26 Mar

Keyhole Garden Battery #1: Filling It In

It turns out a garden two feet deep and 6 feet in diameter takes more material than you’d think (yes, the math is easy, but so is convincing yourself that you have plenty of materials on hand that fill the required volume). For the brown layer, I used quite a few  very large cardboard boxes (saved and snagged from local retailers), a few 2013 phone books, and all the paper-based recycling we could scrounge. For the green, clippings from the first mowing, and bark and sticks from the tree I felled last year (from the pile waiting for the chipper), then random dead cuttings from the herbs and flowers. Normally our lawn produces a recycle bin of cut grass–this year, I raised the mower deck to its tippy toes to accommodate the wet lawn and encourage even growth. The result: a relative tablespoon of cuttings. Maybe there’ll be more for the next bed.

The results, before adding dirt:

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Note: the funnel cake-shaped roll of paper in the compost cage was added to retain the contents initially, just in case the grid was too large. It rained the next day, crumpling the paper. I dumped compost on top–the cage held it just fine.

Day before yesterday, I started liberating the nice black dirt from our big raised bed next to the fence (and associated tree roots). Plenty of dirt to top off the keyhole bed, my optimistic lobe said. Not quite. 3/4 of it moved and still a good ten inches (x 6 feet) to go. I’ll scrounge dirt from other sources around the yard, then see what it costs to buy a trailer load from our local landscaping supply yard.  I’ll probably pay their suburb-jacked prices to go easy on our minivan versus driving significantly further out. (We need the van–a 2005 Caravan with 130k–to last a few more years. It shows my age to think that anything made after the magical year 2000 AD–like my daughter–still sounds new.)

So bed #1 has become our learning (or teaching) garden, providing a realistic estimate of work and materials needed  to build a keyhole bed: a template that we can plug into our garden budget and calendar. Having that info on hand has freed us to think about other garden-related dependencies to address before or while the second bed goes up.

And when it’s all done, then we shall bask in the admiration of our neighbors…

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Or, more likely…

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24 Mar

Keyhole Garden Battery #1: Ground Breaking to Build Up

Keyhole garden #1 progress made on Saturday, 3/22/2014.  Cost $0, thanks to the stones retrieved from a raised bed I’m razing to the West (left/downhill of the photo frame).

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Yesterday I found enough cardboard and paper products (just barely) to layer the bottom and sides, followed by bark from a tree I felled last year and the first Spring lawn cuttings. (I finished that work in the dark, so no photos yet.) I also made a compost cage from materials on hand: tomato cage wrapped several times with wire fencing.  Yesterday, I broke ground on the second bed just uphill (you can see it staked out in the bottom photo), but am focusing on finishing the first bed before I do more with the second. 

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Tonight, I’ll pick up a few blocks for the keyhole inset (it’s fairly shallow), scavenge the creek banks tonight for some more dry green material, fill in the compost cage (from our existing compost bin), and start transferring the dirt from the old raised bed.  Bed #1 is on the steepest pitch–about a 12 inch drop from the upper to the lower side, but the bed bottom is flat: built up on the lower end and dug into the ground on the upper. It’s two feet deep with a three foot compost cage, with a six foot interior diameter.

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Our motivation behind this effort, aside from Fun with Gardening and Reducing Water usage (even though we live in the Portland metro area, water’s still expensive): The dogs were rough on the backyard over the winter, removing much of the thin layer of sod long the rise and further down. The photo above shows some of that damage. The placements are ideal: during much of the Spring and all of the summer, both beds will be in full sunlight nearly all day long. Though the yard is on the north side of the house, it’s high enough in the upper end to stay out of the house’s shadow.

Given the shape of the garden wall, the kids were sad to learn that I was filling it with dirt. The dogs helped by sleeping in the sun most of the day.

 

24 Mar

Mason Bees Breakout

…break out of their cocoons, that is. While they’re easy bees to “keep” they’re tricky to place. They need to be near a source of mud (the more sticky clay, the better) to furnish their tubes/nest and near a Spring food supply (pollen). Fortunately they have a range of 300-400 feet, so it was more a matter of what do I want them to see first and how do I keep them happy.

So I placed them near the food (two bloomin’ plum trees) about 4 feet up on a shared fenceline and turned over some earth below the nest. There’s a creek about 25 feet away for extra mud if they need it. There’s rosemary blooming about 20 feet in the other direction and soon early blueberries in bloom, too.

I watched two hatch yesterday and take off like Harrier jets straight for the plum trees. Four others were already out and about. That leaves four more to hatch. I expect they’ll be out and about in the next few days.

Photos are still in the camera.

20 Mar

Chagall’s Green Fiddler

marc-chagall-the-green-violinist-1923-2420 or so years ago, my Mother, ever the garage sailor, remembered that I was a fan of Chagall and brought this over one day after a successful voyage into the Western Reach (Hillsboro, I think). She was fairly sure I didn’t have any print of his Green Violinist and said this painting made her think of me. I think the fiddler looks a little mad or possessed and may be possessing the village around him–or infecting them joyously with his art. Like Roaring, it’s sat on my desk for the last 20 years, a companion to Roaring in spirit (not style). Both are in our bedroom closet for now. I’ve captured what I need for the time being from both (and was gifted with a replacement that’s a message from Deborah) and she and I decided a change would be nice.

20 Mar

The Roaring World

20140319_203039Until a month ago, this hung or rested above my home desk for 10 years. It figures in  the balrog story in progress. My mother found it at a garage 20 or more years ago, thought of me, and gifted it for the heck of it. I love it, busted frame and all. Its replacement, I love more.

I’ve Googled and Ducked and Yahooed it to no avail. The artist is a mystery to me and that’s just fine.

20 Mar

Mason Bee Ranching

This was my early birthday present from Debby and the kids:

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–a Mason Bee kit, with house, paper tubes, and bees–in larval stage, currently in the fridge until I tack the hive onto our backyard fence this weekend. Our son Adam is working at a local beekeeping supply store, Bee Thinking, and helped Debby with the purchase. I’ve been interested in raising honey bees but we have bee allergies at home, so this was the family compromise.

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The Mason Bees won’t produce honey, but they’re industrious little pollen spreaders. They’re half the size of honey bees, the workers sting only if crushed, and produce such a small amount of venom that the risk of anaphylactic shock is very low.

14 Mar

Found On Internet – Excellence

Get Reading And Soar….

or FOIE GRAS tm

Look for my chain of link-sharing kiosks opening in malls across Merica soon. My plan is to seed all populous locations with kiosks and then, on a secret signal, assemble them into a monolithic superstore (shaped like a goose) and crush the independent link shops. Because nothing has a laugh more sinister than a goose (except perhaps a swan, and they’re federally protected, so…)

Gander powers, activate!

The Xylanthians are already among us (Yes, I’m Sirius! You’ll C!)
http://xkcd.com/1342/

Why you can’t read past this link, if you made it this far
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/02/why-writers-are-the-worst-procrastinators/283773/

Some of these are on my reading list now. Note, none are about Bender, the Futurama character, although perhaps someone should write one.
http://io9.com/this-years-most-mind-expanding-book-about-gender-1524862506

“Bitch!” “Wow, you say it like it’s not a compliment!”
http://www.stackedbooks.org/2014/03/the-unlikable-female-protagonist-field.html

Peter Watts on how Silverbacks React to Eye Contact or Who’s Watchin’ the Watchmen
http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=4689

Finally, just get the job done
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2014/03/you-dont-have-to-write-every-day.html

(Sorry, it’s the emergence of sunshine and the resulting colors in a humid yet crisp atmosphere.)