Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Inspiration from Failure

Two facts about me:
  • Whenever I'm waiting for something to happen (that is completely out of my hands) the best strategy is to get involved in feverish activity. The other option is to go quietly crazy as I wait.
  • I love DIY. I've never really attempted it except to wander around the isles of a DIY shop lost in wonder, awe and admiration. 
Combining the two, can you guess what I've been up to these past two weeks? I've been waiting for something (completely out of my hands) to happen. I admit I haven't stopped there. I've chewed up all my nails.

And I've made an attempt at DIY. It involved a lot of thought, planning and a barrel (or should I say vege container) full of mistakes. But I've enjoyed the process.

Here's how it began. I spotted these "ends" in the gardening section of our local DIY shop. They are clever little slotting devices to connect planks of wood and make them into containers. With these I thought it would be easy to make myself a veggie-container.


I picked the sunniest spot in our garden. It was covered in lawn but I was happy to sacrifice the lawn for my vege patch. After measuring out the length and breadth I'd require I went to the DIY shop. Feeling secretly thrilled with myself and refusing to let the slightly bored attendant get my spirits down, I had him cut four planks of untreated wood of the thickness that would comfortably slip into the ends.

I thought a single 12" plank height would do and merrily hammered a plank into the slotted ends.

After minor adjustments of the slotted ends on the other three planks my vege container was ready. But our dogs could, and did, jump in. "Nooooooooooo," I yelled which made them think it was a game. They rushed from the muddy container straight into the house leaving muddy paw marks all over the beige carpet.

I decided to increase the height to two planks. That meant emptying the container and starting from scratch. Prying out the ends from each plank - not easy - I hammered it in across two.

One end across two planks

That seemed like a good height. Only, there was one problem. Whatever I did to the side at right angles to the doubled up planks - joined them together or left them seperate - they ended up with gaps either at the bottom of the container or between planks. Gaps in a container I meant to fill with soil simply wouldn't do.

After studying the sample diagram and going crazy wondering how it had no gaps, I realised (finally) that there were slimmer planks (of the same width as the end bits) in between the wider ones. Eureka! I went to our local DIY shop and with a lot of help from the shop assistent (thank you Rodney of Mitre10) bought some the right length, width and thickness.

That didn't work either. The gaps were still there. On close inspection of the sample diagram and after much @#%$^-ing I realised that the planks adjacent to each other needed to be of uneven heights. If I started with a thin one, the one adjacent and at right angles needed to be the thicker one and so on. Finally, I had a container with no gaps. With help (which I reluctantly accepted as I wanted this to be my project) I fixed a trellis behind it for our tomatoes and other climbers.

coming right

To complete the job I layered it, for reasons I've explained in a previous post, with cardboard, grass clippings, dried leaves and hay, moistened it and topped it all off with our own home grown compost.

Grass layer peeping through the hay
After all that effort, wouldn't you know :), our dogs are still able to jump in. I'm adding a strong net to cover the container, not only to keep birds out but to prevent the dogs from jumping in. Will let you know if that works.

Half stitched net

Voila, the end product.

My only grouse - making the box was so much easier than filling it and stitching the net. Nearly there on both counts.

Here's a wise cartoon story by J.K.Rowling about the fringe benefits of failure. After completing my vege box I can vouch that the message, besides being thoughtful, courageous, deeply felt and wonderfully honest, is a hundred percent true.

Will my vege harvest be successful? I don't know but I'm willing to give it my best shot. For starters the seedlings have produced healthy little saplings. If I'm successful I'll proudly display photos of the harvest at the end of summer (April in NZ).

The thing I've been trying NOT to think about, which started the whole project off? Hopefully, I won't have long to wait to find out. Hint - read why I wrote the book.

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