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Posts Tagged ‘terracing the hill’

I can’t help it:  baby vegetable plants make my heart sing and my hands reach for the camera to capture their juvenile beauty.

These beets and turnips will soon fill their planting bed with lovely foliage, shading the soil, conserving moisture, and providing my steamer pot with lots of fresh greens for dinner.  As ordinary as it may be to some folks, growing my own food still delights me, excites me, motivates me.

And I need all the motivation I can get, to finish the next terrace above so I can build a second garden bed and grow even more food.  Bushels of beans and tomatoes to can, onions and potatoes and carrots to store; our food supply for months to come is just a wish, a dream, until I finish excavating the dirt, build the back wall, dig out the bed area, and fill it with growing soil.  Oh, and plant it all, too.

This weekend I nearly got the dirt moving all done, working an hour at a time and resting well in between.  I wanted badly to finish the project completely, but my legs turned to concrete by mid-afternoon, and I was so drained I had to lie down on the living room floor and take a nap.

Thankfully, there are just a few more trugs of dirt to haul up to the gigantic pile above.  Maybe 30 trips up those steps, which are just a working stairway I cut into the hill and reinforced with concrete block, giving me a shorter trip up to the top.  It saved me many steps, and will be the last part of this second level to be cut away, leaving a clear run to lay the first course of what will be my third wall.

I’m planning to begin wall-building next weekend, and with three whole days off, my determined scottish workhorse self is already visualizing getting the wall completely built over the weekend.  That’s a lofty goal and I may not achieve it, but that won’t keep me from trying.

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It’s been a good week of projecting, I’d say. 

This photo, taken yesterday around 4 pm, captures the end result of a lot of really hard work.  Yes, that is a wine glass in my hand.  I am celebrating, and trying to get the knot behind my right shoulder blade to relax.  Not only is the first wall now at full height, but the terrace bed it contains is now cut back into the hill full width – five feet, plus another foot for where the second wall will lay. 

That’s a 35-foot long wall, plus the rounded corner.

My next step is to order the block for wall #2 and get it moved down onto the first bed, which will be my work surface until the next terrace is complete.  Then, once I’m done tromping all over it and the blocks are well-tamped and settled, I’ll remove 16″ or so of the granite fill in this first terrace and replace it with a topsoil/compost mix for some serious vegetable gardening.

But first, I’m enjoying an enormous feeling of accomplishment, and letting my bones rest.  However, do not be alarmed at the tonnage of concrete and dirt moved and the manual labor involved; I work slowly and steadily and pay particular attention to ergonomics, keeping loads low and close and engaging core muscles before every lift.  And I take lots of rest breaks.  So other than being stiffer than usual and this darned knot behind my right shoulder, I’m no worse for the wear after working like a mule for the past week.

Surprisingly enough, moving the block around was not the most grueling part of this job.  If you look to the left of my head in that first picture, you’ll see a pile of plant material perched up on the top edge of the hill.  It doesn’t look like a huge pile, but let me assure you, it is. 

If you will compare the first picture taken when I started this project to this post’s picture, you will notice a lot of the ice plant that used to cover this hill from top to bottom has been cut off and removed.  It looks all neat and tidy now, like I just sliced it off with a laser beam and Poof! it went away.  Oh how I wish. 

Left undisturbed for more than a decade, the ice plant was thriving atop a foot-deep layer of partially decomposed older plants; the leaves had turned to crumbly black humus, but the stems all needed to be cut somehow.  A swath at a time, with the help of my trusty loppers and my indespensible garden trugs, I got ‘er done.  One trug-load at a time cut, pulled, and trudged up to the top of the hill.  My legs feel like I climbed Mt. Everest.  And my arms are pretty darned tired, too. 

Really now:  with leisure-time activities like this, who needs a gym membership?

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