Thursday, April 14, 2011

Happy First Birthday .09 Acres!

It's officially been one year since I built the first raised beds and planted a few berries in the ground at .09 Acres.  The time has flown by so fast.  But before I even dug a spade into the ground or removed a single overgrown vine, I was running through all the possibilities in my mind.

Let me go back a little earlier than a year ago.  I want to start with a few photos I took in September 2009, a month before we purchased the house.  The yard was nice....quiet, private, and ordinary.  It was the type of yard you'd expect to find in my neighborhood.

September 2009 at .09 Acres.
The main problem I saw was that the yard was the exact opposite of what I wanted in a yard.  Grass that needed to be mowed, fertilized, and edged.  Overgrown bushes, shrubs, and invasive vines and ground cover that needed to be tamed and maintained.  I didn't want any of that.  I wanted to create an edible landscape filled with veggies, fruits, and herbs.  No grass, raised vegetable beds, a variety of different fruit trees.  This couldn't be the place for me.  Or could it?

Despite the numerous drawbacks, the property offered many things I was looking for in a yard.  Full sun exposure for 8-10 hours per day.  A manageable size.  Privacy fencing that offered seclusion and also created a slightly warmer micro-climate.  And a fairly open layout that I could configure any way I wanted.  Maybe this was the right place!

We eventually purchased the house but I didn't dive into the yard until we had spent a few months working on some DIY renovations inside. I finally got out into the yard in early spring and pruned or removed many overgrown shrubs, bushes, and trees.  I ripped out the creeping groundcover, and even moved the fence closer to the property line to reclaim some additional footage (it all counts in a small yard!)  By that point it was April, 2010 and I was ready build some raised beds and plant some edibles.

April 2010 at .09 Acres.
You can see a large difference between September 2009 and April 2010.  I gained quite a bit of square footage by removing old plants and moving the fence.  I also pruned the grand old Japanese Maple (back left in the above photo).  Unfortunately I had to remove it later on after I discovered that its roots caused some major damage to some nearby plumbing.

I worked when I could.  An evening here, weekends there, official holidays, work holidays. I even dragged myself outside when I was sick to pull a weed or water a new plant.  It borders on obsession at this point.

Here we are one year after I built the first raised beds.  What does the place look like now?  To be quite honest, it looks a bit bare.  But I intentionally provided sufficient space between the fruit trees to allow them ample room to grow and thrive in the coming years.  And hopefully they will.  Now the peach tree and berries are growing like crazy, the young fig trees are starting to leaf out, and I'm preparing to plant new veggies in the raised beds.  Within a few weeks the whole yard will be alive.

April 2011 at .09 Acres.
I added labels to the picture to show what is planted in the yard.  I selected the left-most fence (facing south) for my fig trees.  I have 5 different varieties in the ground.  The berry trellis is near the right-most fence (facing north).  It still gets great sun during the day.  I tucked a peach tree and pomegranate tree closer to the house for protection against cold winter winds and to ensure that they would stay dormant just a little longer than usual to prevent against damage from a late frost.

The original 5 raised beds have been joined together.  I added the rough overall dimensions of these long beds to give an idea of how much produce I can grow.  I opted for raised beds because the ground is very low and drains slowly after a good rain.  I also smothered the grass and weeds with layers of cardboard and mulch.  I'm not sure how effective that will be over the long haul.  Only time will tell.

I didn't really know what creating an edible landscape would take in terms of time, labor, and expense, but I went for it.  By no means am I done, but I've accomplished quite a bit.  I know the yard will continue to change and evolve.  I'll have more successes and setbacks, more elation and deflation (is that a word?), and that's what makes it exciting.  Equally exciting is the pride and enjoyment of harvesting a basket of ripe heirloom tomatoes, watching figs ripen in the sun, and plucking sweet raspberries and blackberries off the trellis.  Sure beats mowing the lawn, doesn't it?!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Carrot Mustache

Men have been growing some pretty awesome mustaches for centuries.

Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine Infantry wore a gallant mustache during his heroic defense of Little Round Top at Gettysburg and while he presided over the surrender of Confederate troops at Appomattox near the end of the Civil War.

Joshua Chamberlain and his mustache.
Wyatt Earp groomed a rather formidable mustache during his days in the Wild West.  His 'stache no doubt instilled fear in the Cowboys while blasting away during the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.

Wyatt Earp and mustache. 
The prevalence of these grand mustaches dwindled with time, but would reappear here and there over the decades.  Papa Hemingway flaunted a sporting mustache during his pursuit of marlin and other big fish off Key West and Cuba in the late 1920s and 1930s.

This giant tuna was obviously lured by Hemingway's impressive mustache.
Tom Selleck wanted attention and a piece of the action in the 1980s and almost singlehandedly (nod to Burt Reynolds) brought back the 'stache.

Selleck and his Thomas Magnum mustache.
After pondering the handlebar mustache for a while, I wasn't sure if I had what it took to wear one without fear of laughter.  Think about it. Chamberlain's gallantry demanded respect, so did his mustache.  Earp dished out heat, but never took any for his facial hair.  Hemingway was so tough that I bet even his own mustache wanted to grow a mustache.  And Selleck's mustache beckoned the ladies.  

I finally decided that if I really wanted a mustache I just needed to commit to it.  So like any determined gardener, I grew my own.

Possibly the world's first carrot handlebar mustache.
Ladies and gentlemen, behold the greatness of the Carrot Mustache!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Busy Day, Pictures Tomorrow

I was hoping to put up a full post today, but the yard won.  Clearing beds, pulling weeds, harvesting kale and carrots, shoveling and spreading 2 cubic yards of compost, and prepping for planting.  It was a productive day and I was outside until dark but I never took a picture.  I'll snap a bunch tomorrow so check back then, especially if you want to see the "mustache" that I harvested.