Just ‘Cause It’s Pretty 2

Regular readers know that I have focused my attention sharply on how we subsistence farmers will grow, store, and prepare food in a post-peak-oil world. But as in so many other matters, my bride has a different point of view. She shifted our attention this weekend away from food and toward making our little barn home look more like a home.

She has a point. We realize that our farm has a “wild” look from all the recent work, and of necessity we have spent most of our time getting a livable apartment ready and learning the rudiments of raising food. We haven’t really paid close attention to how the outside of our future home looks. There’s a big pile of trash that everyone passes on his way in, for example, and we know that needs to go soon. We’re sort of waiting to add the last of the construction debris to it, and then we’ll probably pay Advanced Disposal to loan us a dumpster to get rid of it.

And we’ve done nothing about flowers. That changed when some of Amanda’s friends were kind enough to give her flowering plants to honor her retirement from Samford. We ended up with a knockout rose, a gardenia, and a hydrangea (or is that an hydrangea? Hmmm). We delivered them to the farm on the way to celebrate our niece’s wedding, and she supplemented them Monday with several lantana from True Value. We had a couple of additional tasks to cover Monday, but the primary project of the day was to get a little flower bed established.

I fully expect Amanda to post soon on the joys of working with beds that get full sun. This is a novelty for us, because for 26 years we have lived among the trees where everything but our roof is in the shade. So lately she has been bathing in the luxury of being able to plant flowers that like full sun.


Gang Plate

You’ll probably remember that the barn by design runs exactly east and west. Our little bed runs the length of the apartment and the porch on the south side of the barn, about 36 feet long. We started with seven eight-foot landscape timbers from Tallassee True Value. Our sister Martha Lynn said the bed needed to be six feet wide, so that’s what we did. Amanda stood on the timbers in the bay of 1-Ho while I cut them off to six feet with the chain saw. Then we arranged them into a rectangle 36 feet long by six feet wide. To get a 36 foot length of garden, of course, we needed to cut one timber to fit.

We hooked the timbers together using a neat device from True Value called a “gang plate.” Used to hook boards together to form rafters, it was just the ticket to hold our timbers together for the bed. You butt two timbers together and lay the gang plate across the top of them. Then you tap it with your hammer until all the little spikes dig into both timbers. Once in place, it’s not going anywhere without a LOT of torque.

Rough Bed

Rough Bed

Once we had the landscape timbers in place, I added some topsoil inside the rectangle.

While I worked on my rolling shelves for the storage room (more on these in a later post), Amanda raked out the topsoil, removed the sticks from it, and removed the little sprigs of rye grass from it. I think her exact words were “Why I decided to plant grass here, I’ll never know.”

blog-amanda-planting-____She opted to place the knockout rose and gardenia close to the back porch where we could enjoy their fragrance from the porch, and she lined the front of the bed with the lantana. She’s working on one of the lantana here. If you click on the photo and get the larger version, you’ll see the knockout in the background to her left and the vaguest hint of the gardenia over her right shoulder.



We read on Hydrangeas Hydrangeas that hydrangeas like afternoon shade, so we figured the strong all-day sun of Amanda’s southern bed would be too much for it. I planted the knockout for her, because it required a little more digging. Then while she planted the other flowers, I planted the hydrangea in the afternoon shade spot she picked out near our food garden. We’re afraid the hydrangea is a victim of cruelty in breeding. The growers obviously wanted to create a huge bloom to make it sell, and they succeeded. It’s so big, in fact, that the poor stalk couldn’t support it. We’ve tried to reinforce it with baling wire and duct tape, and right now we’re just hoping it survives.

blog-lee-with-raised-bedYou should also know that Amanda fell in love with the food plants at True Value. So before I could drag her away we were the proud owners of two eggplants, a dozen collards, and six sweet banana pepper plants. I placed them in the new raised bed, and because we ran out of room, I also squeezed a few into the original food garden.

Reluctantly, we have declared our virgin herb garden a total failure. All we can state with confidence that we produced in it are weeds. So after the briefest of conversations we declared the herb garden dead and christened it the new little collards garden. Yes, we know it’s probably too late for collards. But we love them, and we missed our chance at early season collards, so we’ll give them a try. From what we read, they should grow okay but may not be as sweet as the early season collards we have learned to love.


The New Sprinkler

We had a late afternoon emergency when we discovered that the Vigoro sprinkler we had bought at Home Depot had given up the ghost. It still sprayed but stopped rotating. I ran into town while Amanda gathered up the gear and purchased a sprinkler at Wal-Mart. It seems to do the job, but with fewer bells and whistles than the Vigoro. Because the hydrangea is practically behind the sprinkler, I gave up trying to limit the circle. The sprinkler now turns a full 360 degrees.

It was a good day, a full day, an exhausting day. Both of us are eager to be residents at Longleaf Breeze, so we won’t feel the need to be such weekend warriors. First, though, we must prepare our house for sale. More on that soon.

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2 thoughts on “Just ‘Cause It’s Pretty

  • Michael

    My nominees for easy to grow, great, faithful re-bloomers enjoying lots of sun, and little care are:

    daylilies, mexican bush sage, bee balm, daisies, butterfly bushes, cleome, pineapple sage, herbs in general, lots of penstemons, gaura, garden phlox, blackeyed susans, lambs ear, lantana, ginger lily, sedum, obedient plant, yarrow, mystic blue spires sage, black and blue sage.

    Get these things planted, and after the first season of watering, just stand back and behold for years to come.

    For quick color this year, grow from seed: cosmos and zinnias.

    So excited about your excitment and weekly discoveries.


  • Lee

    Excellent. Amanda says we need to print out your list and take it with us when we go to the store. Thanks, Michael!