Posts tagged ‘raised-bed gardening’

The Dream Evolves

Howdy, y’all! In looking back over last year’s entries, I realized I didn’t blog very much, and when I did, it was largely negative. I plan to change that 🙂

I’ve been doing more research on sustainable living, and I have discovered earthbags! I think for hot, humid south Georgia, this will be a much better medium than bale-cob with which to build my home. Better adapted for the humidity, and I don’t think acquiring used feed bags will be a problem! I’ve seen a couple sites where people built a raised-bed planter as the first project, like this one, or this. The 2nd one is more true to the purpose of what I want – a garden to grow vegetables in 🙂

“My do it!”

I feel like the very proud 2-year old who comes out all mis-matched dressed, but DRESSED, and looks up at his Mom and proudly exclaims, “My do it, Mommy!” I FINALLY built (well, took down from where Mama said it could not go, moved and re-built it more sturdily where it CAN go – off of my future outdoor kitchen/patio area across the driveway from my future house), my raised bed garden frame!

Ain’t it bee-you-ti-ful? With the gorgeous cedar tree in the background, and the dogwood tree all dressed out for fall?

Here’s a close-up:

Wait a minute, that looks like….? Yep – CHICKEN WIRE! (Have YOU ever tried nailing into a pallet? Sheesh! As Teddy said “That’s not hard wood, it’s hard-headed wood!”  And of course, the bit of chicken wire I picked that Daddy had laying around wasn’t quite long enough to go all the way around, so I had to get even more inventive 🙂

Huh? What? Baling twine from a pine straw bale 😀

Now for some other pics showing how I attached the chicken wire to the pallets:

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And yes, there’s some rebar in there, too!

I had really hoped to start using this over the winter, and I’ve had to change my plans (see previous post). 😦 I DID figure out about 3 days ago how to save myself a LOT of shoveling, though. Honestly, I only need what – 18″ – 2 feet of dirt, right? So I’m going to fill the bottom with …. used tires! 😀 And that keeps stuff from going into the landfill too! (There’s a little auto repair place on the way to where I do physical therapy; I’m hoping they’ll gladly fill up the bed of my pick-up with some of their “mountain o’ tires” that’s piled behind the building…. Gonna stop and ask next time I go ;-))

And yes, I know, I built it out of pallets and chicken wire. There are holes. Big ones. Which dirt will fall out of. But I’ve been planning for this 😀 I’ve been saving all our cereal-box weight cardboard! (Yes, I know, it’ll eventually decompose, but so will the pallet wood. I’m trying to avoid BENDING which is very bad for my new bionic back. The pallets just-so-happen to be the exact right height for me to reach to the middle from any one side :-)) So once this bad boy is complete (by spring!), I can do my raised-bed, no bend gardening 😀 And I hope it works, b/c I’d like to build LOTS more! There’s lots of veggies I want to grow. And Teddy informed me today that he wants us to grow wheat so that we can make our own bread and stuff (already in the long-range plan, Bud :-))

Waxing Poetic about My Dream

Okay, so some of you have been wondering what all is she REALLY talking about? Building her own house? Homesteading? What’s going on? So I’ll explain, in detail … 😀

As I’ve explained a little bit about on the “Liberty” page, I want to truly be able to provide for Teddy and myself, and my first thought was a house of our own. I’ve decided on a bale-cob house – which Teddy can’t wait to help build; boy + mud = happiness 😉

Straw-bale experiment

I DO have to experiment a bit first – around these parts, we don’t have much straw, except for the pine needle kind, which technically isn’t straw. I want to be as sustainable as possible, and that means not having to truck in materials from a long way away. I’ve done lots of Googling, and come up with a few reports of people who’ve successfully used pine straw in their cob – cool beans! I HAVEN’T been able to find any reports of anybody using pine straw bales to build a bale house from….At some point soon (gotta pick a good earthen plaster recipe first) I’m going to get 4 bales, stack ’em on some concrete blocks (one of the many reasons I love my Dad – such a pack-rat!), MAYBE insert moisture/humidity sensor (depends on the cost), and plaster away. Again, Daddy had all kinds of sheds and such that there’s the perfect spot in the back yard for me to do this – already roofed and sheltered on 3 sides 😀 So my experiment will have “a good hat and boots” to protect it from rain top and bottom, but still be exposed to this lovely S GA humidity. Then in a year, or two, or whenever I decide to build my house, I’ll deconstruct my experiment to see what the bales look like on the inside, and I’ll know if pine straw bales are acceptable to use, or if I need to change my plans and use a different building material. *fingers crossed, hoping not*

Passive and Active Solar

I also want to incorporate the principles of passive solar building – using age-old building techniques to help heat and cool my house. I’m also going to use active solar, too – just wish a solar panel system wasn’t so stinkin’ expensive for initial start-up costs! I would’ve like to use wind, too, but I’ve done the research, and GA just isn’t a good candidate for wind turbine power. Might be able to recharge some AA’s or a cell-phone battery, but if the plan is to go off-grid, I won’t be able to use wind :/ I don’t know that I’ll actually go off-grid, if only for the reason that it sure would be nice to have a power meter hooked up, and me always net-metering (that means the meter is spinning backwards, and instead of a bill, they send me a check!) back to the power company.

The house itself

I’m thinking an interior footprint of about 900-sq ft, with one bedroom and one bathroom (north wall), and an open-plan kitchen/living room on the south wall. There will be a loft over the bed/bath half of the house (accessed by spiral staircase, just ‘cuz I’ve always loved them); this will be Teddy’s bedroom and storage space. This would give a total of about 1350 interior square feet. And then, of course, since I’m a good southern girl, there WILL be a wrap-around porch that does indeed wrap-around the whole house 😀 Somewhere on which will be a hammock, and outside my bedroom will be one of those double-bed size porch swing creations. I’m sure there will also be a standard porch swing, and a couple of rocking chairs, and plenty of potted plants, too. (When my Dad died, one of the plants we received is what my Mom calls a Weeping Jew, and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the thing! I want one hanging on either side of my front door ;-))

I’d also like to do rainwater catchment, and save that. We do have a well, so I’d plan on using the well-water for my drinking water (my research shows you have to add lots of vitamins and minerals to your diet when you drink solely rainwater), but it would be nice to use the rainwater to take showers, wash clothes (not hard water!), and water my plants with. I also want to find out 1) if it’s possible, and 2) how much trouble it would be to install one of the old-fashioned hand-pumps on the well. Why? Well, a couple months back, Teddy went to take his bath before bedtime, and lo-and-behold, there was no water! The electricity was on, so that wasn’t the problem. Turns out ants had eaten through the wires. Grrrr. So we go to my sister’s (next door), and while Teddy is taking his bath, my mom and sister are filling 5 gallon buckets (for flushing) and every available gallon pitcher (for drinking/brushing teeth/etc) to last us ’til morning when the well guy can come out and fix things. But if we’d had a hand-pump, we wouldn’t have had to drive anywhere – just saying.

I don’t necessarily want a living roof, where I have honest-to-goodness plants growing on my roof. I know it’s a really “green” thing to do, but it kinda creeps me out; I mean, I don’t want a roof that looks like it needs to be mowed. No offense to those of you who have them, just putting it out there that I don’t think it’s right for me. I am contemplating, however, planting ivy and/or wisteria at the four corners of the house and wherever a porch column meets the roof (I know, I know, bale and cob both lend themselves wonderfully to curvy construction, and I might get there, but for now, I’m still thinking rectangle), and letting it grow over the roof to help shade and insulate the house.

I’d also like to build a wood-fired hot tub (cob is such a wonderful, versatile building material!) in the same vicinity as my ginormous outdoor kitchen. These will be in the shade of the dogwoods, oaks, and the beautiful cedar tree. I call this the “Circle of Trees,” because it’s roughly in the shape of a circle, and there’s lots of trees (one of which, however is very dead and is owned by the power company ;-)). And it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump out from where I’d like to put my front door, including the short walk across my planned driveway, and then into the lovely “Circle of Trees.” 🙂

Homesteading

I’d love to be able to provide most of my own food. As I’m not willing to go vegetarian, that means raising some critters 🙂 My initial thoughts are goats and chickens. Chickens for obvious reasons – eggs, and who (except for my BIL) doesn’t like chicken? Goats are for dairy purposes, and some meat, too (my sister informed me that venison and goat are related; who knew?). As Teddy gets older, he’ll probably be bringing home some deer and wild turkey during hunting season, too. I was reading one blog and she says in the first summer they pretty much made back their investment because of the dairy savings – and my son and I are two dairy loving people! Why not a cow, you’re asking? Because on the same amount of land it takes to sustain one cow, you can raise up to 6 goats. And goats aren’t picky eaters; in fact, goats prefer brush-type stuff instead of grass, and we got that in spades around here! And since I’m planning to go “whole hog” (don’t know about having one of those, though) once I learn how, I could also dress out a goat myself;  a cow get’s mighty big, and if the point is to save money, why spend it to have to send the animal out to have it butchered? Who knows, I might even learn how to tan the hides…

But first, and I plan to start ASAP, is to get going on some gardening. My mom has informed me that my pallet raised-bed garden cannot stay where I built it; thankfully she did this before I began filling it with dirt, and hopefully it doesn’t fall apart in the moving process. But if it does, I’ll whack some more nails into it…. I hope to at least get started this winter on some broccoli, spinach, and garlic. I also want to start composting (all those coffee grounds, every morning – they just need to go in a composter, not in the garbage can…) and plan to build a compost tumbler.

My mom and sister were poking fun at me when I started talking about gardening. “You, the pickiest-eater-on-the-planet? Going to garden? What are you going to plant that you’ll eat?” Well, gee, let’s see, sweet peas, field peas (LOVE me some field peas), carrots, the aforementioned broccoli, spinach, and garlic, romaine, sweet potatoes and regular potatoes, corn, some beans, tomatoes (don’t like them by themselves, but do like fresh salsa and tomato products), and onions (again, I don’t like them unless they’re chopped so tiny and/or cooked so limp you don’t know they’re there, but I like the taste they give) – oh! and did I mention I live in Vidalia onion growing territory 😀  And I want some herbs, like thyme, rosemary, parsley, etc to naturally flavor my food. And a handful of peppers for the salsa, and cilantro – LOTS of cilantro. So see, there’s a lot of stuff I can grow that I’ll eat! I might even be nice and grow some cucumbers and squash just for my mom 🙂 And don’t forget a few pumpkins, too – love me some pumpkin pie!

Anybody notice what’s missing off of the above list? Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! That’s right, fruit! While there are some veggies I love and some I tolerate, fruit is NOT high on my priority list. I’ll probably have a grape vine – I will drink grape juice (especially if it’s fermented ;-)), and might try my hand at making grape jelly. And, well, if I want to explore the possibility of making my own wine one day, grapes sure would come in handy. I would also plant some apple trees. Teddy LOVES apples, I like them, and we both drink apple juice quite willingly. I might be coerced into some blueberries and strawberries for Teddy’s sake; he loves them, especially blueberries. Anybody know if cherry trees (not cherry blossom trees for decoration, but real, honest-to-goodness pick-your-own-cherries cherry trees) grow this far south? Both my mom and Teddy love them, and that would be a nice treat for them, I’m sure.

Since I’m now talking trees, we’ve got a decent amount of pecan trees on the property, and I know of a handful of black walnuts in the county. Not that I’m a huge walnut fan, but nuts are good for us. And I know, it’s not a tree (or a nut!), but I’d also grow peanuts, too – love me some boiled peanuts! Raw is good too 😀

I haven’t decided yet about bees – honey is a wonderful sweetener, and my own natural totally local honey WOULD do wonderful things for my seasonal allergies, but I’m just not so sure about having bees, too, I don’t know, “sting-y”….  Especially since I live far enough south I can grow cane, and make my own cane syrup. Although, I do need to try it in my coffee one morning; I know honey in my coffee is yummy, not so sure how cane syrup would be….

But the most important part is to follow God’s lead 🙂

So this path I feel the Lord leading me on started by the urge to provide housing for my son and myself. And I’m not saying this is the path everybody needs to take; I know that’s the reason we have so many different job specialties and different types of jobs – not everyone is cut out to live off the land. And even why there are so many different variations on homesteading; everybody has their own personal view of what it means for them. I just believe God is leading me in this direction.  And over the next 18 months – 2 years as I pursue finishing my college education (again, something I feel God leading me to do), this dream may change more; it might become more serious, or less so. Even if my dream is never fully realized as I dream it now, even if I never reach full sustainability, I will know that I’m being a better steward of the world He’s given us by providing what food I can so that my food doesn’t have to trucked from up to 1000’s of miles away, by demanding fewer resources, re-using what I can, and making do where I need to.

God bless!