For years I have been a bit lax in my composting. I was just dumping it in a great big pile, bad weeds and all. Compost has emerged from this system in an ad hoc kind of way. It wasn’t helped by Hubby the Un-Gardener who thought he was helping when he had a farmer friend with a tractor bury my almost ready compost pile under a mountain of topsoil I had asked to have moved while I was away somewhere. So I have been mostly buying it in at great expense. I don’t know how great that expense actually is as I am too afraid to know the truth.
Then an idea came to me. It was a grand idea, grander than the ability I had to create it. However this has never stopped me before. Lack of technical know how is not a barrier to achieving your hearts desire – you just need to give it a whirl.
After messing about with pencil and paper for a while I almost gave up at the first hurdle. I couldn’t design this system as I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know the kind of lumber that was available, and even taking a guess was no help as I didn’t know what sizes it came in and how long it would be. And I needed long wood.
Compost systems can often be a little ugly and in need of a disguise. And that is what I planned to do. I was going to hide it behind a fabulous – rustic picket fence that I was prepared to build on the south side and a tiny bit of the east side of my garden. These were areas I couldn’t expand into, so I was ok with it. As for the rest of the garden – well I’m just not ready for that kind of commitment to permanently define the boundary of my garden. The new fence would also have a wee gate in it that would give me a formal entrance to my garden from the carpark area.
Undeterred, I watched a few videos on the great big internet and then armed with the confidence in my new found, if somewhat inadequate fence construction knowledge we headed off to the hardware store. I described my vision and once they stopped laughing they helped come up with a plan and an all-important list of what I needed. We broke the project into three phases and the first load of supplies were ordered.
Having lumber languishing in the garden, created a kind of procrastination driven by fear. How do I know exactly where to put the posts. What if they aren’t straight and what if they aren’t even. It turns out that straight is important, and even… well… let’s just say close enough is good enough! The key to it all was the humble string line. We had heaps of them and they went in every conceivable direction. Our other friend was the spirit level. He was a constant companion throughout the project.
Once we decided where the fence was to go we tentatively started digging holes. This was it. We were committed. Now you have to remember, we live in a swamp and it was winter. In winter the water table is close to the surface and often above. The up side of this is digging was easy due to the soft soil. The downside is the holes quickly filled with water. Although this could also be considered an upside as when we added ready mix concrete to the holes we didn’t need to worry about the water from the hose getting all the way to the bottom. I’m not entirely sure we got our concrete : water ratios correct, but sweet as, she’ll be right and the next day, when we removed the bracing planks, most of the posts had set. We only had to redo a couple.
But a curious side effect of the soft, damp soil was despite carefully setting all the posts to the same height with our string lines, most of them sunk in varying degrees and it looked like they had been put in by a bunch of monkeys. This did not help out rural credibility. Oh well, one step forward, two steps back. One day our farmer neighbours will stop mocking us for our unorthodox endeavours.
The posts stood there, like some bizarre Neolithic structure for longer than I would have liked but it was winter after all and rain delayed play. And tortuously any fine day that came our way was immediate taken up by some other random commitment – often indoors.
With drive and determination in our hearts we picked up the pace and set about building the fence. The first conundrum was the gate… how big should we make it and will the pickets fit? Technical people may want to look away now. We took the picket measurements from the plan that was drawn up on the back of an invoice at the hardware store, and with a black marker pen we spaced out the imaginary pickets on our string line and coloured in what we thought would be the spacing in between, and held our breath that it would be ok.
To avoid an excessively long story I have created a bit of a cliff hanger.
Come again soon – for the conclusion of the compost construction saga
Sarah the Gardener : o )