guest blog

gardens, rain barrels + more bike-homes!

by Grace Bonney

located in the west hills, the japanese garden is my favorite public garden in town. besides the gorgeous plantings and tons of moss, i also especially love the pathways.

like everywhere else, we in portland have become obsessed with vegetable gardening. this past summer raised garden beds were popping up all over the place: in front yards, median strips, and alleys.

CLICK HERE for the rest of jill’s post after the jump!

one of my favorite backyard gardens belongs to betsy walton and jd hodge. jd built the raised beds and compost container, betsy planned the plantings in a maximizing grid design.

their summer bounty was amazing!

my own garden, two raised beds and flagstone pavers, got an upgrade this year with found containers, and containers made from wood already in my basement when i bought the house [shown above].

two excellent gardening books i’d recommend are the bountiful container and garden anywhere.

this being rainy portland, i also added two rain barrels this year. the barrels i chose are re-purposed red plastic pickeling barrels, and complement my red craftsman house well. attached to my modified downspouts, the barrels fill up after one good downpour, and both watered my two 4’x8′ raised beds and other containers for about a month before needing another rain/refill.

rainbarrels can also be made from repurposed wine barrels, and the barrels can be “daisy-chained” together to store even more water. add a rainchain instead of a downspout and you have an amazing set up, like these neighbors down the street!

there’s a bunch of homesteading books out there, this is one of my favorite ones, aesthetically. the self-sufficient-ish bible contains lots of helpful information and ideas for living simply using charming drawings, diagrams and photos. in this book the green twins cover their own lifestyle including gardening, home improvement, seasonal cooking, preserving, finding wild foods, and other lifestyle ideas you can incorporate into your own life.

other great homesteading books for your shelf are the backyard homestead and the urban homestead.

i’ll leave you today with a bonus bike-house tour!

brian has been building and living in bike homes for 30+ years. mostly he builds custom bike homes, catering to his customer’s needs. the one above was back at brian’s shop to have a new braking system installed.

although he moves around town and the country frequently, right now his set-up can be found in a lot on se stephens st. between 8th and 9th avenues here in portland.

water-tight, these homes are ingeniously made from found materials and lots of welded and taped metal pieces. more infomation about brian and his bikes can be found on Bike Portland [thanks m-horton for the link!]


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  • I need to know – where do these bike-house people shower? use the restroom? I’m bordering on grossed out by the whole concept.

  • The raised garden beds made from scrap wood material are very innovative! Great great work.. I hadn’t thought about making them at multiple levels! Great, I wish we could get thing to grow as well in Arizona, it’s just too darn hot here!

  • I live in Portland and am also hoping to install low-cost rain-barrels in my new home. Where did you get the red pickling barrels? Thanks!

  • I like the 3rd picture with the big rocks, will add something like that in my future garden. Can’t wait to get my home to start my vege garden too! gosh you got me all excited again.

  • I don’t seem to have a photo, but we were disappointed in all the rain barrel solutions currently available, so stuffed a 10 ft diameter feed tank under the deck. You know, those big, circular galvanized things horses use on farms? Got one off Craigslist for like $20, and then put an army surplus mosquito net over the top to keep out… mosquitos. It works great, and gives a LOT of holding capacity.

    Before we went to this, we did a lot of re-routing water from the downspouts, to dump into the side-yard garden beds. It distributes the water instead of dumping into the wastewater system, and waters the garden beds for free. It’s also possible to use perforated pipes (and similar, like pebble fields) in reverse of their normal plan, to distribute water like this over an area like a long garden bed.

    So, think about what you have already around the house, landscaping and structure-wise. You might be able to add holding capacity by simply piping the water around.

  • julia – tom is my rain barrel source. he modifies the barrels into a well-designed whole system for rain collection:
    Tom Jardine, Oregon Rain Barrels

    tell him i sent you!

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