Friday, May 14, 2010

To Arms!

My Dad used to always wake us up in the morning by yelling, “To arms! To arms! The red coats are coming!” in true Paul Revere fashion. Today I give a similar cry. I am trying to change a small city ordinance that states that vegetables grown in the front yard must be shorter than 24 inches. What a ridiculous ordinance. This ordinance was passed last year because someone complained about a citizen growing corn in their front yard. They thought it was unsightly and complained to the city. This year I am going to try and change it back.
Why? you might ask. Growing plants vertically is a much more efficient way of doing it. By growing plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and squash vertically you can grow more plants in the same amount of space, you can fend off disease and pests because the leaves aren’t in the dirt, and it is easier to properly care for the plants when watering, pruning, and fertilizing. All this adds up to healthier plants, better produce production, and better looking gardens/yards. These are the best known practices for growing vegetables. This is the way the professional growers (both organic and other farmers) do it.
But why grow vegetables in the front yard? I say why not? I have a few reasons to do it myself.

1. My front yard is on the south side of my house and gets all the sun. There are huge sections of my back yard that never see the sun. I happen to know that the house that was growing the corn in their front yard also faces south.

2. I have 5 kids. They need space to play. They can’t play in the front yard because we live on a busy street. Between the trampoline and swing set there isn’t much room for a garden in the back yard.

3. One of my children has Autism and loves to play in the dirt and has killed vegetables in the back yard in the past.

4. We have a dog that likes to lie down on the vegetables.

5. If you do it right, vegetables can look really good in the front yard garden. Think about all the really tall ornamental grasses people put in their yards. Corn is a type of grass too.

6. I’m sick of mowing my lawn. Too many resources are wasted on lawns. I want to apply those resources to something that will make my life and the lives of my family more healthy, sustainable, and self reliant.

So what can we do about it? I have talked with one of our City Council members and I have made an appointment to meet with the City Mayor next week. You can call up your representative and ask them to make the change as well. Get your neighbors together and make some noise.

*Note: All of the pictures on this post were from a google search for "vertical garden".  None are from my own garden... Later on that.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Death to Grass

In the last post I shared how our remodel has affected my glass work. Well, I have more than the remodel going on to take up all my spare time. We are in the middle of a complete remodel of our front yard. I decided that I am sick of mowing the lawn. I mean think about it: I live on a busy street so the kids can’t play out there, the Huge spruce tree is literally killing off all the grass, I have to mow it regularly which takes time and burns off fossil fuel and I have to fertilize and spray it with weed kill to make it look close to decent. All this extra work for little in return. So we decided to get rid of the lawn. Not only that, but get rid of the large spruce tree as well. I know all you environmentalists are gasping at the idea of cutting out the tree, but it really was killing off our lawn, we couldn’t water it enough, and when the city cut out the tree in the parking strip because it was diseased the spruce tree had a huge bald spot where the other tree had been. We are also hoping to reap some major passive solar through the large front window. Instead of the traditional yard we are putting in a vegetable garden complete with herbs, fruit trees, grapes and berries.
The process hasn’t been easy:

1. We cut down the tree

2. We hired a guy to come and grind out the stump

3. We rented a sod cutter and hauled away the grass

4. We roto-tilled the yard to smooth out the hole left by the stump

5. We rented a trencher to dig the sprinkler system

6. We installed the sprinkler system

7. We rented an auger to dig post holes for the fence, trellis, T-frames and pergola

8. We built the two trellises and the pergola and put in the fence posts and T-frames

9. We built the grow boxes

This is how far we are now. We still need to fill the grow boxes with homemade dirt, plant and put pavers in-between the grow boxes as well as all the little things to tidy it up. We are very excited about having a much larger garden. We hope to be able to grow a whole lot more food this year. Home grown food is definitely the best.

Working without a work shop

I haven’t been able to work much on my glass lately because my work shop is overrun with construction debris. Besides remodeling the bathroom, we split the family room to include a new bedroom. So, all of the family room furniture is in the garage (aka work shop). So I am limited to working on small, less messy projects in side. This usually means stained glass projects. The latest projects were for Mother’s Day gifts. 100% of the glass in these projects was recycled in one way or another. If you look at the pictures of some of the pieces you will see a variety of colors and a few different types of clear. The colored glass all comes from bottles I collected. The process goes as follows:

1. Collect the bottles. I have a few sources, but it is always difficult to find a variety of colors. Some colors are easy to find like green, brown, and clear. Blue and black are less common, but I can get them pretty regularly. Reds, bright yellows, orange and purples are much more difficult to find. I usually find them at thrift stores in the form of vases.

2. Clean the bottles. Remove the labels and any crusties that might be lingering.

3. Cut the tops and bottoms off. I use a tile saw with a special glass blade. The bottoms get crushed into powder for other uses and the necks get sliced into little rings for jewelry.

4. Cut the remaining body of the bottle in half vertically to make two half cylinders.

5. Clean all the leftover residue off.

6. Place the half cylinders in the kiln concave side up.

7. Fire the kiln and melt the half bottles flat.

Quite the process! However this produces wonderful flat glass that is perfect for making stained glass projects.