Raised Garden Tutorial

You might say my husband and I are a bit on the nomadic side, seeing as in our eleven years as a couple we have shared 5 apartments and 6 houses together. That’s a grand total of 11 residences (not counting the couple of times we moved in with my parents when our leases expired before we found a new home). We’ve run the gamut of living quarters. There was a 4-story loft apartment in Richmond’s Downtown area, a 1 bedroom mere blocks away from the housing projects in Church Hill, a tiny cape cod in the suburbs of Mechanicsville and a 4500 square foot McMansion just to name a few. We don’t let the grass grow under our feet for long and even though we’ve been in our current home just under a year, we’re already discussing what’s next. The difference is, this time ‘what’s next’ is going to be a purchased home, not a rental. A place where we can finally put down roots.

Speaking of putting down roots, one of our more recent houses came with an enormous vegetable garden in the back yard. Completely overgrown and ignored for years, it was in terrible shape when we moved in. I set to work on it before I so much as unpacked our boxes and by the end of that Spring we were enjoying the fruits of my labor (literally). It was eventually over run by some overzealous acorn squash, but I did manage to capture a picture before the squash took over. This was right after the first seedlings went in, so it’s not quite showing its full glory.Since leaving that home I’ve deeply missed the garden and have wanted another. I decided on a raised  bed garden because when we pull up stakes here we can take it apart if needs be. I looked around for inspiration which was a little depressing because I came up with this:

via katyelliot.com

..and this:Needless to say these weren’t going to fit my budget. Or my back yard for that matter. But I found plans for a more realistic garden which we tweaked a little to make our own and I am very pleased with the results. Here’s the How-To:


  • One 6-foot-long 4-by-4
  • Three 8-foot-long 2-by-12s
  • One 10-foot-long 1-inch PVC pipe
  • Two 10-foot-long ½-inch PVC pipes
  • 32 3½-inch #14 wood screws and 16 ½-inch #8 wood screws
  • Two 4- by 5-foot roll of ¼-inch-mesh hardware cloth
  • Eight 1-inch galvanized brackets
  • 35 cubic feet (1 1/5 cu. yd.) bagged garden soil
  • One package of protective mesh netting
  • One 2mm thick plastic drop cloth (like you use for painting)

The hardware store people will cut your lumber for you. Ask for the 4×4 to be cut into 4 separate 16-inch posts. Then have one of the 2x12s cut in half. Lastly, you want to cut the 1-inch PVC pipe into four 12-inch sections. Here’s what you’ll have at checkout: (Excuse the image quality as my camera phone is so old I’m surprised it doesn’t have an antenna.)Once home, lay out all your pieces in the shape of your bed and drill the sides into the four posts.

Notice that crack in the patio? That was from the big earthquake that hit Virginia last summer. The children are convinced it will open up to the center of the Earth at any moment. This is what you have after all the pieces are assembled. Hopefully you’ve thought ahead and built this close to where it’s going to end up, because it’s quite heavy. Next take it to its spot and mark where the posts are so you know where to dig (you could presumably do this by measuring but we didn’t have a measuring tape handy so we just lugged the entire garden back and forth a few times). Our back yard is a slope, so after digging the four holes for the posts, we also (and by “we” I mean “my husband”) dug a ditch along the top edge of the garden so that it would lay evenly when we settled it in. No special measurements were made. I just kind of pointed with the camera and said “I think you need to dig a little more out there”, and “Is that deep enough? Do you think maybe you should take it down a little further?”. I’m so helpful. Then we sunk the four 1-inch PVC pipes in until they were even with the top of the garden and drilled them in using the metal brackets. The pink hand belongs to our four-year old, who was mighty proud to be able to help with the project. Next we raked all the dirt flat and covered it with the plastic drop cloth so that weeds can’t make their way into the garden. Then we covered that with the wire mesh, to keep out moles, rabbits and gophers. We cut the mesh with wire cutters so that it fit neatly around the posts and poles. Next we dumped all the dirt in. Then we discovered that we didn’t buy enough dirt and had to go back to Home Depot for five more bags. (I put the full amount of dirt needed in the materials list so that hopefully you can leave that step out when you make your garden.) We raked all the dirt flat and inserted the long poles into the 1-inch pipes. (I took this picture before our second dirt run).Now the fun part- planting! The kids and I started these from seeds about two weeks ago in the house. No one told me that you don’t need to start beans inside and I didn’t read the instructions so naturally we were all surprised when we had 4 inches of bean growth within two days.

Here’s our finished garden! I added the trellis in the back so the pole beans have something to grow on and the protective mesh drapes over the two white poles to keep the deer from treating the garden like a salad bar. When it gets cold, we can drape that white greenhouse plastic over the arches to overwinter the garden.

No garden would be complete without a touch of Milk & Honey, so I added these: These are my own, but I also made a set for the shop with herb names on them and will be adding more sets with different vegetables over the coming weeks. Just click the photo below to go right to them:

La Dolce Vita

poster image via magaleri, click the image to visit her shop

It is no secret that I have a strong hedonistic streak. These days the word takes on a negative connotation, partly due to the popular “Hedonism” resorts. I won’t go into that here, though a simple google search will tell you all you need to know. (I won’t even sit fully clothed on the bedspread in a 5-star hotel because I know they don’t wash them. Yet this place has cloth couches in their “all-nude” rooms. Boggles the mind).

I subscribe to the original meaning of the word, by Greek Philosopher Aristippus. He wasn’t advocating pleasure in the form of sharing nude hot-tubs with strangers, but the higher pleasures in life such as love, friendship, altruism and yes, maybe sleeping in every weekend. I believe in following your bliss, whether that leads you to a 9-5 office job with weekends off and full benefits or to a tiny home studio with your grandmothers sewing machine, glass etching tools and complete contentment.

my bliss

One of life’s greatest pleasures is a delicious meal, prepared in a kitchen full of people you love, preferably over a glass or two of good red wine and accompanied by boisterous conversation and laughter. Meals like this nourish not only the body, but the psyche. Picture this kitchen overflowing with close friends, steaming pots, simmering pans, the tinkling of wine glasses and a warm late spring breeze coming through those doors. Yes.

image via elledecor

In my ongoing hunt for interesting recipes and new cuisines, I have discovered some real gems and look forward to sharing them with you. One of my favorites is The Communal Pantry, a self-described “book club for foodies and mixologists” and is my go-to resource for meal ideas that are as pleasurable as they are nourishing. Take a look around, but definitely check out their “Pantry Must Haves” (under the “kitschy and unique tab”), an invaluable list of foodstuffs that no pleasure-seeker should ever be without. Click on the photo below to explore all they have to offer.

Spring Bada-Bing Craft Show

Don’t get me wrong, I love selling on Etsy. I mean, where else can you go to work in your PJ’s with a cup of coffee in hand, blaring your own music as loud as you want and in the course of a day have meaningful email interactions with people not only across the country but across the world. It’s 8am here on the east coast and I’ve already chatted (well, via email) with a great customer in Taiwan and one of my favorites in Australia. And I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet.

That said, there is nothing like actually getting to talk to people face to face, and in this business (since I have no plans of opening a brick & mortar shop), that means craft shows.  I’ve only done a few so far, but every time I learn so many new things. Online you’ll see an item get 40 or 50 views, but no one favorites it and you wonder why. At a craft show, people will actually tell you (nicely) all sorts of things about your creations and the comments are worth their weight in gold. I used to make a lot of spoon handle necklaces until at a craft show last fall several people  came by my booth, handled the necklaces thoughtfully, then told me or told the person they were shopping with “wouldn’t this look great as a key chain?” I’m sure you can guess the ending of that story- spoon handle key chains are now one of the more popular items in my store.

Great product advice aside, it’s also immensely gratifying to be able to thank someone in person and to see them light up when they see something you’ve made that they just have to have. Not to mention the other artisans at the show. Meeting people who, just like you, have started a small business based on a passion for their craft and their belief in themselves is exciting and inspiring. One of the first things I do after setting up my booth is to walk around to the other vendors and collect their business cards. I follow them on twitter, bookmark their blogs and favorite them on etsy because when I’m shopping for a gift, whether it be letterpress birthday cards, handmade clay bowls, baby tutus, knitted goods, what-have-you, that’s where I’m going to look first. I don’t want to say, “look what I bought you at Target.”, I want to say, “I got this from Jane, an amazing local artist I met last year at a show. She makes her ink from vegetable pigments that she grows herself. I saw this print she created and knew you’d love it”.

This year when I was researching spring and summer shows, I zeroed in on the Spring Bada-Bing craft show. It’s put on by the Richmond Craft Mafia and their motto is “rubbin’ out the mass produced”, and is held at the Plant Zero art center (amazing place- artist apartments, studios, exhibition areas, restaurants and common areas, all under one roof).  I absorbed every word on their website, looked at pictures from past shows, then stared at the application form in terror for about 5 minutes (they get far more applications than they have booths), took a deep breath, and applied. Last night the email came through I got in!

Here is the info for anyone in or around the Richmond area, and I will be posting more as we get closer to the event. Click anywhere in the FAQs to be brought directly to their website.


Who: The Richmond Craft Mafia

What: “Spring Bada-Bing: The BOSS of all craft shows” is an independent artist craft show in Richmond, Virginia

Where: The show will be held at Plant Zero, a creative indoor artist live-work space.

When: Sunday, April 17th 2011 from 11am to 5 pm

Why: Because, after 6 years, we still want to bring unique, innovative shopping to RVA!


Where & what is Plant Zero?

Plant Zero is one of the coolest creative spaces in town, and has been home to the Spring Bada-Bing for 4 years now.

Plant Zero is located at 0 E. 4th Street Richmond, VA 23224. This is directly off of Hull Street in the Manchester District of Southside Richmond. (Note: some mapping software gets confused by this address–if you encounter this problem, you can use 7 E. 3rd St, which is the secondary entrance to Plant Zero.)

Is there an admission or ticket price for shoppers?

Heck no! Free, baby, free.

I know there are about 5550094301 “What You Need To Know For A Craft Show” blogs out there, but I will likely raise that number to 5550094302 later on this summer after I’ve done a few more shows. In the meantime, hope to see you on April 17th!

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