So I don’t have any pictures for you today, but I did finally get my raised beds built the other day. The lumber was about $20 but I think it will be worth it, in terms of helping to prevent soil compaction, improving general appearance, and helping to prevent pests. I now have two 2′ x 8′ beds that are 6″ tall each. Right now I have spread the weed barrier cloth out under both beds and all around them to start smothering the weeds in the section of the garden that I am going to start cultivating. It would probably work a lot better if I ever remembered to bring one of my boxes of cardboard out, but I keep forgetting. Hopefully tomorrow I will remember to do that. The free cow manure that the co-op provides is also now there, so hopefully tomorrow I will be able to get my two wheelbarrows full of that to fill my beds. It looks pretty well composted to me, so I’m not too worried about it burning plants, especially since I will mix it in well with the soil already present. There isn’t any regular compost ready right now, I’m pretty sure, so that will have to wait until later. Once the beds are tilled and filled (I don’t necessarily think tilling is necessary each time you plant, but right now the ground is all compacted, so I’m going to have to this time) I will probably cover them with some cardboard and weed cloth and leave them to solarize a bit more for another week or two, just to prevent my tilling from causing tons of weeds to get going.
In other news, I am continuing my readings about sustainable/local food, and it is certainly an interesting world! My fear at this point is that I am reading too many opinions from one side of the argument, and not enough from the more industrial side. Considering the fact that all the animal science classes at my college are all geared toward industrial production, however, I feel like I am getting enough information from both sides. It is definitely enough to make me stop eating grocery-store meat. Even though the locally produced, pasture based meats are more expensive, I would rather eat less meat than continue to support feedlot operations, especially since the locally produced stuff is head and shoulders above the grocery store products as far as taste is concerned! The thing I love about reading all of these sort of fringe viewpoints, though, is that they bring up issues that I’ve never even thought of. For example, even a vegan who consumes only organic plant protein products such as tofu, etc, is most likely indirectly supporting industrial animal slaughter because bone meal and blood meal (which are both ok in organic practices, I have used them myself in my garden) are by-products of it. It really raises a lot of questions, and ones that I don’t think have easy answers.
The book that I am currently reading is Folks, this ain’t normal by Joel Salatin (who is one of the most important and innovative of those in favor of pasture based, sustainable farming) and it is a fascinating read. Aunt Rusty, I think you would absolutely love it. One sort of funny thing it brings up in the chapter that I am reading now is that there is this perception that smart people don’t farm. I get this myself in my own family when they ask if I really need to go to graduate school if I just want to be a farmer, and as Joel Salatin puts it:
“For decades we’ve shipped our best and brightest off to town to become white-collar doctors, lawyers, accountants, and engineers and reserved food production to society’s dolts. Does that make sense? Do we really want society’s bottom feeders to be in charge of our air, soil, and water?”
This resounds with me, naturally, though I do want to go farther in academics than he really approves of. He has some not-so-nice sentiments toward land-grant research universities, while I think they could really help the sustainable/local food cause if more students would just realize that these are huge issues. I asked my animal science professor this week if there was any research going on about sustainable livestock production and he told me that that was mainly happening in the commercial scene and he wasn’t aware of any projects at the university. Really? That is utter insanity to me. How can such a huge research university not even be looking at alternatives to feedlots? I have since found a professor who may be doing something related to sustainable livestock production, but we’ll see. Anyway, it is just really interesting stuff, and it is important stuff and I feel like the more you know the better off you’ll be. Stay tuned for garden updates…possibly tomorrow afternoon!