Friday, May 15, 2009

Project #1 - Step One

Tomorrow's the day. Barring heavy rain tonight I am starting on the new raised bed. Mitchell went with me this afternoon to get the lumber - landscaping timbers - and spikes to hold it together. Then he cut the shorter pieces I will need, and helped me to drill holes in most of the pieces. I may have bought one round too many so don't want to drill the holes until I am sure I will use them.

I've spent several weeks looking and thinking and I know how I am going to do it. A good plan will surely help! I hope to get started early in the morning before it gets too hot. Last summer I successfully put this project off on the grounds that it was too hot, so I need to finish this time before the heat rolls in. I think I am ready to go, but time will tell.

My plan is to build and dig simultaneously. Since the yard slopes, I will start at the lower end and dig in each piece of timber as I go up. We have a good long level that I can use to keep it all level together. As I get the first couple of rows dug in, I will be taking out most of the dirt. There is about 10 inches of good dirt on top of heavy clay, so I will only take the good stuff and just rough up the clay. Once the box is built I will be putting in several inches of rock and then sand for good drainage, so the clay on the bottom won't matter. I'll take the good dirt and mix it with the great dirt that Mitchell has been composting for me and have a good growing medium with excellent drainage. The natural slope of the land will help the water run out at the bottom of the box. If necessary, I can drill a couple of extra holes at the lower end.

Which brings me to my little helper. The last two times I have gotten the wheelbarrow I have found a little snake underneath. Technically he's a "common ribbon snake" - a form of garter snake - and appears to be about three feet long and the diameter of my thumb. The first time I saw him, tho, I did not think he was so "common". While I did not scream or go "eek" , I was startled to find him there. He froze and played invisible. When I went back a few minutes later he was long gone.

He's actually quite pretty - with stripes of several shades of brown and tan... like ribbons. I knew immediately that he was not poisonous; I do have sense enough to know what they look like! He has taken refuge in one of the compost piles. I normally keep the wheelbarrow upside down on the newer pile, so it provides a warm, dry spot for my little friend. Now that I know he hangs out there, maybe I can get his photo! I'll need to borrow his roof tomorrow, so will probably see him for a few minutes early in the day.

I would love to get the box built this weekend and then get the gravel and sand in over the next week. I have a few plants in the yard that I am going to transplant there, but mostly I need to order the plants. This is truly a long term project and won't be pretty until the middle of next summer, but the gardening game is not for the instant gratification crowd.... you have to plan ahead and then enjoy the wait.

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