Monday, April 15, 2013


Our load of dirt arrived late Thursday afternoon and the kids and I worked like crazy to get as much of it as possible into our new planting beds.  It seems we ordered too much, as the beds are full, but there is still a large pile of dirt in the driveway.

The remains of Mt. Crabstick

It's not rocket science to calculate the volume of a cube: length times width times depth.  I divided the total volume of all three beds (in cubic inches) by twelve and then again by three when I learned that one orders dirt by the cubic yard.  My result?  Over two thousand cubic yards, which, judging from the size of the five yards we actually ordered would probably fill my entire house.

My neighbor, James, who helped us with the shoveling consoled me by saying you can never have too much dirt, and it is certainly very nice dirt. If I were ready to go forward with the backyard kitchen garden plan, we'd be set, but I am so not ready for that.  I could put it to use in the existing beds in the back yard, which is probably what I'll end up doing, but I'm not strong enough to push the wheelbarrow when it's full, so I'll be trundling around with half wheelbarrows, which means we'll be able to park in the driveway again sometime in 2014.

Taking Suburban Correspondent's suggestion, I went to the farmer's market this weekend to buy some lettuce plants, which can occupy the front beds until I decide what to plant there permanently.

Lovely lettuce

I used to go to the Charlottesville farmer's market every Saturday without fail, but have become less enthusiastic about it in recent years.  Remember when you were in middle school and you'd walk down the hall and see the groups of cool kids who snubbed you, and you felt like a loser?  That's how I feel when I go to the farmer's market.  It's no longer simply a place to buy local food.  It's a place to be seen buying local food.

I bought eggs and eight young romaine lettuce plants and two pounds of locally raised lamb stew meat, which became a civet de mouton on Sunday.  It's unthinkable to come home from the market without a treat, so I bought some pastries from a bakery stand.  I made a point of not buying anything from the booth that's owned by a Montana-based bakery chain, over which there was an outcry last year.  Farmer's markets should be for locally-owned businesses and locally-grown foods and as far as I'm concerned, local ownership of a franchise does not count as locally-owned, especially when that franchise has a shop in town that is open on Saturdays. But I don't know, maybe other people in our community have a different opinion.

It's not against the rules for this business to be at the market.  The application does not specify that businesses participating must be local, only that the food is produced locally on property owned or leased by the seller.  I guess I was too quick to assume that the owners would be gracious and bow out this year since they can sell all the bread that they want in their store, six days a week and the other vendors at the market don't necessarily have permanent retail space.

Two questions:
1. What would you do if you had a pile of very nice dirt + compost. (I'm thinking I should go ahead with a raised bed or two after all.)
2. Would you be pissed if there was a business franchise at your local farmer's market?


  1. There are a majority of people who wonder how they got in. I just joined the board of the nonprofit that supports the market and absolutely no one knows how or why they are there. Or what to do about it.

    I'd totally do a raised bed if I had spare dirt & compost.

  2. I dont go to the Market. I am not cool enough to walk with the beautiful, earnest people who have much more disposable income than I.

  3. Meet Melissa and me down at the market on Saturday! We'll hang together and make everyone else envious about our obvious coolness.

    I feel the same way you do about the bakery at the market. If I'm going to shop local, I'm going authentic local.

  4. Right now I'm mad for growing roses (my beloved azaleas don't grow in coastal volcanic soil) so I'd probably stick a dozen of those in the ground.

    Were I really ambitious, I'd do one of those swell compact veggie gardens like this one:

  5. The intent of the market is for growers and producers who don't otherwise have retail space to have a way to sell. I don't think said "local" franchise should be there, despite the fact that the owners are really lovely people. They HAVE a store. Free up that spot for someone else!

    I don't go to the market much any more because it is too crowded and by the time I can get there from Crozet with two kids in tow, it's hot and the best stuff is gone. And it is ridiculously crowded. And I grow a small amount of fresh vegetables at home, anyway. I wish there were more options for weekday farmer's markets in the western part of the county!

  6. I can't wait to see this legendary farmers market and I agree 100% with you on everything you said. I'd be ticked to find a franchise honing in on actual local produce sales at one.

    Not sure if I'll be as cool as Jen, but I will TRY!

    Ah,dirt. Your poor back! All that hauling!
    I would go ahead and plot out a kitchen garden--why not? You don't have to plant it if you don't want to right away...cover it with a layer of shredded bark and leave it until you get around to dealing with it.
    When I had too much dirt a few years ago I kept piling it on anyway because it does eventually become more tamped down.

  7. Wait until it rains - the dirt will pack down in the planters and you'll need some more in there.

    Also, if your lettuce plants get full sun, you'll need to shade them when it starts getting hot. We use all the IKEA umbrellas we have sitting around the house to shade ours in the hottest part of the day.

  8. Ann Arbor, MI, where I grew up, has a wonderful (and old) farmers market, but you really need to be there early. If you go early morning, it doesn't feel at all elitist. A whole slew of shops now surrounds it in quaint old buildings (Kerrytown), and if you go mid-morning or later it's a lot of very hoity-toity people meeting for vegan breakfasts and chatting while they walk the market.

    Having some experience with extra dirt that became a rock hard mountain with virile weeds, I'd recommend you get that stuff into a garden quickly. Don't you have some sons and a husband who can move that wheelbarrow? :-)

  9. Definitely save some dirt to add to the planters after the rain clears. But otherwise - raised beds! I prefer the market to stick to places that don't have brick and mortar locations but, since I can't oust them singlehandedly, I don't patronize them either.

  10. I think I'd offer the dirt on Freecycle, but given my experience that means 20 people would promise to pick up the dirt and no one would show up.

    I think that the franchise bakery that has a store open on Saturdays located a mile from the market, is being exceptionally greedy and taking up space that should go to someone else.

  11. Being a city person I have no ideas or tips about dirt. As to the market, I would welcome as many vendors as they could fit, preferring local ones but not excluding others so long as room existed.

  12. Jennifer--the prices are as scary as the patrons!

    Jen--let me know what time you're planning to go. I may swing by, but I've also got to do my regular grocery shopping.

    Rhiannon--that looks like a cool project and slightly less intimidating than a full sized raised bed. I read a fascinating book, years ago, called "Square foot gardening" that this bed reminds me of.

    Laoch--there's a waiting list to get into our market, although I don't know if there are any bakers on it. The market organizers have a quota of each type of vendor so we don't get too much of one thing.

    Suburban Correspondent--no worries, once the leaves on the large maple tree next to the beds are fully out, those lettuces won't be getting much sun at all.

    Cassi--thanks for the tip. I have sad experience with viral weeds.

  13. What everyone else said about putting more dirt in once the dirt in your raised bed settles.

    Also, (if you haven't already figured it out) you divide cubic inches by 1728 (12x12x12) to get cubic feet, and again by 27 (3x3x3)to get cubic yards. Or you can do what I usually do, which is go to google and type 'convert 7500 cubic inches to cubic yards' and let them do the heavy lifting...(I *adore* the Google unit converter with a passion.)

  14. Robin--LOL! Of course! Thanks for explaining why my math was so off.

  15. I deal with unit conversions at work on a daily basis. Which means I've made pretty much every possible calculation error, sometimes multiple times...