Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ramshackle Modern or Just Half-Assed?

Continuing our series of 'Best "x" Ever', we present the compost bin I built. I put it together from scrap wood and leftover hardware cloth (not added as of photo). Here's my dilemma: I enjoy the ramshackle style I've seen on the blogs Dinosaurs & Robots (esp. the shackitecture photos) and Ramshackle Solid. However, I also can't escape the fact that I put this bin together as I went along, no measurements and as little cutting as possible. So, the look, in particular that skewed beam in back, is not really an aesthetic choice so much as is laziness. On the other hand, I do enjoy it.
On the other other hand, it'll rot away someday anyhow. 

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Chris Ware is a Disturbing Genius...

Quimby The Mouse from This American Life on Vimeo.

Take a look at this Quimby the Mouse cartoon he did for This American Life. Go ahead, I'll wait.

See? Awesomely old school with lots of creepy decapitated spousal abuse. Oh, Chris Ware, you so crazy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Curb Appeal!

When we first moved in, the house lacked a bit of curb appeal, you might say:

So our landlords (Chris's parents, Lois and Steve) started building a fantastic porch, which eventually replaced what you see in this picture on the side of the house as a strange, dilapidated, wooden bi-level structure (complete with worn-out astroturf remnant and trash bags). As for me, I could not wait to put in a little flower garden in the front of the house, though funding and weather prevented it for a bit. 

So, 6 months later, here's the before/after comparison (submitted for your consideration): 



YAY!! You can see a bit of the new porch steps on the left.  We've got the proverbial white picket fence now (albeit in miniature), along with, from left to right, back row: some hydrangea, Martha Washington geraniums, regular geraniums, butterfly weed, and verbena; middle row: salvia; and front row: Spanish lavender and marigolds. 

You may also be wondering what the round white things are in the above photo of the flower garden...well, I quickly found out that our resident plethora of earwigs go mad for marigolds! So I researched and found this organic method for getting rid of them: put some vegetable oil in old cat food or tuna cans and put out overnight. The earwigs will drown themselves in it and you can just discard them in the morning (and it also works on slugs, apparently):

And the crowning touch was the placement of the ladybug as guardian and protector, which is now our mascot I suppose, since it is now our blog's banner! :)

The Best Gate Ever

More or less. Emphasis on less. When we put up the fence around the garden, we realized that we needed to get through it. Not feeling up to the challenge that day, I slapped this little guy together from the scrap wood pile and leftover fencing wire. It has no hinges, leaning against the house and the fence. And it totally keeps the cats out of the brand new luxury size litter boxes we built for them. 

The gate is completely temporary until I feel the motivation to build a proper one. I swear.

Julian Comstock: A Story of Post-Fossil Fuel America has a post about 'Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd century America' by Robert Charles Wilson, the first of a three part interview with the author. It tells the story of the titular character in a future America depleted of fossil fuels, reverted back to a very 19th century technological level and Puritan attitude.

" America 163 years from now that looks a bit like the 19th century but feels, in unexpected and delightful ways, very much like the present. In Julian Comstock, with the demise of oil, America has returned to preindustrial levels of technology. The nation’s calamitous fall—involving a thorough depletion of the population and the collapse of the political system as we know it—is a hazy historical memory, replaced by a larger-feeling country, more sparsely populated and more difficult to control."

Fine summer reading in these current economic-meltdown-environmental-collapse-end-is-nigh times. No small coincidence that Wilson is interviewed by Brian Slattery, whose book 'Liberation' takes place in a post-economic collapse United States. 

I read the short story 'Julian: a Christmas Story" that introduces Julian Comstock as a young man a few years ago, and I can't wait to read the new book. 


My very first tomato seedlings. I'm so proud.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The New Kitty

Meet Mina, the new adoptee. She's a rambunctious tortie who enjoys attacking my toes. We got her name because I've been reading the Dracula blog.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Urban Homesteading for Beginners

The first raised bed

There it is. The first raised bed. I built it myself. From wood. Shocking, yes? It's twelve feet long by four wide, and, not knowing any better, I filled it with topsoil and compost purchased in 1 cubic foot bags from Home Depot. That was nearly fifty bags of soil. The soil itself is fine, but what a pain in the ass. And expensive. Oh, and there's no weed barrier. The surface of the soil is netted with bermuda grass a month after this photo.

Now with lots of new friends

As you can see, we added a lot more. There are now five total, including the original. Of the four new beds, I only actually had to build one of them, from scrap wood found around the property and the old porch. One of the beds is a repurposed sandbox, and the last two were found leaning against the fence out behind the garage. Old, weathered, and slightly rotted, in one case, but they still hold the soil in.

Of course, this is huge amount of growing area. Naturally, I rolled over two half-barrels that were rotting in the back. 

Lots of drip irrigation
Of course, plants like water. Here in San Diego county, we can't rely on rain, and I won't rely on hand watering. I'm lazy. So my dad came over and we installed some irrigation. In the second picture above you can see the pipes sticking out the ground. They pop up a little far from the beds for my taste, but I had already dug the trench. 

As for the drip irrigation, I've found that while it can be fun to put together, like tinkertoys, it can also be just stupidly complicated. I won't mess with the quarter inch tubes anymore. But how do you get the water right where it needs to be? Isn't that the whole point of drip irrigation?

As far as I'm concerned, the point of drip irrigation is to use less water than a sprinkler as well as water directly on the surface. Besides, the soil will soak up the water beneath the surface, even if the surface itself is a little dry. Then why not just use a soaker hose? Because the stuff can be fun to play with.