Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sustainable Gardening

This is kind of a corollary to my last post.  If I bought in things that are not grown or found here, learning to garden in my climate might be a lot easier.  If I had access to locally grown straw, for example, mulching and composting would be easier.  Sometimes I do buy straw, but it's something like $20 a bale and it gets shipped from an ocean away - it makes great compost when I move it from the stalls and pens to the pile.  It really does. 

But, beyond the cost of it, it isn't feasible here.  The amount of rain we get, even though the stalls and pens are well covered with roof - the rain can be so overwhelming that the only suitable flooring for animal housing here is volcanic cinder.  We've tried sand, wood pellets or shavings, straw - all of it becomes disastrously damp and bad for hooves. Not only that, but the grains that make the best straw don't grow well here - it is too wet to stook the grain to make the straw and the hay. This is something I have been working on more consistently than the gardening over the last decade and a half - having a laminitic horse makes it an important and all consuming goal.  Even though the horse is gone (still miss him), there are sheep and another horse to care for. 

So much of what's even in the organic gardening books relies on things that have to be imported - except coconut fiber and seaweed - those are nice things that I can get here, if I find someone who lives near the ocean who'd like to trade - or if I find a place to harvest for myself.  On our experiential learning day at school, I learned how to make a fertilizer tea from eggshells, brown sugar, and vinegar.   I could, with some work, make all those things myself, but in reality brown sugar and vinegar are relatively available and inexpensive - and (finally) my hens are coming out of moult, so I have some eggs. 

Part of it is stubbornness, part of it practicality, part of it a drive for real self-sufficiency, but I don't want to buy things to help me garden (beyond the greenhouse!) - I want to make my own potting soil from what I have here, I want to make my own fertilizers and compost.  I want to learn to save seed, so I won't have to buy so many in the future. 

Some of learning to do this means experimenting and measuring and observing and keep records, some of it might be learning to eat things that I haven't tried before or giving up things that just don't grow well here, and a lot of it means thinking beyond the box - if I can't get spaghnum moss (although I think it grows on this island), what else is like enough to it that grows here and is available to me? 

I am always happiest if I have something absorbing to think about and research - this particular problem at least will (hopefully) result in more food for my table and for storage and for sharing. 

No comments: