39 weeks

One week until my official due date!  The belly is huge but it’s surprisingly not causing me many problems.  I still feel great (so lucky!) and am staying active.  My only issues are swollen ankles (not cute), a bit of heartburn, and occasionally bumping into things because I don’t realize just how far my belly extends.  Baby is moving around but I can tell he’s running out of room in there so he can’t do the big dramatic alien-looking movements anymore.  Now we just have to wait and see when the big day comes.

We had a fun and productive weekend.  On Saturday Matt put in his last big day as volunteer coordinator / jack-of-all-trades at the P-patch paths project.  At home, I enjoyed some phone time with my mom and sister, did laundry, cleaned, organized the pantry and closets… I guess it was the late pregnancy nesting impulse.  I also trained the dogs.  We’re working on loose leash walking (still - but improving nicely!) and creating positive associations with nail clippers (currently I can’t cut Sonny’s nails, so we’re working up to it by first getting treats for being calm and not moving when the clippers come near his feet).  In the evening we stopped by our friends’ house for a visit and to pick up more baby supplies.  The house is getting crowded with all this baby gear, despite our organizational efforts.  It’s just a lot of stuff.  We need to move some things to the garage.


On Sunday we had brunch with friends and then Matt spent some time organizing the garage and working on our diaper changing station.  I hope he can finish it before the baby arrives.  We also managed to clear up some space in our bedroom by getting rid of a large filing cabinet and small TV.  We freecycled both and they were picked up on Monday.  Then we took the dogs to the park, where for the first time this spring we let them swim in Lake Washington.  They had a great time.

On the way home we stopped at the P-patch so I could see all the amazing progress, and a fellow gardener snapped the top photo of the whole family in the orchard.  We ended the day with doggie baths.  They are so clean and soft now.  Ready to meet their new brother!


Brunch with friends, dogs went swimming, and the garden project rolled along without me— excellent Mother’s day.  If you’re reading mom(s), we love you and can’t wait to see ya!

—Matt (and Kelly)

Path progress at the P-Patch.

Path progress at the P-Patch.

Do It Together: Community Garden Renovation

This is where I’ve been.  And in the attic; and crawl space; and yard; and garage— you get the idea.  Last September I was asked to participate in the renovation of our community garden (P-Patch).  The year before, forward looking volunteers at the garden had applied for and received a $20k matching grant from the city.  The “match” part requires that an equivalent amount of volunteer hours and donations must be leveraged to receive the full grant (that’s how I understand it anyway). Countless meetings, setting up a Google Site and other information systems, navigating dreams/realities/personalities: now we’re finally building.  What you ask?  Permanent paths and edging (my focus), 22 4x8’ food bank beds, a bamboo garden, a mushroom garden, a hillside of native plants, a children’s garden, a mural, new irrigation, and signage.  I stand in awe what $20k can do with a grippe of willing hands and minds.  

The concept above was created by one of two landscape architects who were hired for the project and who have gone above and beyond their compensation. The LA created the Google SketchUp drawing partly from my team’s initial path design (below)

ASIDE: I can’t say how helpful the suite of Google products has been (and to be fair, Microsoft’s Power Point and Office helped along the way).  But seriously, Google Earth, SketchUp, Sites, Groups, Docs, Spreadsheet/Forms, search, Gmail… Google may be one of several corps taking over the world but as far as this project they’re helping ensure they have a better world to take over.

One afternoon I decided to wield my new SketchUp skills (see mantle project (1) and (2) where I developed them) to weigh in on the design of the raised 4’x8’ food bank beds (inspired by my own).  The Food Bank team decided to use 2x6 juniper stacked three high for a raised height of 18”.  Juniper surfaced as our best alternative for edging the paths and for many of the same reasons it’s perfect for the beds.  It is sustainable, economical, beautiful and generally not easy to come by (more info on Juniper here from the Oregon State University Extension Service).

Here’s the ~1.25 acres that we’re renovating.

I’ve spent the equivalent of a couple days out surveying the paths.  It’s been fun working with others, and by myself, to map out the space.  In the background, with the aid of grant money and donations, several years ago volunteers built the beautiful red timber framed barn and gazebo.  I’ve learned a ton surveying but will have to expound on that later. 

Far into the planning process, we decided to build a prototype for the edging of the block path concept we envisioned.  24 of the 8’ - 6x6” juniper were purchased for hose bib posts.  The rest of the 2x6 and 6x6s were for the first steps we’d take in edging the paths. 

The juniper, especially the 6x6 is gorgeous.  The 2x6s were the last of the lot so they had a lot of character even if too many were not really suitable for our purpose of path edging (the vendor will let us return them and we’re ordering about 800 more of them so it’s not a big deal).

Last Friday I finished the surveying and the next day 50 volunteers dove into trenching 1000s of feet for new irrigation lines, augering post holes for the hose bibs, and laying polypipe.  I had to bow out after the survey to make sure Kelly and I stay on track with pre-baby projects… we are crazy: two more new circuits down and only one old circuit left to replace.  Productive and enlightening days these are.


Building a garden: imperfect happiness

In fits and starts I’m getting my new p-patch going.  After I turned over the new plot, I knew that it was going to have to run on its own for awhile.  Case in point: un-trellised snow peas (right-middle), weeds (everywhere), foot high crimson clover cover crop (back).  I’m definitely taking the long view in this endeavor.

A little background:  I’m transitioning out of a community garden I’ve been gardening at for almost seven years and into this new one.  At the moment I have one foot in one garden and the other foot in the other garden.  That equates to about double the ground to care for.  While my feet are at the p-patches, my hands are always busy in my slowly emerging landscape/edible garden at home— maybe an order bigger of a task.  If I ever become a farmer, I think this transition will have taught me some valuable lessons.  Even if I don’t become a bonafide farmer, these garden lessons are good ones. 

Lesson #1: It’s really important not to beat yourself up when things aren’t perfect.

Lesson #2: When you don’t have the time to make things perfect, do what you can to spin-up processes that are self-perpetuating.


—Plant legumes (I chose snow peas and cover crops because the timing was right for the former and the timing is almost always right for the latter).  Both enrich and build the soil and peas/beans have the added bonus of yielding some wonderful edibles.

—Plant things that are hardy and yield a crop that can be harvested whenever and don’t necessarily need to be harvested all at once.  I planted leeks.

—I dug permanent paths so that my movements wouldn’t compact the soil and impede root growth.

Over several weeks I collected the supplies to create walls along my footpaths.  These walls will primarily serve to keep the soil in the beds from sloughing off into my paths (and thus keep me from having to routinely move dirt from the paths back to the beds and continually struggle to keep irrigation water from running off the beds rather than percolating into the soil). 

I used cedar fence slats that are ~5/8”x5-1/2”, made stakes from whatever ~1” x 1” wood scraps I had around the yard/garage, and when I ran out 1x1 stakes, I just broke bamboo into stake size bits to temporarily anchor some of the cedar walls.  I didn’t use any hardware to attach the slats to the stakes.  I just let the pressure of the soil sandwich the slats against the stakes and the butt ends of the slats just butt together.  I built what you see in probably half an hour and just needed a handsaw, hammer, and some string line (to aid me in building straight walls).  Another bit of time was spent getting the supplies together, cutting the stakes, and getting all the materials to the garden… but pretty trivial.

I’m happy to say I harvested my first peas, removed the clover in minutes, removed the peas in a minute the minute after I harvested some pods (b/c I needed the space and didn’t want to fuss with trellising and knew I had a good crop coming in at home), planted my starts, watered, and finished up just before it got dark. Probably two and a half hours in all.

The next day I promptly abandoned my starts for five days (which I don’t recommend doing but life called).  Without water my veggie-babies did suffer a few casualties… but hey, I’m happy with my imperfect garden and that happiness will keep me going back.