This Saturday, in the beautiful fall weather, the garden club joined forces with the Tufts Ex-College class: Introduction to Sustainable Food Systems. The class is taught by Mari Pierce-Quinonez and Jeff Hake, both of whom have received master’s degrees from Tufts’ Friedman School. The course description reads as follows:

Modern agriculture is the course of a great majority of our food and is a foundation of the American economy. However, it is an economic system that relies on cheap fuel, low labor costs, and ever-increasing consolidation. In recent years these industrialized inputs and processes have been indicted as a root cause of many of modern society’s woes: hunger, obesity, disease, environmental degradation, climate change, economic injustice, and physical and mental estrangement from the land. And yet, alternative systems of agriculture have emerged. Some are the simple revival of “antiquated” practices while others apply agricultural principle to technological innovation. Cities and communities are becoming active players in these new systems, and food is being “slowed down”. This course attempts to outline some of these emerging food systems, providing theoretical background and discussion as well as practical, hands-on tools for becoming a part of these new systems.

Notice the part about hands-on tools; that’s where the garden comes in!

Class and club united to build beds!

If you’ve read the history of how the garden got started, you might recognize this class as the originator of the garden itself (made possible by the efforts of the darling Signe Porteshawver). They turned the beds they made over to the Student Garden at the end of the semester and now that another round of class has started up, the students got to get down and dirty again- starting from scratch and learning through doing. Plus, hammering gets a little of that stress out.

Micaela and Melissa assembling a raised bed with wood salvaged from an old Ikea bed frame.

Because resources were limited (no saw, few nails) we had to get creative with wood salvaged from my neighbor’s trash, leftover scraps from shed construction, and splintered pieces wrangled from an old box spring left in Micaela’s apartment. I kinda felt like that was half the fun- it was like a puzzle! Fortunately, we have a lot of creative minds in the club and the class so things didn’t take too long to start up.

What follows may be boring but might prove useful to future bed-builders!

Building a bed by the compost bins

The plan was to build 3 raised beds, but we had a collection of 2×4’s (which are about 8ft long), some scraps that varied between 1 foot to 2 feet long, and a bunch of pieces from an Ikea bed frame that all measured about 2 feet long… and no saw. We finally decided to use all the 2x4s to make two 8ft-long, narrow raised beds with 3 2x4s stacked on top of each other on each side (to make each bed about 12″ tall). The width is formed with pieces about 1.5 feet long, also stacked on top of each other. (A picture would probably explain this best… I’ll post one later.)

Two of the four beds (made with the Ikea bed frame pieces), you can see a third being worked on in the background

We also used the Ikea bed frame to create 2 square raised beds since all the pieces were of identical lengths. For these, we nailed 4 pieces together in a square, did this 3 times for each bed, and stacked the 3 squares on top of each other, securing them in place with stakes in each of the four corners, nailed to the squares. (This I DO have a picture of.)

Unfortunately I had to leave early (anyone else got this nasty cold?) so I have yet to see the finished product, but when I left it all looked great. I’ll be sure to go down tomorrow morning to check it out. I’ll post some pictures when I’ve got them!