All winter I was dreaming of building some river rock, raised- bed gardens in the backyard. I had everything planned out in my head and had read many articles on mortars and techniques in preparation for when the snow disappeared.
We were going to have a mixture of reclaimed logs and stone to try and keep everything natural looking.
We still might.
For now, we are going to work with the logs. They are free and doable.
As usual, I forget to take photos when I’m doing things, so I rely on Gerri to document our progress. I don’t think I even took a “before” picture. Luckily she showed up before I finished, or it would just be me trying to describe the process to you.
I suppose I found the stonework daunting, more than expensive. It’s hard to admit that, mostly to myself, but there it is. I kept saying that I was going to buy cement and mix it up for the footings, but I never did it. There was always something else that the money was needed for. The rock is free, but when I started to think about building the wall, and the sheer weight of the rock I would be wheelbarrowing into the backyard, I sort of froze up. Mentally and emotionally.
I can’t think of anyone I would rather be beside when I’m feeling down or inadequate. Even just having her near me gives me everything I need to keep going. I love when she comes out and tells me to wait, just so she can take a selfie of us, or asks why I’m doing something a certain way.
Sometimes it’s just nice to take a break, put my arm around her and stare at the tomatoes while we cool down and talk about things we would like to do if we had the money.
It’s never anything grandiose or even expensive. It’s simple stuff, like a rock waterfall and a little fish pond or to replace our dilapidated sheds. A little piece of property and a sawmill.
We really don’t want much.
We talk about how nice it would be if we could use the property behind us to plant some gardens in. It gets excellent sun and under all that grass is a gravel parking lot. It used to be a theatre but now sits empty, except for a room upstairs that the cable company uses to broadcast it’s twenty-six channels from.
Don’t tell them, but I cut down a big poplar on their property last year that was full of carpenter ants. I didn’t know about the ants until it hit the ground. The real reason I cut it down was that it was blocking all of our sun. We threw the branches and limbs in this garden as sort of a hugelkultur garden.
We also threw in our old compost pile. It wasn’t completely broken down but mostly. Just like us.
It was filled with kitchen scraps, old chicken bedding and last years tomato plants, along with an uncommon amount of ants. I was thinking about how to safely poison all those ants but then I thought better of it. They really weren’t hurting anything, and possibly were helping break things down.
I did take a few particularly infested clumps and threw them in with the chickens.
Circle of life and all that.
We mixed in 4 loads of wood chips to the mix and then got ourselves prepared for shovelling the trailer load of manure into wheelbarrows and moving them to the backyard and into the new garden.
That was when I had an idea!
You know, I never thought I’d make it to forty, but here I am at forty-six and I feel like my life has just started. I finally feel like I have a goal, and I also have someone to strive for that goal with.
It took me a long time to find someone who appreciates the simple things in life. A crackling fire and some s’mores, pruning some tomatoes, or just getting high in her fort and dancing. She’s so much more than I had ever hoped for, yet feels like she’s sometimes not enough.
Even though she’s the reason I even want to do anything. The reason this got built, and anything after it.
I’ve finally found someone who appreciates old, weathered wood, and realizes that rich soil is one of the most valuable things that we can have in our lives.
Hi there, folks. For anyone that follows our WordPress blog, you may have noticed that we haven’t been posting there lately. It’s been a few months and we’re sorry, but we’ve been putting everything we get time for on our Steemit blog. The only reason is really that we get rewarded in a cryptocurrency called Steem for posting there.
The good news is that some developers got together and created a plugin called SteemPress. Now we are able to post in WordPress and it will simultaneously post to our Steemit account.
So without further ado, we will get down to business.
We have been planting everything in containers and crates we have found at the dump or acquired over the years. We had three small raised beds, but they weren’t really working as well as we had hoped so we pulled them out.
Now we needed something to put in their spot but we didn’t want to spend a bunch of money.
Luckily we live in an area of abundance.
So we hooked on to our little trailer and headed for the lake.
We didn’t want to overload it, so we took what we figured we would need for an 8’x4′ garden bed.
We were planning on doing some stone beds, but the sheer amount of work was daunting. This provided a free chance to try something that would take a lot less time and effort, but mostly it doesn’t require much skill.
I have never worked with stone before and Gerri would like to get some beds in this summer, so it looks like we will be starting with wood.
I figure we can get enough for an 8×4 bed every trip to the bay, so we may get another two or three beds in this summer. It’s somewhere we enjoy going, just to hang out, so now we can feel productive at the same time.
As for this bed, stay tuned to see how it turns out.
Apparently this is called parasola plicatilis. There is some debate as to its edibility and possible psychoactivity.
I didn’t test for either.
After two months, I was completely surprised to open it up and see this.
That is a pile of worms. And a bit of fungi.
Some of the first babies are now adolescents that are over an inch long, but all of that spaghetti looking stuff is dozens of baby worms. In another couple of months, they should be close to full size.
I put a chunk of watermelon rind in there when I saw the first food start to disappear, and it didn’t take them long to get it down to just the skin. I think I grossly underestimated the breeding power of these red wigglers. I’m pretty sure that this Cool Whip container won’t last the year without having to split it.
I guess we will see.
Seeing as they have almost finished the watermelon, I threw in some cilantro that was starting to get mushy. I have some broccoli ends in the freezer, so I will probably try that as well.
Okey dokey, let’s tap the brakes a bit
The four month mark has just passed, and I had to move the worms into a bigger tub. While I was sorting, I did a count and found 153 worms, that were big enough to count. I’m sure there were a bunch of babies, and I know there were at least 50 cocoons that went into the big bin with whatever scraps of cardboard and watermelon rind was left.
Here is a clump that obviously made a great nursery.
All of the yellowish ovals are cocoons, and you can see a few deflated ones as well. One was releasing a new baby as we were taking this photo, but we didn’t even think of filming it. It was just cool to watch, and give a squeeze to help out.
I’m really glad that I chose to do this now, because I think that the bottom was getting a bit too wet, and possibly turning anaerobic. For that reason, I threw a bunch of dry material in the new, larger bin, and in the CoolWhip container where the castings, cocoons, and any babies that slipped by will go.
That is the new bin, and this next one is the old one.
I’m starting to add in some of the siftings from other batches. I figure they will break down eventually. It’s mostly old spruce needles and twigs, but there is some dried clumps of castings that could be rejuvenated. I guess I will have to lay off the watermelon, and any other really wet food, plus an occasional turn wouldn’t hurt either. I put some more holes in the bottom as well, so we’ll check back in in a couple of months and see how it is going.
My thoughts on this type of project
I was really floored by the activity in the small container, but have learned through forums and YouTube, that the breeding will slow down when the space becomes cramped. I think that this would be an excellent school project for young kids, that might get them into a life with one less strain on the system. If they were allowed to get a bigger bin for home, it wouldn’t take long to have a good setup with the capacity to detour a couple pounds of waste from the landfill, while producing some high quality amendments for their gardens, house plants, or even just to throw on the lawn.
Alright, so before we begin, this is all new to me. Actually, pretty much all gardening is new to me, but I’ve always been a bit adventurous and experimental, so here I am.
When I was a kid, my mom and my nana were gardeners. They had big gardens in the ground that got rototilled up at the start and end of every gardening season. I thought that was all there was to it.
Then my stepdad built some 4’x8′ raised beds instead of the traditional bed. They grew lots of food in them, and it seemed easier to look after. That seemed a lot better than packing down the soil in between the rows.
And now, since I have been looking into permaculture, I find out about hugelkultur. If you haven’t heard about it, click on the link. It’s pretty neato.
So, yesterday, we were at the dump tearing our trailer apart, when we found some pretty big crates. Once the deck was clear, we loaded them up and took them home. Gerri seemed a bit hesitant, but she is pretty good at letting me have my head.
When we got the boxes home, I set to figuring out what to do. I knew I was going to plant in them, but they were two feet deep, and I didn’t want to use that much soil or fill them up with rocks. Then it hit me.
Hugelkultur in a box!
I had just felled a couple of dirty poplar the day before, so I measured out the inside of the box and started sawing logs for the bottom. I also had a couple of dead birch limbs that went into the mix.
I filled in the cracks with a mix of wet fruitwood chips and half finished compost. I figured it would help with the decomposition of the green wood.
Then I put in a layer of twigs and leaves.
I don’t know if it was a good idea, but it seemed good in my mind, so why not? Experiments are for experimenting, right?
After that, some more soaked chips.
I then put a few more inches of the composting mix, because why not? That’s what I’m making all of this beautiful, rich stuff for.
Now a friend, who shall remain nameless, grows in pots every year and then throws the soil mix out, because they think that they have used all of the nutrients in it.
It was absolutely beautiful. Then, in the fall, I was asked to help with a dump run and there were fourteen heavy black garbage bags in the pile. I asked what they were and was told they were full of the used soil.
So here they are now.
Other than it was full of roots and stems from the flowers, there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. A few hours of picking through and composting the browns gave me a lot of excellent soil for this year. I only hope that they grow the same amount again. I have already called dibs on it, and helped for free to sweeten the pot.
I soaked it all pretty good today, and I was going to mix up tomatoes and green peppers in here tomorrow. It gets about 7-9 hours of sunlight in a few different increments of 2-3 hours each where it is and from what I read, that is probably enough.
What do you folks think? Will this setup work? Should I be planting something else in it? I also have a few cabbage seedlings. I’m open to any feedback I can get.
Something like this one, but probably not from Amazon.
Between pruning and heavy snow damage, we lost a pile of our fruit, spruce, and lilac branches. Over the winter we tried to burn some of them in the fire pit, but that was futile as it took more good wood to keep the fire going just to burn up a bit of lilac.
We lamented about how nice it would be to have a chipper so we could mulch all of the piles up and at least get some benefit from the destruction.
We tried advertising locally to see if someone had one that they would like to rent out, but nobody responded, so we started looking at nearby rental businesses.
The problem is that the closest rental place to carry wood chippers is two hours away in Dawson Creek. There’s four hours of driving and at least $50 in gas on top of the $150 a day rental fee.
That’s for a chipper that will handle up to 3″ limbs or trees.
We couldn’t justify spending $1000+ on a new machine to mulch up a few piles of branches each year, so we started to look at local classified ads to see if there were any used ones for sale.
There wasn’t, but I did notice that there were electric chippers for as little as $200 when I Googled it, so I started to look into that option.
We really liked the design of the Earthwise GS70015, but it was more than double the price of similar units without the catch bin.
I had read a bunch of complaints about the product and the screws rusting into the blades and making it nearly impossible to get them out without stripping them, so I took the advice of one reviewer and put anti-seize on all of the screws before use.
Then we went out and fired that sucker up. It made great sized chips for mulch, and once the branches were cut down to size, it gobbled them up quite fast. It didn’t take too many crabapple branches to make this little box of gold.
I’m going to do up enough to get 8″ of this stuff in the chicken’s run and let them work it around and build up some good compost. I wanted to try it in the coop for bedding, but I’m told that it isn’t a good idea for a few different reasons. All of the reasons include the girls’ health, so I don’t want to chance it. I was just hoping to save a bit of dough, because the bales of shavings are $10 a piece at the local feed store (which doesn’t seem bad after looking at Amazon), and that all adds up.
We also plan on making some good mulch for around the trees and in the gardens, so I will play around with the green/carbon ratios when I’m doing the chipping. I’m sure that I can find the right amount somewhere on YouTube.
Another thing we want to try is hugelkultur, so this is another way we will be able to use the chips and the bigger wood together. I am going to look further into it, but I do want to get at least one bed going this year.
I also got thinking that we might get a smoker and see if we can dry the fruit wood chips enough to use them for that. We have a bunch of crabapple, plum and apricot branches to do, so it would be free fuel. I mean why bury them when you can smoke meat to go along with your fresh veggies? 😉
Anyhow, if you are in the market for a little chipper, and you don’t mind a little extra work, you can save yourself quite a bit of money and hassle by shopping around for a small electric one. I can’t vouch for any of them right now, but this one seems like a good deal, and works really good so far. I will definitely update this if things go awry though.
P.S. If you get the Canadian Tire one, look at my review there. It will tell you about getting new blades from the company. What it won’t tell you is that they will send you free ones if you call before you have had it for two years and they wear out. That is all done over the phone, so you don’t have to take them into CT.
That’s if they weren’t lying to me, and if things don’t change in the next two years.