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Present in Winter

Present in Winter

Present in Winter

There’s a blizzard coming. I watched the moon set in a clear sky, setting behind bare birch and maple trees this morning. It was 0°F when I went out to do chores. It felt like 0°F but not colder. No wind, not even a breeze. “Phoebe Phoebe Phoebe” from the chickadees caught my attention. I’ve been reading a lot of excited “_____ happened, spring is coming.” And lots of groaning about cold and snow and winter. You see where this is going, don’t you? Lots of not being present in winter. Alive and well but not really participating in the moment at hand.

The only time you can see a stunning winter sunset is in winter. Right now. Well, unless you’re on the other side of the world… You won’t want a blanket to cozy up with by the fire in August. There will be no snow days in July.

winter sunset, present, be presentYes, spring is coming. In spite of a blizzard that’s going to drop upwards of 26″ of snow on us, bring us 50 mile an hour winds, and build drifts that could reach ten or more feet, spring is coming. So is summer. Autumn is also coming. And so is winter. Next winter is coming. I’ll just duck now while the virtual snowballs fly.

present, snowshoe, JetsledThe chickadees are singing songs that start in mid-winter, the time we’re presently in, and carries into spring and summer. I enjoy the song as it is right now, a mid-winter jingle that makes me smile. The American goldfinches are getting a little brighter now, a sign that daylight is getting longer. My Khaki Campbell ducks are laying, another sign of extended daylight. Yes, spring is coming, but the birds are doing what birds do in the dead of winter. They’re present in the moment.

I’m not dreading the blizzard (but do dread the wind, as always). I’m planning to spend the day writing by the fire, probably without electricity so I’ll write by hand. We’ll get to the work of preparing for it in a little while. The storm will start this evening and not end until early Tuesday morning. It’s a long one. We’ll over fill the wood rack so we don’t have to bring wood in until Wednesday. I’ll fill buckets with water, bring fresh straw and warm water to the hen house just before dark, and make sure the dishes and laundry are done. If the power goes out I don’t want to have a pile of laundry or any dirty dishes in the sink. We’ll be preparing for the near future while being present in the moment.

Be present in winter. It’s here for however long it decides to be so why not make the most of this season? Snowshoe, read, knit, write, binge on television and music. That’s my plan. Plan? More of the garden. Plot shenanigans. Think ahead. Look forward to spring but be present in winter and don’t wish time away, eh?

 

Musings on a Mid-Winter Morning

Musings on a Mid-Winter Morning

Musing

mus*ing: a period of reflection or thought. I’ve been musing a lot lately, even more than normal for these quiet winter times.

I seem to be at a loss for good words here right now. I write, think it’s pretty good, and then delete. My winter writing was planned with a four-month long workshop and gathering of creative minds but that’s been cancelled. It’s disappointing but something good is coming. Hang with me until the end. I’ve been musing a lot lately, mostly about the state of the world. I’m grateful for a strong husband who takes care of us and many others, for daughters and sisters I love dearly, and to live where I do in spite of our current “leader.” The work relationships I’m developing are fun and rewarding. Lots of things spinning around in this brain of mine.

Let’s Go Outdoors

I took the dogs out for a walk to get some fresh air and clear my mind before I sat down to write. We started in the food plot. The deer have been gone for a few weeks. There are no tracks or droppings from anything, not even the over abundance of snowshoe hares. The pumpkins are still there, barely nibbled. There’s another coyote, bigger than the last.

musing, pumpkins in snow, food plot

We got enough rain this month that combined with snow melt the pond’s water level up three feet. If the trout survived the low water and early freezing that limits oxygen in the water, they now have a better chance at survival. If I weren’t a klutz I’d be skating!
musing, pond, ice skating pond, homestead pond, small farm pond

Ava, looking for a bunny trail. She didn’t find one. Zoey did her zig zag search and also came up empty.
English shepherd, musing

Red squirrels’ winter stash. I saw apples stashed in trees all around me while we were out. Putting food up is a smart thing, especially these days.
frozen apple, musing, squirrel, stash, winter food

I did a bit of collecting while we were out. Usnea, a lichen commonly know as Old Man’s beard, drops from the trees in winter. Deer eat it as a last resort in winter but since the deer aren’t here I felt free to gather quite a bit. I brought in another moss I don’t know the name of and a handful of small spruce cones. The snow was littered with tiny seeds from the cones.
musing, lichen, old man's beard, usnea, spruce cone, nature

Where and how and with the amount of freedom I have isn’t lost on me. Where and how and with the amount of hate, pain and suffering others live in also isn’t lost on me. The beauty around me, even in the dead of winter when the evergreens are dull and hardwoods bare, and there’s little for color other than the blue jays, isn’t lost on me.

On Writing

Someone good has come my way. I’ve realized this week that I need help with this book I’m writing about this life I’m living in these woods I own. I’ve started working with Brenda, the energetic, creative, encouraging editor and writing coach behind Forest North Books. I’m looking forward to spending time with her this winter. Know that if I’m not here in the blog often it’s because I’m writing “the book” and making real progress. Or I’m staring out the window at the birds in the feeding station. Writing. Yes, let’s go with writing.

I’m starting a few herb and greens seeds today! What are you doing?

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Icy, Snow, Sleet, Freezing Rain, Writing

Icy, Snow, Sleet, Freezing Rain, Writing

Icy Icy Icy!

Snow, sleet, freezing rain, high winds, icy everything – but minor. We didn’t lose power, dead trees are still standing, and the snowy, sleety, icy, crunchy mess isn’t too bad to walk on as long as I have cleats on my boots. WiFi is the usual lost but these days it’s out or so slow it isn’t useful (remember 28.8 on dial up? lightening fast in comparison, no exaggeration) often regardless of the weather. A few days the ground under the evergreens was bare. It looks opaque now, kind of pretty but still dull.

It’s been quiet here, hasn’t it. I’ve been writing. A lot of writing happens these days but it’s for a book. I’ve been going in circles with this book for too long. I argue and debate myself over what should and shouldn’t be included, how much detail to give, narrow or widen the focus… That’s coming to an end today when I start working with Brenda, my book coach. We’ll be working together the rest of the winter and into spring. She’ll help me find clarity and focus today, and then I’ll spend the next two weeks working away, asking for help, direction and advice when needed, and preparing for our next session.

Out of Sorts

I’m a little out of sorts without a big seed order to put together, seeds to start in a couple of weeks, no high tunnel providing fresh greens, and too little outdoors time. The amount of hate (I won’t get political) being spewed is unsettling while women who aren’t affected by certain issues attack women who are. You’ve probably heard me talk about hunter vs hunter and outdoorsmen vs outdoorsmen. That’s mild in comparison. This isn’t Right vs Left. It’s woman vs woman. Politicians had nothing on this venom.

Fun Times Coming!

With this in mind, I have fun things with good people to look forward to. Carol and I are going to snowshoe as soon as the icy trails are suitable. I’m looking forward to some girlfriend time with her, laughing and visiting outdoors. I have a weekend of ice fishing coming up and I’m planning a camping trip for early summer. I’ll be hanging out with wonderful women in July when I make the trip back to Pyramid Life Center for a poetry weekend with Cynthia that moves directly into the women’s writing retreat I’ve loved for three years.

I’m off to put away the folded laundry that’s stacked on the loveseat, push the button on the Ninja for a fresh cuppa, and gather my writing things together. The icy weather will keep me in by the fire for the rest of the day. I’ll be on the loveseat if you want to chat. Comments are open and I’ll be checking in except for 1-2 pm EST when I’m hanging out with Brenda.

Icy raspberry cane

icy, coating of ice off a tree branch
icy lichen
icy spruce
icicles, metal roof, icy

Snow Keeps Our Floors Warmer

Snow Keeps Our Floors Warmer

Snow Keeps Our Floors Warmer

When it comes to snow I want none or a minimum of two feet on the ground. Snow keeps our floors warmer. It does. Seriously. Snow is a good insulator. When the snow drifts against the house it serves as insulation around the foundation. This old house has a field stone foundation for the cellar that lets cold air in. The floors, especially the tile in the dining room, are freezing cold under foot even when our feet are sporting nice wool socks. Snow banks the foundation and keeps the entire house warmer. We’ve barely burned any wood so far this winter.

The north side of the house seldom has a snow to bank the foundation. The roof doesn’t pitch that way so snow doesn’t fall off and pile up there. The northeast corner doesn’t have enough accumulation, either. Wind blows through the clear space between the house and trees, blowing the snow away. Steve felled a balsam tree when I was getting ready to make wreaths in November to be sure I had enough tips. He chose a big tree in a spot he plans to clear to expand the food plot in the spring. I snapped the best tips to make wreaths and later went back with pruners to lop off the entire length of each bough.snow keeps our floors warmer, banking, snow, foundation

On a warm (perspective; it was 35°) December afternoon I pressed the boughs against the snowless foundation, tucking branches into other boughs to keep them from springing away. It snowed the next day and as the wind blew it trapped the snow in the boughs instead of blowing it away. Nature’s insulation is free except for an hour or two of work.

When spring arrives some time in April I’ll pull back the boughs, pile them back into the tractor’s bucket, and move them to the burn pile. Snow keeps our floors warmer and then the boughs keep our hearts warm with the first fire of spring.

 

Thinking Ahead: 2017

Thinking Ahead: 2017

Thinking Ahead: 2017

Thinking ahead is one of my favorite things. It’s a lot like day dreaming.

thinking aheadThere are a few things I’m planning to do in 2017. Not resolution type things (I have a couple of those but that’s not what this is about) but more of a to-do list crossed with things I want. Thinking ahead is fun when plans are for things that make a life in the wild nicer.

Mason Bees

Thinking ahead is something I’ve been good at with bees. They’ve been on my want list for a long time. We like honey and some of the fruit trees don’t get pollinated well now that the wild honey bees have vanished. Steve hates bees and they know it. I think 2016 was the first year in at least a decade that he didn’t get stung by a bee, wasp or hornet. I’m on my own with bees so I’ve taken my time learning about them and their care. Start up runs around $500. Two weeks ago I decided I can buy a lot of honey for $500 and save myself the work (I’m cutting back, remember) and the headache of dealing with bears. I’ll be looking for places to buy mason bees and local honey.

Pretty-Up the Hen House

There’s a story to the hen house that I should tell you. The current story is that the hen house is ugly as sin. It bugs me. A lot. It needs a new coat of paint. For reasons I don’t know, the hens peck at the fresh paint until they’ve stripped all of the wood they can reach of its shiny red paint, leaving behind bare wood. Not wanting to settle for slapping a coat of paint on it, I’ve held out until I can put up the siding I want and replace the windows and door.

Observation Hut

The popup was taken down when the snow got too heavy and the time spent there is missed.
thinking ahead, 2017, popup, hunting, blind, camo blind, Ameristep blindHunting huts at Peter’s double as observation huts eleven months out of the year. Speaking of hunting, here’s a hunting story, in less than a minute. You’re welcome. As an outdoors write I crave outdoors writing time but when it’s too cold, windy, buggy or raining I don’t like to sit out there to write. Paper and laptops don’t do well in uncomfortable weather. We’re going to build a hunt that sits four feet off the ground, has windows on three sides and a door on the fourth. I’ll be able to work there while watching the wildlife. For the coldest days we’ll have a small heater.

Make More Cheese

One of my favorite foods is cheese. Good cheese. Not that I won’t eat a slice of American “cheese” now and then but turn me loose in Boston Public Market where I can find a hundred different real cheeses and I’m a happy girl. “How well does this melt?” “What is this farm like?” I’ll soon be cooking with a cheddar I bought at the market. Steve bought me a new smoker because I’ve outgrown our little one. I want to make and smoke cheeses.

Learn to Tan Hides

Having a hide tanned can be expensive. I want to learn how to do a small hide or two; a problem raccoon or ermine/short-tailed weasel, snowshoe hare…

More Creativity

thinking ahead, 2017, homesteading, American goldfinch, winterAnother of the things I’ll do in 2017 involves creativity. I got out of the habit of taking photography rides, bouncing along backwoods roads with three cameras on the seat beside me. Steve took me on a couple of rides to find moose in November, reminders of how much I enjoy photography, and a realization of how little I missed it because I was too busy to notice. I have some nature craft ideas I’d like to try out.

Camp in Baxter State Park

To get the photos of moose I want to take at Sandy Stream Pond, I need to be at the pond before sunrise. The gates don’t open until after sunrise and then it’s more than an hour to drive into the campground, park, sign in, and hike the four-tenths of a mile to the pond. Taking pen and paper with me will give me time to write while I’m waiting for the moose and deer. I’m going to camp at least two nights there.  Cabin, lean-to or tent? That hasn’t been decided yet.

More Writing for Myself

I’ve mentioned this before and now it’s well underway. Working with Walden Publishing has been wonderful. Cleo will mold me into a better writer through her feedback and calls for rewrites. It’s been a strong reminder of what freelance writing should be, and that makes me happy.

There are two writing workshops in February and March to attend, and I’m watching to see who’s instructing at Black Fly Writing Retreat. The women’s writing retreat is also on my list. Finishing the book and spending time here in the blog are at the top of my list.

What are you planning to do in 2017? If you’ve written a blog entry about it please drop a link in the comments. If not, still tell us what you’re doing. It’s nice to share ideas that might spark an idea in someone else.

 

Dear Winter – You Arrived Early

Dear Winter – You Arrived Early

Dear Winter

Dear Winter,

I don’t mean to be rude but in the woodsyou were early and consequently, I wasn’t fully ready for you. Of course I knew you were on your way but I was hoping you’d be right on time. Oh, I’m ready in some ways. The firewood is in, shelves full of food, and freezers filled to over flowing. We’ve worked hard to fill the larder.

Still, you were early. Early cold, snow and ice I wasn’t ready for but here it is and so I’ll make the best of it. Early ice on lakes and ponds means early ice fishing, a good thing. You were supposed to arrive today, not two weeks ago. It was -18°F this morning, more like mid or late January than December 20th. Steve got up first to start coffee and stir the coals. He added birch logs to the glowing red coals and the bark caught fire quickly. The click click click of the wood stove expanding and beep beep beep of the coffee maker signaling the readiness of its black gold were enough to coax me out of a warm bed.

Happy Solstice

You decorated well for the occasion. A six-inch blanket of snow, crusty with a little fluff for beauty, covers the ground except under some of the evergreen trees. Icicles hang from the porch, barn and hen house roofs. I worry about the snow and icicles falling from the hen house roof and hurting one of the birds but so far so good.

A few of the deer still come to the food plot at night. Snowshoe hares dig up turnip greens at the edge of the plot, staying close to the woods for safety. There are no signs of coyotes or bobcats around the homestead and as long as you, dear Winter, don’t throw a lot of snow tantrums, at least the bobcats will stay away.

Feeding Birds

Your early arrival brought Evening grosbeaks, redpolls, mourning doves, chickadees, blue jays, red breasted nuthatches, American goldfinches and Juncos to the feeders in droves. Woodpeckers – downy and hairy – are at the suet and energy blocks on and off all day. Pileated woodpeckers bang away at the trees along the rock wall in search of grubs. I keep the feeders filled, hang fresh suet when needed, and toss out scraps of homemade bread that the blue jays especially like.

Creativity

I’m not entirely upset about your early arrival, my dear Winter. I do love you and the downtime you bring with you. I’ve been writing more and thinking of things I want to do this winter. Maybe I’ll really pick up the pencils and sketch pad I bought myself two years ago. Since my mind spins these days I’m often up, showered, coffee made and at my desk to write by 4 am. The full moon on the snow eliminates the need for lights as I move through the house in what some folks consider the middle of the night. I watch the bright moon move through the crisp, clear sky and say goodbye as it sets. Hours. It takes hours, and that’s exactly how much time I’ve been spending in creativity these days.

So, dear Winter, while you were early and I was and wasn’t ready, you are welcome.
black-capped chickadee, chickadee, dear winterdear winter


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Frosty Morning to be Out ‘n About

Frosty Morning to be Out ‘n About

Frosty Morning

It’s a frosty morning to be out ‘n about. My routine change is still working itself out. It’s a long process, it is. I was out this frost morning to tend to nine chickens and eight ducks and nothing more. It took ten minutes to fill a bucket with warm water, fill their water pans, let them out and collect one egg. Now that the bully turkeys are gone they might start laying well again. I hope so. There aren’t many eggs left in the fridge.

This frosty morning takes me off the homestead to see people face to face. Groceries, the feed store, friends, and to vote. Then home to hunt for an hour or so before dark. Supper, freezing three whole turkeys, and then maybe some reading. Enjoy your day.

frosty-red-clover
frosty-raspberry-leaf
frosty-dandelion
frosty-goldenrod
frosty-timothy

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Catching Up. Where did September go?

Catching Up. Where did September go?

Catching Up

Oh my goodness did September ever get away from me. I feel like nothing got done even though I’m on the move from the time I get out of bed until I fall back in, worn out but excited for the next day. Hunting seasons are all-consuming. Most everything I normally do still has to be done, and done in considerably less time. I have a little catching up to do.

Meet the Neighbors

piggies

Uncle Harold stopped in to ask if I knew who in the area has piggies, specifically 14 to 16 week old piggies. Wayne and Joe have pigs but I think only one might be that young, and they’re a half-mile through the woods and across the main road into and out of our little community in the middle of no where. I called to be sure and no, not their pigs, but Joe came up to see if he could help. The animal control officer called around and nobody seemed to know who owned these happy, friendly champion rooters. Turns out they belong to the people whose garden, flower garden and lawn they were uprooting when we found them. I met Mr. Neighbor and Son Neighbor and they’re good folk. Son raised the pigs and delivered them to Mr.’s house a day or two earlier. He grabbed two by one back leg each and wheelbarrow walked them back to their pen with the other two pigs following right behind. Nice pigs.

High Tunnel

I’ve decided to uncover the high tunnel for the winter rather than use it. Steve, as he sometimes needs to, had a talk with me. “Just because you want to do something doesn’t mean you have time, and when you don’t get everything done that you think you should…well…then I have to live with you.” (I don’t know WHAT that means… okay, maybe I do.) He’s right. When he gives me these little chat-slash-mini-lectures in three sentences or less he’s always right. So no high tunnel this winter. We’ll uncover it in two or three weeks and re-cover it in the spring as soon as we can get to the wiggle wire channel on the baseboards.

We had two family days at camp this month, one larger, one smaller, both lovely. The garden has kept me busy. A few days tending bear sites alone plus going with Steve to do it on Saturdays had me out and about and away from work at home.

catching up
The view from my tree stand

Bear Hunting

This happened on September 16 after spending 60 hours in two sites, in one tree stand and two ground blinds. I’ll tell you about it soon, maybe even tomorrow or Friday if I get a chance to do some more catching up. I planned to have this story shared by Monday but decided I would process the bear myself once it was field dressed, skinned and cut into manageable pieces. It took longer than I expected. Taking this bear was nothing at all like the first.

catching up, bear hunting, robin follette, maine

I’m leaving on a jet plane (did you sing that?) on Friday morning and will be in the wee hours of Monday. I’m going to spend the weekend with friends who are hunt and pro staff with Prois. We’ll be dove hunting and hanging out. I can’t explain how excited I am to get to meet these women face to face. They’re a special breed, these women who hunt, some on levels much higher than mine, and all to put food on a lot of tables.

For now, the meat chicks, laying hens, turkeys and ducks must be put up for the night because we have two raccoons hanging around, and I have some catching up to do in the kitchen.

Tree Stand Life – what happens around me

Tree Stand Life – what happens around me

Tree Stand Life

Bear hunting isn’t going well. Remember when I had so many bears coming to the barrel? Except for one bear, they are gone. Blackberries are abundant but starting to dwindle as they ripen and fall off, are picked by people, and eaten by the bears and other animals. There were substantially more mushrooms than usual after decent rain in September. If hyperphagia has started the bears aren’t coming to our bait barrels to gorge on food. Chubby shows up off and on now, often walking past the barrel on his way to somewhere else. I’m living a tree stand life these days and loving it most of the time. This leaves me with a lot of time to think, plan, and observe the natural world around me.

tree stand life, observe nature, nature notes

Turkeys

I was able to watch Eastern Wild turkeys the first two days of tree stand life but after being “busted” on day two, they haven’t been back. Turkeys have excellent vision and the biggest tom spotted me in no time. One alarm call and they were off, not to be seen again so far.

Whitetail Does and Fawn

When the wind isn’t blowing I can hear what’s going on for miles around me. Early in the season I listened to two deer walking slowly up the gravel road behind me. Ten minutes later I heard cracking in the woods and feet scuffling in the dry leaves this time inside the tree line. The deer slowed its pace as it approached stand. It came out of the dense woods into a clearing that’s filling in with wild hazelnuts. Deer stomp when they’re alarmed or angry. It stood 20 feet from my stand and stomped non-stop for two or three minutes, and then blew so hard I was startled. I laughed to myself. It’s like knowing the toaster is going to pop up and jumping when it does.

A big doe, so big that if she were a buck people would say “nice buck,” blew 103 times in the first 15 or 20 minutes. She startled me twice because I thought she was done. Listening closely, I could follow her movements without seeing it. Eventually I knew she was far enough away that I could slowly turn my head to the left and strain my eyes in her direction. After bursts of 17 to 20 blows at a time, she gave up on finding what (me) she knew was there but couldn’t see. She “got” me on Monday when I was looking for a bear at the barrel instead of paying attention to all that was around me. A sudden noise made me think a bear huffed at me, and it took a second to realize it was her blowing as she ran away.

Two days later, while sitting behind the ground blind, cracking in the woods to my right caught my attention. A doe and yearling browsed 100 feet away on grass and raspberry leaves. I could see parts of them but never their entire bodies at once. This time, the deer didn’t know anything was “off.” It was easy to watch them, and good to know I could sit so still they didn’t know I existed.

Owls

Barred owls start hooting each afternoon at 4:30, give or take a few minutes. I can almost tell the time based on the owls. Steve can do the same from his stand. One or two barred owls start hooting there at 6 pm. Some days it’s only one, other days there are two. And one day, a great horned owl started to hoot leisurely at first, then frantically for quite a while. I wanted to know why but of course, sitting on the side of a tree no where near the owl, I’ll never know.

Mobbed by Birds

Chickadees mobbed me many times. Dozens of chickadees surround an offender, flying between trees and hopping among branches until their curiosity is satisfied or they’re convinced the threat is over. The mob got me in the first week of the season. It started with noisy blue jays and grew to chickadees and other small songbirds I couldn’t see without turning my head. Were bears close enough to hear the ruckus? mmmm…I don’t know. After a while I moved enough to use my phone and record the racket.

Skunks & Squirrels

tree stand life, skunkThe Three Skunkseteers keep me amused part of most days. Each skunk is different. Three sizes, three stripe patterns, three personalities, three feeding patterns. The largest skunk balls up something with its front paws and then scrambles backward, rolling whatever it is it has across the forest floor. I can’t tell what it has even after inspecting the ground where this happens.

Red squirrels are a big part of tree stand life whether you’re hunting bear, deer or something else. I’ve watched chase scenes that would make Hollywood envious, fights that make bar room brawls look like child’s play, and a little sex, too.

Imaginary Bears

Bears do show up while I’m living the tree stand life. They’re imaginary. As the sun drops and moves to the west the shadows change. I strain to see the large black spot behind the barrel, the black space that appears for a few minutes as the sun is behind a large balsam tree. As the sun fades the black space grows. Movement? A bear? No, just the breeze blowing a hazelnut bush to the right of the barrel, along the trail Chubby uses when he shows up a7 9:30 pm and again after midnight. By the time I have to climb down and make my way through the woods to gravel road the imaginary bears are gone, too dark to exist.

 

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Sheet Mulching – What, How, When, Why

Sheet Mulching – What, How, When, Why

What is Sheet Mulching?

Timing is everything! I have “research sheet mulching” on my to do list. I’ve been told a couple of times in the last week that I should be doing it. Dan went into great detail and answered a lot of questions. I like the idea but I’m not sure I have the time. If you use sheet mulching how much time does it take you do an area about 10′ x 10′? Do you spend a lot of time gathering the materials? Is it worth it to you? The timing was right on – I was asked to share this graphic and I happen to think it’s pretty great.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not going to plant a garden outside next year. I’ll be relying on the high tunnel for everything I grow and a local farmer for a few things I won’t grow. I have to get control of the weeds. It seems like sheet mulching might do a good job of this while improving the soil at the same time. I can’t possibly sheet mulch the entire garden at once but I’ll most likely give it a try in one spot.
sheet mulching