RAISED GARDEN – by Shane

This spring we planted a garden. Just dug up a corner of our yard, laid in some really nice topsoil, and planted some vegetables.  Now, this garden flourished…things grew like mad…including the grass and weeds that soon took it over. The grass was the biggest culprit.  It’s St. Augustine, a grass that grows like a vine. It gets longer, and then sprouts roots on the stalk as it gets bigger, and soon covers a wide area. We like this grass as it’s easy to maintain, but man, did it take over the garden.

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As you can see…it dominated the garden by the end of the summer.  So, we (my lovely wife and I) decided that a raised garden would be the best choice.  We did a quick google search to find ideas, found one we liked, and went with it. It was a 4×8 framed garden.

So we needed materials. Specifically, 2×12 pieces of wood to be the sides…two that were 8′ and two that were 4′.  We went to home depot and found that they sold them in 16′ lengths…perfect, we needed to get two, and would have a couple of pieces left over! The wood was $25.15 each…so two was $50.30

And was was really nice about Home Depot is that they cut the wood there for us…to the specifications we provide. Since I lack a table saw, or circular saw, and cutting this with my hand saw would take serious muscles and time…this was a handy service we took advantage of. That and getting 12′ 2x12s home in a car could prove tricky.  This wasn’t all we needed, we also needed a few short 2×4’s to be the corder pieces, and one as a cross beam.  We got one 10 foot 2×4 for $8.  Home depot was nice enough to cut all the wood for us.  I also needed a box of wood screws ($6.30), to put everything together.

We also bought 4 bags of soil to mix in with our soil…they came out to $29.88

The total bill came out to be $94.48.

When I got home, I started assembling things. I put the 2×4 corner pieces on the long ends of the side boards…going in 2″ from the end to enable room for the shorter side pieces.

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I drilled lead holes into the wood to make putting in the screws easier, and to lessen the chance of splitting the wood.

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Then I screwed the corner pieces to the sides:

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It started coming together…just one last side to install:

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I put my cap on, to keep the sun from my eyes.

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There…finally assembled and put where it is going to go. During this process I also moved the cobble stones from along side the garage to this new location, against the wall.

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But then I had to move it so that I could dig up the soil to mix with our top soil, and to bury the box a bit.  No pictures of this exist, sadly. But you didn’t need to see me digging anyway.

I put the box back, sank it about 2 inches, put in the soil, and mixed in the potting soil.  And then my lovely wife planted a few things. We use plants that were already started in a few spots, and then a few seeds for other spots:

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There you go. A raised garden for under $100.  A little more for the plants.

Mail Station

Mail Station

This is a little mail sorter we found at some place like Ross or Tuesday Morning years ago. It cost under $5. At some point, we added the kitty key hooks. It has been hanging by the door, but totally disorganized, for many years, in many different homes. As part of last month’s paper organizing project, I cleaned it out and organized it in such a way as I hope will work for us.

I am keeping in it a small notebook (for writing notes to teachers and other small things like that), a pen, our address book and bills that need to be paid.

I have a new system for keeping the bills organized, and it seems to be working very well, so i thought I would share:

As soon as I pick up the mail, I immediately sort through and throw out all junk mail. I clip coupons I need and put them in an envelope in my purse, then, I take out each bill, discard the envelope it came in, and put in inside its return envelope. Using a little post-it flag, I note the due date, and stick it right on the front of the envelope, using the following system: If it is due in the beginning of the month, the flag goes on the lefthand corner; if it is due mid-month, the flag goes in the middle; if it is due toward the end of the month, the flag goes on the righthand corner. (see picture) It’s very simple, but simple works best for me, and I find this is really helping me stay organized and get all of the bills paid on time, without any stress, and without a big paper mess stacked in some corner (or several corners) of the house.

The Plot Thickens…

Okay.  Well.  Maybe not.  I really just needed a title, and I couldn’t think of what to call this entry.  

I thought it would be a good idea to update you on the progress we have been making on that list I shared in “The Master Plan” entry.  I am finding, as we go through this process, that while setting goals for each months has helped to keep me motivated, it isn’t really all that simple.  despite my best efforts, I have not completely conquered our paper mess, so I will continue to work toward that goal, even as I move on to the next project.  I will say that devoting a month to that one task definitely helped jumpstart the process, and I have made a lot of headway.

As promised, I spent much of January sorting through all of our tons of paper mess.  I am happy to say the girls followed my lead, at least to a certain extent.  For my part, I was able get rid of one mail sorter (I had 3, for some reason, and was using all of them…and STILL keeping bills piled in a stack on the hearth).  

I am now using the one that is mounted near the door to keep track of bills and outgoing mail, address book, a notepad for writing notes to teachers, grocery lists, etc., and a couple of pens.  When pick up the mail, I immediately toss out all of the junk.  Then, I open the bills, remove the actual bill and return envelope, and discard all of the extraneous stuff that comes with it.  I put the bill inside the return envelope, stick on a little flag with the due date written on it (lefthand corner if it’s due at the beginning of the month, middle if it’s due toward the middle, right if it’s due toward the end), and put them in the sorter with that end up, so I can always see exactly what is due and when.  

For the time being, the other sorter is where I am keeping checkbooks, pens, stamps, envelopes, and return address labels, but I am really not sure I need it at all.  It has two large slots for files, and I am thinking of using them as sort of in and out boxes for the kids.  So, if they have a form for me to sign, they put it in the “in” slot; then, I sign it, and put it in their file in the “out” slot.  I think I will give this system a shot and see how it goes.  If it turn out that I can stash all of the small stuff in the desk and free up some more space around the house, I will probably let this sorter go.  Simpler is better, after all.  

I was also able to get all of the files in our storage bench organized.  This is where I keep stuff I need to have handy ~ home warranty and insurance info, auto insurance, business cards, etc.  While going through all of those files, I found several documents we will need for our taxes this year, so that was one of the great benefits of actually getting organized.  In addition, I organized all of the paper we use for printing, art and other projects, and Shane helped me move the printer out of our bedroom, which was a remarkably silly place for it (imagine that your 11th-grader is pulling an all-nighter and suddenly starts printing her 26 page paper at 3:47 a.m. See?  Not fun.), and relocate it atop the newly organized craft cupboard/shelf thing next to the kids’ computer desk.  It makes much more sense there.  And wakes fewer grumpy parents.

Today, i hope to get out to the garage and go through some old files in the filing cabinet out there.  I know I have a lot of files that are just paperwork from a job I had well before Kaia was born.  They are just taking up space, and can be sent off for recycling.  

But, see, it’s the 6th of February, and February was designated for closet organization.  So, we’re a little off track.  Sorta.  We have actually started on the closet thing.  Shane and I went to the hardware store and looked at options available to work with there, and I have been spending a lot of time reading up on closet organization strategies.  We have (I think) settled on a design plan.  Now, we just need to take measurements and get to work.  

I did devote a little time int he past couple of weeks to a project that I think will make our lives less stressful, and it makes our home look a little nicer, too.  Since we were using the two square ottomans (topped with trays) as coffee tables in the “party room” (that’s what we call the great big den/dining room/bar at the back of our house), we were all constantly stressed out about spilling and making a mess on the new furniture.  (Okay.  Shane and I were more stressed out about it than the kids.)  So, I decided to make washable slipcovers.  I found the fabric at fabric.com, and they turned out rather nicely.  I am planning to make one for the rectangular ottoman that is doing settee duty in the reading corner, so I will try to remember to take pics and post a tutorial when I do.  It was really quite easy.  Anyway, I am thinking, if I cut a waterproof mattress pad to fit on top of each ottoman, and place those under each slipcover, we will have a pretty spill-proof surface.  If not, at least the covers are washable, and they look cute.  

I spent a total of $46.08 on fabric and trim for the two covers, and I have enough fabric left over to make covers for a few throw pillows, too.  I didn’t think that was terrible for custom-made covers.  

This is the first one I made (note the aforementioned pile on the hearth)
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And this is the second:

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That’s all for now.  I need to go throw in some laundry, and maybe bake some muffins or something.  It’s a drizzly day here, and I could get more bang for my buck by letting the oven heat the house while I make a nice snack for the kids.