Thanks for the inputs. Life long learning is inevitable, why fight it? I do take heart in the fact that we all started somewhere, and all still have failures. Casie, that was absolutely, very helpful. I've never seen the term caliche before but that sounds like the stuff I'm dealing with. Giant composting pits are now part of my plan, and In the event that things do start growing, I've bookmarked it.
My yard has been in progress for a few years already, All organic matter seems to disappear from the surface. With all these trees you'd expect to find some rich nice soil, but not so. I don't pickup any of the organic matter, just leave it alone thinking that compost happens. In the photo below, that's not a stick, but a tree root that couldn't make it below grade any further. I cleared leaf litter with my foot and there you have what my yard is comprised of. It's like moist concrete that turns to slimy mud in the rain. I really am hoping the woodchips do something to help over time. Maybe the key is to incorporate it, not just leave it...?
The other picture is of the sunny spot I'm working on. Maybe it would be best to just fill a bed with soil. I considered it, then decided against that route because I thought it would just wash away, without constant input from me. Is just filling a bed with soil enough? I know it sounds dumb but, I honestly have no idea. In CA as a kid I just put some seeds in dirt, add water, and eat delicious veggies. Since that didn't work here maybe I've gone overboard and jumped right over a very logical solution.
I was almost thinking of the bed in this area like a nursery bed, if that makes sense... Not just for my perennials and as a seasonal bed, but for the soil too. If I continually re-fill the bed with decomposing matter, get my perennials started, and then transport the whole established soil and plant to a more permanent home, maybe the organic matter en masse would stay put longer, and spread the love throughout, I don't know, maybe that is nuts too.
This seems crazy even to me, the leaves must go somewhere!