Alex has spent several days digging foundations for our new raised bed. We’re going for large and tall. Raised beds have many advantages, but the hight we are going for is a bit of an experiment.
People have been constructing raised beds for vegetable growing for many years. Here are some of the very good reasons to do so:
Raised beds, when used with a no-dig system,
• improve drainage: the organic materials that fill them are ideal moisture regulators.
• save labour after the initial build.
• easier to get to: not as much bending over.
• contain the ideal nutrient mix for your veggies if you add mulches and natural amendments.
• usually improve yields.
• add different levels to your garden, making it look interesting.
We’re going for a multi-level raised bed, with the larger part of it quite high indeed. We’re making it about as high as a kitchen counter, but narrow enough that we can reach all parts without stretching. To contain that amount of soil, we are constructing sturdy walls. Hence the digging.
One of the main aims of our gardening project is to grow more food. This raised bed will help us do that, in various ways.
- We are adding a significant amount of vegetable growing space.
- The bed is located by the South wall of the house, one of the few sunny spots in the garden.
- It’s close to the house, so we’ll be able to keep an eye on our plants very easily, weeding as we pass.
The raised bed will make it easier for us to reach our goal, to grow more vegetables, in different ways. And that is a principle of good permaculture design.
Westacre’s fruit harvest has been incredible this year. There are so many apples we don’t know what to do with them, and the damsons were hanging like bunches of grapes, bending the branches to the ground.
We can’t possibly use all of that harvest. We just haven’t got the capabilities to process it all. We’ve already got a jar of damson jam for every week of the year, and more damsons waiting in the freezer. We were making jam with 10 kg of damsons at a time.
Giving away jars of jam to friends and family helps, of course. We have also made apple sauce, which is waiting in the freezer to accompany sausages, or to become apple pie. The next thing we will try is apple butter, which is lovely on toast.
Here are some recipes you may find useful:
Apple sauce. Our apple sauce is just boiled up chunks of apple. We can flavour it to taste when it comes out of the freezer. The recipe linked here is quite simple, too.
Finally, at long last, we ordered our new windows for Westacre.
It took us months to get it right. This is the single largest expense for our eco-renovation project, and we had to try different compromises between energy efficiency, cost, and aesthetics.
We got quotes from several high-end window companies. We were after windows that would give us a Uw value of 0.8 or lower. And we knew we would have to pay for the privilege of having well insulated windows.
A local company, Spectrum, based just 20 minutes’ drive from here, sells and installs Internorm windows. They were friendly and helpful from the start and prompt in their replies to our e-mails. So although they didn’t give us the cheapest quote, we decided to go for known product quality and support a local business.
With Spectrum’s help, we went through a number of permutations in our requirements.
At first, we thought we wouldn’t be able to afford aluminium clad wooden windows and we were looking at alu-clad uPVC. But with the discounts Spectrum was offering at the time, the price difference wasn’t that great, and we decided to go for the wood after all. This gives us a better insulated window with a Uw value in the region of 0.7.
We also considered the final look of the renovated house. Having looked at houses of roughly the style and age we are trying to emulate, we noticed that many of them have white casements inside black frames. They look very smart and trying to copy that look would help us get the Edwardian period feel we’re after.
Turns out, though, that opening windows are quite a lot more expensive than fixed ones. All those moving parts do add to the cost. To remain somewhere near our budget, we had to minimise the number of opening windows in our order. And if our windows didn’t open, we couldn’t have them in two colours.
The final order we placed with Spectrum is for all white windows at the front of the house, and dark grey for the side and the back. They will be aluminium clad wooden windows, that will give us great insulation and, hopefully, a good looking house.
We are expecting delivery and installation towards the end of November.