When we first moved into our house about 2 years ago we were a bit of a mess and recovering from a pretty rough prior year. However, as soon as we got all the furniture and housewares in and un-packed, we felt an urge to get outside and start working the land, at least a little bit. Mrs. Cat actually was a bit hesitant and wanted me to wait until the next year to dive headlong into such a project, but we were both glad we went ahead anyways.
Our house has a lot of land for the city that we live in. It was a big reason that we bought it as the price for how much land there is made sense to us. But what our family and friends saw as a perfect lot for having football and baseball games, inviting people over for cookouts and generally just keeping a nice appearance through lawn care, Mrs. Cat and I saw an opportunity to grow food!
At first I didn’t want to bit off more than I could chew and the strip of land leading up along the edge of the property on one of our fence lines seemed perfect for a nice sized garden. How much food would we get? It was anyone’s guess really, but I decided to jump into making it suitable for planting as fast as possible. This involved several days of really heavy work ripping out weeks digging out rocks and root systems and tilling the tightly compacted soil and mixing in organic matter and fertilizer for our plants. We managed to get a lot of food, probably several hundred pounds, out of that small strip and as Mrs. Cat wrote about already, we have big plans for the rest of our property now.
Building raised beds was an idea that Mrs. Cat and I threw around back and fourth quite a lot. She has a lot more aggressive ideas when it comes to converting the property while I am a bit more lazy when it comes to how much labor I want to dedicate up front, rather than adding bit by bit each season. We decided that raised beds would be a nice compromise this year because we could encapsulate the growing area and have a lot more room to move around and maneuver while doing our gardening.
I figured we’d do two or three raised beds, but Mrs. Cat ordered enough wood to make ten. So that was my project at hand. Fortunately after a few ugly first tries, my grandfather came over to help me frame the bottoms and actually learn a few things about carpentry and how to make wooden structures strong and look nice at the same time.
I was switching jobs this week, so I gratefully had a few days off to work on this, which I needed every bit of between radically changing hot-to-cold weather to our boiler showing signs of death. We made it happen surprisingly fast and it looks better than either of us expected.
Thank goodness that Mrs. Cat decided to teach herself how to do land mappings using her computer and also has been studying her permaculture concepts she wants to implement on our property day and night for the last few months. I give my input where it’s needed, but I am grateful that she has such a vision for this stuff and just tells me what needs to be done and how so I can go out and execute the heavy lifting and labor.
Now we have several huge piles of compost and loam in our yard waiting to be distributed into the built and positioned raised beds according to Mrs. Cat’s plans. We also have a large delivery of wood chips to come to also cover much of our grass on the property to prepare for a long-term goal of fruit trees throughout the area in and around the raised beds.
We’re so lucky to have a neighbor who happens to be a landscaper who owned this and the house next door together at one point. He saw us struggling a few times, complimented us on such a project and then offered to lend us his front loader to speed up getting the loam and compose into the raised beds a lot faster. Plus Mr. Bear got to learn how to use a front loader! How cool is that?
We definitely spent more money on this project so far than we planned but have learned a lot about how to manage our energy and money better this time around. If we ever do find ourselves building out another food forest on this or another property, we’ll have a much better idea of how to go about it from start to finish without feeling so overwhelmed on what to even begin with.
More to come on the project. We have some tips we'll share on what to will make your life so much easier building raised beds, whether it be just 1, 10 like us or more.