How To Be Classy Like Me: DIY Potato Box

Alternate Title: How To Build A Box To Grow Potatoes In, Even Though You Can Buy A Bag of Potatoes  For Really Cheap, So You Might As Well Use These Directions To Build A Compost Bin.

Let’s face it friends, I’m classy. It’s been quite a while though since I’ve put out into the internets a tutorial on how to be classy like me, so lets delve right in.

The first thing you need to know is that anyone who’s anyone calls this online world of ours The Internets. “But wait Heather,” you say, “my grandparents still call it The Internets”. You’re damn right they do. They’re classy. Take a lesson or two.

Secondly, I am fantastic at building, which is what today’s lesson is on. In fact, building things is potentially one of my biggest strengths. You’ll see just how good I am at building by the end of this. I promise you will be impressed. It was part of my classy-lady training in my wee years. So, let me impart on you this wisdom so you too can build a box to grow potatoes in, or a compost box if you want to get fancy you saucy minx.

Step One

Decide how large you would like your potato box to be. Generally they are between 2 and 4 square feet. I decided to make mine approximately 3 square feet. Why? Because that’s the classy amount, and because 3 feet happened to be the size of the majority of lumber we had. I mean, bought. We absolutely did not build this entire thing out of scrap lumber. I would never do that. It’s just not…classy. To that tune, let’s move onto step two.

Step Two

Acquire the finest, and most currently in style, lumber known to man. Money is no object. Except that it’s literally an object, but that is neither here nor there at this moment. Don’t get caught up in the semantics. To acquire the lumber for my potato box, I visited a local high-end barn which specialized in reclaimed beat up pine. They even store it outside under a piece of corrugated roofing and plywood, how classy.

PotatoBox (34)Some of the lumber is already painted with nail holes in it. Some of it’s ripped apart and missing entire sections. It’s the newest thing in lumber. Don’t question the fact it’s what some might consider “low-grade” lumber. If you listen to me you’ll realize you are ahead of the trend and then when you’re friends catch on, you’ll be all, “I’ve been doing that for years already”. Even hipsters don’t know yet that this is so uncool it’s cool.

PotatoBox (2)Step Three

Take your awesome saw and cut through each piece so they are all the same length. Once you figure out your height you would like, cut it down by two feet. Why? Because you realized you really only have enough lumber to make it about a foot shorter. That’s fine, you really only wanted it this height anyway.

PotatoBox (3)Step Four

To assemble you’ll need a screw driver, a bucket of the finest screws, and a square. Make sure your bucket of screws is only of the highest quality.  One must always have a golden screw. Ignore your significant other who is humoring you by staying out of the way and letting you do this all by yourself, while looking on with an amused and yet skeptical eye. Do I want a level? No I do not want a level. I do not need a level. Leveling is for those who are not confident in their exceptional building skills.

PotatoBox (4) PotatoBox (5)Step Five

Square your boards up on each edge and screw as you go. We do not level, but we do square up. We are making a box, not a rhombus. Be classy and know your shapes.

PotatoBox (6) PotatoBox (7) PotatoBox (8)Step Six

Take the boards you found that were slightly shorter than you hoped for and attach them to your non-rhombus frame you just built to act as the posts. Make sure the posts are more or less flush with the bottom of the frame. Again, you do not need a level, just feel it out. You need these posts so you can add further boards as your potatoes grow and you add more soil. Do not under any circumstance accidentally trip over your frame and almost take a face first digger. You are classy. You do not take diggers.

PotatoBox (11) PotatoBox (12)

Step Seven

Build up a few more courses of boards on the sides by screwing directly into the posts. Do not take into account the weight of this structure and how far you will have to move it before you do this. Classy people realize this issue but then convince themselves they will be totally fine and able to muscle it into place.

PotatoBox (19)If you have a tractor with forks that can move the finished structure you may be okay. However, be prepared to have a significant other on the tractor laugh at you and remind you that you wanted to do this all yourself. Telling them to get off the tractor so you can move it then results in them laughing and continuing to move logs. This leaves you to your own devices since you made it clear earlier on this was your project and your project alone. Classy people also then come to their senses and realize they really do need to move the box into place before they build it any further, lest they want to have multiple visits to the chiropractor. As you may have deduced already, classy people do not go to the chiropractor. They are perfect and never need a doctor of any kind. Most definitely not a team of people to keep their back in line at least once a month.

PotatoBox (17)

Step Eight

Now that you’ve decided to move your base over with only a couple coarses of boards you must keep one thing in mind: Absolutely under no circumstances are you to be caught swearing while carrying it across your yard. Classy ladies do not say things like, “Bleeping bleep bleeper”.  You get it put perfectly into place in the garden and make no mention of how you perhaps should have leveled it first. Thankfully it’s perfect because you’re perfect, and you do not have to press it into the soil more on one side and back fill it so it sits level-ish. That definitely didn’t happen.

PotatoBox (21)Step Nine

Now that you have your box in place which was perfect the second you put it down, take your gardening fork and turn over the soil. I will hear none of the fact it would have been easier to till the soil pre-putting the  box down. You know good and well it is much easier to till the soil when you have four sides of wood blocking your fork when you pull back on it. Do not contemplate moving the potato box so you can till the soil properly, classy people do not second guess their decisions no matter how poor they were. Then again, classy people never have poor decisions.

Step Ten

The final step is to continue to screw the rest of the boards into place pre-planting if you would like, but leave a couple boards off the front so it’s easier to plant. The other option is to leave as is, plant, and then add boards as your potato plants get higher and you add more soil.

PotatoBox (25)

That’s it! You have either just made the best damn potato box or the best damn compost bin in history. This is a fact. Do not Google it. Classy people don’t Google to realize a blog writer is full of shit.

Crap. Classy girls don’t say shit. Or crap.

Crap.

xo,

Heather

Walking In The Weeds

It has most definitely been a Labor Day around here in all senses of the word. Make that, a Labor weekend/week. We’ve completely re-roofed the original house but I’ll talk more about that in the weekly Wednesday renovation recap in a couple days.

With all of the work on the house some of the other little things have fallen behind, primarily up-keeping the weeding.  Our garden? Weeds except for around the food that’s still growing. Our walkway? Weeds weeds weeds. I finally got sick of the weeds on the walkway primarily because every time I walked down it, in anything but boots, my feet would get wet from the morning dew. It drove me nuts. The point of having a walkway was so we didn’t have to walk over the grass and get our feet/pants wet.

Plus, let’s be honest with each other—this looks terrible. Straight up terrible. So I took a little time to go ape on those weeds. We have weed blocker underneath, but over time the witch grass has grown in over the edges and pulled it’s way across the walk. As a con, witch grass is a menace to society. As a pro (in this context) it’s easy to pull up. Witch grass is normally a nightmare to get rid of because any broken roots grow back 10 times worst. Thankfully the roots this time grew over the rocks so they were easy to get up.

About 45 minutes of work, and the walk was looking not only wider, but a lot better.

A few days later I tackled all the nasty witch grass and weeds between the walk pavers.See that pile of clumps of grass to the right of the pavers in the photo below? Those were all throughout the pavers. Yep, weedy.

These pavers will most likely be moved to look nicer, or they may end up all together in a different part of the yard. Until then it’s just nice to have a cleaned up walkway.

With the inside of the house still needing some tlc and cleaning it’s nice to see one area taken care of. Raise your hands if you need to wash your shower curtain, do some laundry, vacuum the dog hair, and organize your shelves in your makeshift bedroom.

*raises hand*

You may just find me laying on the walkway staring at the clouds. The weeded, wide, nice, walkway.

xo,

Heather

P.S. You may notice all of my photos from this post out will be watermarked. Blog scrapers are becoming notoriously scary and they scrape content straight from a blog and put it on a highly advertised site as original content, when it’s not. One way to help combat this is through watermarked photos. I hate to do it, but at this point it’s just necessary as I found one of my most popular posts scraped. Boo.

My Relationship With Troy

As we drove around in the GMC last night, Andy mentioned that I never write about the equipment we have. Equipment that has a huge part in how we live around here. Though he was specifically referring to our tractors, I realized today while ninja kicking the tiller, that our equipment is more than just our tractors. Though I promise dear, I will write about our tractors. Of which I only have a love relationship with.

On the other hand, and today’s topic, my relationship with Troy has built into a love/hate relationship. I need him, he needs us. We’re codependent. Without him, my garden soil hates me. Without us, he sits unused in the barn. Equipment likes to be used. They don’t like to sit around. Equipment that sits around groans, and moans and needs encouragement to work properly again. Kind of like some people.

Troy, is our garden tiller. Troy Bilt that is.

Troy has been in our family since before I was born. It’s odd to think my Dad was using him at about the same age as me, except he already had two kids and I wasn’t even a blip on the radar ultrasound yet. We received him “to hold onto for a while” (in Dad speak – to have) from my Uncle who somehow acquired him for a number of years.  He wasn’t working right, but all he needed was some ALC. Andy Loving Care. With a little cleanup and a new part, Troy was once again part of our working family.

Sometimes I feel like Troy is saying “now you listen hear youngin’, I was around while you were still a separate egg and sperm”. And I’m like “shut your yap Troy and get tilling”. Correction. My mother informed me of a few mistakes in the story as I always knew it. Troy was my uncles, which explains why Mick had him. I was a year old, and the engine blew due to an oil mishap – and then dad to pay $200 to replace it. So as it turns out, if this is true, Troy has been a pain in the ass from day one. A pain in the ass who has helped out family out for two generations.

Truth be told, this year was the first year I used Troy all by myself. In the past, Andy has always done it. Andy is used to manhandling equipment. Equipment is used to manhandling me. So this year while Andy worked on the barn, and I had pent up energy I needed to get out, and our garden soil was dry—I took Troy for a ride. Or the other way around. I’m still debating the outcome.

I quickly realized how hard this was going to be. First off I could barely move Troy. This lady right here has biceps that could win a gun show. A full blown, water gun show. Second, Troy needed air in his tires and to be dusted off. So, in true fashion I grabbed the air hose, took the boys nailer off of it and grabbed the necessary attachment—the air blower thing, and the air tire pumping thing. Very technical.

After a quick rundown of the controls with Andy, I was off. To get the dogs in the field. Who were rolling in unsavory items.

Then after securing the trouble makers in house, and putting ear protectors on, it was time for Troy. It was a rough start. I was pushing down to much. Troy was bogging down. He was trying to tell me to give him more throttle. So was my husband actually. But all I did was stall him. Then, something happened which is never a good thing but somehow always works out.

I got stubborn. I dug my heels in the dirt, literally. I was going to win this thing whether Troy liked it or not. I was not going to give up. So I manhandled him around that garden and eventually we got in a groove. Oh, he certainly gave me a run for my money. When it came time to turn him (in which the tillers are still running so you have to have them lifted or they will ruin your grass) I had to rear his ass end up and push him around with my shoulder. At one point my foot must have snagged the garden rope we removed without realizing it, because when I set Troy down for the next pass, this happened.

Thankfully, after fully turning Troy off (and boy, was I turned off too at this point. Or more like pissed off, one of the two) it was rather easy to unwind. Whew.

I have not told Andy this happened yet. I’m going to give him a grand old blog surprise. The thing is, he won’t be surprised. I told you, equipment generally owns me in every aspect. Except backhoe’s. We’ll get into that when I discuss the tractor.

I finally got Troy going again and we were turning to make another pass.

At this point someone left the basement door open and the dogs ran out. I had ear protectors on. I didn’t hear them, but thankfully I saw them, and Rosie was running right at me and I had this tiller lifted in the air mid-turn. The blades were going and I could not get the friggen blades to stop and it to stop moving. Then, out a moment of sheer panic and anger, I screamed at the dogs to stop, which for once they did and I ninja kicked the lever while holding Troy’s ass end up in the air, with the other foot planted. Troy immediately stopped, Rosie came over happy, I put Troy down, and I walked the dogs back in the house.

And shut that door. Tight.

To say it was a “close call” would be awfully dramatic. I saw the dogs coming out and they stopped when I yelled. But I was pissed off that the lever wouldn’t work. I was pissed off when the “what if” went through my head. So I kicked him.

Right after this Troy lightened up a little, and so did I. I realized if I just let him do the work, and I kept him in line, we would be okay. Our hate sort of went away, and we decided to stop fighting each other. A few passes when by with beautiful ease. Then on cue with two rows left Troy sputtered. Troy coughed. Troy choked. Troy, dammit, ran out of gas. So off I went to the garage to get the gas can and fill him back up.

At the end of a long 45 minutes or so we were done. My garden went from this.

To this.

Essentially it went from dry and cracked to a beautiful rich brown color and soft to the touch, which is hard to tell since I had to use my point and shoot today.

Troy and I made it through, and I think we’ll be okay from here on out. Especially if we don’t have to converse until next summer.

I should probably mention we have a small garden. Small to me at least. If we had a few acres of our own I’m almost positive the garden would be a full acre, but since we don’t, it’s little. It grows enough food for our family so we have a reduced grocery bill almost all summer, and it’s perfect. That said, ff we ever expand our garden we’re using the farmers tractor mounted tiller. Troy can go climb a mountain.

And I will not be behind him helping.

Now off to go pick up the soil to prep it for planting. Thankfully this required the two arms God gave me and no gasoline.

xo,

Heather

Easy Winter Seed Sowing

It’s a common held belief that one cannot sow seeds during the winter months. You’re always told you need special lights, and it has to be the right time of year. This is the way Dad did it every year. I got looking around my environment though.

Every year the world blooms by itself – even in the cold areas like Maine. We don’t have to go out and replant the entire state after all. Somehow, mother nature is protecting the seeds throughout the winter and regrowing everything without giant commercial grow lights suspended in the atmosphere.

I know this is hardly a new concept – I was sold when I came across the process of winter sowing seeds with nothing more than:

  • re-used plastic containers
  • twine 
  • Dirt (some websites said 5:1 ratio of soil to peat moss buutt we only had a peatmoss mix on hand so we’ll see what happens hah)
  • Seeds (my personal preference is Johnny’s or High Mowing Seeds, a fully organic seed place out of VT)

The sun is, after all, one giant grow light. If you’re interested in trying winter sowing, I suggest checking out this website for a plethora of information including what to grow in your zone and when.  The ‘Winter Sown’ website is the best there is it seems like.

Anyway after a lot of searching around I realized how easy this was to do.

First up, before you start any process get your containers. I chose milk jugs. Since we rarely buy milk (and if we do it’s in glass jars from our local dairy) we had none. Thankfully my coworkers toddler goes through tons of whole milk. Score for us. You can also use things like clear soda or water bottles, those to-go food containers with the clear plastic top and black bottom, etc. Since I chose plastic jugs though, this tutorial is on them.

1. Using an exacto knife, regular knife or scissors, puncture holes in the bottom of your container. It will be easier to do this now while your container is still in one piece.

2. Next, using your cutting item, cut about 4 inches from the bottom of your container around but make sure to leave about a one inch hinge in the back. You do not want this cut the entire way through. It doesn’t really matter where you make the hinge.

3.) On the side opposite of your hinged edge, punch two holes on either side of the cut edge. You want these to line up when closed. You can see the holes in the photo above a little bit.

4.) Once all of your cuts are made fill that baby with soil. Yes, I did this in our house on our hardwood floors. Why? Because I can vacuum dirt up.

5. Now this next step can either be done here, or before you put your soil in – but I like to do it at this point (probably because messy soil is fun). Mix some water into your soil to make it just moist and combine.

6. Don’t accidentally dump soil and seeds on the floor. They are a pain to get out from between boards.

7. Put your seeds in the soil according to the package. Or, sprinkle them on top and slightly press them in and cover with a little more soil like I did. Ooorr following the package for whatever you’re sowing.

Spinach!

8.) Loop some twine through the holes you punctured and tie on the outside.

9.) Make sure your cap is removed from your container. Repeat for all of the rest of your seeds. We went with tomatoes, chard and spinach.

10.) Place somewhere outside it will receive plenty of sun and can have rain enter it through the top, but is still pretty protected. We have a rather large soffet on our house, so I put ours under the soffet on the gravel.

Okay? But….what next?

Well, from what I’ve read once the temperatures get warmer you can open up your seeds a little bit to get nice air circulation (see photo below) and water them. Eventually you can just flip them all the way open and let the sun hit full on, and then close them back up when it’s cool out.

I will definitely be updating you more as my own personal process goes on. To be completely honest, I figure I have about a 50/50 chance of this working. Between maybe not using the right soil mixture, to starting it late, to the fact that my green thumb exists about as naturally as unicorn spam, it’s a crap shoot. That said, the process of setting these up is right – I know that much. These natural little green houses seem to be pretty darn awesome, so here’s to hoping mother nature can make up for my unicorn spam thumb.

Happy Gardening (In March),

Heather