Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Essentials in Adaptive Gardening


When gardening with disabilities, there are a few things that are essential and a long list of things that are really helpful. As many of you readers now know, I'm living post stroke. In other words, I'm partially paralyzed on my dominant right side.

You won't find me on my knees or squatting to plant vegetables unless I've fallen and can't get up. I will lean over or use my thigh muscles and knees to crouch down or lean closer to the ground, but not so much to lose my balance. In doing this I always have a sturdy hoe or rake to steady myself.
$65 on amazon plus shipping

You won't find me making things easier on myself by using a standard wheel barrow either. I don't have two working hands to operate one. Instead, I have an alternative. It's new for me, because I got jealous of Mel having all the fun. It's also an easier way to bring groceries up to the house. Notice this has two wheels for better balance. In a pinch, it can steady me if I lose my balance. If my load is heavy enough, it can also help me get on my feet again. Now, I'm not expecting most disabled folks to do this. I'm just too independent and impatient to wait on someone else to do it for me.

Some disabled folks, even me at times, use elevated raised beds as the way to garden. I tend to plant low growing things like
herbs, salad goods, carrots, and strawberries in them. It's just easier to care, weed, and harvest from them. But honestly, I can't see doing all my vegetables in one. There just isn't enough space in them to produce what we need in a year. This year, I've planted strawberries in a elevated raised bed made from pallets. I've also made my potato boxes out of them. Nothing beats free. If it can be done cheaper, I'm all for it. Unlike the elevated raised bed pictured on the left that will set you back $100+.

Notice the straw in between the slats. It's old composting straw and chicken dropping from the hen house. There is also a three-foot layer of this at the bottom as a compost pile. Only the top foot and a half is a mature compost and soil. As the bottom layer composts the level of the top layer will drop. Then next year, I'll  grow sweet or regular potatoes in it. I'll mound it up as they grow. Pretty nifty, huh? Waste not; want not. The pallets themselves are screwed together with long screws. and baling wire on one end. In case we want to move it.

Some tools you will need is a hand trowel, pruners, gloves (although I rarely wear 'em), and something that will hold water. I'm able to lift a two gallon watering can but pouring the water where I want it when full is chancy. I prefer carrying an old, gallon milk or juice jug with me, or just use the sprayer on the hose for the out of the way areas where my sprinkler doesn't reach.

Now about shovels and hoes. First of all, I'm short (5 ft nothing) and I'm one handed doing most of this. The regular length of the handles on these items are too long for me to work effectively and efficiently. The same thing goes
for leaf rakes, brooms, and mops. I could buy those terrific, adaptive gardening tools (an expensive option), but I'm cheap. I just chop a couple feet off the handles of regular tools. I bought an old, camp shovel from the second hand store. I think I paid $5 for it with its canvas cover to boot. It just needed some TLC and WD-40. It works perfectly for those times I want to move more soil than my little hand trowel. It's also handy for other times too. The handle takes the awkwardness out of digging with my nondominant hand and gives me better control.

A gardening stool like the one pictured is too low to the ground, even flipped, for me to rise from easily. Plus the legs have a nasty way of sinking into the garden walkways. So again, my second hand store to the rescue. They had a heavy plastic toy box for $2.50.  A couple of bolts, washers, nuts and some wheels later. I have a place for most of my tools and harvesting too. I drilled a couple large holes in one side and threaded some clothes line through it for pulling ease. The double plastic wall holds my lard butt and more. Another cheap fix.

I've given up on peat pots for starting seeds this year and seed starting trays. This year, I'm trying something new. I built a soil block maker. For years, I've sworn by my biodegradable toilet and paper towel core pots as a way to start seeds, but I saw this idea on YouTube where they used PVC pipe to make them. But I thought of a better way and cheaper. Each month I refill my prescription of Lovaza for my cholesterol. It comes in either the big manufacture package as shown or, I imagine, the largest prescription bottle made. Since my pharmacist doesn't cap my prescription in child proof caps, my request. I always used to hand my childproof lidded caps to my grandchildren to open. The inner lid  fits snugly into the inside of the bottle. I was saving my prescription bottles for MAP International, who recycles these bottles to third world countries, I simply cut the narrowed end off with an Xacto knife and drilled a hole in the other end for a long bolt. Now making a hundred or so soil blocks would be tedious beyond belief, I made four of them and held them together with duct tape. To press all four bolts down at the same time, I simply attached all four bolts through a piece of 1x4. Voila! I can make four blocks at a time. They are 2 1/2" around by 2" high. Much bigger than the cell seed starting trays shown above. So now I can make four at a time in one go. It also stands up better with four.

I'm not the first one to make this
As far as operating my new toy one handed, I put a row of hot glue near the plunger end of the bottles and cut strips of burlap to wrap around them. That way I can hold the plunger down with my thumb and anchor the tubes with my little finger as I pull the contraption upwards to release the pots. I do plan on doing a video of this. Both the making of the soil block maker and using it. All it cost me, other than the original prescription, was $4.00 for four bolts and nuts. I had assorted washers in one of Mel's soup can holders in her shop. Duct tape, burlap, and hot glue gun and glue sticks, we had on hand also. What self respecting homesteader and/or crafter doesn't have these? I found bolts and nuts around the shop, but not all the same length that I needed. If I had had them, it would have been a free, totally recycle/repurpose project. So this soil block maker used up some of my chomping-a-the-bit waiting to plant time. But it was well worth it. I'll still recycle my toilet paper and paper towel cores, but for rabbit toys and fire starters. With only two people in a household, we don't go through paper products that fast. Plus, like many self reliant folks, we use cloth alternative more except for toilet paper.

Where there is a will and a little bit of creativity; there is a way.  So disabled folks out there...what are you waiting on? Well that's it for this week. As always...

Y'all have a blessed day!

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