Friday, November 27, 2009

New Blog Layout!

I am in the process of finding and detailing a new blog layout.  I've been seeing several permaculture related blogs with my exact layout (I'm pretty sure they all copied me since they were all started after mine), and I want my website to be unique so it is easy to identify.  Someday I hope to have the time and money to design a totally customized website with my blog as a part of it, but for now I am sticking to layouts that I can find on the internet for free.

So, if you come back this weekend or later, and looks completely different from what you've come to expect, don't panic because you're still in the right place.  Also, if I pick a new layout let me know how you feel about it and why, whether you love it or hate it.  I want my readers to be happy while they spend time on my site, so I'm going to be very receptive to any feedback you have.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, and I wish you a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I think permies, perhaps more than most people, have a particularly strong sense about what Thanksgiving is really all about.  I want to briefly share my thoughts about Thanksgiving with you before the holiday.

Despite what I believe most people were taught about Thanksgiving in American schools, it has nothing to do with Native American's helping out the Pilgrims during hard times.  And I disagree that it, in the words of President Obama, is a "quintessentially American holiday."  I think when and how we celebrate it now is probably very American, but Thanksgiving is "quintessentially" a fall harvest festival.

To me, Thanksgiving is about celebrating the bountiful harvest of the fall, when the plants go nuts because the oppressive heat of the summer sun has finally subsided, and they can finally flourish.  Thanksgiving is a celebration of growing enough during the good days to be able to make it through the colder, darker days of winter.  Thanksgiving is about family and community, because it originated with families and communities feasting in celebration of their hard work, the bounty that hard work has brought to them, and the fact that the most grueling harvesting work of the year is finally over.  I believe Thanksgiving is probably known as Thanksgiving precisely because it is very natural, after the hard but bountiful fall harvest, to reflect back on everyone and everything it took to accomplish that harvest, and be thankful.  Finally, I think the fall harvest celebrations, throughout history, were about reminding yourself that no matter how hard the coming winter might be, things would end up ok... after growing, storing, and saving the food needed to make it through the winter, there was still enough to have a feast.

On Thanksgiving, I like to reflect not only on the people and events that have shaped my life, but also on what this time of year has meant to other peoples throughout history.  I am thankful for the lessons that they have taught, and I am thankful that those lessons have not been lost, and are in fact being rekindled through movements like permaculture.  I am thankful that in this modern day and age, and through a movement like permaculture, I can share my thoughts from Tucson, AZ with like-minded individuals in Victoria BC, San Francisco CA, Portland OR, Hempstead NY, and even as far as Abu Dhabi in the UAE, and Adelaide Australia.  Thank you for the support you've given me by visiting and reading my blog.  Whether or not you celebrate Thanksgiving, I wish you a bountiful harvest in all of your permaculture projects, your attempts to better our planet, and most importantly, the happiness those can bring to your lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Ideas for 2010: Move to Portland or A New Internship?

As anyone who has been reading my blog knows, I unfortunately was not selected for an internship with the Bullock Homestead.  I am disappointed of course, but there is always 2011!

In the meantime, I am trying to find something to replace it with that will be a big step forward towards my homesteading dream.  Since I am planning on homesteading in NW Oregon or SW Washington, my main plan is to move to Portland as soon as I can.  From there it will be much easier to look at potential parcels of land and start to build community with other permies in the area.  Portland also has plenty of opportunities for me to learn permaculture in less intensive ways than an internship with the Bullocks.  I subscribe to a Google Calendar that can be found here, and it is full of awesome environmental and permacultural opportunities around Portland that I hope to take advantage of when I move up there.  (In fact, this calendar is probably the best resource for Pacific NW permie events that exists.  Check it out, I guarantee you'll find it useful if you're in the Cascadia region.  And make sure to drop Jocelyn an email to tell her how awesome she is!)

Despite Portland being my most likely location come spring or summer next year, I haven't entirely given up on finding an intensive internship either.  Last night, I decided to browse around for some new permaculture internships, and it reminded me that I also had been thinking about taking a natural building workshop from the Cob Cottage Company in Coquille, OR.  So since I was planning on being in Portland next year anyway, I decided to see what workshops were available.  And while browsing their website, what did I find?  That's right, another intensive internship to apply for!  Paul Dillon, a cob workshop instructor, will be teaching a natural building internship in Tipperary, Ireland. (Which is awesome!  I feel like natural building techniques are less area specific than learning permaculture, so Ireland should be just fine.  The skills will translate even if the materials differ.)  The internship runs from April 1st until October 31st next year, the same time I was planning on staying at the Bullock's.  And other than airfare to Ireland, there is no cost!  So of course, I emailed for information about how to apply.  I'll keep you all posted on how it goes!

MIDNIGHT UPDATE: After writing everything above, I looked into getting a visa to the UK and how much it costs.  It's not looking so great.  I'm definitely still going to apply and get information from the instructors about getting a visa, but we'll see how it goes.  If there isn't some kind of special exception since the internship and living arrangements are free, then I'll have to come up with £3600, which is about $6000!  I won't necessarily have to spend much of it, but the UK would require me to prove that I have it before they'd issue me a visa.  I guess I might have to start a pie chart on the side for my GOTu Ireland fund. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thoughts on Civil Disobedience

I have just finished reading "Civil Disobedience" by Henry David Thoreau for probably the tenth time.  I usually try to read it once every 6 months or so, for inspiration.  I would like to share a quote from it that comes from the closing paragraph:

I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose, if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellowmen.  A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which also I have imagined, but not yet anywhere seen.

This paragraph strikes me as one that all permies will probably agree with.  We all hope to live in a State that is "just to all men" and women.  We look to treat each other (and nature!) with respect as a neighbor, and in many ways we do seek to be "aloof" from the system, or rather, the systems of dependence that most American's are umbilically linked to, such as the food system, energy system, etc.  Does the government stand in the way of people producing their own food? Or creating their own energy?  Is the government comfortable with people being able to take care of themselves, or does it crave dependence of the citizenry as a justification for its existence?  Some would say yes, and others would say no.  Thoreau would say it doesn't matter, that whether or not the government is standing in your way it is your personal duty to pursue that which you think is right, whether it be energy independence, food independence, or anything else... even at the risk of being imprisoned or persecuted!

"Civil Disobedience" was written 160 years ago, but it still makes poignant points about how people should live their lives today.  Putting conscientiousness ahead of personal wants or the demands of government strikes me as a very "permie-esque" way to think about things.  Right livelihood, appropriate technology, fair share; all of these paradigms are built around ideas that I believe Thoreau would've wholeheartedly embraced.  I also think that civil disobedience does not always have to involve breaking the law.  Simply refusing to participate in activities you deem as unjust is a form of civil disobedience, especially if refusing to do so is considered "outside the norm."  Some see designing your life to be in harmony with nature, designing your home to produce for you and others, growing your own food, refusing to eat GM foods, refusing to be a "typical" consumer, storing food, learning primitive survival skills, seeking personal energy independence, producing as much as I can for myself so that I can be taxed less by not having to buy so much, bartering, and many of the other things I am doing or learning in pursuit of my homestead, as odd or outside the norm (or even illegal).  But to me, pursuing this type of life is simply living the way I think I'm meant to live, and I suppose in some cases they could be considered civil (or social) disobedience.  I like to think that Thoreau would approve.

When discussing permaculture, homesteading, or self-sufficiency, if Thoreau comes up I know most people would probably assume Walden would be the book that's being talked about.  But I think "Civil Disobedience" carries a lot of important ideas that can be carried into permaculture and homesteading.  Do you agree that permaculture can be considered civil or social disobedience?  In what ways do you think you civilly disobey?

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Permie Homestead Unified Beliefs, Part 4: Political Ideas

This post is Part 4 in my "Permie Homestead Unified Beliefs" series.  If you are new to my site and haven't read any of the posts leading up to this one, you can catch up on the other ones by visiting the introduction.  This is the second to last post, where I will be talking about some of my political views.  This will be the last post where I describe my own various beliefs.  In Part 5, the final part in this series, I will try to explain how permaculture ties all of the beliefs I shared with you in the first post together.

Because my political beliefs are complicated, I think it will be best to describe them by describing the political party I sometimes think about trying to start.  A few years ago, when my environmentalism began to reach full stride, a friend and I were talking about the fact that my beliefs were somewhat "hippie" and somewhat  conservative.  We joked about starting a political party called the "Hippublicans."  Problem is, "hippie" can be somewhat of a derogatory term, and I don't want my party to be associated with the Republican party even in rhyme.  So, I filed the idea in the back of my mind, and forgot about it for a while.

Later, I started reading about some of the original tenets of libertarian thought.  Notice again, dear readers, my use of the lower case "l" in libertarian.  The Libertarian party is a bit wacko, but the original libertarian ideas have some merit.  I realized the conservative thoughts I had were much closer to original libertarian thinking than to today's so-called conservativism.  And my "hippie" thoughts mostly have to do with ecology, so I finally came up with the name of my party.  The Ecotarian party.  Or so I thought.  I typed Ecotarian into Google, and found out that it's already taken by a movement similar to the localvore movement.  So, I have a philosophy that weighs environmentalism/ecology and individual liberty both very heavily, but I can't come up with a good name for it.  If you have an idea for me, let me know.  For now, let's call it the Eco-liberty party

To summarize my political beliefs before going in-depth (design from patterns to details, right?), the Eco-liberty party would be a hybrid of the Green Party and original libertarian thought, taking the best from both sides and mashing them together.  It would definitely be what most American's would consider a 3rd party.  In my political science studies, I have always seen the defining principle of a 3rd party as focusing on individual liberty, and not on expansion of government powers.  In my mind "traditional" parties, such as the Republicans and Democrats, focus on overly large social structures, globalization, and disempowering the individual by creating structures of dependence on the government.  3rd parties seem to be the parties that focus on manageable social structures (community level), localization, and individualism (as well as individual responsibility for solving problems such as those described in part 2 of this series), and independence from sluggish governmental/social structures.  If you are a permaculture enthusiast, and you describe yourself as a Republican, I urge you to learn about the original ideas of libertarianism.  I bet you'll be surprised.  Likewise, if you are a permaculture enthusiast, and you describe yourself as a Democrat, I urge you to learn more about the Green party.  If you do check these out but you don't change your mind, that's fine with me... at least you will have observed and interacted, and probably learned something and expanded your mind a little, as well as strengthened your knowledge about your beliefs.

Now, to get into a little more detail.  I believe that nothing is more important than the environment, including the most serious human/social issues we face.  Without a healthy and balanced environment, none of those issues would even be possible.  I'm sure I'm mostly preaching to the choir on this one, but in case I have new readers who're new to permaculture and environmentalism, I want to be sure to stress that everything is part of the environment.  The economy is built on products created from resources gathered from the environment.  The service, sale, and transfer of those goods takes place within the environment.  It should go without question that the economy is part of and subservient to the environment.  Questions of whether dealing with climate and environmental issues would "cripple" the economy are moot, because without a healthy environment, the economy will eventually fall to pieces anyway.  For my own personal cherry on top, I like to point out the etymology of the word economy.  Economy comes from the Latin oeconomia which meant "household manager."  And what is the environment if not the largest household of which we are all a part?  To have a healthy economy, you have to manage a healthy "household," and the earth and it's environment is everyone's household.

Second only in importance to the environment is individual liberty.  Every person should be free and entitled to provide for themselves, their family, and their community to the best of their abilities.  This is where my libertarian thoughts come into play.  I feel strongly that individuals should be allowed to do almost anything that they please to improve their life.  There is of course an important caveat that can be summed up perfectly by a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said "the right for me to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."  I interpret this to mean that you are free to do whatever you like, as long as you don't negatively impact those around you.  Speak freely, produce food, make money, store and conserve resources, etc.  But of course while you can, you should not speak to harm anyone, steal or hoard food or resources, focus solely on making money, or think only about yourself, because then by exercising your own liberty, you may be impeding on the liberty of others.

I believe so strongly in individual liberty that I believe it should be carried out to all possible extremes, within the boundary of not infringing on the individual liberty of others, or damaging the environment.  I believe all people have the complete and inalienable ownership of their body.  This means women should be free to get an abortion if they so choose, and no person or organization has the right to force anyone to ingest any substance or incur any physical interaction that they do not wish to.  I believe drugs should be legalized in similar ways to alcohol and tobacco, and that people who choose to partake have the liberty to do so.  I believe people should be given the opportunity to produce the healthiest food they possibly can for themselves, and that healthy food should be made available and affordable for those who do not produce it; or they can eat all the junk food they want.  And I believe that other people should not be allowed to infringe on any person's right to do those things, unless of course by doing so they are stepping on someone else's toes.  This of course can be a gray area in some situations, and I don't pretend to have answers for all of those, but I think when in question, we should err on the side of an individual's rights above anything else (other than the environment, of course).

Finally, I know this post didn't go into nitty-gritty detail, but I think what I have said probably answers most other more detailed political questions.  My own guideline usually goes something like "If I were alive 20,000 years ago, was I free to do this?"  Almost always the answer is yes.  I next ask, "by doing this, am I creating or inviting harm/hurt/danger into someone else's life?"  If the answer is no, I proceed to "By doing this, am I causing harm/hurt/danger to the environment?"  If my answer to the last question is no, then I usually have my answer to almost any political or individual liberty question.  Try it yourself!

In my next post, I will try to summarize what all of the ideas I have shared in these previous posts have to do with permaculture, my homestead, and why I have chosen these as the direction for my lifestyle.  I expect that my 5th and final post could push 2000 or more words (and I don't want to break it into two parts, this has gone on long enough!), so bare with me while I work on it.  I of course want it to be a quality post.  Thanks, as always, for reading!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Permie Homestead Unified Beliefs, Part 3: Economics and Localization

This is Part 3 in a series I call "My Permie Homestead Unified Beliefs."  If you are new to my site, check out the introduction to see what this series is all about, plus links to the first two parts.  IMPORTANT NOTE: Because of the time between when I envisioned this post and when it is being posted, I am going to take a cop out and come back to it more at a later date.  Since posting my introduction to this series, I have been reading a lot about financial permaculture, slow money, and other systems of finance and economics that I want to explore more before I can write a post like this as well thought out as I want it to be.  But, I will share a few of my thoughts so this post isn't entirely hollow.

Another topic that I have complex ideas about is economics, and once again Permaculture answers some of my questions for me.  As the introduction post says, I have thoughts and feelings about taxes, money, the economy, and globalization/localization that don't always fit well with each other, or with some of my other personal paradigms.

As everyone is aware, the economy of the United States and of other countries all across the world have been faltering this year and last.  The solution the US government and many other governments have pursued has been to issue "bailouts" or "stimulus" packages for failing banks and faltering corporations.  In the last twelve months, the United States has passed legislation to spend nearly $2 billion in this fashion.  Because the government budget was already in deficit, this stimulus and bailout money was entirely deficit spending, which basically amounts to creating money out of thin air.

Economics may be where I do not necessarily share the same views as many permaculture enthusiasts.  I generally tend to be small government because the bigger a government is, the more money it spends.  I'm not "low" taxes but I do believe we should only pay necessary taxes.  I also believe in maintaining a conservative household budget, just like I would advocate maintaining a conservative ecological budget.  I will try to give an example of each other these.

As far as small government, as you can probably guess from my earlier paragraph, I am quite against the bailouts and stimulus packages.  They put dangerous strain on our economy by hugely inflating the money supply, and vastly increasing our national debt.  I think of our money supply the way I think of stocks.  Imagine that each dollar bill, printed or electronic, is a "stock certificate" in the United States economy.  In a crude way, it really is.  Foreign exchange (forex) traders buy and sell dollars the way Wall Street buffoons buy and sell stock in companies.  And just like the Wall Streeters are betting on a company when they buy a stock, forex traders are betting on our nations economy when they buy dollars.  When we print money that doesn't really exist to pay for things like bailouts/stimulus packages, we devalue the dollars those people are buying, because anytime there is a lot more of something, it becomes a lot cheaper, right? And guess what, the dollars those forex guys are buying are the same dollars you have in your bank account.  I will now give a shortish lesson on inflation.  If you don't want to read it, skip the next 2 paragraphs.

Imagine you own 10 shares in stock. (It won't ever exist, but we'll say it does for the sake of argument.)  And let's say there are 100 shares of stock available in the world.  And finally, let's say is worth $100.  That means each share is worth $1, and your 10 shares equal $10.  Now, let's say that has been doing well in the market, and I decide I need more shares to sell, and I split my stocks.  So now, instead of 100 shares, there are 200 shares.  But my company is still only worth $100 (until my stock prices start going up) and I have 200 shares on the market, so each share is only worth $0.50 now.  Well, as a shareholder, you are entitled to another 10 shares, bringing your total to 20 shares and maintaining your shareholding value at $10.  Everything balances out nicely, and if you were a shareholder, you'd be quite happy, because now you have twice as many shares to make money off of, right?

Now imagine the exact same scenario.  Let's say the United States has a GDP of $100 (we'll use small numbers so I don't confuse myself) and you have $10 of it in the bank.  Your purchasing power is 10% of the GDP.  (Once again, I know this is a ridiculous number, but the logic carries out if you make the number $46 trillion, or whatever our GDP is.  Trust me, I used to teach math.)  Now, the United States government decides it needs some money to bailout Ford or Chase or whoever, so it prints another $100.  So now, the US economy has $200 in it.  But they never send you another $10 to keep your purchasing power at 10% of GPD.  You still have the same lousy $10 in the bank, and your purchasing power has dropped to 5% of GDP.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the basic gist of inflation.  (For anyone interested, the numbers are more like a GDP of $46 trillion, and the bailouts/stimulus packages created about $2 trillion, plus another unaudited production of about $4 trillion by the Federal Reserve, all on the Fiscal Year 2009 budget. This means that in 2009 alone, the money supply expanded by about 13% of GDP, and the one dollar package of spaghetti noodles you bought on January 1st, 2009 will cost $1.15 on December 31st, 2009.

Naturally, I see this kind of spending that leads to massive inflation as a slow robbery of my money, and I reject it's validity, therefore rejecting the validity of bailouts/stimulus packages.  Next, I'd like to discuss what I mean by "necessary" taxes.  The most obvious one is our military spending.  While I do think military spending is necessary, I absolutely do NOT think it is necessary in the volumes the we spend it.  Our annual military budget is larger than something like the next 5 countries combined.  This is enormously too much, and I believe it could even be dangerous to our liberties should someone even crazier than some of our more recent presidents (and I do intent the plural, I'm not just talking about "W" here) become elected.  Not to mention of course the danger it implies to anyone we decide to go after.  If we spent a lot less on the military, we wouldn't be able to engage in so many quagmires.  We might even have to keep our troops home, defending our ports and borders from foreign invasion/attack, but otherwise going about their training and leaving the rest of the world alone.  We would probably make a lot fewer countries angry with us, and hopefully the desire to terrorize our country might subside a bit as well.  This has gotten long enough, so I won't explain any more examples of where spending less might solve some of our problems, and I bet you can think of others.  Basically, I want our nations leaders to set our tax policy to the original meaning of "conservative" economics, which involves conservation of dollars.

And speaking of conservation, this brings me to my last topic, keeping a conservative household budget.  Again, please notice the lower-case "c" on the word conservative.  I'm not talking about the Republican political party's idea of what conservative means, I'm talking about the original meaning of conservative, namely... conservation, saving, protecting, preserving for the future.  That conservative.  So in the household, I think people should learn to spend less money, save more money, consume less material, consume less resources, just consume less in general.  I think credit cards are a bad idea.  There is a Native American proverb you have probably heard that says "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors.  We borrow it from our grandchildren."  I think the same logic applies to using credit in your household budget.  "Credit appears to better our lives today, but it borrows from our happiness tomorrow."  I don't know if anyone has said that before, and if they haven't, you can quote me.  So, to sum it up, I think people should conserve their money and household economies the same way they try to conserve water, forests, the soil, and any number of other things.  Remember, the economy IS part of the environment, so your household economy is part of your personal environment.  Be ecological in all things.

Finally, I would like to say that I will definitely be writing another post about economics sometime in the future.  As I mentioned before, I am only now starting to read about slow money, financial permaculture, etc., and I would like to revisit how permaculture effects my personal beliefs about the economy once I know more about those topics.  And I didn't even touch on localization because this post is already far too long.

Thanks as always for reading.  Please comment if you have the time after reading this treatise and let me know what you think.  And if you have made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back.  Heck, if you've made it this far, comment and let me know, and I'll issue you an "official" share for my imaginary stock certificates.  And please come back soon to read the next post in my "Permie Homestead Unified Beliefs" series, which will probably be the most controversial post of all since I will be talking about politics. (Cue dramatic music!)  Political Science was my major in college, so I can't help but slip a little bit of politics into this blog.  And you've got to admit I've done pretty alright so far with sticking to permaculture/gardening/etc.  Anyhow, bye for now, and all the good things to you.

Monday, November 09, 2009

False Start, On Kyle, 5 Day Penalty...

Repeat suspense of waiting to hear from the Bullocks about an internship. 

It appears I may have jumped the snap a little bit on assuming I didn't get the internship with the Bullocks.  I guess I'm too much of a stickler for deadlines.  I received an email a bit ago from the intern coordinator at the Bullock Homestead saying they are a bit behind schedule due to the volume of applications they have received this year.  I guess I'll find out in a few days whether or not I land an interview.  Exciting, because it means I'm still in the running, but scary because it means I might have to suffer the same emotions I did on Friday all over again.  I'll just wait and see, and I'll make sure to keep you posted!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Looking for a New Internship

As anyone who has read my blog in the past couple of days knows, I did not get the internship with the Bullock Homestead that I was hoping for.  I'm sure it is a pretty competitive process, and since I'm still a relative new-comer to permaculture, I'll probably have better luck next year.

This brings me to my next dilemma though.  I was definitely banking on getting that internship, and I've structured my life so that I'd be able to leave the "real world" for 7 months and go up to Orcas Island.  So now I have a mindset for 2010 that involves some kind of long-term permaculture internship, and since that has been my thinking for the past 5 months, it's hard to turn around and think "well, I'll just start on a regular career and figure it out some other way."  This is where I need some help.

I've been looking for alternatives to the Bullock Homestead where I could be a long-term intern.  I prefer to find a place in western Oregon or Washington, and anywhere close to the Portland area would be perfect.  Does anyone know of a good homestead where I might be able to land an internship?  Preferably I'd like to take one from someone who also offers a PDC and might be willing to trade me a PDC for a little extra intern work.  Does anyone know of any permaculture schools that offer a long-term internship that includes a PDC?

I'd also be willing to take an internship with anyone who has a less "official" permaculture homestead, as long as you would be ok with sharing your surplus and a tent space with me.  I budgeted about $200 a month for the Bullock internship, so that would be the most I'd be able to afford to pay you a month for various expenses, since I have a few other bills I'll have to be paying until at least June.  If any of my readers in the NW want to "room and board" me that would be an awesome way for you to share your surplus a little bit.  I'd be happy to exchange my labor, good humor, and devilish good looks (see, there's an example of my humor right there... have you seen my profile picture?) in return for your permaculture knowledge, some delicious permaculture food, and some ground to sleep on.  Contact me if this is something you might be able to do, and we can discuss the details.

If anyone has any suggestions for "official" permaculture schools, or thinks they might be interested in hosting me, please feel free to contact me with a comment on the blog, with an email, through Twitter, or using my Google Voice link (the button for that is on the right sidebar, a little lower than this, and it's anonymous if you want it to be, so try it out!).

Friday, November 06, 2009

Internship with the Bullock Homestead

Well, unless the Bullocks intern coordinator is a late-night emailer, it looks like I did not get selected for an interview for the internship, which obviously means I will not be an intern with them next year.  This feels like a very big setback to me right now, and I'm down in the dumps.  I'm going to have to rethink a lot of things now, but it does not mean that I am giving up on my permaculture homesteading dreams.  I was thinking about taking down the timer for the Bullock internship, but I've decided I'm just going to reset it.  Today will be the first day of my new countdown, and April 1st, 2011 will be the ending date.  Yes, that's right, I'm just going to apply again next year and see how it turns out.  It's a long time to wait, but I really think an internship with the Bullocks would be a huge leap forward for my project.  Wish me luck on finding something to replace it with in 2010, and wish me more luck in getting an internship with the Bullocks in 2011.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Garden Beds!

Well, my roommate and I finally got around to building the raised bed gardens for the backyard.  I know I said we'd probably do it Saturday, but it waited until Tuesday.  This post will mostly be pictures, but I'll try to make the captions instructional in case anyone likes our design.  The materials were a bit expensive, but not too complicated and easy to acquire wherever you are.  They are:

12 - 2"x12"x8' planks, 4 of them cut in half to 2"x12"x4' for the short side of the beds.
2 -   4"x4"x8' posts, cut into 2' sections, for the supporting corner posts.
64+ - 3.5" wood screws

First we lined up two post sections on our flat patio, and set a long plank across the two of them.

Here is the view with both posts.

We then lined up the second plank, and drilled in two screws to a plank on each side.  I know the lighting is a little funny, but notice the extra inch or inch and a half at the bottom.  We know theoretically this shouldn't have happened if the wood was all perfect, but it made it MUCH easier to level the beds once we placed them.

My roommate Brian drilling some planks down.

After building both of the long sides, we attached them together with the short planks.  We decided to make all of the planks flush with each other, so in this picture I'm making sure the boards are square with each other, and not with the post.

Another view of the corner being put together.  After drilling the lower one into place, we placed another on top, them squared up the other side and did it again.

Here's Brian putting the finishing touches on the second short side of the bed.

Here is the finished product!  If you can tell, the bed is up-side down, with the extra bit of post sticking up.  We placed them right-side up when we moved them, it was just much easier to make the top of the bed level by constructing them up-side down.  Sorry for the poor lighting, it was just that time of day. 

Probably not good!  My dog figured out he could jump into the bed pretty quickly, and Brian's followed suit.  Oh well, we decided to take a picture with the finished product.  Notice Brian's dog's inability to look at the camera.

The finished garden beds set in place!  This is before we leveled the beds and the ground around them, but it is the first step in the transformation of this backyard from a dusty Arizona desert lot, into a luscious home-scale permaculture!

To finish up the garden beds, I am going to get about 2 cubic yards of cleanfill from a "green" landfill here in Tucson.  I know green landfill doesn't necessarily sound realistic, but I know the guy who operates it, and if any landfill can be considered green, it is his.  The cleanfill I'm hoping to get from his is actually pretty nice as far as dirt goes.  It's not quite soil, but it has decent amounts of organic matter, and smells pretty nice.

After filling the bottom half of the bed with the cleanfill, the top half is going to be soil/compost that I'm going to get from the Tucson Botanical Gardens.  They have excellent soil that will grow almost anything.  So, we're going to be wheel-barrowing and shoveling about 4 cubic yards of soil over the next week or so.  I've already got some seeds started for some winter plants, so hopefully we'll have the beds full or soil by the time the seedlings are ready to be transplanted.  I'll keep you posted!