The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Outdoor living room

Edible flower beds

I know this is probably the first thing many of you would have done, but we've been on the farm for nearly eight years, and I'm just now starting to do a bit of landscaping around the trailer.  And, of course, even my half-hearted efforts at aesthetics are primarily edible and functional.  But the small zone I've tackled this summer does make me smile every time I walk past.  (And there are a few flowers mixed in, even if they're not blooming yet --- foxgloves from Mom and scarlet runner beans from Dani.)

Welcoming dog

With skirting in place in this one small section, I finally I felt able to start planting right up against the trailer this year for the first time.  In high school art class, I remember being admonished that edges make or break a picture, and the same is true of a garden.  Having planned greenery rather than weeds up around the base of the trailer does make it feel more like a residence and less like a campsite.

South face of trailer

I'm also pleased to find that the raised bed in front of the south face of the trailer is doing its job of elevating the soil enough so that water pouring off the roof doesn't drown the plants.  (The gutter and piping that together channel excess water from that zone to the greywater wetland help too.)  We aren't seeing the summer shading of the Zebra-striped spiderwindows that I hoped for yet this year, but the grape near the gutter downspout has nearly reached its trellis, promising more and faster sun-blockage next year.  Meanwhile, I filled in the main space with garden vegetables --- two tomato plants and a row of edible-pod peas, the latter of which have already been pulled out to make way for scarlet runner beans.

The third photo in this post also shows the little square of "lawn" created by letting one garden bed go to the lawnmower this year.  I'm actually kinda enjoying that dab of open space, but am also pondering whether it might be a good spot for either a little water garden, a fire pit, or a bricked-over area to put the charcoal grill on.  What do you think --- would you light a managed fire only five feet away from your residence?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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You could always use edible flowers in your decorative landscaping. Borage, sweet williams, violets, nasturtiums (though they spread pretty easily), calendula, that sort of thing. That would give you both the edible and the pretty.
Comment by WendP Sat Jul 5 10:12:41 2014

I might hesitate to put a controlled fire so near the house for obvious reasons, and also because it could really infuse your house with stinky smoke if a breeze floats the right way. But if you can work around that, the grassy nook looks great for a snugly fire pit! We had a house burn down in '04 probably thanks to a standard round Weber BBQ that fell over unnoticed on a wooden deck in a strong wind after we were done bbq'ing one night. We had left the coals to burn down with the cover on as many people do. Now we supervise the bbq, and we soak the coals when we're done. All that aside, when folks go camping the fire pit/BBQ isn't far away from the RV or tent at all, and people seem to survive quite nicely!

Comment by jen g Sat Jul 5 10:19:19 2014
Hi Anna, congratulations on 8 years! I have followed your blog for the last 5. Your practical, experimental,and intelligent approach to homesteading is such an inspiration, as is your strong partnership with Mark. You probably have answered this before but I was curious - what strategies due you use to prevent mold from growing in the trailer? I lived in the humid south for a while and got quite allergic to it over the years. Luckily now I'm in a drier clime but am still interested in preventing it from getting established in my home.
Comment by Sarah Sat Jul 5 12:24:37 2014
Sarah --- I'm not sure why, but we've never had a mold problem, although many people in our area with houses do. If I had to guess, I'd say it's because I leave the windows open all night to let in cold air, which tends to dry things out even in our very damp climate. Plus, our trailer is far from air-tight.... Or maybe we're just lucky?
Comment by anna Sat Jul 5 15:37:30 2014

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