Tuesday, March 23, 2010


My super clay soil always needs improvement. As does my neighbor Leo's super clay soil that I garden in. So this spring break, I dug out a new style of beds in his yard and made a hugelkultur.

I'm not sure if "made" is the right term. Could hugelkultur be a verb? I think not. At any rate, here's what I did.

First, I had my brother haul over a truckload of wood trimmings from my Aunt Pat's house. I also used my Christmas tree trunk and branches. I bought a sack of alfalfa pellets at Concentrates, my favorite place to buy amendments. Then I did nothing because school happened and fall happened and winter happened and suddenly it was spring break.
In Leo's backyard, I spread the alfalfa pellets in a U shape, because I was making keyhole beds. Then, I set the branches and twigs, etc on top in the same U shape.
After that, I dug up dirt to cover the branches.
I did this over and over again until I had several U shaped beds. It was a lot of work.

Mine was a small scale project. This link is a bigger bed built with the help of a tractor.

And here you can see the difference between a hugekultur bed and a regular bed.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Re-do of front bed.

The front bed needs a redo. My original design, though frugal, was not hardy enough and the front part is leaning out in an ominous way. So this is a major spring break project. First, to dig out some of the dirt.

A close up of one of the problems. The stick holding the two boards together in the middle needs to be something more substantial.

Chris came over and we removed the front boards and side boards. Then we took some leftover 4x4 and cut it to size, attached the old boards (turned inside out and rotated so they would be used evenly) to the 4x4s and put the whole thing back together again.

Sadly, this was one of those projects that I didn't take pictures of when finished, but let me say that the whole thing looks much more stable and STILL PUSHES OUT IN THE MIDDLE!
The next fix is to get a very long skinny board and attach it to the top. Perhaps there will be pictures when I do that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I'm Patricia Collins. You may have seen my photographs in the blogs Out and About and The Orange Door. And, of course you've seen my work in the monthly newsletter of Proud Ground, formerly known as the Portland Community Land Trust.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Car free no more.

Matt has joined the ranks of car owners once again. His commute of more than an hour each way, was finally too much. Having done the hour commute each way, I can sympathize.
Here's the car. It's a Volvo that my father previously owned. It has automatic windows and a sunroof and mostly I feel like a circa 1988 yuppie sitting in it. All that is missing is a very large car phone.

Yuppie feelings aside, I am happy to live in a household where someone else owns a car. It's much like when I lived with roommates who have cats. I got all of the kitty fun and never had to clean a litter box.

Thanks Dad!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Belgian Fence

Aside from bees, the other reason I was excited to go to Glen Andreson's house is because I knew he had a Belgian Fence and I wanted to take notes. I took pictures that could help me with my planning. Here you can see the bamboo supports he has wired to the fence as a guide for the branches.
Here is how he attached the wire to the poles. I've been going back and forth on the whole "turnbuckle" vs. "just wire" and here Glen has put himself in the "just wire" camp.
A longer view with two trees.


Chickens aren't going to work in our tiny yard, so I'm thinking about bees. Rather than spend three years thinking I'm going to read up on the subject, I paid $35.00 to take a class at Garden Fever and taught by Glen Andreson. I learned a lot and at the end, we got to go to Glen's house and see his bee set up.

I can see the appeal of bees, they are fascinating to watch. Something about the masses of them is very compelling.

Here are Glen's mason bee houses he made. I would like to put up some of those before I get the Belgian Fence put in.

I got stung. I've not been stung by a bee before and I've always worried that I'm one of those "dead in five minutes" people and don't know it. So when I was stung, I figured I was in a pretty good place, what with all the other classmates around me to call 911. I got a huge rush of adrenaline, and my knee was hot and swollen for a few days, but I was still able to breathe normally.
I came home and Matt told me he is allergic to bee stings, so we won't be having any bees, either. Alas. Its just a worm box for us.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cats perch

And now they are both perching on the temporary cat perch. It has my mind turning in the direction of something a little more permanent.