Work Table (with instructions for building your own)

Getting ready for my winter garden construction projects will require me to have a good work table for all my sawing and assembly I am planning.  So, with the deluge of rain we expected this weekend, and not having an opportunity to work in the garden itself, I built a very sturdy, large work table so that I don’t have to use a make-shift setup any time I want to do anything.  That’s just asking for an accident to happen, and I usually draw blood during any of these half-prepared ventures.

Here’s a picture of the work table I built today.  It is adapted from one I’d seen on an internet search that didn’t have any instructions.  It fits my needs perfectly because I built it to the perfect working height for my stature at about 74″ tall.

Here is a link to the instructions I wrote.

Photo:

Work Table

Winter veggies from seed

This morning, I started three more seedings in my soil flats I cut and saved from the clamshell packaging used by grocery markets to sell fresh produce.

The Tatsoi greens may be too late to get much growth before our first freeze, still perhaps over a month away.

The Kale and Pak Choy should come in just fine, and they have a good chance of surviving well into the mild winters we typically have.  The harshest months are usually mid-December to January, and I have had Kale survive well into the coldest months.  Gotta love Texas weather for gardening!

seedpacks

Napa cabbage

It’s been difficult to find time to post this last week.  I’m a baseball fanatic, particularly a Texas Rangers fan, and we’re in the postseason playoffs.  It hasn’t prevented me from my gardening, but it has kept me off my blog a good bit.

I’ve been experimenting with using butt cuttings from my bought organic produce to see if I can successfully get them to sprout roots before planting them in soil.  I’ve had some success with brussels sprouts and some red onions, but I especially like the way this Napa cabbage is leafing out.

napa

I planted it in soil this morning after letting it sit in water in a sunny window sill for about 10 days.  There are about a dozen roots that have grown some length while sitting in water, so I’m optimistic about this plant taking to soil well.  I have plans in a few weeks to put this in a large container to be a part of my front yard edible plants.  The front yard has usually been reserved for ornamental plants, but I am converting much of it to edibles now.

I love the way nature needs so little work from me to make this happen.

New pleasures in gardening

Since picking up my old gardening routines a few weeks ago, I’ve been working at it steadily.  I had a lot of cleanup to do: weeds, weeds, more weeds, and lots of old vines growing on my fence lines that had died and gone to heaven long ago.  They are now composting, and I need to build another bin this weekend to accommodate more of them from the front yard as well.

It is steady work, and I never have to worry about being laid off or bored.  Doesn’t pay much, though.

I take a few pictures now and then, and when I get a little extra time on weekends, I’ll try to post some of them.  In this short time, the appearance of my backyard has changed, and it’s becoming my favorite hangout again.  If I could only watch the baseball playoffs out there, I’d work into the night.

It has become a stress reliever.  When I get home after my one-hour commute every weekday, I get a kiss from my wife, I give my dogs a couple of treats, and then I change into my grubby clothes and spend at least 30 minutes before cleaning up and starting dinner.  The evenings pass much more pleasantly and without the usual stress of the work week.

Besides stress relief, I have a growing sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  Taking care of the “garden”, in a spiritual sense, always provides an abundance of good feelings, and it leaves some of the unnecessary things, like worries, behind.  There will be enough of those for tomorrow.

Catching rainwater and pleasant memories

When I was very young, during the summer, when school was out, I stayed at my maternal grandmother’s house while my mother and father were working.  My grandmother was a gardener.  She grew flowers and shrubs and trees mostly.  Her yard was beautiful.  In fact, she was featured occasionally as the “Yard of the Month” in her Dallas suburban home, and, at least once, I remember an article in her local newspaper about her garden.  She was a member of the local garden club, and it was a big deal to her, and it made her happy.

Aside from this, she was a beautiful lady, very kind, and had an awesome laugh, especially when she couldn’t stop laughing and got on a roll.

My paternal grandmother also grew lots of flowers, especially heirloom roses, that had a fragrance so strong you could smell it as soon as you got out of the car to go busting into the house to say hello and raid her candy dish.  Her pink roses were what my definition of “rose” was.  I took them for granted because she had hundreds of them, it always seemed.

I have always been intrigued by the process of gardening, of “making things grow.”  When people spoke of a “green thumb”, I took it literally and frequently looked at my grandmothers’ hands to see what color their thumbs were…hmm, same as mine, mostly pink.

One of the most interesting things at my maternal grandmother’s house was her rainwater collecting habits.  I didn’t understand why she did it — had no understanding of drought or even the needs of plants for water — but she had several jars she kept on her back patio to catch water, and we were warned to keep away from them, my cousins and I.

Now that I’m gardening, and living through an extended drought in this Texas climate, I’m considering the rain catching habits of my grandmother.  I may invest in several rain barrels, but for now, I think some large containers of any type will do.  I have some old plastic storage barrels, and I can manage to improvise, I think, though I may have to figure out how to dispense the water once I have some collected.  I’ll figure that out when we get some rain.

Any ideas?

Working on my bad eco-habits

water wasteThe more I delve into this lifestyle change, and what the long-term implications of bad habits are, the more I have become aware of some of my bad eco-habits.

One of the worst habits I have had is wasting water by letting the tap run while I’m shaving, washing dishes, watering plants, etc.  When I shave, I have always let the water run so that it would stay warm when I rinsed off my safety razor before reapplying it to my face.  Shaving with a cold razor is no fun!

Another one is that I’ve never become completely devoted to recycling trash.  I am much better at saving trimmings of food for the compost pile than I am at recycling paper and plastic products every day.  At best, I am only recycling about 25% of the paper and plastic products that get tossed after I use them.

One more, I also drive to all my favorite grocery markets on weekends even though one of the stores I use is only a mile from my house.  I also like other produce markets much better, but most of them are at least five miles away, still not too far, but I will often go out of my way to go to one of these because of preferences that have little to do with economy or quality.  Maybe, the clerks are friendlier, the stores more appealing in appearance, etc.  I should do better on this.

The first step, I suppose, is recognizing the problem.  I have that part down.

Making behavioral changes requires some planning, just like changing my eating and food shopping patterns.  I’ve begun working on the water use and have reduced it a good bit already.  Still, for example, I find myself carelessly letting the water run while putting dishes in the dishwasher, instead of handwashing all of them in the sink, and then rinsing all of them at once, using a drain board to dry them.

The recycling thing is “system” problem as far as I’m concerned.  It’s a matter of making separate bins available in the waste collection places, and I need to figure this out and get it done.

The grocery store shopping is an issue that can be resolved in a couple of ways.  I can make sure I stop during the week on my commute home, because I pass right by the store, and pick up the large items, and then walk on the weekends when I have some smaller, non-perishable things to bring home.  I’ve done this before, more for the exercise than anything else, and I can do it again.  I could also get a bicycle, but that might be a little more risky in the heavy traffic lanes I would have to use (6-lane boulevards and such).

Here is an article that inspired my post from Mother Earth News:

How to Break Your Eco-Harmful Habits – Nature and Environment – MOTHER EARTH NEWS

“Walking gently on the land”

gardenYears ago, our little family visited the Thoreau museum at Walden outside of Boston.  I was taken by the simplicity of it.  My daughter and I walked the perimeter of the pond much differently than Mr Thoreau would have done.  He called it sauntering, an art form for walking.  I want to be that kind of artist, a saunterer.  I would think that even in the busy suburb where we live, a saunterer could find pleasure in the art.  Thoreau wrote:

For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea.

This brings me to the point: the most basic appreciation of the natural world comes from sucking in its beauty and complexity every day, and walking gently through it all.  Away from any device that has a plug, just me and the sunshine, or better yet, just me and the gently falling rain.

A beautiful expression of this kind of environmental activism — because that’s what it is — is in this wonderful article published on the Mother Earth News‘ blog, by Randy Walker.  Walker describes in vivid detail the simple act of “caretaking” for the planet.

Describing a grandfather teaching his grandson, less by words, more by example, through simple acts like carrying a few seeds in his pocket at all times, while on walks, to plant in spots where they could thrive and rebuild that little spot of the Earth, Walker’s article is inspiring.

Grandfather would not only want to interact with the environment to maintain a state of homeostasis, he wanted to leave the area better than it was before. That is the way of the Caretaker. Essentially, a Caretaker is a healer of the Earth.

Source for Walker’s article: Move Toward, Not To, Your Destination: The Caretaker’s Approach to Environmental Awareness – Nature and Environment – MOTHER EARTH NEWS