We had a prime location in the back yard for the new planter. When I first moved in I had made it the storage area for an antique sailboat I had restored. I later sold that boat and turned the area into a small vineyard. The vineyard produced wine grapes that were a joint project between me and my step father. It was a dismal failure and I wondered if I would ever be able to grow anything. I employed the mighty Ford Bronco easily pulling the vineyard out with a long chain, and returned the area to its flat and unused state.
When Eileen and Neal moved in, the need for fresh wholesome veggies arose again. This time, with Neal involved in FFA at his school, the project fit perfectly for one of his class grades, thus killing the proverbial “two birds” with one 10’x24’ raised vegetable planter.
I never do anything small, and this project was no exception. Wood sided, posted, gopher-proofed, automatic watering system, plastic lined inner walls and weed barrier all went up before the dirt was delivered. Nine yards of planters mix is a pretty big pile of dirt to shovel, but between Neal and I, we got all in the box and ready for veggies. That’s only half the story. Corn, bell, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, kale, lettuce, watermelon, onions and strawberries, with other herbs and even some wildflowers now grow in the planter. Talk of a compost pile soon followed. I remember having a compost pile as a kid, in my parent’s yard, not far from the back corner fence. It wasn’t much of anything really, just a pile on which we dumped everything from grass clippings to banana peels. I don’t remember ever using the compost on anything.
Last night at Lowes Home Improvement store I was looking at a small garden trailer to tow behind the riding mower. I managed to luck out and got a roughly $300 cart for $84 on clearance. I was pretty stoked and could not wait to get it home and assemble it (which is often more fun than having the damn thing). Once assembled, I realized pretty quickly that it would be a better cart if I lined the inside with plywood, making it more rigid and usable. I also started thinking about that compost pile. A short search on Youtube.com and I was drawing plans for a 55 gallon elevated rotating drum, with hatch, aerator holes and mixing tangs. I wanted to be able to manage the compost in a way that would be clean and nowhere near as ugly as the smelly pile in the corner of my parent’s yard.
There is this great old guy in my town, Mr. Duncan, who sells steel drums, railroad ties and landscaping stuff on the cheap. The barrels are food grade, clean and rust free. Mr. Duncan is also a talented leather carver and loves to show off his latest tooling. It’s fun to go there just to see his handiwork and listen to his stories, which are as numerous and as varied as the steel barrels scattered around his property. He ambles about his yard in an electric “zippy cart” and mixes stories of his past with prostrations of why the government is out to get us. Almost never a short visit, Mr. Duncan will eventually breathe in long enough to take your money and send you out the gate. Just $25 and 30 minutes later, I was halfway to an awesome compost barrel. I have converted other barrels from Mr. Duncan’s business to barbeques, a burn barrel, and even an outboard motor test platform. Another $30 back at Lowes for cement, lumber and the odd nut and bolt and I was happily cutting and welding away before it was lunch time.
Today I completely built and installed my compost barrel, lined my new garden cart with wood, finished a sprinkler repair project and planted some wild flower seeds in the planter along the back deck. It was nearly one hundred degrees outside but I barely noticed. I again employed the mighty Bronco to pull out some “out of control” rose bushes that hid poorly between massive boxwoods, loaded them in the new cart and hauled them down the orchard row to the burn pile at the back of the property. Very cool! Everything worked great.
Tonight after a shower and a late meeting, I stopped in at Sprouts for some fresh veggies. (Our garden is still growing). I wanted to try out the crock pot I bought years ago and have never used. After peeling potatoes, yams, bell peppers, onions and other stuff for a veggie stew, I very nearly threw out the waist when I suddenly realized…”Hey, wait a minute…what the hell am I doing? I have a compost tumbler!” Happily I headed out back, unlatched the newly welded latch and open the hatch. I dumped the container of scraps into the vast, cold steel chasm and closed the latch. I know it was silly, and unnecessary, but the kid in me could not go back inside until I had rolled the barrel around by the crank handle at least once! Mission accomplished.
Just like in another of my previous blogs, you may ask yourself what this all has to do with cycling. It’s really pretty obvious. Without the bicycle, I would never have lost all this weight. Without the weight loss, I would never have been able to weld, dig post holes, cement, fabricate, saw, build, visit with Mr. Duncan and think my way through today as easily as I did. Working most of the day beside our new vegetable planter gave me a sense of connection and completion I haven’t really felt in a very long time. The day’s projects were heavy, and dirty, but splendidly simple. I had a really great day. Now I’m excited in a rather circular way. I can grow veggies, prepare them in the kitchen, (really Eileen is the cook…I have no business in the kitchen) eat the food, take the waste and leftovers to the compost tumbler, make compost, and turn it back in to the very same soil that grew the produce in the first place. It’s beyond cool. It’s kind of special. I like it!