Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Humble Beginnings

Everyone has to start somewhere. This is my somewhere, I suppose.
I realize that I have been absent from the blogging realm of things – I have been busy. I have been busy mucking about in the dirt. Or gardening, if you prefer. Mostly fending off ticks, but that’s a whole other story.
I finally got all 7 (holy crap! 7!) beds built, and have managed to get 4 of them filled with dirt/compost/leaves I managed to scratch up off the ground. Of the remaining 3 beds, only one really needs to be done immediately, and so I’ll get to it tomorrow, and the other two as soon as I can. But I had these little seedlings in the shed waiting with bated breath to get out of the shed and into the ground, already. We’re only a few weeks behind on a few things, after all.
I’m kind of doing the whole square foot planting thing, for the highest yield I can for the limited amount of space that I’ve built. Thank you, I’m aware I live on 40 acres. I’m also aware of how difficult it is to clear enough space to plant things, never mind the additional space you need to clear just to get light in. So. Yes. Shooting for high yield in a small space.
I laid string out and stapled it to the walls of the beds in a grid of one square foot squares. I seriously thought about winging it, but I’ve got so much stuff to keep track of at this point I feel like I need the visuals just to keep everything straight.
Grid laid, there are two more things that need to happen before things go in the ground: water and deer protection.
I hate deer. Hate is a strong word, and I mean it to the full extent of all the weight behind it when thinking about deer. In California, I once rolled in to one to get my parking space in front of my own house when honking and yelling didn’t work. I also had to smack one with a broom to get it out of my outdoor shower so I could bathe once. My feelings towards deer as a species haven’t changed even if my state of residence and the variety of deer has. So deer netting it is.
Most people I know that garden with raised beds use hoops of PVC covered in netting. I didn’t like this for two reasons. (And no, one of them isn’t that PVC is evil). First off, I’d have to buy several lengths of PVC. I am still unemployed and running on an extremely tight budget. And I have been clearing (and clearing and clearing….) trees of all sizes, and while I have been burning up all the brush and branches, I keep all the trunks. Which means I have a bunch of poles.
The other reason why I didn’t want to go the hoop/netting route is access. Deer netting is a pain in the butt to wrastle, and I have yet to see a good solution to the accessibility issue when the bed is actually antlered-rat proof. Inspired by my former landlady (a great friend and a great artist), I remembered that she simply went around the perimeter of her garden and kept the last side open, with an extra pole attached to it. To open the side you simply move aside the last pole and to close it you just hook it around the first one. I expanded on this by sinking a short length of wide PVC where the last pole hooks around so it has something to drop into.  
I had initially wanted to put the poles on the outside, but I failed to find metal strapping that would hold them in place (both aluminum cans and aluminum flashing don't work. In case you were wondering…).  I hadn’t wanted to put them in the beds as they would eat up seriously valuable real estate in the one square foot they’d be invading. But since I pretty much found myself in a position where it was that or nothing at all I just plopped the smallest ones I could find in each corner, screwed them in with leftover deck screws, and moved on. Stapled deer netting to said corner poles, the extra fifth pole (for access), et voila! Deer proof (I hope!) beds.
I was hell-bent on getting SOMETHING in the ground, so I ignored the lack of a water system issue and moved on to transplanting my peas and carrots (two varieties of each, and none of which I wanted to start inside as they should have been planted outside a few weeks ago, but whatareyougonnado?) and planting two kinds of beets. I have another two varieties started inside. I like beets.
And now, Stoneyhaw (website coming soon!) has the first garden on it in a very long time. Unsure as to how long, exactly, but I’d like to think that it’s the first real garden since my great-grandfather’s. And that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Even if I can’t find the asparagus that he planted that has become something of an urban legend at this point. 
Map of the garden. No joke. This is my key to all things Stoneyhaw.
The original bed plans were all nice and organized and laid out and everything....and then I changed the bed size. And so I cut and taped them back together. Then I changed some of the plants....rearranging again.
New bed plans that are SURE to be temporary as well... *sigh* But it's ok, because these are on binder paper. And so they can go in my farm journal/binder. See? A good thing.....
Itching to get out of the shed where they should NEVER have been, and to the great outdoors!
Stringing out the grids.
Corner poles set in and anchored. You can see the PVC in the corner for pole #5 to hook in to.
Deer netting affixed to pesky multi-sized yet free so yay! poles.
Humble beginnings. More to come.


Kerri said...

That looks so amazing!! Well done, Caitlin!

I definitely smell a book in here somewhere too. Include recipes!

caitlinvb said...

Thank you thank you! I have gotten lots of book writing support - if I knew where to start, I would. OR if I had the time ;)

Anonymous said...

WOW!! =) I can't believe how much you've accomplished! Congrats!

I hate ticks like you hate deer. Can't wait to read your future ticks post. =P