Sunday, May 29, 2011

trial & error

Building this raised bed was . . . frustrating.

I have always relied on Hubby to do all the "manly" stuff around our "farm". But as his health continues to be questionable I have to face the music.

This started out as a pallet sized potato box from Costco, and a vague idea of wheelchair accessible gardening.

I placed it in the unused part of the back parking area (there is space for 3 cars - I have 1). I layered twigs on the bottom and then used chick straw, horse manure, spent potting soil etc. to fill it 3/4 full. And there it sat - for over a month. I had thought the thick cardboard sides would stand up to any rain until it was filled with cucumbers or some other viney crop that would mask its, well, trashy looks.

Then it rained. For a week.

The box bulged, leaning to one side. I didn't really notice it until I was talking to neighbors across the alley. I looked over and thought "I should put my Mazda on blocks to complete the picture."

One of the most important things of an urban farm, I think, is to make it pleasing to the neighbors - not having an eyesore (and sharing eggs) goes a long way when you need help wrangling an escaped animal. I was not holding up my end of the bargain.

Low on cash I looked around the yard. Spying the leftover lengths of old fence board from the coop I had an idea. I cut them to match the height of the box and connected them with finishing nails and a single piece of lath down the middle. Carefully carrying them to the box, one fell apart - it's nails sliding effortlessly from the old wood. Another one broke at a weak point of the lath. I added a second lath to each.

Now I had 4 sides leaning up on the box, and no way to connect them. I had $6. So I went to Lowes and picked up 8 of those metal corner connector thingys from the lumber area - plus 2 flat ones - one of the sides was threatening to break again.

Feeling a little smug about my genius I nailed 2 sides together with the connectors. The finish nails did not have large enough heads and slid out of the metal braces. Found larger headed nails. Then realized I really should use a 2x2 for the nails to go into on each corner. I scoffed. Once it was together it would stay together surely - it was a box, not a house, how sturdy did it have to be?

The cardboard was too curved for all 4 sides to be at a 90 degree angle.

I flattened the metal corners a little bit and nailed it all together. I growled at my deformed creation - telling myself it would be fine. Ignoring the finish nails poking back out from the pressure of the cardboard box of soil and general bad workmanship I insisted that I had other things to do, so I put my tools away and left.

2 sides fell over within a couple hours. This was not going to work.

During lunch with the family I turned over the project in my mind. I certainly couldn't ask Hubby - I do so hate to admit not knowing how to do something as easy as this (anyone remember the geek's attempt to make a lamp in Breakfast Club?)

Then I remembered the shelving I dismantled back in January. Most of the 2x2's were used to make a cold frame covers for Hubby's P-patch, but both bottom pieced were still leaning on the shed along with an old 2x4.

Time to ask for help.

Hubby showed me how to rip the 2x4 into 2x2s. Together we connected the 2 bottom frames on one side (with screws!) and Juju helped me carry it out to the box - placing it to be finished the next day as we were quickly losing daylight. We were 1 2x2 short but that, I was sure, would work itself out.

The next morning before anyone else was up I screwed in the 3rd 2x2. With the 2 flat metal connectors I joined 2 short ones to make the last brace. I nailed in the already cut fence boards to the frame and cut the cardboard box so it cannot be seen about the wood.

Now it is not done. I need to acquire 1 more panel of old fence, but I learned a number of lessons and new skills in the building of this simple project. Hubby joined me with his morning cup of coffee as I was cleaning up and commented that this was exactly how he learned most of the "manly stuff" he knows.

Trial & error - who knew.

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