Stacking Functions Garden

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Tree removal

We had four trees removed from our backyard today.  Two were dead and two were dying.  I hate to cut down trees, but when they’re sickly there’s no point in keeping them around.   Before:






A separate crew will come back and grind the stumps in a few days.  Our backyard is looking so sunny now that I’m starting to draw mental plans for major garden expansion.  It’s probably not quite as sunny as I’m picturing, though.  The apple tree should get a lot more fresh air and sunshine now; saving it was a big part of why we chose to do this.

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Another rain barrel platform option

A little over a month ago, we installed a new rain barrel on the SW corner of our house.  We’ve had one on the SE corner for a few years, but we had never gotten around to building a platform for it.  Adam was doing some backyard cleanup today and decided to make a platform out of some old cedar 4×4’s that have been laying around for years.  The design is slightly different than the one we built in August:

rainbarrel1It’s much more free-form.  Adam cut 12 22-inch long pieces and stacked them as you see here.


There are four landscaping bricks underneath the bottom two pieces of wood.  He made sure the stack was very level and sturdy before setting the rain barrel on it:


Rain barrels are so much nicer to use when they are raised up like this.  They can power soaker hoses, and it’s also just a lot easier to get every last precious drop of water out of them, even if you’re just filling watering cans.

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What I’m reading right now

So, even though my Recommended Reading section is badly in need of an update, I will skip updating it so I can spend some more time… reading tonight.  Here’s what I’m reading (yes, all three simultaneously):

homecheesemaking Home Cheesemaking
Recipes for 75 homemade cheeses

by Ricki Carroll

OK I am only in the opening chapters of this one so far.  I have not tried any of the recipes yet.  But my next trip to the co-op, I’m picking up some rennet and other supplies so we can try a simple one this weekend or next — maybe mozzarella?  What’s the easiest cheese to start with?
Edible Forest Gardens (a two-volume set, of which I only have the second volume right now)
by Dave Jackie and Eric Toensmeier
I’ve mostly just looked at the pictures so far in this one, but even just one of the diagrams I looked at had me all excited.  It was a drawing of a sample permaculture-style garden, with a chicken coop on one end of it, and then a little enclosed “chicken run” going all the way around the garden.  That way the chickens get some fresh air and exercise, and poop all over the edges of your garden, and also eat bugs.  I love the way permaculture maximizes the benefits of every single part of the mini-ecosystems that are our yards.  If I can talk Adam into it, chickens will be on the agenda for us in 2010.  That is a big if.

freedomanifesto The Freedom Manifesto
by Tom Hodgkinson

This is more for pleasure reading.  Maybe the connection to home economics is as tenuous as bowling is to Vietnam, but I’m drawing all sorts of really great insights from this book.  Best of all, it is absolutely hilarious.  Sample advice from the book: Embrace anarchy.  Play a ukelele. I’m finding all sorts of connections between this book, capitalism 1.0, and the idea of creating something (anything) as one of the keys to human contentment.

I am making the commitment, right here, right now to review each one of these as I finish it.  Then I will update my recommended reading page.

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CSA Week 15

Seriously, how can there only be 3 weeks left of CSA?


Today’s CSA box, before we split it with our neighbors, contained:

1 head green leaf lettuce
1 napa cabbage (seriously, the biggest one I’ve ever seen.  Freakin’ huge)
5 apples
1 super cute Yellow Doll watermelon
9 beautiful tomatoes, various kinds
2 eggplants
1 head “cheddar” cauliflower
3 kohlrabis
1 little box of raspberries
2 red onions

We had the eggplant and half the napa cabbage in a stir-fry for supper.  Good stuff.  But there is so much cabbage that I think we might have to make another batch of kimchi, even though we also have two batches of sour kraut going right now.

Standard CSA info:

What is a CSA?
Where do we get our CSA from? Food 4 Thought.
See all of my CSA posts

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Dolphin-safe tuna: a well-intentioned disaster

Oh woe is me, I absolutely hate it when I read things like this (via

“By trying to help dolphins, groups like Greenpeace caused one of the worst marine ecological disasters of all time. Few other fisheries are as bad for groups like sharks and sea turtles as the purse seine fishery, and none are as large in scale.”

I have no idea what the right answer is on that one.  Read the whole depressing affair here.

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The recession: over?

So said Ben Bernanke today.  I’m not so sure.  I’ve been following Umair Haque’s Edge Economy blog for some time now, and it always challenges me to look at things from another angle.  Today (emphasis his):

“Here’s a short economic history of the USA, 1988-2008: Americans were fat, lazy, greedy consumers who lived beyond their means. Right? Wrong. That narrative can be read in many places, but it’s as false as a liar loan. The economics reveal a very different truth. Most Americans took on significant amounts of debt not just because they wanted to, but because they had to. The math is as cold, brutal, and simple. Wages have been stagnant for thirty years.”

Well, I think we collectively were also fat, lazy, greedy consumers in many ways, but still the man has a point.  Back in the 70s, a middle-class family could live on one person’s income.  Now?  Well, they still can I guess, but it’s very, very challenging.

I sometimes get down on myself about my spending habits pre-kids/recession (both hit us at the exact same time).  But then I look around our house and think: really, we weren’t that bad.  My computer screen came out of a dumpster.  I’ve never bought a TV or a gaming system.  We’ve never had cable, or more than one car.  We did manage one overseas trip, but most of our other traveling involved camping in the good ole MN.

So as of today I’ve decided to stop wasting time wishing I had saved more and spent less before 2007.  Onward!

Check out the rest of his post, which lays out his call for an “M-Shaped Recovery” — I believe M stands for meaningful.  The comments are really good on this one, too — many of his readers disagree strongly with him and it makes a great debate.  There are MANY different ways to look at this.

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Thrifty, or just plain cheap, or… DUTCH

I grew up with a very, um, thrifty Dutch dad so I got quite a few laughs out of this book review on  Laura Miller issues a call to rediscover the joys of penny pinching.  The book is In Cheap We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue, by Lauren Weber.

The author apparently attempts the very noble goal of a call to thriftiness while seemingly avoiding sounding like a puritan (or a scrooge).  Miller says:

‘The heart of Weber’s book lies in its more contemporary chapters and her advocacy for what she calls “ethical cheapness.” This blend of environmentalism, anti-consumerism, social justice and old-fashioned parsimony asks both “Do I really need this?” and “What other costs — to the planet, to workers, to myself — lie hidden in this product I’m considering buying?” ‘

Adding this to my want to read list now.  Read the entire review for yourself here.  And yeah in case you haven’t heard, the Dutch are kind of renowned for their, uh, thriftiness.  I think “sustainability” sounds much more sexy, don’t you?