Weekends are simply not long enough! We are not entirely unpacked yet, but while the weather is still nice we are focusing our efforts outdoors. We completed our pizza oven yesterday. It's built upon the cable spool, so it looks sort of like a huge mushroom (We'll do more with the base in the future.) Rog celebrated with a glass of merlot.
This pizza oven is very simple; it has a short chimney and a row of iridescent tesserae to decorate the opening. This afternoon Rog built a fire to dry the oven from the inside out. It reached almost 600 degrees F while still feeling cool and damp on the exterior (the walls are 9 inches thick, made from clay, sand, sawdust and straw.) When the fire burned out we popped a squash and a few potatoes in and an hour later had a tasty autumn supper.
Yesterday I started mulching the smaller west garden plot. First I dug up wheelbarrow loads of aged horse manure from a pile by the loafing shed and spread it on top of a layer of newspapers (which had been read, then used to pack our dishes for the move, then saved for this noble purpose.) Next I swept all the old, DUSTY, loose hay from the loft of the barn and hauled it in wheelbarrow-loads to layer on top of the newspaper and manure, about 6 inches deep. There was enough hay up there to cover about half of this garden plot, but there is more in the middle room of the barn so I may have enough hay for this entire plot, but not both plots.(For the record, I am holding Rog's celebratory wine while he takes this photo, not imbibing while I mulch.)
Realizing I would need much more mulch, I had walked down the road to meet our dairy farmer neighbor and inquire whether they might have some old or spoiled hay they would sell me. I met the son, Mark, who was very kind and promised me all the cow manure I ever want! They have no spoiled hay and will need all the good hay they have to feed their 150 cows this winter, but he said he'd be happy to give me some of the shredded corn stover they use for bedding. Today Mark drove over two buckets of the stuff. We had him dump the first load over the fence, and we carted it into the garden in many rickety wheelbarrow trips.
Then we got a bit smarter and had him dump the next scoop into our little trailer, which we could push to the edge of the garden to unload. I think we will need 4 more buckets to cover the entire garden 6 inches deep. I plan to pay Mark significantly more for the next 4 loads - so far his only remuneration has been a loaf of homemade cardamom bread, hot out of the oven.
Ruth Stout says all you need for her permaculture gardening strategy is a deep layer of whatever organic material you can find locally- shredded corn husks are fine. I will probably add fallen leaves, too. Our soil looks very rich and healthy to start with, but it will be interesting to compare the results off the garden mulched in hay/newspaper/manure with the one mulched in corn stover.