Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Daddy Bed

The Daddy bed. Almost all finished.
Every child deserves a daddy bed. When children are young they get held by their parents most of the time. As they get older they get hugs as they scrape their knees, have conflicts, and any time they just need them. A little older and things change. 

For a teenager, what used to be the perfect time for a hug just a year or two earlier becomes an unforgivable trespass with little or no warning to the parent.

A few holes in the wrong spots.
A few fixes.

The solution is to hide the hugs as something else. In my case I have hugs hidden into the custom bed I designed and made for my daughter.

The bed is out of building stock Douglass fir. The posts are 4x4s. The rails for the head and foot boards, as well as the mattress rails are 2x6s. Inside the mattress rails are supports for a mattress board, they are made out of 2x3s. The mattress board is a 3/4 inch particle board cut to size.

Those Headlok screws are
not lined up!

According to a friend of mine, I over-engineered my hardware. Each side of each mattress rail has two 3/8x6" lag screws holding it to the 4x4. The same hardware could have been used for the other rails. I chose to use six inch Headlok screws with finished heads instead, so I could cut down on my finishing hassle. 

The Headlok system claims to be stronger that 3/8" lag screws, so I could have used them for everything, but I feel safer with more metal. The Headloks usually don't need to be pre-drilled, but when you are going through 3 1/2" of Doug fir they tend to wander, so pre-drilling is recommended. 

I wanted a simple finish so I opted for fruit colored Danish oil. It was easy to apply and looks good. It is a little thinner than I expected, so I might have to refinish in a few years. 

The headboard.
The footboard.

I planned on leaving the bed a little rough from the outset so I did not mercilessly sand to perfection. Ink lumber markings are still visible, as are a few measuring lines. I even have a bunch of extra holes from planning the lags and Headloks into the same space. They are not ugly and help tell the story of the difficulties I had in making the bed.

And I did have difficulties. None of the lumber is perfect. Every piece is cracked or warped. And I found out I cannot drill straight. It just isn't an option.

I am happy with the bed though. It is not perfect, but it looks good and is strong. 

Most importantly it was made with love and was received with love.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Walk in the Park

Brigham tea, otherwise known as Ephedra viridis
Brigham tea is known for its drought resistance as well 
as for its medicinal value. I like it for a nice evergreen 
splash in even the driest areas.

When time allows, I love to go to parks and gardens. The more diverse the plant material is the happier I am. This fall I went to a garden that specializes in drought resistant or 'waterwise' gardening.

When looking at plants that I am not as familiar with
I take a photo of the name tag so I don't forget the
name when I get home.

In an area that averages only fifteen inches of precipitation a year, I am always impressed by the color and vitality that can come to a garden with little or no additional water. Of course it takes a little planning and a lot of study to get it right.

On the upper left, out of the camera, is a plum tree that
requires more water than this poor, soaked rabbit brush.
When planting areas with different water needs it is
important to provide a buffer zone to protect each type
of plant.

I had read about Hummingbird flower in the past, but I
had never seen them blooming in person. 

I also think parks and gardens say something about the community they grow in. In the case of this garden, it is more of a library that the entire region can access.

I made sure I photographed the label. I don't want to
forget this one!

For a wonderful time with plants the Central Utah Gardens are at:

355 W. University Parkway
Orem UT

The garden is open through the growing season and is at its best, like most gardens, in the spring. Please take a little more time in the native plant area, it is phenomenal what beauty is growing just outside our well watered lawns!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Late Season Bee Treat

Lacy buckwheat at a local water-wise garden

I am not a bee keeper, but I do like to keep garden helpers that come to my yard happy. Part of that task is to provide food for the bees all season.

While most gardeners keep plenty of good foraging flowers from spring to late summer, we have a tendency to start wrapping things up as the days get shorter.

Here is a list of some flowers for the late summer and fall:

Chives Allium schoenoprasum May-September
Garlic chives Allium tuberosa August-September
Aster Aster spp. September-frost
Borage Borage officinalis June-frost
Bluebeard-blue mist spirea Caryopteris clandonensis August-September
Star thistle Centaurea ssp. July-September
Sweet autumn clematis Clematis terifolia Late September
Melons Cucumis melo June-frost
Pumpkin-squash Cucurbita spp. June-frost
Lacy buckwheat Eriogonum corymbosum Late Do not over water
James buckwheat Eriogonum jamesii June-November Do not over water
Pink smoke buckwheat Eriogonum racemosum August-September Do not over water
Joe Pye weed Eupatorium esculentum August-September
Sunflower Helianthus annuus June-September
Alyssum Lobularia maritima June-September
Mallow Malva alcea June-September
Mountain beebalm Monardella odoratissima July-September
Phaccella Phacella tanacetifolia June-September
Goldenrod Solidago ssp. September-October
Lacebark Elm Ulmus parvifolia August-September

I encourage you to add flowers that are native to your area!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Still Giving Thanks

My wife has done most of the Christmas decorating
during her short periods of energy. She even basted
the Christmas valance to the curtains while they were
still hanging!

This Thanksgiving week has been the first time in four years I have been at peace for more than a few hours at a time. Things were so good, I even managed to smile while doing my last minute Thanksgiving shopping.

Things went so well that I got most of Thanksgiving dinner done on time, except the jello. I always forget the jello! The food was good despite a close call on the rolls. I even got to take my wife on the longest walk we have taken in over fifteen years.

Why was this such a peaceful holiday? It has much to do with what is not happening as well as with what is happening. First, I am not deployed. Second, I am not recovering from deployment. (It takes a year for me to get over it.) Third, my wife is not experiencing mysterious, weird health problems. Fourth and finally, the no-longer mysterious diabetes and cancer are responding well to their respective treatments.

All of this amounts to a chance to slow down and be happy.

Things are still dicy on several levels. My wife is not out of the woods regarding cancer, and she never will be. Rumors of a second deployment are increasing. Life in general is always unpredictable and sometimes dangerous. And worst of all, I have to find a way to support my family through the coming winter! Gardening as a trade is a wonderful pleasure, but it will never be stable.

But even with those fears, I am thankful. I would especially like to thank my wife, who cut back on housework and cooking, but tenaciously fights to keep on doing the dishes and laundry. Special thanks to my daughter, as well, who has picked up more of the housework and did a great job of helping me get Thanksgiving dinner together. (She was the one who finally wrangled the jello into the refrigerator.)

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The End of Landscaping

The concept of a garden seems to be increasingly lost in America. Instead, we prefer plenty of carpet-mown grass with kidney-bean shaped tree and shrub beds plunked in the middle. We lovingly call this 'landscaping' to try and connect ourselves with the great painters of the past.

Well, at least some people stay true to the idea that a garden should be a unique endevor. And some of those are bold enough to use them for food as well!

These photos are great for stimulating design changes in next year's garden:

These folks are getting serious about food.

This resident shares food with his neighbors, they never 
complain to the city.

This wins my prize for best use of a boulevard

This garden is near my house. I look
forward to seeing the changes as the
summer progresses.

A bit of the wild look.

Food and beauty. These folks have it together!

Friday, November 11, 2011

If You Must Poison a Tree...

If you must poison a tree, do it right! Most of my readers prefer organic methods, but once in a while a stump is in a difficult spot, cannot be visited regularly enough, or is maintained by someone so feeble that poisoning is a justifiable option.

Here are a few steps to doing the job right:

Consider whether poison is the best option. Most of the time a truly organic option is best. A thirty dollar pick and an hour swinging it would take care of this stump for good. The pick will last a life time, but a bottle of weed killer costs between ten and twenty dollars and has a limited shelf life.

Understand the biology of the tree. The wood where this cross has been cut has tubes transporting water and nutrients up the tree. The green layer under the bark transports water and sugar down into the roots. Put the poison only on the green portion where it will go down into the roots.

Minimise the amount of poison you use. If some is good, more is not better.

Plan for re-sprouting. You may find it is better to cut the sprouts down every two weeks, than to cut and poison them every four weeks.

Anytime you use a chemical, even an organic one, it should be the last viable option. What is viable is your determination, but chemicals should never be your first and most trusted options.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Small Green Job

As a gardener I have to provide a wide variety of services to keep myself busy most of the year. The fall can be problematic because things aren't growing, nurseries are often out of plants, deciduous trees are at a risky time to prune, and most clients don't realize what a great time it is to design.

Fortunately, lowering the ears on an Austrian pine is not a plant health taboo in the autumn.


The trimmings filling the back of The War Machine.

The trimmings at the green waste disposal for recycling.
This job was small, but I had great fun after all the boring mowing I did this summer!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Please Meet a Few of My Friends...

An Austrian pine in a local park.

Fall is the time of year to start designing next year's gardens. To help you with your designs I would like to introduce you to a few of my friends:

Big tooth maple is one of the best trees for Utah homes. It is short so it does not overpower the house, has awesome fall color, and if you wait long enough it can be tapped for maple syrup. It will be a long wait though, this is one slow growing tree!

Bur oak is one of the grandest trees imported to my area. It has few breakages, does not let the pests bother it, and provides abundant food for those who have the patience to collect it and leach the tannins out of the acorns. Its downfalls are that it is big for the average quarter acre lot and the acorns make dangerous ammunition for the kids.

European beeches come in different styles, colors, and shapes. Leaves can be green, deep bronze, or touched with pink around the edges. In form it can be oval, columnar, or weeping. The nuts are edible, but small and hard to get at. The bark is a smoothish gray that makes you want to reach out and touch it. The lower branches should not be removed since they protect the trunk from winter sun scorch.

Gingko is a mixed up tree. It is never sure what shape it wants to be and is regularly accused of changing its gender. Its leaves are to die for though, they have veins in them that run in such a way as to give the tree the name maiden hair tree. These leaves turn gold in the autumn and pave the ground in such a way as to prove the world has magic. 

The one downside to this tree is that the male tree that you bought might decide to prove its femininity somewhere around its twentieth year. The fruit stinks worse than just about anything I know.

Honey locust is a landscape workhorse. Despite its heavy use I still love it because the feathery leaflets let sun shine down on plants growing under it. It has wonderful fall color that is a cinch to clean up in planting areas because the leaflets are so small you just leave them in place. 

Honey locust faults include shallow roots, a tendency to sucker, and vicious thorns on some of the younger branches and all of the older varieties. Of course the best varieties have marvelous corkscrew seed pods that have sweet, honey tasting pulp inside. Good for man and beast!

Crab apples exist in enough varieties to satisfy any taste. And many of them have tasty crabs. Enough said!

Eastern red bud is a friend from the other side of the country. It is small enough for many of today's small lots. The green pods are supposed to be good for people food and the older seeds can be used for the animals. The best thing about the red bud is the hot pink flowers in the spring. 

As I organize my photos, I will be introducing you to more of my friends....

Monday, October 24, 2011

October Country

Welcome to autumn sights!
Fall is my favorite time of year. Here is a selection of photos I've taken in my recent travels. Feel free to post some of your own literary pictures in the comments section.


Native oaks. The coloring is so subtle it defies the 

Pink banana squash, a favorite in Utah.
Lovely color on this ash tree. I just wish
it were easier to keep the bugs out.