I’ve often wished Kevin and I could trade brains. Not forever, of course. I want to give his back as soon as I understand why he likes everything to be big and/or dangerous, and why he’s not afraid of things that scare the bejeezus out of me. And I’m sure he’d want to unload mine as soon as he found himself reaching for yet another Trollope novel.
But the swap would shed some light on our vastly different approaches to problem solving. If there were one hundred ways to solve a problem, and Kevin and I were to each write down our top fifty, there would be no overlap. None.
I’ve written about this before (at greatest length, in what may be my all-time favorite Starving post, about building our chicken coop), but not with the kind of frequency that conveys how often this difference comes up in our life.
Where should we site the smokehouse? Which tree should we cut down? How should we cover the boat? How many chickens should we get? Where should we apply for doe permits? How should we paint the trim? Fine or coarse cracked corn? Regular or LED trailer lights? Stone patio or wood deck? Hot and fast or low and slow?
And, oh yeah, how the hell are we ever going to finish the godforsaken wood-fired oven?
You get the picture.
Today’s problem concerns gardening.
Our sloped, wooded, sandy two acres could be the worst gardening property this side of permafrost. We have done yards and yards of amendment into the tiny area that gets more than a few hours of sun, but yards are not enough. We never seem to get a thick enough layer of nutritious earth, and what nutrients do we manage to introduce into our “soil” get washed away down the hill.
We do, however, have one little spot with potential. It’s flat. Since we took down the tree in the middle of it, it’s reasonably sunny. But it has no soil whatsoever. It’s Carver Coarse Sand, supplemented with rocks. If we expect to grow anything there, we’re going to have to bring compost and topsoil in by the trailerful – which we’re prepared to do.
But the question is, do we dig down, or do we build up?
Well, depends who you ask. If you ask me, I’m thinking we should could rent a Bobcat, excavate a foot-deep hole the size of our planned garden, and fill it with those trailerfuls of compost and topsoil. Ask Kevin, and you’ll find he’s thinking we could build a couple of raised beds instead.
I understand the advantages of raised beds: the soil doesn’t compact, they warm up faster in the spring, your nutrients don’t leach out as readily. But do raised beds really lend themselves to creating the kind of soil that we’re working toward? The kind with structure, and beneficial organisms, and a life of its own?
It seems to me that a big hole that we fill with good stuff would be more likely to turn into that. But, because what’s underneath is so sandy, would our nutrients just drain away? If that happens, though, wouldn’t it be easier to amend? How do you get fresh compost or soil into a raised bed that’s already full?
Besides, the frame of a raised bed would block our view of the chickens from the house year-round, and I like to be able to see what’s going on in there.
Of course, digging a hole means the trouble and expense of heavy equipment, plus the little problem of getting rid of a large amount of Carver Coarse Sand, supplemented with rocks. But building raised beds requires getting lumber and assembling the frames. All told, the beds are less work up front, but that’s a small part of the equation since it’s a one-time job.
Neither Kevin nor I is sure enough of our position to push it very hard, so what we need here is a little more information, and perhaps a few opinions. Besides, if you all do the heavy thinking, that frees Kevin up to go do something dangerous, and I can get back to my Trollope.