As we look to move to the next phase of our permaculture journey and move to the Twin Cities area, Tim from Ohio asked for a before/after shots of our garden. I will do our best to track almost 9 years of work in one post. Even now– it seems incredible looking back…
In Fall 2004, this is what we had:
The soil was so compacted that when I put in a rain garden to the right of the home I dug a ‘perc hole’ to test the soil (dig a hole 1′ deep, fill it will water, let it drain once, then fill again and time how long it takes to drain) it held water for … well I stopped checking for movement after 2 weeks. In the pik above you cam literally still see the tracks of the heavy equipment used to grade the ‘soil’. The ‘soil’ was from a quarry about 5 miles away– a mix of rock, sand, and clay from about 100′ down. 0% Organic matter and DEAD. Not even weeds would grow.
less than a year later I took these piks from our replanted ‘prairie’ garden on the less disturbed soil near the back fence where we seeded natives:
And we just kept going:
That is full grown corn (24″) and NOT a miniature popcorn variety. We had some soil nutrient issues…
I did this 8-10 times a year– EVERY YEAR– for 7 years. 20,000#+ (wet) of organic matter annually using my 90hp TDI Golf and a 5×8 trailer and the free ‘garbage’ woodchips from our municipal yard. Sweat equity at its finest.
Our goal became to test the limits of Suburban Sustainability, and to *literally* grow a ton of food in our backyard in Zone 5.
In 2008 we harvested over 900# of food, and the fruit trees were barely producing at all. Once we added the Hoop House we added another 500# and the orchard alone with its 14 fruit/nut trees and dozen+ fruiting shrubs could be counted on, once in early maturity, to produce 1000# on its own.
OMG– BEST THING EVAH. The orchard is still my favorite spot in the garden, but Jan-March there is no better place than to sit bathed in sunlight and 85F humidity whilst lounging in the hammock in the Hoopty. 80#/season of greens alone from the Hoopty. That is 80 Target bags of greens! between Jan and March. DAMN!
Rather a bit changed!! It is impossible to explain the amount of work that it took to do all that by hand, but I loved every minute of it (and have the shoulders to prove it!) We had come so very far! But the best part was the inspiration and outreach:
Even Michael Perry was impressed, dedicating a portion of a chapter to the insanity that is our lives:
And best of all has been the watching our kids bloom and grow with the gardens:
Even Google has given us Props:
We have come an immensely long ways in the past 8.5 years. While it is hard to leave the gardens, it will be even harder to leave the community we have built. The gardens were always intended to be a ‘learning’ project; we knew that we would never live on a free way for ever. But the people that helped us along the way, well, its hard to say goodbye.
We look forward to our new opportunities in Minnesota– gardening near the 45th parallel is No Joke– and as always we will continue to strive to Be the Change.
Thanks for being along for the journey.
-Rob and Family.