Thursday, July 11, 2013

Letting Yourself Fail

It's been a pretty tough year.  In fact, it's been pretty tough since we moved into this house.  All the gardens I had before were, by definition, temporary.  We were just going to live there for a while and, as a hobby, as an experiment, I planted some thing.  But here, things are different.  This house is our permanent home and that means any thing I do to the house, or the yard, fells permanent.  That means it has to be done right, it has to be perfect.  When the whole backyard is nothing but sand, a large blank canvas, this feeling is very intimidating.  Then anything short of perfection can't be labeled as progress, any chance of failure becomes failure.
This is how I've been feeling.
We tried several times to lay out the beds we want in the yard but they never seemed to fit quite they way they did on paper.  My ability to measure and lay out angles in the real world wasn't on par with my computer programs.  Besides, when I spray-painted the bed layout on the sandy soil it blew away within a week.
We tried actually building a bed out of cinder-block (chosen because the resulting beds would be as close to permanent as we could get) but we couldn't figure out how to pour a level concrete footing.  We tried sinking a row of blocks below the soil line instead and got frustrated by our inability to get them perfectly level and straight.
We were offered some sod, leftover from my father-in-law's lawn, and figured it wouldn't hurt to try a lawn.  Unfortunately, without a sprinkler system the watering became too much and the grass dried up and died.  I have a brand new push-mower that I got for my birthday that never even got used once.
It was all very disheartening.  I'd been working on that yard for 2 years and had nothing but a couple of filled in holes and some dead grass to show for it.  Every time I went into the yard for anything I  felt depressed.  I was ready to accept our dust-bowl of a yard, to live with it (or ignore it's existence) for the rest of my life.  There were plenty of things to do inside.  I didn't need to go outside.  I didn't need a yard.  I didn't need to garden.  It was an unnecessary waste of water anyway.
But that's silly.  I want a yard.  I like being outside.  I enjoy gardening.  I've only been working this yard for two years and, if it's as permanent as I want, I hope to continue working it for another 60.  If it is as beautiful and alive as I want, it will never be complete or finished.  It will never be perfect, it will just be continually pushing towards wonderful.
That was the flaw in my thinking.  Every failed attempt as measuring, laying out, building, and planting didn't spell failure for the yard or myself.  It was just one more thing to check off the list as a "didn't work".  Which meant that I was one step closer to finding something that would work.  Yes, it's only one step down what may be a very long road but one step at a time will get you there a lot faster than not taking any steps at all.  The only true failure would be giving up, admitting to myself that I can't do anything with that yard.  as long as I'm trying thing, even if they all fail, I'm not failing.
So this month I am celebrating renewed effort and determination.  This month I'm taking a new approach, tackling the problem from a whole new angle.  This month I've dug holes, poured concrete, and set posts for a new garden bed.  This weekend I'll start screwing boards of composite wood to it and it will, hopefully become the cornerstone on which I build my whole garden.  From this bed I can expand across my sandy lot and shape it into a productive space that I can enjoy.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Superflat Mode

With a great deal of roto-tilling, shovelling, and raking.  The yard is now pretty flat. We're finally ready to start building beds!  It's taken a lot longer than I would have liked but at about the same point that I started having free time to work on it, true summer hit and temperatures soared.  I know, excuses.


I also finally finished hauling concrete rubble to the dump. Yay.

On the greener end of things, the potted garden is doing very well.  The first tomatoes are beginning to ripen.  The first to turn red had a rot spot, but oh well.  Cucumbers have yet to produce anything but are really trying.  And the herb barrel is a wonderful riot of foliage.  It's dill really helped out a turkey I roasted a week ago.  Even the agave are doing really well!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

So Far...

Alright!  My evening class is finally over so now I just have 40 hours of work to get in the way of my yard (and rising summer temperature, and general lethargic).

So! Lets see what we've accomplished so far and what we have to work with.

I measured my yard and created a general plan on Inkscape.  My wife helped me transfer some of that plan (the part pertaining to the garden beds) into the yard with stakes and string.  Basically it consists of 3 foot wide paths between 4x4 beds grouped into "T" and "L" shapes.  Here's a photo of the yard where I've attempted to highlight the strings that outline the beds.  Also, there are weeds.
I've also gathered a fair number of 18 inch square pavers (offered to my by my father-in-law) which will be perfect for the paths. I've still got another 20 or so to haul over.
Lastly, I've helped my wife plant a few things in some pots so we have some gardening to do while I build the beds. In the barrel on the left there are some herbs (Peppermint, Stevia, Fennel-leaf dill, and Spicy globe basil). Next to it is a tomato (Phoenix) and a pepper (mammoth jalapeno). On the right end is an earth-box type planter with some cucumbers (we'll see how it does). In front you can see my poor abused agaves that still seem alive, despite my neglect. There's still one pot left which will get filled with something at somepoint.

Come on summer! Lets gets stuff done!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Before Construction Comes Deconstruction

Still toiling away in the yard when I'm not working, at school, or sick.



Recently we finished pulling up the old pavers that were around the yard.  We also pulled up an old sandstone patio under-which we found an even older brick patio, which we also pulled up.



Not sure exactly what they'll get used for, but I've set aside all the usable bricks, pavers, and sandstone chunks for some future project.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Out with the Old

Progress on my new garden has been slow. but there has been progress.

Today I finally finished tearing out the concrete slab in the back corner of the yard.  Slowly, since September, I've used a pick axe, sledgehammer, and spud bar to reduce it rubble.  It was slow work because someone, whoever put it there, knew what they were doing.  It was pretty thick and reinforced with rebar and chicken wire.  Still, now I just have to dispose of the remains of the 7x4 slab.  That will clear the way for the chicken coop and, behind it, a wood pile.



Also, I've been pulling up the pavers that made paths around the yard.  This will let me start fresh in plotting out where I want my garden beds to bed.  Soon I'll get to go out with a tape measure and mark off my plans, commit to the physical world the first outline of the garden I see in my head.

But there's still a long slow road between my and my fully realized garden.  Not only will my job eat up my time and energy but, four nights a week, I'll be attending evening classes at the local community college.  Still, I hope to have at least a couple vegetable beds up and growing this coming spring.

On a different note, I found something special while working in the yard.

Clearly, my house was previously occupied by a clan of ninjas.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gardens I have Known: A New Beginning

Gardens are great at many things, not the least of which is tethering us to the larger cycles of nature.  Most of civilization's advancements revolve around protecting us from those cycles.  Roofs, walls, furnaces, air conditioners, global agriculture and shipping all shield us and make us ignorant of the seasons, the closed loops of growth, death, and rebirth that surround us.  A garden, on the other hand, involves us in those cycles, allowing us to observe and celebrate their intricacies.

Today I want to introduce you to an exciting new cycle in my life. My wife and I have just brought our first house.  With it comes a yard which doesn't look like much now but offers a lifetime of gardening to me.  Finally I can set to work building those cycles up around me.  I can care for the soil and know that I will be around to reap the benefits.  More, I can plant and know that I will be around to harvest!



The front yard is pretty generic for our area.  It reflects this houses history as a rental property with low maintenance but bland landscaping.  It's covered in red rock with one fruitless pear rising out of the very centre.  ion the photo you can see that we are battling a host of weeds that spring up between the rocks as well as the muddy dirt where I've replaced the house's water line.  I'm not exactly sure what I want it to look like but I have some ideas.  I would like to plant it with water-wise but useful plants.  Pinyon Pine and prickeless Prickly Pear are at the top of my list.  I know I want to leave it open enough that it will feel inviting to our neighbours when my wife and I sit on the porch in the evening.



In the backyard I have let my imagination run wild.  Now it is empty but for weeds but in my mind it is overflowing with life.  I would love to have a small patch of grass for the kids I hope to have, edged with dwarf fruit trees and day lilys.  Where  there is now a concrete slab, the foundation of an old shed, I would like to erect a chicken coop.  By the edge of the covered patio I would love to build an horno.  And, of course, I envision many garden beds.

I hope you will join me, reading along as I construct a new garden around my home, a garden as unique as I am and as long living as I wish it to be!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Day of Reckoning

Well, the fateful day came, that day when, in accordance with the deals, all the vegetables were dug up and replaced with flowers.  Countless radishes were sacrificed on this day.  And then, at the graduation party, no one went outside to admire the new flowers.

Still, I did get a good sized pile of radishes (which weren't, surprisingly, all as black as "Black Spanish Globe" would have me believe).  and even a pile of diminutive peas.

The carrots were, for the most part, left in the ground and have since had a growth spurt.  They are doing much better than they were before.  Perhaps they were just waiting for some marigolds to be planted near by.
Also, I've planted two of the beds in my mother's garden with some seeds I started on my window sill about a month ago.  I'll make a full write up of that later.