The making of Underhill House was also the destruction of all but the most rugged organisms living in the soil around it. We moved here in January, and as soon as the snow melted, I was counting the days till I could start to heal the earth outside our walls.
Our excavator, Bruce Lease, pointed out that if we wanted to dig a root cellar into the hill, we should do it BEFORE any planting because heavy equipment needed for the project would tear our landscaping up again.
We surely did want to dig in a root cellar — we were just suffering from building fatigue and thought to put it off till fall or even next year.
But Bruce had a valid point.
After seeding, we very precicely covered the ground with a very thin layer of straw designed to shade and protect tender seedlings without burying them. All our painstaking straw placement was rudely redistributed by some big winds we got before it rained. We tried to put them back the way they were, but that’s easier said than done.
We planted a band about a truck lane’s width (also about a fire lane’s width-dry prairies have been known to catch fire and burn fast) with the No Mow Fescue mix prepared by Prairie Nursery. I have high hopes for this grass. It is a blend of fescues that combine to form an interlocking, dense, durable sod that is low maintenance and drought tolerant. It only requires mowing once or twice a year, if you want a groomed look. Or you can let it just grow up to its short height and wave in the breeze.
Beyond that fire lane band, we have planted annual rye as the first of several cover crops in preparation for seeding in the Xerces Pollinator Mix Prairie next fall.
Because we were getting a late start, and there was no rain forecast for over a week, we decided to water it in. This was a major operation that involved moving our little sprinkler dozens of times to cover all the seeded area, but by the time the rain came, little shoots were peeking out, and they really took off since the rain.
Now everywhere I look I see the warm golden green of the rye, or the slightly more mint green of the fescue. It’s a wonderful feeling.
I didn’t even realize how oppressive all that bare dirt was until it was gone.
What is more revitalizing than watching new leaves grow? It’s a tantalizing juxtaposition with all the plants that are starting to give up the ghost as the days grow shorter and the nights colder – kind of like the bracing sensual contrast that a sauna and snow can provide.
The list of projects waiting our attention is as long as ever, but for the moment the race to beat an uncompromising seasonal deadline has been won, and that feels very good!
Speaking of grass, the grassroots Solar Tour (see Solar Tour post) last Saturday was great. Even though it was a cloudy day, spitting rain, 14 people showed up to see what they could learn from our sustainable building experience. That feels good too.
Have you got your fall chores under control?
What’s your biggest satisfaction this year?