Monday, January 13, 2014

Playing in the Dirt and Dancing on the Floor

Look, four whole pieces of plywood nailed down!  You would think that we created a dance hall judging by our excitement and the number of laps we did walking around "testing" the floor.  Yep, it walks real good.  I try not to let my imagination run too far ahead of our progress, but I can almost imagine that this space could be a kitchen.  A smallish one, but still, it could have a sink, and a stove, and maybe even some cabinets.  Wow, a floor.  There is plenty to be done before I start picking out appliances though.  We have exciting plans for the ceiling, a window upgrade, and, of course, electricity, plumbing, and walls.  We even have plans to block up the holes to the outside in order to prevent a brave pair of house wrens from coming in to criticize our work.  Although I think Brandon enjoys feeling like Cinderella while he toils and birds twitter around his head.    

In addition to being Brandon's assistant, debris clean up girl, and expert door frame caulker (stupid door we installed still leaks!), I played the role of soil scientist on Saturday, and collected soil samples from around the farm.  Joe is taking soil samples from his farm to the county extension office for a chemical analysis, and volunteered to take my samples too, in exchange for borrowing my soil probe.  Apparently, they will test the soil for free, and even give recommendations for soil improvements based on what's planned for the ground. 

The soil sample above is from the garden, or at least where I plan to put a garden.  I think the soil in this spot was used for a garden in the past too, because it's darker and has more organic matter than the soil in the rest of the farm.  Joe told me to take dirt from at least four places in each field, off the top six inches, and mix it together for each sample.  I decided to take samples from four fields, and also one from the garden.  Other than the garden, all the others looked the same to me, so I will be surprised if there's much difference in the results. 

I made sure to include soil from places where the broom sedge grows.  I enjoy watching the golden hued broom sedge wave in the breeze, but for some reason I have the impression that this grass is not something preferred by farmers, and may indicate that our soil is acidic, or lacking in some nutrient that good pasture grasses prefer.  Once, when requesting permission to work on a farmers land, the farmer apologized to me for his broom sedge and told me he knew his land needed lime.  I guess it's sort of like feeling compelled to explain to someone stopping by that the floor needs to be mopped before they even get in the house. 

Our neighbor tells us that other than a few horses for a short period, our land hasn't been used for animals in the recent past, but has had the vegetation harvested for hay.  This means the land has been stripped of organic matter and nutrients, without anything being added.  I look forward to learning about pasture management, but I think I would miss the pretty broom sedge if it wasn't there.  Would saying that to a real farmer be like saying I prefer my floors to be dirty?  Muddy doggy paw prints are kind of cute!  

I'm anxious for the soil test results.  Other than walking around the farm and doing a casual vegetation survey and a few probes to make sure there wasn't rock an inch under the surface, I didn't do research into the condition of the soil before we decided to buy it.  But, based on the surrounding land use, which is mostly cows and hay fields, I felt that the land was probably useful, if a person can figure out how to use it. 

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