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Square Footing ItApril 11, 2007

So Lala got a jones to square foot garden. It's a phrase I've heard all my life -- my father being one of the first on the bandwagon back in the DAY. So we read the website and got the book (get the new one, not the old one) and talked about it. She had a very good point. We have a nice-sized front yard and a better than nice-sized backyard, and to the right of the back deck, we have a HELL of a lot of concrete. Someday we'd like to take that all out. That day, however, is not today, and we don't know when it will be, so why not garden on top of the concrete?

Of course, she came up with this solution in the fall, so we waited, and then I woke up yesterday with the need to DO IT ALL RIGHT NOW as I am wont to do.

And I gotta tell you, it was easy. Three and a half hours, from beginning to end, and that includes an hour and half of shopping at the hardware store and the Big Longs (o, how I love thee, biggest Longs in America). At home I finished the construction, soil mixing, and planting in two hours.

Read his site for answers (I certainly don't have them) but here's basically what I did:

Had the lumber store cut 2 eight foot 1X6s in half, so I had four four-foot pieces. I also bought deck nails, framing nails, and wooden lathes (six four-foot lengths) for the grid (essential in the Square Foot Bible - do NOT leave off the grid).

I used my drill (and I remembered to buy a bit for the deck nails, hooray!) to assemble the lumber (I am so butch).

    Lovely concrete, before


    A square! (Kinda.)

    I put weed cloth down so those cracks don't bother us.


The mixing of the perfect soil is the hard part. The website and book explain it, but basically, you're making an even mixture of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. That last is hard to find in the right quantities (I bought eight bags of it) and it is IMPOSSIBLE to remember its name. I kept thinking vermicelli. Verisimilitude. Vermiculite would NOT stick in my head.

So you dump eight cubic feet, total, onto a huge tarp (and you should really wear the mask -- I didn't think that would be so necessary, but that stuff is dusty and stinky) and then you drag the short end of the tarp to the other short end, rolling that heavy, heavy mass back and forth inside the tarp until it's all mixed up. Above, you can see it's almost mixed. That was hard work.

Then you add it to the box! That's hard, but fun. I dragged the tarp over, tucked the end over into the box, and rolled all the soil in. I had just the right amount, a little bit left over.

I was happy about that.


Then you add the grid, which just took nailing (and my sheep measuring tape), and was very fun to do.


Then I got out my seeds and decided what I wanted to go where. The goal is to have no adjoining boxes have the same plant. I think I put thirteen different things in the sixteen boxes, and I drew myself a map (thank god, because I would have forgotten by now). I know I put in spinach, edamame, several kinds of bush beans, bush cucumber, some habanero, basil, two kinds of beets, ummmm. I can't remember the rest. But I know at least some will come up. I hope.


Isn't that the coolest?

This is now what it looks like from the deck:


And today I'm home sick from work, so I can sit out there and look at it. It rained this morning, and that can only help, too.

I'm fighting a migraine that knocked me out last night and part of this morning -- any good remedies? I'm desperate. Right now I feel a little better, but it's as if there's a big gorilla next to me, and he has a vice-grip on the base of my neck, and if I get out of line, he'll hit me again. The migraines are hormonal, but I can't go on the pill, and I react really badly to even plant-based progesterone products. I've been doing acupuncture, which helped, but not totally. I've given up coffee completely. Fi0ricet works on the pain, but I'm pretty useless when on it. The Relpax/Imitrex/Maxalt triptan family of drugs don't do a thing. Anything else you can recommend? Thanks, man.


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My migraines pretty much only respond to a combination of sudafed, ibuprofen, really cold coke and chocolate. Then a nap in the pitch black. But people seem to think that's a very weird solution to it.

Dude, we totally just built a square foot garden box, too! And you're right, the soil mixing was the hardest part (we maybe bought a tarp that was too smallish); we ended up mixing a lot of it on top of the tarp using shovels. Then I transplanted all my little plants into it and the next weekend it snowed. :( I think I'm going to end up having to buy transplants at the garden store.

I can't wait to see how your garden turns out!

Oh! And I forgot about the migraine thing . . . I take Relpax, which is not the same thing as imitrex, but might be too similar to work for you . . . I do know that a sample size is made, so your doc may be able to hook you up with a sample to try.

I don't know if it's new (a bit behind on blogreading), but I like the hair color!

My migraines respond to Aleve, Coke (not diet, not caffeine-free) and either sleep or reading (once the aura disappears...that makes reading really annoying), depending on if sleep is something that will happen or not.

Love the foot garden! If only we had the space....

Sorry to 'hear' about your migraines. I have the hormonal kind, too, and they are hideous. I used to take Imitrex, and then Relpax, but I was having problems with that whole family of Triptans. I wish I could offer more help. My OBGYN changed my bc pills to one that didn't just drop off the hormones in the fourth week, and my neurologist put me on Fioricet. I guess I've been lucky because I think that stuff pretty much rocks.

Wow. Way to talk wayyyy too much about myself here. Eep!

My migraines are chronic, and tend to be triggered by barometric pressure change and hormones.
My neurologist has me on a daily dose of Topimax/topimirate as a preventer and a very new triptan called Relpax - Maxalt doesn't work for me either - for when they break through. If that doesn't work, then it's a dark room and coedine/prescription painkillers. And I do all the holistics things I can - including having given up caffienated coffee and wine years ago.
contact me if you want more info. Good luck.

The garden looks awesome! Can't wait to see how it works out and maybe I'll just have to do that myself! Yay!

I don't really have migraines myself (except sometimes a small aura), but DD does, and her neurologist has her on amitriptyline daily. This has cut way down on the frequency and duration. Ibuprofen and Maxalt work for her if we can get them into her soon enough. Usually. No good answers there, but good luck!

Oh, and love the garden! What a great idea. We are tearing up our concrete patch this summer, but that means that for this summer gardening is tough. A few tomatoes in a container in the front will be about it.

awesome garden! Sorry about the hormonal migraines, I suffered with them all my life. 800 mg of motrin if I caught the initial aura helped keep them at bay. But there is hope - after menopause I never have had another migraine, three years and counting.

I found out years ago that my migraines are triggered by foods, even though they appear to be hormonal and triggered by my monthly cycle. I avoid peanut butter, red wine, sausage patties, and lunch meats unless it is Black Bear. They do not use preservatives that trigger the headaches. You can only know which foods to avoid by trial and error, but once you have cleansed your diet, you will know right away if you have eaten a trigger food. Hope you feel better soon, and nothing tastes as good as a cold coke once your headache eases up.

Love the garden - I only WISH I had a patch of concrete to put one one! And, somehow, this has gotten the song "Barefootin'" stuck in my head, which is making me strangely happy on a snowy day.

I recently started getting migraines myself and have yet to figure out what works other than sleep in a dark room. I did find this while I was researching, but have yet to try it:


I've had 2-3 hormonal migraines pretty much every month since I hit puberty. I am a big fan of two extra-strength Excedrin, two ice packs (one for the head and one for the neck) and a dark room. And I find that moaning as pitifully as I can manage makes me feel better, too. Cardinal Health makes great cold packs. I buy them in bulk and always have a few chilling in the freezer.

As for your garden ... wow! Extra-fabulous. I wish you many days of good growing weather.

My migraines sometimes respond to powdered asprin and Emergen-C raspberry powder mixed together, a dark, cool room and a cool cloth on my forehead. Sometimes not. They are usually triggered by allergies, humidity, heat, or stress.

A couple of years ago, my migraines were really bad, and I was getting migraines really, really frequently, so I was put on Effexor. That helped, but it is incredibly addictive and the withdrawl period was so severe I can't recommend it to anyone.

My migraines are triggered by changes in the barometric pressure. I was also on Topamax andRelpax. I am lucky in that I am able to go off the meds for about 2 years before I have to go back on. It seems like my really bad ones hit about every 2 to 3 years. I have been drinking lots of green tea and exercising.

I love the garden. I just reserved the book and will pick it up tomorrow. I think I have a spot where I can place one.

Is there a special kind of soybean that you're growing for your edamame?

Migraine help = Rosemary Oil! Something about it just makes it feel soooo much better. Take pure essential oil and dab it on your wrists, or just leave the bottle open on your desk while you're working. I have a little diffuser thing that you can put oils in and it sends the scent into the whole room. There is also a muscle relaxing spray that I use. Usually, they won't take the headache away, but they will help to cope with the pain.

Here are some links...
Fargo Imports
Where you can get the oil and muscle spray.

Aromatherapy Diffuser
For the diffuser I use.

Good luck and hope I helped in some way!

Mixing the soil:
Dude, get a long paint mixing bit and let your drill do the mixing. AND go buy a mess of red wrigglers, the cadillac of worms. Quasi compost (coffee grounds, lettuce-cover with dirt) and they will fertilize and aerate your dirt for time and all eternity.

Topamax makes me stupid. Imitrex makes me feel like my hair is on fire. I can take 2 Tylenol Migraine strength + 2 aspirin, arthritis strength, if I can get them rightnow. I have a problem with my blood pressure spiking (like 170/150-which looks like a stoke), so I get valium and morphine, followed by demerol and turidol. Yeah, it knocks me out but keeps me from using the drill on my head to let the evil spirits out.

Caffiene (as in espresso) sometimes will constrict the vessels in your brain and could help. What happens with a migraine is that your blood vessels actaully DO swell and all the nerve bundles wrapped around them get all stretched out. Sort of like 10 pounds of mud in a five pound sack.

Feel free to blow me off as I'm not a migraine sufferer, but--have you tried Feverfew? Also, my migraine-suffering friends put small ice packs on the nape of their necks and that seems to help. I'm sorry you're hurting!

your garden bed looks great! i'm square-footing it too. got 3'x3' raised bed planters from gardener's supply (they fold when not used, which is handy), poured in mostly compost and some potting soil (already has the peat moss and v-word), used twigs nearby to delineate footage, and planted some spring crops.

the result? http://www.flickr.com/photos/ejchang/439828333/in/set-72157594492913844/
it's getting bigger by the day.

as for migraines, i stick to excedrin. i make sure i drink a lot of water and have some food in my stomach, though, because it can really drain you sometimes. good luck with the migraines.

Your garden is so darling.

I just found your site and I love the Square Foot Gardening thing! I feel your pain with the migraine, literally. I tried everything and what finally worked was Rolfing. There is the Rolfing Institute in Colorado, Boulder I think, and they will give recommendations for someone in your area. If your headaches start or settle in your neck, try to find someone who is a neck specialist. I still get the headaches, especially since I moved away from my Rolfer, but not as bad as before and if I catch them in time, 2 Ibuprofen keep it from becoming horrible. Best of luck.

I get those... When I am not on the pill a bit of caffeine (green tea or chai) works and iburprofen...

I take large amounts of Ibruprofen (1000 mg) and drink Coke. I also find a can of cold soda at the base of the neck really helps.

I find no relief from the usual migrane drugs.I'm vaguely allergic to the triptans (both Imitrex and Relpax)... they make my jaw tighten up. I'm really allergic to another set, and another set does nothing. Ipruprophen is the best for me.

In college I used to get migraines really awful. I put pepermint oil stuff on the back of my neck and behind my ears. I also used some menthol stuff (maybe icy hot or something) on the back of my neck. It seemed to help, but really a dark quiet room was the best.

I love the garden.

We've had a square foot garden for years and I just love the method. And drawing a map for it is a great idea. We always had ours in the parking strip infront of our house until we got it together to make one in the back yard.

I'm so sorry about the migraines. Hang in there!

I love this square foot garden idea. I hope you'll post pics throughout the season so we can see how it grows!

Are you able to drink soy milk, or do the phytoestrogens affect you? I used to have hormonal headaches, but found that when I drank one glass a day (Chocolate Silk), they didn't happen nearly as often, and my cramps were reduced in both severity and duration. Good luck! Love the garden -- you made it seem so simple!

super cool! i planted some anaheim chiles last summer but it was not hot enough on my little berkeley balcony for them, and they only got about 3" long before they crapped out on me.

I square foot gardened for years! I even had a 4'x4' one on saw horses the summer I was pregnant so my garden could be at waist (such as it was) level - much easier on the breathing. Such efficient use of space and resources. And it's damned pretty when everything's up.

I'm sorry about the migraine! I don't get them (just tension headaches) so I don't know how to help you. So I'll just send good vibes your way.

I love the garden! I might have to do the same...My girlfriend swears by Advil Migraine and wellpatches (cool pads that stick to your forehead) for her migraines...You can get the wellpatches at Walgreen's usually...I hope that you feel better soon!

My neurologist had me on Neurontin for a few years. It's an anti-seizure drug, but it's also commonly prescribed for migraines. And, in those two years, I had NO headaches, which is really weird for me. (I get bad ones 2-3x per week, typically.) It's a really mild drug too. I hardly tolerate medication (progesterone, the pill, most prescriptions of any kind...)... and I was ok on that stuff.

I also was told that citrus and chocolate can trigger headaches. Hang in there!

Barometric pressure and hormone swings are migraine triggers for me too. And the closer I get to the menopause, the worse it's getting! I finally went to see an osteopath, who has been working on loosening up the pressure in my trapezoids and the cervical spine area. Cross fingers, after three treatments (and a worsening) things seem to be improving. So tired of having to take Relpax all the time.... hope this helps!

I'll second or third the feverfew suggestion.

Also, when I get them in my neck, I have a buckwheat pillow that I can ball up and press against my neck. For me, the counterpressure feels good.

I also try not to fiddle overmuch with my sleep cycle whenever I'm premenstrual. But, knowing that you work odd shifts, this may not be realistic for you.

Hope you get some relief. Migraines suck.

mmm, I've been using drills and other hand tools all my life. Here all along I thought I was just a tom boy. SO you are saying I am butch!?!?

Migraine drug:

My doc gave me a pill that helps with the killer headaches and I can still use my brain after taking it! Woot. It's a combination of isometheptene, dichloralphenazone, and acetaminophen that sold under a bunch of different brand names (Migrazone, Isocom, Midrin).

B4 I got this, nothing helped except time (about 4 days usually).

garden - good ------- migraine - BAD

my tip won't help because you gave up coffee-- I do a huge cup of coffee with aspirin or aleve and lie in a dark room. But acupuncture and chiropractic have helped me ...I can't do any of the migraine meds they make me sicker it seems - I have given up trying them so they may have something new that would help that I don't know about though.

I hate the 3 day migraines the most!!!

Migraines - blech! I used to get 'em early in my cycle. Horrific pain, blinding light, flat on the floor moaning "please KILL ME NOW," then I'd vomit and it would abate a little. It turned out I had 1/4 of the estradiol of a menopausal woman. I was 32 YO at the time. If you can't take the pill (I stay away from it too because of the progestins - bad stuff) I'd recommend an estradiol patch or gel (like Oestrogel, which gave me my life back.) If you don't want to replace hormones, then get some good old Stash licorice tea and flax seed. Drink the former and grind the latter to sprinkle in your baking or on your cereal. Best wishes beating down the headache!

Garden-- Way Cool!! Your basil will probably be the first to sprout. I just started some on Sunday, and it's already coming up!

Migraines-- I've lucked out and haven't had one for a while, but those little headache patches (sorry, can't recall the brand right now), a cool, dark room, and caffeine would do the trick for me, in addition to tylenol or the like.

I love square foot gardening! LOVE! Just the best idea ever, even if the guy is super cheezy. The whole concept really works, and I can't wait until I have some space to do it again. :)

Love the garden, very sweet!

As to the migraines, I think someone mentioned above that they were seeing an osteopath. I would second that but specify to try to find a Cranial Osteopath. My understanding is that sometimes the swelling is caused or triggered by subtle structural issues in the cranial bones and/or upper cervical spine. Since hormones can change how our fluids move (water, blood, etc...) it seems at least possible that it could effect the fluids in these areas as well (blood, cerebral-spinal fluid...). Pure speculation on my part, but I do know that migraines can be helped by this type of treatment. Good luck and I hope you feel better!

That's so awesome that you and Lala have started Square-foot gardening! I heard about the technique as a grad student when I was living in graduate student housing where, surprisingly enough, there were plots available for the tenants. A friend and I shared a plot, and after two years of "regular" gardening, I switched to square foot gardening instead. I found a used copy of the book online, and went wild. I've not lived in an apartment with a yard since (going on 6 years now?), and I have deeply missed the dirt between my fingers and running out in the morning to check my little sprouts!

Best of luck in your gardening efforts!

omigawd. So inspiring. Garden. So. Inspiring. If only it would stop snowing in the east ...
Big Longs. Big Longs. Yay!

Great garden. We have gophers in the back yard (my neighbor put out poison so they all came to my yard- thanks neighbor! I have 2 "I'll eat anything" dogs so I'm not big on the poisoning wildlife thing. OK not much for poisoning wildlife even w/o the dogs) so maybe a sqft garden would work if I put small gauge chicken wire under the weed cloth and put a fence all around (see "dogs that eat anything" above- they esp. love veggies). And Dude! is that a Makita? I've been asking for a Makita for years and everyone thinks I'm kidding. I didn't get a table saw yet either.
The occasional migraines in our house (me, 23yo daughter, 17yo son) respond to Excedrin Migraine or Extra Strength taken IMMEDIATELY and a cool, dark, quiet room. A friend also had some success with a very hot bath in a dark bathroom with an ice pack on her head (&/or neck). Something about the hot water relaxing tense muscles and dilating blood vessels and the ice pack constricting the blood vessels in the brain. Good luck. Headaches of any kind suck. I used to get headaches instead of morning sickness when I was pregnant and everyone said I was so lucky. NOT!

My hubby seems to have mini-migraines, and a friend of ours has full-blown, horrible migraines, and this has worked for both of them: ice cream. The key is to try and give yourself an ice cream headache - apparently those happen in a different part of the head than migraines, so blood moves around, pressure is relieved, there's a cooling effect. Whatever it does, it worked for them. And like I told my husband when he was scoffing before he tried it, "The best case is, it works. The worst case, you eat some ice cream."

I figured I should pass this remedy on in case it works for you, too, since your match-head-trick worked a treat for a hiccuping jag I had about a year ago. :)

Oh, how I love a good, butch, D-I-Y-er. You go, girl! It's perfect, too, because now when I sneak back to your secret garden, I can visit your less secret/more overt garden on the way. ;)

I love girls who aren't afraid of power tools. Sigh. =)


I am so sorry. I was in the same position and though I'm totally not recommending it...I haven't had a migraine since I gave up flour and sugar a year ago. HIDEOUS!!!! but unfortunately, it worked for me....

BTW - adorable garden.

I love that the knitting sheep came out to help with the measuring.

I take Maxalt and that works. It has the added benefit of not knocking me out and being able to take Ibuprophen in combination with it, if necessary. But when I am in a migraine period (mine are hormonal, too), I need to make sure I keep the Maxalt right by my bed. If I open my eyes and have a migraine, I need to take the Maxalt, NOW!. Waiting around only prolongs the agony.

But since Maxalt doesn't work for you, have you tried a Chiropractor? It doesn't knock my migraines (being hormonal), but it helps a ton with the escalation of pain from the neck pain.

I didn't read all the comments, and I may just be repeating what you've heard, but for me caffeine PREVENTS and FIXES migraines, so I was surprised to see that you've given it up as a preventative. I did read a couple comments above that mentioned Coke -- I'd assume that's for the caffeine, and that's why it helps. Would you reconsider the giving-up of coffee?

I have good luck with hot showers, just standing in the shower as hot as I can stand with it running over the top of my head (breathing is ... dicey). Then a nap in a dark room (or with head wrapped in towel). (Not sure whether that cures it, or just allows me to sleep through it!)

I got hormonal migraines like clockwork when I was on the pill, but once off the pill they dropped from monthly to twice-yearly (which was the second-best thing about my husband's vasectomy!).

Good luck with it!!

You are in fact a studly butch. :) Very nice garden and mad power tool skillz!
Hmm... the migraine. Mine went away when I got physical therapy done on my neck. But they were probably tension headaches, not hormonal migraines. I'm sorry you suffer with them. They will go away one day, I promise.

Like some of the other commenters, I have read that migraines are linked with allergies. I have been working on eliminating my allergies *for good* using holistic methods, no drugs, and slow and steady diet changes, and haven't had a migraine in two years. I recently read that a liver cleanse will help with migraines- which ties in to the allergy hypothesis. Acupuncture eliminated all types of my headaches altogether. My advice: commit to figuring out what is at the bottom of the problem, do your reading and research, and trust your body to tell you what solution(s) to choose.

My migraines, which responded to little other than codeine, finally went away when I kicked the sugar habit. I cut out sweets/junk carbs several years ago in an attempt to stabilize my blood sugar, and the happy surprise benefit was no more migraines. The connection between blood sugar and migraines is finally starting to be recognized by the conventional medical community - if you Google "migraine" and "blood sugar" you'll find some good info, such as this article.

I knew a guy that said chewing on black licorce root (from the health food store) helped a lot and meditation.

Hope it helps

I used to work with someone who had debilitating migraines several times a week, and she increased how much water she drank from next to none to 3-4 quarts daily and she stopped having migraines. Completely. As long as she maintained her water intake.

I have also heard that if you put your feet in water as hot as you can tolerate it for only 1-2 minutes it can help pool the blood in your feet, pulling it away from your head....assuming you have good sensation/feeling in your feet.

Good luck!

Inspired by the gardening - thanks!
With migraine medications, I had problems with developing tolerance, so medications would work for a month or two, then back to excruciating pain, etc, until unconscious.
So now, a very boring life for me:
- plenty of sleep and plenty of fruit and veg the week before migraine would hit
- regular yoga practise (originally 2-3 classes a week, morphed into daily 45 minute sessions at home)
- before the yoga, swam 2-3 times a week, and it was effective even though I am hopeless at swimming - 200 metres in 25 metre bursts at one stage
And now, if I feel a migraine coming, 500 mg of paracetamol is usually enough to conquer it.
BTW: I discovered in January that labour pain was no worse that what I had endured with the migraines. Oh boy.

Best of luck. So many suggestions from so many people, hope something works.

I don't have a website and have just learned how to knit - not purl. I troll thru your blog, as well as others, for inspiration.
Re: migraines. After dealing for years with medicines and all their goofy side-effects, I decided to do the "other" thing my doctor (Joel Saper, Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute - he's got a book - don't know if it's in print or not) highly recommended: bio-feedback. My insurance co. would not pay for it, so that was part of my initial angst. Probably caused another headache! At any rate: it was the best thing I ever did as it taught me how to relax the muscles in my face, neck & shoulders. I don't think I had more than 8 or 10 sessions, but it was very instructive: I'd feel myself "putting on my happy face" and thanks to bio-f was able to "let go" and drop the obsessive need to look pleasant at all times. It sounds silly but becomming aware of those muscles did me a world of good. I don't know where you live - I imagine that you could call MHNI and get referred to a clinic in your area. Your knitting is absolutely lovely and your significant other looks pretty sweet too! Good Luck - none of us should have to deal with those awful headaches.

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