I sat by the fire in the kitchen this morning and finished some reading and writing for council. In the afternoon, I drove to Freeling for a "Street Naming Working Party Sunset Committee" meeting (Street Party is what I call it.) This is the working group that recommends street names for new subdivisions and also organises naming of roads that are confusing for emergency service vehicles. We met for a couple of hours and solved some more naming issues before I drove home in the rain again. My car doesn't leak, but it is pretty draughty. I wish I had a car radio also, but my iPod does the trick!
I called in to the post office and picked up a parcel that was waiting for me... potatoes. I had ordered these some time ago. These are seed potatoes that I'll plant in a couple of weeks time. The soil is just about ready, but I'll add some more compost to it before I actually plant these. There are two kinds, desiree and luster, eight of each. As well, I have some other potatoes that have sprouted in the cupboard, so I'll plant those as well. I want to see how many I can grow this year, as it is the easiest carbohydrate to produce with minimal effort. Growing enough vegetables to fill your tummy and get your vitamins is not as hard as producing the number of calories that you need... and so we are back to the energy balance thing again.
It needs to take less energy to produce the calories than the number of calories that you get out of the process, or it won't work... that's thermodynamics.
The good thing is that once you have planted the seeds or tubers or whatever, and they have the soil that is healthy (nutrients and micro-organisms) then they seem to know what to do and they keep on working even when you're not looking... once the soil is good, the effort required is not too bad. I didn't take much notice of any of it today.
The other important patch that I need to prepare as soon as I can is the "horta plot." I have a place in mind to do this... it has had mustard and cumin growing there (from my spice pots) and I plan to dig that into the soil with some manure this weekend. The description of a "horta plot" comes from a book called "One Magic Square" by Lolo Houbein. The author suggests planting a mixture of seeds from the spice cupboard, along with a mixture of leafy green vegetables and herbs. In fact the idea is to plant more as soon as you start picking these greens... a bit of a mobile patch, or at least sequential patches.
In fact, these are the first seeds to sow in a new patch of garden where the soil has not been much improved. It is also good to let some of these plants go to seed so that they become self-perpetuating like the Greek hillside weeds where the "horta" originates.
Another bonus from allowing the plants to go to seed is that the beneficial insects that provide pest control for the plants often depend upon the flowering stage of the plant's life cycle. One example of this is carrots.... I always let a few carrots go to seed, and I have hundreds of ladybirds in the summer when aphids can become a problem... and baby ladybirds eat aphids!
Keeping such a patch going during the summer can be a problem if the weather becomes too hot and dry. It is necessary to maintain water and mulch. During the summer I reduce the amount of garden that I grow intensively, mainly because of the amount of water required in very hot weather. Even if a patch is left "fallow" during that time, it is necessary to protect the soil from heat. It is better to leave weeds (dead or alive) or a lot of mulch on the surface so that the micro-organisms in the soil are protected from the heat. The soil is alive and needs to be "farmed" like livestock. I try to imagine that there are earthworms under there... those are easier than imagining tiny microscopic animals or fungi. The soil is alive and needs to be cared for appropriately.