It rained almost every other day last week and all of this weekend. After two dry days in a row, I went out last Friday and tried to trench another bed. The ground was still so wet that it was like trying to move half-set concrete. Every little shovel load weighed 20+ pounds. It had not been this hard to finish the bed DH had started — an area two feet by 12 feet long! After an hour and a half, I only trenched an area four feet by three feet and was drenched in sweat. I felt like a wimp but I knew I couldn’t do it. On February 7th, I intend to start planting and need more beds. When the asparagus roots arrive next week, I’ve got a place for them. But where will I put my onion sets and peas and spinach and the potatoes after that?

It finally stopped raining yesterday and is not expected to rain again until Saturday or Sunday. DH decided to take Friday off to help me get this job done.  It is possible that the ground will be dry enough by Friday for us to dig. It is not possible that two old people can dig seven beds in one day…

Most of you should have realized by now that DH is a jack-of-all-trades. So tomorrow morning we are renting a Kubota B21 back-hoe with a box blade front loader. It’s a wicked earth-mover that will scrape the sod off of a 4′ x 12′ bed in one pass. The back-hoe will trench the same area in two passes.

After trenching the beds and lining their bottoms with sod, the topsoil will be box loaded on top. After that we will load up the Kubota on its trailer and drive down the road to a pile of topsoil offered by a neighbor. We need to fill in a couple of low-lying areas in the yard and around the house and may need extra topsoil for the beds. DH will use the Kubota to load the back of his pick-up truck, we’ll drive it home and shovel it into a pile and repeat until DH thinks we’ve got enough.

Then, we’ll head over to our friendly stable owner and collect the remainder of his hills of decomposed horse manure in much the same way, driving back and forth with the truck. Whatever doesn’t get used in the beds will be added to our compost pile.

We’ve got a few high-powered halogen lights and DH is prepared to work after dark, if need be, dumping alternate box loads of topsoil and manure into the beds. The Kubota will not do all the work. Both of us will be shoveling out the truck beds full of topsoil and manure that the Kubota loads as we make those numerous trips back and forth. It’s going to be a marathon and when it starts raining on Saturday we will probably take to our bed and not get out again until Monday morning.

Here’s an image of the Garden Before…

Off in the background you can see our neighbor’s house and outbuildings. He’s the fellow who owns the catfish ponds behind us — and many more acres of cotton and cornfields. DH’s long-term dream of owning a milk cow depends upon leasing the cotton field behind us and turning it into pasture.

You’ll also notice a lonely pecan tree at the back end that needs to be cut down before it leafs and throws a large shadow over my garden ambitions. It lost its mate a few years ago and now only produces tiny “stints.” Fortunately, DH has a chain saw and knows how to cut down trees. Besides, on the other side of the house, we have two other mated pecan trees that still produce huge, healthy nuts. The wood from that one pecan tree will keep us in firewood all of next winter.

Here’s an image of what the “Construction Zone” looks like since I’ve staked out the beds.

I took the liberty of photo-shopping the stakes red so they can be more easily seen. I may have to do this in real life as well — with a paintbrush — for my husband’s benefit. The asparagus bed is in the foreground, left. We still haven’t put the ends on it because there will be more tilling to do. After adding the horse manure the soil now needs some lime and potash to get back into that magical 6.0-7.0 pH window. Since the frames aren’t bolted together, we will always be able to remove the ends when we need to till. In theory, that shouldn’t be too often but DH does love his machine and will insist on using it.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to get images of DH and the Kabota in action if I’m not too busy, dodging sod clods. Certainly, by next week I should be able to show what we accomplished. I know this industrial solution may seem at odds with my wholesome, organic goals but we can’t see any other way to get a full start this year. And who knows what next year will bring?

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