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Growing Soil

We are currently developing new Kitchen Gardens directly behind the farmhouse. First cardboard is laid down to kill the grass, then fertilizer, then a layer of dry grass cuttings. The cardboard is scavenged with help from the local waste station (dump) employee who puts aside large boxes for us as well as pallets which we also use. The fertilizer is variously sourced on site, including soiled bedding from the goats, chickens and ducks. We also have a colony of bats in the barn who provide guano free of charge (except for the sweeping).

Another source of fertilizer for our new garden beds is cow manure from the previous tenants of the property.18 months ago when I first visited the farm, there was clearly a big pile of manure behind the barn and near a silo, but by late summer this year, it virtually disappeared under dense vegetation. However, earlier in the summer a bobcat had been rented for various purposes, and a dark humusy gash in the green marked where that black gold still lay. Of course after sitting undisturbed for almost two years, a pick ax is required to mine this gold! Lacking a back-hoe, nothing is lacking, and little by little we are moving this material onto the new garden beds.

The soil here in New England is rocky, and the top soil is thin from a couple hundred years of farming. Right now we are building up the soil of garden beds so that next year we can grow more of our own vegetables. Meanwhile, the fields are planted in a mixed cover crop which gets mowed once a season, putting more organic matter on top of, and root systems deep into, these fields.

Compost bins made from pallets and materials on hand. Another principle of permaculture, and a variant on the the first Right Livelihood guideline which is to consume mindfully, is to use what you have. These materials worked just fine. The young locust trees provide some shade so the compost piles don't dry out too fast. The piles are built with a layer of brown/carbon alternated with a layer of green/nitrogen. The right mix of these two plus water and air feeds the insects and microbes that break down the plants into fertile humus. If I water and turn the piles once and awhile the process is faster, if I don't it still turns into great life-filled soil! The pile on the right I filled to the top twice and still it's settling!

Permaculturists recommend building a diverse ecology by using diverse strategies to get there. We are encouraged to seek peace and happiness through diversity of understanding in our community. By scavenging multiple sources of soil building materials, both on the farm and in the local area, and by having multiple types composting, we are growing soil to grow food to feed ourselves at Spring Wind Farm. I'm learning there are many valuable kinds of diversity.

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Jayne Alenier
Jayne Alenier
Sep 30, 2021

So interesting! Thanks for sharing.

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