Category Archives: hugelkultur

Prep work for the garden and storm shelter

Andrew gave me two Christmas presents this year: A Leatherman Wave multi-tool and a fire ring. Does he know me or what?? I use both of them every time we are at the farm and I love them. Especially the fire ring. It’s so awesome to have a big roaring fire to warm up with and cook our lunch and dinner over!  

We have been making baked potatoes in the fire every week. Super easy and delicious and a great hot lunch.

This is Emily’s version of helping at the farm – she’s making sure our extra culvert is still in tip-top shape.

The girls also both got a nap which was super desperately needed.

Above is what Andrew and his mom and brother worked on all day: continuing to prepare the containers for the storm shelter. Andrew painted and painted and painted. And he welded unistrut to the ceiling of the second container (which was delivered last week) for the lights that will go in there. The above container is his mom’s and the second one is ours. They will form the base of the storm shelter – more on that next week!

In the above two pictures there was no filter or manipulation. It does actually look like this at our farm. I still can’t believe it’s really ours! Above you can see our container collection. The short white one is Andrew’s office. The white one on the right and the yellow one in the back are identical – they will be the foundation of the storm shelter. The orange one is our current storage unit. Once the foundation for the shelter is drilled and the containers are in place, we will move all our stuff into the new one (and get rid of some things and organize it better, I’m sure!)

One of the last things we did was continue to work on the hugelkultur beds. My MIL used the loppers to straighten the beds and trim off anything sticking out between them. Emily and I started hacking away at the pile of dirt and got all of two wagon loads moved onto the beds. It’s a lot of work to move clay soil!


There are dozens of articles on the interwebs about hugelkultur so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on what it is, or why to do it, or even how. It’s a very simple concept: pile wood on the ground. Put smaller sticks and twigs on top. Throw on some grass or compostable materials. Maybe add some manure. Cover the whole thing with dirt and commence planting. The idea really appealed to me because we have HUGE piles of brush that are just sitting there, slowly rotting, not very beautiful and certainly not very useful. I was excited to be introduced to a way to turn our trash into something beautiful and edible.

I want to start a series of posts on hugelkultur to document growing in it season after season. Again, there’s a ton of information out there on what it is, why to do it, and how. There’s not a lot of information on hugelkultur results.

Above are my raw materials. The brush pile is over 6′ high at its tallest, and there are plenty of smaller piles all around. There’s also a pile of dirt left over from the driveway work. Right now it’s so hard that I’d need a pickax to get into it. And I might have to use one; I’m hoping for a good rain soon to loosen it up enough to move.

 I don’t have a lot of big logs, but what I did have, I laid at the bottom of the pile. Then I took smaller bunches of the grapevines and thorny junk we cut off the fence during the summer and piled it on top. Plus my mother-in-law was cutting down a thick swath of snow-on-the-prairie the day I was building the beds, so I laid down those bushes on the piles as well.
I also had a bag of compost materials that I brought to distribute among the beds. It was enough for about 1/4 of one bed. My mental garden scale needs to go WAY up – I’ve been gardening in a 15×7 bed for years!

 This is what it looked like when I was so tired I could hardly move anymore. I have one bed ready for dirt, one ready for more nitrogen material, and one just getting started.
 Here’s a closer shot of the dirt-ready bed. My father-in-law mowed part of the field and I raked as much of the grass up as I could and put it on the bed. And you better believe I picked up all the cow pies I could and put them on the bed too. Thanks for the compost, cows!
 The day after I built the beds I pulled out some paper and pencils to plan the garden. Ellie (5) said she wanted to plan a garden too. Hers has a Christmas tree (complete with roots), a pond, and a boat. I think it’s a keeper!