small garden update

Hello summer! Look at the progress on our garden!

Actual food is growing! Amazing, right? We’re dealing with some wild rabbits and birds trying to get some snacks, but Bear will chase them out (if we tell him to). I’m pretty sure that I saw dog paw prints in there too, but he’s yet to be caught in the act.

Cheers!
Mel

compost bin & garden beds

Hi Reader,

Since we’ve moved into this house (over 4 years ago!), we knew that we wanted to have garden beds. We have green thumbs in both of our families, and both grew up on eating fresh food out of our families’ gardens. Plus, we have the space: our house sits on a half acre. When we moved in, other than the house itself and a few small landscaped beds, the whole half acre was grass. And not nice grass either, but grass that would need a lot of love to be attractive to the eye.

We have already built a 12’x4′ three-section compost bin. And, as time goes on, the plan is to replace even more of the (resource-sucking) grass with things that are useful, such as a shed, swing set and sandbox for Bo, and our garden beds.

Compost Bin:

We built the compost bin a couple years ago. I feel great about it because we have way too much food waste. Like, a ton (this is, of course, something that we’re working on), and now it’s not going into a landfill. Of course, we put grass clippings and compostable yard waste in there too.

What it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in function. The compost bin is comprised of three sections, and the majority of it was reclaimed cedar planks from a fence that fell down prior to us moving into the house. The front panels and panels between the sections can be removed board by board for easy access and compost-turning. The back of the structure is compost mesh to allow the compost to breathe.

Garden Beds:

We’ve just finished building our garden beds. They are next to the compost bin for easy access, and because this corner of the yard gets the best light. Our beds are:

  • Two 4′ x 8′ x 2′ beds made with Alaskan Yellow Cedar (primarily 4′ x 4’s). One of the beds has a trellis for climbing plants, and the wire portion of the trellis is from leftover material that we already had. The wood and 6″ screws were purchased new. The lowest layer is filled with the sod we cut out, then compost, then a dirt/compost mixture (purchased)
  • One 4′ x 4.5′ x 8″ bed made with 8″ x 8″ cedar posts and 2″ x 6″ boards that were scrap wood from another project.
  • One 2′ x 2′ x 8″ bed also made with the wood scraps.

The total cost of the garden materials this year (including the material for the beds, dirt, plants, seeds, and a hose that reaches this corner of the yard) is probably around $750. Of all 5 structures (including the compost bin), only 2 have been made with new materials. And, because we planned and used sturdy materials, we expect them to last. Although expensive, I consider this project to be in two spend categories: 1) Food (reducing future costs), and 2) Hobbies (because we would not have spent as much if we genuinely didn’t enjoy spending time and energy on both the building and the gardening).

Post a comment or link to your garden set up! What has worked and what hasn’t? What will this years’ yields look like for you?

Cheers!
Mel

lifestyle leap, lifestyle creep

As you now know, reader, we “upgraded” (in the classic sense of the word) from a small apartment to a house. Our apartment was 1bd/1ba, 690 sq.ft., and our house is 4bd/2.25ba, 2300 sq.ft. on a half acre. The change was drastic.

As soon as we moved into the house, things started breaking. The house was built in 2003, but looks like it was made with the cheapest materials that 1995 had to offer. Brass boob lights? Check. Beige carpet, walls, ceiling? Check. The house had been empty for almost 5 years, so within the first couple weeks of moving in, all rubber seals cracked. There’s nothing like coming home to the smell of burned plastic, which you soon realize is a result of a cheap, old water heater starting up again for the first time… and then completely failing. After a week or so, I wondered aloud if we could handle this much house.

The money we have spent on this house is astonishing, we’ve purchased a number of appliances, all landscaping had been so overgrown that we ultimately tore it all out and replaced it with new landscaping. The half acre of grass took almost 3 hours to mow with a push mower, so we bought a riding lawn mower. And more tools. And we have been renovating, as the house has outdated finishes, so walls came down, light fixtures have been replaced, curtains purchased and hung, and the list goes on.

In the apartment, we often biked to work, which was fantastic because we lived about 4 miles from work and could bike to work on a paved path. In the house, we live 8 miles from work. Our 40 minute round-trip ride now takes us 80 minutes round-trip. You can probably guess how often we bike with the increased distance, especially considering that life has infinitely more responsibilities. Like, almost never. This is still a hard one to swallow for us.

But, it’s not all bad. It turns out that we both get a lot of fulfillment from doing house projects ourselves. Al has some construction experience from when we was younger, so we rarely hire anyone to do anything in our house or yard (with few exceptions for things that are not worth our time, or are dangerous to do ourselves). As we redo the landscaping, we do it ourselves, digging out old roots, sifting the rocks out of the soil, planting baby trees and shrubs. We have been given some plants as gifts, and we made sure that our front yard is bee-friendly. We’ve built a huge dining table and a pavilion. At this point, working on our house is more of a hobby than a necessity.

And we still love biking. Our house is still on the same trail as the apartment was, but in a much quieter and safer location. Now that we have a toddler, and she likes being in the bike trailer, we have started to bike again with her! I love hearing “Mom! I’m in the bike trailer!” from behind me as I ride.

The house has filled up, too. After we got married in 2015, we got our dog Bear. Soon after that I got pregnant and we had our baby girl Bo in August of 2016. And then, when I needed to return to work full time, we made the decision to move Al’s mom in from out-of-state. That’s a whole different post for a whole new day, but the point is that the house filled up quickly. And those 3 rooms that we were not utilizing, are now full (..and yes, the dog uses the guest room. It’s basically his room).

So while I often long for the simplicity of the apartment, I cherish the adventures and experience that we’ve gained in the house. And as we’ve gained the tools and experience, things have gotten easier. But I truly believe that, when this house no longer serves us, we will downsize and once again cultivate a simple lifestyle. And when we do that, I won’t be focused so much on the future, but on the simplicity of the present.

So tell me, reader, how have major lifestyle changes affected the way you live? Maybe you moved to a new type of city, or maybe you’ve upgraded or downsized…? How has your perspective changed once you’ve gotten into a new situation?

Cheers,
Mel