Happy Valentine’s Day! Our garden is about 3 months old now, so we wanted to post a little something to show the progress.
It’s exciting to roll with the possibilities, puzzling to respond to the problems!
Fresh, wonderful, veggies and fruits
Interesting new recipes, tried-and-true old recipes
Reading about gardening, talking about it with friends
Combining rows of plants that are compatible
Something has been nibbling on the cabbage leaves
The Savoy Cabbage died off for some unknown reason
What to do when it gets cold enough to freeze
Here’s a tiny documentary of our progress:
Meanwhile, we’ve been enjoying the fruits of our labors.
The quinoa burgers recipe came from the cookbook Eating the Alkaline Way. It has some unusual ingredients, but we found it to be very tasty! (Even Skip! Normally he can’t even pronounce the word “quinoa” without a smirk, haha!)
My wife and I have started gardens in the past with a moderate level of success.We have picked out a patch in our back yard, tilled the earth, worked in some potting soil and then after germinating some seeds, transplanted the seedlings and then watered and watched the bed to see what happened.We found that the bugs liked our tomatoes, but didn’t like our squash enough to pollinate the squash flowers. Our food production was minimal.And we hated having to bend over in the hot sun to tend the garden! So when I saw Jon Peters’ YouTube video on constructing a raised bed garden, I was inspired to build a couple of these beds for our future garden efforts.
Urban Lumbering and Photovoltaics
We were fairly true to Jon’s design with just a few variations.I’ll cover these variations in the following paragraphs but first, a few words on urban lumbering.About four years ago, I entered into a contract with my local utility company with what is called a feed-in-tariffagreement. Basically if I purchased a photovoltaic system for my house, the utility company would meter my power production and pay me $0.32/kWh for the next 20years. I received a 30% tax credit and was able to write off the cost of the system over four years. [I won’t go into the political ramifications of this program. I’ll save that for another rant on another blog.] So what has this got to do with urban lumbering? In order to maximize our solar exposure to the photovoltaic system, we had to cut down some red oak trees and some pine trees. Since I am a woodworker and a wood hoarder, I couldn’t bring myself to the decision of cutting down these trees and having them hauled off to the local wood-burning power plant.So I called Lumber by Lance and Phil the Tree Guy and had them come to my house and turn these trees into beautiful stickered piles of lumber.I watched as 4/4, 6/4 and 8/4 slabs of beautiful heart pine and quarter-sawn oak fell off the portable saw mill.
This project was perfectly timed, since one of my wood piles had air-dried for four years. We decided to not plane or joint any of the wood since, for this project, it was going to be used to hold a bunch of dirt!
Help from Family Sustainability Experts
Our two sons from Puerto Rico came home for Thanksgiving and wanted to help build the raised beds.Our older son is the director of an educationalnon-profit organization based in Puerto Rico, focusing on promoting sustainability and ecological agriculture, Plenitud PR (www.Plenitudpr.org or Plenitud PR on Facebook).Our younger son is an instructor and project manager at the Plenitud farm and teaching center. This was just the type of project they live for!
We used the same dimensions that Jon Peters used, 36 inches by 57 inches. The boys found lengths of lumber from my stash that were approximately 8 and 6 inches wide. These were cut to length, and using battens cut from old bed slats, they were fastened together to form 14 inch high sides for the boxes that would make up the raised beds. Hardware cloth (purchased at a local hardware store) came in 3 foot widths in a roll 10 feet long, just enough to make two beds. This hardware cloth was stapled to the bottom of the boxes with crown staples. Then 1×2 slats of wood were used to frame the hardware cloth for additional support. Before adding the 1×2 slats, pressure-treated 2×4’s were used as cross pieces to add additional support to the hardware cloth. Jon Peters had suggested that additional support might be needed. In a kit-build, Jon Peters demonstrated that another way to construct the bottom of the boxes was to use slats spaced with gaps for drainage.
We took a different approach for the construction of the legs. Jon used 32-inch lengths of pressure-treated 4×4’s.He removed half the thickness of the 4×4’s for a distance of about 14 inches from one end of the board. This formed a step for the box to sit on. My experience with the current method of pressure-treating 4×4’s is that the penetration of the chemicals into the core of the wood is not always as thorough as it could be. We decided to go with two 2×4’s, one 32 inches long and one 18 inches long, glued and screwed together. These legs were then fastened to the boxes with 2 ½ and 3 inch Robinson deck screws.
The boxes were moved to the back yard deck. This kept the boxes out of the way of lawn mowers and weed eaters. Once located on the deck, architectural (weed prevention ) cloth was stapled to the inside of the boxes. This was to provide for a layer to retain the soil while letting water drain through.
After filling each raised bed with the soil mixture, we added a layer of hay to the top of the soil mixture. This layer of mulch slows down evaporation of water from the bed and protects new seedlings.
Additional Support System for the Raised Beds
The next day we acquired some 10-ft lengths of ½ inch PVC pipe and clamps and constructed a support system for each bed. The support will provide for shade (50% black cloth) during the summer months and for cover during the winter to protect the plants from frost.
Now on to the local nursery to pick out some fall/winter seeds and seedlings!
My grandmother used to say “We lived in ‘the tropics’…” which included Guam and Hawaii, during the time period leading up to World War II. When they retired, they moved to Florida, which she considered to also have a tropical climate. And she wasn’t always happy about the heat and humidity in Florida. Being a practical quilter, she wanted to make quilts that would be useful to the prospective owners. One of my favorite quilts she made for us had a pieced top made of scraps leftover from when she made us flannel pajamas, and the backing was cotton sheeting. There was no batting in between. It was just the right weight, and kept us toasty warm but not suffocated like a heavy blanket would. The cotton backing was cool and almost slippery.
I kept those attributes in mind when I set out to make some quilts for our favorite non-profit organization, Plenitud PR. They do workshops in sustainable living practices, organic gardening, rainwater management, and much more. Although the temperature is always around 70 to 85 degrees F, some of the workshop participants would appreciate sleeping with a light blanket.
I used cotton flannel remnants for the quilt tops. Remnants are usually what is left over on the bolt of fabric after most of the yardage has been sold. They are typically less than a yard in length, and packaged as remnants and sold at less than the usual price. At JoAnn Fabric, they are normally 1/2 the regular price, and sometimes go on sale for even less. Some cheaply made cotton flannel is wound onto the bolt so that the fabric grain is skewed. I always wash lengths of cotton flannel before cutting, then make sure the cut edges are straight, by cutting a little notch near the cut edge and ripping the fabric along the straight grain until I reach the end of the cut edge. Sometimes I have to cut and rip more than once to be able to rip straight to the other edge.
For these blankets, I embroidered plenitud.pr on the lower front. Now that I have looked up the web site, I see that it is Plenitud PR (without the ., but technically it is now PlenitudPR.org. Placement of the dot can be crucially important in our high-tech world). But since it is just a blanket now, and currently has no power to connect to the Internet (now, but how about in the future?) I will leave as is.
The backing is extra-wide cotton, made for the special purpose of backing quilts, so that it doesn’t have to be pieced. I spotted these bolts of extra-wide material at JoAnn’s, and was able to find several that only had a small amount left on the bolt. Another $core: I was given the “end of bolt” discount price for the yardage. The backings were cut just a few inches larger than the quilt tops, so that the larger edges could be folded over and stitched down for binding the edges. I used several of the machine’s designated quilting stitches for channel-quilting the tops to the backings, and for top-stitching the bound edges. Some of the stitches I wasn’t so happy with. For all the stitching, I used the walking foot, AKA Interchangeable dual-feed foot with the zig-zag attachment. I used the automatic stitching setting so I wouldn’t be cramming my foot on the pedal for a long time, but the tension and stitching looks very uneven on some of them. It’s not the prettiest stitching I’ve ever seen but ripping it out at this point seems unsustainable….
For historical information about quilting in the tropics from older generations, Hart Cottage Quilts site is fascinating to read.
Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts