This week at Songaia has offered some new experiences, some of which I’ve really wanted to get involved with over the years. Evan, Brian and I spent 3 days laying out the foundation and designing the roof structure for the cob oven.
First we removed the dirt and leveled the ground for a nice surface to build on. Once we had pulled out all of the sod and dirt we dug the back two footers and filled them with cement and the brackets for the roof beams.
This past week has been very productive and we’ve spent many hours harvesting lots of food. Some of the week’s things of abundance have been plums, blackberries, potatoes, cucumbers, squash, and garlic.
We needed to make sure the brackets were level and plumb (of course) so we installed temporary posts and braced them off so the cement would dry the brackets in place.
We started building a retaining wall that will stand behind the oven and keep the soil from eroding and collapsing.
It wasn’t all cob oven work either; we also spent time doing the usual ongoing task of fixing and maintaining irrigation. Patricia, Kai, Evan and I replaced the old irrigation in the circle garden and hopefully will revive a lot of the plants in there for next season.
I burned weeds on the path to Life Song Commons and also replaced and moved some drip line throughout their garden as well.
Something I’ve also been interested in getting more hands on instruction with is the preservation of foods, I had the chance to harvest some rose petals and take my hand and rose jam but it didn’t quite turn out. It was a good first go anyway!
I have been here several weeks now and I am pleasantly surprised, I am one of four Songaia interns and even though the others are in their twenties I seem to be keeping up rather well, even after having had a sit-down job for most of my working career.
Since it has been unseasonably hot we have been starting our work day at 7AM and ending at two, with breakfast and lunch thrown in. I have participated in weeding, mulching, composting, watering the plants currently planted, I have prepared seedlings in starter pots and planted row seeds for the winter garden. I have helped in the food forest, shoveled and moved wheel barrels full of wood chlps, building up a hugelkulture area. Helped move fencing to create a new feeding area for the goats. Harvested produce for our community meals and have picked scrumptious raspberries and blackberries. We made raspberry jam one afternoon. Quite good stuff! I have also visited the 3 bee hives on the property.....of course properly dressing for the occasion so that even though possibly 100 bees were flying around me, not a sting was to be had. Well, not exactly..............
On the 1st or second day of work at Songaia I was attempting to get a wheel barrel over a wood threshold while exiting a hoop house, I was summarily stung by several wasps, one time in the nose, of all places. Not to worry, I am fine.
Lately I have been working on an experimentation with biochar. I excavated five square meters of soil and filled the bed with a layer of charcoal. I'll see if the vaunted attributes of charcoal are worthy of the efforts I put into hoeing so much soil.
Since eventually my goal is permaculture, I'm trying to grow food without the need to water it. I've had success so far with corn and tomatoes, which are both water-consuming plants. Although, I fear the heatwave sweeping all over France right now. In Dordogne and Gironde we're going to have temperatures topping 41°C (105°F), as though we were in Morocco, you know. But since I use a natural ground cover that gathers dew quite well, I think the plants have a great chance of survival.
On the pictures you can see that I planted a hedgerow of Leyland cypresses. The goal is to have the trees act as windbreak. I've also planted bamboos at the Northern end of the property. I also have vines running on the façade of the house. They reduce the amount of heating in the summer and since they are deciduous, they allow the sun rays to warm up the house in winter.
The well is also quite useful. Water is needed in large amount when I need to sow seeds during hot seasons, without having to wait for autumn and the wetter period. I think there's a spring running below my property that recharges the well, slowly but steadily. I wonder if I could have someone dig a little further to see if I can reach the water table underneath.
The green lizard is a Lacerta bilineata and is found in almost all of France, Italy, and Northern Spain. He is an avid hunter and targets insects, including the infamous flea beetle. You know, that little sucker that cuts tiny round holes in leafy plants and vegetables. I set up boulders here and there so that he can bask comfortably while "taking care" of the beetles.
That's it for now. Thank you for taking the time to read my stuff.
The Summer Solstice has come and gone, but the days are still long and bright at Songaia. The garden team switched to an earlier start time to try to avoid working during the hottest hours of the day- making it a bit of a struggle to wake up in the chilly mornings. Fortunately for us, Steven has been concocting a strong coffee brew on the rougher mornings, and has even been kind enough to share. Staring bleary-eyed at bindweed at 7 in the morning is a little easier with coffee. The change in schedule has made the flow of the day more relaxed- time slips away in the morning hours as we wake up with the garden. There's time for breakfast with the full team a little later and we can start work on specific projects for the day. By lunchtime we've usually finished most of the heavy lifting and are ready for some light afternoon discussion and design curriculum.
My memories of the past couple of weeks are dominated by awesome trips around the Northwest- sorry bindweed, you'll always have a special place in my heart, but this post isn't about you today.
For the solstice, a small group of Songaians and interns made their way to Fremont (known by locals as the center of the universe) to experience the full glory of The Fremont Solstice Parade- complete with naked bicyclists, plenty of marching bands, lots of floats, and an assortment of people dressed in all sorts of interesting garb. A glorious day left us all quite exhausted and definitely in need of Steven's coffee the next day.
This past week I had a chance to go hiking on the Olympic Peninsula with my dad and sister. After a light hike, and a rather steep descent, we ended up on Shi Shi Beach - North of Lake Ozette, and South of Cape Flattery, one of the Northwestern most points in the Lower 48. My favorite view is of the little islands off of Point of Arches- absolutely striking from afar, and pretty spectacular when viewed up close too. I was so distracted by the beauty all around me that I only took a few photos the entire trip- the rest just mental pictures that may one day fade away- but I'll just have to go back and visit again to refresh my memory. The contents of my mental photo album include many bald eagle sightings- including one catching a fish from the ocean just a hundred feet away, plenty of deer wandering about, and a plethora of starfish and sea anemones in the tide pools.
In between these trips was quite a bit of weeding and some harvesting of cherries and fava beans. Some trellis construction for tomatoes and a bit of work mulching a hügelkultur bed. The goats have also been doing a lot of work on their little blackberry patch.
Garden bloggers are community members, volunteers and interns at Songaia.