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The Black Bread Lodge  RSS feed

Francis Mallet
Posts: 12
Location: acadian peninsula, New Brunswick, Canada
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In 2015 I planted my first garden. I borrowed my father's rototiller, cleared
a patch of dirt behind his house and planted kale, beans, sunflowers, tomatoes,
basil and peas. Yum!

Every day I'd go and look at how things were progressing and things were not
progressing very fast. Beans don't care that you want them NOW. That was my
first lesson: a garden will teach you patience.

Of course I couldn't just stand there waiting. I was so full of energy and had
to do something!  To let out some steam I decided to build a fence around the

When I got to the gate I didn't know what to do. I chose to leave the fence
open with some kind of entrance made from larger posts. This gave me the
occasion to play with metal and build a fence post driver. The result isn't
pretty but it works. Using it makes for a great workout because that thing
weights a ton.

The driver

The invisible gate

The finished fence

The fence is kind of neat, the harvest was a disaster. A handful of beans and
maybe 5 small leaves from a single plant of kale (which was planted in a pot
inside the old greenhouse). That's it! On the bright side, those kale leaves
were the best I had ever tasted. My second lesson: dirt is not soil.

Some years ago I grew plants in perlite and fed them powder dissolved in water.
I knew that my garden's soil was poor, I had planned on using that leftover
powder to feed it. It would probably have worked if I was in perlite.
Unfortunately the garden never got to the point where it needed food. After a
couple of sun/rain cycles that nice, fluffy, freshly tilled dirt turned into
a hard crust that choked everything (except weeds).

I realized that soil isn't just about plant food, it's also about texture. And
that makes sense in retrospect. Planting in that dirt was a bit like sleeping
on the floor... it will do but next morning is going to be a bitch.

Dirt was not the only problem. Some days I'd find seedlings lying on the ground
with their stem neatly cut close to the ground. My farmer friend told me cutworms
were enjoying my kale. So I dug around and sure enough I got me some worms.
That's how I met my first "pest".

All in all I had lots of fun and wanted more. On the down side, winter now
seems to stretch on forever.

The harvest
Ryan Hobbs
Posts: 55
Location: Ohio
books forest garden woodworking
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Your wattle fence is a work of art. Also, cutworms no likey diatomaceous earth.
Deb Rebel
garden master
Posts: 1441
Location: Zone 6b
books cat fish food preservation greening the desert solar trees urban woodworking
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Ryan Hobbs wrote:Your wattle fence is a work of art. Also, cutworms no likey diatomaceous earth.

Cutworms can also be deterred by at least 4" of thin cardboard. I have access to a lot of old file folders. Lay them out, cut four inch wide strips across the fold (each folder will give you three) then clip, pin, or staple into a ring. Plant plant. Put collar in dirt 2" deep. They usually don't like to dig deeper than that and they can't crawl up/over the cardboard. The cardboard will degrade and just remove the clip (I usually pin it with a sliver of wood like I would pin fabric together, use my awl to make the holes) or remove the pin.
Francis Mallet
Posts: 12
Location: acadian peninsula, New Brunswick, Canada
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Thanks Ryan! Everybody likes my fence but you're the first to call it art lol
There wasn't much creativity involved. In reality most of the effort went into
gathering weavers. This spring I planted willow varieties especially for making
such fences. Hopefully in a couple of years I'll have more than I can use.

I tried diatomaceous earth and had almost instant regrets. I killed a lot of

Deb, I was told about the cardboard trick. I ended up stockpiling toilet paper
rolls all winter only to forget to use them when the time came... But the
garden did well anyway, I added compost and planted way more than I should
have. Using file folders is a good idea!

Francis Mallet
Posts: 12
Location: acadian peninsula, New Brunswick, Canada
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I made two gardens in 2016, this is the story of the first one.

During winter I read a book called The Market Gardener, written by Jean Martin
Fortier. I learned what a broadfork is and designed one for myself. It's more
sturdy than those you usually find online as I don't have nice deep soil yet.
What I have is dirt, rocks and tree roots so I wanted a custom tool.

Custom Broadfork

I also bought a big roll of Novagryl 19gr row cover. Fortier writes that it is
effective against some pests but not so much against slugs. Slugs are my main
concern. I bought the fabric anyway because of another book, The Year Round
Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour. She uses fabric row covers to extend her
growing season and that is something I'm interested in.

In early spring I found a source of compost close to my land. It is made with
waste from the fishing industry (lobster, crab, shrimp) and peat. The guy who
makes it works for one of the big peat business in the region so he has access
to lots of material. I got close to two cubic yards for 45$ and this stuff made
an amazing difference in the garden.

I tilled the soil and laid the compost on top without mixing it too much. I was
curious about how the compost would do when things got dry in late summer. It
makes a crust and cracks. It doesn't become hard as the raw dirt of 2015. It
stays moist for a long time underneath the crust. And when there is rain the
cracks heal somewhat.

Ready for compost

I chose two varieties of Kale (Scotch Dwarf Blue, Red Russian) and two varieties
of Squash (Black Beauty, Yellow Pattypan). All my seeds came from Richters. I
didn't bother getting anything else, expecting to fail again. By the end of the
season we had kale coming out of our ears!

The garden was divided into four mounds 24" wide, maybe 18' long. Three of the
four rows were sown with Kale, the last one with Squash. The Kale I planted
every 9" in a staggered line. Of the two varieties Red Russian is by far the most
vigorous. Unfortunately everybody prefers Scotch Blue.  The Squash I planted
every 3' in a straight line. Two Black Beauty and one Yellow Pattypan survived.
Black Beauty is a true beauty. Yellow Pattypan does not like the cold. Its fruits
should be harvested when they are real small or they will be full of seeds.

Planting in mid-june

June 31th

Abundance, Aug. 18


I was surprised at how much fruits a squash plant will give. And the amount of
Kale that could have been harvested is embarrassing. My girlfriend accused me
of being wasteful and in a way she is right. I gave a lot, I ate a lot and I froze as
much as I could. At the time I didn't know Kale could be dried. I guess I could
have tried selling the rest but I suck at selling. I just like growing.

It's not all waste though. Having so much gives you the freedom to experiment.
I know how to cook Kale now. I've made pickles for the first time in my life.
Also, after learning that Kale is a biannual I really wanted to see it in flower.
So instead of tilling the garden in the fall like I was told to do I just left everything
to rot. Squash disintegrated after the first few frosts. Kale was tough and I was
still eating fresh leaves in November. But winter is harsh and out of all those plants
only a couple made it through.  It only takes a couple.

I've eaten Kale this spring, I have seen its flowers and I might even harvest some
seeds. There is no waste.

While writing this post I realized that without knowing it I probably paved
the way for the major slug infestation I've witnessed in 2017.


The last harvest, late November

Francis Mallet
Posts: 12
Location: acadian peninsula, New Brunswick, Canada
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I decided to make a second garden in 2016 but this time on my own land (my first
garden is behind my father's house). What I've got is a 50 acre woodlot with
parts of it that were clear-cut maybe 25-30 years ago. The previous  owners were
a family of mechanics and the land is littered with waste (rusted oil cans, tires, car
parts, old windows, mattress skeletons, etc.) People used to do this back in the
good old days, they'd dump their shit in the woods. Choosing a proper spot for the
garden was a big decision. The best I could find isn't ideal but it's clean.

June 23rd, looking east. Note the rotten logs on the left

I started in late June. In August I had around 70x200 cleared. The area that gets
full sun is much smaller than that but I figured it would be more than enough to
start. The big logs were saved to make raised beds, the medium ones were cut for
firewood and everything else (smaller than 3") was chipped. I understand that some
people here don't like chippers. I love mine as chips make great paths. Walking on
a path made of fresh fir chips gives me great pleasure.

Once the clearing was mostly done I made a pseudo hugel bed from a pile of half
rotten logs. It's not the real thing though. I just built a log pyramid and covered
it the best I could with compost. I didn't have seeds so it was left bare for the
winter. I was curious about what would happen when the fall rains came. The bed
eroded and bits of logs started poking through the compost. It didn't take long
before little critters moved in so I left them alone.

Snakes were living in the log pile so I left a small mound for them hoping it would
be enough. I suspect they moved in the hugel.

September 6th, 2:30pm. Course chips mean dull blades.

October 4th, 4pm. The sun is much lower. I also sharpened the chipper blades.

I built three 3'x5'x12" wattle style raised beds. On August 8 I was ready to sow.
The first bed was planted with arugula, radishes, spinach and tatsoi. The
second one was planted with red romaine, mizuna and mâche. The last bed
was planted with garlic late in September. All of these plants were new to me.

The first two beds.

The internet says arugula is easy to grow but mine didn't do too well.  I was
surprised as I got blisters in the mouth when I ate it. I had no idea you could be
allergic to greens. My girlfriend likes it so I grew some for her. I miss the taste.

Floating row covers worked well against critters, much better than they did
against bugs. Critters like to eat radish greens and they especially like
spinach. Probably hares. Can't blame them. I grew the Giant Winter variety.

Tatsoi was a wonderful surprise. I had never heard of it but now it's one of my
favorites. It gives cute little green spoons with crunchy stems. And it doesn't
mind the cold at all. It can grow big but I planted them thick and harvested
leaves often, preferring smaller spoons.

Most of the time I try sowing carefully but then get impatient and just end
up tossing seeds around. Mizuna was sown that way. It was slow to start but
eventually gave me an insane amount of tasty leaves.

Red romaine (Rouge d'Hiver) and mâche were duds.

I planted three varieties of garlic close to the end of September and then crossed
my fingers. Clearing the space for the garden produced a lot of leaves. Some were
used as mulch for the garlic bed.

September 21th

November 11th

The garden on November 23rd, the last harvest.

When I told people what I was doing they looked at me funny because nobody starts
a garden in mid August. Most were surprised to know I was still eating fresh greens
a month shy of Christmas. Some didn't believe me lol  One day I harvested fresh
greens while dressed in a snowsuit. I was sure my fingers would fall off from the

So I guess that 2016 was a success.

I got my seeds online from a lovely store located in Nova Scotia. If any of you order
from their store tell them I sent you
Hope Seeds

The sleeping garden on Christmas Day

Francis Mallet
Posts: 12
Location: acadian peninsula, New Brunswick, Canada
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I'll remember 2017 for a long time. In January we were hit by the worst ice
storm I've ever experienced. At night during the storm we could see flashes
of light in the sky. It was the power distribution facility down the road
that was blowing up. I love storms, but that one was something else.

A taste of what's to come, back at the apartment

More than 120 000 homes lost power that night. We were out for 3 days, some
were in the dark for more than two weeks. January is very cold in New Brunswick.
People ran out of warmth very fast. Next thing to run out was water. Fortunately
my father heats his home with wood and we used the generator for water.

The day after the storm was so calm, not a cloud in the sky. And the view was
breathtaking! The morning light was reflected into thousands of icicles. We
could hear explosions as branches and even whole trees broke under the weight
of the ice.

The morning after

Walking back to Civilisation

Out of the woods

Looking back

In the evening a strong wind rose and the sound coming out of the
woods was like the of rattling bones. With all the rattling and the breaking I
could imagine myself being in the movie "The Road". I felt small and weak that

A surprising amount of people lost the food in their freezers... in the middle of
winter! We feasted on the stuff that would spoil and put the rest outside.

For some people this was hell. As for us, we cooked on the wood stove, worked on
clearing the road during the day and played cards all night. We had plenty of oil
lamps. At night when the power is out you get this level of silence and darkness
that really helps you sleep. No refrigerator humming. No lights from the microwave
clock. In a way this storm did us plenty of good, it pulled us together.

The damage to trees was appalling, especially for quaking aspens. They tend to
break rather than bend. We didn't notch maples this year so no syrup for us. It
just felt wrong to tap crippled trees for sap.

Then we had this cold, damp Spring and now as I write this we are in the middle
of the worst drought the region has seen in the last 25 years. Lawns are dry and
ugly but the plants in the woods are doing just fine. People are ungrateful to trees,
seeing them only as fuel or timber.
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