He had installed them for us then, so this was the first time I got to experience putting bees into the hive, and Chris walked me through it.  My mom got to watch ME put the bees into the hive (and took pictures for us!).

These new bees were pretty cranky, they had been in the box for a couple days and were hungry and thirsty.  It took me three good tries to get the majority of them in the hive and get the bars on the top.  My initial trial of things, they sort of swarmed around my head and clung to the gloves I was wearing.  But they seemed to calm down significantly in a few minutes and I was able to knock the majority of the rest of them into the hive and get the bars on top without any trouble.  I was really surprised at how they clung to the box, and also how quickly they just took to the hive.

We put them in with the old comb that last year’s bees had left behind (we’re pretty certain there were no mites or diseases), and they settled down fairly quickly.  Many bees zoomed off to the water and sugar-water we had out for them, but others went to the entrance of the hive and started fanning their wings to spread the queen’s pheromones so the remaining bees in the box and the air (there were still quite a few) would come on in and start making the new hive their home.  It was really exciting and I’m sad Rick missed it again.

Then, it was back to brunch with the girls for me.  It was a really nice time (I made lavender pound cake and my sister made yummy pecan-dark chocolate scones).  When Rick and the boys got home, we headed up to the farm to pick asparagus.  It took us less than forty-five minutes to pick a good 25 pounds before we trimmed it all up.  It came out to about 14 pounds of asparagus, processed and frozen, plus some to eat fresh this week.

Sunday, for some unknown reason I woke up super early, before any of the guys rolled out of bed.  When they got up around 6:45, they gave me some sweet cards and kisses, and promised to build me a picnic table next week!  We got dressed and they took me out to Snooze (one of my favorite places) for breakfast.  Afterward, we came home and started up more planting work.

We did the boys’ hugelkultur bed first.  H planted watermelon, carrots (two kinds) and tomatoes (an heirloom red cherry and a “white” cherry that will actually be yellow).  The boys got a new real shovel and special, colored tomato cages.  My mom always said she wouldn’t be a mother without me, and I sort of feel the same about my boys, so they get treats on mother’s day too).  E ran around the hugelkultur while Rick scrambled to make barriers to keep him from trampling the seeds.

It was nap time before we knew it, and Rick and I spent the afternoon putting up asparagus (Rick did most the work), and planting out the rest of the main garden bed.  By the evening I had gotten plans for my new picnic table, an order placed for the grub hoe I’ve been lusting over, a [nearly] fully planted garden bed, four kinds of basil in my flower beds, a delicious sunburn on my shoulders, a home-made dinner with fresh asparagus, and a perfect day with my guys.  Lucky me!

I hope your Mother’s Day weekend was just as special as mine was!  What did you do?

Categories: Beekeeping, Food, Garden, Hugelkultur | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

The Hugelkultur Project

A while back, when we  decided to take on the project of cutting down our 70-foot tall (plus or minus) honey locust tree in the back yard, I began doing research on what in the world we’d do with all the wood.  As you may know, a lot of the smaller branches have become mulch for the garden.  But someone from the Take Back Urban-Homesteading(s) community on Facebook suggested to me to build a ‘hugelkultur.’  A hoogle-whater?  So, of course I Googled it.

I’ll try to save you some time.  A hugelkultur (pronounced “hoogle-culture” – I think), is basically a raised bed in which wood or other carbon-rich materials is buried.  Some people lay logs directly on the ground, use a tractor to dump a pile of dirt on it and then start planting on their new, hill-shaped bed.  (I like the info in this link).

The advantages of this method of gardening is that the wood, as it rots, acts as a sponge, making it so you don’t have to water much.  Additionally, it releases nutrients over time into the soil, making it so you don’t need to fertilize.  And, as it rots, it leaves plenty of air space in the soil, so you don’t need to till.  Basically, it is a no-maintenance, self-composting bed.  The first year or two, especially with green wood like ours, it will actually draw nitrogen from the soil in order to start decomposition.  But thereafter, it will supposedly do nothing but give back.

Sounds like a good plan to us!  So we decided to give it a try in the boys’ backyard garden bed.  We don’t have lots of spare topsoil just lying around everywhere, nor the desire to buy any, so we thought it would be a better use of what we do have to dig down into the ground and bury the wood with our own topsoil and subsoil.

We dug down a good 12-14 inches.  Then we laid in some of the branches that were too thick to go through the wood chipper.  Then we buried them.  This left us with basically an instant raised bed, as promised.  We used some of the bigger, straighter limbs from the tree to make an edging (not yet complete).  Otherwise the boys would truck that dirt all over the back yard before anything could be planted there.

After an afternoon of being (unnecessarily) compacted by a 22 month old in a Tonka truck pushed by a 4 year old.

Fortunately for us, we have plenty of nitrogen-rich compost, thanks to the chickens.  We mixed a bit of that in to compensate for the initial anticipated nitrogen loss/Tonka truck compaction.  Henry wants carrots, tomatoes and watermelon in his bed this year.  We’ll keep track and let you know how it goes!

Does anyone out there have experience with a hugelkultur?  What about deterrents for little boys and their ride-on toys?  ;)

Categories: Garden, Hugelkultur, Simple Living, Sustainability, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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