Strawberry Fields For a Little While at Least

When we bought our house, one of the little things we were excited about was that the yard seemingly had the capability of growing strawberries, which are Kalen’s favorite. In the middle of the concrete patio by the garage, the small garden bed was full of strawberry plants. We had rented various places up until then, and I was looking forward to the possibility of planting things directly in the ground, rather than accumulating still more pots for the various flora I tried to grow with varying levels of success.

Shortly after we moved in, however, we realized a fatal flaw in the strawberry bed as we knew it: Pippin either couldn’t tell a difference between it and the rest of the yard or he simply didn’t care as he ran through bed when he got the zoomies and frequently helped “water” them. We did a little research and decided we could build a raised bed with several different levels. I found a design we liked and we purchased lumber to build a bed to protect our precious strawberries from being trampled and as a bonus it looked kind of cool.

It turns out we weren’t very good at growing strawberries, though, and even in our best season never had more than a dozen strawberries worth picking, and even on the rare occasion that the strawberries looked nice and we got them before the slugs or birds did, they just usually weren’t very sweet. We also encountered issues with the dirt sinking considerably every year as it became more and more compact. After only a year or two, the strawberry bed was more or less abandoned.

Because we were concerned about chemicals leaching into our food through the soil, we built the bed with untreated lumber, knowing it would have a limited lifespan. That lifespan is now coming to an end. The bed is crumbling and I need to figure out what to do instead. While our original design was visually interesting, it ended up not being especially practical, so I don’t think I’m going to worry about having different tiers, but we still want something tall enough to keep Pippin from running through it (although he has a pretty regular circuit established by now, so that probably wouldn’t be a problem. And while the soil sank a lot, there’s definitely still too much dirt to just smooth it over and pretend the strawberry bed was never there.

We have to start over from scratch. I’ve researched different options, and it looks like a metal bed of some kind is the best option. I’m getting lazy and don’t want to have to replace a wood bed again in six more years, and while our retaining wall turned out beautifully, it turns out concrete isn’t a good option for food beds because of the risk of toxic ingredients leaching into food. I felt like this would be a good project to use our Blue Store credit from the oven return, but the card with the return credit on it has a few stipulations which present a slight problem. The card must be used in store, in person and can’t be used for online purchases. This might not be an issue in some locations, and it’s true that nearly all of our business from the Blue Store is conducted in person, but I am more frequently finding that what I’m looking for, while in stock on the Blue Store website, is never stocked my store. Of course this holds true for metal raised gardening beds. So that’s fun. I don’t know if I’ll be able to go into the store and have them order something for me and then I can use my store credit or not, but based on how smoothly things usually go when I need help from an employee at this store, it won’t work.

Another reason my laziness is prevailing is that it has become increasingly apparent that the front porch will need some repairs sooner rather than later. We’ve been planning to replace the decking boards with composite for several years now, but the past winter must have been particularly difficult on the lumber and the whole thing is looking pretty crappy. To match what we did on the back deck, this is another project that will be pricey but to which we cannot apply the Blue Store credit, making more incentive to make the strawberry bed (or whatever we decide to grow in there) less labor-intensive to build and more budget friendly.

I feel a sense of urgency about both of these projects. I know it should mostly be about safety reasons, but mostly it’s because I the houses on either side of my own suffer from significant disrepair and regularly accumulate a lot of junk in their yards and on their porches. I look at them with disdain and even though I know I shouldn’t, I feel like Kalen and I are far superior to them. I know they could each put more effort into maintaining what they have. Repairs are costly, but picking up your trash and walking it fifty feet to the trash bin is free. All the same, our porch is looking really ugly. The steps we replaced last spring might be dry enough to paint this year, but they’re looking pretty rough at the moment and an alarming number of the decking boards are squishy, even the ones that don’t necessarily look rotten (although, that’s quite a few of them). So I either need to make sure our house doesn’t look as terrible as the ones on either side or admit that I’m on their same level and that’s frankly unacceptable.

Fewer people can see the back yard, but as the fence shields me from the mess outside my yard, I spend more time out there and my cognitive dissonance follows me.

I’d better find a solution quickly, and you can be sure you’ll receive an update. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed that nobody puts a foot through any rotted lumber, or at least, if such an accident must happen, that it’s mine and not the mailman’s.

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