Lessons Learned–The Creep

Lesson Number 3– The Creep

Ha, I bet you thought I was going to discuss my ex, didn’t you?  Although, that would make a great stand alone story with intrigue, betrayal, romance (his) and mystery(mine, I played a harmless but absolutely perfect revenge joke on the guy. Oh, you should have been there.) I’m not going to tell that one today, I am going to save that one for a later time, right now we have some other business to discuss.

Lesson number 3.woodland creep 001
This creep, is for anyone who has ever wanted to create a new spot to grow vegetables. Your lawn or in my case the forest, will diligently and continuously try to reclaim its kingdom. It becomes a war. Quack grass and ferns will do their damdest to send in special green shoot teams purposely to distract you so they can pop up elsewhere when your back is turned. I like to fight a clean fight, however, without chemicals which means being ever vigilant and create new ways to beat back the sneaky bastards. I bring lesson 3 to the surface here, because I just got off Daisy Luthers web page 12 bad strategies that will get you killed.  I’m here to tell you, bad strategy 7 in her article brought it home, you will need more than just your garden to survive a long winter especially if plan on gardening in the woods. But if after you have read her work and you’re still determined to run off to the woods when TSHTF and live off your garden here’s some things to file away into your mental library.

Your mileage may vary depending on what part of the country you are digging around into the ground. We have established that creep number 1 is woodland vegetation fighting to keep its’ territory. It is a vicious fight year after year but I have found the cheapest and most effective way to keep back this creep is a barrier method.  I have used old carpet, old  boards, seed catalogs, newspaper, cardboard, sawdust and wood chips. I shy away from using straw or hay that many experts recommend. Straw and hay seeds are never completely removed before being bailed and when you spread out the hay or straw to keep back the quack grass it sprouts when it rains creating other problems and more work. Whatever it is that you end up using I can almost guarantee, however, quack grass will find a way to poke through in about 2 years and your barrier will need cleaning up or replacing.woodland creep 006

Creep number 2– The next battalion of this crusade you will face is the rocks and boulder brigade. They too fight though stealth and sneak up from underground. Surface rocks are the pawns and are sacrificed to you, so you will let down your guard. Their game plan is to damage plow blades or rototillers, twisting the tines into knots. The boulders will let you think you have won this years battle with those rocks but if you live where frost develops deep into the soil during winter months, rocks and boulders work their way to the surface of your precious garden space. You will be fighting a good fight for several years before you are able to call victory. We started a new garden plot last year and were so proud of the way it looked. This year we had to dig about 30, 20 pound and larger rocks from our new 100′ X 50′ garden space. This battle is a time sink and uses up a lot of your physical energy to get out them of the way. We expect another fight with creeping boulders again next year, this war isn’t over until the old fat lady jumps for joy.woodland creep 002

Creep number 3–critters! are the most damaging and will tear your heart out. A quick  critter story; The first year I moved to my forested wilderness I wasn’t able to have a garden. It took most of the summer to clear away the trees, shrubs, ferns and other debris. I remember trying to extricate the extensive roots system of each individual plant, tree or shrub that anchors itself to the earth. Trees are especially vigilant and combative, establishing a theater of battle with tree roots is quite exhaustive. The second year we cleared just enough garden space to put in some vegetables that didn’t mind rough growing conditions. A few weeks into the summer growing season, it was early evening and I was sitting on the deck with a cup of tea after a long hard day. The sun began its evening descent behind the trees, I felt a bit smug with out smarting the environment, creating this work of art. The next morning the sun was bright and the day seemed warm already this early. I poured myself a cup of coffee and strolled out on to the deck. Suddenly there! To my utter horror was 3 deer finishing off the last of my beautiful green vegetable plants. They had flattened even the rose-bush that stood by the corner of the house. The rose-bush of all things! We only get one shot at gardening here in my neck of the woods per season and they killed my shot. No fresh veggies this year. I was devastated to say the least, I cried.

The next spring; I dropped some cash on fencing material to keep those nasty four-legged furry thieves out of my garden. I declared war on critters. My battle cry was; “It’s my garden, damn it!” Trust me when I say, critters have a battle cry of their own. Mother nature has taught  them well. Shortly after putting up the fences and getting the garden in, I felt safe from mid-night marauders. Psssff, I was just too cocky. During the early evening hours this time the destructor was a sizable bear cub. He took a menacing dislike to one of my fence posts in particular, rubbing his back on it and then climbing to the top of it. The poor post surrendered under the furry beasts weight and broke off at the ground. I repaired, he came back to break it off again. Three nights in a row we played this game. Finally, he tired or became bored with the fence post destruction he moved over to the bird feeder. The feeder was just too high off the ground so the brat climbed the very small maple tree that held the feeder up high, bent it over and snapped it off, thus laying the bird feeder and all the sunflower seeds on the ground. He cleaned up the seeds and not finding anything else to his liking became bored and left. Oh by the way, bears hate outhouses. They think humans sink and will knock over small outhouses as a show of dominance.

Then there was the year of the raccoons decimating the corn patch and the year birds ate all the pea seeds I planted early. And of course, the year of the potato bug infestation and grasshoppers galore. This kind of creep is unpredictable and uncontrollable. Be prepared to go hungry, if gardening is your only plan. deer in the window

Creep number 3– Climate change.

Depending on the microclimate of the place in which you plan to garden, the weather plays a very important role in your garden production. In Michigans’ Upper Peninsula we have 3 different microclimates. I happen to live in the banana belt of the north country. We get a tad bit better weather here than the rest of the U.P., but don’t let that fool you. We have had a tornado, hail, wind shear, frost in July and 5 feet of snow in one winter. All these make gardening most interesting. That is change you most definitely can believe in. “If you don’t like the weather here, wait a few minutes it will change,” is the Michigan motto. So now you see why number 7 of Daisy Luthers post hit me like it did. I have gardened in this spot now for better than 20 years. It is hard, back-breaking work establishing a garden. For anyone who thinks they can go out to the woods and put in a plot in an acid, dry woodland soil had better think waaaay ahead, before the SHTF.


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