Living in the midwest comes with innumerable ups….and downs. Its a beautiful place. You get four seasons, lovely countryside, and great people. However if there is one thing true about this part of the country it is this: Everything changes. Constantly. These changes include but are not limited to all of the above. The seasons and weather are often more unreliable than a spare donut at 70, the towns and people in them can go from nice to nasty in the space of a mile….and the landscape…..well its about as varied as the sprinkles on a cupcake.
Around here though the land isn’t quite so varied. Nope. Not at all. Our little portion of the Hoosier State is flat flat flat and so is our little homestead. Instead of hills we have cornfields all around. During the winter it can make for an apparently bleak landscape and even in the growing seasons it can be quite….boring.
We’ve wanted to begin adding a bit of dimension to the land and, thanks to a wonderful blog called Wholly Holy Living we think we’ve found the perfect solution! In their post, Barrenness to Abundance the author discusses the various ways they’ve made progress in the three years they’ve lived on their property. They’ve done a lot! They’ve built chicken cooks and terraces and planted trees, but what really captured our attention was something called a hugelkultur bed they talked about having built. The word was so unfamiliar to us we immediately set about doing research on them and in no time at all we decided this was the answer to our problem.
Hugelkultur is a method of gardening that uses old wood and other natural materials such as straw and twigs in conjunction with soil to create a raised garden bed. They can vary in size from a foot or two high to ten feet tall and help to enrich the soil. They also provide a low-maintenance growing place for many garden-variety plants. For us they will provide not only extra space for gardening, but will also act as a visual barrier between our small property and the public roads in front of us.
To start, we needed to dig a little bit. We don’t have any sort of tractor or loader, so we got the shovel and started digging. We decided to start small, digging a 15′ x 1.5′ by 6” trench and setting the dirt aside.
After the trench was dug we laid down some split pieces of wood to form a bit of a base. Normally these hugelkultur beds have the logs set vertically in the pit (at least most I’ve seen thus far), but we heat with firewood so decided to use this as a way to repurpose some of the bits of wood we had that were either not worth splitting or too rotten to bother burning. The split pieces forming a base, we then set the larger ‘unsplittables’ on top with as many facing grain-up as possible.
Finally we put the dirt we’d originally dug up back onto the pile, filling in gaps wherever we could and stabilizing the base of any unsteady logs. We want this particular hugelkultur bed to be a large one, eventually around four to five feet tall and so the little bit of dirt we extracted didn’t go very far, but its a start!
The next thing we have to do is pile on some old hay and other rotting materials, then top the thing off with some soil. We have a truckload of old haybales we are going to use that have been exposed to the weather for a while, and a whole mound of dirt in a very inconvenient place, so while this hugelkultur is still a work in progress in won’t be long before you won’t even be able to recognize it!
Thanks for reading guys! 🙂
–Dalton & Jessie