Sunday, December 16, 2012

Logging in... so to speak. *grin*

Hello everyone! How have you been? I've been learning something new! It's an Eastern European way of building raised beds in the garden, called "hugelkultur." (The best I can do on the pronunciation is "hoogal culture.")

Anyhow, hugelkultur is based on the fact that rotten wood holds water like a sponge. You lay down a bed of logs, then cover it with an active compost pile, a layer of leaves, and a layer of soil. If you have manure to hand, you layer it in with the leaves. At every step you water the hugelkultur bed thoroughly, unless you live somewhere that is already soaked by too much rain. Here in Kansas we are suffering in a drought, and so we HAD to water the ground in order to soften it up enough for digging before we even started our garden bed.

Hugelkultur beds can be built at ground level, in a trench, or in a deep trench. The beds which are built at ground level can be up to six feet high... which is rather daunting for a home garden, lol... a three foot mound of logs covered by three feet of compost and soil. If you have a three foot layer of rotting logs filled with water, you can go a couple months at a time without watering your garden bed.

Me, I am not so ambitious! My layer of logs is only one foot thick, and I anticipate a garden three feet high. We dug a bed for the logs, so the first foot of the bed will be underground, bringing the top of the bed to two feet--a good height for a raised bed.

A project like this calls for help, so Mr. Muscles came over from mext door. He and Gryph did the heavy work. I am so grateful! This is our third big project of the fall; the first two were moving the compost pile and moving the utility-shelf garden bed. I took pics!
Here is what remained of the old compost pile. Most of it has already been used on the existing garden beds; the rest has been now spread around Grandmother Maple's roots.

Here is the new compost bin. Utilitarian yes, beautiful yes. It is holding seven bags of leaves in this pic; they've settled a lot.

This is the utility shelf that we never knew what to do with. Last year, we laid it down on its back under a hackberry tree and filled it with oak leaves, then planted potatoes in the leaves. Fail. The taters sprouted and grew enough to bloom, but never set spuds. This year we mixed in finished compost and an extra bag of potting soil, then planted herbs and blackberries. Half-fail; the parsley, thyme, and lemon mint all did well, as did the volunteer morning glories; the sage died in summer's heat; the blackberries languished and one of them died. Then came the BIG fail: the bermuda grass invaded through my neighbor's fence and completely colonized the bed. So the parsley, the thyme, and the blackberries have been transplanted to the raspberry bed and the shelf has been pulled away from the soil, taken to a new place and refilled. This year's batch is mixed leaves, mostly-finished compost, and another bag of potting soil. This planter also gets to winter over fallow and will be planted come spring... unless I change my mind and plant something in it now. You never know.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, hugelkultur!!! This two-shovelfuls-deep bed has been dug out in stages, because we had to water it a couple times to get it diggable. The soil is unrelieved clay. Here you see the bed all dug out, with various pieces of rotting wood gathered from around the yard. We filled it to the top with water and it drained pretty quickly becuse the subsoil is so very dry from this drought; that clay just sucked the water right in.

Here they are, Gryph and Mr. Muscles. You can see the sacrifical logs, the utility shelf bed, and the hugelkultur bed in this pic, as well as the pile of soil Mr. Muscles dug out the bed.

The sacrificial logs. These came from our neighbors ash tree a couple years ago, from a huge limb that fell in a storm... I guess that makes them the sacrificial limbs.

Gryph and Mr. Muscles depleting the woodpile, ever so very slowly depleting it that is. It's a pretty darned big woodpile. The dead-looking plant in front of Mr. Muscles is my witch hazel, which I grew all summer in a five gallon bucket and which Gryph and I transplanted a couple weekends ago. The hole we planted it into had been used for a mini-compost pile this past summer.

Beautiful! See how that top piece is already rotting? Gonna hold loads of water!

Nothing if not practical, Mr. Muscles solves two problems at once: how to reach every corner to put in all the wood without getting his shoes muddy, and how to get the logs into good contact with the ground.

OH yeah, baby, now that's what I'm talkin' about! We are logging in!


Now that the bed of logs is laid, it has to be watered again. We filled it till the logs started floating (so much for good contact with the ground, lol). Next step comes tomorrow, transferring the top foot of the compost pile to the logs. Then it will be watered again, covered with a thick layer of leaves, watered again, and covered with that mound of soil that came out of the hole to begin with. And, yes, watered again! At that point, we'll have to consider putting some kind of weed barrier around the bed to keep it from being colonized, like the utility shelf bed was colonized, by bermuda grass.

This is the beginning of the next hugelkultur bed. That tiny spot of bright green in the photo's upper left is the holder for the clothesline... dunno if we got it too close or not. We're limited by tree roots in a lot of the yard. You can see by the remianing water that the yard slopes pretty noticeably.

These bags are filled with ivy and weeds that came off the north wall of the house a couple months ago. They are laying on the site of the old compost pile, which had been built over a layer of sand left from masonry repair work. The compost is spread out but the sand still sits there, irresistible to our many neighborhood cats--so we covered it.

Now what? Hugelkultur is burning a groove in my brain and I did seriously wonder if these bags packed full of dry roots and vines could be the base of a raised bed, but they really aren't dense enough. I think they are the beginning of a second compost pile. Now we just have to get more stakes and something to use for sides.
See you the next time I take pictures!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I made a.....

*walks in, chortling softly* I'm makin' something, I'm makin' something!! I'm makin' a ... a... *walks around it, taking a careful look* um, is it supposed to... *doubtful look* really, I thought it might be more... well, um, more.... but hey! I'm makin'... um... a Make! Yes that's right, I'm makin' a Make. A Real Make.

It's a kind of a laminated Make, upcycled. Yes, an upcycled laminated Make.

*takes another careful look* Tis a useful sort of upcycled laminated Make. *nods* Oh not so useful as a Chocolate Chip Cookie Make, or a Walnut Brownie Make; I freely admit this! It could not possibly be so useful. Doesn't smell near so good and the waiting time is rather unnerving. But all the same *nods again* I am making A Really Useful Upcycled Laminated Make.

Here are the ingredients: 3 used shipping boxes, each cut in two; two bottles of school glue; some masking tape; a bunch of old catalogs. Eventually I will need some spray sealer and probably some screws. Then I'll have to decide if this Make gets painted, or left as is.

I believe this laminating process could be called papier decoumapage, or possibly papier decoumache (ummm, decoumapage will be just fine, thank you). It's pretty messy and I had to wash my hands twice when I was done BUT when a person is makin' A Really Useful Upcycled Decoumapagely Laminated Make she has to sacrifice just a little for the cause. *nods*

It started out rather annoyingly; we kicked the boxes around in the hallway for a while before I figured out what I wanted to make. Gryph was less than pleased but, I admit, I was stubborn. And I used a lotta masking tape figuring it out, so then I had no choice. I had to make a Make once I used up the masking tape.

You can see that the boxes needed a little work before I decoumapaged them. They sort of needed a little work while I decoumapaged them, too.

The decoumapaging has been done: front, back, inside, upside down, one layer. It is no longer a buncha boxes to be tripped over. It is a Make, a Real Sturdy Make. Can you imagine finding something so really very useful in nothing but discards?

It's a versatile kind of A Really So Very Useful Sturdy Upcycled Decoumapagely Laminated Make. It could go sideways.

Or not. Probably not, because A Versatile Kind Of A Really So Very Useful Sturdy Upcycled Decoumapagely Laminated Make will fit best on the wall if it is vertical. Maybe it will live on the kitchen countertop. And yanno, right now for some reason I am seriously inclined to fill it with Tupperware.

*wanders out singing "I made a Make, I made a Make, a REAL Make, I made a MAKE!*

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hello there! I have been busy reclaiming my soul, one stroke at a time. Folk art patterns, watercolor pencils, and Pigma Micron pens are the tools in my rebirth. At the top you can see some of the watercolor drawings that I have done, including the blue stars that I have started tangling already.

Underneath, you can see the greeting cards I have already finished. The green on the pears, by the way, is actually a softer, yellower green. I think my camera wasn't quite accurate.

The inkwork patterns I use are all Zentangle patterns. You can find more at

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The nicest surprise in the yard this year: two of the volunteer sunflowers, covered with volunteer morning glories. Have no idea what variety the sunflower is, but the morning glories are an heirloom variety, "Grandpa Ott." They're a deep purple with crimson throats, and they just glow in the sunshine.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I dearly love my watercolor pencils. Never really had a chance to play with them before. This is a folk-art bird pattern which I have made my own.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day, 2012

A gorgeous sweet scented gift from the earth; this is my Mock Orange.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spring garden post with pics!

Her Pinkness sprawls across the corner of two yards; this is only part of her glory. She is repeated from yard to yard to yard across the neighborhood. Someday I will find someone who knows her name.

Senetti is the unexpected star of this year's garden. She brings us butterflies of various kinds. Because the wind kept blowing her over, she ius tucked into a pot which currently contains two American elderberries. You can see one at the front of the pot.

This is the old metal shelf unit that I repurposed for a raised garden bed. It's filled with compost and sticks, lots and lots of sticks. The blackberries are Triple Crown and the strawberries are Ft Laramie. Various herbs share the space also, including garden sage, thyme, lemon mint, and parsley.

The cherry trees are in a bed which was layered with compost and leaves. The clay is as sticky and bricklike as they come, and so there is a layer of half-done compost on top. It's made a big difference. You can see that the onions and asparagus like it just fine. The bags in the background are what is left of the gift of leaves.

The Mock Orange smells so beautiful this year! I'm waiting for the day when it bursts into exuberant bloom like Her Pinkness did; should be tomorrow or the next day!

The Long View, lol... these are the various pots on the driveway, including my strawberries from last year, the red-veined sorrel, the lilac, and a new rose. Behind them are the trees--hard to see, I know--on the far right (in the southwest corner of the yard) is the apricot, then the peach (not leafed out), then the two plums toward the southeast.

This is the long raspberry bed in process. Gryph the Garden Builder did much of the work on this one. It started with a layer of sticks which was trampled down to six inches; after that came layer after layer of leaves and dirt (with lots more sticks mixed in) which we were gifted by a neighbor after a yard cleanup.

Just a few more bags of leaves and dirt to go...

The finished bed!