The construction of a vegetable garden in the Black Rock Desert is no small matter. You can’t simply pick a patch of ground, pull of the weeds, and plant some seeds. Nothing is ever as simple as that out here. A vegetable garden in the desert has to be as impregnable as Fort Knox, constructed with every imaginable defensive measure against the voracious fauna destined to attack it. Your list of potential opponents includes deer, pronghorn antelope, mustang, rabbits, mice, rats, and chipmunks – not to mention the insect world.
So what do you do? Well, first you have to select the location on your property where you want to plant. I choose a lifeless patch of bare ground behind my house. The soil is toxic, but that’s all right because I don’t plan on using any of it. I’m using either compost or imported soil in eight by four foot boxes constructed from lumber, so the plants won’t have much contact with the indigenous dirt. Then I’ll drip feed the boxes constantly so that they never dry out.
After selecting your plot you have to enclose your garden. That means building not only up, but digging down as well. In our case the Western Pacific Railroad was kind enough to give Midian Ranch five rolls of storm fencing: four foot wooden stakes connected by an ocean of bailing wire. I had already augured four by four posts in as anchor points, so after digging trenches around the garden I buried about a foot of the fences underground as protection from any critter that gets adventurous enough to try to go under the barrier. Then I layered the fencing to create a rabbit proof barrier on the ground and a deer proof barrier higher up. With that completed I began to stack rocks (not lack of those out here) around the base of the fence line, which will hopefully increase the “hassle factor” for any mice or rats that plan on trying to squeeze through the storm fencing to the point where it won’t be worth it for them to try. Unlike their more dandyish and sissified woodland cousins, desert animals don’t have the luxury of throwing calories recklessly away on projects with dubious outcomes. In other words, if it’s too much work a desert creature won’t try.
With that completed I placed four cinder blocks in front of where I’m putting the gate and then filled them with dirt to hold them in place. Behind them I drove a series of metal stakes into the ground to form a subterranean barrier. Again, with any luck this will keep out rabbits and prove too much of a hassle for the smaller mammals to bother with. I’ll post in a few weeks and let you all know how well these preparations worked.
In other news Tina and I attended Gerlach’s Italian Dinner, held annually at Bruno’s Country Club. Bruno is quite fond of my wife and kindly went out of his way to invite the two of us. The food was wonderful - better actually than much of the food I’ve had in Italy itself – and the company of our neighbors was pleasant. Afterward we adjourned over to Uncle Larry’s for drinks with our friend Elizabeth Jackson. All and all a pleasant evening.