For the first article in the new series “Space Utility”, I decided to explore a seemingly simple but innovative gardening technique the Dacha Project uses in their gardening system: the vertical strawberry tower.
The idea of utility, defined as usefulness, is important when creating an egalitarian community. One of the goals of an egalitarian community is to maximize each individual’s potential into realized energy and seen consequences. In the case of the Dacha Project, the egalitarian goal is to allow each person’s everyday life to contribute to a greater collective effort.
While observing the way of everyday life for the people at the Dacha Project, I was reminded of thte reading I have done about the philosophical ideals of utilitarianism. The ideal of classical utilitarianism is orienting actions that maximize happiness while minimizing pain. What is defined as happiness is the source of debate for a lot of philosophers, however, the concept is a lot more concrete in the Dacha garden. Happiness in the garden is observed by seeing plants that are flourishing and yielding maximum output. The Dacha concept of garden happiness is also evaluated on how many pests are present in the garden and how much destruction they cause.
The extra-dimensional strawberry tower maximizes happy gardening. Through the use of vertical, as opposed to strict use of horizontal space, the number of plants can increase while also increasing the likelihood that the plants will do well. This is achieved by evaluating the proper amount of soil, nutrition, and water each individual plant will need. With the design, another beneficial aspect is that the roots grow down within the soil as opposed to having roots that are sprawling. This is nutritionally beneficial to the plant since they get more nutrients from within the deeper soil.
Using the corner of the garden was a deliberate choice because that was the area of the garden that would be the most logical to construct a vertical and triangular gardening unit. After defining the proper area of the gardens, the right materials were needed for the vertical strawberry tower. The boards are made of black locust which is naturally rot resistant wood. The strawberries are also fed with compost consisting of soil form around the homestead and local horse manure. When the strawberries send runners, they will fall over the side of the trough they are planted in so that harvesting them is easiest and efficient.
This is the first vertical strawberry tower the Dacha Project has implemented, so it is an experiment in progress. Expect updates about this project!
This past sunday, Danila and his good friend John started to put up this handsome structure that will be used to house some plants that need extra protection. The holes that the posts are going into are about a foot and a half into the ground. They decided to use cement to secure the posts in place.
The cement is a bought in powder form and then water is slowly added to get the right consistency. It takes several days to weeks to completely cure as the water slowly evaporates.
The garden is finished! All the plants have been put in the ground for the summer. The seedlings were sprouted in the greenhouse and then transplanted.
The Dacha Project residents are very excited about their new outdoor shower. The hot water is provided through the veggie oil generator’s cooling process. The generator needs water to cool down its’ engine and then the water that is heated keeps their hot water tank full. The drainage from the shower will help to water Marina’s herb garden which is located next to it. All their water comes from a natural spring on site.
Dacha ArtCamp 2013, a set on Flickr.
We celebrated our 5th birthday with a weekend of friends, meals, games and making things. Things: Apple cider. A shimmery fabric tent. A sapling fence for our new garden. And a collaborative timeline of the history of the universe. Thank yous to the folks that made it out here!
These are photos of just some of the things made recently here on the homestead.
1. Spatulas, made from cherry wood blanks on the band saw, finished with linseed oil.
2. Onesies, dyed with turmeric and annatto seed. Find the how-to guide on our website.
4. Maple Syrup, Grade B .vs. Grade A, a collecting and boiling labor of diligence and love. Yum!
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Our friend Ali brought over a couple white baby onesies and some fresh turmeric, wanting to try out dying cloth with natural food dyes. I was like, “Right On! chemical dyes are all toxic and gross, let’s do it, and do it now!”
We also had some annatto seeds from the tropical achiote tree, which I had plucked off of a tree just some weeks ago on the Big Island of Hawai’i. So we dyed some fabric with them as well. Originally I gathered a bag full of these seeds to draw with, but I heard it works on fabric too. Since these are used often in natural food dying, you can order them easily online or get them in the international section of a supermarket.
Here’s how you do. approximately. You scrape the annnatto seeds out of the pods. Most likely though, you’ll have the dried stuff already in powder form, so you can skip this step and the next. Then you grind them up in a coffee grinder and mix it with water in a stainless steel, ceramic or pyrex pot. Smells really great! We used about 1 tbsp of powder to 3-4 cups of water. Note- as with the turmeric to follow you can add more or less to intensify or soften the color.