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That's a whole lotta garden...

...or at least it seems like a lot to me.  This picture isn't the finished product- by the time we finished it was too dark to take pictures.  But you see the two strips of turned earth slanting from the left towards the upper right corner?  Those were the first two rows of sod I turned.  Then see the already worked area on the right side?  That's most of the original garden.  I'm more than doubling the size of the garden.  When we finished turning the sod today I looked at it and almost had a panic attack.  

But I should be excited.  I mean, I am, but I'm a mixture of excited and intimidated by the amount of work that needs to be done.  I'm mildly encouraged that I was able to cut and turn the sod in one day, though.  Wanna know how I did it?  See above picture.  That's a sod cutter I rented for today.  It rocked.  And it was also thanks to my awesome husband, who helped me turn the sod and probably turned twice as much as I did. 

And why, you may be asking, did I not just till the crap out of the soil?  Lots of reasons.  First of all, I don't like tillers.  Most of them don't do the job very well.  It wouldn't break up the sod fully.  I could have removed the sod altogether and then tilled the crap out of the soil.  But I'm trying to avoid tilling altogether because tilling creates a hardpan underneath the soil that it's loosening, making it harder for plants to root down as far as they should.  Tilling, particularly if you do it every year, also disturbs the life in the soil, the life that makes it better for the things I am trying to grow (like worms and the like).  Sure, I disturbed the soil by cutting the sod, but it was minimal disturbance and something I will not repeat.  Plus I am assured that I didn't frighten off all the worms- I saw tons when I was turning the sod over.

Now that the first huge garden task is done (phew!), next I need to bring in dirt and compost to build up the newly broken beds (which is another reason I didn't need to do much to break up the soil), get them all mulched or covered in some way so they don't get all weedy before I can plant them, and then, well, plant!

And this week I need to build my chicken run.  I have exactly nine days before I need to move the seven chicks out to the coop so I can put the new babies in the brooder.  I'm just convinced that I won't be able to do it without help, and my husband has been working a lot lately. 

In related news, I finally made AWESOME yogurt!  The past, oh, five batches of yogurt I have made have flopped, badly.  Now in retrospect I realize that I was trying too hard and being lazy at the same time.  I stopped heating it to 180 before cooling it back to 112, or I had a bad thermometer, or I tried to monitor the temp too close and ended up overheating it.  But it didn't seem to me like I was doing anything wrong.  Finally, I referred to the instructions in Wild Fermentation, and he recommends using only 1 T. of starter per quart.  Previously I had been using 1/4 cup of starter per quart.  According to the book, using more starter can actually result in a runnier yogurt.  I don't know why.  But it worked.  Not only did I make a successful batch of yogurt- I made a far superior yogurt than I was making before.  It's super thick, with a little layer of cream on the top (since I made it from non-homogenized milk).  There was no separated whey (I've always had a little whey) and it doesn't need to be strained at all.  It's lovely!  I tried to take a picture of it, but it doesn't effectively demonstrate how awesome the yogurt is. 

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