Let's Build Some Seedling Flats!

Hi, Happy New Year! As usual, I've waited many ages to update here, but I have decided in lieu of my usual waxing prosaic about farm life, how about a TUTORIAL? I make stuff all the time, and I want you to, too.

When you have a farm, you find yourself getting weird about waste. I hate wasting things, especially materials. I also am on a bit of a personal vendetta against plastics. Not only are they packed full of endocrine disrupting chemicals that wreck our bodies, they are made of nasty petroleum products, they are forming trash islands in the ocean, and if you need more reasons than that, I assure you I can find them. Conventional farmers produce a lot of plastic waste, and I think small scale farmers & home-scale gardeners can buck this trend.

I first saw a wooden seed starting flat years ago in John Jeavon's "How to Grow More Vegetables", a book on biointensive gardening that I cannot recommend enough. This is what I saw there:

Then, last year I came across this brilliant blog that instructed how to make these wonderful things.

So, yesterday I decided to tackle it myself, using some scrap produced last week.

Here are the tools I used:

  • Impact Driver (star head driver)
  • Cordless Drill (1/8 drill bit)
  • #8 1.5" star head Decking Screws
  • Circular Saw
  • Table Saw
  • Carpenter's Square
  • Measuring Tape
  • Marker

And the materials I used:

Just a bunch of cutoff ends of 2x4s and 2x6s

First, I ripped all the boards on the table saw along their width, to make them 1x4s and 1x2s (for the slats)

Step 2: I cut them down to specific lengths, matching long and short pairs as I went along. I wasn't very scientific about this, mainly just trying to preserve as much length as possible, rather than cutting everything down to pre-specified lengths.

Step 3: I paired up long & short pairs, then pre-drilled holes for the screws, and screwed them together


Step 4: I cut the slats to the fit the width of the various box frames, then laid them across the bottoms & drilled pilot holes for screws.

Then I found a way more efficient way to do this: I used a small nail gun to attach the slats. I'll keep you posted way on down the line (I hope) about how the screws vs nails hold up.

I also made a few boxes where I cut the slats to the inside diameter of the box, and nested them inside and then nailed them with the gun from the sides.

See the difference?

And that's it! You can get all cute and make them nest into one another...

Or just make 'em rough and dirty! I also thought of a perfect perfect material that doesn't require a table saw- Old cedar fencing! it would be the absolute best, is already the right width, is insect and rot resistant and is usually FREE.

Good luck with yours!



So, HERE we ARE.

It's been a WEEK. And it feels more than a little ridiculous to say that on a Tuesday morning. The past few weeks have been a rash of slaughters (turkey, duck, rabbit, and then another turkey) interspersed with sort of frantic attempts to heal sick and injured animals. The irony is not lost on me. And every step that I go deeper into this adventure, this hands-on, visceral life, I am forced to go deeper into the ethics, into the very ethos, of what this is.


I lost Doodle, my handsome, gentlemanly rooster. He was the king, and if you want to know the truth, I actually intended to euthanize him. I sat with a gun by my side, petting him in my lap, weeping. And then I decided to give him a week. He didn't make it a week. He made it 3 days. 3 days of giving injections, of force feeding, of desperately doing online research again and again and speculating what was ailing him. He died in my arms, and in true farmer fashion, the moment he was gone I took him outside and autopsied him without emotion. Because that is what you do when you have a flock- you work to protect them from illness, from predators, and from each other. It was his heart that failed, and in this discovery, my own heart twisted to realize that... I should have put him to rest when I first wanted to, rather than making him suffer through my well-intentioned ministrations.

Intuition is often right.

On the brighter side, a rabbit with an infected, presumably blind eye has healed and now can see; a failing rooster is now robust and thriving, a hen who miraculously survived a tangle with the electric fence survived (and did not require toe amputation) and Dingo, my feline life companion is healing from a nasty wound. These small victories must be celebrated.

  bunbuns cracky

The year is winding down, and this always brings (for me, likely thanks to some remnant of Catholic guilt) a rush of shame that all these projects are unfinished. And so begins this bizarre cycle of activity: MUST FINISH EVERYTHING, MUST FINISH EVERYTHING. I'M A FAILURE AND A FRAUD IF EVERYTHING IS NOT FINISHED. I'M A LOSER IF THESE LOOSE STRINGS ARE NOT TIED UP! With this farm, this feeling is tenfold anything I've ever experienced.

This dialogue just sort replays itself in my subconscious as I rabidly cross items off my list, one after another. And the feeling of satisfaction is quickly blotted out by the feeling of obligation to the remaining list items. And that is not good.

I've been accused of being highly distractible, of lacking presence, and of often losing the beauty of a moment by looking toward the horizon and imagining where I would like to be, as opposed to where I am. Being childless, I can not truly understand what it is like to raise a young person, but I do currently have a baby goose named Turkey who reminds me daily what it is to be present.

 Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 10.33.47 AM turkhead

She's gone from a helpless, tiny little egg-shaped thing to a sweet, loud little dinosaur-monster in a matter of weeks. This morning she ran from me into the field to join her kind. I know she will come back to me the moment I call her to me, and she will shadow me for at least another couple of weeks. I love watching her gain independence, and I am amazed and humbled by the way that animals are always in the now, whether they are sunbathing, eating a blade of grass, or jumping up and down on a tin roof, joyously making a racket.

Last night I ventured out late, after the airport traffic had ceased, after the neighbors had turned off their floodlights. I lay in the field and gazed at the sky, hoping to catch a few of the remaining Geminids. I was immediately rewarded with a long, bright meteor streaking the sky. And then another. A rooster crowed. A goat bleated. A peace settled over everything, and the sky seemed so clear and the stars so bright I found myself thinking about all those celestial bodies, glowing with the power of a thousand suns, pouring their light across decades, through space and time to meet my gaze. And I felt calm, sacred calm, to be alive and beneath a night sky, surrounded by the world I've created.

There is a sort of gratitude that has nothing to do with where you want to be, or where you've been. It doesn't care about your long, hard week, your triumphs or your failures. It is based on the sensation of breath rising and falling in your chest. It is kind and it is love and it exists in one perfect moment. Right now.

I wish all of you a myriad of these moments, as the holiday heats up and the year winds down.

Sending love.