okay, we built a mock-up of the rammed earth idea for our garden wall.
Basically you build a form, add some screened soil (see Easy 7 minute DIY soil screen) that has some bit of clay content and then you tamp down on the soil over and over again to pack in it real good and viola...
The woodgrain impression is from the old pallet wood planks we used as the sides for the formwork. We are going to take a steel brush to a portion of this mock-up just to see what that would look like. I'm pretty sure it will look just as nice but we will probably end up sticking with the woodgrain look.
Turns out the soil we dug up for the garden wall footings is perfect, we think. It felt like the right moisture content and stayed together when Erin squeezed a handful into a clump, just like the experts say. It compacted nicely in the formwork and I'm pretty sure it will weather well if we don't coat it with something. We could add portland cement as well but for our purposes we are going pure rammed EARTH, I can't wait to see how it weathers.
The picture above is right after the form was removed and below is 3 days later. You can see our gabion mock-up too but until the creek gravel dries this will have to suffice for what to look forward to. Just ignore the staples and thin boards, we are using those big gnarly staples you have to hammer in and the big rough dunnage pictured in moss garden enclosure.
The gabion will be the upper portion of the wall, remember the sketch from moss garden enclosure. The next question is do we paint the hardware cloth? I am leaning toward black or yellow but the galvanized look is really nice too. Not thrilled about the red so nix that and we are down to 3 choices. Erin wants to do a different color from 1 side of the wall to the other.
Call it an experiment like everything else we seem to do around here.
Erin and I found ourselves in need of a soil screen on the spot when we decided at the spur of the moment to mock up both a section of possible rammed earth garden wall and a section of gabion garden wall; see the blurb about enclosing the garden. This is a Tuesday evening after our full day of work, baby chasing, and schooling yet we were excited to see some progress on our latest Soggy Hollow House Project.
Well, we didn't get both mock-ups complete before dark but we did end up with a beautiful little rammed earth mock-up wall and a decent little much needed soil screen that took all of about 7 minutes for 2 people to build as a team; one team member cuts, screws, and assembles and one team member marks, snips, and Facebooks. Below is a list of materials we used for our screen and the steps it took to get our first batch of beautiful screened soil.
We were lucky, we had all the materials right under foot, literally. This is what the pile of soil screen building materials should look like.
Building the screen
Cut the wood to make up 2 equal sides and 2 other equal sides (4 sides total) and attach them at the corners to make a rectangular frame, it would probably work as a square too, you're call. It would be best if the soil screen was at least 6 inches wider than your wheelbarrow or whatever vessel you will be using to catch your screened soul, I mean soil. Our soil screen is roughly 24 inches wide by 14 long.
Lay the frame down on something solid and use as a template to cut your screening material, in our case the 1/2" square galvanized hardware cloth already mentioned.
Now staple the hardware cloth to the frame around the entire perimeter. I used lots of staples, probably one every inch and a half to two inches.
Turn frame and hardware cloth (now officially a soil screen) back over and lay across your wheelbarrow or vessel of choice.
Shovel some soil into the screen.
Shake the heck out of the screen by pulling and pushing back and forth not up and down but not to hard or the soil will jump over the sides rather than slipping through the screen.
Dump the stuff that didn't go through the screen somewhere other than in your vessel of screened soil.
And you now have some screened soil.
I have no idea what happened to the yellow Lego block.
Nearly a month without a phone/camera (after deciding to self-operate on a broken screen) has put me a bit behind on the blog, but here are some highlights from the last month.
We've started getting regular visits from our neighborhood foxes (yes, neighborhood - we are located on a fractional acre city lot with our neighbors houses about 20 - 30 feet away). One showed a bit of interest in our hens, once. Then he came face to face with Horton, our Great Pyrenees, which scared him straight (he nearly ran into Jason in his effort to escape). However, since then they have found one of our dunnage wood piles to be a pretty cool place to hang out, groom their litter mates and play, so we see at least one daily - and sometimes three. They don't seem to mind us as long as we don't get too close. And we don't mind them, as we are pretty confident that between Horton and Wally, our girls are pretty safe. Hopefully our cat has the sense to steer clear!
On the tinier side of wildlife, the black swallowtail butterflies have been visiting, and overnight a couple of their caterpillars demolished all of our fennel and dill. Turning a problem into an educational opportunity, I collected one for the kids (and grownups) to observe through its life cycle.
This morning our hungry hungry caterpillar sure looked different! In 2 to 3 weeks we should have a beautiful butterfly to release back to the garden to wreak havoc once more.
We have also had some fun creating and building this last month. The kids and I built a toad/fairy house to sit at the headwaters of the water feature that Jason and I finished (nothing here is ever really finished) for our Japanese moss garden.
'Medium brother', our 6 year old, was the primary mason on this project, and I think he did a pretty good job with it. That is a tiny live cedar bonsai growing on the mossy knoll. As a fun bonus, parts of the house and the stone path glow in the dark!
A friend's nuptials gave me an excuse to build a fun kitchen cabinet with a towel rack as a gift. My mom contributed her assistance in putting button tops on the matching towel set, since she has been borrowing my sewing machine for, oh, about two years now. It's great. I use it as an excuse to make her do all of my sewing for me. Anyway, the cabinet is constructed out of a single pallet, a piece of hardware cloth leftover from when we constructed the beehives, and a stick of rebar for the towel rack. I think it turned out super cute. So, I was thinking this might be a great project for one of our first workshops! If you think you would like to attend a workshop where you get to build your very own salvaged materials cabinet (great for kitchen or bathroom) to take home, comment below or email me, and I will start making plans for the workshop.
Some of our projects were a little more practical, but still, anytime I get to build something its a good day. There was a *little* incident between a truck and our mailbox group. But lets face it, the end result of the accident is pretty cool.
Jason and I whipped together this mailbox stand from our dunnage and pallet collection, and a little spray paint completed the transformation. Now we think we need to line the entire street with matching sets in different colors... you know like those fancy neighborhoods with the matching brick mailboxes, except Soggy Hollow style. (That's a thing now.)
The garden and food forest are growing, we are working on a water reclamation system, we've got solar power in the works and managed to get the truck stuck in the sog again, but I will leave all that for Jason to talk about when he contributes the blog entry that he's been promising me. You all would probably appreciate a change in pace from my ramblings anyway!
Thanks for reading!
Soggy Hollow House Project
Somebody forgot to tell the weather that it is July now, so once again we have standing water covering the majority of the yard. On the bright side, that limits what I can be doing outside today which means I can take a few minutes to share our latest update.
The bees have been bearding a lot on the outside of their hives lately. Generally that is the equivalent of you or I hanging out on a breezy front porch on a summer evening. They've all come home from a hard day's work, and its just to stuffy inside the tightly packed hive for everyone to hang out in there, so they gather on their "front porch" to flap their wings and keep themselves and their hive cool.
Since the bees had successfully filled the portion of the hives we had initially allow them access to, we decided to remove the partition to give them more space to expand their hive. In doing so, we accidentally broke off part of one comb, so we went ahead and harvested the honey and wax from that piece. Our big picture plan for harvesting is to wait until next year before collecting any wax or honey to allow the bees to get one winter behind them, but we did not want to waste the broken piece (and they are certainly being very productive right now anyway). We were able to collect this nice little sample of home-grown goodness.
Another small project under our belts now is the construction of the support system for our tomato plants and some other vine growing goodies. As is often the case, we took a look at our stockpiles of salvaged materials (we're THOSE people), and started brainstorming how we could use them to fill a need (in this case, we really needed to cage our tomatoes somehow before they got too much bigger). Making it up as we went, we came up with a trellis system of re-bar and re-mesh that will function well for the current need, can be disassembled and reconfigured for future needs, and adds a fun new architectural element to the front yard (because, once again, that is the only part of the property not underwater...still...in July).
After getting the trellises up, we finally got some of that new mountain of mulch moved into place, thanks to our hardworking volunteers here at the Soggy Hollow House Project and their fancy farm implements.
Thanks for reading!
Soggy Hollow House Project
I promise I will try to come up with better titles as I get better at this blogging thing. This is just a quick update on some of the minor progress we are making on some of the projects around here (and the blackberries).
This past weekend we got the temporary irrigation installed in the former-front-yard turned food forest. When it is completely converted to established perennials we won’t really need the irrigation, but since we ended up planting most of our annual garden vegetable out there this year (due to the still-standing-water at the end of June in the back yard), we need a little help in the watering department.
We have been using the no-till “lasagna” method to rid our yard of grass and create planting spaces. We dug out the Bermuda grass around the concrete edges of our driveway and sidewalks, but otherwise we have just been covering the grass with a couple layers of cardboard and topping it with our compost and grass clipping, and a nice thick layer of wood chips. We put pockets of soil mixed with mushroom compost anywhere we were actually planting something, and then mulched with more wood chips.
We have been out of wood chips for a couple weeks now, so our tomato plants have been sitting in little pockets of soil surrounded by grass clippings (they haven’t seemed to mind) while we waited, and waited, and waited for the rain (thanks tropical storm Bill) to let up long enough for our favorite tree trimming service (Tree Climbers) to be able to work enough to fill up their truck with wood chips for us. Today was delivery day! Jeremy showed up with his BIG truck. It’s going to take us a month to move all these chips into place, especially with the 16 and 5 year old pulling wheelbarrow filling duty. They aren’t fast, but they are free labor. (By the way, while he was here, Jeremy gave us a very reasonable quote on removing a tree that stands in the way of being able to reach our future workshop with a vehicle…so if you need tree service, call Tree Climbers and tell Jeremy that the crazy lady who takes all of his wood chip donations recommended him.)
This evening we planted a few raspberry and thorn-less blackberry brambles along the chicken-yard fence line. We want the chickens to be able to reach through and get their share of berries as the plants mature and start producing. In the meantime, I headed back to the far end of the yard to check on the progress of the wild blackberries that proliferate there. I have been checking every couple of days now as I want to beat the birds to at least some of the berries as they ripen. They are starting to turn now! We should have a ton of them pretty soon. What should I make with them if they actually make it all the way back to the house?
Thanks for reading!
There is always a lot going on here at the Soggy Hollow House project. We are starting to see the fruits of some of our first few projects, and we have so many more to come. Our hives are full of comb and honey, our front yard is nearly devoid of grass as we complete the transformation to a no-till style garden and food forest, we are starting to harvest the first few fruits of our labor, and our backyard is finally starting to drain into the ditches we have been digging ever since the ground thawed out this Spring.
We are trying to take a little bit of time to create our online presence as we start to reach out to our community. We hope to be posting soon about upcoming educational events and some fun and interesting workshops! Please bear with us as we pull this all together.
Erin and Jason
Soggy Hollow House Project