Friday, March 18, 2011

A humble start to the Wild Ride Homestead

Patio garden design!
I recently started to design a patio garden for Michaela and my flat over here in the UK. I have been reading about Peak Oil for about three years or so and Climate Change for over ten. I think in many ways I have been stuck on the problem and not making the steps towards taking action and solutions. Michaela and I have made some changes in our lives and cut our consumption a lot but it feels different now. Partly because while we had cut our consumption a lot relative to the average American we were still only about equal to the average UK citizen. We had still not truly challenged the structures that our society is built on. Well now I'm hoping to not just bend the rules but start breaking them.

I have been watching videos from the Peak Moment TV online program. Through this I have seen many examples of real community based solutions and heard people's stories. This has inspired me to move out of my comfort zone. The first step is starting Michaela and my Wild Ride Homestead!
Our homestead is starting off very humbly as a patio garden. By itself a patio garden is nothing really special. What is taking me out of my comfort zone (and a little radical!) is relying on community to make the garden happen. I could easily run down to the hardware store or local nursery and purchase everything I need in a day. But that would cost money instead of being free, the items would all be new instead of used (but good!) and no connections would be built.

So how do you make a garden through a community? Well first I emailed a local guy that I have been volunteering with and have had lunch with a couple times asking if he and his wife had any spare pots I could use. He did not have any but we got to talking and he mentioned a website called freecycle. Essentially its a community barter site where people barter one item for something else. He offered some frog spawn (eggs) as a trade item for pots to help me get started. Sadly no one had pots for trade at the moment. I guess everyone is busy gardening!

Not wanting to give up I decided to start talking to local nurseries to see if I could get some pots from them. Now I was not giving up on my quest to build a garden through community. I went to a couple nurseries and started talking with people working there if they had pots I could have for free. Free you may ask?! Yes! Nurseries throw (or recycle off-site) lots of pots. After talking to a couple I found one that told me that after Mother's Day (its the 3rd of April in the UK) they would have a bunch I could have. They took my name down and I'm going to head down there on the 4th and hopefully pick up a bunch of pots!

But I'm also a little impatient and I really want to start gardening sooner then that. Recently I started volunteering with the Sussex Wildlife Trust as part of their practical conservation team. This week I also started volunteering as a "Youth Ranger." I will talk about that more in another post. Through this volunteering I got to talking with the person that runs the youth ranger project. The conservation shifted to my patio garden and to my glee (I was really happy!) he told me they had a ton of extra pots and I could help myself! The result was that at the end of the day I biked home with 14 pots (medium to large in size) strapped to the back of my bike!
I now have enough pots to really get started... all I need to do is borrow some tools from my friendly neighbours! Its been fun reaching out to people in my community to make this happen. The result is that I have15 pots for the garden. All of them are used and only one cost me anything (I spent about 32cents on the light grey one in the pic which I got from a local charity that I volunteer at). It took me leaving my comfort zone and some leg work but it was very nice to build a garden through community.

Next steps are to borrow some tools from a friend and get some advice on good places to get seeds. I'm also going to be getting some free wood from some of my volunteer activities to build some trellises for some snap peas and climbing beans. I'm also going to build my own tomato cages (again from free supplies!).

I will post more as the Wild Ride Homestead starts to take shape!


  1. How Fascinating! I must admit: my first reaction was to want to call you to talk with you about it. I guess spontaneous phone calls is part of my comfort zone. Recently Boots has been wondering about switching from Verizon to Credo for our cell phone provider. Since Verizon donates to Republican non-progressive candidates and Credo supports progressives, etc.) But when I look at their coverage map, I would be living in a "fair" part of Spokane. Drats. I'm not sure how much I want to move out of that comfort zone! So I can really resonate with you and admire the way you consciously tackle yours.
    The weather is still pretty cold here, but Renata and I hope to at least turn over the old sod tomorrow. I think this year I should add some manure to the mix, but I'm not ready to find my own source and pack it home on my bike! Kudos to you. Perhaps Boots and Ben will share in your harvest.

  2. Thanks! Credo is a lot better overall in their practices in general. Michaela and I will have to look into them when we get back to the States.

    I have some plans to make the soil good (even in the pots!) for the plants. Have to see how it goes. Its going to be an experiment!

  3. Our little tomato plants, eggplants, and bell peppers, that we started from seed, are doing fine after being transplanted into 3 inch pots, but are growing rather slowly. Probably due to limited sunshine and the coolness of our house. I move them back and forth, from our east slider to our west front window, but we've had numerous cloudy days so still limited sun exposure. We are hoping it begins to warm up enough so we can move them outside during the day. I was curious what kind of sun exposure you will be getting for your patio garden? Are you past getting frosts at night? When you plant your seeds, they will need it warm enough so they will germinate. That varies with the type of seed you are planting, cool weather seeds like lettuce not needing as much warmth as tomato seeds. Our tomato seeds germinated much quicker than the eggplants or peppers.

  4. For the most part we are past getting frosts. The nice thing is that we are at the top of a hill so we tend to avoid frosts. The grass at the base of the hill has had frost a few days ago. It also helps having the brick walls to radiate some heat back out during the night.

    The patio is a mix of sunlight. The back right corner where I'm going to place the tomato gets full sun for most of the day so it should work well. Other parts (especially once the big bush gets some leaves) are going to be shady which will be good for lettuce.

    We are getting warmer and I think the danger of a hard frost is mostly gone. I'm going to use some of the plastic sheets I used for the windows to build covers for them that I'm going to use while the seeds are germinating and for a while after they come up to ensure they grow well.

    I'm just going to try to find a cherry tomato plant instead of using seeds. I want to ensure we can get a full harvest before we leave at the end of summer.

  5. Planted our broccoli seeds, indoors, yesterday. Four different types! They should be up in a few days. I think you could grow a broccoli plant in a pot. You could harvest side shoots for quite awhile after the main head is harvested.

    Our garlic is up that we planted last Fall. Also some of the lettuce seeds we broadcast last Fall, in one section of the garden, are coming up. Should have an early supply of fresh greens this year!

    You should be able to start harvesting cherry tomatoes by early summer, depending on when you get your plant set out. Most cherry types take 72-76 days for mature fruit, although there may be a few types that set fruit and mature earlier.