Let the sheet mulching begin.... again!

Here we are with a glorious week ahead of us. No school, no work, only a few rehearsals and performances, one important birthday (my mom's), one important holiday that involves a lot of cooking, but mostly.... blissfully empty. For us, this means only one thing: playing the new Kingdom Rush game! Well, okay, that.... and yard improvements!

This past week, a tree company delivered me a load (maybe eight cubic yards) of pine mulch, free. Then I ordered three cubic yards of organic compost from Sloat's Garden in Danville, which is the most expensive part of the process - that runs about $160 including delivery. I've been collecting cardboard boxes for several weeks now (thank you friends and family!), and we are ready for some sheet mulching!

Here's the section of yard we plan to SM (sheet mulch). A play structure used to live here, and the trampoline is very happy here now, and still gets a lot of use - but one of the legs is broken. It has very little time left on this earth. (This tramp has a nice story, actually. It belonged to the kids across the street, who then sold it to the kids around the corner, who then sold it to us. It's had quite a life and a ton of use, so it has really served its purpose quite well. Oh, and our old play structure? Given to us as a gift by Tom's family when Adam was diagnosed with leukemia and had compromised immunity, it lived happily in this space for many years and was a magnet for the neighborhood kids. A nice young man with a two year old came and dismantled it and transported it to his yard, for his son to play on. This is the best kind of recycling!)

We stopped watering the grass in this area when drought hit, so it's looking pretty grim, though with our recent rains, it's greening up. There's little actual grass, lots of a very tenacious crabby sort of thing, another kind of weed that spreads by sending out tendrils and putting down new roots (vicious stuff), bindweed (or jimson weed) which is just terrible; in other words a smorgasbord of awful weeds. But the SM, if we do it right, should smother all of it. That is the beautiful thing about this process. Several times this past summer, if I saw an area of weeds I wanted to control, in any part of my garden, I'd put down a piece of cardboard or burlap, and cover it with organic matter. I have a pile of horse manure six inches deep over old burlap bags under the peach tree, because the weeds had gotten so bad there. So far, so good - no regrowth.

The only place I have trouble removing weeds is when they are in concrete - such as in the cracks of our patio, or the cracks in our driveway. You can't SM there! Most of the weeds die in the heat and dry of our summer, but in winter they are prolific, and I don't want them to set seed. I constantly weed by hand, but if that doesn't work, I will boil water and pour it on. Other times I will go out in the dark of night and spot treat with herbicide. In that case I use as little as possible, and only after dark when the bees are in the hive for the night. But I haven't had to do that in a long time. Boiling water really helps, especially if you add liquid soap to the mix.

Back to SM! This back area is also where our fruit trees are. I had the quince removed, but we still have an apple tree, as well as the peach.

We also have a tiny fig tree, which is hidden by the trampoline in the photos. I'd like to put in a sweet cherry where the quince was. The trampoline will stay here on the SM until spring, or until it gives up the ghost, whichever comes first, and then we'll build more raised beds. Probably six of them. I think this will be where the tomatoes, peppers, and melons will be planted, as this area gets more sun than any other part of the yard.

Truck dumping compost, next to the mulch mound

The most finicky part of the SM process is removing all tape and labels from the boxes, as those won't decompose like the cardboard will. I spent several hours today removing tape. The stuff Amazon uses is the devil itself - it has threads in it, so it comes apart when you try to remove it. ARGH! The plastic stuff at least comes off in one long strip! Amazon, if you're reading this, you need to change your tape for the .0001% of your customer base who sheet mulches!!!!

The boxes also need to be cut so that they lay flat. Once that's done, it's just a matter of moving materials. That's a job, and a blog, for later this week.

Tomorrow, I head out to the farm for our pastured turkey. I'll report on that experience, as well as my turkey prep, as I'm trying something new.

I'm enjoying the leaves on my walks.

 Mushrooms are enjoying our recently wet earth, and popping up all over the place. These tiny yellow beauties are in our yard:

I spread red clover seeds all over the one remaining area of grass in our yard, and they are going gangbusters.

I'm hoping they bloom over our mild winter, and provide forage for the bees.

Speaking of the bees, both Tom and I have noticed a strange thing on the landing board of the hive. Every so often, maybe 5 times in the last month, there's a white dead thing there. Here's a picture of it.

I think it's dead larvae. But why is there dead larvae on the landing board? I did some searching around, and there are several explanations. One, there's mites or disease in the hive. The last time we opened it, though, everything looked great, no sign of anything amiss. Another reason could be the sudden change in temperature. It might be that this particular patch of brood got chilled and therefore isn't viable, or for some reason just stopped developing. The bees might also be culling larvae for some reason. Whatever it is, I'll need to keep an eye on the hive for the next few weeks. The bees are flying in and out as normal, whenever it gets over 50 degrees outside. They seem to be bringing in pollen and nectar. I'm anxious about this new development, but not overly so.

Yum, Tom's making a Jamie Oliver recipe of Thai spiced rice noodles with chicken, butternut squash, and broccoli, and it smells amazing. I'm off to dinner!