Sunday, April 30, 2023

Spreadin' Chips and Splittin' Logs.

Running a bit behind as it has been a busy couple weeks here at the LocalRootz Homestead! Lots of Spring projects to update the blog with and other fun explorations are underway. So many preparations and investigations are happening seemingly around the clock as the land inhales and exhales. Sometimes the best way to focus and calm the mind is with methodical tasks like splitting wood with my newly acquired Gransfors Bruk splitting maul (seen above) or simply spending a couple hours moving mulch and compost shovel by shovel, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow.

In these moments of methodical transcendence I notice the little connections happening throughout the landscape and pay close attention that we are helping weave these connections into a stronger ecological bond rather than breaking them down and splitting these integral connections apart. In science there is a word for this symbiotic relationship happening throughout the forest, it is know as mycorrhizae.

 Mycorrhizae is the symbiotic relationship between fungus and plants. Its uses these connections to balance and harmonize the nutrients of the decomposing forest to make them more bioavailable to the plants on our landscape. Many urban/suburban yards are completely void of these networks as the forest that once inhabited the neighborhood has long been clearcut, the soil has been bulldozed and then filled with "clean fill" of nutrient empty dirt to grow their green lawn and ornamental shrubs. 

At our homestead we are lucky to still be surrounded by a diversified forest made up of maple, oaks, hemlock, pine, birch, beech and a few others. We strive to always keep a balance between our growing area and the surrounding forest and are constantly researching, observing and weighing the needs of our homestead with the needs of the environment that we inhabit.  

Creating a closed loop is a good way of keeping that balance in check. When we inevitably had to take a few trees from our landscape that posed some safety risks to our home we chose to keep the wood on our land. Some of the wood we are using for firewood, some we used to make raised beds, some we inoculated with mushroom spores and are currently growing mushrooms in, and the rest of the twigs and branches got chipped and mulched into a giant pile that I occasionally incorporate into the compost and have been letting the pile age for just under 2 years. 

While it is just the end of April here in Maine the temps are still a bit on the chilly side to be putting any annual plants in the ground, so our garden focus is on amending the beds and building trellising as well as absorbing the signs of a new growing season as we watch the perennials slowly creeping through the soil. Part of amending the beds is top dressing them with some fresh compost from last year. In the process of stirring the compost I noticed how fertile the woodchip pile was looking as well, and devised a plan to spread those chips over some of the perennial beds and other areas of the garden that could use a boost of that aforementioned mycorrhizae. 

Fertile chips.

As we dug into the mound of woodchips the excitement of how happy our beds were going to be to get a dressing of this before the rainy week ahead kept us on tasks as we spread load after load, probably close to 6yds of decomposed chips over all of our perennial beds and berry bushes. In some places we even blended in some of the compost as well. Knowing this wood was grown in the same place that it was being spread was poetic and just felt right. I am not opposed to bringing in amendments from outside the homestead when needed but also greatly embrace whenever we can close that loop.

Happy blueberries soaking in their fresh top dressed chips!

This part of the perennial garden bed that really hasn't gotten the attention it deserves over the past few years, got a heavy dressing of chips that will enrich the soil as well as smother some of the persnickety weeds we hope to avoid this year. 

After a hard earned day of spreading wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of amendments, the earth smelled amazing and the rain started gently falling, gradually filtering these nutrients deep into the root systems. 

We finished the day with a lil brush clean up and old pallet bonfire. 

Our apple grafts from last year started showing signs of budding so we put them all in their own pots and started working on a outdoor work station/kitchen after acquiring this old stainless steel counter from work! We look forward to adding a sink basin and a few tool hooks. It will be nice having a little area that we can prewash our produce before bringing it inside! While we were repotting the apple grafts we started talking about how incorporating some fruit trees would be a big step and how perfect those woodchips and compost would be for backfilling a couple tree holes.... unfortunately these grafts probably need another year in pots to grow strong enough to plant.

So instead we took a late afternoon family excursion to the local nursery to see what they had in stock, I sped off the next morning to fill the car with our agreed selections of two apple and two pear trees! More on these coming soon as we get them planted... also stay tuned for a previously promised mushroom growing update and more spring amendment practices we have been researching involving biodynamic preparations!

Happy growing!

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