Raised beds at the barn

We’ve been gradually building these two beds, about 5 metres long by 1.3, by 300mm high. I invented a good way to install hoops removably – pillars made from a rolled up section of chicken wire, wrapped around a plastic disposable drink cup filled with a weak mix of plaster of paris and sand just to give the cup rigidity. The cup is dug out later when the ferro plaster has hardened. Then 32mm black polythene (‘Alkathene’) pipe is cut and placed in the holes. I have set some hoops in plaster of paris to try – but could just sit them in i guess… tests will go on. Plastic covers in winter will make beds into large cloches.

Puppies loved playing in in the bare soil as it gets wheelbarrowed in…

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raised beds at barn

From the mezzanine  window… Some soil up to final level, already planted out by Raewyn! Note how the far bed isn’t as darkly stained – the first was brushed over a bit more and maybe the solution of iron sulphate was a bit stronger?We were rushing away and i may have been inconsistent… Haste makes waste. However my sister prefers to paint the beds red to match her barn, so I’ve left it until a month or so when it will take acrylic paint. We painted some of our raised beds in Kaiwaka years ago and the paint is as good as new still…

Overall, the work of making these permanent beds was not too much at all. Only one coat on these beds, and one strip of chicken wire, folded once lengthwise and rolled over at the top by about 120 mm.

You just have to plod and do it… Then it’s there for good, as a garden bed should be – long after we are gone!

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Fantastic News – Eutopia in good (new) hands

Last month we found our perfect buyers for the work in progress, that poor baby of arrested development: our cafe Eutopia site. The couple are local to Kaiwaka, have recently masterfully finished their big beautiful dream house/castle on the Kaipara, complete with tower, mosaic floors, sculptures, pottery pillars, ferrocement features, driftwood banisters and more, and want a new artistic challenge. I hope they will let me put up some photos of their place soon – and the ongoing work at Eutopia too…

So, the building will soon begin again at Eutopia. The cafe will be closed for as long as it takes them to lovingly mosaic, plaster and paint the courtyard, as well as a lot more by the sound of it! They have carte blanche from me – now it’s their turn to build the dream and extend it! Just in case, I have retained the rights to design other eutopia ferrocement-featured cafes elsewhere, but whether that happens depends on who may want to run a cafe with that name and look (not identical to kaiwaka, but designed and perhaps sculpted by me), and whether I can get the time to promote such a creation (writing and jewellery call – see www.silventree.com for what I’m up to in the jewellery line).

Eutopia now for sale, moongate, dwarfs and all

We now live in whangarei as my mum is in a home and we are visiting a lot, and Raewyn has work here… and, well I ran out of resources to finish the dream. So we are living in sister Rosie’s barn and I have a little studio in the Quarry Arts Centre.

See the listing on Trademe for details: http://www.trademe.co.nz/property/commercial-property-for-sale/auction-658908280.htm

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The Cafe business goes with it at this price – either can sell separately. Eutopia the land and buildings is a mere $180,000 NZ, or US$147,600. You couldn’t buy the moongate plus giant seagull sculpture alone for that price!

As the ad says:

Cafe Eutopia is truly a New Zealand icon, and tourists from all over the world are always photographing it – and uploading pictures and inspired comments on the Web. Google Images has page after page of coulourful photos of cafe Eutopia, most of them uploaded by customers from around the world.

Fantastic potential, dreams, visions, inspiring concepts are all here for the right person to take them on and give them new life.

spread the word! pin it, post it, attach it. I want the right person to see this….

Ferrocement raised beds really are great!

I’ve just done another one at the Story Ark, out the front this time. About 7 metres long, one-sided as it is against the front of the Ark. Framework was minimalist, and one length of 13mm mesh chickenwire folded over it lengthwise, and laced with thin (.7 or somm) tie wire. As per the book fantastic ferrocement of course! Oh and the ends of the framework I stapled onto the wood of the Ark, and plastered right up to the wood. I will line the Ark side of the bed with black plastic to prevent the soil from rotting the wood.

It only took two mixer-loads to plaster it – about 40kg of cement (or two 25kg bags at most), and one coat (round-ended trowel finish) was sufficient. done in an afternoon (by yours truly alone). Then lightly sanded with about 60 grit and stained a couple of days later (can do it same day – it works apparently by chemical reaction with uncured plaster, at least not fully cured) with garden-store-standard iron sulphate, strong solution put on with a rag, two applications to make sure. Apart from keeping under cover for a few days to maximise plaster curing, that’s it!

I grubbed a shallow (maybe 50mm) trench for the framework to discourage the invasive kikuyu grass we have here courtesy of a mad council decades ago…

new raised bed in front of ark

 

This finish goes darker when wet, as you see in the photo. I suppose I used three quarters of a kilo of the iron sulphate – about NZ $5 depending on the garden store you go to.

The mega-fibre II I used to get for plaster isnt available here now, and I havent sourced the Sika fibre here yet, so I improvised: I chopped up some old polypropylene rope into about 30mm lengths, rubbed it a bit to loosen all the fibres, and added it to the mix. It was coarser than the other but plastered fine, and did the job of helping the thick coat not to sag.

I thoroughly recommend ferrocement for serious raised beds. It’s probably about as quick as wood for the same height, or at least if you count the lifetime cost of wood, which rots in proportion to your success in filling it with a fertile soil bursting with microorganisms! Of course, you can make a wooden one then line it with plastic, but why go there when there’s ferro, which will outlast all wooden outdoor structures…

ferrocement birdbath fountain, carved

I did this (based on the cafe eutopia fountain we did 12 or so years ago now, still the centrpiece of the courtyard) the week we returned to Gisborne for the birth of our first grandchild (Bruno – he’s doing well, looking forward to seeing him play around the carved raised beds we made… As you can see, a few more sleeps before that can happen!).

Anna and marco  baby IMG_8835

Anna wasn’t sure about doing water in it so I just made it as a birdbath for now. The ‘finished’ photo isn’t quite – it rained overnight and the paint wasn’t quite dry enough to do the ‘shadowing’ effect by painting on black acrylic paint then wiping it off – you can see the parts where I did manage to do it before I had to catch the plane back home!

the whole thing took about 2-3 full days I guess. Carved mainly with the tungsten paint scraper I recommend in the book Fantastic Ferrocement. http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/152684

I did make a smaller tungsten chisel for the fine details that were in deep inside the ‘tree roots’ where the scaper couldnt reach. I will post on that later – when I’ve perfected it!

Five 6mm rods were the upright reinforcing, with roughly 2mm soft wire wrapped around it to make a finer armature for the two layers of chickenwire (more than two counting inevitable overlap on the curves). Instructions in Fantastic Ferrocement stand – some minor developments, such as using straight rebar tie wires instead of bag ties for tying the rebars together.

peter in fountain Gisborne IMG_8857 copy annas birdbath 05 05 13 reduced

Note the whitish first coat – Resene Limelock to seal in the lime for painting before the plaster is cured. The twist going up the ‘trunk’ is all added – carved into the second thick coat of plaster. Also the ‘roots’ all carved from the extra thick plaster around the base.

I noticed again doing this how good it is to use plenty of plasticiser and mix in the concrete mixer longer than usual for the second coat, until the mix is aerated and wonderfully light and creamy to spread on. Also of course used plenty of fibre. These two things made it possible to get around a one inch  to two or three inch (25-75mm) layer near the base – in one coat.

A deep birdbath/fountain like this can be made safe/shallow for little children by putting gravel in it, I think.

It went so well, while my other stuff (more conceptual things like the Qor game, and my philosophical writing) has been falling on indifferent ears, that I’ve decided to take several people’s advice and do art for a change, sculpt and perhaps paint again, etc. And maybe make enough to keep bank, wife and kids happier…:) I did a little oak carving recently, in that spirit:

moonwit dreams moonwit dreams REAR

Moonwit Dreams, from my fantasy epic the Apples of Aeden. I made a silicone mould for it too, and have tried some casting in plaster of Paris, oil-finishing the casts by dipping in hot linseed oil, then finishing by ‘shadowing’ as in the original above with dark acrylic.

For any ferro or carved work you want to commission, email me peter@eutopia.co.nz.

 

An Elven arched raised bed garden in Gisborne

I’ve been recovering from an intensive two weeks making this (I’ll let the photos do most of the talking, but it is at my daughter Anna’s partner’s house on the hill. The doglet is our Poppy’s pup, Honey. She kept up a constant ‘throw the ball for me’ routine every evening when Anna came home. The cappuccino maker was good, and the weather mostly kind, though the heat and the drying out of fresh plaster was a problem). Overall I think it worked really well. I had to fly back before the scraping and carving was all done, and the sealing and painting. Marco is apparently doing all that as I write. Will upload photos of painted and planted gardens when i get them!