Over the last couple of weeks I have been watching the season unfold and with the Equinox just days away it is clear that the tide has turned and the hints of summer coming can be felt in the warm afternoons and clear, long evenings. Spring here is a tumultuous time as the temperatures switch and the winds blow out the cold of winter, but before the hot weather settles in and we bunker down for the height of the year I have been enjoying the beauty of this fleeting season in the desert and I thought I would share some of it with you:
Even though we had a very hot summer, as soon as the temperatures started to drop the veggie garden in the shade house took off for a late but sustained productive burst. The hard work getting the structure of the area right is starting to show results, and what results!
So this summer we came one step closer to our goal with a glut of tomatoes, cucumbers and chilli and a goodly number of eggplant, sweet potato, pumpkin, zucchini and squash. Of course there is still much to learn and the rampant tomato plants choked out rhubarb, asparagus and countless other smaller species so some location specific changes will come next year. Its a fantastic feeling to see the desert so verdant though… even if in a small, well controlled area… hopefully its a sign of the future to come!
During the first year we did a lot of basic planning and I started learning how to build things and grow things. I had had some successful vegetable gardens in the past but that’s a bit different from attempting to set up 2 acres of arid land permaculture gardens with view to self-sufficiency…
My brother came up for a couple of month or so and started some of the stone masonary for the outdoor kitchen/dining area but we couldn’t keep paying him at that point and of course he couldn’t stay for free so I moved on to other tasks
I started to build the shadehouse for the vegetable garden – this is vital out here with our hot summers so it was important to get it up as soon as I could. Using the bamboo on the walls has proven to be a fantastic solution for our high winds – they let the wind though without bending the structure too much. We also removed the old mostly broken clothesline soon after the photo to the right was taken
The summer vegetable garden was the most productive I’d ever had at that point confirming my thoughts about the necessity of shade. We didn’t have much water, or a pump down the well, so the garden had to be very small but it was still lovely to have so much vibrant green just outside the back door.
We also got our first chickens – day old barred plymouth rock chicks. It was another set of skills again, learning to care for the tiny things. They grew very quickly though so it wasn’t long before they were living in a makeshift yard built off an old goat pen.
Later in the year, after losing those first chickens to a fox 😦 I started to build a more permanent yard for them out of recycled materials that were found on the block. I learned during that process that while it is all well and good to use recycled materials, sometimes it is not worth it for the frustration and structural instability of less than fantastic quality. The yard was a definite improvement though! We also added an English Staffy to our family to help with fox deterrence. Happily, so far we have had no further problems.
That year I also started to build a play area for our son in hopes that in time he would be able to play somewhat unsupervised while I was working nearby – hoping to increase my productivity, but also because, who doesn’t want a sandpit made out of old tyres, in the shape of a stegosaurus?
All in all, I didn’t get as much done in that year as I had sort of expected when I started, but partly that was due to the small one, partly due to my learning process and partly due to unrealistic expectations. Still much to be done!