Winter has arrived early with us this year with snow up on the nearby mountains already and heavy rains last weekend and more forecast for this afternoon and next weekend. I suppose I shouldn't complain and my thoughts are with those of you affected by Sandy, the edge of which is meddling with the weather on our side of the Pond too.
And talking about the pond... I dug my pond (or should I say our helpers did) as an anti-landslide measure amongst other things (also to attract biodiversity, save water and attract mosquito eaters). Much of the water running down our steep slope is now channeled into the pond, but I was a little concerned about the area just below the pond, where all the earth excavated from the pond was now lying loosely, ready to roll during the next heavy rainfall.
So knowing those winter rains were on their way I took to measures to prevent the earth from moving: First I sowed some ground cover at the beginning of October on the flatter top area:
Grass you think? Well kind of. It's actually farro which is an old spelt variety, which is still grown mostly in Northern Tuscany. So I'll have some grains to harvest too next year and the roots will hopefully hold the soil in place.
Then on the steeper lower part of the excavation I built two sub-terraces from old wardrobe doors:
You can see they still have mirrors on them, which also should improve the microclimate in this almost north-facing area. In the two contour beds that I have thus created I planted broad beans last week, which should help add a bit of nitrogen to the otherwise poor soil there.
During the winter I will also plant some trees or shrubs along there to further stabilise the slope. This was all done before last weekend's heavy rains and I'm pleased to say it all held well. The pond meanwhile filled nicely with water and almost sealed.
As I needed some stakes to secure the doors for the bed, I took the opportunity to prune back my hazel shrub, the left-overs went into a bed I had built previously also below the pond, which I'm planning as a soft fruit bed (raspberries, currants and gooseberries).
This will make the basis of a nice rich soil in a kind of reverse hugelkultur. Any excess water from the pond will be channeled into this bed.
Yesterday we had a break in the weather and the warm and dry summer has resulted in our olives being mature much earlier than usual. So while I was on one of the lower terraces chopping wood, Bart and Susan picked our first olives. We won't have enough to make oil this year, but a plentiful supply of eating olives. They are exceptionally healthy this year.