We had a great couple of days this weekend at Longleaf Breeze, but the highlight by far was our first chance to use our weeding hoe.
First, though, let me digress and tell you the other things we were able to do.
Clearing and Burning. The loggers pushed down a big hickory tree near where we built our pole barn, and because it hasn’t been in the way, we haven’t tried to do anything with it. That changed this weekend when we decided to take it on.
After a hickory has been down for a few months, it takes on the consistency of something a shade harder than granite, so I didn’t make any attempt to cut it up for firewood; I just wasn’t willing to cuss that much.
Instead, I cut it into 10-12 foot lengths, pulled them out with a chain, and let Tractor lift each one onto the fire pile with his pallet forks. I bush hogged the place where the tree had been, and Amanda spent the next several hours building up the fire with the debris left behind. We had tried to light the fire when it was smaller, but it went out. In retrospect, what we should have done was to make sure the fire burned down for a while before adding fuel to it. What we did is to keep piling fuel on. By the time we lit it Saturday morning it was an inferno, and too close to a large nearby oak tree. The fire burned hard most of Saturday, unfortunately darkening the leaves of the oak. We know we’ve damaged the leaves for this season; what we don’t know is whether it will recover and survive in future years.
I also learned a valuable lesson: don’t operate a bush hog with chain sitting on top of it. Yeah, you wouldn’t think that’s a lesson a college man would have to learn, but now you know. After using the chain to pull the lengths of hickory out of the woods, I used the bush hog to clean up the newly-cleared areas, with one end of the chain still attached to the three-point hitch. Predictable fun ensued.
The free end of the chain slipped off the top of the bush hog and got sucked into the spinning blades. My King Kutter can make short work of a 2-inch sapling, but a 5/16 inch steel chain is another matter. The chain wrapped around the blades, causing the bush hog to announce loudly that it was not pleased. It appears so far that I’ve lost my clevis hooks, but otherwise I think (and I hope) we’re okay.
Raised Bed. The first garden is just some topsoil dumped on a soft spot. For our next experiment, we decided to try a raised bed. We chose concrete blocks, because they’re cheap ($1.22 per block at Tallassee True Value, cheaper than at Home Depot), the good folks on the Yahoo GardeningOrganically List like them, and we knew we could get the project done quickly with them. Our friend and gardening guru Janet Taylor frets that we may have a problem with toxins leaching from them, but she uses railroad ties of all things, so we figure we’ll give the block a chance.
We first prepared a spot to the south of the first garden but within sprinkler range, and I cleaned it of weeds. We did not try to till it; I couldn’t bear the scorn and abuse I knew I would receive or at least imagine from the GardeningOrganically folk, who DO NOT LIKE tilling of any kind. I pulled 1-HO down with the blocks in the back and arranged the blocks to form a rectangle.
Another part of our experiment was to lay cardboard on the floor of half the bed to see what effect it seemed to have if any on weeds. We will later try putting cardboard closer to the surface.
Then we used Tractor to fill the rectangle with topsoil from near the hickory tree, cleaning it of most of the weeds and roots as we worked. Amanda fussed over it until it was just so.We haven’t planted anything there yet, but we will soon.
Speaker Wire. We haven’t talked much about the progress on the inside of the barn, I guess because we’re hiring experts to do most of the work. One thing I knew I could do, though, was to pull the wire for our 5.1 speaker system. I have confessed to Amanda that I’m not excited about having a television in the barn and could easily do without one, but she’s not ready to take such a drastic step, so I pulled speaker wire Sunday morning while Amanda drove up to Birmingham, taught a Sunday School lesson, and drove back for our family gathering at Lake Martin.
Now onto the hoe. Perhaps you’ve already read about the good results we’ve been able to observe in the first garden so far. What we’ve also been able to observe is weeds. Lots and lots of (so far tiny) weeds. This is truly a glass-is-half-full kind of post, because the weeds gave us a chance to use our weeding hoe. No, seriously.
Amanda and I resisted almost all the organic farming trinkets offered for sale at the Southern SAWG (Sustainable Agriculture Working Group) meeting we attended in Louisville in early 2008. We had already bought Longleaf Breeze but had made relatively few changes to it, and we didn’t want to blow money on purchases we would later regret. We fell in love, though, with this DeWit weeding hoe. Really long handle, and a REALLY sharp blade.
You clearly need to get in there early when the weeds are tiny. Once they get a heavy stalk on them, you’re in trouble. But with the tender weeds, it’s almost like sweeping. I can tell you that this picture shows me using the hoe all wrong. You’re supposed to stand erect when you use it. We didn’t figure that out until after we took the picture, but now we know.
This is not a “scuffle” hoe, which is a term we hear bandied about. As I understand it, a scuffle hoe has a sharpened edge on the front and the back so you can push and pull. This one has a sharp edge only along one edge; it’s designed only to be pulled. We like it. Come on, weeds. Give us your best shot. My wife will show you who’s boss!