This chocolate biscotti recipe was adapted from the one on David Rubel‘s website. They’re super chocolatey and just the right mix of crunchy and chewy. They’re relatively easy to make and quick, too. From start to finish – just over an hour. Ingredients 2 eggs at room […]
About My Drawings Primarily self-taught as an artist, my drawings reflect my evolving interests and ideas – from the influence of broad disciplines like architecture and design, to specific historical periods like the Bauhaus and Art Deco movements. I also find inspiration in the everyday […]
Renting Motorcycles with Elite Rent a Bike Driving in downtown Nice is crazy. The roadwork, the bus lanes, the unending intersections, the traffic! But head north out of the city, beyond the poor roads and bumper to bumper traffic, and you’ll find yourself in the […]
A Free-Standing Garden Enclosure
For ten years we struggled to keep deer out of the vegetable garden. Living in a quiet residential neighborhood, we hesitated to fence it in. The sunniest part of the yard is also the most visible from the street and we feared that anything deer-proof would be ugly.
In an effort to reduce our own frustration, we stopped growing the things deer like best, and every year the variety of crops got smaller. Last season the harvest was limited to kale, broccoli, cauliflower and hot peppers. I was about to give up altogether when my husband surprised me with three packs of heirloom tomato seeds.
Tomatoes were scratched off the growing list a few years back. The combination of blight, blossom end rot, and hungry deer made it an exercise in futility. But these particular seeds are supposed to be blight-resistant. I had to try!
Suddenly energized to resume the battle with the deer, we once more began our search for true deer protection. We rifled through books and scoured the internet for a solution, even calling the local fence installer for a consultation. One last time I sat down in front of the computer.
Lo and behold, I found something that just might keep the deer out of the garden
GardensToGro.com – their slogan is “ready-made vegetable gardens” – have an entire selection of fenced and gated gardens. Some even claim to be deer-proof. The gardens are available as complete kits, or you can buy the plans and purchase the lumber yourself.
We priced out the options. The plans-only option recommends using redwood or cedar. Redwood is not available in our area, and cedar is expensive. We even considered buying pressure-treated lumber. But in the end, after much discussion, we decided to purchase the complete kit. The company claimed we would receive it within 3 weeks, and it would take 2-4 hours to assemble.
We chose the 8’x12’ deer-proof vegetable garden kit pictured below, which is manufactured by Maine Kitchen Gardens. The raised beds are in a C shape, with the gate on the long side. It has 65 square feet of raised bed planting space, about half what we had before. The structure of the garden is as follows: directly above the raised beds is a heavy-duty black metal mesh about 10″ tall, and the 4′ upper trellis is backed with black netting.
The area where we wanted to construct the new garden was previously occupied by four low raised beds. Consequently, we had to deconstruct the wooden frames and move about 5 yards of soil. The ground where we intended to construct the new garden was not level and the slope was significant. We hired Evergreen Excavating to move the soil, level the ground, and, finally, add landscape fabric and 4” of pea stone.
Rebuilding the old raised beds
Our next task: reconstruct the old raised beds. We would plant the things deer like best in the new freestanding garden enclosure. Plants less likely to be eaten by wildlife would be planted in the reconstructed, unprotected beds.
By repurposing the wood from two 4’x10’x10” and two 5’x10’x10” beds, we created two 4’x10’x20” beds, using 20″ raised bed corner brackets, also purchased from Gardens to Gro. That was the easy part. Next we had to transfer the soil from the old beds into the new raised beds. It was backbreaking work shoveling the soil into a wheelbarrow, rolling it over to the beds, and then shoveling it all back in.
Assembling the deer-proof garden
About six weeks after ordering, the Deer-Proof Vegetable Garden Kit arrived. It was in quite a state. Clearly something awful happened to the crate in transit. Some of the packing straps were still intact, and the kit was still bound together, but the plywood crate was broken open and the kit was loose inside. We immediately emailed our contacts at Gardens to Gro and Maine Kitchen Gardens. They thanked us for sending the photos and asked us to keep in touch. Furthermore, they offered to immediately replace any parts that were missing or damaged.
First, we set out all the pieces to confirm that nothing was missing or damaged. Thankfully, everything appeared to be okay. All the pieces were present and the damage was essentially cosmetic.
Next we started putting the kit together. We carefully followed the directions that came with the kit, checking frequently for level and square. It’s definitely a two-person job, at least at the beginning. We inserted all the screws loosely at first, to allow for adjustments, before tightening them all at the end. Phase one ends when the raised beds are complete.
After completing the raised beds, we laid 6 mil black plastic out on the lawn and cut it into 18”x25’ strips. We stapled the strips to the inner vertical surface of the beds to keep the wood from being in direct contact with the soil, in the hope that it will last longer that way. Then we laid galvanized steel hardware cloth on the ground inside the raised beds to keep out moles and other burrowing rodents. The hardware cloth is about 6” wider than the inner width of the beds. We pushed it down in the middle to lie on the ground, allowing it to curl up 3″ against each side.
The next step was to fill the beds with soil.
We laid two large tarps on the ground and had four yards of raised bed mix delivered. Hudson Valley Organics mixes their own by combining soil with compost and a mix of composted manures. This time we had a new method for moving the soil. Landscape architect Wendy P. Carroll instructed us in the correct technique, and it was a godsend. It saved us hours of work and it was much less physically demanding.
What was the trick?
Rather than shovel the soil from the pile to the wheelbarrow and then from the wheelbarrow into the beds, we scooped the soil into empty 5-gallon paint pails, stacked the pails two at a time in a wheelbarrow, rolled the wheelbarrow over to the garden structure, and then lifted and dumped the pails directly into the beds. We did this in assembly line fashion. One person scooped and stacked. The other person rolled and dumped. It took us about four hours from start to finish.
The final phase of assembly is to attach the 4′ trellis around the top of the raised beds, for a total height of 6’9″, and hang the gate. These structural elements are what make the garden deer-proof. Although a running deer can clear a 7′ fence, the idea is that they will not choose to leap into a small, enclosed area, because they would have trouble getting out again.
Our Deer-Proof Vegetable Garden Kit by Maine Kitchen Gardens, purchased from Gardens to Gro, has been standing for a little over a week now. It looks beautiful and it is such a pleasure to work in. The raised beds reduce the amount of strenuous bending. Transplanting the things that I had started from seed and adding the plants purchased locally was so easy. In addition, setting the 5’ metal tomato stakes was like running a knife through butter. I didn’t have to worry about hitting rocks and I didn’t even need a shovel!
The final step was to lay some used brick we acquired over the pea stone base. This certainly wasn’t necessary but we had the materials on hand.
The hard work is over
Time will tell how well the garden holds up, and if it’ll really keep the deer out. I wonder if the wood will split or rot, and how difficult it will be to replace a single panel. We’ll just have to wait and see. For now, I couldn’t be happier.
One of my favorite podcasts is The Thomas Jefferson Hour. On April 23, 2018, the program featured three tomato experts: Craig LeHoullier, author of Epic Tomatoes; Pat Brodowski, Head Gardener at Monticello; and Harry J. Klee, Ph.D. from the University of Florida. A New Line […]
It was while planning a trip to the south of France that I remembered watching a stunning video on Facebook about an immersive art exhibit near Provence. After a little searching, I found the short video on YouTube. It was as etherial and hypnotic as I remembered, so we added Carrieres de Lumieres, located in Les Baux-de-Provence, to our itinerary.
Driving from Marseille to Les Baux-de-Provence takes about an hour. It’s mostly highway driving, but when you get off the A54 the road cuts through the Alpilles mountains. Here, the landscape changes dramatically. The roads are narrow and windy and houses are few and far between. Fields of almond and olive trees fill the lower slopes. Climbing higher, the hills become craggy, bare rock with a low-growing ground cover.
The area surrounding Carrieres de Lumieres is entirely undeveloped, and our arrival to the site came suddenly and without warning. Cars were parked haphazardly on the shoulder and folks of all ages milled about. There was little signage for traffic or pedestrians, and parking was confusing. Rather than a single large lot, there were several small gravel lots offset from the winding, main road.
The area was cool and very windy, but there were people everywhere . We just followed the crowd up the road and to a set of ticket windows built into the walls of this white limestone quarry. (The quarry closed its operation in 1935.) The ticket agent gave us little explanation as to where to go or what to expect, so we just followed the crowd inside.
While your first thought of a quarry is probably of an large open area, either dug deep or vertically into a mountain, this quarry is a cave. And unlike a traditional performance where there is a formal beginning and end, visitors continually walk in and out. We entered in the middle of the opening show. The room was pitch black, images were spinning across the floor and up the walls and music of Vivaldi, Led Zeppelin and others played loudly. Sensory overload! It was disorienting and thrilling.
Once we got our sea legs we could see that the main area, where the show is projected, was a huge, beautiful, exceptional cave with several voluminous rooms. The main gallery was about 200 feet deep and 30 feet high and had 15-30 foot wide supporting columns. The surfaces were relatively flat, and cut lines were visible in the stone, left from the harvesting of huge limestone blocks.
The quarry walls, multi-level floors, and elevated platforms are all used as projection screens. Every surface covered with the shifting figures and creatures created by these sixteenth century masters. Images crawl along the ground, rise up the walls, and dance from one to the other. There are no chairs or seats, so it’s easy to wander around, and experience the show from different vantage points, angles and perspectives.
Carrieres de Lumieres is open May-September and each new year brings a new show. We saw “The Fantastic and Wonderful World of Bosch, Brueghel, and Arcimboldo,” which lasted about 30 minutes. A short six-minute show “George Méliès, The Cinemagician” preceded the main program. Tickets were about $15 each. It was an experience we cannot recommend highly enough. To learn more about Carrieres de Lumieres, visit their website.