Boxes Briefly

4x4 Garden Box

4x4 Garden

These beds were made as an experimental prototype with 1×6 cedar boards. This makes them about 11.5 inches tall. They are held together and supported by 2×2 boards that were all cut with one straight cut and one 45º cut so that they could be driven into the ground for stability. They are going into their 6th Spring planting season so I have no regrets about the $17 investment I made in materials.

The surprise came when I started trying to fill them with soil. Now, I can look at them and visualize bags of soil piled inside and imagine how much it would take to completely fill them. I no longer think they need to be built so high. When first installed, they ended up being about half full. Now after seasons of freshening them up with compost and organic nutrients they are almost full and look great!

The next ones I build will be constructed of 2×6 rough cut cedar which is a very substantial and naturally long lasting piece of lumber. I’m going to use metal brackets in the corners to hold them together along with a couple of long screws directly in the boards.

This just in…

gardening blog to return to roots.

Over the last six weeks I’ve been taking Blogging 101 and Blogging 201 and as I’ve worked through my assignments, I’ve learned a little more about myself and what I like to write about. Let me tell you, it can zing and zip all over the map. As a consequence of my recent endeavors, it seems to me that the subject matter of this blog has drifted a little far afield.

In Blogging 201 we worked on establishing our brand, creating a hub and giving things a recognizable image across different blogs and media types. What I have decided to do is to create a whole new hub and let this blog be one of the spokes. I want to move all the subject matter that doesn’t fit the original idea (subject to my usual broad interpretation of subject matter) onto the new hub blog. I worry that this could, at least in the short term, amount to self inflicted blogicide. As my dear old friend Lee Jones used to say while giving me that askance knowing glance across his face out of his one good eye, “Boy, you’ve gone all the way crazy.”

So here is my plan for the new blog setup. There will be a hub which will include posts on general subject matter, blog event posts and occasional fiction pieces. I will still have my photo blog which will be entirely devoted to photography (with comments) without regard to subject matter — I hope to have an opportunity to post and comment on other photographers photos as well (no hints or anything). Then there will be this blog which will be devoted to gardening, art and nature and the ways they intersect and sometimes get all stirred up together in a big pot in my backyard. This was my original intention with this space and I hope you’ll find that it cleans up quite nicely after a little shipping of things off to other locations.

There is also my long term Neighborhood Photography project which has previously manifested itself in a number of collaborative exhibits at area venues. My goal is to move this online and with the help of interested photographers (of all skill levels) expand the neighborhood as wide as we possibly can. I’ve decided that due to the scope of my goals and intentions for the this site, it will better as a completely separate “brand” with it’s own community identity, galleries and a forum. I’m even considering a fresh start from scratch and taking the classes again just to get that endeavor underway.

Just so that you don’t think this sounds too ambitious, let me tell how I see it (rationalize it?). This blog (Learning to Paint) is where I talk about and chronicle things that are very important to me and part of my daily life. The hub is where I can put up anything that I want to write about that doesn’t fit here (there’s always something). The photo blog is a place where I upload and yak about pictures of any subject. Having things compartmentalized should help the individual areas make more sense.

Well, the migration (explosion) starts tomorrow. I hope that I don’t lose any of you cherished readers in the process. This blog will still be in the same place with the same name, anyway.

“One more thing — if anyone is the least bit inclined — please feel free to follow me on Twitter!” he implored. A big Valentine’s Day loving shout of thanks to the THREE of you have already taken the plunge!


Too good not to try again

It was just a whim. It was early Saturday morning and I was trying to get to the community garden on time — sounds like a silly idea now, probably don’t need to be too precise, not like anyone was waiting for me (although I’m sure the weeds were busy growing). I stopped off to buy a few pepper plants and I was about a half cup low on coffee, so not up to my usual questionable level of mental capacity. I’m someone who can never pass a seed rack so I stopped at one for a quick peruse. There they were, a nice big pack of heirloom variety seed corn and it just seemed like a fun thing to try. I had no serious expectations about production but thought that even if the plants got to a decent size it would be fun to show the local kids.

I planted six kernels, three each on opposite ends of my plot and they all came up. These plants produced eight ears of the sweetest, juiciest, most delicious corn that I had eaten in years. It was so good that I could have just pulled it off the stalks and eaten it uncooked right on the spot. Of course, it probably wouldn’t have turned out as well if it was all part of some big master gardening plan…but being the stubborn gardener I am, it’s not going to stop me from giving it another try this year.

So this year I’m renting an extra 4’x8′ plot just for planting corn. Last time I planted in early March and harvested in mid June and plan to stick with the same schedule this year. As usual, I’ll try not to get over confident — but I’m hopeful. Stay tuned.

My few stalks of corn did surprisingly well in the community garden last year.

My few stalks of corn did surprisingly well in the community garden last year.

Time to plan(t)

Not one to rely on long term weather predictions from even the most reliable sources, I nonetheless have a strong feeling that this winter is not going to be too harsh at my locale. There’s something about the trend in temperatures that makes my middle age backyard farmer’s bones feel there won’t be any very late freezes this year. Of course, this could just be a way to make sure everyone keeps following my blog so that, in six weeks time,  you can all smugly comment on what an idiot I am.

Whenever we have an early spring, I like to take advantage of it by planting tomatoes as soon as possible. The best tomato crops that I’ve ever had here in our sunny dry clime are the ones that have been started no later than the middle of March. If I don’t have an opportunity to plant them early, I usually skip them all together. Also, I always plant a mid-size variety that will grow and ripen sooner. We don’t eat many cherry or grape tomatoes so roma tomatoes are usually the smallest ones that I grow. These are just my personal preferences and a plan that I have developed over the years based on how I like to garden and where I live.

I have a place in one of my 4’x4′ raised beds that gets a great dose of morning sunlight and then is protected from the long, hot, scorching, drying, burning afternoon sun that we always seem to have in such wonderful abundance around here. This has been working very well and the spot also offers protection on the north side in case of any late blasts of cold air when the plants are young and vulnerable. If anything too cold is expected, it’s easy to just cover them up for protection. In case anyone is wondering if this is some error talking about burning and freezing in the same paragraph, the standard response is, “welcome to Texas!”

The sun is coming up now as I write this and the clear blue sky out my attic window is giving me hope for a good crop this year. That’s a good thing because even looking at a picture of home grown tomatoes makes me not want to eat a store bought one!


Picked in late May from plants planted at the beginning of March

Standing in one place and spinning around

I’m starting to see that the gardening, art, food and photography combination of interests is not uncommon. There was a time in my life when this may have intimidated me. I look at other people’s painting, photos and beautiful gardens and once again I’m reminded that everything I ever do always ends up having some kind of rough edge. It’s so easy for me to look at the beautiful perfectly lit and interestingly composed images and think, “Oh, why even bother?”

The answer is that the subjects are important to me and I want to communicate my feelings about them — and I know that sometimes I connect.  Continue reading

On a weather rollercoaster!

50° F change over a week seems like no big deal,

Weather_01Then it’s a 40° F swing in under 2 days,

Weather_02Now we’re looking at almost 80°F today (I’m confident it will be a little warmer – it almost always is) and 17°F (!!! which smiley is for BRRRR?) tomorrow night,

Weather_04That was written Saturday when I was anticipating a possible 65° drop in about 36 hours. Now it’s Monday and the temp swing turned out to be 83° late Saturday afternoon down to 16° early this morning (67°!). Sure glad the only things I have in the ground right now are broccoli and onions. The plant life around here is not happy right now. Don’t touch those early blooms, they’ll crack!

Just keeping those sweaters and short pants handy.