The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Streamlining leaf mulching

Hauling leaves in the heavy haulerThis week's theme has been biomass transport.  Mark, the innovator, tripled our leaf productivity by changing our collection method.  I had been raking up leaves that fell on the driveway, stuffing them into our leaf bag, and driving back to the garden to spread them one bag at a time.  Mark figured out that we could put two to three leaf bags' worth of leaves into the heavy hauler with some judicious smooshing and a tarp tucked on top.

He also figured out that we could rake the leaves down off the hillside above the driveway and get scads of leaf matter for very little effort.  There's a chance the bared soil will erode some, but I have to weigh a little bit of erosion that will never reach the creek against extra transportation (aka, coal burned in the nearby power plant to pollute our air and water).  Some days, it feels hard to be human --- no matter what we do, it causes harm somewhere.

The good thing about the hillside leaves is that we get some duff with them, which helps solve our nitrogen problem.  Meanwhile, Mark has started peeing on some of our leaves to give them an influx of nitrogen and help them decompose faster.  Suddenly, the garden feels under control!  We topped all of the beds in the mule garden this week, which means we only have about two to three times that much garden left to put to bed for the winter.

Check out our homemade chicken waterer.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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"... no matter what we do, it causes harm somewhere." Actually you are very good caretakers of the land and seem to be working to leave it in better shape than when you found it. Other humans, Joel Salatin comes to mind, are also working to leave this beautiful gift we've borrowed from our children's children in better shape as well. The wonderful thing about photosynthesis is that it seems to defy the First Law of Thermodynamics. A good gardener can help the plants heal the soil and add more energy and matter to them by taking advantage of this. A plant, especially - but not only - legumes, will return more to the soil than it took out if you let it. Isn't that amazing? Isn't it amazing that you can get food from the ground and the earth ends up better off at the end of the day than when you started?

Of course, none of that would apply if you were stripping the soil of it's nutrients and not returning them, or applying chemical fertilizers and pesticides and killing off every living thing besides your "round-up-ready" corn and soybean.

Comment by Everett Fri Nov 6 11:29:34 2009
That is the totally awesome thing about plants --- their ability to turn nothing into something! I feel like I have a bit of a deal with my 56 acres of woods --- I'll treat them as nicely as possible while still using them occasionally for biomass, etc. I figure they're better off with me than with a more traditional farmer, who'd probably graze his cows through them or cut them all down. (I probably anthropomorphize the forest too much...)
Comment by anna Fri Nov 6 19:19:49 2009

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