500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

Spring begin again already

March7

Spring is in the air, if not quite tangible – no green buds or spring flowers here yet. The only stirring of life so far has been the tiny nettle babies popping up. It’s now completely impossible to pull these little monsters out using the old growth. The base of the plants have rotted – so after little effort you’re left standing with a handfull of stalk – the lifeforce root still safely tucked up in the earth. I’m glad we removed so many while we had the chance in the autumn – it was easy to pull out the plant and quite an impressive amount of orange yellow tuber as well – I’m quite incensed by the fact that stinging nettle is said to be an annual weed when it’s so clearly a perennial. There is abundant nettle around and about, it doesn’t need to be such a dominant force in our garden too.

My experiments in producing nettle fibre for spinning produced a stinky mess which I eventually hoisted into the pond. The fibres did not free themselves as advertised – in future I will try bundles tied and submerged in running water. The other root and stalk materials pulled from the garden were not popular with the sheep and goat as winter food – so went untouched. The remnants show little sign of life now, however it would be a nightmare to assume they were dead and mix them in with the compost only for them to repropagate themselves across the garden.

I have cleared out the hen house – which is also where our ruminators slept over the winter – between them they created a stinky mess – undetectable for the winter while it was a frozen mass, however I had to haul all the bedding out the very moment it defrosted into the most offensive pile of muck. When it’s just the hens in there over the warmer months, it doesn’t smell, but with the sheep and goat urinating on their bedding it gets unpleasant quickly. We put a slope on the floor to channel out liquid, and topped up the bedding throughout the winter so the layer they slept on was always clean and dry, but it goes to show that solid and liquid waste needs to be kept seperate.

I’ve moved this material over to the spiral beds and will use it as a mulch to surrond the cans in which we will plant seeds. The mulch is, apparently, too strong at present to be used to plant into, so we’ll see how the system works. The hens are pretty intent on scratching under the mulch so I need to see if I can find a way of preventing them scratching up and covering the seedlings as it would be better not to have to exclude them from the vegetable garden completely. The babies were voracious slug hunters last year. Into the hen house I’ve now put down the old dead nettle stalks and roots – 12 months in the dry dark should kill them, especially as we bury them under layers of chicken poo, grass cuttings in the summer and bedding hay in the winter. They’ll be the base layer for next year’s mulch.

Grass cuttings – they are useful it’s true. The soil around our vegetables was kept nicely moist by them in the height of the summer heat. I have friends who throw them away by the bagfull – I’d take these if it wasn’t for the nasty chemicals they also rely on for their beautiful lawn. I was over the aesthetic of a cut grass lawn even before I acquiesced to the purchase of the machine. The terms of the agreement have not been kept, so therefore this year I will not be a slave to this beast. I will cut only around the edges to give a semblance of order, and maybe a little more if I should need the mulch, but apart from that, it can be topsoil-building meadow – cut with a scythe, not that noisy, polluting and energy hungry anachronism.

The snow has melted back to reveal earthy citadels all over. I love the potential of mole hills – the very place for seeds to sprout – and they are also useful to let me inspect the shocking state of the ground beneath our healthy layer of topsoil – there’s a lot of broken brick and slate from old buildings which were destroyed and buried. Ploughing this land would be a big, rubbly mistake.

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