Seeing Is Believing

So I was sitting at work today when a co-worker of mine came in to chat about gardening.  It was at that point, I told her about my idea about raised bed gardens.  The raised beds would be about 4 feet tall, just the right height to work the garden, but not have to bend.  If you have ever spent an hour weeding, either bending over or kneeling, it can be uncomfortable if not painful.  I explained how at 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide, you can be situated perfectly in terms of ergonomics.  Raised bed allow you to have perfect soil for what you are growing and help reduce weeds in the process.  Overall you have perfect soil, reduce strain and have a very neat looking garden. She left my office and I began to think how I really wish I could implement this idea today.  But alas I am not quite settled where I am living. I opened up Sketchup and started drawing out what I would like this garden to look like.  I then realized what I was doing….I was using this tool to help me visualize the future, to help cement this goal, to keep me motivated.

Then idea crossed my mind, what are the other way I make sure I stay motivated on an idea while I get to where I need to be to implement it?

Now these tools will not work for everyone and I am a particularly computer oriented, also very visual, so I find these methods work for me.

My Blog

What some of you may not realize is, I don’t yet live in a Tiny House.  The plans are in the works, designs being drawn, research on building codes in my area and seeking land, but no house of yet.  By having a blog I am able to share my passion and connect with others that love the idea or live the dream.  It is an intensely empowering tool.  Now some of you are thinking, I don’t want to start a blog or I don’t know how.  Of course there are really easy and free services such as or that will get you up and running in under 10 minutes.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Journaling, plain old pen and paper, is the old school version to achieve this.  The advantage of a blog over this method is that when you have an audience, you are accountable to them in a way.  Some one, or in my case several thousand, will notice when you shirk on posting.  Even if you don’t want to go the full blog route, consider writing a guest post for a blog, I am always happy to review and possibly post your piece.

Google Sketchup

This is a program made by google that is completely free (they do a pay for pro version) that allows you to quickly design things and create them in a 3D environment.  It wasn’t until today that I realized that I have this established behavior.  When I have something in mind that I have aspirations for or dream about, I have time and time again opened up google sketchup to draw it.  What does this do?  It creates a visual representation of my dream.  It takes it from my mind into the real world, one step closer to being a reality for me.  I did this with this garden idea, see below, and I have done it countless times with ideas for Tiny Houses.

This is a really interesting website, it basically makes a lists of your goals, connects you with those who have the same goals and empowers you to achieve them.   What takes this to the next level is when someone achieves a goal, it has them describe how they went about getting there.  People can discuss and share ideas about how to tackle roadblocks.Stop Making Excuses
A while ago I was out to dinner with several of my friends, the conversation turned to travel and a friend and I were asked how many places we have been.  I responded 17 countries all before I was 23.  They were floored.  “How did you get to do that!?”  I am not independently wealthy, I don’t have a trust fund and my parents didn’t pay for it, so how did I do it?  I posed the question to them, why didn’t you travel that much?  They instantly said “no time”, “no money”, etc.  My other friend who had been to just as many places as I, chimed in and said “you’re making excuses”.  It then dawned on me, how many times do we make excuses, stupid excuses, defeatist excuses.  Now there is reality and responsibility, but at what point does that end and the excuses begin?  For most, they would agree it would be unreasonable to think that a high schooler could afford a trip to Europe, but I did.   I did, for a whole month, I went to 8 countries and had a blast doing it.  So it brings me back to the point, stop making excuses and do it, because too often the only thing standing in our way, is ourselves.

One particular method I use for this is to take a goal that seems too out of reach.  Write down your goals, then next to them write the very very first step you would have to do to achieve that goal.  To get a better idea, take this example.  Lets say you want to build a Tiny House, you might start by seeking out a place to purchase a trailer.  You might open up excel and make a rough budget, then go price the materials at a hardware store.  You might email someone who lives in a Tiny House and ask them for advice on how to start.  See how these are really simple things.  See how these these things take 5 minutes, 30 minutes.  See how you can do any of these things right now!

Vision Board

This isn’t my favorite idea, but it works for many folks, so it is at least noteworthy.  A vision board is basically a board where you glue photos of what you want to be.  If you want to be happy, paste photos that conjure thoughts of happiness.  If you want to focus more on family, put your favorite photos of your kids, your significant other etc.  Take this  board and place it in a prominent place that you can view it several times a day.  Perhaps place it in a place that you look at it, but others can see it to.  They will ask about it and by sharing your goals, you reinforce it, but then you are almost held accountable to them when they ask about it later.

So here is my garden idea

  1. This seems to be a resource intensive way to grow a garden. What will you use for sides(non-rotting, non-toxic, non-plastic, not too expensive)? You will also need a lot of soil/fill to fill the beds. Lots of pressure on the sides – you’ll have to come up with a good system to prevent bulging. How will you keep weeds from growing in the paths?

    For a particular situation (gardening with elderly) it may work. But squatting, kneeling, and getting close to the ground is part of small scale gardening. It’s good for you and you will get better at it. Now you might not want to hand thin 1 acre of carrots on your hands and knees but this system won’t work for an acre anyway.

    • You make some good points, it will need to be very sturdy, would have to be rot proof and it will be costly. I think the investment would be worth it and I might be able to hunt around for some bargains. I was thinking laying down the weedgard cloth and having some gravel or mulch, it will not stop them all, but it is a good start.

    • Hi Ryan, the idea of raised beds is a good one especially for people who have some challenge in moving around.
      I would suggest a good foot of stone in the bottom of each bed if you are going to build them 4ft high, it will save good topsoil and create drainage.
      Why not make them three or four foot wide? You will get better use of the available space and you can weed from either side, making it easy for two people to work together.
      They will also be more stable and less likely to breakout at the side, despite the additional weight of soil.
      Old railway sleepers would make good strong sides, however you would have to ensure that they are really railway sleepers – not the sort commonly sold in garden centers which are just new wood with really fresh bitumen or some such toxin on them.
      I haven’t played with sketch up yet, must give it a try and see how my house plans look on it.

      • I think even old railway sleepers leach creosote.

      • If you look at the back one, I do have a 4 foot wide one (the one that has the fencing, it isn’t labeled 4 feet), which is designed for plants that need more space. It is a good point if you have two people working it, a four foot one would be good. I see everything from a single person perspective, which is a shortcoming. I was thinking of getting just fill dirt for the first 2-3 feet. You can find it sometimes for free, get it in the winter, cover it with a solid cover so no light gets in for a few months and then it kills most things. Then top with nice dirt.

        Defiantly check out Sketchup, it is a great tool and when you do, show us your drawings!

  2. While we’re talking about living in tiny spaces, let’s talk about growing food in tiny spaces. Not everyone has access to an acre of land (or sometimes even a backyard!).

    These look like they could work well in a tiny space – maybe just one or two tucked into an area that gets sun. As for strength of materials – with today’s technologies I have no doubt there’s something out there you could find. We make decks out of materials that are strong, lightweight, and don’t rot out in the weather – that could be an option.

    While it may not be possible to grown all the food we need in a tiny space, it’s healthy and beneficial to grown our own herbs and expensive items like snow peas, etc. And we don’t need to kneel on the ground to touch the Earth! 🙂 But it’s a good idea to garden barefoot (so our bodies get the benefit of electromagnetic energies from the Earth.)

    Thanks for the tools! I use all but Google Sketch – didn’t know about that! Can’t wait to try it.

    PS – what’s with the BIG house in the Vision Board??? <3

    PPS – You know about Earthship Biotechture? I want to see an Earthship Tiny House plan. Maybe I'll get on that…

    • Ilana,

      I am one step ahead of you, I have some ideas I am trying in my garden this summer that I will be showcasing on the blog soon!

      Ps – It isn’t my vision board, I borrowed the graphic

      PPS – I don’t, but I will check into it….have a link?

  3. You’re stealing all my ideas! Either that or great minds think alike. I’m currently planning my own small house (earthbag, for this first one) and have been trying to learn Sketchup for the same reason. Though I suspect I may be building some clay models as well, just to visualize things a little better.

    I like the raised bed idea, and you wouldn’t need super-strong materials — each bed would only hold so many inches of soil in the top, so the rest could be hollow boxes you could use for storage. Have you read much about Square Foot Gardening? That approach also uses raised beds and a more efficient planting layout so you get the most growing bang for the buck. Check it out if you haven’t already…

    • Yes I have read that book, I view this as the next evolution to the ideas he propose. It isn’t for new gardeners though, it would be for those a bit more serious, because it would take a good bit of resources and money.

      The clay is a great idea. The thing to remember is that you should use whatever clicks with you. I am a particularly computer oriented person. But someone who is more crafty or artisan would certainly consider a clay or wooden model. It all depends what harmonizes with you to maximize your motivations.

  4. How about packed earth?

    Even with some wear to each row I am sure you could re-pack it a bit by hand each year. A few inches of good soil on the top and you are set.

    Plus packed earth is used in a couple tiny houses I have seen over on countryplans.

  5. The raised beds would definitely be better at 4 feet wide, if you can approach from both sides. But at 4 feet high, you better not plan on planting any tall growing things — like tomato bushes, for example. They’d grow up 3-4 feet higher and you’d need a ladder to reach the top!

    Another consideration is orientation. Running east-west would make them nice and warm in early spring/late fall; too hot in summer. So a mix of orientations would give you nice choices.

    I agree with the idea of gravel for the base for drainage. Also consider using Lasagna Gardening techniques to fill them, or take a year and use them as compost bins first.

    Cinder blocks could work for walls; unmortared, with stakes to ensure they don’t fall over, the blocks could be reconfigured in light of further knowledge as you go from year to year.

    • Never heard of “lasagna gardening technique” what is it?

  6. Straw bale culture:

    You can also google straw bale planters. Bales are inexpensive, place them where you want, even on concrete or poor soil, gophers can’t get to plantings, etc.
    After a couple years the bales are recyclable. I use straw now for mulching and in the yard when it gets muddy.

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