I read in an archaeology book once that you can gauge the age and prosperity of a civilization by the amount of garbage it produces. Young civilizations in the expansion years squander resources quickly and generate huge piles of garbage. Old civilizations, short on resources and about to morph into something new, generate very little garbage. Garbage gets used again instead of being thrown out.
While my little homestead doesn’t reflect the American civilization in general, for the past couple of years I’ve produced very little garbage. In fact, one of the first expenses I eliminated when times got hard was the garbage pickup. I don’t have much garbage. I take recyclables to the dump myself, and there really isn’t much other stuff that won’t turn into compost eventually.
That same kind of attitude, that even inexpensive things have greater value now, gets reflected in things I do in the garden. This year, for example, I’ve got three good stands of peas working and potentially two good stands of beans, all of which need trellises. You can build trellises the fancy way, with fence posts and wire and all the nice things stores sell for such purposes, or you can work with what you have. I bought one ball of garden twine this year and then came up with other ideas. I suppose I can still afford garden twine, but I’ve gotten into the habit of thinking differently about money and other resources. Seems pointless to buy more metal fence posts when I have the steel tubes from a swimming pool frame laying on a shelf in the garage. They won’t suffice for trellis posts but I can drive them into the ground and use them for sockets.
I coppiced the willows out front this year, experimentally, hoping they’ll sprout bunches of useful willow shoots to harvest for baskets in August. A couple died in the hot dry weather last fall and the others needed cutting back. I buried some of the branches to start new trees but had a lot of willow stock left, so stout willow poles jammed into the swimming pool frame posts built the ends of my trellises.
A coil of wire I bought for some purpose I’ve now forgotten sufficed the top span of my trellises, and to fill in the row I used more willow poles, notching the top end with my side tomahawk so I could alternate pressure on the wire. One pole pushes up on the wire, the next pulls down. Keeps things taut and together and probably will hold up. The roll of garden twine filled in the vertical gaps in the first trellis and made neat horizontal guides as well. I lashed the vertical runs to the top wire with a lark’s head knot and fixed the twine to the ground with another short, notched willow stake.
By the time I finished the first trellis, I was running low of twine, and wasn’t feeling like it was really necessary to buy more. I had plenty of willow, so I doubled up the vertical willow stakes and had enough twine to make the horizontal runners on the second trellis. On the third trellis I’d run out of twine so I wove willow poles in and out of the trellis uprights and lashed them in place with bits of wire left over from last year.
The trellises seemed pretty limber for something that will have to endure summer thunderstorms, so I used what remained of the hundred yards of phone wire I brought here from Arkansas just because it seemed too useful to throw away and anchored each end of the trellis to opposite sides of the garden fence. When I ran out of phone wire, I used a stout willow pole lashed to the center of the third trellis, and lashed again to a willow stake. Seemed like a pretty strong system.
I’d saved the pipes I used to use for pipe clamps when I did cabinetwork, to use as supports for the row of beans, but had nothing left for what goes between them by that time. Last year I tried “rabbit fencing,” a plastic mesh designed to keep rabbits out of the garden. It hadn’t worked for that, since the rabbits just chewed their way through it, and it didn’t work well as trellising either. Groping vines got stuck in it and had to be carefully pried loose and redirected as long as the plants kept growing.
But I’d done some pruning on an old apple tree in the back corner of the yard in the winter, and pulled out some wild grapevine that also had seemed too good to throw away. I did throw it away once, then went back and pulled it out of the heap and stuffed it onto the front porch instead. I felt like it ought to be good for something. To build the last trellis I cut lengths of grapevine and lashed it to the pipes and one central willow pole. As an extravagance, I tied the vines in place with some of the last plastic cable ties I have around. Might as well use them, I guess. I will miss cable ties when civilization collapses, every bit as much as I will miss toilet paper. Cable ties and toilet paper might be the grandest inventions of our culture, viewed from a perspective of a thousand years from now.
The garden has an interesting look this year, filled with bits of old and pieces of new. The peas reach up to any of it, not caring where things came from, just doing what peas do.
This will probably be my last post here for awhile. As the financial situation gets tougher I have less time to spend on things that don’t yield either money, fuel or food. I’ve had some fun with this blog but I have to focus on those other things this summer. I have to follow the example of the peas, I guess, and reach up for what’s there, no matter what it is.
Jimmy Two Hats