Day Off


I decided to take Saturday off, which for me means doing all kinds of projects I haven’t had time to do–things that give me pleasure and also things that may my work-a-day life easier.

Growing up, the family tradition was to use long weekends and holidays for projects–there was never a lot of sitting around and relaxing–“relaxation” was about building or making or fixing something.  Or tracking game.  Or fishing.  Or occasionally visiting relatives, which often meant working with them on their projects.

Of course, when I was a teenager, these things didn’t seem fun or relaxing, but now that I’m an adult with a house and gardens and projects of my own, I’ve fallen into the same routines I learned as a kid, and I’ve learned to enjoy them.

The weather forecast was for storms off and on all day Saturday (and we had rain off and on from late Thursday night all through Friday), but the weekend dawned sunny and bright and warm.

The soil was too wet to work in the farm gardens, but not too wet to do a big project in the home gardens–namely turning compost in the big wrap-around raised bed I built and removing the landscape fabric from underneath it.

I had the idea when I built the thing that landscape fabric would help keep tree roots from invading it, but it has basically created a barrier underneath that’s formed a hardpan.  The tree roots may still be a concern, but the soil in there is worked enough that they won’t make much headway.

I started by digging out all the rest of last year’s onions and leeks, and then began moving all the partially-broken-down compost and manure from the back (bottom) side of the bed over to the corner of the bed where it wraps around the house.

The top part of that bed was built up several years ago from inverted sod I removed while creating the garden on the north side of the house, and only has landscape fabric under the edges of the bed, which I added later as part of the extension and improvement project.

Last fall, I got a couple of guys to dump a big pile of unsprayed grass clippings and shredded leaves in the backyard, and as I pulled up and cut out the fabric, I put down a bottom layer of this plus some unfinished compost to entreat the worms to come up through the hardpan and break it down.  On top of that, I shoveled the broken-down manure and soil.

Nice sized earthworms are already working on the compost

The back side of the bed has never really been “full” yet–I’ve been hesitant to just go and buy a load of soil that came from who-knows-where to top it off when I can just make my own (it just takes a bit longer).  After all, I’ve got plenty of growing space on the farm without worrying about creating an “instant” raised bed at home.

So, the last six or seven feet of the bed behind the house is still unplantable–but at least I got the landscape fabric cut out.  I did leave a “lip” of it going underneath the retaining wall blocks the keep trees from growing up right along the outside of the wall where they’re hard to get out.

And then I dug out my compost bin, which was a pretty stinky process.  I basically just pile stuff in there over the course of the year (whatever I’m not feeding to my worms in the basement) and it does tend to go anaerobic–but that also tends to rot the weed and vegetable seeds that get dumped in there, so they’re not all sprouting once they go into the raised bed.

I spread all that stinky, gooey mess out along the bottom of the empty portion of the raised bed and then strewed the remaining grass clippings over the top to put down the odor.

That was all done by eleven a.m.

Not being able to stay away, I headed out to the farm, where H had some tunes blasting and was getting things done out there.  Then he suggested that it might be about time for the morels to be up, and maybe we should make a little foray to find out.  We grabbed some mesh bags and wandered out to one of our spots–the dog came, too.

No mushrooms there yet, but we didn’t collect any deer ticks, either (which is usually par for the mushroom-hunting course).  It was nice to take a ramble through the woods, and I didn’t even manage to get lost, which is also par for the course when you’re staring intently at the ground.

In this case, lost is an eye-of-the-beholder kind of deal–the landmarks in that area are pretty easy to navigate by and find the way back to a dirt road.

I’ve always been kind of unimpressed by the horror films where a bunch of kids get lost in the woods and can’t find their way out–I grew up in the woods, so it never seems like a scary place to me.  I suppose if there was someone hunting me, I might feel differently.

Heading back to the farm, I harvested the asparagus and dropped it off for some friends who’d requested it, fixed myself some lunch, and pulled out the reel mower for adjustment and sharpening.  I bought the mower several years ago (about the time I bought the house), and finally ran out of lapping compound in the kit that came with it.

Luckily, I found a great little company out of California called Reel Mowers, Etc. that carried 1lb. jars of the stuff, and that came in the mail on Thursday morning.

So, I sat down on the front step with my kit, my lapping compound, a flathead screw driver, and some WD40 and brought my mower to singing sharpness while watching the neighbors up and down the block getting their prom pictures taken and heading off in their freshly-waxed vehicles for that teenage right-of-passage.

Then I mowed my lawn–the front part that is still manageable, anyhow.  The backyard may need a motorized intervention at this point.  But it’s such a pleasure to use a freshly adjusted and sharpened reel mower, and it’s a pleasure to be able to service the thing myself just sitting on the front step on a sunny afternoon.

In fact, during the rest of the weekend, I kept eyeing other people’s lawns gone shaggy with the rain, and thinking it might be fun to give them a haircut with my zippy little mower.

My final project on Saturday evening was to throw together a simple, one-layer lasagna.  The sky had gotten dark and threatening at that point, and I thought it’d make a cozy end to a full day.  I only had one layer’s worth of pasta, but that’s didn’t seem like it should get in the way of something tasty.

I’d taken out a package of frozen ground pork from the hog we got processed a couple of weeks ago, and I fried that with lots of local garlic and the onions I dug out of the raised bed–some non-local fennel seed and rosemary (my overwintered plant kicked the bucket–again) and my own hot pepper flakes.

Then I drained the fat and dumped the seasoned pork back in the pan with half a jar of home-canned tomato soup I had in the fridge plus two pints of my tomato sauce and let it cook down to thickness.

I didn’t have much cheese in the house, so that only went on top (some Dimock co-jack)–the middle layer was some local eggs I hard-boiled and sliced and some dollops of organic yogurt I picked up from the PrairieSun store just a couple blocks from my house (the yogurt’s from Iowa).

While that was baking in the oven, I showered and then sat down to read a little more from my latest book obsession: Shannon Hayes’ Radical Homemakers.

Holy cow, do I love this book–the basic premise of which is to return our households to units of production instead of simply units of consumption–working ever-harder to make money to buy the things we could be making or doing ourselves better and more sustainably.

I think I did a pretty good job of honoring that concept this Saturday!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Radical Homemakers looks fascinating…I’ll drop it in my queue. Thanks.

  2. Posted by Heidi on April 26, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Glad you’re enjoying the book, Rebecca! You’re definitely a radical homemaker! Keep on keeping on, lady!

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