Eventually, the pond pasture will be completely converted to a permaculture forest garden, but the first step is removing most of the grass so that it doesn't compete with the new fruit trees. I also need nursery space for the osage orange and apple trees that I intend to grow from seed, and room to experiment with open pollinated varieties away from Paul's garden. I really dislike using motorized equipment, so I am tackling this area with nothing more than shovel, rake, and hoe. I'm finding Steve Solomon's book Gardening When it Counts to be very useful with regards to tool use and maintenance. It's amazing how much easier it is to use a sharpened shovel, compared to a blunt one straight from the store.
I'm not following all of his advice for preparing a garden plot from sod. He says to dig deeply and turn the sod clumps over to expose the roots, and then dig them again in a week to further kill the grass. I'm sure that works, but since the pond pasture is immediately adjacent to the chicken pen, I have been digging shallowly, just underneath the grass roots, and tossing the sod to the birds. It's still too early to allow them out on the pasture, so they are loving the worms, grass, and other goodies in the clumps. I lose a little bit of soil this way, but I will replace it with compost (and the chicken bedding will eventually go to make more compost as well), so I think I come out ahead. Once the sod is removed, I'll go back and dig more deeply to prepare the seedbed.
Since I'm out of shape from a long winter of inactivity (and, oh yes, seven months pregnant), I've been doing my digging at a slow, steady pace and only a little bit at a time. With a sharpened shovel it's really no strain at all, and I feel great. Honestly, I think it would be more dangerous for me to operate the tiller than to dig with a shovel.
In addition to the tree seedlings, I also intend to plant some sort of bush beans, sweet potatoes (more on that in the next post), bushel gourds to make containers out of, and the first of the grafted apple trees and blackberries. I also want to transplant a young oak to one corner of the pond pasture to eventually provide shade to the chicken pen.
I have a couple more little plots I want to work on. There are several spots in the main pasture where the goats spent a lot of time this winter, so there's way too much nitrogen and compaction for the grass to come back easily. I intend to dig those areas up and experiment with "three sisters" planting: corn, vine beans, and squash all grown together. The beans grow up the corn stalks and the squash shades out weeds and helps keep raccoons away from the ripening corn, or so I've read. I look forward to trying it out in practice. After the three sisters are harvested, I'll let those spots go back to grass for the following year.