I know her method has a lot going for it. The hay does disintegrate into beautiful friable soil but the caveat is that it does take time. I read her book and it tells about how her plowman was taking too long to come to her garden and she grew impatient and just threw hay on top of the soil. With my practical mind I see that she was not starting with new ground. This was ground that she had been working for years and I'm working with ground that was semi lawn and full of clay mixed with gravel.
Bennie ordered top soil and spread it but I always question the quality of introduced top soil. I sure it would probably be considered dead. The hay I spread last year has not all melted into the ground so I know it has a long way to go to develop the organisms I'm looking for. We put down Azomite and lime last year with the top soil but it will need it again this year. I'm putting the soiled hay and wood shavings from the goats in the garden and that is well laden with lime.
I would like to see more earth worms in the soil when I do dig, The ones I find are really big but they are not plentiful. I am spreading more of the old hay we got last fall, some of it is really falling apart. I think the secret is keeping it wet. the wetter the bale the more mushroom spawn and crawly things. A pitchfork is definitely a welcome tool. I certainly did not want to pick up that stuff even with gloved hands. My plants will certainly like it.
Last year I may have gotten 10 tomatoes for my efforts. Lots of green ones and of course lots of cherry tomatoes from the one cherry tomato plant I put in. It seems everyone I talked to about tomatoes last year could not get tomatoes to ripen. So I'm not taking it to heart. Not sure what the problem was. I'm trying Black Krim this year and Cherokee purples, who are notorious for not producing well in my garden. I have hope for the Black Krims though. Most likely, I will buy some non heirloom from the nursery when I get in there and drop them in for insurance.
This is the first year at this new place that the raspberries I planted have survived. I have Anna golden ones and Autumn beauty and one other one I can't remember. So many died at my hands I hate to count. I have mulched them with hay and given them multiple feedings of coffee grounds mixed with crushed egg shells. The Breakfast of Champions. Time will tell.
The Anna's came from root stock I bought on Ebay for like 10$ including shipping that said it would do 5 foot of row. I got two really healthy nice looking plants coming up. I'm happy win win. It's almost time for them to whither and die, so I'm bracing myself. But seriously, my hope is that they will do well and multiply. I'm thinking that with 7 viable plants I might eat my own raspberrys yet.
We are blessed with a blend of clay and rock for our garden, with the addition of building site debris. This is my second season trying to establish a garden. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to clean out our hay suppliers barn of old hay. Yea! Some for a dollar a bale and some was free. It was probably about 60 bales.. My plan is to use the old rotten hay and what I clean out of the goat and chicken areas to help heal the soil to a lite friable tilth. Last winter I laid a one flake layer of hay across the area with cardboard underneath it. This year the plan is to follow in Ruth Stout's capable hands and keep putting the hay on any weeds that pop up. I may have to put more cardboard and hay down where I might have missed it this winter (it was really cold and windy) and hopefully smother the Bermuda grass. I HATE bermuda grass. I have one patch that I'm sure I missed because the grass is looking better than the pasture does in places.
In any case my plan for this year is to continue to lay cardboard down, then take the remaining hay and put it down where needed and higher in rows two flakes wide and begin a series of raised beds as deep as I can get them one layer at a time, probably about 6" high for starters. I will then go back and place the plants I'm putting in by drilling holes and filling with soil and planting, straw bale gardening fashion. I just need to make sure it gets watered well and keep doing so. This should work for my tomatoes and peppers. I've got several of them planted and they seem to be doing good. For the few potatoes I planted I just pulled the hay away, placed the potatoes, and covered them with hay, So we are doing a hybrid of the Ruth Stout garden and straw bale gardening. After that it will be lasagna/Ruth Stout from there on out. We shall see.
After watching her very closely for two weeks Cal Pernia finally had her babies. I was beginning to wonder if there was a problem I needed to call the Vet about. She must have gotten under way shortly before five. I was stuck at work and checking my Nest camera for the 20th time today and saw the little darling walking around the stall with her mother, I was at work so I had the volume on my phone turned down and it was a good thing. That little doeling was so loud I thought maybe one of the other kids had broken a leg and was hanging by that limb and in horrible pain. I phoned Bennie and sounded the alarm. He said he was on his way. I got home and ran out to the barn. There was one more baby and one still in the sack looking like it had just been born. I ran in and cleared the airway but it was too late, it was dead. The other little goat, a buck, was doing great but was still wet. So I dried him off with a big fluffy towel. The two little ones appear very healthy. It's sad about losing the little doeling. But, the little family is doing well and we are feeling blessed to have two healthy babies. She expelled the placenta and she drank up her molasses water and babies both suckled their first meals and settled down for a nice nap. Kidding season is over for us till the end of July when Georgie Girl is due to have her brood.
I went outside to check on her and found the lovely two babies a buckling and a doeling. In my pajamas. She was fine. They were fine. I went to get her some warm molasses water and found myself locked out of the house. So there I was. In my pajamas, tip toeing around the house to use the front door combination lock to get it. So glad we live on the highway. Luckily I was not too sleepy to remember the combination. I even managed to make it to work on time. Amber is such a treasure. She has been no trouble with her kidding and is taking such good care of her babies. I think both of the babies are polled.
We have a nest camera in the barn over the two stalls we have been using for kidding. One doe is in the stall on the right because she is close to her due date and we are watching her. The other doe has a couple of kids that were born last Thursday. I got to do my first assist that night when the little buck came out one foot and tail first. That was scary. I don't think I hurt her but she is being very quiet. She has not felt like doing much till today. In fact she didn't want to be out of close range of her babies at all. So I was surprised when Bennie told me he had let them out for a bit.
I was really surprised when I brought up my camera from work to check on the pregnant doe and a saw my tiny tiny little doeling trying jump up on Cal Pernia the pregnant doe. She did it not once but three times. That caused more movement from Cal Pernia than I have seen in a while. She shot up and chased that little girl out of the stall and I did not spot either of them for several minutes. Apparently, Bennie had decided to give the quiet ones the run of the barn aisle for the afternoon. The doeling was fine, but I did have a scare. In the picture below the babies are in their stall and mom is visiting Cal Pernia with the little girl asleep on the ledge. So they must have worked out.
I worked 9-6 today so I got to take a morning walk around the place inspecting what the rains had done and how spring was coming along. I found where Chester had been thoughtful enough to divide some of my comfrey for me. He had climbed that big hill and and dissected the plant and planted pieces of it in the walk by the pool. Rather than criticize his handiwork I got my trowel and moved the new healthy plants to more appropriate locations. Five free plants! Win win.
I found all the baby goats sleeping in their stalls looking snug with their mommies. They crawled into the plastic tote that I use to carry hay and have been using it as a sleeping area. Bennie didn't have to bottle feed Daphne the little doe I was worried about this morning as he says her little belly was round and full. So good to know they're doing well.
There's five baby goats big enough to play outside now. They looked so cute yesterday afternoon running around and around the big round bale of hay out in the pasture.
Melinda and Bennie Pepper
We work in technology but are homesteaders at heart. We're trying to set up our homestead with productive systems that are sustainable. We have Nigerian Dwarf goats and chickens and are trying to garden and raise fruit trees.