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Building Our Bean Fort

How fun is that?

It’s WAY fun and what an endeavor this has turned out to be–for adults and kids alike!  Just look at this beauty.  Isn’t it amazing?

But let’s start from the beginning, when our middle school students took on the task of building the framework for this project.  It began with a request for my future engineers.  Hands shot up.  Then my architects.  More hands shot up.  Then my laborers.  More hands shot up (don’t you just love eager and exuberant?) and then the assistants, coordinators, you name it.  “Now that’s what I’m talking about!”  Enthusiasm 101. 

Once we assembled our crew, the design process began. 

Now I’m no engineer–but I am smart enough to know how to delegate, so I handed the technical aspects over to the kids. 

Good thing too, because every time I did pipe up it wasn’t as fruitful as I’d hoped.  (But I’m a writer not an engineer!)  No matter.  The kids politely moved past my suggestions and continued solving the problem amongst themselves.  They dug the foundation, tied the framework together.

Then they worked to stabilize the structure and all was running efficient and smooth, much like a well-oiled machine, especially when they came up with the bright idea to use PVC pipe for our roof support beams.  In case my husband is reading this–Yes, I know.  You told me to bring our PVC pipe from homeYes, it was a great idea

What can I say?  (I forgot.)  Moving right along…  While all this fort construction was going on, we turned our compost pile.  Look at all that gorgeous dirt!

Any-hoo, back to the roof.  All was running well–

Until it came time to attach the roof.  A bit of a “mutiny of ideas” ensued as to how we best support the lattice top–cross-wise, lengthwise, overlap–though fortunately it was short-lived.  

“We’re working together around here, right?”  I looked around at disgruntled faces and nodded my head (this is an excellent psychological warfare tactic–nod and they will agree).  “Right?”

Right.  And back to the roof we went, now secured attached and utterly stupendous.  It’s certainly something to be proud, wouldn’t you agree?  I mean, this is a masterpiece of teamwork, energy, determination (all the more amazing under the warm and humid conditions we had to endure). Gotta love Florida!  At least it gives us TWO growing seasons which equals TWICE the fun, right kids?  (We’re nodding again here.) 

Enter lower elementary, a.k.a. our bean planters. 

Their job was to “build” the walls.  Okay, maybe not actually build but certainly plant the seeds for future “wall” growth.  And we want our walls to be dense so don’t be shy kids–plant as many as you can!

This bean fort is going to be really cool.  Almost private, like a real hideaway.  And it will fit a good 5-10 kids!  “Party in the fort1!” Depending upon their size and agreeability, of course.  Better yet, won’t this make for a great photo opportunity?

We think so and since we plan to hang out a bit, we want it to be comfortable.  What’s more comfy than a hay covered floor? 

Awesome.  And more than beautiful, our bean fort will be edible. 

 Yep.  Green beans will be hanging within our reach.  Organic green beans.  Yum. Pluck em, peel em, plop em in! 

But that’s not all we did this week!  Upper elementary planted tomatoes.  And because they’re experts in the garden, they know plants need nutrients to grow full and lush and were sure to include them. 

What do tomatoes need? Epsom salts and eggshells!  Or magnesium sulfate and calcium for you non-gardener types.

Blossom-end rot (ugly black spots) on our tomatoes can be due to a lack of calcium.  And nobody wants to eat rot spots.  But we also like BIG tomatoes so we included magnesium sulfate because magnesium helps chlorophyll formation while sulfate aids in strong healthy cell development. 

 And we do look forward to our plump red tomatoes.  Makes sense to give them the best start we can.  Besides, handling crinkly eggshells (pre-cleaned) and crystallized Epsom salt is kinda neat.  

So what do you think?  Need a bean fort in your neck of the woods?  It’s easy to do, great fun and will be the oh-so-popular place to be! 

The hardest part will be waiting for it to fill in… 🙂

Oh, and lower elementary will be keeping a journal on the entire process, sort of our “record keepers” for the project.  Love teamwork.  But we are a community of gardeners and gardeners enjoy sharing the adventure!

Fiddling with Floating Row Covers

And I do mean fiddling, because as a first-timer using this method, I frankly have no idea what I’m doing.  But I’m desperate.  The squash bugs were BAD this year.  They ate my squash, my zucchini–they’re even after my watermelon as we speak!   They’re beasts, pure and simple.  Hungry beasts.  And with our pumpkin seeds freshly planted, I don’t want to take the chance of losing a single one to squash bugs.  (The kids would never forgive me!)  As to these barren looking beds of mine you’ll have to trust me.  There are seeds under there.

But how does one work these floating row covers to prevent squash bugs, exactly?  I’ve seen pictures.  I know they’re supposed to allow light and water in while keeping bugs out.  Hopefully they’re allowing a nice breeze to whistle through, else we run into a fungus problem.  Then of course there are the afternoon thunderstorms to consider.  When the wind picks up around these parts of Florida, it usually picks up my row covers right along with it!  Anchor pins are not what they’re cracked up to be.  My rock weights don’t always work, either.  Mother Nature is a tough old broad.

So setting my metal half-moons in the dirt, I then cover them with an ultra sheer fabric cover.  That is what a floating row cover is, right?  (Anyone feel free to jump in here.) This should be simple…

After anchoring the ends with pins and rocks, I can only hope it will withstand the winds of summer.  Will this row cover be here when I return this afternoon?  Weather gal did forecast rain for today…

But gazing upon my handiwork, I think really?  Or will I come home to find the white fabric clear across the street in the neighbor’s yard?

That’s the question–or problem, depending on how you like to look at these things. 🙂  How about challenge.  Let’s say we forget all this “problem” talk and move on to the challenge.  The thrill of the game, the test of wills, the exciting match between myself and Mother Nature.  So long as she doesn’t hurl a hurricane my way, I at least stand a chance, don’t you think?

We’ll see.  Stay tuned!