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Getting ready for GAMCOD-(ish) in Portugal

 
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Since we moved to the new place, the garden has been 'mine' and the terrace where we want to grow fruit and nut trees has been 'his'.  I have concentrated on greens, tomatoes, herbs, basically just things that make our meals nicer without giving me too much work to do because my energy levels are awful and I have a ton of other things I have to do too.

But then Paul came up with the idea of a 200 square foot plot to grow as many calories as possible. And, as I'd sort of promised that I wouldn't allow my garden to spread off the little terrace at the side of the  house and it was already full, we decided to have 'our' garden on the front terrace, if we can find the right place to put it, snaking its way between the trees. For this year, there are climate restrictions that we don't meet. So we thought we could plan out the area we want and, if Paul gives us the go ahead, we can edge it out with the old roof tiles, start throwing cut grass in there to smother the weeds, maybe put some landscape fabric over it to kill the weeds off a bit more thoroughly, and figure out getting the grey water there.

This is the front of the terrace looking west towards my son's place. It's quite narrow, and there are trees planted there, including some very young ones, that we will have to work around. We can't go too near the edge of the terrace either as we will have to be able to access it safely to harvest and to keep grass and weeds under control without falling down to the terrace below.



And this is from roughly the same place facing east. With even more young trees to avoid as we plan the bed out. It might be interesting fitting it in and calculating the area to make sure we get the full 200 square feet without going over.

It's possible we'll end up sacrificing a bit of the total area to make a path to the far side, else it's going to be a long walk to get to the far side. But then, we might not need to go over there often, except to tidy up and to harvest, so maybe it's not as important as we think.



We changed the old roof on the house last summer and have a huge heap of old roof tiles which will make awesome edging for the bed. This will keep the area well defined and enable us to keep the grass around it cut neatly. Mostly we cut here with a scythe (when we cut at all) but during the summer we often run a strimmer around as well to keep it as short and neat as possible because of the fire risk. And I think a nicely defined edge to the bed will help with that!

It does seem a terrible shame not to put all those tiles to good use...







 
Burra Maluca
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After consulting with my other half about the silly shape the GAMCOD plot was going to have to be, he mentioned that the little reineta apple tree hadn't survived, and as it was in the middle of patch of baby trees it would generate a fairly decent size space we could use if we pulled it and its support post out.

I think we're beginning to make progress!



Now we just have to get rid of that pile of old olive prunings, get the grass cut a bit and mark out the edges...



He's easily distracted by passing trains...

 
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Burra Maluca wrote:Now we just have to get rid of that pile of old olive prunings, get the grass cut a bit and mark out the edges..


Are the grape prunings a possible resource for soil building? How do hugel beds work in your climate?

What about seasons? Do you grow more September to April than May to August because of the summer heat? I guess the tree cover is advantageous to give some shade in summer.

I was surprised how small an area 200 square feet was when I looked at a couple of possibilities here - makes it much easier to fit in, and reduces the work preparing it.

I don't think landscape fabric would be approved.
 
Burra Maluca
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Nancy Reading wrote:
Are the grape prunings a possible resource for soil building?



We never really prune the grapes much, plus most of them got burned last year. What we do have though is the land 'next door' that is part-owned by me and where my son and a friend of ours live. The grass has to be kept short because of the fire risk, so he drives round it with a tractor and brush cutter occasionally to keep it tidy. Which means there is mulch for collecting, all organic, and already cut for me! There is also the grass on the terraces around our house which Austin usually cuts using a scythe which we can gather up and throw on there. Plus the contents of the pee bucket...

I'm eyeing up the sawdust that's been building up by the saw bench too. I'm sure that could be put to better use.  I'm also contemplating putting on my big black boots and stomping over the heap of olive prunings - they've sitting there for over two years and they might just crumble up enough to use as mulch if I give them a thorough stomping on.

How do hugel beds work in your climate?



I have seen them work, but they do need irrigating here from what I've seen. The work involved is beyond my capabilities though. I'm really going for the 'easy' aspect of 'cheap and easy gardening'. With a good dose of cheap and low-external-input thrown in for good measure. I've been really struggling with energy levels for a few years now and what I'm looking for is a project that entices me to do more, not one that seems like a ton of work that I have no real hope of accomplishing.

What about seasons? Do you grow more September to April than May to August because of the summer heat? I guess the tree cover is advantageous to give some shade in summer.



We grow very different stuff in the different seasons. My little garden is geared for things that like a bit of shade, and high-value, high-flavour things. The GAMCOD plot will be for staple crops that won't mind the heat and brutal sunshine. I will be choosing plants accordingly!  The current plan is to clear the area, mark it out, then mulch as much as I can and basically just leave it for the summer to do its thing. Then in the autumn, by which time Paul might or might not have given the go-ahead for different climate zones though I may just carry on anyway, I can plant things like fava (broad beans) and giant radishes to help improve the soil over the winter. Then jerusalem artichokes, squash, corn, black eyed peas and chufa for the summer. The idea being that it's mostly for harvesting in fits and starts, not like 'my' garden which is for bumbling around picking a few leaves and herbs here and a handful of tomatoes there for the day's meals.

I was surprised how small an area 200 square feet was when I looked at a couple of possibilities here - makes it much easier to fit in, and reduces the work preparing it.



Yeah, it's 18.6 square metres. The sort of size that that is small enough to challenge me to go for it! Ours still might end up a weird shape to make it fit, but I suspect a lot of people will be able to relate to that. I just want to make sure we don't put it too close to the edge of the terrace because I'm dozy enough to go around there and end up sliding down to the terrace below if I'm not careful when I'm trying to harvest stuff.

I don't think landscape fabric would be approved.



No I'm pretty sure it won't. I'm going to concentrate on mulching as much as I possibly can and then when I'm feeling particularly energetic I can pull an area of mulch up and go at it with a hoe to kill the grass underneath. Then put the mulch back on top.

I must admit, I'm rather looking forward to getting my teeth into it!
 
Burra Maluca
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This is a screen grab from google maps showing our home on the right and my son's place on the left .

The bright green blob is roughly where the GAMCOD plot will be, nice and near to my home so I will actually hang out there a bit. And the white line shows how far 200 feet will reach away from that, which very nicely includes that lovely green area between the two houses. That green area and the terraces that we have to keep cut around the house will become a bit of a 'ghost acre' for us.

There is a huge fire risk here in the summer and we are required to keep the grass either cut very short or ploughed under during the summer. Mostly the locals plough it, often several times, as summer approaches. We, and fortunately our neighbours on the other side, choose to cut. Which has helped the soil to recover somewhat since we bought our properties.

One side-effect of this is that there will be a ready supply of mulch for me to rake up and put in the GAMCOD bed just for the effort of collecting it!



This is the area to the side and front of the house while we were negotiating the purchase in 2019. Basically a dust bowl...

Since then we've only cut, not ploughed. And the soil has improved drastically.

The area on the left of the photo is a little terrace which I have since claimed to be 'my' garden, and the lower area to the right includes what will become the GAMCOD plot.



And this is the sort of shape we're likely to end up with for the plot. I'd like it to look nice when we're sitting around in the garden trainspotting and admiring the view, and it has to fit between the trees, including the young ones that were planted since this photo was taken, and it has to be easily accessible without us getting too near to the edge of the terrace. I would prefer it if we can access all of it without having to walk on it. And I never intend to dig it up, because it's far too much work and I don't believe it is either good or necessary to ever do that here.

Working out the correct total area might be a bit of a pain. Or it could just be fun. We'll do our best to get it as close as possible to 200 square feet without going over...

 
Burra Maluca
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The grass here starts to grow like crazy this time of year, and our friend loves to drive around with the tractor and brushcutter keeping it under control.

Of course, it's the first time it's been done since we pruned the olives, so he kept hitting bits of olive branch that hadn't been cleared out of the way and had disappeared into the grass.

There is, however, now a nice load of cut grass than I can go and rake up to start mulching the GAMCOD bed. Just as soon as we've made a final decision on exactly where it's going to be and at least roughly marked it out...
 
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Burra Maluca wrote:Of course, it's the first time it's been done since we pruned the olives, so he kept hitting bits of olive branch that hadn't been cleared out of the way and had disappeared into the grass.


Ouch!

If the area is too irregular, you may need to just take a best guess:

Divide up in a grid, count the whole foot squares and add the part foot squares divide by 2.
I did find this online calculator where you can put in the periphery of your plot and it gives you the area. but the free version doesn't really zoom in enough to get an accurate enough figure I think.
 
Burra Maluca
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Nancy Reading wrote:If the area is too irregular, you may need to just take a best guess:


We'll figure it out when we get to the stage of marking it out. So long as it's close and doesn't go over the 200 square foot limit, I think it will be good enough.

But first we have to clear that old heap of olive prunings, which have become infested with brambles. Then we can tidy up the long grass, then we can start marking up areas.

Today's exercise was burning that old heap of stuff to get it out of the way. Some got used as kindling but I doubt we will be lighting the woodburner again for a while, and in any case the other major project for this year is to take it out and build a rocket mass heater, so I will be avoiding lighting it if at all possible as I want to remove it so I can get on with the build project.

First, we had to bite the bullet and remove the little reineta apple tree, which seems to have died.



Yup. Dead!

Then a little bonfire to get rid of the old prunings. They've been there for two winters and are going rotten. Some did get used for kindling, but these are too far gone to be much use and we need the space.

Even this time of year, when bonfires are allowed, each one has to be registered and permission granted before lighting up. Two people minimum to supervise and equipment ready to put flames out should be ready. Also mobile phones should be carried.



And of course trainspotting has to happen during the process.

This is Maria, aka Medway 4703



Rock has zero interest in trains, so he went off in search of windfall oranges to eat.



And now we have a slightly less cluttered area to work with. Next, we need to get the grass cut down a bit. But that is a job for another day...





 
Burra Maluca
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We rescued ten of the old roof tiles and barrowed them to the new veggie garden. I put in a few as edging, then got Himself to do one so I could get an action photo.
This is going to be by far the most time and energy consuming part of the whole exercise!

The soil is soft enough to cut a slot for the tiles quite easily at the moment, so I'm determined to get the job done as soon as we can.

Ten seem to fit nicely in a barrow and not be too heavy for me to move, and if I break it into stages ten seems about the right number for me to set into the ground in one session too. Though it was nine this time as I got Himself to do one, just for the photos...

They overlap enough to give a nice looking edge with no gaps, especially on the inside of a curve.

I might need to find a rubber mallet to level them up a bit, but it seems quite possible to make nice curvy edges with them.

Ten down. Only another hundred or two to go...







 
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I love to see what you're doing. And also a big fan of the roofing tiles, which I also use.
Something I've learned from 7+ years of using them for garden edging: They can break, and they can wash out if you have a place where water drains off.
My suggestion, if you're going to put them tallwise rather than lengthwise, is to find something to put them against - a plank, a pole, and then when you need to replace a broken one (after you trip over it, the dog bonks into it, you drop your shovel on it, etc) it's easy to stick a new one in. It helps even more if you have washout.
It is a devil of a job, and I say that having used an entire house's worth of tiles to edge all of my beds (not a huge space, i think my garden lot is 7m by 7m, i have maybe 9 separate small beds. it was many, many carloads of tiles, MANY spiders, many sore muscles. But totally worth it.) Godspeed!!!

Another idea for keeping brush down in your paths: if the tiles are like the ones we have here, they smash and crumble relatively well. (in fact often they are used for guerilla pothole filling when needed). So if you have a lot of them, consider running some over with a vehicle to crumble and put them in your path.
 
Burra Maluca
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I'm rather hoping that we can just keep bashing them with a rubber mallet and filling in behind them with cut grass to support them - the shape the bed is ending up is kinda like a giant amoeba with pseudopodia extending in all directions to give us the required area whilst avoiding baby trees, the edge of the terrace, and getting the bed too wide for me to be able to manage. Which means supporting it with poles or planks is going to be difficult to say the least...

The shape we marked out looks remarkably like this...



The tiles are an awesome resource. Almost everyone has a huge pile of them around the place and they either seem to want to sell them for a small fortune or they want to bribe people to come and take them for free. I want to put them to the best use possible! And a nice edge to the bed that we can strim right up to will be a good use in my books.
 
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You probably have less torrential rain than I do, so less worries about them getting washed out. Piling up that grass along the back of them is a great idea, that way if you hit them with the strimmer there's less chance of breakage (I'm surprised at how many I've broken).
 
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Aurora House wrote:I'm with you on the "not cold enough but going to try anyway" but I think while your focus is on the "easy" part mine is going to be on the "cheep & what I can scrounge from my 1/4 acer suburbia plot".



Actually mine has to be cheap too!

And I intend to challenge myself to do it as much as possible without spending any hard cash. I don't know if it will be possible yet, but in theory I could do it.  

greater Seattle hasn't gotten to 0F since 1950 (this reascent freeze of the whole US we only got low teens.) but as the Puget sound glacier bulldozed all our top soil to Oregon and left glacial tile behind (a tumbled mix of everything from boulders to clay) i definitely go crap dirt. Which leads to the "input" requirements, how far back do we need to "prove" that they were here the whole time. I would be using rabbits to turn "weed trash to treasure" but I supplement their grazing with kitchen scraps and NOWHERE that gets to 0F is going to have local banana peals. Also on the rare occasions that I bring them inside because of weather their bedding is newspaper and shredded junk mail. So a lot of compost/mulch will be mostly junk paper. Saving food scraps and junk mail from becoming part of a landfill seems very inline with this project especially for some one that doesn't have X acers to mine for local inputs but when do they become "local"? when the bunnies turn them into pooper mache, when that gets put in compost, or run thru a worm bin so it is indistinguishable from soil?



It's tricky, because obviously Paul would love to have a load of wonderful examples of cheap and easy that also meet all the other requirements, but he also has a saying about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. What he wants is creative examples that fit as best they can and that will inspire others to do something similar. And my own philosophy is that if I do the best I can without busting a gut on it (because I need easy...) then it might be enough to inspire people, it will help feed me and my family, and if Paul wants to use footage of it in his video that's an awesome extra bonus that helps make the world a better place.

For me I think the creative bit is in the shape of the bed, because it has to fit around so many other things. I'm hoping it will inspire people to fit some veggies into odd shapes they might have available. Then I just want to smother it with cut grass and leave it to rot down until the autumn so that when I plant it, it will have miraculously turned into lovely soft, rich soil without any cost or much effort from me. Which should also be inspiring!

Where I'm struggling is the no plastic, though it's discouraged more than actually banned. The cheap and easy way for me is to use the collection of seed starting trays I inherited from my husband. They are there anyway, and a lot of things aren't likely to grow if direct seeded through much mulch, so it makes sense to use them rather than use up my limited energy finding alternatives. Same with the landscape fabric. I might start off with just using a thick mulch, but if grass starts to grow though it I'm inclined to throw over the fabric I have to block the light and kill it off as the easiest option for me, because it's there anyway. I think I'm going just play it by ear and experiment but not worry unduly if I have to 'cheat' a bit. I actually think people like it if they see that other people have to cheat a bit sometimes. They can relate...
 
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It finally stopped raining again, so we put another twenty tiles around the GAMCOD bed this morning, weaving its way between the baby trees, and with paths to give access so I can reach to plant and harvest the beds



We dug out a block of soil to have a look at, only it fell apart before I could grab a photo.



Oh well, let's have a look at the profile where we cut it out...



A whole lot better than the dust bowl it was when we bought it, as we haven't ploughed it up for the last four years.

Teeny bit of organic matter starting to build up in the top half inch or so. The rest is still somewhat lacking in structure or humus.



Austin took a handful of it to have a closer look at.

Not much colour to it. Quite sandy, which is different to what either of us are used to. Main problem is lack of organic matter.



He tried to squoosh it into a ball but this is the best he could manage. Certainly sand more than clay.

Quite a few more sessions left yet just to get the tile edging in place, then we can start filling it with cut grass. Unless I can persuade anyone to go and collect some with the tractor for me...
 
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One advantage your amoeba shaped garden looks like having  will be lots of 'keyhole' paths to access the garden without stepping on it!
 
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i also love the amoeba shaping! i know you mentioned having to avoid certain things but it was hard to tell from the photo.
i think a big advantage of this lovely curvy unfurling is that you'll avoid the problems I had with doing them longwise on a straight line-- they look like they support each other much better this way.
 
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Nancy Reading wrote:One advantage your amoeba shaped garden looks like having  will be lots of 'keyhole' paths to access the garden without stepping on it!


Yes! I know from experience that I will struggle to manage a bed more than a metre wide, and I do want to avoid walking on it as much as possible so it seems a good solution. I just put another 15 tiles down, with the help of a bit of stick cut to exactly a metre in length so I can attempt to avoid going closer than that to the baby trees while still creating a functional space. It's fun!

Tereza Okava wrote: i think a big advantage of this lovely curvy unfurling is that you'll avoid the problems I had with doing them longwise on a straight line-- they look like they support each other much better this way.



It was *very* obvious when I made a straight bit coming out of keyhole that the edging wanted to tip over. And then I put a curved bit in and it just stood up straight and happy and self-supporting.

And then I remembered these...



Wikipedia has an article about them - crinkle crankle walls
 
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Tereza Okava wrote:i also love the amoeba shaping! i know you mentioned having to avoid certain things but it was hard to tell from the photo.



It will be more obvious when the baby trees are a bit bigger and are fully in leaf. Also when the bed is complete it will be easier to see what is bed and what is path and tree-space.

These photos might help...





I'm trying to give at least a metre around each baby tree, and a metre for the width of the bed. Which is tricky as when we planted the trees we ended up with most of them closer than three metres so it's a bit of a juggling game making it all fit...

 
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Oooops.

It turns out that using my dear old spade to open up slots to slide roof tiles into is a bit hard on the poor old thing...



Fortunately Austin is a welder, so flashy lights and sparky noises are happening downstairs and me and my spade may be back in action very soon!

Meanwhile I got busy raking up cut grass and have been busy emptying out the kitchen compost caddy into the first bits of the GAMCOD bed, spreading them out a bit, and then smothering them with a nice layer of dry-ish cut grass. Rain is due again tomorrow, forecast to last for a week, so I'm not sure how much will get done until the next dry spell.

Aha - and my phone just pinged to herald the arrival of this photo.

I think I'm back in business!



Fixed! Not exactly a thing of beauty but nice and sturdy. And a speedy fix.

I'd best get out there and test it!
 
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yay for skills and tools!
 
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Today's progress in the GAMCOD bed.



I've started to rake up grass to fill the bed with. These two 'legs' have the contents of the kitchen compost caddy tipped out into them, plus the corn cobs that I'd stripped the seed off of. Then dry grass spread thickly on top.

This 'composting in place' is substantially easier than composting using a heap. Just waddle out with the compost caddy when it it is full, pull the mulch away, and spread the vegetable matter on the ground before putting the mulch back. It takes a while to work but I'm hoping that by autumn, which is when I want to start planting this bed, it will be raring to go!



We're currently laying tiles around the baby mulberry bush then there will be another leg of the bed working its way past it towards the compost heap.

Rock is supervising.



I tried to take a photo of the buds swelling on the baby mulberry bush, but the cameral refused to focus.

To compensate, Rock is photobombing with a delighted grin as he has scrumped another orange.



A quick video, just for fun...



Tiles have successfully made their way around the mulberry bush and are swinging their way back again to make another metre wide bed, avoiding the olive tree which we will need to be able to access to harvest.

Also, note that the spade is back to full functionality!

 
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Oooops. Paul has decreed that official GAMCOD beds be a sensible shape, so my chaos amoeba garden isn't going to count.

Oh well, I'm the wrong climate zone anyway. So I might as well just carry on and enjoy myself and grow some food and hope to inspire someone regardless of not being eligible to win prizes. I never was very good at following rules...

Progress is slow as energy levels are truly awful, Himself is working most days, and I need to empty out the humanure heap onto the baby trees before we run out of buckets so that job is taking precedence.

We've done a bit more though!



AND I have another twenty tiles down and laid roughly in place for when I have a bit more energy.

I also experimented with a bit of background video, just in case Paul wants it for padding out his video. Austin and I are still 'discussing' who gets to volunteer to do voice overs.

This one is showing Himself strimming the crazy long grass down to give me a path to wheel the barrow to the baby trees, which will also give me grass to put on the GAMCOD bed. And then a shot of windfall oranges and the compulsory one of Rock eating them. He's a bit addicted to foraging...
 
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Burra Maluca wrote:Oooops. Paul has decreed that official GAMCOD beds be a sensible shape, so my chaos amoeba garden isn't going to count.

Oh well, I'm the wrong climate zone anyway. So I might as well just carry on and enjoy myself and grow some food and hope to inspire someone regardless of not being eligible to win prizes. I never was very good at following rules...


Yes, one of my plots is in the same boat; it is a thin arc, so I won't follow the "rules" on that one as much. I still want to plant my runner beans there though, because is is in a really sheltered spot - out of the wind :)

I also experimented with a bit of background video, just in case Paul wants it for padding out his video. Austin and I are still 'discussing' who gets to volunteer to do voice overs.

This one is showing Himself strimming the crazy long grass down to give me a path to wheel the barrow to the baby trees, which will also give me grass to put on the GAMCOD bed. And then a shot of windfall oranges and the compulsory one of Rock eating them. He's a bit addicted to foraging...



That's lovely Burra! It looks so lush there. I thought the windfall oranges were more yellow flowers :D !
 
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The weather has been stupidly wet, and my energy levels have been awful, but today the weather is nice and I have a bit of a spring to my step and Himself isn't working.

So I pressganged him into action for a couple of little videos... ;)

A demonstration of putting the tiles in place. I only managed to get him to do a couple of them though so I might have to reserve some energy for it this afternoon...



And the grass on the path by the side of the house up to the back terrace is getting silly so he had a bit of a go at it with the scythe. Which means I can go and rake it up later and add it to the GAMCOD bed.

 
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A few more little videos this morning...

First, filling an old and rather battered bulk-bag that we once had sand delivered in with some grass we (ok, he...) cut yesterday ready for filling the GAMCOD bed with. The grass cut with the scythe is very long and easy to gather, but not ideal to use in beds that you want to pant up immediately with seeds or seedlings as it's too bulky. For just filling the bed to smother it with and to rot down and feed the soil for a few months however, it's perfect.

Rock is photobombing from under the olive tree and behind the heap of old tiles, which are the ones I'm using to edge the bed.



Austin is sharpening the scythe. He says tossing it at the end is compulsory as otherwise you end up sticking the wet end in your pocket. I'll take his word for it...

That's my old plough in the foreground, though I don't use it any more. The blue insulation with bricks weighting it down is covering the water tank we installed for the house supply which is dug into the ground for safety and temperature control. The heap in front of it is the soil we dug out so we could set the tank into the ground. The machinery noise you can hear in the background is our friend mowing next door with the tractor. Austin has just got back from fixing the throttle lever and replacing the cable so everyone is out on grass cutting duties right now.



Same shot, but then panning around so you can see the back of the house, complete with new roof! Then a shot of the bulk-bag of cut grass, the stash of old roof tiles, and Rock rummaging around under an olive tree for any stray olives. Because the oranges are only grown on the lower terrace on the same level as the house because it's harder to water up here because this terrace is on pretty much the same level as the water mine.



I bumbled along the terrace a little way to have a look down at the lower terrace to see what the GAMCOD bed looked like from up there. There's a good view of the humanure heap from here too, and maybe you can also see a bit better how it works its way around the trees.

The tractor puts in an appearance mowing the very bottom terrace at some point if  you are patient, and also a minor photo-bomb from Rock.



This one is looking back along the terrace to where Himself is working.

He used the tractor a few days ago to run the brush-cutter over the most easily accessible grass. This is harder to rake up as it's cut shorter, but it makes a lovely soft, easy to handle mulch that you can tuck around plants and breaks down faster.

In the foreground is a young quince tree, which I grew from seed saved from a quince grown at my old place. It took a bit of a beating in the fire and some of the branches didn't recover, but with a bit of creative pruning to keep the tree balanced I think it's going to be just fine. The grass at the base will need cutting with a scythe or the strimmer though.

A little further back you can see one of the burned out olive trees, which had the entire heap of insulated roof sheets next to it when the fire broke out at a neighbour's place. The fire hit his stash of fuel which went up in an incredible inferno and sent burning embers flying up which then all blew in our direction setting of dozens and dozens of fires wherever they landed. Unfortunately one landed on the seat of my dear little blue tractor and one landed right at the base of the olive tree next to the roof sheets, which were due to be put up the next morning.

If that one had landed just a few feet to one side, it would have landed on the roof-less house, set fire to the wooden ceiling, and destroyed the whole thing.

I count myself rather fortunate to be able to be up here this year taking videos of us all happily working outside with a roof and a replacement tractor.

ยด

I'm hoping to get a couple more videos later, or maybe tomorrow, of using the grass to mulch the bed and maybe add a few more things while we're at it.
 
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The last of the windfall oranges are very much past their best now.

Time to gather them up...



... and put them to use in the GAMCOD bed.



Then we can use some of that grass we scythed yesterday to smother them with.



I still need to put more tiles in place. There's also a big pot full of egg-shells that need crushing up and scattering around. And some ash that should go on too. And then there's the pee bucket. I think a photo rather than a video for this though, maybe just of the bucket and not an action shot.

 
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Finally, we have all the tiles in place!



After a lot of faffing about, we calculated the area to be just under 18.5 square metres, including the keyhole path that Rock is demonstrating, and allowing for the rounded corners. 200 square feet is 18.58 square metres, so we're just in budget!

It turned out bigger than I thought when I actually measured it and I was expecting to have some area left over, my plan being to leave a small path and then have another bed extending along the edge of the terrace in the other direction. But as it happens it's not needed. Which is a bit of a relief as I can get on with filling it and attempting to catch up with the chores in the rest of my garden, which is sadly neglected at the moment.

The plan for the GAMCOD bed is to mulch it heavily with as much grass as I have the energy to gather. Add the wood ash that we've collected over the last few months, add crushed egg shells, any spare oranges that are still lurking, compost from the kitchen, and the contents of the pee bucket. If weeds insist on growing through I might have to dig out the landscape fabric to block the light. Then in autumn I can plant it up with beans and radishes and whatever else seems appropriate. And this time next year it can have sweetcorn and pumpkins and sweet potato and fartichokes tomatoes and a few other things. Including chufa if I can find any...
 
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Everyone knows that wood ash and pee make a pretty complete fertiliser.

Plus they have to be disposed of somewhere, so the GAMCOD bed seems as good a place as any!

First we have to get the ash out of the woodburner. This is likely the last time we will be doing this, as we intend to pull it out and replace it with a rocket mass heater.

The house is a traditional rural Portuguese one, when the downstairs was for animals and the upstairs is for people. We put a concrete floor in and installed the woodburner four years ago and now it's time to start the downstairs renovations. But right now it does look terribly messy and dusty...



And then the ash has to be added to the GAMCOD bed.

I think Austin has been taking Paul's advice about the benefits of adding things so that they are blotchy rather than uniformly a bit too literally. I did grab the hoe and spread it around a bit afterwards though...



And then the pee bucket needs to be emptied. Now, should I? Or shouldn't I?  



I think maybe no-one really needs to see that. So you can just look at that happy dog instead. Much nicer, don't you think?

 
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There is now grass/hay mulch all over the GAMCOD bed.

But we also have some trees to trim and thought we'd put the branches on the bed too. That way the leaves can dry and fall off, adding to the mulch and giving more shade. And by the end of summer the bare branches can be taken away and cut up for rocket mass heater fuel.

These were some bits we'd cut off a tree growing very near the house a couple of weeks ago.



Onto the bed they go. Shade from the whole branch, leaves to fall and provide mulch, and twigs for burning later.



And some more, just to fill that bit up.  



And then we tried to remove some dog-fluff and add that to the mulch. Rock had other ideas though...



And that's pretty much it for the summer. Planting will commence in the autumn after the rains have come. For now it can all just sit there and do its thing for a while.
 
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Burra Maluca wrote:
And that's pretty much it for the summer. Planting will commence in the autumn after the rains have come. For now it can all just sit there and do its thing for a while.



Ha. So much for that being it for the summer.

There are still some places that haven't been totally covered with leafy branches, and some weeds were starting to grow through the mulch. One of them appeared, from a distance, to be a mallow plant. So I went over to have  look.




Two stray squash plants. One cushaw and one moschata by the looks of it. Presumably growing up from the kitchen scraps that we'd been 'Ruth Stouting' under the mulch.

Sigh. I guess I might as well juggle some of the leafy branches around and plant my spare pumpkin seedlings out if I'm going to have to water the bed anyway...

And then there's the surplus tomato seedlings.

And while I'm at it I might as well lift some of the mulch and throw some corn seed under there, just in case any of that grows.
 
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You're too soft Burra! The squash looks pretty happy at present. Any chance it would make it without watering? It will still add biomass to your bed whatever happens now.
 
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Nancy Reading wrote:You're too soft Burra! The squash looks pretty happy at present. Any chance it would make it without watering? It will still add biomass to your bed whatever happens now.



Ah, I know. But the chances of them surviving the summer here is pretty much zero without a bit of added water. Up until now we've only had a few hot days at a time, then a bit of rain or a few cloudy days. And then very recently we had torrential rain for a few days. But from now on things will change. And those two little plants have already proved their genetics to be right for me just by managing to grow with zero help whatsoever, so I kinda want their babies. So enough watering to  keep them going is called for I think. Even if it does totally mess up my original plan for the GAMCOD bed this year.

I'm just a sucker for any edible plant that refuses to give in despite my lack of care.
 
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OK, so I took a deep breath eight days ago, grabbed a mixing bowl and threw in a few handfuls of all the beans and things I could find that I thought might grow.

It looked like this...



Then I poured on a couple of jugs of water and left it for a few hours.



The mix included sweetcorn seed, yardlong bean seed, lentils, white beans, brown beans, red beans, lentils, chickpeas and linseed. It had been raining, so the mulch was all wet. I pulled a load of the leafy branches up and moved them to one end of the bed out of the way, then lifted the mulch bit by bit and threw soaked seed down before replacing it. I figure it's not much work and all I have to lose is the value of the beans.

Then I found the pot I'd grown pumpkin seed in and despite the left overs being rather yellow and straggly, I figured I had nothing to lose by teasing them apart and planting those out too. And I also had a load of tomato plants in trays waiting to be planted out so they went in. I watered them daily on days it didn't rain as I really needed to keep the bean seeds moist. And today I went out to inspect and take a few photos. And fill in any gaps where the weakest of the pumpkins hadn't made it.

The first bit of the GAMCOD bed still has branches heaped over it to shade it and drop leaves over it. It has a keyhole path in the middle which is now bursting with fat hen (lambs quarters). Ironically the first thing to feed us from the whole bed...

The first bit of the bed still has branches over it.

Then there are two volunteer pumpkin plants that grew up from the Ruth Stout compost, which are what prompted me to pull up the branches from the rest of the bed and plant as many left-over seedlings and spare corn and bean seed I had in the rest of it.



This is a young mulberry tree doesn't want to give us any fruit yet, but it does have a nice supply of leaves. Which, I've recently found out, are very good for keeping blood sugar spikes under control. So I might be putting the occasional one into my meals. It's not part of the GAMCOD bed, but the bed did have to be built to curve around it so we can still access it.



And this is what the far end of the GAMCOD looks like eight days after I threw all the seed down and planted the straggly pumpkin seedlings and the tomato seedlings out. We had more rain, and it's been very warm, so things have grown well!



Eight days from seed to young bean and corn plants!



I have no real idea which sorts of beans are doing best, but I'll just let them do their thing and save seed off the best ones.

I wasn't planning on setting up an irrigation system for it this year, but I was thinking that when I did it might be a grey water system. But realistically the grey water will be better used on the trees and there won't be enough for all the things that need watering, so I need to figure out a way to keep it watered.  Drip irrigation is so easy even if I'm having a bad day, and we still had some pipe and fittings left over. I even managed to find it!



Himself is figuring it out.

I think we're gonna have to buy a bit more pipe and dig a bit of a trench so we can bury the bit will cross the path to the bed to stop us either falling over it or stepping on it and damaging it. He'll make it work for me. He's good like that...




 
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We thought we'd start to get the drip irrigation set up.

There isn't enough pipe to finish the job off, so we dug the trench, laid the pipe and roughly laid it out.  To be finished another day, as the rocket mass heater project needs a bit of attention this afternoon











 
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There wasn't quite enough irrigation pipe to finish the job, so Austin went off to town to fetch more, and take a neighbour shopping while he was at it. Function stacking and all that.

Then I decided that if we were going to put irrigation down, we might as well do the whole bed at once. So I pulled off the branches from bit that was still covered (wish I'd remembered that the orange branch was spiky before I grabbed it...), pulled the middle section of mulch back, threw some soaked sweetcorn seed down, covered it up again, and planted the last of the straggly, yellowing pumpkin plants out around the edges.

The turf had died back completely, even though this bit of the bed has been under mulch for less than three months. The earth had started to soften up, but not as completely and impressively as I was hoping to be able to show you if it had been left a few more months. The hori hori knife was very useful for planting into it, as ever.

This morning I took a little video to show you what it looks like.

 
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